While walking with a friend through central Kampala last month, we saw a police truck go by, a body in the back.
It’s a sight that has become more common in Uganda. The life of that person, and many others, was taken by a heavy downpour in my home city. Uganda has been battered by floods in recent years, as well as droughts and plagues of locusts. So much has been damaged and lost here as a result of the climate crisis.
A week later I was at the Youth4Climate summit in Milan, where Greta Thunberg spoke about the “blah blah blah” rhetoric from world leaders who have promised so much but delivered so little. One pledge that sticks out for me, made in 2009, is that rich countries would send $100bn (£73bn) of climate finance each year to the most affected countries by 2020. This was meant to be just the start – a first recognition of the catastrophe inflicted on the most affected countries by the biggest historical emitters. This money was promised so countries such as mine could develop clean energy, to mitigate emissions for everyone.
But since 2009, the impacts of the climate crisis have accelerated. Africa has endured a long list of climate-related disasters – drought, flooding, landslides, famine, destruction and death – rocking all parts of our continent. Aside from the innumerable personal tragedies, the crisis is causing billions of dollars of economic damage. There is no mitigation that can undo this damage, and further harms will continue as a result of world emissions.
There is no money to pay for this devastation. These areas are no longer insurable – the risk is too high. But money to repair and deal with the consequences of extreme weather has to come from somewhere.
“Loss and damage” is the term used in UN climate negotiations to refer to compensation for the most affected countries for what has been inflicted on them. For years the richest nations have blocked any progress on loss and damage at UN summits, but now it is unavoidable.
I believe in the “polluter pays” principle. A recent analysis identified the countries historically responsible for the climate crisis. We know who did this – but they don’t want to pay the bill. Rich countries providing finance only for the mitigation of our emissions and protections against future impacts is no longer enough. Climate-vulnerable countries need funds to deal with the loss and damage we are suffering now.
Fossil fuel companies should also pay for the loss and damage they have caused. They have made billions of dollars in profits selling products they knew could drive humanity to existential crisis. For decades they have run lobbying campaigns to question science they knew was true, and to prevent the climate action that would have saved many lives.
A finance package for developing countries will be a central focus of Cop26 in Glasgow. But one thing is certain: we need leaders to go beyond the gesture of guaranteeing the $100bn they promised 12 years ago. They need to wake up to the scale of this crisis; a separate fund for loss and damage should be an enduring legacy of Cop26.
We have seen similar compensation pots before. Since the 1970s, the international community has required oil companies to contribute to a fund to compensate communities affected by big oil spills.
The polluters who decided to sacrifice our lives for their own profits, whether corporations or governments, should pay. Such a fund would allow us to rebuild our lives after a downpour hits and we cannot get out of the way. Such a fund would allow the most affected countries to trust in international climate diplomacy again and be a major step towards climate justice for all.
Belgium goes into three-week ‘lockdown light’
Belgium is to go into a three-week ‘lockdown light’, following a meeting of federal and regional governments on Friday (26 November).
“We have to admit that we have been ambushed by the virus and that the situation is much more serious than we saw a few weeks ago”, Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo told a lunchtime press conference.
De Croo added that “the pressure on our hospitals is seriously increasing and that the situation is not tenable. We have to action now.”
The Belgian concertation committee of federal and regional governments decided that social life will be restricted in a variety of ways for the next three weeks.
Nightclubs will be closed, and indoor concerts where people are not seated will be cancelled. This measure will go into effect on Monday (29 November).
Bars, restaurants and night-shops will need to close their doors at 11PM. The number of people on one table in restaurants will be restricted to six, except for families larger than six. These measures will go into effect on Saturday (27 November).
Private parties will be forbidden, with an exception for weddings and funerals. However, it is still allowed to have guests at home.
At work and school, on the other hand, there are no upgraded restrictions. The last committee decided that teleworking is mandatory four days a week, and that people can only go to the office one day a week.
Schools will remain open, as will universities.
De Croo reiterated that these “measures will only makes sense if everyone follows them.”
The committee decided to accelerate the vaccination campaign. Regional governments will organise test centres where people can get tested for free.
The committee decided to meet urgently after hospitals and doctors said they could no longer handle the situation. From 16 to 22 November, on average 16,100 people tested positive for Covid daily. On 22 November that number was already 25,365 .
Currently, 669 intensive-care beds are filled with Covid patients, well over the emergency threshold of 500, and in the worst-case scenario, 1,250 intensive-care beds, a maximum capacity, would be filled by Christmas.
Belgium has not been able to organise roll-out of the booster jab in time to prevent the fourth wave. De Croo announced that on Saturday (27 November) a plan will be made to accelerate the booster jab for every adult.
Before the Belgian governments met, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced the bloc will take the initiative to block all air travels from Southern Africa, where a new variant of Covid-19 has been found.
Interpol’s president: alleged torturer rises as symbol of UAE soft power | Global development
Maj Gen Ahmed Nasser al-Raisi’s ascent through the ranks of the interior ministry in Abu Dhabi is associated with the United Arab Emirates’ transformation into a hi-tech surveillance state.
His personal achievements include a diploma in police management from the University of Cambridge, a doctorate in policing, security and community safety from London Metropolitan University and a medal of honour from Italy.
Now, in a big soft-power win for the UAE and its attempt to legitimise its policing methods internationally, he has been elected the president of the global policing organisation Interpol – to the dismay of human rights defenders.
Often photographed smiling, Raisi is the longstanding inspector general for the interior ministry, responsible for the supervision of detention centres and policing. Multiple former detainees accuse him of using this position to green-light abuses, including torture.
“Raisi’s rise to the Interpol presidency legitimises the role and conduct of security forces in the UAE,” said Matthew Hedges, a British academic and expert on the Emirates who was detained there for seven months on espionage charges. Hedges, who was eventually pardoned, says Raisi was responsible for his arrest and also oversaw the torture he says he suffered in detention.
“This translates to a green light for states to continue acting in a way that abuses accountability and human rights, legitimises the dilution of rule of law and emboldens authoritative and abusive systems of detention,” Hedges said. “This is really a warning to the international community that cross-border abuses can and will occur.”
The Gulf state has previously said Hedges was not subjected to any physical or psychological mistreatment during his detention. On Thursday its interior ministry heralded Raisi’s win as “recognition of the vital role of the UAE all over the world”.
“The UAE,” it said, “is now at the helm of this international organisation working in the fields of security and policing and will do its best to make the world a safer place.”
In an unusually public campaign for the role, Raisi boasted of technological transformations that overhauled policing and surveillance in the UAE. These included the introduction of iris and facial scanning technology, and the creation of the interior ministry’s first “general directorate of happiness”.
His domestic policing changes underpin Abu Dhabi and Dubai’s status as two of the world’s most surveilled cities. One system, called Falcon Eye, deploys thousands of cameras to monitor not just traffic violations but also “behavioural issues like public hygiene and incidents like people gathering in areas where they are not allowed to”, according to a report by the state news agency WAM.
The rise in surveillance has been accompanied by a crackdown on domestic criticism and dissent. Human Rights Watch has said: “The government’s pervasive domestic surveillance has led to extensive self-censorship by UAE residents and UAE-based institutions; and stonewalling, censorship, and possible surveillance of the news media by the government.”
Abdullah Alaoudh, from the Washington DC organisation Democracy for the Arab World Now, said the UAE had been applying a two-pronged approach epitomised by Raisi’s Interpol win: “Cracking down hard on every voice of dissent, while investing in public relations like lobbying, soft power, sports and entertainment.”
Christopher M Davidson, the author of a book on statecraft in the Middle East, described Raisi as an example of “high-performing technocratic members of UAE political society” who had found success under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
“The key to the regime of Mohammed bin Zayed has been to get things done, to stamp out corruption. Despite all criticisms levelled at the UAE and Abu Dhabi today, it is a far less corrupt place than it was 15 years ago. These were the people entrusted to clean up ministries,” said Davidson.
Stamping out corruption has, at times, included arresting the wealthy and critics. Khadem al-Qubaisi, a former adviser to the royal family and a businessman who said he was “scapegoated” by the Abu Dhabi authorities for embezzling millions, is detained in Al Wathba prison. The prison, overseen by Raisi, also holds the human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor.
Riyaadh Ebrahim, who spent more than a year in the prison, said he witnessed torture there. “There is wrongful imprisonment, no application of the rule of law. People are being persecuted for crimes they did not commit,” Ebrahim said. He said he was “totally appalled” by Raisi’s victory in the Interpol election race.
Davidson said the UAE was using its wealth and resources to buy reputational shortcuts on the international stage.
“Policing in the UAE still has its problems, but this is a way of saying to the world that [they] are credible and respectable,” he said. “Obtaining the presidency of Interpol symbolises moving in the right direction.”
Jalel Harchaoui from the Geneva-based organisation the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime said Raisi’s election highlighted the struggle between liberal and illiberal nations within international institutions such as Interpol, and was a victory for anti-democratic countries.
“On the surface, Abu Dhabi – thanks to excellent soft-power outreach – markets itself as a modern state, which happens to be a dependable friend to all the major western democracies,” he said. “In reality however, the Emiratis, whose governance style has been partly inspired by China’s strict form of authoritarianism, always campaign against liberalism and its key principles.”
A spokesperson for the UAE embassy in London did not respond to a request for comment.
France reminds Poland on law in Paris meeting
French president Emmanuel Macron urged Polish president Mateusz Morawiecki to solve a rule-of-law dispute with the EU, while voicing solidarity on the Belarus migration crisis, in a meeting in Paris on Wednesday. Poland should “find a solution that safeguards the core values of the European Union”, Macron’s office said. Russian president Vladimir Putin told EU Council president Charles Michel by phone extra EU sanctions on Belarus would be “counterproductive”.
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