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DGI Brief - Sep 21, 2016

Good Wednesday and happy International Peace Day to all. Today's top 5 global issues news are about #COP21 agreement on #climatechange, #WestAfrica & #ebola, the #EU, #Chile and #China:

- WORLD: 31 countries formally joined the Paris Climate Change agreement (COP21) today, bringing the total to 60 countries ratifying the treaty & passing the key threshold of 55 countries needed for the treaty to enter into force. However, the other threshold is the signatories must account for 55% of total global carbon emissions & this isn’t yet met as the 60 nations account for only 48% so far. Why it matters: the majority of signatories are small island nations who emit a mere fraction of greenhouse gases & themselves face an existential threat from global warming. USA & China, the 2 biggest polluters already join as have Brazil, Mexico & Argentina today, representing the bulk of Americas. The next step is the European Union, which accounts for 12% of global emissions. The EU plans to ratify the agreement as a bloc (because only a fraction of the 28 member states approved COP21 domestically) by early October, which would make the treaty enforcement official. Yes, we can!

- WEST AFRICA’s Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia & Sierra Leone all banned or restricted the sale of bushmeat (fruit bats, rodents, squirrel, deer etc.) during the deadly Ebola outbreak but – with the exception of Guinea – have lifted the restrictions after WHO declared the international health emergency over. Health experts say that most infections in Africa have been linked to infected animals and warn against a rapid return to bushmeat consumption. Why it matters: Ebola claimed the lives of over 11,300 people in West Africa, deadliest in history, and although bushmeat has not officially been linked to the outbreak, infected animals are the only source of Ebola in the world & there is ample evidence that bats in particular remain infected for a long time. Many people rely on the bushmeat as a key source of protein because it is cheaper than imported meats or chicken. We don’t want hunger, but countries should consider keeping the ban on bats in place to prevent another public health crisis.

- EUROPEAN UNION announced a new set of anti-terror measures to collectively tackle terrorism across the 28-member bloc. The EU will now be able to impose sanctions such as travel bans & freezing of assets on people with any links to ISIS or Al Qaeda including any form of participation in planning or perpetrating terrorist acts, and providing financial or in-kind support (arms, oil etc.) It can also target anyone involved in serious human rights abuses like rape, sexual slavery, forced marriage etc. Why it matters: There is great power in unified approach to this serious problems. The EU has seen too many EU nationals travel abroad to join ISIS & other terror groups & had difficulties responding. Now they have strengthened data-sharing & can respond collectively despite each having different national laws. Above all, adding grave human rights violations to the measures addresses the impunity for individuals participating in crimes against humanity like those of ISIS fighters against Iraq’s Yazidi community.

- CHILE: The privatization of water began in 1980s under General Pinochet that championed private water rights & commodification of the nation’s water & market-based allocation system. Since his demise, Chile expanded the approach & allowed international companies to buy up national water utilities. For years now, millions of Chileans are left without running water for days at time & pay one of the highest tariffs in Latin America. Why it matters: It is predicted that water availability in Chile’s capital, Santiago, will fall 40% by 2070 & the rest of the country faces similar problems. People are calling for public ownership of water & recognizing water as a human right. The government is now attempting to reform the national water laws, supported by 74% of Chileans but vehemently fought by the private sector. Hopefully the lawmakers will listen to the will of the people, because experts say the privatized water system is not a sustainable model. That is true for the entire world, where data shows that poor communities are critically vulnerable to climate change where private sector controls basic services such as water. It is time that organizations like the World Bank & IMF stop promoting these ‘neoliberal’ models because privatization is not the answer for everything. Water is becoming the “blue gold” – more precious than oil & any other commodity & if we treat as a profit maker, the consequences will be disastrous.

- CHINA: The Hongxiang Industrial Development Co. in Dandong (NE) is suspected of selling aluminum oxide & other materials used in processing of nuclear bomb fuel to North Korea, despite these materials being on the list of forbidden, sanctioned materials. Chinese government is swiftly investigating the firm for “serious economic crimes”. Why it matters: This is a very important signal about China’s growing frustration with North Korea’s aggressive pursuit of developing nuclear weapons against the will of the international community. A long-time diplomatic, business & aid partner to Pyongyang, China’s move to punish one of its own companies for violating UN resolutions shows the seriousness of the situation. It’s high time for such firmness although none of the potential scenarios for the future of the Korean peninsula seem attractive. Still, thank you China for backing the world on this one.

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