Nairobi, Jan 24 (Xinhua/UNB) - Environmental threats like climate change and pollution are linked to lethargic enforcement of laws governing management of vital ecosystems, says a report released on Thursday by UN Environment.
According to the first ever global assessment of environmental rule of law, the quest to maintain a healthy and clean planet is being undermined by weak enforcement of legislation to protect it from natural and human-induced threats.
"This report solves the mystery of why problems such as pollution, declining biodiversity and climate change persist despite the proliferation of environmental laws in recent decades," said David Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment.
"Unless the environmental rule of law is strengthened, even seemingly rigorous rules are destined to fail and the fundamental human right to a healthy environment will go unfulfilled," he added.
The UN Environment report says that rapid development of environmental laws and treaties since 1972 has not translated into their enactment thus escalating threats to ecosystems that sustain livelihoods.
It says more than 1,100 environmental treaties and legal frameworks have been developed by national governments since 1972 when the UN environment agency was formed.
At the same time, donor support and robust domestic funding to facilitate development of new environmental laws has been consistent in the last four decades, but it has not been matched with their enforcement, says the report.
The report notes that poor coordination among government agencies, weak institutional capacity, lack of access to information, corruption and limited civic engagement has contributed to weak enforcement of environmental rule of laws.
“We have the machinery in the form of laws, regulations and agencies to govern our environment sustainably," said Joyce Msuya, UN Environment acting executive director.
"Political will is now critical to making sure our laws work for the planet. This first global assessment on environmental rule of law highlights the work those standing on the right side of history-and how many nations are stronger and safer as a result," she added.
The report reveals that 88 countries have adopted the constitutional right to a healthy environment while an additional 65 have enshrined environmental protection in their constitutions.
Likewise, over 350 environmental courts and tribunals have been established in more than 50 countries while over 60 countries have some legal provisions for citizen's right to environmental information.
Experts urged governments to address hiccups that have undermined enforcement of legislation that promote environmental governance.
Carl Bruch, director of international programs at the Environmental Law Institute said that a paradigm shift is required to ensure that a culture of compliance with environmental laws is embraced by key stakeholders.
Indonesia, Jan 23 (AP/UNB) — Torrential rains overwhelmed a dam and caused landslides that killed at least eight people and displaced more than 2,000 in central Indonesia, officials said Wednesday.
The dead included two infants who drowned and a man who was electrocuted after the floods began late Tuesday, said Adnan Purichta Ichsann, the chief of Gowa district near Makassar, the provincial capital of South Sulawesi.
Rescuers were evacuating residents to shelters at a government office and mosques, Ichsann said. The national disaster agency said four people are missing and more than 2,000 were in temporary shelters. It said nine districts including Makassar were affected.
Indonesian TV and video posted on YouTube showed half submerged homes and rescuers in boats reaching people clinging to tire inner tubes in the floodwaters.
Staff at the Bili Bili dam, a rock-fill embankment, didn't have time to provide advance warning of the water release, Ichsann said.
"Torrential rain caused a dam to be overwhelmed by water, forcing us to open it to prevent a greater danger. This is what caused flooding in some areas," Ichsann said.
Deadly landslides and floods are a frequent occurrence during seasonal rains in Indonesia. A landslide in Sukabumi on the main island of Java earlier this month killed 32 people.
Ichsann said the death toll could rise as areas hit by landslides are still being searched.
Several bridges were damaged by the flooding and power cut off in affected areas.
London, Jan 21 (AP/UNB) — British police have spoken with Prince Philip after the husband of Queen Elizabeth II was photographed apparently driving without wearing a seatbelt — just two days after he was involved in a serious car crash.
British media on Saturday published a photograph showing the 97-year-old royal driving a new Land Rover near the royal residence at Sandringham in eastern England.
Norfolk Police said "suitable words of advice have been given to the driver."
Police said the advice given to Philip was "in line with our standard response when being made aware of such images showing this type of offense."
Buckingham Palace didn't comment on the images.
Philip was driving another Land Rover when he was involved in a violent collision on Thursday in which two women in a Kia car were injured. A 9-month-old baby boy in the Kia was unhurt. Philip had to be helped out of his overturned vehicle but wasn't injured.
The palace said Friday that Philip and the queen had privately contacted the other people in the crash and exchanged good wishes.
But Emma Fairweather, who broke her wrist in the collision, told the Sunday Mirror newspaper that she had not heard from the palace.
"I still haven't had any contact from the royal household," she said. "Maybe he should prioritize that over test driving his new car."
The 46-year-old said "it would mean the world to me" if Philip offered an apology.
Police haven't disclosed who was at fault for the crash, which happened after Philip drove onto a main road from a side road near the royal family's Sandringham estate, 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of London.
The queen and Philip have been on an extended Christmas break in Sandringham, their holiday tradition for many years.
Philip has been in generally good health and was photographed in December driving a horse-drawn carriage. He has largely retired from public life but still is occasionally seen at family occasions with the queen.
The accident — and Philip's subsequent driving apparently without using a seatbelt — is raising questions about his continued use of public roadways.
Buckingham Palace says Philip has a valid driver's license. There is no upper age limit for licensing drivers in Britain, although drivers over 70 are required to renew their licenses every three years and tell authorities about any medical conditions that might raise safety issues.
Philip passed a vision test Saturday as part of the investigation into the accident.
London, Jan 21 (AP/UNB) — As Prime Minister Theresa May prepared her next move in Britain's deadlocked Brexit battle, a senior opposition politician said Sunday that it's unlikely the U.K. will leave the European Union as scheduled on March 29.
A government minister, however, warned that failure to deliver on Brexit would betray voters and unleash a "political tsunami."
May is due to present Parliament with a revised Brexit plan on Monday, after the divorce deal she had struck the EU was rejected by lawmakers last week. With just over two months until Britain is due to leave the bloc, some members of Parliament are pushing for the U.K. to delay its departure until the country's divided politicians can agree on a way forward.
Labour Party Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said "it's inevitable" Britain will have to ask the EU to extend the two-year countdown to exit that ends on March 29.
"The 29th of March is 68 days away," Starmer told the BBC. "We are absolutely not prepared for it. It would be catastrophic."
Britain's political impasse over Brexit is fueling concerns that the country may crash out of the EU on March 29 with no agreement in place to cushion the shock. That could see tariffs imposed on goods moving between Britain and the EU, sparking logjams at ports and shortages of essential supplies. Many economists expect Britain to plunge into recession if there is a "no-deal" Brexit.
May's government is split between ministers who think a disorderly departure must be avoided at all costs, and Brexit-backers who believe it would be preferable to delaying or reversing Brexit.
Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, who quit the government in opposition to May's agreement with the EU, said a no-deal Brexit would have "short-term risks," but they would be "manageable."
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that "failure to deliver Brexit would produce a yawning gap between Parliament and the people, a schism in our political system with unknowable consequences."
He said public anger could trigger "a political tsunami."
May has spent the days since her deal was thrown out meeting government and opposition lawmakers in an attempt to find a compromise. But the talks have produced few signs that May plans to make radical changes to her deal, or to lift her insistence that Brexit means leaving the EU's single market and customs union.
Fox said one possible solution could be to strike a deal with the Irish government guaranteeing there would be no border controls between EU member Ireland and the U.K.'s Northern Ireland.
He said that could ease concerns about the deal's most contentious measure — an insurance policy known as the "backstop" that would keep Britain in an EU customs union to maintain an open Irish border after Brexit. Pro-Brexit lawmakers worry that Britain could be trapped indefinitely in the arrangement, bound to EU trade rules and unable to strike new deals around the world.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, however, tweeted that the Irish government was committed to the entire withdrawal deal, "including the backstop."
British lawmakers who want a softer Brexit are preparing to try to amend May's plans in a Jan. 29 debate, and to use parliamentary rules to try to prevent a no-deal Brexit and take control of the exit process.
Conservative lawmaker Nicky Morgan said she and several opposition colleagues planned to introduce a bill to ensure "that if the prime minister can't get an agreement approved by the House of Commons by the end of February," the U.K. will ask the EU to postpone its departure date "so that we can build a consensus and get ourselves more prepared for Brexit. "
Delaying Brexit would require approval from the 27 other EU nations.
Starmer said there was a roadblock in the way of a solution to the Brexit crisis, "and that roadblock is the prime minister."
"Her mind is closed," he said.
Congo, Jan 21 (AP/UNB) — Congo is on the brink of its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence in 1960 after the Constitutional Court on Sunday confirmed the presidential election victory of Felix Tshisekedi, although questions remain about the result.
Tshisekedi, son of the late, charismatic opposition leader Etienne, is to be inaugurated on Tuesday.
Congo's 80 million people did not appear to heed runner-up Martin Fayulu's call for non-violent protests, and African neighbors began offering congratulations.
Shortly after the pre-dawn court declaration, opposition leader Tshisekedi said the court's decision to reject claims of electoral fraud and declare him president was a victory for the entire country.
"It is Congo that won," Tshisekedi said, speaking to supporters. "The Congo that we are going to form will not be a Congo of division, hatred or tribalism. It will be a reconciled Congo, a strong Congo that will be focused on development, peace and security."
Supporters of his UDPS party celebrated in the streets of Kinshasa.
The largely untested Tshisekedi faces a government dominated by Kabila's ruling party, which won a majority in legislative and provincial elections. The new National Assembly will be installed on Jan. 26.
However, Tshisekedi's victory was rejcted by rival opposition candidate Fayulu, who declared that he is Congo's "only legitimate president" and called for the Congolese people to peacefully protest against a "constitutional coup d'etat." If Fayulu succeeds in launching widespread protests it could keep the country in a political crisis that has simmered since the Dec. 30 elections.
The court turned away Fayulu's request for a recount, affirming Tshisekedi won with more than 7 million votes, or 38 percent, and Fayulu received 34 percent.
The court said Fayulu offered no proof to back his assertions that he had won easily based on leaked data attributed the electoral commission. It also called unfounded another challenge that objected to the commission's last-minute decision to bar some 1 million voters over a deadly Ebola virus outbreak.
Outside the court, Fayulu and his supporters have alleged an extraordinary backroom deal by outgoing President Joseph Kabila to rig the vote in favor of Tshisekedi when the ruling party's candidate did poorly.
"It's a secret for no one inside or outside of our country that you have elected me president," with 60 percent of the votes, Fayulu said. He urged the Congolese people and international community to not recognize Tshisekedi as president.
Congo's government called Fayulu's statements "a shame."
"We consider it an irresponsible statement that is highly politically immature," spokesman Lambert Mende told The Associated Press.
Many worried that the court's rejection of Fayulu's appeal could lead to more instability in a nation that already suffers from rebels, communal violence and the Ebola outbreak.
"It might produce some demonstrations, but it won't be as intense as it was in 2017 and 2018," when Congolese pushed for Kabila to step aside during two years of election delays, said Andrew Edward Tchie, research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
The African Union said it had "postponed" its urgent mission to Congo planned for Monday after it noted "serious doubts" about the vote and made an unprecedented request for Congo to delay the final results.
Some neighbors, notably Rwanda, worried about violence spilling across borders from Congo, a country rich in the minerals key to smartphones around the world.
The AU statement notably did not name or congratulate Tshisekedi, merely taking note of the court's decision. It called "all concerned to work for the preservation of peace and stability and the promotion of national harmony."
A number of African leaders congratulated Tshisekedi, including the presidents of South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi. The 16-nation Southern African Development Community, after wavering in recent days with support for a recount, called on all Congolese to accept the vote's outcome.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli, in a post on Twitter, said that "I beseech you to maintain peace."