Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Brazilian rainforest defender murdered

The Guardian reports (Amazon rainforest activist shot dead):
Six months after predicting his own murder, a leading rainforest defender has reportedly been gunned down in the Brazilian Amazon. José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife, Maria do Espírito Santo, are said to have been killed in an ambush near their home in Nova Ipixuna, in Pará state, about 37 miles from Marabá. According to a local newspaper, Diário do Pará, the couple had not had police protection despite getting frequent death threats because of their battle against illegal loggers and ranchers.
"I could be here today talking to you and in one month you will get the news that I disappeared. I will protect the forest at all costs. That is why I could get a bullet in my head at any moment … because I denounce the loggers and charcoal producers, and that is why they think I cannot exist. [People] ask me, 'are you afraid?' Yes, I'm a human being, of course I am afraid. But my fear does not silence me. As long as I have the strength to walk I will denounce all of those who damage the forest."
- José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva, TEDxAmazonia

Sunday, May 22, 2011

North vs South Sudan fights over oil-rich territory

Reuters / North Sudan seizes disputed Abyei, thousands flee
Sudan's northern army seized control of the disputed, oil-producing Abyei region, officials said Sunday, forcing thousands to flee and bringing the country's north and south to the brink of full conflict.
"Most residents in Abyei town left yesterday (Saturday) and have gone south. There are reports of looting by armed groups."
- U.N. spokeswoman Hua Jiang

Al Jazera / Sudanese troops 'in control of Abyei'
Control of oil-rich and fertile Abyei has been the main point of dispute between Sudan and South Sudan ahead of plans for the south to become a separate state on July 9, following a January referendum on independence. [...] The North and South were supposed to have withdrawn all of their forces from Abyei by this week except for a special joint force made up of units from both sides. The north supports the Arab Misseriya tribe that grazes its cattle in Abyei, and the south backs the Dinka Ngok tribe that lives there year round.

MSF / Sudan: MSF Assists 42 Wounded in Violent Clashes in Abyei
The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is currently responding to the consequences of fighting in the Abyei region, in Sudan. Following violent clashes, the MSF hospital in Agok, 40 kilometers [24 miles] south of Abyei, received 42 wounded late Friday and early Saturday.

View Larger Map

Abyei Main street 2005 by Gert J.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Leaks and alibis

The batch of US government "cables" published by Wikiliaks last week were partly about natural resource concerns. Some of them were about climate change and the COP-15 summit too so I have already added some quotes to the collection regarding those topics. Read below a selection of quotes demonstrating the imperative role played by natural resource riches in the private communications between US diplomats and Washington; these from embassies in countries surrounding the North Pole.

The GOC [Government of Canada] is taking steps to secure sovereign rights over seabed resources that extend to the edge of the continental shelf. [...] Canada's effort to secure sovereign rights may have ramifications with respect to American and Canadian maritime boundary disputes and exploitation of seabed resources, particularly in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. [...] Natural Resources Canada also has a joint initiative with the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland to conduct surveys in northern boundary waters. [...] Ironically, in 2005, Canada and Denmark engaged in a spirited debate over the nationality of Hans Island, an uninhabited barren knoll measuring a half square-mile located between Greenland and Ellesmere Island. [...] The United States and Canada have competing maritime boundary claims in places along the Pacific (Dixon Entrance), Atlantic (Machias Seal Island) and Arctic Ocean (Beaufort Sea) coasts. The Canadian effort to claim sovereignty over the continental shelf may complicate these on-going disputes.
- #06OTTAWA2294, 31st of July 2006

Greenland is on a clear track toward independence, which could come more quickly than most outside the Kingdom of Denmark realize. By 2009, Greenlandic and Danish politicians will complete a new self-rule agreement, the penultimate step toward full independence. Significant oil, gas, and mineral resources - forecast by experts but not yet proven - could propel the Greenlanders after that to ultimately sever their formal ties to Denmark. With Greenlandic independence glinting on the horizon, the U.S. has a unique opportunity to shape the circumstances in which an independent nation may emerge. We have real security and growing economic interests in Greenland, for which existing Joint and Permanent Committee mechanisms may no longer be sufficient. American commercial investments, our continuing strategic military presence, and new high-level scientific and political interest in Greenland argue for establishing a small and seasonal American Presence Post in Greenland's capital as soon as practicable. [...] Greenland holds strategic value for the United States beyond its starring role in the global narrative of climate change. The world's largest island, this remote and sparsely-populated territory of Denmark is three times the size of Texas but home to just 56,000 inhabitants. A U.S. Air Force base at Thule, 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle, hosts important radar that alerts us to incoming missiles over the Pole. American investors are poised to commit $5 billion this year to develop hydropower and smelting facilities there. Exploration and development of Greenland's energy resources are just now beginning in earnest, with enormous potential for American industry. [...] A recent study of hydrocarbon potential, led by the U.S. Geological Survey, concluded the continental shelf off northeast Greenland alone could harbor oil and gas reserves to rival Alaska's North Slope. [...] Whether because of man-made climate change or a massive, cyclical shift in weather patterns, Greenland's carbon riches are more easily accessible now than ever. Meanwhile, the resource possibilities in Greenland are not limited to oil and gas. The Greenland government has issued 68 mineral exploration licenses to international companies, and expects at least five significant new mines to open in the next five years, harvesting everything from diamonds and rubies to molybdenum and zinc. [...] Our radar at Thule is now being upgraded for use in missile defense, while the base there also carries out important satellite command and control functions for the United States. U.S. trade and investment in Greenland is growing, with a multi-billion-dollar aluminum smelter and hydroelectric project planned by Alcoa and new oil and gas exploration underway by major U.S. firms.
- #07COPENHAGEN1010, 7th of November 2007

Norway is undergoing a philosophical, bureaucratic and public debate on what its defense policy, obligations and needs will be for the next five to ten years. The outcome
will have significant implications for Norway,s ability to fulfill NATO obligations as well as its ability to cope with the potential of increased military threats in the Arctic.
An additional factor in the debate is increased official interest in Nordic defense cooperation, with a particular focus on Sweden. The planned purchase of 48 new fighter aircraft (relevant to the Joint Strike Fighter program), and a decision on a costly fast patrol boat program top procurement concerns. [...] Norway is changing and USG engagement is key to avoid further drift. [...] Governmental skepticism of defense has been reflected in flat budgets for the last five years, meaning in real terms, decreases in funding. This at a time when Norway accumulated a vast 380 billion dollar surplus in its 'oil fund'. [...] We expect Norway's move toward Nordic cooperation and preference for UN mandated peacekeeping missions to remain, even if the current government does not win the 2009 election. This tend combined with a general antipathy to missile defense, efforts to ban cluster munitions, focus on disarmament instead of non-proliferation and reluctance to use its vast energy wealth to fund defense pending open questions regarding Norway's commitment to be a serious and dependable ally.
- #07OSLO1161, 18th of December 2007

Voters remain concerned about the Arctic, and the public has been broadly supportive of the government's ongoing efforts to assert Canadian sovereignty and to improve its ability to defend its Arctic interests. Especially popular were programs to modernize Halifax-class frigates, to purchase new Arctic patrol ships, to deploy additional Canadian Rangers, and to develop a deep water port in the far North. The government will announce a "Canada First" defense strategy early in 2008 further to demonstrate its attention to this issue, as well as to bolster its long-term military modernization program, including purchases of four C-17 Globemaster strategic airlift aircraft, 17 C-130 Hercules tactical airlift aircraft, 16 CH-47 Chinook Helicopters, modern Leopard tanks, and heavy trucks. The new strategy may include purchases of new search-and-rescue aircraft and utility planes, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles, for Arctic coverage and an improved Arctic underwater surveillance system.
- #08OTTAWA1, 2nd of January 2008

[The Danish Foreign Minister, Møller] explained that Denmark's initiative convoking and organizing the Arctic Ocean conference arose in light of controversy following the Russian flag-planting on the North Pole seabed. In that context Denmark had perceived a need for the five coastal Arctic states to come together to recognize and affirm their commitment to an orderly claims process and special responsibilities to ensure the safety and preserve the marine environment of a changing Arctic Ocean. [...Møller joked] "if you stay out [of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)], then the rest of us will have more to carve up in the Arctic."
- #08COPENHAGEN322, 6th of June 2008

In March, Medvedev approved Russia's long-delayed Arctic policy. It defined the region as Russia's strategic energy reserve, called for its promotion as a transportation corridor, and sought to balance cooperation with the country's security needs. The policy itself reflects competing voices within the GOR, with security officials emphasizing the deployment of Federal Security Service (FSB) forces and the Russian Foreign Ministry calling for cooperation (although the GOR remains universally allergic to NATO's presence in the region). [...] Behind Russia's policy are two potential benefits accruing from global warming: the prospect for an (even seasonally) ice-free shipping route from Europe to Asia, and the estimated oil and gas wealth hidden beneath the Arctic sea floor. The shipping route would reduce the distance of a voyage from Europe to Asia by 40 percent (if compared to a route through the Suez Canal). These savings in shipping costs to Russia and to Europe are potentially huge, even if the voyage could only be made in the summer months. Artur Chilingarov, Arctic explorer, State Duma member, and the President's Envoy for Cooperation in the Arctic, with the support of Medvedev's administration, has put forward draft legislation that would establish a new regulatory body, "the Administration for the Northern Sea Route," for oversight, management, navigation, and ecological protection. The current draft defines the route as located in "the internal waters, territorial sea, or exclusive economic zone of the
Russian Federation." However, some Russian shippers at a conference held by the Carnegie Moscow Center October 2008 pointed out that short windows of good weather, the presence of unpredictable ice flows, and the lack of logistical and emergency response support would conspire to make the cost of insurance for the Northern Sea Route unfeasible. [...] The Arctic region, both within Russia's legally clarified borders and in areas beyond, likely holds vast untapped resources of oil and gas. While many Russian analysts are skeptical that any of these resources will be economically exploitable in the near future, the Russian leadership wants to secure sovereignty over these "strategic" resources. [...] Despite on-going efforts to renew U.S.-Russian relations, some Russian voices have called the situation in the Arctic a "cold peace" vis-a-vis NATO and the U.S. In April 2008, Russian Navy head Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky said, "While in the Arctic there is peace and stability, however, one cannot exclude that in the future there will be a redistribution of power, up to armed intervention." His statements preceded the July deployment of Russian Northern Fleet missile cruiser "Marshall Ustinov" and anti-submarine ships off the coast of Spitsbergen to coincide with fishing season, and the Russian submarine "Ryazan's" September underwater transit of the Arctic ice sheet, a first since the end of the Cold War. Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev in an interview published in the online media outlet Gazeta.ru March 30 also posited a zero-sum view of the Arctic, assessing that "It is clear that (developments do) not coincide with the economic, geopolitical, and defense interests of Russia (in the Arctic) and is a systemic threat to its national security." In a March 31 interview with Moscovskiy Komsomolets, he declared that "there have been efforts to drive Russia out of the Arctic." To counter these trends, he pointed to the creation of a new FSB coast guard force and calls for new coastal stations to protect Russian territory as outlined in Russia's new policy. Russia's senior Arctic official, Ambassador-At-Large Anton Vasiliyev and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have made efforts to tamp down these more aggressive statements.
- #09MOSCOW1346, 26th of May 2009

Additional funds will focus on improved and increased capabilities for all of Norway's armed forces, including the Coast Guard. Russian offensive exercises off Norway's coast have demonstrated that Russian forces over the past few years are increasingly well-funded and better trained, said Barth-Eide. However, Norway did not view the exercises as much of a threat, but rather as Russia's attempt to emerge as the dominant Arctic power by default. If other Arctic nations and Europe fail to engage pro-actively to counter Russia's influence, particularly its soft power influence, he warned, Russia will set the Arctic agenda.
- #09OSLO635, 15th of October 2009

Update: AP / Denmark preparing to stake claim to North Pole and Information / Denmark wants to claim the North Pole.
According to a leaked draft of the official strategy for the Arctic, Denmark will make an official claim for the territorial rights for the North Pole before the UN deadline in 2014. This approach marks a new direction for its Arctic strategy: From now on, human needs must go before the needs of the environment

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