Mar 20, 2013
As the five heads of states of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) meet on African soil in Durban next week for the developing nations’ summit, civil society in Durban will be holding its own summit of a very different nature.
BRICS governments often use radical rhetoric alluding to anti-imperialism, and in this year’s summit, they will undoubtedly impress upon the rest of Africa that their corporations offer better investments in infrastructure, mining, energy, and agriculture than traditional Northern multinationals. In the brics-from-below! civil summit, hosted by groundWork (Friends of the Earth South Africa) , the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA)  and the University of KwaZulu Natal Centre for Civil Society (UKZN CCS) , civil society will play two major critical roles: firstly, acting as a watchdog of the claims, processes and outcomes of the BRICS summit, and secondly, providing a platform for civil society organisations in these countries to share experiences and create networks.
The prospect that South Africa “presents a gateway for investment on the continent”  could leave Africa overwhelmed by BRICS corporations and is indicative that the trajectory of the 21st century ‘scramble for Africa’ has already begun. Africa’s ‘Resource Curse’ will attract billions of dollars worth of BRICS infrastructure developments. In this light, the BRICS Summit in Durban is set to be the next successor to the initial carving up of Africa, which took place in 1885 in Berlin.
Africa’s survival, however, is largely at the mercy of climate change. Climate change is driven by increased greenhouse gas emissions, which is fuelled by South Africa and other BRICS countries that continue to rely on and supply their Northern counterparts with dirty, non-renewable sources of energy, or the products created from dirty energy. The United Nations COP17 hosted in Durban in 2011 resulted in a weak, non-binding deal, which neglects the historic responsibility of Northern countries and promotes a rising average temperature for the continent at 1.5 degrees higher than the rest of the world.
The major focus of this year’s summit is the new BRICS Bank, despite the growing world financial crisis clearly not boding well for this. Austerity scenarios continue to play themselves out in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland, as a result of IMF bail-out of banks – which in 2012 included $75 billion of BRICS countries’ capital. The proposed BRICS Bank will exacerbate the chaos in our and our neighbour’s social, economic and environmental spheres already caused in part by multilateral financing. Existing development finance institutions in BRICS countries – like South Africa’s Development Bank of Southern Africa – offer mainly negative lessons.
Along with these issues, people in BRICS countries face numerous serious socio-economic, political and civil rights violations. Inequality, lack of adequate infrastructure, increased levels of violence, state repression, and the exploitation of resources to the detriment of people’s livelihoods and their ability to live in a healthy relationship with their environments, are all symptoms of development not oriented towards people but rather government and corporate profit.
The brics-from-below! civil society summit will take place from 22 to 27 March at different venues around Durban and is open to all journalists to participate.
To follow the brics-from-below! summit on social media:
Megan Lewis, Media and Information Campaigner at groundWork (Friends of the Earth, South Africa): +27 (0) 83 450 5541 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Desmond D’Sa, Coordinator at South Durban Community Environmental Alliance: +27 (0) 83 982 6939 or email@example.com
Patrick Bond, Director at University of KwaZulu Natal Centre for Civil Society: +27 (0) 83 425 1401 or firstname.lastname@example.org
 groundWork is an environmental justice organisation based in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal, working with community people from around South Africa, and increasingly Southern Africa. groundWork assists civil society on issues relating to environmental justice and human rights, focusing particularly on Air Quality, Climate and Energy Justice, Waste and Environmental Health. groundWork is the South African member of Friends of the Earth International http://www.groundwork.org.za
 The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) is an alliance of 16 organizations concerned with environmental justice and human rights, particularly relating to industrial pollution in the south Durban Basin, an area which is home to more than 285 000 people living in settled communities http://www.sdcea.co.za
 The Centre for Civil Society (CCS) was established at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in July 2001, with the mission of promoting the study of South African civil society as a legitimate, flourishing area of scholarly activity. The CCS’s objective is to advance socio-economic and environmental justice by developing critical knowledge about, for and in dialogue with civil society through teaching, research and publishing http://ccs.ukzn.ac.za/
 Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Deputy Minister, Marius Fransman. 2012. Roundtable Discussion held at the University of Stellenbosch on the theme “South Africa: A strong African Brick in BRICS” on 21 November 2012 http://www.dfa.gov.za/docs/speeches/2012/frans1121.html
Mar 18, 2013
Environmental and agricultural organisations have launched a new campaign today to prevent the further spread of genetically modified (GM) crops in Europe. The European Commission is currently considering reviving talks to approve 25 new GM-crops for cultivation in Europe – including crops resistant to the pesticide RoundUp and insecticide-producing varieties of GM maize, soybean and sugarbeet. The groups claim that such a move would drastically change farming in Europe, leading to a big increase in pesticide use, contamination of conventional and organic crops and a further industrialisation of the countryside.
Mute Schimpf, food campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: "This campaign aims to stop further genetically modified crops from being licenced in the European Union. Experience shows that this way of farming leads to an increase in pesticides and the further industrialisation of the countryside. If this happens any more in Europe then our landscapes will be poorer, our nature damaged and our food contaminated."
The campaign launches with a new film documenting GM-crop cultivation and extensive pesticide use in Latin America, and the negative environmental and human health issues experienced by local communities.
Nina Holland, campaigner at Corporate Europe Observatory said: "Currently, the EU imports soy from large-scale monoculture plantations in South America, causing not only deforestation and displacement of people, but also a public health disaster among rural communities living nearby. In those areas, citizens have taken legal action and have brought soy farmers and agribusiness companies to court."
The introduction of patented GM-crops has increased the corporate control of the food chain. Moreover, contamination of other fields is unavoidable. In the USA Monsanto has so far sued 410 farmers and 56 farm companies for patent infringements; a situation that could be repeated in Europe if GM-crop cultivation is expanded.
The campaign also claims that the push for GM crops draws attention away from sustainable alternatives, while failing to find real solutions to alleviate hunger or poverty.
Mute Schimpf continued: "GM crops are unnecessary, risky and profit large multinational companies at the expense of small scale and sustainable farming. The public clearly demands greener farming that doesn't include genetically modified crops or foods. It's time to plough all our resources into making farming really sustainable and to stop pandering to the biotech industry and their empty promises of reducing hunger or feeding the world."
Visit the campaign site: Stop the Crop
VIDEO NEWS RELEASE AND MATERIAL
ITN Productions have produced a video news release (VNR), including interviews with farmers, researchers, campaigners and politicians on the upcoming authorisations. The VNR is available in English, French and German, in different sizes, as well as scripts for translation into other languages. Longer interviews and other materials are also available. All materials are open-source and are available here:
Mar 01, 2013
March 8 is International Women's Day: Interviews with women leaders from the Fair Green and Global Alliance
March 8 is International Women's Day. We are proud to present a selection of videos with women leaders from around the world. Hover over the image below for links to the videos.
What would the world look like if men and women around the world had the same opportunities in life? What would politics look like if half of the world's leaders were female? What would development look like if men and women had equal access to and control over the natural resources they depend upon? We are convinced that the world would be a better place if at least half of the seats at all negotiating tables were occupied by women. Women are not only primary care takers of their families and their communities, they also form the majority of small-scale farmers and are the guardians of biodiversity worldwide.
They have a wealth of experience and knowledge on how to use and manage the world's resources in a sustainable way and have often come with innovative ideas. In our view, female visions and knowledge are indispensable for making balanced management decisions on a local, national or international level. But what do female leaders in developing countries have to say about this themselves? What role do women already play? To mark International Women's day 2013, we asked these and other questions to six female leaders from around the world.They all express their own vision on the role of women in sustainable and fair development. Six visions from strong women on the female contribution to a green and fair world.