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What will be Prometheus’ new flame?

Posted by Geneviève Ferone on 16 March 2011

A tragedy already enacted many times over

Since time immemorial, the oldest founding myths have perfectly captured the essence of our tormented soul and described the fragility of our existence. The eternal human “factor” has travelled throughout the ages, endlessly weaving the same dramas, touching upon the same wounds. Everything can be repeated at each living moment, in every civilization, playing out the unchanging elements of a tragedy already enacted many times over. Yet behind the recent revolutions and natural disasters, these terrible events that have marked the start of 2011, emerges for the first time in such sharp focus, the extreme vulnerability of our societies in terms of their most precious, shared commodity : energy.

A double irreversibility inflect’s humanity’s path

The energy systems that power the world produce irreversible consequences. The law of entropy reminds us that time’s arrow shapes the future in a sole and unique direction: towards the use and degradation of our finite stock of resources. We will bequeath to future generations a natural heritage that has largely been undermined and depleted, one that is less adapted to their needs. However, time has more arrows than just entropy to govern our evolution. Our increasing knowledge is just as important, though less tangible. The progress of human knowledge is also an irreversible process. A double irreversibility inflects humanity’s path: the depletion of nonrenewable resources and the accumulation of techniques and knowledge.

A race

Starting with these two dynamic processes, we can decide to increase resource use as long as we have sufficient knowledge to ensure the system’s sustainability. Here this means sustaining the planet’s energy system. We are caught in a race in which we must simultaneously reduce the rate of resource depletion and invest heavily in research, especially concerning any and all measures that could reduce the energy intensity of our lifestyles and develop alternative solutions.

All the necessary conditions to best handle this deadline seem to be met. However, we have come to realize over and over again that we have not always fully utilized available information to organize the transition as quickly as possible. This is precisely our current situation . The challenge lies in the ability of our institutions to tackle problems that overshadow them. If we cannot find both technological and political alternatives, we will remain stunned and helpless. Nobody can imagine a world without energy. We are not (yet) capable of doing without fossil fuels. We fear nuclear energy more than the threat of climate change and renewable energy is insignificant when compared with what is at stake. Our ancient Fire is slowly extinguishing and as it declines, it threatens to engulf the globe and divide humanity. Of what will Prometheus’ new flame be made? At no other time in our history has this issue so urgently made itself heard. It has come to a point where the answers we will provide will structure the very framework of the first half of this century.

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The importance of preserving forests

Posted by Emmanuelle Grundmann on 3 March 2011

After the UN proclaimed the International Year of Biodiversity in 2010, its now the forests turn to take the spot on the international stage. Certainly, international years and days go by without producing the slightest concrete result. These events, despite shedding light on the forest, potable water, the rights of indigenous peoples, amongst others, they share a major drawback: they only last for a limited time. Once the event has passed the actions taken and lessons learned are often forgotten.

The water of New York, saved by forests

The results that we saw in Nagoya, were not up to the challenges presented by the Year of Biodiversity that just ended. Fortunately, 2011 can be considered a catch up period of all of those who refused to see the importance of biodiversity for the future of our planet.

Refusing the preservation of biodiversity in the name of economic development results in very short-term vision that makes absolutely no sense. Yes, these measures can seem restrictive at first glance, yet they are guarantees of good economic and social health in the mid and long term. Biodiversity brings many services that should not be underestimated. For example, supplying potable water; or pollination, which is essential for a large part of global agriculture; without forgetting the ever-growing number of medicinal substances found amongst animals, plants, and micro-organisms. A part of these services are made possible by forests and the species that they are home to.

The example of New York City is quite remarkable. The city has always been known for its free potable water. The water comes from the confines of the forests upstate, in the Catskill Mountains. However, this region saw very important expansion of agricultural land in the middle of the 20th century, to the detriment of natural ecosystems, particularly forests. This agriculture took the path of the agro-industry, extremely greedy for pesticides and chemical fertilizers. By the end of the 90s, the soil and the groundwater were so contaminated that the water was no longer fit for consumption. The city decided not to build a water treatment plant that would cost between 6 and 8 billion dollars, but rather to restore the degraded ecosystem of the once forested Catskill Mountains. And this, for the price of less than a billion dollars. Today, the 9 million inhabitants of the Big Apple and surrounding areas can again drink good quality potable water.

Over and above these services, we cannot forget that these very diverse forests (temperate, boreal, tropical, Mediterranean) are still home to 300 million men and women. For the Baka, the Penans, the Awà, the Dongria, the Kondh, the Komi or the Sami, the forest represents their pantry, their drug store, their home, their spirit. And nearly 2 billion people depend directly or indirectly on forest resources to live. The overexploitation of ecosystems and severe deforestation that is rampant in certain regions of the world puts the lives of these populations in peril.  This is something I have observed multiple times through my travels and reports.

Forests, our life insurance for the future

On my last trip, in Colombia, Juan and his family, of the Kogis people, spoke to me for a long time about their relationship with their forest. It’s a forest that they know inside out as well as the species it hosts. This forest furnishes everything that they need, or almost. They could not live without the forest and they never fail to thank it for all that it provides.

In our countries where consumption is raised up as the supreme value, without us realizing, forests (and particularly those of the tropical belt) continue to provide us with multiple products and services that we could not live without. Nevertheless, far from thanking it, we exploit it, worse we clear-cut it.

We have to hope that this year, 2011, will allow the public and all actors: political, social and economic to better know these ecosystems and to understand to what point they are our life insurance for the future. And, if we want this Year of Forests to be embodied with real and concrete political and economic decisions; ambitious, courageous, necessary, and proportionate to the value these ecosystems represent, we must all take action. This Year of Forests is not for a small number of dedicated individuals, NGOs, and foundations working for their preservation. This Year of Forests is ours. And the future of the forests is also our own.

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International Mother Language Day

Posted by Rozenn Milin on 23 February 2011

In 2000, UNESCO proclaimed February 21 “International Mother Language Day”. Over the past 10 years, this date has been an annual opportunity to celebrate multilingualism and the preservation of language diversity as an essential component of human heritage. It is also a day to remember that everyone can use their native language fully and freely in any and all circumstances. Unfortunately in many countries, this fundamental right is still not fullyrecognized.

The scope of UNESCO’s efforts encompasses education, science, and culture. This international institution is particularly concerned with the issue of mother languages in terms of two of these areas: culture of course, since language is a crucial part of the intangible heritage of all people; and education for the language of instruction is often crucial for strong academic achievements.

The issue is simply this: studies conducted worldwide by various organizations show that using a child’s native language for instruction generally provides excellent results, whereas imposing at the outset of schooling a national or foreign language is a policy that often leads to failure.

Mother languages in early education

Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, the Finnish linguist (University of Helsinki) specialized in multilingual education and particularly involved in mother tongue education projects in Nepal and India, offers a clear analysis of the question: “If instruction is given in a language that children from a native (tribal or minority) language community do not know, they will spend their first 2 or 3 years in the classroom without understanding much of what is taught. They can mechanically repeat what the teacher says without understanding, without developing their ability to think with the help of language. In the end, they will have learned almost nothing of the subjects that they have been taught.

For this reason, many of these children leave school prematurely, without having learned to read and write, without having developed a mastery of their native language either, and having acquired virtually no academic knowledge.

Whereas if children are educated in their native language, they understand their lessons and are capable of learning them, they develop their cognitive and academic ability in their native language, and have very good chances of becoming rational and cultivated individuals, capable of continuing their education. “

In the Sourcebook for Poverty Reduction Strategies (2001), the World Bank itself sums up a 1999 UNICEF report thusly: “There is ample research showing that students are quicker to learn to read and acquire other academic skills when first taught in their mother tongue. They also learn a second language more quickly than those initially taught to read in an unfamiliar language.”

Better results in school

Linguists W.P. Thomas and V.P. Collier (1997) have considerably researched the subject and are even more specific. They have observed that those students from linguistic minorities who had received the most extensive instruction in their mother language during their primary school education had the best results … in the national language on national standardized tests conducted in high schools.

Finally, Claire Moyse-Faurie, linguist with the LACITO / CNRS, provides further arguments: ”The benefits are also social and cultural. When the same language is used in school and at home, parents are able to monitor their children’s learning. They can thus discuss, help, and get involved in school life. Schooling in their mother language guarantees the children’s lifestyles will not be marginalized and that they will not be alienated from their culture.”

Recommending the use of mother languages to teach children to read and more generally in education as a whole is not a flight of fancy. It is a recommendation based on multiple, field studies. In addition to the conclusive results of these studies – despite the difficulties certain have in admitting them – we should add it is a matter of common sense. It is unfortunate that this information is not more widely acknowledged because academic achievements determine the chances for millions of children to better their living standards. Literacy is their best guarantee against being left behind by globalization.

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The referendum in South Sudan: Miracle or mirage?

Posted by Georges Tsaï on 13 January 2011

Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, several hundred Chinese (even thousands?), and … George Clooney decided to start the new year in South Sudan, a region that is not known for its tourist appeal.

They were there for a good cause: to ensure the referendum on the independence of South Sudan would take place smoothly. The referendum is the result of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended one of the deadliest conflicts within the past 50 years.

Ominous farce or virtuous ending?

The referendum, which began Sunday and ends next Sunday, embodies great hopes for a peaceful and lasting resolution to a conflict that has pitted northern Sudan against southern Sudan for nearly 40 years.

A brief overview of notable highlights:

• In 1955 (even before Sudan’s independence, proclaimed in 1956) the first civil war broke out between the mainly Muslim North and the South, home to a predominantly animist and Christian population. This war, which lasted until 1972, resulted in 500,000 dead and involuntarily displaced one million refugees.

Between 1972 and 1983, through the mediation of Emperor Haile Selassie, Sudan experienced a period of relative peace.

• 1978: the Chevron company discovered oil deposits in the South.

The civil war resumed in 1983. This second conflict, which would cost two million lives and involuntary displace four million refugees, would cease in 2005, following the signing of the CPA, which established a federal system and which provided, amongst other things, for a referendum on the independence of South Sudan to be held before the end of January 2011.

January 9, 2011: quashing the pessimistic predictions of many observers, the referendum is unfolding in a relative calm. There is apparently no improper management of the referendum process.

Ominous farce that will end badly or virtuous ending to one of the bloodiest conflicts of the second half of the 20th century? The question remains to be answered. Let us try to analyze the chances of success and risks of failure of this undertaking.

Morality and realpolitik

Let us start with the factors that could justify a certain optimism. First, the international community’s driving forces appear to be truly mobilized. Since the signing of the CPA, the United States has played a significant role to ensure the agreement is effectively implemented. George W. Bush had worked hard so that Washington would work in this vein. The fact that several Christian movements support the independence of the South certainly influenced his interest in the issue. More generally, the international community has not fully recovered from its inaction in Rwanda and is still suffering from a guilty conscience. It is therefore determined to avoid another humanitarian tragedy, for truly moral reasons.

Then there is a good dose of realpolitik prompting many players to want a happy ending. Oil, of course, plays an important role and requires a collaborative approach between the South, with most of the country’s oil fields, and the North, with the infrastructures capable of transporting and exporting the precious liquid. As for President Omar el-Bashir, he has all of a sudden turned into an informed statesman, concerned about respecting the will of the people of the South. The sanctions imposed on Sudan and the arrest warrant issued by the ICC against the President have perhaps something to do with this remarkable conversion. It is a safe bet that his visit to Juba a few days before the referendum, to make a speech worthy of a confirmed democrat, was not a wholly gratuitous act.

Continuing threats

There is still much to do and what started so well last Sunday could easily turn into a nightmare. In particular, there are three vulnerable factors that both North and South Sudanese, as well as the international community should watch closely:

1. First, the results of the referendum. To be accepted by all, three conditions are required: voting that is free of manipulation and violence, a high percentage of votes in favor of either option, and a substantial turnout. The last is expected to far exceed the 60% threshold set by al-Bashir as the absolute minimum to validate Referendum results. Regarding the percentage of “yes” votes, the more the better. For example, Slovenia in 1990, Croatia in 1991, and Eritrea in 1993, achieved independence with respectively 95%, 93%, and 99.8% of favorable votes. However, a result resembling that of Quebec: a small margin between the “yes” and “no” would create a difficult situation that could be potentially explosive. Sixty percent of the votes seems to be a minimum to justify the dismantling of an existing country.

2. Then, there is the question of the border between North and South. This must be determined accurately. The task has been made even more vital due to the presence of rich oil deposits in the border region. This issue, if not properly handled, could soon be the source of renewed violent conflict. The well-known case of the disputed border between the two Koreas and the much less known border dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica illustrate, if necessary, the importance of this issue.

3. Finally, the exact terms of the economic cooperation between the two countries, particularly in terms of sharing oil revenues, will greatly influence how the situation will play out. This will be further aggravated by the addition of the virtually inextricable issues of the Abyei region. This northern enclave also has a referendum pending to decide whether it will finally be tied to the North or the South. The region, though small, also contains rich oil deposits. Complications related to the question of who would be entitled to vote led to an indefinite postponement of the referendum. This means that the North and South will need to undertake delicate negotiations to decide the fate of this region.

South Sudan, a state on borrowed time?

The world (or at least a handful of observers) is holding its breath. Those who designed and signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement have shown wisdom, vision, and courage. Will their gamble pay off? Or will the new country be yet another state on borrowed time? One can only hope that South Sudan succeeds and the CPA, an admirable document, will be used as a model for resolving ethnic, religious and linguistic conflicts that continue to be formidable challenges.

A situation to watch for in the weeks, months and years ahead.

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Armed violence in non-conflict situations

Posted by Fondation Chirac on 17 December 2010

Recently the Fondation Chirac attended day long conference dedicated to armed violence: here are some of the points that were raised on the challenges of dealing with this issue. It is not an exhaustive analysis of the situation but hopefully will inspire some further reflections.

“Armed violence—both in crime and in conflict—claims an estimated 740,000 lives each year. The vast majority of these deaths (540,000) result from direct experience of violence. Nearly two-thirds (490,000) occur in non-conflict situations.” Small Arms Survey, 2010

Despite these high numbers, these deaths are often overlooked.

What to call it and how to define it:

It is difficult to define or categorize armed violence that takes place in non-conflict situations. Depending on the definition used, there are between 2 and 10 million people involved in gangs or armed groups in the world. Due to this lack of common definition, there is no existing international legal framework to help reduce it. For example, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), it falls into the “other situations” category. This difficulty in categorizing armed violence also means that little research is devoted to this area and thus even less time and money to its reduction.

Each case is distinct. Today words like “terrorist” and “vigilante” are used so frequently that one could almost believe that all “terrorist” groups came about in the same way and are motivated by the same reasons. Therefore, as much as possible, labels should not be used; instead the social, economic and political processes behind each militant group need to be examined.

There are different legal categories of armed violence: internal armed conflict, international armed conflict, both referring to a state of bellicose involving the State military. Lastly there are “other situations” that the (ICRC), has identified and divided up as follows: coups d’état, violence linked with maintaining public order, intercommunity violence, territorial gang violence and violence linked to transnational organizations.

While it is possible to create categories to describe the different types of armed violence, a group or a person rarely fits into just one category – creating a “hybrid” – or basically a new category that needs its own definition depending on the situation.

Underlying causes of armed violence:

While the causes are many and obviously differ on a case-by-case basis, for many experts the apparition of armed groups is a response to a lack of state presence. There’s a gap that needs to be filled and new actors step up to the plate.

In the case of urban violence, rapid urbanization is often blamed. While this may be part of the issue, it is particularly the absence of social and spatial networks that lends itself well to the creation of gangs.

Reducing the phenomenon:

Experts and governments are beginning to recognize that armed violence can no longer be dealt with through military action alone. Militaries are often given the mission of reducing armed violence because they are highly trained in dealing with external crises, and they can be quickly mobilized. But dealing with armed violence in non-conflict situations is a question of security, economic and social development, and governance and therefore involves a multiplicity of actors.

The World Health Organization takes the public health approach, which aims to prevent violence before it occurs, and is based on an ecological model, that reaches out to the individual, the family, the community, and the societal levels all at the same time. This system is not very well developed for the time being and requires a long-term commitment of 3 to 5 years.

Another important element in combating armed violence, is reconstructing the “illegitimacy of violence”. Studies have repeatedly shown that youth that have either witnessed or been victims of violence are the most likely perpetrators. For many, violence has become the norm – this cycle needs to be broken so that violence becomes, once again, an illigitmate reaction.

To sum up the day, each case is different, should be studied individually and called by its own name, and each solution needs to be individually tailored. The next step – how to mobilize the international community to fight against something that is still so difficult to grasp.

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The two Koreas: a broken home on the brink

Posted by Georges Tsaï on 8 December 2010

A regime isolated from the rest of the world

Korea (both North and South) along with Iceland, are rare examples of largely homogenous countries, ethnically and linguistically. Yet the vagaries of history have led to a hopeless, ideological divide between both Koreas for almost 60 years. The Pyongyang regime has isolated itself from the rest of the world, with the exception of China that continues to support it though with increasing distance.

Who will waver first – North or South Korea? To explain the most recent behavior of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, analysts vacillate between a purely political explanation (Kim Jong-il wants to ensure the arrival in power of his son Kim Jong-un) and a psychological explanation (North Korea, as would a misunderstood teenager, is desperately trying to direct the attention of the adults around him to his frustrations and anxieties). Without completely ruling out the former, the latter seems the most plausible. It may also offer a key to breaking the dangerous deadlock in which both Koreas have found themselves.

A change of mood for South Korea?

Many South Koreans have sought to overcome this situation through dialogue and reconciliation, and it would be fallacious to suggest such efforts have not yielded positive results. Between 2000 and 2009, the famous Sunshine Policy implemented by the late President Kim Dae-jung (Nobel Peace Prize 2000) and his Unification Minister and the current President of Kyungnam University, Park Jae Kyu (Special Jury Prize for Conflict Prevention by the Foundation Chirac 2009), and actively pursued by the late President Roh Moo-hyun, the predecessor of the current President Lee Myung-bak, offered the Korean peninsula a period of relative calm that implied the possibility for greater cooperation between North and South, and perhaps even, ultimately, a form of unification that would be flexible enough to reassure everyone.

It is, I think, fair to say that this reconciliation policy has been, until very recently, supported by a large portion of South Koreans. During a three-week stay in South Korea last spring, after the Cheonan incident, I saw to what extent South Koreans remained committed, despite the crisis caused by the sinking of the warship, to maintaining dialogue between the North and the South. They have maintained an exemplary attitude, made up of patience and conciliation, towards their northern neighbors. One can therefore understand the signs of irritation given off by Seoul for the past few days. However, allowing this capital of goodwill evaporate in the wake of the bombing of the island of Yeonpyeong, and giving way to feelings of revenge – however legitimate they may be – could have tragic consequences.

Do not impose demands

It will not be easy to end the deadlock, as both sides are apparently irreconcilable. Seoul’s position (it might be more accurate to say that of Washington) which demands denuclearization first and only after will there be normalization. Whereas Pyongyang wants normalization first and then denuclearization. This game of “chicken” or “my demands first but not yours” would seem childish if the risks were not so great.

So, can we imagine a widely respected politician, active or retired, coming from a country that is not involved in the six-party talks – currently on hold – capable of convincing both parties to agree to a simultaneous denuclearization and normalization? Is it realistic to believe that the big stick policy with naval maneuvers and the whole shebang will comply to the expectations of the United States and South Korea? For the policy to be effective, they must be ready to use the stick at the next outburst of the family’s black sheep or lose all credibility. Is it so hard to reassure the turbulent and provocative teenager that is North Korea that it really belongs to a family rather than to the axis of evil?

The Korea Times, published in Seoul, notes, with fundamentally Asian wisdom, that Koreans should not allow ideological differences of the past 60 years destroy 5000 years of a national identity that is shared by all Koreans. We can not agree more.

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Justice, an obstacle to peace?

Posted by Georges Tsaï on 13 October 2010

Peace and Justice, two incompatible concepts?

Next January, if everything goes according to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), Southern Sudan will hold an independence referendum.

Interested observers (there are not that many for, after all, the conflict between North and South Sudan resulted in only two million deaths between 1983 and 2005) are holding their breath. Will President Omar el Bashir respect the terms of the Agreement, or will he find an excuse to cancel or at least delay the referendum? Keep in mind that significant oil reserves are located in South Sudan. Many fear that such an event could result in renewed hostilities after five years of respite.

While the issue is important in and of itself, it is also coupled with an ethical dilemma that has become highly acute in recent years. Is it possible to negotiate or make peace with someone who is accused of committing crimes against humanity or genocide? Is it morally just to deal with someone who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity? The ICC decided in the end to drop the accusations of genocide.

For some (the realists?), peace is made as best we can and an imperfect peace from a moral point of view, but which offers expected results (no more death and suffering due to conflicts) is much better than demanding for a brand of justice that could heighten conflict.

For others (the idealists?), making peace without justice (by granting impunity to the guilty) is not only betraying the memory of victims but also running the risk of not appeasing one of the conflicting factions and entering into an endless spiral of violence, thus destroying the hopes of the realists.

Is this an irreconcilable dilemma?

Is each case singular?

Reality, as is often the case in human experience, is certainly much more complex than the dichotomy posited in the precedent paragraph. As Pierre Hazan so justly observed in an excellent book published recently (La paix contre la justice?, André Versaille – GRIP, 2010), history offers examples that support both sides (we need simply think of what has happened in South Africa, Latin America, and former Yugoslavia). These examples lead us to believe that it is important to be wary of dogmatic positions between peacemakers (or mediators) and proponents of a strict application of international laws. Only a precise analysis of each situation can dictate a course of action.

Of course, this analysis is complex. It must take into account both the perceived consequences and values embodied in international law based on human rights. Let’s return to Sudan in 2009, less than two years before the upcoming, crucial referendum for peace in the region. Was Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor of the ICC, justified in his indictment of Omar el-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity? I for one would be more inclined to give the Comprehensive Peace Agreement a chance to work its way through the process provided. There is always time enough to revise my analysis if Omar al-Bashir ever sought to cancel or torpedo (an incongruous image for a resolutely terrestrial conflict) the referendum.

What do you think?

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An End to Falsified Medicines

Posted by Dr. Aboubakrine Sarr on 13 October 2010

Medicines are an important factor in the management of the health of populations. The prescription and rational use of medicines ensure for patients a therapeutic outcome based primarily on the quality, effectiveness, and safety of the drugs themselves. In sum, results hinge on proper practices in terms of manufacturing, distribution, and dispensing. The effectiveness of medication depends on its traceability.

Nowadays, it is a truism to recognize the importance of counterfeit drugs commonly called falsified medicines. They represent roughly 10% of the world market; adding up to nearly 45 billion US dollars within a global pharmaceutical production that totals approximately 570 to 575 billion US Dollars. Predictions for 2020 foresee world production reaching a value of 1,200 to 1,300 billion US dollars. The tragic health, social, and economic consequences will certainly be considerable if we are not careful.

According to WHO, if counterfeit drugs in certain developed countries represent about 1% of their market, figures reach 30% in African markets (reaching as high as 50% of all available medicines in some countries).

Worse yet, in Africa, counterfeit medicines are likely to focus on products most in demand for the treatment of endemic diseases (malaria), chronic diseases (tuberculosis, diabetes, hypertension ….), and devastatingly lethal diseases (AIDS). For example, two thirds of all antimalarial drugs sold on the continent are falsified, for a disease that kills on average over one million people each year, 80% of them in Sub-Saharan Africa alone.

We must take into account that health policies, as are medicines, have always been a source of political competition worldwide, regardless of pharmaceutical or medical aspects. This principle is often used by industrialized countries to maintain their rank within the alliance of great nations. Nowadays, organizations (NGOs, IGOs,…) and institutions of defense and financing of human health such as the WHO, the Global Fund, the Fondation Chirac, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, are mobilizing to improve access to safe medicines wherever they are lacking and in the exclusive interest of public health.

Moreover, the evolution and development of the pharmaceutical industry in emerging countries like China, India, Brazil, Russia, Turkey, South Africa, Nigeria, Indonesia, and Thailand have also contributed significantly to overcoming the challenges of global production, geographical accessibility, and affordability of essential medicines. However, it would be a shame to allow counterfeit medicines to increase exponentially at the hands of mafia networks, which often take advantage of the vulnerability of countries or emergency regulations and decisions at the international level (compulsory licensing, the Doha declaration, parallel imports … .. ) to accomplish their dirty work.

To fight falsified medicines at all levels (networks, channels, trafficking, local markets…), we need to mobilize global resources, with the support of national and international political will.

Such political will must first be nourished by strong and coordinated commitments. Then it must be rendered concrete through consistently consensual legal provisions, and finally be complemented by sustainable actions that are supported by all.

Dr. Aboubakrine CARS

Chairman of Private Pharmacists’ Union of Senegal

Secretary General of the Inter-African Association of Pharmacists (Ispharma)

SG of the Permanent Secretariat of the Pharmaceutical Forum International (FPI)

Priorities in the fight against falsified medicines:

On the African continent, throughout regional and subregional institutions, such as the African Union, the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), The Customs and Economic Union of Central Africa (UDEAC), the cornerstones and priorities of the fight are threefold:

➢ At the Legislative and Regulatory level:

1 / the development of coordinated laws and regulations to streamline litigation (through the use of different emergency procedures), to assess damage in relation to the harm caused to the licensee or patent holder, and to make provisions for more deterrent and coercive fines and prison sentences.

2 / the development of new offenses in the Customs Code penalizing the importation, exportation, trading, and transit of counterfeit goods and giving Customs full jurisdiction over suspected counterfeit products and the capacity to appeal directly to the Public Prosecutor.

3 / drawing up and/or updating within the Health Code of legal, regulatory, and disciplinary measures that are context-specific, coordinated, and valid in all member countries of the sub-regional or regional institution.

➢ At the communicative, informational and educational level:

1 / the development and creation of tools adapted to informing and raising awareness of the different target audiences (government, national and/or community institutions, opinion leaders, public health officials, and even counterfeiters)

2 / organizing seminars and workshops and/or strengthening the capacity of institutional enforcement authorities (customs, police…) in terms of detection, quality control, and traceability of medicines.

➢ At the health and socio-economic level:

1 / encouraging local production of essential medicines that are geographically and financially accessible.

2 / harmonizing international financial and technical support for the implementation of horizontal projects and programs according to the principles of the 2005 Paris Declaration.

3 / the adoption in the different regional and sub-regional areas of principles harmonized according to GMPs, GPDs and Pharmacovigilance (currently part of the WAEMU since July 2010 with the development of the GMP Guide).

4 / The creation of national committees in all the countries of the different regional and sub-regional areas. This would include pharmacists, but also the various State departments and services involved in tracking and enforcing laws against counterfeiters and sellers of falsified medicines.

The African pharmacist has a major role to play in this great undertaking, through his continuing education and that of his agents; through information and awareness campaigns for his patients/clients on the complexity of drug stability, as well as the dangers of consuming counterfeit medicines including those purchased in illicit channels and on the Internet; and finally through the advice he offers his patients.

We have benefited, as others, from technical and financial support to strengthen our capabilities particularly in the field of drug quality control at the Central Humanitaire Medico-Pharmaceutique of Clermont-Ferrand. Today, our priority is on this area of control along with pharmacovigilance in order to ensure the quality of the pharmaceutical care offered to our population.

This is the moment to encourage and congratulate institutions such as the Fondation Chirac and the Council of Europe, which, with the Cotonou Declaration and MEDICRIME have finished bravely establishing the basis for this global desire to fight the perpetrators of the genocide of fake medicines.

“Fear has changed sides.”

Together, with ethics, equity, solidarity, and justice as their sole weapons, the determination of just men will soon overcome the greed of the merchants of death.

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Marseille, March 2012: the next World Water Forum

Posted by Jean-Louis Oliver on 27 September 2010

On March 21, 1997, the first World Water Forum was created in Marrakech, Morocco to coincide with International Water Day. International events periodically bringing together professionals from various fields or occupations of the water sector have long existed and still continue to do so. The World Water Forum’s specificity is to bring together, every three years during the third week of March, all the public, private, and associative players involved in the management of water resources and its different uses.

The World Water Forums have thus taken place successively in The Hague, Netherlands in March 2000; in Kyoto, Shiga, and Osaka, Japan in March 2003; in Mexico City, Mexico in March 2006; and in Istanbul, Turkey in March 2009. The World Water Council, created in 1995, organizes each event from its headquarters in Marseille. The Council today extends to over 400 organizations from 70 countries.

The World Water Forum has become the largest global gathering in favor of water. It is a meeting place, a point of dialogue, a system of debate and cooperation to advance shared causes.

The 6th World Water Forum will be hosted by France and the City of Marseille in March 2012. Over 30,000 participants are expected. The Forum’s appearance in Marseille, a multicultural metropolis, offers a unique opportunity to advance the effective implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the critical area of water supply and access to sanitation, notably in terms of the disadvantaged.

Water issues in African countries and those around the Mediterranean Basin will assuredly constitute a major portion of the Marseilles 2012 Forum agenda!

As preparation for this next forum are being undertaken, a number of themes must be included in the program:

  • the right to water and sanitation,
  • water and health
  • the cultural dimension of resource management and water uses,
  • the joint management of transboundary waters, including shared aquifers
  • water and climate change.

Paris will host a two-day work session to discuss the initial guidelines on November 18 and 19.

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From a just war to justified torture

Posted by Georges Tsaï on 31 August 2010

The Fondation Chirac invited me to write about conflicts and peace on its blog from time to time. Though I belong to a generation that is ante-blog (though not necessarily anti-blog), I was very attracted to the idea of an electronic dialogue over a theme that is as old as humanity. I will therefore present three texts in the coming months. After this trial period, we will see if there is interest and whether it is worthwhile to continue the experiment.

My first text concerns torture, especially the mental contortions performed by its supporters to justify it. This subject has received extensive coverage, especially since the beginning of the war on terrorism undertaken by the United States. I have nevertheless chosen it because I believe many of my contemporaries display a certain indifference to torture, even tacitly supporting its use.

It goes without saying that the ideas expressed in this blog are yours and mine and do not therefore implicate the Fondation Chirac.

The six conditions for a just war

Caught between the “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” of the Code of Hammurabi, the Old Testament, and the Sermon on the Mount of the New Testament, generations of scholars, both religious and secular (from Sun Tzu to Michael Walzer, without forgetting St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Francisco de Victoria, Francisco Suarez, and Hugo Grotius), have sought, over the years (and swords), to define the conditions needed to defend a just war and thereby allow their sovereign – be it the State or the Church – to engage forces with a clear conscience.

The modern theory of a just war is well known with its three installments (before, during, and after the conflict) and its sometimes rather twisted casuistry, which appears at each new conflict. The war in Iraq is the most “perfect” of recent examples. It states, for example, that six conditions must be met to justify a war (a declaration by a legitimate authority, a just cause, the right intentions, means that are proportional to the ends, a reasonable hope of success, and as a last resort).

These same theorists, or others, were much less daring in their efforts to provide a moral basis for torture. According to the American psychologist Stanley Milgram, who conducted controversial research in the 1950s and 1960s, almost any human being is capable of becoming a torturer. This may explain why, despite an international legal framework that clearly prohibits any form of torture, many states continue to torture. They either are directly involved or have it carried out by complacent regimes ready to do the “dirty work”, free of undue protests by public opinion.

I know, there are admirable organizations and individuals who struggle incessantly against what the Canadian author, Serge Patrice Thibodeau, called “the disgrace of humanity”, but it sometimes feels as if they are preaching in the desert. Indeed, major countries with strong democratic traditions, and who, for the most part defend human rights, continue to turn a deaf ear to calls to halt this practice.

Torture, an unjustifiable act

The justifications given are essentially twofold: first there utilitarian considerations: the famous scenario of a suspect who may perhaps have information that would help locate and defuse a ticking bomb and thus save tens, or hundreds, even thousands of lives.

The second argument given by proponents of torture is that we are no longer dealing with painful physical torture. Since the beginning of the Cold War, thanks to an army of psychologists and research centers affiliated with prestigious universities, mostly U.S. and Canadian, humanity possesses refined, psychological ”means”, which have nothing to do with the vulgar forms of torture formerly practiced by the Inquisition or dictatorships of all kinds.

Neither of these arguments stand up to even a quick examination. In sum, there are very few concrete cases that prove the usefulness of torture (it can sometimes win a battle – that of Algiers, for example – but it will always contribute to losing the war). Furthermore, the argument distinguishing between physical and psychological torture – an argument used systematically by the United States – is hypocrisy of the most sinister sort, because we know the lasting effects of what is euphemistically called in English “enhanced interrogation techniques”, often coupled with moderate physical pressure.

Another finding: in order to be effective, torture must be used on a large scale (the return on investment of selective torture would be most inconsequential). We can therefore paraphrase Arnaud Amaury: Torture them all, God will recognize his own.

George W. Bush’s government appealed to leading academics to justify certain forms of torture. Alan Dershowitz, a distinguished Harvard University Professor proposed a legal framework for torture with the use of warrants that would-be torturers must obtain from judges. We can only imagine the holder of the public office waking a judge in the middle of the night, “Hurry your Honor, please sign this warrant – I think I have a suspect that perhaps knows that there may be a bomb waiting to explode somewhere in New York”.

As for Michael Walzer, always ready to confront the most complex ethical dilemmas, he rejects the idea of legalizing torture, opting instead for an approach based on each individual’s personal conscience: torture – because it may sometimes be necessary to do so – if your conscience so dictates, but be prepared to accept all the consequences (trial, imprisonment, etc…) that may result from your decision.

Why do the media and politicians maintain such discreet silence when it comes to torture?

In conclusion, I have two questions for the readers of this blog: why do the media and politicians maintain such discreet silence when it comes to Torture? And of the four basic positions one can defend concerning torture, which do you prone?

1. Any form of torture is justified when State interest is at stake

2. Torture can be performed in exceptional circumstances within a clear legal framework

3. Torture is justified in exceptional circumstances on the basis of the principle of individual responsibility

4. Total prohibition of torture

Suggested readings:

  • Michel Terestchenko, Du bon usage de la torture : Ou comment les démocraties justifient l’injustifiable, La Découverte, 2008
  • Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror, Metropolitan Books, 2006
  • Sanford Levinson (ed.), Torture: A Collection, Oxford University Press, 2004
  • (the following work includes two important essays: Michael Walzer’s Political Action: The Problem of Dirty Hands and Alan Dershowitz’s Tortured Reasoning)
  • Serge Patrice Thibodeau, La disgrâce de l’humanité : Essai sur la torture, VLB Éditeur, 1999

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