Environmental concerns at the 2018 World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting

By Ana Alexandrescu

There is no secret that the environment is increasingly gaining center stage in matters of global security.   The Global Risk Report shows that of the top five risks to the world, four of which  are environmental issues. This sounds alarming, but it is not hard to believe given the events we witnessed over the course of last year or the predictions that environmental agencies make for the future.

Global Risks Report

The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting took place earlier this year in Davos and environmental concerns were not absent. The agenda spanned from the protection of elephants and clean energy transition to the reinventing of waste as a resource and geospatial technology’s impact on our planet. Here are some of the most important things to be taken away from the event:

  • The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the Global Risks Report, enforcing the idea that climate change is the biggest threat to civilization and calling to action;
  • the feeling that previous leaders have failed and that the next three years are a time for decision makers to redeem themselves were a young climate campaigner’s message;
  • French president Emmanuel Macron declared that coal-fired power stations in France will be shut down in the next few years and climate change will be one of his pillars for economic reform.
  • Other participants from different groups announced the actions they would take to combat climate change, including insurance companies divesting from coal projects.

On a similar but more local note in regard to divesting, if you live in Cardiff or the surroundings you might be aware there is a campaign aimed at making Cardiff University divest from fossil fuel companies as currently some of its endowment fund is invested in these. Many students and student led societies have been vocal in supporting this campaign and this March will see the University’s final decision on the matter. It is hoped to see a shift towards renewable energy sources and an accelerated fight against climate change and environmental degradation.

Going back to Davos and environmental friendly memorable moments, the American delegation argued that Donald Trump is an “only man in this parade” against action on climate change and that 40% of the US economy, represented by 15 member states of the US Climate Alliance, continues to be committed to the Paris Agreement. In regards to  the oceans, The Friends of Ocean Action partnership was launched, a global action reuniting experts and leaders working towards the protection of oceans in order to meet the Sustainable Development Goal 14 on oceans.

Overall, there is a universal feeling that we are at a critical point in addressing and solving environmental challenges and time is quite pressing. This year more than ever sees hope lying with the leaders and their decisions and further steps.

References:

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/01/5-things-we-learned-about-the-environment-in-davos-2018

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/01/the-davos-2018-environment-agenda-online-what-you-need-to-know/

 

Through the mists of time: the Foundation Stone at the Temple of Peace, Cardiff

By Jeffrey Mansfield

Foundation stones are time machines. The dignitaries named in the inscription seem to come to life: a genteel lady in fox fur stole and full-length skirt; a bewhiskered gent in bowler hat, waistcoat, starched collar, and gold chain.

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The Foundation Stone, 1937

I’m outside the Temple of Peace and Health in Cardiff trying to decipher the art-deco inscription on the foundation stone, just to the right of the main entrance, between the two square pillars of Portland stone ashlar.  It’s difficult to read, but worth the effort:

THIS FOUNDATION STONE

 WAS LAID BY

 THE HON. THE VISCOUNT HALIFAX KG

 LORD PRIVY SEAL

ON THE EIGHTH DAY OF  APRIL 1937.

 

PERCY THOMAS O.B.E.PRIBA   ARCHITECT             E TURNER & SONS LTD. CONTRACTORS

What was it like in Cardiff that day?

Several documents were buried in a container under the stone: a list of council members of the Welsh National Memorial Association; a list of committee members of the Welsh National Council of the League of Nations Union; and a copy of the Western Mail from that day, which luckily we have on microfilm.  So let’s take a look at ‘The Western Mail, the National Daily of Wales and Monmouthshire, April 8th 1937, One Penny’.

The advert on the front page is hard to miss. David Morgan’s is offering a new range of ladies’ hats, ‘styled for the matron…a becoming model in light navy straw trimmed with ribbon velvet and flowers at 49/9’.  I wonder how many of Cardiff’s ‘matrons’ bought one?

The Greyhound Racing at Cardiff Arms Park starts at 7.30pm, while Cardiff City and Cardiff Rugby are having their usual ups and downs.

There is an advert we wouldn’t see today: ‘73% of the doctors in Northern Ireland prefer a mild cigarette – Kensitas the MILD cigarette, Just what the doctor ordered’.  O tempora, o mores!

A page is dedicated to the occasion on the foundation stone. In an article by Lord David Davies, founder  of the Temple, he sets forth the meaning of the Temple and emphasises the importance of the League of Nations.  He clearly believed in peace through power as much as through prayer.

The keynote speaker was Lord Halifax, former Viceroy of India, Knight of the Garter, Lord Privy Seal, eventual Foreign Secretary under Chamberlain and Churchill, supporter of the controversial appeasement policy and later Ambassador to the USA.

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Lady and Lord Halifax

He dedicated the new building to two great purposes – national health and international peace – and expounded on the nature of peace. International good will and conciliation of the conflicting interests of nations were the basis for true peace.

Quite how he and Lord Davies got together isn’t clear.  After all, one was a Liberal peer and the other Tory.  Maybe it was their shared dedication to international peace, maybe their shared love of horses and hunting.

Davies was not a pacifist, and Halifax, despite his involvement with appeasement, did support re-armament and resistance to Hitler when it became clear that appeasement had failed.  For some, however, he remains a controversial figure.

Once the ceremonies were concluded, the assembled worthies made their way to the nearby City Hall to be entertained by the Lord Mayor on behalf of the City Council. The paper doesn’t tell us what was on the menu but we can bet it wasn’t bubble n’ squeak.

It’s sad to think that the world was plunged into the horrors of the Second World War soon after the stone was laid, though the Temple’s values survived that conflict and remain pertinent today.

If you’d like to learn more about the history of the Temple, why not come along and join one of our Temple Tours. You might even meet up with a real time traveller.

Moving forward from the Oxfam scandal

By Hannah Westwell

RAF C17 Lands in Nepal with Vital UK Aid

A DFID staff member supervises the unloading of UK Aid from an aircaft in Kathmundu, Nepal on the 29 April 2015.  Images By Sgt Neil Bryden RAF

Over the past weeks a number of allegations have been raised in the international aid sector. Oxfam remains at the centre of the scandal, with accusations that senior staff hired prostitutes while working overseas and that the charity helped cover it up. The issue, it seems, was not a stand-alone occurrence, with reports of sexual abuse in Haiti in 2011 and Chad in 2006, demonstrating a much deeper problem. Médicins Sans Frontières, Save the Children and the UN all came under fire for similar reasons, being asked to explain the reasons for the repatriation of a number of workers and other claims of inappropriate behaviour.

Of course, the public’s response to the scandal was not small. In the immediate aftermath of these revelations, celebrity ambassadors of Oxfam- Minnie Driver and Desmond Tutu- stepped down and thousands of regular donators cancelled their donations. There was a lot of anger at the situation in which workers had severely abused their power, not just because of the nature and hypocrisy of the abuse but because so much of Oxfam’s income is from the government and public funds.

As the media now reflects on the Oxfam situation and the state of the foreign aid sector more generally, it seems there are two main threads of thought emerging.

Firstly, there is a call to action so that this kind of thing cannot happen in the future. In an article in the Financial Times, Michael Skapinker argues “Oxfam shows we must stop giving NGOs a free pass”. Whilst the ultimate aim of charities is to benefit others, they too are businesses who have to manage their staff and their public image. One of their largest streams of income is public donations, in which thousands of individuals place their trust in an organisation which they believe are doing good. In order to rebuild this trust, Oxfam and other organisations must take action to reassure supporters that there are procedures in place to prevent future misconduct.

Secondly, there is a warning that this issue doesn’t lead to those people that NGOs help missing out. William Hague, writing for The Telegraph, suggests that “The Oxfam scandal should not lead us into the blunder of cutting aid”. There are fears that not only will donations drop but that the scandal will be used politically to reduce the UK aid budget. This fear is shared by Oxfam celebrity ambassador Simon Pegg, who, when questioned about continuing to work with the charity, said “Oxfam is an organisation which helps countless people. I think it would be wrong to hold the entire organisation to account for the actions of a few people, I worry about the people that are going to suffer if everybody abandons this charity”. Ultimately, by giving less money to the charity, or charities generally, people in great need will suffer and we cannot allow this to happen.

Safeguarding needs to become a higher priority within charities working with vulnerable people.

Whilst these two arguments have repeatedly been presented separately, at times in opposition to each other, it seems to me that there is nothing to stop both happening in order to move forward. It is important that we make steps intentionally as the sector tries to learn from and move on from this scandal. We must build a culture where this behaviour isn’t tolerated, but beyond that stricter rules should be put in place which require charities to report cases of misconduct. Safeguarding needs to become a higher priority within charities working with vulnerable people.

There have also been ideas of ways the sector could prevent past offenders getting another job in the sector for instance by having a global register of aid workers. At the same time, we need to continue to give money to those who need it. We may use this time to evaluate who we are giving money to, holding these organisations accountable in making these changes, but in order to ensure the lives of many aren’t affected by the actions of a few, we must continue to give. Overall, the events of the past few weeks have demonstrated the serious need for change in the international aid sector but should also be used as a learning experience so that individuals pay closer attention to the way in which their money is used and in ensuring power is not abused.