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.
Follow ViewChange on Twitter @ViewChange and at Facebook.com/ViewChange.
You can watch and share the full show here:
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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:
Developing countries are hardest hit and not yet served by funds that should be helping them.
On the first day of week two of the UNFCCC climate negotiations, things are busy at the Cancunmesse exhibition hall, which is filled with hundreds of booths staffed by NGO, IGO, and national representatives. Among them are antipoverty development organizations such as Oxfam, WEDO, and CARE who are calling for the establishment of a fair global climate fund that will meet the needs and rights of the world’s most vulnerable communities. They, and scores of other attendees at the conference, believe that climate change poses an unprecedented threat to poor people who are already struggling to sustain their livelihoods and maintain food security, and that women and other marginalized groups are most vulnerable.
UK Ambassador to Mexico speaks at Funding
the Future press conference
"There's a problem with the current system," explained Gore. "We think that the current arrangements for managing climate finances are really broken. They're not delivering the money to those that need it most and can spend it best."
Cate Owren, Program Director for WEDO, noted that, while climate financing is politically challenging, it should not be economically challenging because investments now save money in the future. She also reiterated that design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of the fund will be crucial and will help prevent a negative impact on women and marginalized groups. Stories of climate adaptation needs and successes were shared by Alcinda Abreu, Mozambique’s Minister for Coordination of Environmental Affairs.
The briefing began and ended with the message that the establishment of this fund in Cancun will not only help developing countries adapt to the changing climate and adopt low-carbon development pathways, but also help rebuild trust in the negotiations. While a legally binding climate agreement seems almost certainly not on the cards for this round of negotiations, a fair global climate fund will hopefully produce tangible, concrete outcomes by Friday that addresses the need for both mitigation and adaptation assistance.
After almost 12 hours of traveling due to flight delays, my colleague and I completed our journey from San Francisco to Cancun, Mexico. We were greeted by a warm ocean breeze, friendly helpful locals, and banners for the COP16 UN Climate Change Conference decorating every inch of the city. We instantly knew we were in the right place.
Our studio is situated on the west end of the hotel zone, closer to the Cancunmesse and Moon Palace conference centers than the infamous discoteca nightlife. But, famished, we ventured toward the bright lights in the hopes of finding an authentic Mexican dinner. Despite humble requests to our cab driver to take us someplace "tranquilo," we found ourselves dropped off in the heart of Cancun among giant, warehouse-sized designer shops (Louis Vuitton, Chanel), American chain restaurants (Outback Steakhouse, Applebees), and gargantuan night clubs with bumping baselines audible from miles away. This was not the Mexico either of us had ever been to -- or imagined. In fact, it bore a greater resemblance to Las Vegas.
Fearing our search for authentic Mexican food would end at a Taco Bell, we asked a nearby club promoter for advice, and after some labored thought, he pointed us to our only option: a pricey, upscale restaurant complete with Mariachi band, white linens, and an indoor fountain. After dinner (which was delicious), we were saddened to see among the glitz and scantily clad club-goers, several child beggars, and mothers with infants in tow, selling trinkets to tourists. The stark contrast, though not so different from that of many large cities, hinted at an interesting parallel to the conference in town. I was instantly reminded of an article I read on the trip over here that described Cancun as the "suicide capital" of Mexico. Climate change is contributing to the migration of many people out of rural areas of Mexico where crops have become harder to manage and resources harder to gather. But, as people have moved into the city, the divide in urban areas between locals and tourists has led to a culture of extreme poverty, hopelessness, and depression.
As week one of the conference wrapped up, the divide between rich and poor, and inequalities within negotiations were also apparent in many ways. Talks appear to favor the rich, as developed countries have a much greater number of participating delegates and negotiators than developing countries, thus stacking the cards against poorer countries with fewer resources to attend meetings and interpret information.
Also, the Kyoto Protocol has become the subject of heated debate, as Japan, Russia, and Canada have all rejected a second commitment period under the agreement. This move has sparked objections from developing countries who feel major emitting countries should continue to be held accountable for the targets set under Kyoto.
The impacts of climate change, as we know, disproportionately affect the poor, who are more reliant on natural resources and less able to cope with environmental changes and natural disasters. And the impacts are growing. As was reported in talks this week, an estimated 1 million deaths a year by 2030 and $157 billion in damage will result from climate change. Also reported, was the likelihood that 2010 would rank among the three hottest years in recorded history, according to the World Meteorological Organization.
Speaking with a few locals during our first days here, we received mixed responses to the conference which has invaded the town. One cab driver didn't actually believe that climate change was happening, but more importantly he didn't appreciate the inflated security around Cancun which was making it hard for the locals to "party" -- and thus harder for him to run his business. Apparently, groups of machine gun-toting policemen are a deterrent for the normally hassle-free recreational drug use in Cancun's Party Central. We're looking forward to gaining further insight to the local views of the conference this week ... outside of Party Central.
Despite the recent slew of natural disasters and extreme weather plaguing various parts of the world, optimism about the impact of this winter's annual climate change conference is scarce. Set to take place in Cancun, Mexico this November 29 - December 10, 2010, the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 16) is evoking eye-rolls and sighs over what's expected to be yet another failed attempt at securing a global treaty on combating climate change. This apprehension is a stark contrast to the passionate buzz surrounding last year’s talks in Copenhagen. The vigor with which many world leaders, organizations, and activists attended the uniquely accessible event in Denmark was truly inspiring, and could have instilled hope into the hearts of even the most skeptical of commentators -- if not for the disappointing outcome. Ultimately, only five nations, including the U.S. and China, had any real say in the document that emerged from Copenhagen, which left many unsatisfied with the resulting level of ambition and jurisdiction.
While the U.S. Congress was unable to pass legislation prior to last year's talks (which would have added much-needed clout to President Obama's resolve on combating climate change), the U.S. did pledge to help raise $100 billion in global climate aid for vulnerable countries, as part of the non-legally binding Copenhagen Accord. To date, however, little progress has been made towards raising these funds.
The Accord, described as flimsy and inadequate, did not elaborate on the “how”, so much as the “what”, particularly regarding the $100 billion pledge, and accountability for industrial nations setting limits on emissions to prevent a global temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius. Thus, the focus of this year's conference will likely be on financing: who will be responsible for what, and how funds will be raised and allocated.
But will the talks result in significant emissions cuts and an effective pay system to compensate low-emitting countries who are hit hardest by climate change? Or will they remain just that…more talks? It's time rich and high-emitting countries, particularly those who tout their leadership roles, walk the walk, too. Last year, an unprecedented number of world leaders came to the table, which proves the urgency of climate change has been acknowledged. Perhaps now that business leaders are starting to direct the conversation towards the economic opportunities that climate change affords (a language those rich and high-emitting countries standing in the way can understand well), that urgency can finally translate into a binding agreement.
Or, perhaps China will save the day as they host their own summit in Tianjin this October. These final preparatory sessions leading up to the Cancun talks present a unique opportunity for China to step up as a leader in achieving a binding climate treaty. China is already the biggest global player in clean energy, but unfortunately, it’s also the largest carbon emitter. Tune in to see what happens, when Link TV brings you live web coverage of the UN Climate Change Conference this October 4 to 9 in Tianjin, China, at LinkTV.org/Tianjin.
Okay, it’s coming on Cinco de Mayo, so it’s only logical to do a blog post about something Mexican. But the truth is, I really like the music of Rana Santacruz on its own terms, which are solidly Pan-American. As you will see and hear, Rana is a man who loves loud acoustic instruments like the banjo and the accordion. His tastes are eclectic and he wants his mostly USA-born band members to contribute their ideas as well as their chops. The result is something that is a hybrid in the best sense, cohesive and all-embracing—a marriage of the USA’s and Mexico’s musical traditions with healthy injections of contemporary songwriting. The songs are ear candy too. They feel like classics although they have been recently written, and I am a sucker for brass lines that soar like wind currents against a sail. (“Cajita de Barro,” featured here, makes me glaze over. In a good way.)
With all the brouhaha stirred up by the recent Arizona immigration law, resentments are flaring on all sides. But when I caught Rana at Joe’s Pub a few months ago, where he was joined by two members of a New York-based mariachi band in full regalia, I felt good about people, optimistic about the immigrant values this country was built on and I felt a warm link to Mexico. (Me, a non Spanish-speaking New Yorker!) How many musicians, whether intentionally or not, can make us feel that way? So take a break from the politics, and just enjoy the music. And another thing—when you listen to “Cajita de Barro” invite your sweetheart to join you in a waltz. It may not be “hot” or “edgy” but it’s romantic as hell without ever being maudlin.
....If you don't have a sweetheart, this song might just get you one.
Here are the translated lyrics to "Cajita de Barro" (Little Clay Box)
In a little clay box you left a piece of your heart
In a little clay box tied up with cloth and thread
And every now and then I tie it close to my soul and it takes away my pain
And every now and then I grab it and say “I’m sorry”
And when the clouds turn off the lights of the sky
and rain starts falling down
In that little clay box I want to take shelter
And I can’t hide it any longer, and I must accept
That without that little clay box I don’t know what to do
I don’t know what to do
And when my eyes shrink and shrink for crying so much
In that little clay box I start looking for something
And when I miss you and think of you in the middle of the night
In that little clay box I find you again
I find you again
On the latest Global Pulse episode, host Erin Coker reviews world coverage of how the cross-border drug war is affecting the United States and Mexico. Watch the episode below and share your thoughts!
Growing up I never lived more than an hour and a half’s driving distance away from Mexico. I’ve never been there. Although the geographical distance was short, Mexico felt a million miles away. I suspect I’m not the only American who feels this way.
That’s not to say I don’t know anything about Mexican culture. I grew up in Moreno Valley, a far-flung suburb of Los Angeles where nearly half of the population is of Hispanic heritage. Yet my brushes with Mexican culture turned out to be…well, more American than anything else. I vividly remember the tragic death of Tejana singer Selena being a huge news event where I lived. Selena sang in Spanish phonetically, because she didn’t speak it until she learned it much later in her career. Her primary fame was here in the US: immortalized in an English language film starring the Puerto Rican-American Jennifer Lopez.
Mexico in the American imagination is either a play land or warzone, not a place where people live and work. Americans who visit Mexico on cruise ships and spring break also get an incomplete picture. Outside of the resorts and beaches, many real Mexicans live in conditions unseen by casual tourists. If we don’t try to understand Mexico beyond Taco Bell and Cancun, and the only exposure we have to Mexicans and Mexico is through our stereotypes, we’ll continue to treat our southern neighbor as an offensive caricature.
With drug related violence crossing the border, and the never ending debate about immigration, we really need to know what were talking about when we deal with Mexico. It’s not just that America owes it to Mexico to better understand it (we do), it’s also that we owe it to ourselves.