Saturday, April 27, 2013

Canada shows up 'spineless' Australia on Sri Lanka

In the words of Frances Harrison, today in London 'The Commonwealth has failed its first major test since it strengthened its Ministerial Action Group in 2011 to renew its commitment to human rights and democratic values.'

Australia's stance in this situation is shameful - and the shame crosses party lines.  In contrast Canada has shown moral courage, as evidenced by the actions of the Canadian Foreign Minister when leaving the London meeting:

"Asked about what the Commonwealth Secretary General Kamlesh Sharma says is positive engagement with Sri Lanka, Mr Baird [Canada's Foreign Minister] replied that he would rather accept the judgement and conclusions of the Commonwealth Journalists Association, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, The Commonwealth Lawyers Association, the Commonwealth Legal Education Association, the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges, Human Rights Watch and the UN Human Rights Council. All of these have pointed to a deterioration of civil liberties and human rights in Sri Lanka after the end of the civil war.

Mr Baird said Canada cared passionately about the issue of Sri Lanka and it wasn’t just going to “go alone to get along”. He added it wasn’t about accommodating evil, but about combating it."

Friday, April 26, 2013

Why is 'joined-up' governance so difficult?

This example from the UK leads me to ask yet again: why is it so difficult to do 'joined-up' governance?  This report's recommendations seem relatively simple yet, based on past experience, we could have little confidence that their enactment was feasible or possible.

"Cold Enough: Excess winter deaths, Winter Fuel Payments and the UK's problem with the cold

 Twitter hashtag: #coldenough

Around 25,000 preventable 'excess winter deaths' occur each year, and the annual cost of cold-related illness to the NHS has been estimated at £1.36 billion.

This report from the Strategic Society Centre provides a full strategic review of the government's response to this ongoing public health scandal, and what it should be doing in future.
The report identifies four government departments with policies that touch upon these issues:
  • Department for Work and Pensions
  • Department of Health
  • Department for Energy and Climate Change
  • Department for Communities and Local Government
However, despite progress achieved via policies such as the Cold Weather Plan, Winter Fuel Payments and the Warm Home Discount scheme, the report concludes the government's policy response is still characterised by:
  • A fragmented, uncoordinated approach across different government departments.
  • The domination of the issue of ‘fuel poverty’ over the health effects of the cold, and an over-reliance on incomplete government means testing data; and,
  • The clear need to do better.
Recommendations of the report include:
  • Introduce an annual public health campaign linked to the Winter Fuel Payment to further influence cold-related behaviour.
  • Create a single national ‘at-risk’ register for the cold, integrating DWP, energy company, GP and local authority data.
  • Give clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) responsibilities for excess winter deaths.
  • Enable CCGs and Health and Wellbeing Boards to refer households for free home insulation under the government’s Energy Company Obligation (ECO).
  • Make excess winter deaths and cold-related illness a Ministerial priority.
Author: James Lloyd, Director, Strategic Society Centre"

Education for Sustainability - UK study

Stephen Martin and colleagues have produced a timely paper based on a review of ESD (Education for Sustainable Development) in the UK.


"This paper discusses the current status of all aspects of education for sustainable development (ESD) across the United Kingdom (UK), drawing on evidence from its political jurisdictions (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales), and setting out some characteristics of best practice. The paper analyzes current barriers to progress, and outlines future opportunities for enhancing the core role of education and learning in the pursuit of a more sustainable future. Although effective ESD exists at all levels, and in most learning contexts across the UK, with good teaching and enhanced learner outcomes, the authors argue that a wider adoption of ESD would result from the development of a strategic framework which puts it at the core of the education policy agenda in every jurisdiction. This would provide much needed coherence, direction and impetus to existing initiatives, scale up and build on existing good practice, and prevent unnecessary duplication of effort and resources. The absence of an overarching UK strategy for sustainable development that sets out a clear vision about the contribution learning can make to its goals is a major barrier to progress. This strategy needs to be coupled with the establishment of a pan-UK forum for overseeing the promotion, implementation and evaluation of ESD."

It is remarkable how many academics and thus Universities shy away from strategies that locate ESD as central to the overall curiculum and thus a key aspect of graduateness.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Creative way to explore food issues systemically

This article has just come through as part of The Wrap, an update of developments from the Institute for Sustainable Futures at UTS (University of Technology Sydney).  It is a great way to explore food issues systemically.

"The Love Food Hate Waste short film competition, organised by the Institute and the City of Sydney, asked budding filmmakers to show the world in either 30 seconds, or 3 to 5 minutes, why it’s important to celebrate a healthy and sustainable love of food and highlight the growing problem of food waste.

According to the NSW Environment Protection Authority, which funded the competition as part of the Love Food Hate Waste program, NSW households are throwing away edible food worth $2.5 billion each year.

The judging panel, including Costa Georgiadis, host of ABC’s Gardening Australia, Jared Ingersol, founder of Danks Street Depot and Sarah Wilson, television presenter and author, awarded Ryan Diefenbach’s Rhythm of Waste best film in the 30 second category.

Ryan, a UTS student studying journalism and law, said that he had never properly considered the issue of food waste before entering the competition. “I decided to enter for the chance to develop my filmmaking experience, but once I took a step back and understood the scale of the problem I realised it’s an everyday issue that we can all help tackle,” he said.

He enlisted his younger brother for Rhythm of Waste, portraying a child’s eating habits over a series of mornings contributing to bags of garbage. 

Rhythm of Waste was also awarded the People’s Choice Award after receiving the most votes in a public poll before the awards night on the competition’s facebook page.

The 3 to 5 minute category was won by director Fiona McGee for Supervalue, uncovering the lifecycle of a packet of fish fingers, from the life of the fish in the ocean to the leftovers thrown in the bin after a meal.

To see the winning films, visit "