Brazil’s President Lula calls for urgent action on inequality, other global challenges

Brazil’s President Lula calls for urgent action on inequality, other global challenges
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Updated 20 September 2023
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Brazil’s President Lula calls for urgent action on inequality, other global challenges

Brazil’s President Lula calls for urgent action on inequality, other global challenges
  • In his speech at 78th UN General Assembly he called for equitable efforts to tackle climate change and said his country is committed to clean energy
  • He also highlighted the importance of a global culture of peace and voiced concerns about existing conflicts, including the Palestinian issue, and emerging threats

SAO PAULO: During a powerful speech at the 78th UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva highlighted a number of global issues he described as critical,

These included climate change, the global wealth gap, gender equality, freedom of the press, the urgent need for sustainable development, and the importance of international cooperation and collective action to address these and other pressing global concerns.

He began by expressing solidarity with the victims of disasters that struck several countries this month, including the earthquake in Morocco, catastrophic flooding in Libya, and a cyclone in his own country that hit the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.

He then.

Lula also took time to pay tribute to Sergio Vieira de Mello, a Brazilian diplomat and former UN high commissioner for human rights, who was killed in August 2003, along with 21 other people, many of them UN officials, in a terrorist bombing at the Canal Hotel in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

He underscored his enduring faith in humanity’s ultimate capacity to overcome the challenges it faces, such as the climate crisis, the persistence of hunger that affects 735 million people worldwide, and the growing global gap between rich and poor.

He lamented the fact that the fate of children is often determined by their social class and the region in which they are born and called for increased political will to combat the problem of inequality. He said that the world needs to overcome its collective feeling of resignation and the acceptance of injustice as a natural phenomenon.

The president reflected on Brazil’s return to democracy and its mission to rebuild a sovereign nation that is fair and supportive of all its people. He reiterated the nation’s commitment to the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and proposed an additional goal focusing on racial equality. He also spoke about initiatives designed to combat hunger, and promote gender equality and social participation.

Climate change took center stage in his speech, as Lula advocated for equitable climate action and emphasized Brazil’s commitment to clean energy, including green hydrogen. He said that 87 percent of Brazil’s electrical power now comes from clean and renewable sources.

“It is the vulnerable populations in the Global South who are most affected by the loss and damage caused by climate change,” he said.

“The richest 10 percent of the world’s population is responsible for almost half of all carbon released into the atmosphere. We, developing countries, do not want to repeat this model.”

He talked about efforts to combat deforestation in the Amazon and Brazil’s collaboration with other countries in the region on the issue through last month’s Belem Summit.

“Over the last eight months, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has already been reduced by 48percent,” Lula said. “The whole world has always talked about the Amazon. Now, the Amazon is speaking for itself.

“A month ago, we hosted the Belem Summit, at the heart of the Amazon, and launched a new collaboration agenda between countries that are part of that biome.

“There are 50 million South Americans in the Amazon, whose future depends on the decisive and coordinated action of the countries that hold sovereignty over the region's territories. We have also furthered dialogue with other countries that have tropical forests, in Africa and Asia.”

Looking ahead to the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference, which will begin in the UAE at the end of November, he said: “We want to arrive at COP28 in Dubai with a joint vision that reflects, without any coaching, the priorities for preserving the Amazon, Congo, and Borneo-Mekong basins based on our needs.”

Lula criticized the unequal distribution of financial and technological resources for climate action and highlighted the fact that an international promise made in 2009 to provide $100 billion a year to help developing countries finance climate action remains unfulfilled.

“Without mobilizing financial and technological resources, there is no way to implement what we decided in the Paris Agreement and the Global Biodiversity Framework,” he said.

“The promise to allocate $100 billion annually to developing countries remains just that, a promise. Today, this amount would be insufficient for a demand that already reaches trillions of dollars.”

Lula also highlighted the erosion of multilateralism, and the distorted representation of nations in international institutions, and market-driven inequalities, as he emphasized the need for a new model for economic governance.

He said this was one of the reasons for the emergence of BRICS, a grouping of emerging economies that currently includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The members recently revealed plans to expand the group, and have invited Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt and Argentina to join.

“The BRICS was the result of this paralysis and constitutes a strategic platform to promote cooperation between emerging countries,” Lula said.

“The recent expansion of the group at the Johannesburg Summit strengthens the fight for an order which accommodates the economic, geographic and political plurality of the 21st century.

“We are a force that works toward fairer global trade in the context of a serious crisis in multilateralism. Rich countries’ protectionism has gained strength and the World Trade Organization remains paralyzed, especially its dispute-settlement system. Nobody remembers the Doha Development Round anymore.”

The Doha Development Round was a WTO negotiation initiative that aimed to reduce trade barriers around the world, with a particular focus on the priorities of less-developed countries. Progress stalled in 2008, and the process now is effectively considered dead.

Brazil will take over the presidency of the G20 from India later this year.

“Upon taking over as the chair of the G20 in December, we will spare no effort to place the fight against inequalities, in all its dimensions, at the core of the international agenda,” Lula said.

“Under the motto ‘Building a Fair World and a Sustainable Planet,’ the Brazilian chair will coordinate social inclusion and the fight against hunger; sustainable development; and reform of global governance institutions.”

Turning to the importance of a global culture of peace, the Brazilian president voiced concerns about existing unresolved conflicts as well as emerging threats, including the Palestinian issue, the crisis in Haiti, and conflicts in several African nations. He stressed the need for dialogue as the foundation for lasting peace.

“Promoting a culture of peace is a duty for us all,” he said. “Building it requires persistence and vigilance. It is disturbing to see that old unresolved disputes persist, and new threats emerge or gain force.

“The difficulty of guaranteeing the creation of a state for the Palestinian people clearly shows this. Added to this case (we see) the persisting humanitarian crisis in Haiti, the conflict in Yemen, threats to Libyan national unity, and institutional ruptures in Burkina Faso, Gabon, Guinea-Conakry, Mali, Niger and Sudan.”

Lula called for a focus on development ahead of military spending, and criticized the unilateral application of sanctions, pledging that Brazil rejects such measures. He also expressed concern about the credibility of the UN Security Council and called for it to be reformed.

In closing, he urged the international community to show its outrage over inequality and to work together to create a more equitable, fair and fraternal world. He reiterated the urgent need to address global challenges, in particular inequality, through international cooperation and a renewed commitment to multilateralism.


Taiwan’s defense ministry detects 21 Chinese military aircraft

Taiwan’s defense ministry detects 21 Chinese military aircraft
Updated 7 sec ago
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Taiwan’s defense ministry detects 21 Chinese military aircraft

Taiwan’s defense ministry detects 21 Chinese military aircraft
  • The median line bisects the Taiwan Strait, a narrow 180-kilometer waterway separating the island from mainland China
TAIPEI: Taipei’s defense ministry said it had detected 21 Chinese military aircraft around the self-ruled island since 8:15 am (0015 GMT) on Saturday, a month before Taiwan’s May 20 inauguration of incoming president Lai Ching-te.
“17 aircraft (of the 21) crossed the median line and its extension, entered our northern, central, and southwestern (air defense identification zone), and joined PLA vessels for joint combat patrol,” it said in a statement posted on X around 11:30 am.
Taiwan’s armed forces “are monitoring the activities with our joint surveillance systems, and have dispatched appropriate assets to respond accordingly.”
The median line bisects the Taiwan Strait, a narrow 180-kilometer waterway separating the island from mainland China.
Beijing does not recognize the line as it claims democratic Taiwan as part of its territory. It has also never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.
China sends warplanes and naval vessels around Taiwan on a near daily basis — a move experts say is a form of “grey-zone harassment,” stopping short of an outright act of war but enough to exhaust Taipei’s armed forces.
According to the defense ministry, the 21 aerial objects detected Saturday included J-16 fighter jets and Y-8 medium-range transport aircraft, as well as drones.
The highest number around Taiwan so far this year was in March, when the ministry said 36 Chinese aircraft were detected in a single 24-hour period.
Last year’s record was in September when Beijing’s military sent 103 aircraft — 40 of which crossed the median line — in a 24-hour period.
Saturday’s show of force comes a day after China activated two aviation routes that run close to Taiwan’s outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu.
Taipei’s Civil Aviation Administration expressed “solemn protest against China’s unilateral measures without consultation” on Friday.
The new routes make the airspace separation between the two sides “very narrow,” it said, increasing flight safety risks during bad weather or abnormal flight operations.
China’s aviation authority also said Friday the airspace around Fuzhou Changle Airport — 30 kilometers from the closest outlying Taiwanese island — would be “further optimized and adjusted” on May 16, four days before the inauguration.
Under the administration of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, tensions between Beijing and Taipei have ramped up, as she and her government do not acknowledge China’s claim.
Her deputy, Vice President Lai, won elections in January despite warnings from Beijing that he would be the cause of “war and decline” for Taiwan.
China regards Lai — who used to be outspoken about Taiwan independence — as a “dangerous separatist,” though he has moderated his views in recent years.

Hundreds of people evacuated as volcano spews clouds of ash in Indonesia

Hundreds of people evacuated as volcano spews clouds of ash in Indonesia
Updated 20 April 2024
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Hundreds of people evacuated as volcano spews clouds of ash in Indonesia

Hundreds of people evacuated as volcano spews clouds of ash in Indonesia
  • Local authorities combed the villages surrounding the volcano and evacuated residents to safer areas by boat
  • Officials worry that part of the volcano could collapse into the sea and cause a tsunami, as happened in an eruption there in 1871

MANADO, Indonesia: More than 2,100 people living near an erupting volcano on Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island were evacuated Friday due to the dangers of spreading ash, falling rocks, hot volcanic clouds and the possibility of a tsunami.
Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation recorded at least three eruptions since Friday afternoon, with the maximum height of the eruption column reaching 1,200 meters (3,900 feet).
An international airport in Manado city, less than 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the erupting Mount Ruang, is still temporarily closed as volcanic ash was spewed into the air.

This photo provided by the Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency shows a part of a village on Tagulandang island covered by ash from eruptions of Mount Ruang on April 19, 2024. (National Search and Rescue Agency via AP)

Satellite imagery from the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency shows the ash has spread to the west, northwest, northeast and southeast, covering Manado and North Minahasa, according to a statement from Indonesia’s Transportation Ministry.
“We are still monitoring developments in the eruption of Mount Ruang and coordinating with relevant stakeholders … to anticipate the necessary actions to ensure flight safety, security and comfort,” said Ambar Suryoko, head of the regional airport authority.
More than 11,000 people were told to leave their homes that were located in the affected area. A joint team from the local authorities combed the villages surrounding the volcano and evacuated residents to safer areas by boat.
Officials worry that part of the volcano could collapse into the sea and cause a tsunami, as happened in an eruption there in 1871.
Houses, roads and other buildings were covered by gray volcanic ash, and many roofs were broken by debris spewed from the eruption.

Mount Ruang saw at least five large eruptions Wednesday, causing the Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation to issue its highest level of alert. People were ordered to stay at least 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) from the 725-meter (2,378-foot) mountain.
The observation from the agency on Friday said white smoke was rising from the main crater with medium to thick intensity.
East of the volcano, Tagulandang Island could be at risk if a collapse occurred. Its residents were among those being told to evacuate. Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency said residents would be relocated to Manado, a journey of 6 hours by boat.
Indonesia, an archipelago of 270 million people, has 120 active volcanoes. It is prone to volcanic activity because it sits along the “Ring of Fire,” a horseshoe-shaped series of seismic fault lines around the Pacific Ocean.
 


Finance firms urge ambitious action on plastic pollution

Finance firms urge ambitious action on plastic pollution
Updated 19 April 2024
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Finance firms urge ambitious action on plastic pollution

Finance firms urge ambitious action on plastic pollution
  • Curtailing the estimated 400 million metric tonnes of waste produced every year is a crucial part of efforts to protect biodiversity, with microplastics found everywhere from the mountainous Himalayas to staple foods and even human blood

LONDON: A group of 160 financial companies on Friday urged governments to agree a treaty to end plastic pollution that would help spur private sector action, ahead of the next round of global talks in Canada.
The fourth meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution (INC-4) is due to be held in Ottawa next week to lay the groundwork for an eventual deal before the end of the year.
Curtailing the estimated 400 million metric tonnes of waste produced every year is a crucial part of efforts to protect biodiversity, with microplastics found everywhere from the mountainous Himalayas to staple foods and even human blood.
To help fix the problem, the finance firms, which include Britain’s biggest investor Legal & General Investment Management and Canadian pension investor CDPQ, called for a policy framework backed up by binding rules.
Among specific steps, the group called for the treaty to set an objective for all public and private finance to be consistent with the goal of eliminating plastic pollution, similar to that in the Paris climate agreement and the Kunming-Montreal global biodiversity framework.
It also called for companies to assess and disclose plastic-related risks and opportunities; clearer plastic-related policies and targets from governments in areas like waste creating and recycling; and for further private investment to be directed to ending plastic pollution.
“A clear transition pathway laid out in the Treaty will help leverage finance at scale for this massive task of ending plastic pollution worldwide,” said Anne-Sophie Castelnau, global head of sustainability at ING, one of the signatories.
Steve Hardman, CEO of Plastic Collective, an NGO which designed the world’s first plastic waste reduction bond alongside Citi and the World Bank, welcomed the support but called for business to provide more financial solutions.
In January, the World Bank issued the $100 million bond to finance plastic-reduction projects in Ghana and Indonesia. Investors will be paid a rate linked to plastic removal credits generated by the projects.

 


Finnish PM: EU should help end migrant influx from Russia

Finnish PM: EU should help end migrant influx from Russia
Updated 19 April 2024
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Finnish PM: EU should help end migrant influx from Russia

Finnish PM: EU should help end migrant influx from Russia
  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visits the border to assess security situation

HELSINKI: The EU should take measures to help Finland stop an influx of migrants via Russia, Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said.

Finland last year shut its long border with Russia amid a growing number of arrivals from countries including Syria and Somalia.
It accused Moscow of weaponizing migration against the Nordic nation and the EU, an assertion the Kremlin denies.
Finland’s government has closed eight of its nine checkpoints with Russia.
The only one that remains open is dedicated to rail travel and cargo trains mainly run through it.
“We are preparing our legislation, but we also need EU measures,” Orpo said, without elaborating, after visiting the Nordic country’s border with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Von der Leyen told the same press conference that the EU Commission was working closely with the migrants’ countries of origin, agreeing with Finland’s position.
“What we see is that a state is instrumentalizing poor people to put pressure on another state, so that is a clear security issue,” she said.
She said that the measures taken to deal with migrants from Russia must balance protecting the security of borders and international obligations.
Following Poland and Lithuania’s example on their borders with Belarus, the Finnish government is drafting legislation allowing border guards to block asylum seekers entering the country from Russia.
“We all know how (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and his allies instrumentalize migrants to test our defenses and to try to destabilize us,” von der Leyen told officials.
“Now Putin is focusing on Finland, and this is no doubt in response to your firm support of Ukraine and your accession to NATO.”
Von der Leyen and Orpo flew in a Finnish helicopter over the landscape of forests and towns on the border.
Von der Leyen is campaigning as a conservative European People’s Party bloc member for a second term in office as head of the EU’s powerful executive branch.
Security is a top EPP theme before the June 6-9 European Parliament elections.
Most of the migrants hail from the Middle East and Africa.
Most of them have sought asylum in Finland, a member of the EU and NATO with a population of 5.6 million.
Finland joined NATO in April 2023, ending decades of neutrality after the country’s defeat by the Soviet Union in the Second World War.
In March, Sweden also became a member of the trans-Atlantic alliance.
The move dealt a major blow to Putin, with a historic realignment of Europe’s post-Cold War security landscape triggered by Moscow’s offensive against Ukraine.

 


US sanctions ally of Israeli minister, entities backing ‘extremist’ settlers

US sanctions ally of Israeli minister, entities backing ‘extremist’ settlers
Updated 20 April 2024
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US sanctions ally of Israeli minister, entities backing ‘extremist’ settlers

US sanctions ally of Israeli minister, entities backing ‘extremist’ settlers
  • Move comes as West Bank sees some of its worst violence perpetrated by settlers against Palestinians since Gaza war

WASHINGTON: The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on an ally of Israel’s far-right national security minister and two entities that raised money for Israeli men accused of settler violence, the latest actions aimed against those Washington blames for an escalation of violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The sanctions, in addition to those already imposed on five settlers and two unauthorized outposts already this year, are the latest sign of growing US frustration with the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The moves on Friday, which freeze any US assets held by those targeted and generally bar Americans from dealing with them, hit two organizations that launched fundraising campaigns to support settlers accused of violence and targeted by previous sanctions, the Department of the Treasury said in a statement.
The Biden administration’s moves against Israeli settlers have upset right-wing members of Netanyahu’s governing coalition who support the expansion of Jewish settlements and ultimately the annexation of the West Bank, where Palestinians envisage a future state.
They come as the complex relationship between Washington and its ally Israel is tested by the war in Gaza and as the Biden administration urges Israel to show restraint in responding to retaliatory strikes by Iran.
Washington sanctioned Ben-Zion Gopstein, founder and leader of the right-wing group Lehava, which opposes Jewish assimilation with non-Jews and agitates against Arabs in the name of religion and national security. Gopstein has said Lehava has 5,000 members.
State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said members of the group had engaged in “destabilizing violence affecting the West Bank.”
“Under Gopstein’s leadership, Lehava and its members have been involved in acts or threats of violence against Palestinians, often targeting sensitive or volatile areas,” Miller said in a statement, warning of additional steps if Israel does not take measures to prevent extremist attacks amid an escalation of violence in the West Bank in recent days.
The European Union also said on Friday it had agreed to take sanctions against Lehava and other groups linked to violent settlers.
A spokesperson for Israel’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Gopstein, the most prominent Israeli figure targeted by US sanctions, is a close associate of and has family ties to National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who himself lives in a West Bank settlement.
Ben-Gvir, like Gopstein, was a disciple of the late Meir Kahane, an ultranationalist rabbi whose Kach movement was listed by Washington as a specially designated global terrorist organization.
Ben-Gvir on Friday slammed what he called harassment against Lehava and “our dear settlers who have never engaged in terrorism or hurt anyone,” labeling the allegations against them a “blood libel” by Palestinian groups and anarchists.
“I call on Western countries to stop cooperating with these antisemites and end this campaign of persecution against the pioneering Zionist settlers,” Ben-Gvir said in a statement released by his office.
CROWDFUNDING
Since the 1967 Middle East war, Israel has occupied the West Bank of the Jordan River, which Palestinians want as the core of an independent state. It has built Jewish settlements there that most countries deem illegal. Israel disputes this and cites historical and Biblical ties to the land.
The Biden administration in February said settlements were inconsistent with international law, signaling a return to long-standing US policy on the issue that had been reversed by the previous administration of Donald Trump.
One entity targeted on Friday, Mount Hebron Fund, launched an online fundraising campaign that raised $140,000 for settler Yinon Levi, the Treasury said, after he was sanctioned on Feb. 1 for leading a group of settlers that assaulted Palestinian and Bedouin civilians, burned their fields and destroyed their property.
It said the second entity, Shlom Asiraich, raised $31,000 on a crowdfunding website for David Chai Chasdai, who the United States sanctioned for initiating and leading a riot that included setting vehicles and buildings on fire and causing damage to property in the Palestinian town of Hawara, resulting in the death of a Palestinian civilian.
“These types of enforcement actions against entities helping violent settlers evade US sanctions are what give sanctions teeth,” said Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man, director of research for Israel-Palestine at Democracy for the Arab World Now, a human rights group that has highlighted efforts by supporters to evade sanctions against settlers.