Category Archives: South Africa

Advocacy in action at Durban climate talks

Dr Anwara Shelly from Caritas Bangladesh scored a negotiating success at the Durban talks

By Patrick Nicholson

An insurance policy covering loss and damage to your property if there is hurricane or flood isn’t an option if you are poor. But one of the smaller issues discussed at Durban is how to provide communities with just such coverage through a ‘loss and damages’ fund.

Dr Anwara Shelly from Caritas Bangladesh is taking part in the UN conference in Durban wearing two hats, both as Caritas and on the official Government of Bangladesh delegation.

On the details of negotiations in the conference centre, Caritas experience in the field can have a real impact. At a session on the loss and damage fund, Dr Shelly raised her hand to urge that fund not be targeted at the national level, but at the local or district level where it can be most effective.

“My 24 years of experience with Caritas Bangladesh has shown me that in a disaster, we must be able to mobilize funds at the local level,” she said, pointing to the cyclones that have ravaged her country. She says that people surviving the initial hazard often suffer because it takes weeks to reach them.

Her intervention was welcomed, and she received the backing of Bolivia, Cook Islands, East Timor and Tuvalu. That means her suggestion will be included in the text for further discussion and approval by the delegates.

Dr Shelly was present at UN talks on climate change in Copenhagen in 2009 and Cancun in 2010, but this is her first time as an official country delegate.

“I can speak on behalf of my country and on behalf of the poor people,” she said. “I can bring their concerns to negotiating table.”

Climate change in Bangladesh is a critical issue. Science shows that by 2050 17 percent of the country will be underwater. That means tens of millions of people will be displaced. One of the issues Caritas Bangladesh is asking for is that the UN officially recognizes “climate refugees”. Currently it doesn’t, which affects their legal status.

The fate of Bangladesh hangs in the balance in Durban as delegates try to agree on what to do with the Kyoto Protocal.

Dr Shelly has witnessed years of tense UN-led climate talks that have so far failed to come up with a new legally binding deal that will curb greenhouse gas emissions and fund developing countries to cope with the impact of extreme weather.

“Negotiations are very slow,” said Dr Shelly, doubting rich countries commitment to a new deal. But her own actions in Durban show that change is possible. Bangladesh has no choice, but then neither does anyone else if we want to save the world for future generations.

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Cardinal Rodriguez at Durban climate talks

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez meeting a local parish outside Durban on a visit to see the work of Caritas South Africa. Credit Patrick Nicholson

By Patrick Nicholson

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez of Honduras met UN officials today as talks in Durban on climate change continued. The Cardinal is representing Caritas Internationalis at the UNFCCC meeting along with Caritas members from South Africa, Kenya, Bangladesh, and the British Isles.

Some 25,000 government officials, lobbyists and scientists are expected to attend the two-week conference that is seeking a new deal to follow the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Cardinal Rodriguez met with UNFCCC Chief of Staff Daniele Violetti to discuss the impact of climate change on the world’s poor and the importance of faith leaders in mobilising support for action. Violletti stressed the importance of bottom-up pressure from civil society and faith groups in combating climate change.

This Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI’s called for delegates at the climate talks to agree a responsible and credible deal to cut greenhouse gases.

“I hope that all members of the international community agree on a responsible and credible response to this worrisome and complex phenomenon, taking into account the needs of the poorest and future generations,” said the Pope at the Sunday Angelus in Rome.

In Durban, Cardinal Wilfred Napier told a special Mass on Sunday that the season of Advent offered hope of a new beginning and that the Durban conference also held out hope for a new start for humanity if delegates seized the chance with a new deal.

Before catching his plane to Durban on Monday, Cardinal Rodriguez led a group of Italian teenagers to meet Pope Benedict. The Pope asked them to be the “true guardians of life and creation”. He said, “Respect for the human being and respect for nature are one.”

Cardinal Rodriguez reflected the concerns and message of the Pope in meetings Tuesday, saying the science was clear on the damage climate change will cause and the first-hand experience of Caritas staff in emergencies shows the poor will suffer the greatest. What is missing, he said, is political will.

Caritas is calling for a legally binding deal that will put in place the cuts in greenhouse gases necessary and the financing to help poor country’s adapt to the worst consequences.

A deal is in the balance as delegates argues over who cuts first and deepest and how to pay to support developing countries.

Delegates from developing countries repeated the need for a multilateral legally binding agreement, but a post-Kyoto deal received a blow with Canada announcing Canada’s announcement that it would not accept further emission cuts under the treaty.

Later in the day, Cardinal Rodriguez and a group of Caritas representatives from various countries visited a local parish in nearby Kwa Mashu that is supported by Caritas South Africa. They heard pleas from people about the need for a deal at the climate talks and how floods and bad weather were affecting them.

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Filed under Africa, Climate Change, Development, Food, High-Level Meetings and Events, South Africa

Video from the climate change rally in South Africa

Joseph Kabiru of CAFOD talks about African perspectives on climate change at the We Have Faith rally (Durban, 28/11/2011)

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Durban climate conference: Caravan of Hope

Joseph Kabiru in front of Victoria Falls, Zambia

Hundreds of people from all over Africa are joining a “Caravan of Hope”, which is covering more than 4,000 miles and 10 countries en route to the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa.

The coach convoy set off from the Burundian capital, Bujumbura, on 9 November, and is picking up people all along the journey’s 17-day route, passing through Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana and South Africa.

Follow Joseph Kabiru on the Caravan of Hope on the CAFOD (Caritas England and Wales) blog

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Two women, two tales of HIV

Children not only are at risk of inheriting their mothers' HIV status, but also their hunger, poverty and lack of education.

Joyce, 11 months, is just starting on ARVs. Children are not only at risk of inheriting their mothers' HIV status, but also their hunger, poverty and lack of education. Credit: Caritas/Michelle Hough

By Michelle Hough, communications officer

Thabang Society, Parys, South Africa

Watch a film on the effects of AIDS in Swaziland and South Africa.

Sarah* has the face of a young girl, but at the age of 29 she has already been raped, has lost her husband to suicide and has lived through the deaths of her three young children to AIDS-related diseases. She herself also has HIV.

None of her children survived beyond the age of five. One died at just three months old. Two of her children died on her back as she took them to hospital.

After her first child died, Sarah didn’t want any more children, but her husband was abusive and left her with no choice but to get pregnant again, even though there was a risk the children would have HIV.

“Sometimes I just sleep because I feel so hungry that I don’t know what else to do,” says Sarah when I meet her at the Thabang Society therapy and counselling centre, two hours away from Johannesburg.

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Filed under Advocacy, Africa, Health, HIV & AIDS, South Africa