A Brief Analysis of COP21

By Bella Jones

On November 30th, a total of 195 countries convened for the Paris Climate talks (COP21) to reduce carbon emissions. Its focus was on whether the agreement should be legally binding, how to help developing countries construct low-carbon technology, and how to address long-term climate goals. The success of the deal will depend on wealthy nations, who should provide adequate funding for developing countries to grow sustainable economies and mitigate effects of climate change.

On December 12th, an agreement was reached. Some highlights of the agreement include plans to:

  1. Achieve a long-term goal of limiting global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels
  2. Enforce new climate commitments through a transparent framework
  3. Reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and promote forest conservation and sustainable management.   
  4. Mobilize public funds using a variety of strategies to address the climate needs of developing countries
  5. Avert and minimize the adverse effects of climate change on vulnerable populations using public funds

The resulting agreement did not include a measure to implement a carbon tax, a strategy to curb carbon emissions that has already shown much success in 40 countries. President Obama describes it as a more direct policy approach, as  “the most elegant way to drive innovation and reduce emissions.” A likely reason a carbon tax was not implemented is because many governments, especially those in developing nations, determined that carbon taxation would have a crippling effect for economies seeking to industrialize. India, for example, highlighted the need to operationalise the principle of equity and fair distribution of the remaining carbon space. The developing nation never supported domestic carbon emissions cuts but called on developed countries to take greater responsibility in cutting emissions. For instance,  United States, which emitted 12% more of total greenhouse gas emissions than India from 1990-2011, would be called upon to reduce its emissions. India, on the other hand, will seek to invest in green energy while expanding its use of coal in the next 5 years. It plans to do this while reducing the intensity of its carbon dioxide emissions by 33 percent to 35 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, yet not actually reducing the volume of production. The exclusion of a universal carbon tax reflects the principle of common but differentiated responsibility.

The results of the Paris Agreement showed a change in the architecture of the international fight against climate change. Instead of assigning targets and regulations, nations proposed their own plans, or “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs). Nations will be required to update the plans every five years beginning in 2023. The Paris Agreement mobilizes political pressure through transparency and accountability. To ensure compliance, NDCs and its progress will be periodically reviewed in a facilitative dialogue. This model utilizes international pressure, because currently no robust supranational governing body exists that can extend international jurisdiction over national governments to impact global climate change. This year’s Paris Agreement applies a lateral approach, incorporating collective force and pressure to ensure the agreements enaction.

The Paris Agreement’s two-prong approach that mobilize international pressure through transparency and accountability seems promising, but whether or not nations will stick to their respective pledges and effectively appropriate funds will depend on how well they will follow through in the following months and at the next summit.

Overall it is too soon to judge the effectiveness of Paris Agreement, though many aspects of its stipulations are promising for international progress on climate change. The results will unfold in the coming months and the body will reconvene for COP 22 Morocco at the 2016 UN climate summit.



Religious Targeting Takes A New Turn

By Dawning Welliver

In Bangladesh, Islamic militant groups launched a string of targeted attacks towards secularist writers and Internet bloggers. Though Bangladesh is officially a secular state, 90.4% of the population is Muslim. An internet “hit list”  statement, released in 2014, traced back Islamic militant group the Ansarullah Bangla Team, is threatening the lives of secular freelance bloggers, writers, and activists, accusing them of being “enemies of Islam.” It demands that “Bangladesh revoke the citizenship of these enemies of Islam” and continues to state that “If not, we will hunt them down in whatever part of God’s world we find them and kill them right there.”

Dangerous political and religious tension in 2009 created the tension between secularists and Islamic fundamentalists that would cause the attacks on these bloggers; 2009 was the year that the Crimes Tribunal of Bangladesh was set up in order to investigate war crimes during the War of Independence from Pakistan in 1971.  It was headed by the secular Bangladesh Awami League, one of the two major Bangladeshi political parties. From the beginning of the tribunal, several prominent leaders of the country’s Islamic political party, or Jamaat-e-Islami party were indicted sentenced to life in prison.

Secularists were not satisfied however, and insisted that the party leaders be sentenced to death. As a result, secularists began to protest, calling for the Jamaat-e-Islami party to be banned altogether for its involvement in the 1971 war. These protests were met with counter-demonstrations by Islamic groups, and the situation quickly became violent. The Islamic leaders insisted that secular internet bloggers were atheist and accused them of blasphemy. Islamic extremist groups began targeting bloggers, since blog posts have enabled quick, effective and widespread dissemination of liberal ideas that have harmed Islamists’ religious goals and endeavors.

At least four bloggers on the aforementioned hit list have been gruesomely hacked to death in the past year. Avijit Roy was a Bangladesh-born American, and the author of an online blog entitled “Free Thinking.” In February, he and his wife were attacked on their way back from a book fair in Bangladesh. Roy was hit to death in the head with machetes and knives. In March, Washiqur Rahman, a low-profile writer who criticized “irrational religious beliefs,” was viciously killed right outside his house, by men with meat cleavers and knives. In May, Ananta Bijoy Das, an atheist blogger in support of free expression, was also killed on his way to work by four masked men bearing cleavers and machetes. In August, writer Niloy Neel was hacked to death by six men with machetes in his apartment.  Prior to this hit list and the resulting deaths this year, a different Islamic extremist group called Ansar al Islam Bangladesh published a hit list online. At least 9 of the 84 people mentioned in the hit list were subsequently killed, and many more were attacked.

Unfortunately for Bangladesh, ending the long-standing conflicts of interest between secularist and religious fundamentalists may be a near impossible feat for the moment. Regrettably, this means that free speech, especially secular free speech will continue to come under fire from Islamic extremists who seek to undermine threatening views, furthering the divide between the two groups in Bangladesh.



Celebrities and Philanthropy

By Soo Min Jeong

What is the similarity among the following people?—Oprah Winfrey, Angelina Jolie, Madonna, and Sir Richard Branson. Not only are they world renowned celebrities, but they also actively utilize their popularity, talents, and media exposure to raise awareness of humanitarian issues. Some participate in philanthropic campaigns, volunteer activities, and directly donate money to non-governmental organizations. Recently, the number of celebrities who demonstrate interest in humanitarian issue has increased. As a result, the Time Magazine coined a new term describing these type of celebrities: “Celanthropist,” the combination of the words “Philanthropist” and “Celebrity.”

Charities seek relationships with celebrities because of their ability to raise public awareness and promote donations. While the most common way of celebrities participate in charity is directly donating money to foundations, celebrities can be spokespersons, board members, or even founders of charities. Angelina Jolie, an Oscar-winning actress, is the best example of celebrity who spends a great deal of time doing extensive humanitarian work. Jolie has not only supported over twenty charities but was also appointed as a UNHCR Goodwill ambassador and founded the Maddox Jolie-Pitt foundation in 2003.

As Jolie’s active role in the promotion of human right issues demonstrates, philanthropic activities of celebrities are prevalent. Even though these celanthropists are often praised for drawing individuals into donations and giving sense of local or global community, they are also harshly criticized by some scholars. Critics argue that celebrities turn charities into “Charitainment,” perverting philanthropy into acts of consumption and leisure. The commercialization of philanthropy separates problems from the real root causes, merely demonstrating the superficial aspect of philanthropy. Therefore, governments only feel the necessity of covering up problems, so they become irresponsible for resolving broader political, cultural, and social causes of human rights issues. Furthermore, some scholars claim that instead of condemning human rights violations by multinational corporations, celanthropy rather promotes the consumption of “good cause.” In short, celanthropy treats capitalism as an answer, not a cause for global problems.

Granted, indiscriminate use of celebrity in philanthropy may taint the true meaning and deceive the general public with oversimplified images of philanthropy. However, it does not mean that celebrities in charities are totally ineffective. According to a study conducted by Baxter and Ilicic, celanthropy indeed promotes positive images of celebrity, charity organization, and even donation intention; it encourages charitable donation. In addition, celebrities further take roles in international policy-making. For example, Midge Ure and Bob Gelof’s Live Aid and Live 8 raised not only millions of dollars for food aid but also caused the G8 to address debt relief, HIV/AIDS, and other humanitarian crises to the global audience. Another case of a celebrity bringing positive outcomes is Pu Cunxin, a Chinese actor, in light of HIV/AIDS awareness projects. Ever since HIV was detected in the mid-1980, the contagious virus has rapidly spread throughout China. However, local governments inadequately implemented policies that are greatly differed from one province to another. Furthermore, the general public was uninformed about transmission and cause of the disease. This vacuum of knowledge sparked panic and fear, and ignorance further led to violent discrimination against HIV positive Chinese. This hostility disappeared when Pu Cunxin started HIV/AIDS activism and advocacy. His activism promoted various awareness projects and made government to produce educational materials, such as pamphlets, articles, and comics. Furthermore, the government used to conduct confidential HIV tests, but his popularity and activism brought the socially concealed disease to light.

Celanthropy may be problematic at times, but it is clear that it  can also have positive outcomes. Because of its effectiveness, a number of non-profit organizations around the world implement philanthropic programs which feature celebrities. One example is “The Philanthropists,” a non-profit organization founded by Korean students. The organization aims to promote strategic and sustainable social development. Every year, the organization hosts “The Philanthropic Concert,” which consists of performances by artists who showcase their talent for free. Through the concert, “The Philanthropists” tries to implement celanthropy and further develop a charitable culture in Korea. All the profit goes to resolve humanitarian problems, and last summer, the organization raised approximately three thousand dollars to help Syrian refugees by providing water purifications tablets.

Celebrities are becoming more active in charities, and media is widely used to promote philanthropy. This mere commercialization of charity through media can taint the true meaning of charitable act. However, regardless of a few drawbacks, studies are showing that celanthropy indeed yields positive outcomes—it promotes donations and positive attitude toward charities. Therefore, celanthropy has been widely accepted by non-governmental organizations, and will likely remain a mainstay of international and domestic philanthropy for the foreseeable future.


Transforming a Desolate Marketplace through Art

By Jung-Min Shin

An “alternative exhibition space” is an unconventional venue that publicly displays artwork – it could be a warehouse, a store front, or in the case of the STONE&WATER exhibitions, a nearly abandoned marketplace. It represents a rebellion against the stereotype that art belongs to white cubicle-shaped galleries, transforming places which are typically unrelated to art into a platform for vibrant creativity and cultural engagement.

While “alternative spaces” have been popular in the United States since the 1970s, they have only gained attention in South Korea during the last decade or so. Initially, these venues were sought out by young South Korean artists who lacked the resources and reputation to display their work at well-established galleries. Recently, however, they have been used as a tool to breathe life back into bleak, deserted spaces, such as the Seoksu Marketplace in Anyang, South Korea.

Seoksu Market was established in 1979 as part of a government initiative to encourage development and economic activity in less populated parts of Anyang. It began as a wholesale produce market that consisted of 120 stores, but it downsized after failing to attract enough customers due to competition with corporate retailers and supermarkets. By 2000, only 30 stores remained in the market, and a strong odor of desolation pervaded the place.

Interestingly, however, things began to change at Seoksu Market with the entrance of a non-profit arts organization directed by Park Chan-eung in 2002. Park, an established South Korean artist who grew up in Anyang himself, recruited his colleagues and younger artists to join him in the transforming the abandoned commerce spot. Calling themselves “STONE&WATER,” the literal meaning of the market’s name, this motivated group of artists aimed to increase public access to art and discover creativity in the ordinary and mundane. To do so, STONE&WATER began by taking up several store spaces and changing them to showcase and work spaces. Its very first exhibition was the “Living Furniture & Public Furniture” show, in which the organization redesigned the interior of a store to a home-like setting that displayed a conglomeration of everyday objects made by artists, such as spoons, bookshelves, and clothes hangers. Since this initiative, STONE&WATER has hosted major public exhibitions on an annual basis, naming the series the “Seoksu Art Project (SAP).” Most recently, SAP focused on the theme of the “Black Market,” in which artists acted as vendors for their own works in a flea market setting.

Besides the SAP, STONE&WATER holds art workshops and educational programs for the local community and facilitates an international artist residency program on a routinely basis. It runs a year-round meeting and workshop space called “Babgeuleut” (rice bowl in Korean), the main avenue through which artists and locals interact with each other. Here, the arts organization invites experts in the arts and humanities fields to hold lectures, operates a mini radio station where locals can run their own broadcasts, and offers various conveniences to nearby merchants, such as electric massagers. As for the residency program, STONE&WATER hosts artists from all over the world to live in Anyang and utilize its exhibition and work spaces, offering them opportunities to partake in the SAP. Artists from various countries, such as Germany, Bangladesh, and New Zealand, as well as diverse fields, like performance art, photography, and craft, have participated in the program.

While initially skeptical of the successfulness and profitability of STONE&WATER’s projects, the Anyang local community is not only the biggest audience for the organization’s endeavors but also its firm supporters today. The activities of STONE&WATER over the last dozen-years have allowed the market to gather increasingly more visitors and media attention, reviving its sense of presence in the city. Slowly but steadily, Seoksu Market has become one of the most unique alternative art spaces in South Korea, and it offers great possibilities for creative developments in the future as well.

Notably, this genuine and powerful renewal of the Seoksu Market would not have been possible if not for STONE&WATER’s long-term dedication to the area. Unlike “guerilla artists,” who exhibit their work on a pop-up basis, moving from one space to the next, STONE&WATER has invested in a single community for over a decade to inspire true transformation. The organization presents art that befits and blends in with the place it inhabits, instead of constructing a temporary show that would soon be forgotten. Given its success so far in attracting both visitors and artists,

STONE&WATER’s more sustainable, long-term goal driven approach seems fruitful. Perhaps, then, more arts organizations should follow in its footsteps in exploring the artistic potential of the most unusual, neglected places, an approach that truly embodies the rebellion against the conventional definition of exhibition venues.