Majuro Declaration

2013 - Volume 16 Number 5

The coral atolls and other low-lying islands that dot the Pacific Ocean are just a few meters above sea-level. These islands will experience a higher sea level rise than other parts of the world and Pacific peoples are already exposed to the adverse effects of climate change, something that is not of their own doing.  Pacific Island nations cannot afford to wait any longer; that is a luxury belonging to developed nations.  They are compelled to attend to their very survival. 

The plight of Pacific peoples was given a strong shake-up on the fifth of September this year by Pacific Island Leaders gathered at the 45th Pacific Islands Forum representing fourteen South Pacific Islands spread throughout a vast area of 3.5 million square kilometres of ocean: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. 

In Majuro, capital of the Marshall Islands, Forum members, together with Australia and New Zealand, signed the “Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership.” The significance of the document lies precisely in the firm political leadership of the Pacific Islands. Now, stepping up to even greater leadership, they “commit to being Climate Leaders.” Because “to lead is to act” they make a compelling case for others to follow their lead. 

Tired of waiting for others to “go first,” the Pacific’s plucky new approach recognises that developed countries have other agendas, but at the same time “if the Pacific Islands disappear… it will be too late for everyone else.” This echoes the assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

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Sanctions

2013 - Volume 16 Number 4

Sanctions are not an alternative to war. They seem invisible, but their effects are highly visible. Deliberately crippling a nation’s economy is nothing less than war. With the imposition of sanctions ordinary Iranians are increasingly caught in the crosshairs.

Sanctions actually lead to increased repression and corruption as well as sow the seeds of further alienation between the people of Iran and the United States. Australia joined with the United States in imposing sanctions against Iran with the aim of preventing it from acquiring nuclear weapons.

It is not true that sanctions are ‘targeted.’ The true nature of so-called ‘targeted’ sanctions in Iran was revealed before the escalation of sanctions. U.S. and European Union sanctions ‘seriously endangered the lives of tens of thousands of patients, particularly children, suffering from special diseases.’

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Climate Justice

2013 - Volume 16 Number 3

To our North and East of Australia lie the Pacific Islands, a vast region that is at the forefront of human induced climate change.

Within this collection of archipelagos and atolls lie Kiribati, Tuvalu, and the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI), whose people have seen the quality of their lives deteriorate from the impact of rising sea temperatures and tides. Human induced climate change is the cause, and is exacerbating existing human development issues that face the atolls.

That the world needs to reduce its emissions can no longer be in doubt if these island nations are to remain intact, both as a collection of land and as cultural groups, by the end of the century.

Australia, as the highest per capita greenhouse gas emitter in the world and their neighbour, can and must do more to lead the way in reducing emissions.

At our current rate, we are likely to see a rise in sea levels of 0.6 metres and 4 degrees in temperature by 2100.  This is a fearful prospect for our low lying neighbours.

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Palm Oil - the 'threat' in our shopping trolley

2013 - Volume 16 Number 2

It is little known the extent to which palm oil is a part of our everyday diet. In our supermarkets, pharmacies and convenience shops it is almost impossible to purchase products free from palm oil. It is used in ice cream, chocolate, biscuits, crackers, chips, margarine, fruit juice, batters, soap, toothpaste, laundry powders, detergents, cosmetics, pet food. It has also been touted as a biofuel – although palm oil-based diesel actually increases greenhouse emissions.

In Colombia human rights advocates have demonstrated that the murders and violence committed by the Colombian Armed Forces' under their 'paramiliatary strategy' whilst rationalised as 'depopulating' counter-insurgency work has the real aim of the taking of lands from peasant communities in fertile coastal plains in order to establish massive palm oil plantations to generate export dolllars for corrupt Colombian generals. 

In Malaysia and Indonesia, where rainforests are being cleared, the impact on wildlife is catastrophic as the habitat of endangered species is being torn down, the livelihoods of indigenous communities destroyed, and seriously contributes to the warming of the planet. Palm-oil diesel was until recently hailed as a safe, renewable alternative to petroleum, but it has been found that the peat swamps in Indonesia and Malaysia – drained and burned to allow plantations of palm oil trees – released 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year into the atmosphere, or 8% of the world's fossil fuel emissions.

The unsustainable expansion of the palm oil industry may seem a remote problem, but its solution might be the shopping trolley. The consequences of its growth have not been grasped by the industry. Consumer pressure, industry leadership and political incentives are required to permanently place these tropical rainforests off limits. 

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Jeju Island - Assault on Island of Peace

2013 - Volume 16 Number 1

The US has over 1000 military bases around the world, including 82 in South Korea alone. China - against whom this expansion is directed - has no significant military bases outside its borders. Yet, most Australians and Americans are unaware of the United States increasing its military presence in Korea, Japan, and the rest of the Pacific – including Australia.

Nor are they aware of Jeju Island, 80 kms south-west of the Korean Peninsula. Many of the people of Jeju are attempting to non-violently resist the construction of a new naval base in the small fishing and farming village of Gangjeong. For Korea, the island is becoming ‘the spearhead of the country’s defense line,’ a reckless 500km from China. A naval base at Gangjeong will increase military tensions and will be an obstacle to peace in the East Asian region, so this resistance represents a larger drama being played out against the forces of empire. 

U.S. foreign policy is undergoing a major ‘pivot’ to the Asia- Pacific region that already takes in Guam, Australia, Okinawa, and the Philippines. It has been called ‘America’s Pacific Century’. 

Gangjeong, at the forefront of a U.S. strategy of increased militarisation, is designed, under the pretext of defense against North Korean expansion, to counterbalance China’s growing economic and military sphere of influence. This will put U.S. military might on China’s doorstep! 

The failure to prevent the base construction could also impact the rest of the world as well, as China sees such projects as a threat to its national security. What is occurring on Jeju Island is becoming one of the most critical struggles to avoid a potentially devastating war in Asia. 

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