In a referendum held over two weeks, the people of Bougainville, an archipelago in the South Pacific’s Solomon Sea, voted overwhelmingly to seek independence from Papua New Guinea (PNG). The referendum was the centerpiece of the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement between the PNG government and Bougainville independence leaders to end a devastating decade-long war that claimed nearly 20,000 lives—nearly a tenth the territory’s total population. Negotiations between PNG and Bougainville about the road forward will now begin and could continue for years, with the PNG parliament having the final say. Control of the territory’s rich mineral resources has been a key issue in the conflcit. (Photo via UNPO)
Central Africa’s rainforests are currently being consumed by a vast system of forest fires dwarfing even those that are ravaging the Amazon. Hundreds of thousands of hectares have been engulfed by flames over the past weeks—to comparatively little notice in the world media. French newspaper La Voix du Nord states, “In Angola, the Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Zambia, thousands of fires consume phenomenal amounts of vegetation.” Since the beginning of 2019, it is the DRC that has recorded the most fires, far ahead of Brazil. NASA attributes the fires to “widespread agricultural burning,” as farmers employ slash-and-burn methods to clear land for crops. (Photo: FIRMS)
A Special Report on Climate Change was released by the UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), focusing on greenhouse gas emissions and its links to desertification, land degradation and food security. The report warns that the “rise in global temperatures, linked to increasing pressures on fertile soil,” risks “jeopardizing food security for the planet.” The effects of global warming have led to “shifts of climate zones in many world regions,” further exacerbating land degradation, and leading to extreme weather conditions such as floods and droughts. The reports warns: “The stability of food supply is projected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events that disrupt food chains increases.” (Photo of Tantaverom region of Chad via UNDP)
The mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch have left at least 49 dead and some 20 wounded, many gravely, including children. The attacks took place when the mosques were packed for Friday prayers. An Australian-born man named Brenton Tarrant has been arrested as the gunman, and three suspected accomplices also detained. Marking a new extreme in depravity, Tarrant live-streamed the massacre on Facebook, with a camera mounted on his head. The video has been removed from the web. Alas, so has his lengthy manifesto, in which he laid out his motivations for the attack. The removal is ill-considered, as being ignorant of the rhetoric employed to justify mass murder only makes potential recruits more vulnerable. CounterVortex was able to review the document before it was scrubbed from the web, and it is a study in Red-Brown politics—employing populist phrases appropriated directly from the left and wedding them to a white-supremacist ideology. (Photo via Ma'an)
The Solomon Islands' Prime Minister Rick Hou is threatening to "blacklist" the companies involved in a 100-ton oil-spill near a UNESCO World Heritage Site. "The impact on the marine life and the coral is already massive with much of it irreversible," he said. The bulk carrier MV Solomon Trader ran aground a month ago off Rennell Island, while loading bauxite ore in a cyclone. Because of the storm, it took salvage crews several days before they could reach the stricken craft. Compounding the damage, Indonesian-owned Bintan Mining, which chartered the vessel, continued to operate as the oil flowed into the sea, with other ships maneuvering around the wreckage, churning up the oil. Rennell Island, known locally as Mugaba, is home to some 1,840 people, who overwhelmingly rely on fishing for their livelihood. The World Heritage Site covers the world's largest coral atoll. (Photo via Radio Australia)
UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment David Boyd issued an urgent call for accelerated action to combat climate change. The statement comes after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report on the impacts of global warming of 2°C—the increase permitted under the Paris Accord. Boyd said that climate change is "one of the greatest threats to human rights" and will have devastating effects on the "rights to life, health, food, housing, and water, as well as the right to a healthy environment." In order to meet human rights obligations, Boyd called on counties to exceed their Paris Agreement obligations. If the temperature increase is allowed to increase to 2.0°C, it would result in "human rights violations upon millions of people." (Photo via Jurist)
In Episode 18 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg looks back at the Nevada-Semipalatinsk movement of the closing years of the Cold War, when the Western Shoshone people, whose traditional lands were being contaminated by the nuclear blasts at the US government's Nevada Test Site, made common cause with the Kazakh people of Central Asia who opposed Soviet nuclear testing at the Semipalatinsk site. Kazakh activists travelled to Nevada to join protests at the Test Site, while Western Shoshone leaders travelled to Kazakhstan to join protests at Semipalatinsk. This initiative eventually evolved into the Abolition 2000 Global Network to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons, which as recently as 2016 held an International Conference on Building a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World in Astana, Kazakhstan, again attended by Western Shoshone leaders. The Nevada-Semipalatinsk movement provides an inspiring example of indigenous peoples and their supporters building solidarity across hostile international borders and superpower influence spheres. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: National Digital History of Kazakhstan. Banner from protest at Semipalatinsk declares solidarity with anti-nuclear protesters in Nevada.)
The 18 member states of the Pacific Islands Forum held their 49th summit in Nauru, issuing a statement asserting that "climate change presents the single greatest threat to the livelihood, security and wellbeing of Pacific people." Leaders at the Forum urged all the world's countries to comply fully with their commitments to mitigate emissions. Among the projects discussed at the summit was redrafting the 2000 "Biketawa Declaration" on regional security in the Pacific as a "Biketawa Plus," with a greater emphasis on environmental security and climate-related disasters. Under the slogan "We are not drowning, we are fighting," community leaders across the Pacific Islands have been pushing for world action on climate change and adherence to the 2015 Paris Accords. (Photo: 350.org)
Chilean activists protested in Santiago against the signing of the new Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, now rebranded as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), or TPP-11. Protesters outside La Moneda Palace, headquarters of the Chilean government, held banners reading "No to modern slavery, no to the TPP-11" and "The TPP and TPP-11 are the same!" Lucía Sepúlveda, leader of the organization Chile Mejor Sin TPP, said the agreement would "deliver full guarantees to foreign investors" at the expense of "rights and national interests." (Photo: Chile Mejor Sin TPP)
The Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK (AOHR-UK) called for the International Criminal Court to investigate allegations of war crimes in Yemen by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), especially concerning the recruiting of foreign nationals to serve in an army of mercenaries. AOHR-UK alleges that the mercenaries began work under contract to the UAE in March 2015 and have conducted military operations in Yemen, in addition to supervising secret prisons in which Yemeni citizens have been subjected to torture.
Peru and Australia signed a free trade pact that does away with 99% of tariffs on imported goods from Australia, while securing Peruvian exports greater access to Australian markets. The Peru-Australia Free Trade Agreement (PAFTA) was signed in Vietnam, at the 25th summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, speaking at the summit, reiterated his support for free trade and warned about the dangers of protectionism–comments seemingly aimed at the Donald Trump administration.
International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda made a formal request to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by US the military in Afghanistan. The investigation would also examine crimes at secret CIA detention facilities in Poland, Romania and Lithuania. The request cites articles of the Rome Statute concerning murder, torture and unlawful imprisonment. It marks the first time ICC prosecutors have targeted the United States.