Saturday, August 31, 2013

Introduction to a Green Economy: Concepts and Applications

Introduction to a Green Economy:

Concepts and Applications

E-Learning Course, 4th Edition

21 October – 13 December 2013

In order to provide interested stakeholders from government, business, civil society and academia with an introduction to the green economy concept UNITAR in partnership with UNEP, ILO and UNIDO is delivering the e-learning course“Introduction to a Green Economy: Concepts and Applications”, 21 October - 13 December 2013. Participants will learn about different concepts and facets of the green economy, including its contribution to addressing climate change. Special attention is given to global, national and sector-specific challenges and opportunities to advance sustainable, low-carbon and socially inclusive development. Additionally, participants will begin to acquire basic skills for applying the green economy concept in an economic, policy-making and personal context.

The ability of national actors to act on the green economy is key for effective policy making and achieving tangible results. To address this challenge UNITAR is working closely with UNEP, ILO and UNIDO in a new Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE), focusing on national capacity development.

Comprehensive information and registration details are available

Registration is open until 13 October 2013.

Please feel free to disseminate information about this course through your networks, and don’t hesitate to contact us ( should you need any further information.


The UNITAR Environmental Governance Programme Team



The concept of a green economy is receiving increasing international attention, as countries explore new patterns of development that take into account economic, social and environmental sustainability considerations. The ability of national actors to act on the green economy is key for effective policy making and achieving tangible results. To address this challenge, United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) is working closely with UNEP, ILO and UNIDO in a new Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE), with a focus on national capacity development.

In order to provide interested stakeholders from government, business, civil society and academia with an introduction to the green economy concept UNITAR, together with PAGE partners, is delivering an interactive e-learning course from 21 October to 13 December 2013.


The course targets groups and individuals that are interested in obtaining a general understanding about the green economy concept and latest developments. They include:

• Civil servants in national Ministries, provincial departments and local authorities

• Diplomats from Permanent Missions and Ministries of Foreign Affairs

• Environmental managers in private sector and civil society organizations

• Faculty, researchers and students

• Interested citizens


Participants will learn about different concepts and facets of the green economy, as well as global, national and sector-specific challenges and opportunities to advance low-carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive development. Additionally, participants will begin to develop basic skills for applying the green economy concept in a real world economic, policy and/or personal context.

After completing the course, participants will be able to:

  • Define the concept of a green economy and explain its value
  • Identify enabling conditions for greening national economies
  • Identify principal challenges and opportunities for greening key economic sectors
  • Describe national planning processes in support of a green transformation
  • Recognize international and regional initiatives and support services to foster green development
  • Apply the green economy concept to a real world economic, policy and/or personal context


The course pedagogy is adapted to professionals in full-time work. Participants are provided with the opportunity to learn through various experiences: absorb (read); do (activity); interact (socialize); and reflect (relate to one’s own reality). The total number of learning hours is 40 over an 8 week period. During weeks 1-5 the reading of an e-book is complemented by a range of learning activities and experiences that include interactive exercises, discussion forums, and an applied case study. Weeks 6-8 are reserved for wrap-up and completing course assignments.



The course participation fee is 600 USD.

A number of full/partial fellowships are available for participants from developing countries working in the public sector, academia or non-profit organizations. Priority for fellowships will be given to applicants from Least Developed Countries (LDCs). For details please contact the UNITAR Environmental Governance Programme

Register at:

Registration deadline: 13 October 2013.

The UNITAR e-Learning Team

Geneva, Switzerland


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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Martin Luther King - There comes a time


Martin Luther King - There comes a time


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Rising levels of acids in seas may endanger marine life, says study

Rapidly rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are causing a potential catastrophe in our oceans as they become more acidic, scientists have warned.

Hans Poertner, professor of marine biology at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, and co-author of a new study of the phenomenon, told the Guardian: "The current rate of change is likely to be more than 10 times faster than it has been in any of the evolutionary crises in the earth's history."

Seawater is naturally slightly alkaline, but as oceans absorb CO2 from the air, their pH level falls gradually. Under the rapid escalation of greenhouse gas emissions, ocean acidification is gathering pace and many forms of marine life – especially species that build calcium-based shells – are under threat.

Poertner said that if emissions continue to rise at "business as usual" rates, this would be potentially catastrophic for some species. Acidification is just one of a broader range of the problems facing the oceans and the combination of different effects is increasing the threat. Poertner said: "We are already seeing warm water coral reefs on a downslide due to a combination of various stressors, including [rising] temperature. Ocean acidification is still early in the process [but] it will exacerbate these effects as it develops and we will see more calcifying species suffering."

However, the process of acidification takes decades and the worst effects on some species could still be avoided if emissions are urgently reduced. "The ocean is changing already, mostly due to temperature – acidification will exacerbate those effects," Poertner said.

Evidence from prehistoric ocean life provides a comparison. "The [effects observed] among invertebrates resembles those seen during the Permian Triassic extinctions 250m years ago, when carbon dioxide was also involved. The carbon dioxide range at which we see this sensitivity [to acidification] kicking in are the ones expected for the later part of this century and beyond."

Oceans are one of the biggest areas of focus for current climate change research. The gradual warming of the deep oceans, as warmer water from the surface circulates gradually to lower depths, is thought to be a significant factor in the earth's climate. New science suggests that the absorption of heat by the oceans is probably one of the reasons that the observed warming in the last 15 years has been at a slightly slower pace than previously, and this is likely to form an important part of next month's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

The IPCC report, the first since 2007, will provide a comprehensive picture of our knowledge of climate change. It is expected to show that scientists are at least 95% certain that global warming is happening and caused by human activity, but that some uncertainties remain over the exact degree of the planet's sensitivity to greenhouse gas increases.

The new study, entitled Inhospitable Oceans, published on Monday in the peer-review journal Nature Climate Change, was based on examinations of five key components of ocean eco-systems: corals, echinoderms, molluscs, crustaceans and fish. All were found to be adversely affected by acidification: crustaceans were more resilient, while corals, molluscs and echinoderms were worst affected. The direct effects on fish were less clear.

Astrid Wittmann, co-author of the paper, said species with low resilience could be outcompeted by those that were more vulnerable to acidification, and that further studies were needed, particularly on plants and plankton, which were left out of this research. More


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Brazil's Wired Protests

The storyline is by now well rehearsed. What started out as a modest protest by the little-known Movimento Passe Livre (Free Fare Movement)–a group calling for free public transport over the past decade–went viral. Only a few thousand members initially turned up in São Paulo to reject the equivalent of a $0.09 hike on bus fares and corrupt tendering processes for the issuance of transportation licenses.

When their protest was brutally put down by the military police, over a million peoplefrom more than 350 cities in Brazil and around the world took to the streets to march against all manner of grievances. The rapid spread of these demonstrations is the ultimate expression of open empowerment–the emboldening of millions of wired young people worldwide to press for change.

Brazilian protesters jubilantly rallied around a constellation of causes including systemic corruption, poor services, insecurity, and runaway spending on mega sporting events such as the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Their voices were diverse and included left-wing and right-wing pundits as well as hacker outfits such as Anonymousand the more obscure anti-globalization outfit, Black Bloc. As the rallies grew in scope and scale, more extremist conservative voices emerged, calling for, among other things, the death penalty, impeachment of leftist politicians, and fewer taxes. While these latter groups were rebuffed, they are symptomatic of the widening of grievance claims in Brazilian society. In the process, innovative visualizations emerged that captured the spread of protests across Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and other social media platforms such as Tumblr, Instagram, and Whatsapp. These spontaneous efforts underline the transformative effects of technology in shaping Brazil’s digital revolution.

As in the case of mass protests in Bulgaria, Egypt, Tunisia, and Turkey, Brazil’s political establishment was caught utterly off guard. Predictably, they first dismissed the demonstrators as “vandals.” They quickly changed their tune after police were filmed deploying excessive force against protestors and journalists. In a bid to lower the temperature, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff tried instead to initiate a dialogue with the protestors, and hastily unveiled a five-part reform plan. With uncharacteristic speed, Congress also overturned controversial legislation–known as PEC-37–that would have limited the ability to investigate corrupt officials. A number of the proposed reforms have stalled, but they are still very much on the public radar.

While the protests diminished somewhat in intensity after a few weeks, they left a lasting impression on public consciousness. They are also demonstrative of a wider protest meme that has swept the planet since the self-immolation of the Tunisian street vendorMohammed Bouazizi in December 2010.

Brazil is one of the world’s most unequal societies, but the recent protests are not the preserve of the country’s rich or poor. They are instead an expression of disgust by the country’s rapidly expanding middle class. Marching alongside anti-establishment activists and extreme right nationalists were students, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and shopkeepers. They represent what sociologist Manuel Castells labels creative chaos, and the remarkable diversity of Brazilian society. Rather than being channeled through traditional political parties and unions, grievances were paraded on the real and virtual street. Local media outlets counted more than 490 protests over three weeks–an average of one protest an hour. The speed at which they spread, and the solidarity and political purpose they inspired, were unlike anything anyone had ever seen or imagined possible.

While it’s tempting to make the comparison, the Brazilian protests diverged in some respects from the Arab Spring or the demonstrations in Turkey. Indeed, Brazil features a stable and functional democracy. Notwithstanding recent declines in economic growth and increasing inflation, unemployment figures are at historic lows, and there were no obvious crises on the horizon. Even so, several features of the Brazil demonstrations echo protests underway in other emerging economies, and chief among them is the central role played by educated youth—particularly young women—in agitating for change.

Indeed, the early twenty-first century has given rise to a new sociological category: middle-class 20-somethings with limited horizons. These are young people with decent educations and bleak employment prospects. Many if not most of them are living in societies with major demographic youth bulges, coupled with a structural inability to absorb new entrants. And like so many other population groups, they do not feel adequately represented by their governments or legislatures. Their frustrations are compounded by public authorities who often respond by reaching for batons and tear gas instead of listening.

Yet, these young people also possess distinct advantages over their contemporaries from decades past. They are technologically savvy and navigate the virtual world with ease. In countries that are increasingly wired–some 40 percent of Brazilians are now online, forming the second largest national bloc of users of Facebook in the world–they are an especially powerful constituency. Digital natives are highly networked and unimpressed by conventional ideologies or top-down hierarchies. While operating in highly decentralized, dispersed, and fluid networks, they have a keen sense of their power, and how to use it to disrupt authority.

Not surprisingly, social networks are viewed with suspicion by the political establishment. Many governments are finding it increasingly difficult to create and control the public narrative in a world where information is available in real time, and on an unfathomable scale. In most cases, including in Brazil, they have resorted to new forms of social media surveillance and monitoring. And in most cases, these efforts have backfired.

Governments worldwide are clearly struggling to fully comprehend the implications of open empowerment. Their responses vary from seeking to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of e-governance through to adopting legislation and capabilities to police and securitize cyberspace. In Brazil, both ends of the continuum are in evidence. To her credit, President Rousseff was the first world leader to actively listen to the voice of the street. At the same time, hacktivist groups have revealed that the Brazilian intelligence agency, ABIN, introduced a new program called Mosaico to track social media.

Yet, as amply demonstrated in the case of Brazil, citizens are far ahead of states in settling the cyber-commons, including more nefarious criminal groups. Enterprising hackers, gangs, and cartels are using the net to advertise their wares, recruit members, intimidate their competitors, extort their victims, and even hire out contract killers.

Not surprisingly, a debate is emerging about ways to balance the opportunities afforded by open empowerment with questions of security and safety. Yet, despite the concerns of government authorities, the first genuinely online generation is in the process of rewiring the social contract that binds states and citizens. In many of Brazil’s cities, its members have successfully fused virtual and real protest, creating digitally-enabled popular awakenings. Young people have taken to the streets, are occupying public offices, and inspiring exciting forms of new journalism, including Ninja Midia. In the process, they are actively recalibrating the expectations of citizens and states and calling for quantitative and qualitative improvements in accountability and participation.

While still in its early stage, Brazil’s protests are an example of a massive and by-and-large peaceful movement that generated real results. Described by some as a middle class revolution, protesters extracted a rash of concessions from the government, with more to come. They have also put the government and opposition parties on notice.

Perhaps unintentionally, the protests severely wounded the president and her workers party, PT. Support for Rousseff has plummeted and popular dissatisfaction with all manner of services is at a record high. Although this may not necessarily play out as an electoral defeat in 2014 for the PT given the strong popularity of the party among beneficiaries of national social welfare programs, the writing is on the wall. Politicians everywhere should take note.

The question, then, is what happens next. There is little doubt that the protests have challenged the existing social order and alerted a new generation of youth to the unacceptability of the status quo. And many are threatening to continue demonstrating if their core concerns are not addressed, including tackling corruption within the ranks of Brasilia’s elites, the politicians, and oligarchic business owners. They will undoubtedly take to the streets in 2014 and 2016 if their demands are not met, a possibility that terrifies a government concerned about preserving its nascent reputation as a modern global power. Whatever the future holds, the newly empowered people of Brazil are a force to be reckoned with, and one that could well set alight comparable movements across Latin America.

This article was originally published on Global Observatory, a blog of the International Peace Institute (IPI). This article draws on research conducted by, a project of the SecDev Group and the Igarapé Institute. A version of this article was originally published in Robert Muggah is the Research Director of the Igarapé Institute, a Principal of the SecDev Group, and a professor at the Instituto de Relações Internacionais, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro.

For additional reading on this topic please see:
Brazil: Policy Responses to the Global Crisis and the Challenges Ahead
Emergent Brazil and the Curse of the ‘Hen’s Flight’
Violent Corruption and Violent Lobbying: Logics of Cartel-State Conflict in Mexico, Brazil and Colombia

For more information on issues and events that shape our world please visit the ISN’s Weekly Dossiers and Security Watch.



We are now playing in the Major Leagues.

As I said in 2011, unless the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement is handled properly there will be casualties, political casualties. We have had now had, besides the OWS protests in 2011, protests in Brazil and Turkey, andlike it or not social protests are here to stay. As Robbert Muggah said in Brazil's Wired Protests "There is little doubt that the protests have challenged the existing social order and alerted a new generation of youth to the unacceptability of the status quo". This holds true globally.

The political paradigm has changed. Politicians and governments are proving once again to be slow learners, they are resisting change rather than embracing it, and without listening to their people protests they will be swept away by the winds of change.

Globally we are faced with climate change, the most serious peril that has faced humanity in its long history. However, we are faced with more than climate change, there is peak oil and looming resource shortages and an out of control population, as well as concerns for water and food security in the years to come.

As I said to a colleague earlier today “failing to plan is planning to fail”.

Humanity is today playing in the major leagues. We are in a sink or swim situation. If we can keep the planet habitable by mitigating and adapting to the changing climate, switching to alternative sources of energy such as solar, wind, geothermal, wave, ocean thermal and nuclear, sequester CO2 and provide the population with adequate supplies of water and food and bring the population under control, humanity may survive . Survival means, amongst all the issues above, learning to navigate successfully through a new political morass.

Warfare and conflict will also need to become a thing of the past as climate change and energy may well exacerbate conflict situations. With a 9.5 billion global population by 2050 ensuring that everyone has adequate food and water could be problematic.

There is however, no ‘Plan B’ if we fail to resolve all the problems facing us.

When playing in the major leagues, there is no time out, there is no one that is going to offer help, let alone rescue us. Look around, the neighbourhood is somewhat sparsely populated and there are no other worlds on which humanity can survive. Even if there were other habitable worlds nearby they would in all probability belong to someone else.

There are, in all likelihood, other intelligent races out there somewhere, however in the major leagues one survives on ones own. As a young civilization it is up to us to solve all our problems, to make peace among ourselves, to bring the population under control, to implement the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and resolve the in equality that is partially responsible for the protests that are occuring around the world.

We must solve our own problems. As a young race we are as children, and as such we may not be able to solve our own problems. But solve them we must. If we are able to solve the situation facing us and make it to adulthood, in the galactic meaning of the world, we may then be introduced to the neighbors. If we do not make it to adulthood we will be just another minor statistic, a failure, a insignificant footnote in the universal history book. Editor