Our friends at the Bertha Foundation have alerted us to a brilliant and timely documentary film Breaking the Taboo, which recounts the history of the war on drugs, beginning with the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
Narrated by Oscar winning actor Morgan Freeman, Breaking the Taboo is produced by Sam Branson's indie Sundog Pictures and Brazilian co-production partner Spray Filmes, and was directed by Cosmo Feilding Mellen and Fernando Grostein Andrade. Featuring interviews with several current or former presidents from around the world, such as Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, the film follows The Global Commission on Drug Policy on a mission to break the political taboo over the United States led War on Drugs and expose what it calls the biggest failure of global policy in the last 40 years.
Watch the complete documentary now, streaming free online until Tuesday, January 15, 2013. Don't miss this limited chance to see the powerfully eye-opening film, Breaking the Taboo:
Can social-issue documentaries play a role in helping to end global poverty?
Link TV thinks so.
Almost one year ago, the nonprofit global affairs media organization and broadcast network launched a project based on the idea that documentary storytelling, combined with social actions and the latest news, could make a meaningful contribution to the challenge of global poverty. The idea became ViewChange.org, an online portal built on the foundation of semantic Web technology that connects documentary stories to news and social actions in global poverty. In other words, in one place, people can watch character-driven stories, read the latest news about issues covered in the films, and then connect directly to action campaigns around each social issue. It’s a site and tool that’s primed for grassroots awareness and action.
The ViewChange.org platform is now a curated documentary hub with more than 400 short- and long-form character-driven documentaries from around the world – and all of them illustrate real progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals, which together comprise the world’s “blueprint” for ending global poverty. The portal site now includes the best stories from top global development organizations and filmmakers around the world.
I work on the project in a kind of hybrid role that combines documentary producing, communication campaign strategy and partnership cultivation with top global development organizations, including Devex, InterAction, Save the Children, UNICEF, PSI, Global Health Council, ONE, Comminit, Bread for the World and more. And thanks to the expertise of these groups, combined with the amazing repository of films now licensed to ViewChange.org, we’ve started producing half-hour TV specials in partnership with several top global development organizations – the ViewChange TV series. For each show, the narrative is informed by the expertise and objectives of the partner organization, and the main story and outreach campaign are developed simultaneously against the backdrop of the group’s organizational (and sometimes advocacy) objectives, creating a powerful campaign-style approach.
But one key to the project is simple and so powerful for those in the social-justice community to organize around specific issues – the fully-sharable/embeddable formatting of the acquired films and the final jointly-produced shows. By giving the videos, films and global development shows to groups and blogs to embed and share for their own purposes, we’re offering a tool that’s useful not only in our own campaign outreach, but for others to use in theirs. Interested in raising attention about the connection between climate change and drought in developing nations? Want to support innovative hunger relief programs in poor areas of the world? Need a documentary story that can be used in your own awareness/activist campaign to organize for purposes of advocacy or other goals? Navigating through the ViewChange.org tool provides all of these opportunities.
Just last week, one of these jointly-produced documentary specials premiered on Link TV (Friday, August 12 and 16) and on ViewChange.org. Working closely with Bread for the World, an anti-hunger advocacy organization, the “ViewChange: Challenging Hunger” documentary special combines filmmaking from Bread for the World itself, along with short films from Oxfam and the Sundance Institute. In this particular show, the organization’s advocacy goals – to use foreign aid more effectively to help poor and hungry people – provide the narrative thru-line.
The call to action is urgent: With more than a billion people suffering from chronic hunger, the timing of potential budget cuts would be particularly devastating to developing nations. And the special debunks a key foreign assistance myth and provides new insight into the ripple effects of chronic hunger: Most Americans believe that about 25 percent of the U.S. budget goes toward foreign assistance, but, in fact, less than 1 percent supports crucial foreign assistance programs—including anti-hunger programs and food aid. The funding is vital to the continued development and management of innovative programs that provide long-term solutions to hunger.
The outreach includes a grassroots campaign to reach out to Bread for the World’s network of thousands of individual members, churches and denominations around the country, as well as reaching out through its college-age hunger activists group. Teams at both Link TV and Bread for the World are working jointly in an integrated strategic communication campaign model that includes traditional media outreach, blogging, sharing the show via embeddable links, outreach to top global development influencers, and social media.
To support Bread for the World’s work directly, check out its fact sheets and advocacy opportunities on its site: Tell Congress to create a circle of protection around funding for programs that are vital to hungry and poor people in the US and abroad.
Colossal Volcano Eruption Sends Ash Plume Two Miles High in Philippines
(Russia Today: February 21, 2011) The eruption of Mount Bulusan in the province of Sorsogon in the Philippines sent clouds of ash almost two miles high and forced thousands of people to flee. Bulusan's last major eruption was in 2006.
Ousted Tunisian President 'Stashed' Cash
(Euronews: February 20, 2011) Tunisia's former president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, stashed cash, gold, diamonds, and other precious items in secret spots in his palace in Tunis, according to state television. He was overthrown last month after 23 years of authoritarian rule.
Mexico Villagers Establish Local Police
(Al Jazeera English: February 19, 2011) Villagers in the highlands of Jolochitan in Guerrero, Mexico have established a DIY system for local policing that is proving effective. The southwestern state of Guerrero has long fought a battle with guerrilla fighters.
Tiger Escapes at Tokyo Zoo
(ITN News: February 22, 2011) Zookeeper Shuuhei Yamaguchi donned a tiger costume to help fellow Tokyo Zoo staff practice a tiger escape emergency drill. It took the staff an hour to recapture him.
Jamie Henn from 350.org stated in an interview on Tuesday with OneClimate.net that he believes there are two difference strategies by which one could approach the UNFCCC climate talks in Cancun and other Conferences of the Parties (COPs). He says the first and most prevalent strategy is to try and make small steps of progress each year towards building a larger treaty. The other and more important strategy, in Henn's opinion, is to use the COPs as opportunities to create "outrage" on the lack of progress that are made at these negotiations by key countries who aren't "stepping up to the plate."
Today, on the final day of formal negotiations of COP16, Greenpeace and TckTckTck, along with volunteers from several other NGOs, showed their support for the latter strategy by carrying out an extravagant stunt on the beach outside the Crown Paradise Club resort in Cancun. Well over a hundred people showed up to participate and cover the event, which involved creating a bird's eye image (using the help of renowned human banner aerial artist John Quigley) of climate negotiators being rescued from the sea by a giant inflated life ring.
The stunt venue was a nice departure from the cold, civilized rooms of the Cancunmesse and Moon Palace, and quite possibly the first time many of the hard working attendees had set foot on the beach during their time in Cancun.
Dozens of barefoot volunteers were given suits and business attire to put on for their roles as negotiators, and then were marched out to sea to start treading water. The remaining participants wearing green and blue shirts represented the civil society and used their bodies to spell out the word "HOPE?" on the sand. Then, the civil society leaped up to drag an enormous orange life ring (15 meters in diameter) into the water where the negotiators were floundering and simulating drowning. Fortunately, no one actually drowned (though their acting was very convincing!), because the civil society came to the rescue and pulled all of the flailing negotiators onto the ring and back to shore.
The symbolism of the event was very clear: Negotiators aren't making sufficient strides towards effectively mitigating green house gases and helping vulnerable communities who are already being impacted by climate change. Today is their last chance at this COP to make crucial compromises and commitments, and the civil society is here to help them do it.
Speaking after the stunt with some of the sandy, dripping wet participants, the tone of reactions was one of hope in these final hours. Local NGOs and folks from all over the world had come to the beach to join together and send a clear message to negotiators who once again hold the fate of the world in their hands. The act was not subtle, or forgiving, but it showed the great responsibility of COP16 participants to come to an agreement, and the urgency to do so. As talks wrap up today, we will find out if this outrage was heard.
According to Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, here in Cancun, Mexico we are in the land of the ancient Mayan goddess Ixchel, who, along with reason and weaving, is the goddess of creativity. I believe that the latter of these three virtues, creativity, is certainly a key to success at these negotiations and beyond if we hope to solve the global climate crisis.
One of the most important outcomes from last year’s negotiations in Copenhagen was that developed countries pledged to provide “new and additional resources” to fast track and long-term climate financing in support of mitigation and adaptation, approaching $30 billion by 2012 and $100 billion by 2020. Obviously, it is not easy to raise these large amounts of money, but a new report shows that while challenging, it is feasible to raise $100 billion, if not more, by 2020.
In his welcoming remarks at a December 8th press briefing about the findings of his high-level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon stated that, “climate change financing is not about charity… but ultimately an investment in a safer, more stable, more prosperous world for us all.”
The advisory group was tasked with identifing additional sources of funding to meet the goal of $100 billion by 2020, and a creative inventory of financing mechanisms was the result. The group did not look at the delivery of the mechanisms in detail-- that is for the countries to determine-- nor did they suggest what the balance of public vs. private funding might look like. Their intention was not to make policy decisions but rather, “to provide a toolbox for the decision making process,” said panel member Ernesto Cordero Arroyo, Mexican Minister of Finance.
According to panel co-chair Jens Stoltenberg, Prime Minister of Norway, the report findings are, “a kind of menu where we as decision makers and governments can choose.” There is not one single solution to generate these funds, rather, it will need to come from a variety of sources, and private funding will need to be combined with traditional and new public funding.
Instruments in the report include auctioning emission allowance (a not-so-new idea, which could raise $30 billion), C02 taxation for international transport (aviation and shipping industries, coming in at $10 billion), and the redirection of funds allocated for subsidizing fossil fuels (raising a possible $10 billion).
Carbon pricing appears to be an important item on the panel’s menu of financing options. Panel co-chair Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, began by noting that it would be difficult to generate these funds in an environment where the cost of carbon is too low, and Stoltenberg reminded that carbon pricing will not only raise revenue, but also give the right incentives to the developed world to reduce emissions.
While the long list of financial instruments offered by the panel is impressive, also worth noting is that such a varied group was able to come to agreement. Aside from the fact that so few women were involved (not a minor oversight as pointed out by Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, during the Q&A), the 21-person panel included members from the developed and developing countries, and the private and public sectors.
This brings me to the second key to success: flexibility. Several comments at the briefing alluded to the challenges that this diverse group faced while coming to agreement on the report’s findings. But while each member may not have been 100% satisfied with every detail, they exercised flexibility and respected the views of other members ultimately coming to an agreement. Those at the press briefing were openly pleased with the final report and proud that such a diverse group had produced it.
Informal hallway conversations with conference attendees today provided a mixed review regarding which countries have been flexible vs. which have not. Many shared the opinion that the U.S., China, and Japan were among the least willing to compromise, and others noted that Bolivia, Chile and India showed willingness to negotiate outside their comfort zone. With the 16th Conference of the Parties formally closing tomorrow evening, time will soon tell what countries have or have not acknowledged creative new ideas and found the flexibility to reach around political obstacles. After all, as the Secretary-General has reminded, “Nature isn’t waiting while we negotiate.”
Watch an interview from OneClimate.net with UN Fair Play's Charlie Young on the inequalities of negotiations: