News Commentary: From Durban to Cagayan de Oro: the Climate Change Tragedy

29 12 2011

Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation (ASSIST)

News Commentary by Sheena Carmel D. Opulencia

The United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted in 1992 made one specific provision which recognized that “all countries, especially developing countries, need access to resources required to achieve sustainable social and economic development and that, in order for developing countries to progress towards that goal, their energy consumption will need to grow taking into account the possibilities for achieving greater energy efficiency and for controlling greenhouse gas emissions in general, including through the application of new technologies on terms which make such an application economically and socially beneficial” (UNFCCC, 2007).

Almost 20 years after, in Durban, South Africa, global leaders, policymakers, civil society representatives, and climate change experts convened for the UN Climate Change Conference from November 28 to December 9, 2011.

The ultimate decision-making body is the Conference of Parties (COP), allowing for the adoption of COP decisions and resolutions for the practical and effective implementation of the Convention. Major decisions adopted focused on the establishment of an Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, Launching of the Green Climate Fund, modalities and procedures of the Technology Executive Committee, and national adaptation plans (UNFCCC, 2011).

Prior to the Conference, the Philippine government has approved and submitted to the UN a National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) which sought to set priorities such as water governance, improvement of fish yield and administrative changes in the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), and other climate change adaptation practices (Poblete, 2011). These priorities will allow the national government in preparing proposals to the Green Climate Fund over and above the Adaptation Fund.

IBON Foundation (2011) released an assessment of the Durban climate change conference, and claimed that the Durban Package “amounts to more heavy lifting for the South, less obligations for the North, and little help for the poor”.

First, the conference has become a mere “platform” for the delegates to present their national statements and not to come up with clear, long term decisions and accountability rules and measures (Black, 2011). Second, the launching of the Green Climate Fund has only increased individual initiatives of each country to develop short term solutions to climate change, undermining possibilities of collaboration with neighbor countries in eliminating climate change risks and not merely working on adaptation. Lastly, the deal for the United States of America (USA), People’s Republic of China (PRC) and India to cut back on their carbon emissions is considered passé and a dramatic way of ending the summit.

More than the political will of global leaders especially from developed countries in claiming accountability to the effects of climate change, the call for urgency and drastic strategies to reduce the risks of climate change was considered “jaundiced” in the proceedings (Black, 2011). Furthermore, the withdrawal of Canada from the Kyoto Protocol[1] implicates how most developed countries have failed to comply with the protocol agreements, and have not been able to address its effectiveness and relevance in the 21st century (The Guardian, 2011). “Canada, Japan and Russia said last year that they will not accept new Kyoto commitments.”

The end of the Durban Conference seemed more tragic than what it was meaning to generate from the 195 countries which participated in the conference. As Rahman (2011) stated, the Kyoto protocol itself has been much debated especially in terms of each country cutting back carbon emissions by 5% in 1997, and other countries have addressed their reluctance to comply by 2012. Second argument that he raised was that carbon emissions of other countries cannot be reduced as long as rich countries such as the member states of the European Union and China will not take the first move to commit to deeper cuts in the emissions. Lastly, monetary contributions from past agreements were not properly managed (Rahman, 2011).

The tragedy that was in Durban was also experienced in the Philippines. Over a thousand deaths in Cagayan de Oro City, Iligan City and other nearby areas in the Mindanao region, in what is a clear result of the lack of empathy from developed countries for poor nations such as the Philippines who are facing the onslaught of climate change. Even with efforts to come up with good strategies and plans of action to mitigate the effects of climate change, a developing nation such as the Philippines with almost 100 million inhabitants can only do so much. Apart from governance issues, national government agencies are attributing the effects of this disaster to climate change.

A “Yes” to cutting back carbon emissions and advancing accountability among rich countries could have saved innocent people not just from the Philippines but from other developing nations witnessing immense rainfall and flooding. Indeed, our present vulnerability is a direct result of the inaction and apathy of national leaders from before. #


Black, R. (2011). Durban: Winners and losers. BBC News. Retrieved from BBC on December 22, 2011 at

IBON Foundation. (2011). The Durban Package: escape hatches, empty shells, and a death notice to equity. Retrieved from Climate Justice Now! on December 21, 2011 at

Poblete, J.P. (2011). Climate change action plan approved. Business World Online. Retrieved on December 20, 2011 from

Rahman, A. (2011). Durban conference: Most successful failure! Retrieved from the Daily Star on December 21, 2011 at

The Guardian. (2011). Russia supports Canada’s withdrawal from Kyoto Protocol. Retrieved from The Guardian on December 21, 2011 at

United Nations. (2007). United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Retrieved from the UNFCCC on December 14, 2011

____________. 2011. Decisions adopted by COP 17 and CMP 17.

[1]The Kyoto Protocol is an international climate agreement adopted in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan to cut carbon emissions contributing to global warming.

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ASSIST Managing Director speaks at Vietnam’s Green Business Forum

28 12 2011

ASSIST Managing Director Sreeni Narayanan spoke on Innovative Partnership for Greening the Business at the Forum organized by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry in collaboration with WWF-Vietnam, Institute of Tropical Biology on December 28, 2011 at the Majestic Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Dubbed “Green Business Forum responds to Climate Change in the Mekong Delta, the event addresses the calls of the Government to mobilize all sectors on the climate change advocacy. It also served as a venue for the sharing of initiatives and plans to develop green businesses, encouraging the corporations in the campaign and building a long-term operational mechanism to address climate change in the region.

Multi-sectoral participation is especially important in the Mekong Delta, which is cited to be one of the three most vulnerable ones in the world due to climate change and sea level rise, along with the Nile delta (Egypt) and the Ganges delta (Bangladesh). It is home to more than 17 million people, a source of food for millions and is then of the fastest-growing economic development regionsin Vietnam. Further, it contributes nearly 30% to the country’s GDP, producing 60% of rice output, and nearly 70% of the total seafood exports in the country.

The event was funded by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Vietnam.#

Warm holiday greetings from ASSIST!

27 12 2011

International NGO Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation (ASSIST) sends warm holiday greetings!

ASSIST hosts research team from Hand in Hand Micro Finance

23 12 2011

ASSIST is proud to have hosted the visit of Hand in Hand India’s team who sought to conduct a scoping research of the micro-finance situation in the Philippines last December 19 to 23, 2011.

Together with partner Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia Pacific (ADFIAP), ASSIST facilitated the research schedule of the team, to meet with leading microfinance and small enterprise organizations in the country: the Grameen Foundation, Small Business Corporation, People’s Credit and Finance Corporation, University of the Philippines Institute of Small Scale Industries and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Inclusive Finance Advocacy.

The team includes Managing Director Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy, and Directors Jeyaseelan N., and Srinivas Krishnaswamy.

Hand-in-Hand is an Indian public charitable trust founded in 1988 in Kancheepuram District in Tamil Nadu.

It undertakes partnership networks, education, and CSR initiatives and extends consultancy and hand-holding services for smaller NGOs / MFIs across the country. #

ASSIST accepts donations to flashflood victims

21 12 2011

ASSIST extends its sincere condolences to the families of the victims of flashfloods in Mindanao last December 18.

We are also accepting donations in kind until tomorrow, December 22. Especially needed are ready to eat food, blankets, medicines and clothes which will be coursed through our partner NGO, Balaod Mindanaw (Balay Alternative Legal Advocates for Development in Mindanaw, Inc.).

To coordinate, please contact our Research and Knowledge Management Director Sheena Opulencia, 4038668 loc. 539 or email

For other avenues to send help, please visit this link:

News Commentary: Inequality and Gender-based Violence Mark the Plight of South Asian Women

20 12 2011

by Paula Bianca Lapuz

South Asia is notorious for gender-based violence (Population Council 2004). Not even those who migrate abroad can escape such a destiny (Warsi 2011). These issues can be considered detrimental to national progress if women, who have great potential to contribute economically and politically, are constrained by various social norms (International Labour Office 2004).

In Afghanistan, Gulnaz, a young unmarried woman sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment after being raped by her cousin’s husband, was freed but not vindicated (Walsh and Basu 2011). In fact, she still faces threats to her life. Tremendous pressure from the international community elicited by a European Union-funded video containing Gulnaz’s story forced the government to pardon her.

Two years ago, instead of garnering sympathy, Gulnaz incurred the ire of her family and of the conservative Afghan society. She was accused of maligning her family’s honor and for bringing this fate upon herself. To complicate the situation, Gulnaz bore her perpetrator a child.

To regain her honor, she agreed to marry her abuser. While this serves towards her release, this does not guarantee her safety, as honor killing is permitted in communities in Afghanistan. Authorities say that there are hundreds of similar cases in the country (Walsh and Basu 2011).

Nearby, Pakistani women also face issues on gender inequality. Family planning is a taboo in Pakistan, where families with ten or more children are not unusual according to the Washington Post. Today, it is the sixth most populous country in the world.

In addition, women’s opinions are hardly ever considered by their husbands and his family, who live with them. Marginal improvements in fertility rates were recorded in recent years, but these still do not meet the annual targets towards a 2.2 children per woman ratio by 2020 (Brulliard 2011).

In India, around 500,000 female babies are aborted each year – almost the same number of babies born in the United Kingdom annually. This reflects how many in the Indian society still regard a girl offspring as inconsequential to achieving a better socio-economic status for the family (The Guardian 2011) (Boseley 2011).


The world is just four years away from the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Deadline, the world blueprint for development, agreed upon by all member states and institutions of the United Nations. On women and children’s rights in particular, MDG hopes that by 2015, the child mortality rate is halved, women are empowered, gender equality is achieved, and maternal health is improved.

A recent study named India as among the top 20 countries that have made progress in areas of poverty/child mortality reduction and maternal health improvement (United Nations Millennium Campaign 2011) However, data also show that at least 37% of India’s population live below the national poverty line and 41.8% of its rural population are poor (UNDP n.d.).

These numbers are still high and women are especially vulnerable in this situation. And though efforts to prevent selective abortion have been in place for years, its continued occurrence exposes the need for a more effective approach.

If the government should succeed in its MDG targets by 2015, it must strengthen its education-information campaign on women’s rights. Punishing some people for child-slaughter without educating the society cannot alter well-entrenched cultural beliefs . Thus, education is still the long-term solution for this social ill.

Moving to Afghanistan and Pakistan, extreme conservatism and sectarian beliefs make it even more difficult for women to rise from their predicament. Although incremental efforts are being launched by the government to tackle women’s rights violations, drastic changes need to be seen.

In both countries, leaders need to address not only questions of national security, but moreso, issues of vulnerable groups. Their governments should to step up in their initiatives to close gaps on gender equality because inaction can only mean worse suffering for the marginalized.

Works cited

Boseley, Sarah. The Guardian/News/World News/India. May 24, 2011. (accessed December 15, 2011).

Brulliard, Karin. The Washington Post. December 15, 2011. (accessed December 15, 2011).

International Labour Office. Global Employment Trends for Women. Evaluation, International Labour Office, 2004.

Population Council. “Population Council.” Population Council. June 2004. (accessed December 15, 2011).

The Guardian. The Guardian/News/Global Development/Poverty Matters Blog. 2011. (accessed December 15, 2011).

UNDP. United Nations Development Programme/Poverty Reduction. (accessed December 15, 2011).

United Nations Millenium Campaign. End Poverty: 2015 Millenium Campaign. June 22, 2011. (accessed December 16, 2011).

Walsh, Nick Paton, and Moni Basu. CNN/ASIA. December 15, 2011. (accessed December 15, 2011).

Warsi, Sayeeda. The Guardian. December 14, 2011. (accessed December 15, 2011).

Ten Photos to Shake the World competition deadline extended to Jan. 7, ’12!

15 12 2011

In consideration of requests especially among student-photographers, we are extending the deadline for your submissions to the Ten Photos to Shake the World Nationwide Photo Competition! But yes, the contest is open to everyone with a Filipino citizenship!

Make wise use of the December holidays to snap great photos of the world’s wonders, as well as signs of environmental destruction and efforts to save the Planet. Yes, we are extending until the midnight of January 7, 2012! #