Policy and Advocacy

New shocking facts about the impact of fast fashion on our climate

 

Our planet is in serious trouble and our nation’s addiction to new clothes is doing more harm than you may think.

Half a tonne of clothing every minute is dumped into a landfill in Ireland. That amount produces over 12 tonnes of carbon emissions – the same as driving 65,000 kilometres in a car.

Buying just one white cotton shirt produces the same amount of emissions as driving 56 kilometres in a car. 

Earlier this year, 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg stood up in front of world leaders at Davos to deliver a chilling wake up call. “We are facing a disaster of unspoken sufferings for enormous amounts of people.”

 
 
Greta sparked a wake-up call across the globe demanding drastic change to save our planet and in turn, ourselves. We’re all feeling the effects of the climate emergency, but it is not affecting us all equally.
 
The world’s poorest people have contributed the least to the climate crisis, yet are suffering the full force of its impacts – increased flooding, droughts and storms destroying lives, homes, jobs, livestock and crops.
 
When Greta said, “our house is on fire” she wasn’t wrong. We are seeing unprecedented wild fires spreading across the Amazon rainforest, the lungs of our planet, producing 20% of the world’s oxygen.
Greenland’s ice sheet is melting so fast it has caused global sea levels to rise 0.5mm in just one month. Our planet is in serious trouble.
 
But things could be different. As Greta pointed out “The main solution is so simple that even a small child can understand. We have to stop our emissions of greenhouse gases.”
 
Obvious actions stand out – flying less, driving less, taking more public transport. But how about buying fewer new clothes? With the global textile industry producing more greenhouse gas emissions than international aviation and shipping combined – it could be a more important change than we think.
 
Help raise awareness of how damaging our shopping habits can be by sharing the graphic below on your social channels.
 
 
 
 
 

The Rohingya crisis: a matter of life and death

On 25 August 2017, the Myanmar military began a brutal crackdown on Rohingya communities causing more than 700,000 people to flee to Bangladesh. Since then, refugees having been living in camps and Bangladesh communities with little hope for the future. Refugee and Bangladeshi communities are intertwined, and harmony between them is essential for the security and peace of mind. Elizabeth Hallinan, Oxfam’s Advocacy Manager in the Rohingya crisis explains why we must move beyond the emergency response in Bangladesh and give people better infrastructure and the chance to earn and learn.

For over a year, I have been working in the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar where I have seen the refugee and host communities settle into a life together. One member of the Bangladeshi host community with a keen sense of history is Abu Jahed from the Teknaf area. His life story demonstrates the intertwined histories of Rakhine and Cox’s Bazar. 

Abu Jahed at his home in the Teknaf area. Photo credit: Mutasim Billah/Oxfam

Situated between the Bay of Bengal to the west and the Naf River to the east, Teknaf is a peninusula with paddy fields and river embankments from where you can see beyond to the high green hills of Myanmar. Two years ago, Bangladeshi villagers watched smoke rising from these hills and prepared themselves for the new arrivals. 

Safety in Bangladesh

Abu Jahed remembers those early days: “We could see the smoke of their burning houses from here.  They came, crossing the river – can you see how big that river is to cross? Many of them died doing so. Those that made it here had nothing – no food, no water, and barely dressed. I went to the main road to invite them to my house.”

This was not the first time refugees from Myanmar braved the Naf River to arrive here. The Government of Bangladesh currently hosts more than 912,000 refugees (https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/70585): about 710,000 of whom came in 2017, but about 200,000 have been here longer, since conflict in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Refugees have come to Bangladesh, searching for safety, about a dozen times since Myanmar became a country in 1948.

The fight over natural resources

Like many places in Teknaf, refugees landing in Abu Jahed’s village, arrived quite literally in the host community’s backyards. They put up shelters in paddy fields, chopped down precious jungle forest, crowded the water pumps.

“We, the local people, are dependent on three things – the forest, the land and the river.  These people have chopped down our forest, they have taken our land, and now even the army does not let us cross the river for fishing and trade. You can see why people say that the Rohingya took everything from us. In no time at all, we were quarrelling.”

Poverty and limited social services

Cox’s Bazar is the second poorest district in Bangladesh; the host community was struggling even before the latest arrivals.  There are about 335,000 Bangladeshis, and nearly three times that many refugees. The strain is undeniable. 

I asked Abu Jahed why he decided to take people in?

“Let me tell you something about me,” he says.  “In 1971, during the Bangladesh Liberation War, I myself was a refugee in Myanmar. I was 10 years old when we woke in the night to find our houses burning, and we made the awful journey to Myanmar to save our lives. People there took us in. We had nothing, but we were safe there.

“To this day, we are very thankful to them and now feel a responsibility to pay them back for this kindness.”

Repaying the kindness

Many host community members have expressed this kind of sentiment to me.  Some were themselves displaced in the 1970s, others felt a bond with fellow Muslims or said that helping the refugees just seemed like the right thing to do. While many local community members expressed empathy for the refugees, they also see that the sheer scale of the new population is a larger issue.

Abu Jahed put it like this: “Let me tell you a story… Some boys were playing by a river where some frogs were floating. The boys started throwing stones at the frogs, when a passing village elder asked the boys what they were doing. ‘We are playing,’ they answered. Listening to the boys’ reply, the frogs called out, ‘Throwing stones at us might be a game for you, but our lives are at risk.’ The Rohingya people and the people of Cox’s Bazar are like the frogs of the story. The world is playing with us. This situation is a game for them, but for the hosts and the refugees living in these conditions it is a matter of life and death.”

Refugees need legal status

Refugees in Bangladesh do not have legal status, so they cannot work, move freely around the country or access a formal education.

This presents a huge problem, explained Abu Jahed: “It is undeniable that education is a must for everyone. If the government can find a way to support their education without causing more problems for us, everyone could support that. Otherwise, what can we expect of the next generation growing up in conditions where their rights are violated, and they have no proper education? We can’t expect anything good.”

International support is urgent

The Government of Bangladesh is under a huge amount of pressure to provide for the refugee population, while also managing the legitimate frustrations of the local communities hosting them.

It is a delicate line to walk, and Bangladesh needs support from countries around the world to continue to develop Cox’s Bazar.  For 2019, the response has only 36% of the funding it needs to help these communities [https://fts.unocha.org/appeals/719/summary].

Myanmar also needs to take steps to address the root causes of the conflict. It must implement the Rakhine Advisory Commission Recommendations, including equal access to  to citizenship for Rohingya while putting an end to movement restrictions and other discriminatory policies [http://www.rakhinecommission.org/the-final-report/].

Listen to the people

Abu Jahed told me, “I would urge our government and other countries to put pressure on Myanmar, so that they stop this and listen to what Rohingya people want to say. They are asking for their citizenship, nothing else. If Myanmar does not listen then the world should come forward to help Bangladesh.

“Remember the story I shared? It might be a game for them, but we are risking our lives.”

Oxfam has been working with Rohingya refugees since the beginning of the crisis. We have supported more than 266,000 people, providing them with clean drinking water, latrines, sanitation and hygiene, fresh food vouchers, lighting, and protection programs. Oxfam also works with host communities providing protection and livelihood opportunities. We advocate at the highest levels for the rights of refugees in Bangladesh and communities impacted by conflict in Myanmar. Oxfam will continue to support refugees, working with national and international partners, to ensure that everyone’s rights are respected and that they have access to basic services while working towards durable solutions to this crisis.  

 

Time for G7 to End the War in Yemen

On 9 August 2018, a 500lb GBU-12 Paveway II laser guided bomb was dropped by the Royal Saudi Air Force on a school bus in Dahyan, Sa-ada Governorate of northern Yemen killing 40 boys aged between six and eleven. They were on a trip, excited, playing together, seemingly happy despite the war that has dominated their lives for over four years. [1] 11 adults were also killed. This brutal act was one of over 50 attacks on civilian vehicles recorded by Human Rights Watch in Yemen during 2018.[2,3]  
 
This is part of a pattern in four years of war where civilians have borne the brunt of the fighting. The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED)[4]  reports nearly 4,500 direct civilian targeting events resulting in approximately 11,700 reported civilian fatalities since March 2015. Over 8000 of those civilian casualties come from airstrikes launched by Saudi Arabia and its allies in the war on Houthi rebel forces.[5]  
 
And it’s not just the bombs. Imports of food, fuel and other goods have fallen because of the fighting. Access to food aid is difficult, and prices in markets have risen greatly because of the war. Save the Children estimated last year that 85,000 Yemeni children may have died of starvation since 2015 – far more than have been killed by guns or bombs.[6]  Cholera has killed over 2500 people in Yemen, and 58% of those victims were children.[7]  Clean water is barely available in Yemen as airstrikes have destroyed water purification and piping stems. These casualties are as much victims of the war as those killed directly by the fighting.
 
Being careless as to whether civilians are hurt by military action isa serious violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), and deliberately targeting civilians is a war crime, and western governments that back the Saudi-UAE-led Coalition say the Saudis are investigating such incidents. But by 2018, out of thousands of attacks, the Coalition Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) created to investigate such bombings said it had looked at only 79.  [8]Worse, in 2015, the Coalition had declared Sa-ada, a city home to 100,000 civilians one giant military target, something that was raised before the UK Court of Appeal in the case relating to the illegality of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia under the Arms Trade Treaty and UK law.
 
Destruction of civilian houses that were hit during airstrike raids in Sana’a. Photo Credit: Bassam Al-Thulaya / Oxfam Yemen
 
And that’s the crux of the matter. The G7 nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States) who meet this month sell tens billions of dollars’ worth of arms each year to Saudi coalition members. The US is the biggest supplier, with major coalition partners. 
 
Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt receiving some $19.5bn in arms deliveries from the US since 2015. [9]  The UK has licensed well over £5.3bn in arms sales to Saudi Arabia alone since 2015. Even a relatively small player like Canada sold CAN$1.2bn to Saudi Arabia in 2018, with a massive CAN$15bn contract for armoured vehicles pending. 
 
It’s not just the bombs, planes and other arms, The UK, through both Ministry of Defence and major contractor BAE Systems retains over 7000 personnel in Saudi Arabia, supporting and maintaining the Royal Saudi Air Force.[10]  Under contracts and agreements that date back to the 1980s, UK personnel maintain planes and support military operations. The government denies knowledge of what is going on, maintaining an arm’s length relationship despite years of war crimes committed by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. Since 2008 British personnel have not directly loaded bombs onto planes for combat operations, but oversee and support Saudi personnel to do this. They also service the planes which need continuous maintenance to remain operational. According to UK civil servants and BAE Systems personnel,  the coalition “, absolutely depend on BAE Systems” and, if the outside support stopped,  couldn’t continue the war after “seven to fourteen days”.  
 
So egregious are the breaches and violations of IHL that Germany (a partner with the UK in building Tornado and Typhoon aircraft used by Saudi Arabia) has withdrawn support for the export of spare parts to the Saudis. The highest Belgian court has ruled 20 arms export licences to Saudi Arabia illegal. The Italian Parliament has voted to stop sales to Saudi Arabia. The UK Court of Appeal has also ruled UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia illegal. 
 
The G7 nations claim to lead the world, they will undoubtedly deplore the continuing fighting and human suffering in Yemen. But the stark truth is that without them the war would have been over years ago. While they continue to fuel the conflict there is no chance that peace can prevail, and Yemenis of all ages will continue to the price of this with their lives.
 

[1] https://edition.cnn.com/2018/08/13/middleeast/yemen-children-school-bus-strike-intl/index.html

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/19/us-supplied-bomb-that-killed-40-children-school-bus-yemen

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/16/yemen-school-bus-bombing-one-of-50-strikes-on-civilian-vehicles-this-year

[4] See more detail at https://www.acleddata.com/?s=Yemen.

[5] https://www.acleddata.com/2019/06/18/press-release-yemen-war-death-toll-exceeds-90000-according-to-new-acled-data-for-2015/

[6] McKernan, Bethan (21 November 2018). "Yemen: up to 85,000 young children dead from starvation". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 November 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/21/yemen-young-children-dead-starvation-disease-save-the-children

[7] Federspiel F, Ali M (December 2018). "The cholera outbreak in Yemen: lessons learned and way forward". BMC Public Health (Review). 18 (1): 1338. doi:10.1186/s12889-018-6227-6. PMC 6278080. PMID 30514336

[8] https://theintercept.com/2018/08/24/yemen-airstrikes-saudi-us-coalition/

9 Figures from securityassistance.org

10 https://www.mikelewisresearch.com/RSAFfinal.pdf

Yemen War - 1000 Child Casualites in a Year

Nearly 1,000 child casualties of Yemen war in year since shocking Sa’ada bus attack

Number killed directly by fighting is equivalent to eight more bus loads
 
More than 300 children have died in fighting across Yemen in the year since an airstrike hit a bus in Sa’ada killing 41 school children and almost 600 have been injured, as international arms sales continue to fuel the conflict.
 
335 children have been killed by violent attacks including airstrikes, mines and shelling since 9 August 2018, equivalent to another eight buses being hit. Many more have died from hunger and disease, according to the UN, in a massive humanitarian crisis stoked by the conflict.
 
The latest arms sales data, released last month, shows the UK has now licensed over £5 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since 2015 when the conflict in Yemen between the Houthis and the internationally recognised government, backed by an international coalition that includes Saudi Arabia and the UAE, escalated. 
 
The Court of Appeal has ruled that arms sales to Saudi Arabia are unlawful and ordered the UK government to stop licensing new weapons exports while they assess whether airstrikes, including attacks involving children like those above, are a serious violation of international humanitarian law. The UK government has said it will appeal to the Supreme Court to overturn that decision.
 
Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive, said: “The world was rightly appalled by an attack that took the lives of so many young, innocent schoolchildren. Yet almost one child a day has been killed in the year since and violence remains a daily threat for Yemenis, alongside the struggle against hunger and disease.
 
“The people of Yemen urgently need a nationwide ceasefire before more lives are lost to this horrific conflict and the humanitarian disaster that it is fueling. All parties to the conflict and those with influence over them should do all in their power to end this deadly war now.”
 
Since the latest figures were published, more children have been killed or injured. Just last week an attack on a market killed at least 10 civilians, including children, in Sa’ada while in Taizz, five children were injured by shelling.
 
Airstrikes and shelling in Al Dale’e in May killed 10 children. In March, five children were killed in clashes in Taizz city while an attack on the Kushar district of Hajjah governorate killed 14 children. Over the year, there have been thirty incidents involving schools and eighteen involving hospitals. 
 
The conflict, between the Houthis and the internationally recognised government, backed by an international coalition that includes Saudi Arabia and the UAE, is now in its fifth year. The United Nations has estimated that if the war continues until 2022, more than half a million people will be killed by fighting, hunger and disease. 
 
The Houthis and the internationally recognized government of Yemen reached an agreement at talks in December which included a ceasefire deal for the key port of Hudaydah but moves to implement it have been long delayed.
 
The government and the Saudi-led coalition have accused the Houthi forces of over 5000 violations of the Stockholm agreement, while the Houthis have in turn blamed the coalition and government forces for more than 27,000 violations.
 
The international community is coming under increasing pressure to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia and other members of the coalition. In June, the Court of Appeal ruled that UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia were breaking the law.
 
Clarken said: “Seventy years after the creation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which seeks to protect civilians in and around war zones, children in Yemen still find themselves in the firing line. 
 
“Rather than fighting the legal ruling against weapons, the UK government should join with the international community to focus on protecting the lives of Yemeni civilians and ending this war, not profiting from it through arms sales.”
 
ENDS 
 
For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact: 
Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org 
 
NOTES TO EDITORS
 
Data on the number of children killed and injured has been provided by the UN Civilian Impact Monitoring Project (CIMP). It is unverified open source information. The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) and the Yemen Data Project also monitor civilian casualties. None is an official source and given the difficulties of working in Yemen, the data from these three sources do not always match.
The CIMP data shows 335 children died and 590 were injured between 9 August 2018, when the bus attack in Sa’ada took place, and 3 July 2019.
The government and coalition allege over 5000 violations of the Stockholm agreement by Houthi forces since it came into effect on 23 December 2018 until 10 June 2019. The Houthis allege 27714 violations by the government and coalition in the period 23 December 2018 to 2 July 2019.
 
 
 

Yemen War - 1000 Child Casualites in a Year

5 steps governments can take to prevent another Mauritius Leaks scandal

A 5-point plan to stop big corporations cheating poor countries out of billions of dollars in tax revenue, was published by Oxfam today in the wake of the Mauritius Leaks.

When multinational corporations and the super-rich use tax havens to dodge paying their fair share, it is ordinary people, and especially the poorest, who pay the price. The Mauritius Leaks show that tax havens continue not only to exist but to prosper, despite government promises to rein in tax dodging. Oxfam’s plan lists five steps governments can take to tackle tax avoidance and end the era of tax havens.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive, said: “Politicians could put a stop to tax scandals if they wanted to. Oxfam has listed five concrete solutions that would prevent another Mauritius Leaks scandal and ensure multinational corporations pay their fair share of tax wherever they do business. Developing countries can revise or void their tax treaties and introduce withholding taxes to better protect their tax revenue, and all governments – rich and poor – agree to set a global minimum effective tax rate on corporate profits.

“There is no time to waste. Developing countries lose an estimated $100 billion a year in tax revenue as a result of tax dodging by multinational corporations, and even more as a result of damaging tax competition between countries. This money is desperately needed to end hunger, tackle the climate crisis, and ensure all children have the chance of an education.”

Oxfam’s 5-point plan to build a fairer global tax system calls on governments to:

(1) Agree new global tax rules in the negotiations led by the OECD under the mandate of the G20 to ensure fair taxation of big corporations. This should include the introduction of a global minimum effective tax rate set at an ambitious level and applied at a country-by-country basis without exception. This would put a stop to the damaging tax competition between countries and remove the incentive for profit shifting – effectively putting tax havens out of business.

(2) Developing countries should not give away their taxing rights. Many treaties result in multinational companies not paying certain types of tax at all in any country. Rich countries have a responsibility in ensuring fair taxation with their investments and the projects they finance. Governments of developing countries can protect their tax base from erosion by revising or voiding their tax treaties, introducing withholding taxes and implementing strong tax anti-abuse rules.

(3) End corporate tax secrecy by ensuring all multinational companies publish financial reports for every country where they operate. The current OECD initiative on country-by-country reporting falls well short of the mark as it does not cover all multinational corporations and it does not require companies to make their financial reports publicly available. This means poor countries are unable to access the information to identify tax cheats. Stronger European proposals on public country-by-country reporting were due to be agreed this year but are being blocked by EU member states such as Ireland, Germany, and Luxembourg.

(4) Agree a global blacklist of tax havens based on comprehensive objective criteria and take strong countermeasures including sanctions to limit their use. Governments have yet to agree an objective global list of tax havens. A farcical OECD-G20 blacklist published in July 2017 features only Trinidad and Tobago. The more comprehensive European Union list omits European tax havens such as Ireland and the Netherlands.

(5) Strengthen global tax governance by creating a global tax body where all countries can work together on an equal footing to ensure the tax system works for everyone. The new round of global tax negotiations (BEPS 2.0) is a historic opportunity to put a stop to damaging tax competition and corporate tax avoidance, and to build a fairer tax system that works for the benefit of all people and not just a fortunate few. Even if the new round of global tax negotiations (BEPS 2.0) delivers positive results, a more inclusive tax body is required to oversee the global governance of international tax matters and strengthen international tax cooperation

ENDS

Oxfam experts are available for interview. Please contact:

Phillip Graham: phillip.graham@oxfam.org / +44 (0) 7841 102535

Alice Dawson-Lyons: alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org / +353 (0) 83 198 1869

NOTES TO EDITORS:

Download Oxfam's 5-point plan here.

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