Archive for February, 2010

Mahatma Gandhi – Last Footsteps at Birla Bhavan (Dilli) in 1948

Click To Enlarge

2010-02-28:  Mohandas K. (also known as Mahatma) Gandhi was assassinated at 17.17 hrs. in the evening … on Friday, 30th January 1948.  The location was the Birla Bhavan (Birla House), now known as Gandhi Smritiwww.gandhismriti.gov.in … in Dilli (Delhi), northern India.

These photographs were taken on 7th January 2010.  Local people regarded the weather as being particularly chilly (8 to 9oC) for the time of year.  As can be seen, there were still traces in the air of that morning’s heavy fog.

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The Last Footsteps at Birla Bhavan … as he walked to the Place of His Assassination …

Mahatma Gandhi - His Last Footsteps I

Mahatma Gandhi - His Last Footsteps I

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Mahatma Gandhi - His Last Footsteps II

Mahatma Gandhi - His Last Footsteps II

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Mahatma Gandhi - His Last Footsteps III

Mahatma Gandhi - His Last Footsteps III

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Mahatma Gandhi - His Last Footsteps IV

Mahatma Gandhi - His Last Footsteps IV

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Mahatma Gandhi - His Last Footsteps V

Mahatma Gandhi - His Last Footsteps V

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Mahatma Gandhi - His Last Footsteps VI

Mahatma Gandhi - His Last Footsteps VI

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Mahatma Gandhi - Place of His Assassination VII

Mahatma Gandhi - Place of His Assassination VII

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Accessibility-for-All at the Brussels European Parliament ?!?!

Last Wednesday (2010-02-24), I was very pleased to be in Brussels to attend the Inaugural Meeting of the European Parliament’s URBAN InterGroup for the New Parliamentary Term.  Being very curious, however, there was no way … no way at all … that I could enter the Parliament Building without checking on a specific part of the Early Parliamentary Complex on Rue Wiertz … for any improvements to its past, woeful ‘accessibility’ performance.  Please note that I am not referring, here, to transport issues … but to ‘accessibility’ for people with activity limitations.

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Colour photograph showing the same dangerous public ramp/stair combination near the Main Public Entrance to the European Parliament Building, on Rue Wiertz, in Brussels. During rush hour periods of the working day, this external ramp/stair combination is a very busy public pedestrian route. Click to enlarge. This photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-02-24. For more photographs of this architectural gem, dating from 2000-2001, see SDI's Corporate WebSite.

Colour photograph showing the same dangerous external ramp/stair combination near the Main Public Entrance to the European Parliament Building, on Rue Wiertz, in Brussels. During rush hour periods of the working day, this ramp/stair combination is a very busy public pedestrian route. Click to enlarge. This photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-02-24. For more photographs of this architectural 'gem', dating from 2000-2001, see SDI's Corporate WebSite.

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Since the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities became an International Legal Instrument on 3rd May 2008 … people with activity limitations now have a clearly defined right, under international law, to be able to access and use the Built Environment.  They also have the right to receive an equal and meaningful consideration in situations of risk, e.g. when there is a fire in a building.  The language of the Convention is unusually strong.

Once upon a time … 9 or 10 years ago … at the beginning of this decade/century/millennium … a Properly Accessible Built Environment could only be wishful thinking.  Yes, there was some legislation … usually very weak … at national level in the E.U. Member States … but nobody paid much attention to implementation.  The least that could be expected, however, was that Iconic Buildings purposefully intended and designed for occupation by Institutions of the European Union would be examples of ‘good accessibility’ … as so much emphasis has always been placed in the E.U. Treaties, including the New Lisbon Treaty … on the foundation of the European Union being robustly rooted in Human and Social Rights for All … not just a privileged few, or a self-contented majority.

At this Page on Sustainable Design International’s Corporate WebSitewww.sustainable-design.ie/arch/inaccesseubuildings.htm … I recorded the dismal and depressing evidence on the ‘inaccessibility’ of both the Brussels and Strasbourg Parliament Buildings at that time.

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Colour photograph showing the 'special' entrance reserved for 'personnes a mobilite reduite' in another part of the Brussels European Parliamentary Complex. It's too bad if someone who must use this facility cannot understand the incorrectly printed French ! Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-02-24.

Colour photograph showing the 'special' entrance reserved for 'personnes a mobilite reduite' in another part of the Brussels European Parliamentary Complex. It's too bad if someone who must use this facility cannot understand the incorrectly printed French ! Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-02-24.

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So … what has changed in the intervening years ?   Have there been any improvements to a situation which I originally described as being ‘stupid and ridiculous’ ?   [I won't bore you with all of the reasons why.]   Or, are things worse ?   Have we, in fact, entered into some unknown region of The Twilight Zone ?   Arise again GUBU (Grotesque, Unbelievable, Bizarre and Unprecedented) !!

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Colour photograph showing the Main Entrances associated with the 'special' entrance in the photograph above. They are located approximately 10 metres around the corner on a different side of the building. If the nosings of those steps have been highlighted in yellow, does that mean that these clumsy entrances are 'safe' ?? Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-02-24.

Colour photograph showing the Main Entrances associated with the 'special' entrance in the photograph above. They are located approximately 10 metres around the corner on a different side of the building. If the nosings of those steps have been highlighted in yellow, does that mean that these clumsy entrances are 'safe' ?? Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-02-24.

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Pinch yourselves, a few times, as you examine the photographs closely !  Try to remember that these buildings are not renovated or refurbished existing buildings.  They were all designed and constructed, as ‘new’, on cleared sites within the city !!

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Although Architects, the Brussels Local Authorities and the E.U. Institutions are primarily responsible for ‘inaccessibility’ of the Brussels European Parliament Building … we cannot afford to be smug or complacent in Ireland.  Just look around you !

Again, once upon a time … towards the end of the 1980’s this time … I submitted the following Proposal for a Resolution on Accessibility-for-All to the Council of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) … please forgive the pre 2001 WHO ICF use of language and terminology …

Preamble

The elimination of architectural barriers to mobility of the disabled is an essential and preliminary condition for successful implementation of the principal that all people should be fully integrated into society, participating in and contributing to all aspects of economic and social life.

Resolution

Celebrating the 150th year of its establishment, Council of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland asks all Members:-

(i)   to note the principal that all people should be fully integrated into society, participating in and contributing to all aspects of economic and social life ;

(ii)  to eliminate as far as reasonably practicable, in the design of buildings, architectural barriers to mobility of the disabled.

Was this Resolution passed ?   I’ll give you one guess !   The reason given, at the time, was that the Profession might be viewed as being culpable … which it was … and remains to this day.  The source of this culpability, however, is most definitely the Schools of Architecture.

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Sustainable Climate Adaptation – 2008 G-77 Statement to the UN

How did the Developed Countries get everything so wrong in Copenhagen during December 2009 ?   Why was the European Union irrelevant to what was taking place ?   Were there no obvious signals … no straws in the wind … well in advance of the Climate Summit ?

Yes, there definitely were !   Almost two years beforehand !!   Take a deep breath … and suck this up …

Colour image showing the logo of the Group of 77 (G-77)Statement on Behalf of the Group of 77 & China by Ambassador John Ashe, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations, at the Thematic Debate of the General Assembly on ‘Addressing Climate Change: The United Nations and The World at Work’  (New York, 12th February 2008)

Introduction

1.  Mr. President, the Group of 77 & China thank you for convening this debate in the General Assembly on the theme ‘Addressing Climate Change: The United Nations and The World at Work’.  It provides the Assembly with an additional opportunity to exchange views among Member States and with other partners on one of the important issues on the development agenda of the UN.

2.  At the outset, the Group of 77 & China reiterates that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is, and should remain, the primary comprehensive framework for addressing climate change.  Therefore, this thematic debate should be recognized as an opportunity for Member States to dialogue on ways of increasing support for the Framework and on meeting the urgent need for immediate action to fully implement commitments under the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol; supporting the Bali Action Plan and other mechanisms of the Convention.

3.  Mr. President, the Group of 77 & China is of the view that there should not be a parallel process of debates that would detract from the negotiation process under the Convention.  The Group of 77 & China believes that multilateral action to address climate change should remain firmly rooted in the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol.

4.  Furthermore, this thematic debate, as well as the Secretary General’s report on the Overview of UN activities in relation to Climate Change should not attempt to influence any other processes such as the system wide coherence debate or the discussions on international environmental governance.

*** Climate Change as a Sustainable Development Challenge ***

5.  Mr. President, the Group of 77 & China is of the view that discussions on climate change should be placed within the proper context of sustainable development.  It is imperative that our discussion reinforces the promotion of sustainable development, highlighting the three pillars – economic development, social development and environmental protection – and the need to promote all three in an integrated, co-ordinated and balanced manner.

6.  We must not lose sight of the fact that climate change is a sustainable development challenge.  As such we should adhere steadfastly to the Rio Principles, in particular the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.  We must take fully into account that poverty eradication, economic and social development are the paramount priorities of developing countries.  Hence, we must ensure that the discussion on climate change is placed in its proper context so that it does not undermine the overall discourse on sustainable development.

7.  Mr. President, urgent action is needed now to fully implement the commitments under the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, especially commitments on financing for adaptation, technology transfer and capacity building, if we are to make progress towards the achievement of the sustainable development goals of developing countries, in particular the Internationally Agreed Development Goals (IADG’s), including the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s).

8.  Urgent action is particularly needed on commitments, as climate change threatens the livelihoods of the very poor and vulnerable developing countries, in particular Africa, the Least Developed Countries (LDC’s), Land-Locked Developing Countries (LLDC’s), Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and disaster prone developing countries.  The G-77 & China is of the view that while addressing the challenge of climate, the most affected countries and most vulnerable countries should be given adequate attention and support.

9.  Developed countries Parties must take the lead in addressing the implementation gap, since the extent to which developing countries Parties can effectively respond to the challenge depends on the effective implementation by developed country Parties of their commitments relating to financing and technology transfer.

Scaling-Up Financing, Technology Transfer and Capacity Building Support

10.  While the UN can support the efforts of developing countries in formulating policies for attracting climate change related investment flows, adaptation and nationally appropriate mitigation actions will have to be enabled by technology, financing and capacity-building that are commensurate with the magnitude of the tasks ahead of us, that is, in a measurable, reportable and verifiable manner, as agreed in the Bali Action Plan.  The provision of financial resources is a binding commitment of developed country Parties.  Clear guidance should be given to facilitate access to financial resources and investments without conditionalities.  It is essential that such financial resources not be considered as Official Development Assistance (ODA), but additional, and in compliance with existing binding commitments under the Convention.  Further, financing for adaptation to climate change and the impact of response measures should not be a reallocation or realignment of existing development financing.

11.  Developing countries should be provided with greater access to cost-effective, efficient and affordable advanced clean technologies.  The Group of 77 & China has repeatedly led calls for developing countries to have greater access to climate-friendly technologies.  Efforts in this regard need to be scaled up.  Furthermore, the UN can play an important role through the promotion of an Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Regime that facilitates the transfer of such technologies.

12.  The Group of 77 & China reiterates its call for increased support for capacity building in developing countries to enhance national efforts to promote an integrated approach to climate change response measures and sustainable development planning.

Greater Support by the UN System for Developing Countries to Address the Climate Change Challenge

13.  The UN’s efforts in supporting national adaptation activities must be strengthened, so that developing countries can achieve their sustainable development goals while responding to the challenges of climate change.  The role of the UN in supporting the overall development efforts is vital.  However, the G-77 & China finds that technology transfer and financing, have not been addressed adequately in the background documents made available in preparation for today’s debate.

14.  On the issue of partnerships, Mr. President, the G-77 & China is of the view that multi-stakeholder partnerships have an important role to play in addressing climate change.  The UN system should assist in fostering and promoting partnerships in support of national efforts.  However, partnerships should not replace ODA or international co-operation.

15.  Additionally, South-South co-operation is useful in the area of adaptation efforts, and greater support for South-South co-operation can also help developing countries better respond to the challenges of climate change.  However, South-South co-operation should not be considered within the context of multi-stakeholder partnerships.  Further, South-South co-operation on climate change should complement North-South co-operation.

Report on the Overview of UN Activities in Relation to Climate Change

16.  Mr. President, in General Assembly Resolution 62/8 Member States requested a comprehensive report providing an overview of the activities of the UN system in relation to climate change.  Based on this mandate the G-77 & China anticipated a factual report that takes stock of current UN system activities in this regard.  As such, there is no mandate with regard to ‘an indication of the way forward’, and ‘co-ordination of the UN system action on climate change’.  This remains the purview of the Member States to decide on.  Work on co-ordination mechanisms, and structures or frameworks, including clusters of activity or lead agencies, must be subject of inter-governmental consideration and decision prior to implementation.

17.  In general, the UN system entities should assist in the effective implementation of the provisions, commitments and action plans of the UNFCCC.  Co-ordination of UN system activities to enhance its role in meeting the challenge of climate change requires inter-governmental consideration, agreement and oversight by Member States.

18.  The G-77 & China recognizes the primacy of the UN in directing and supporting global efforts to meet the global challenge of climate change, and in supporting its Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  The General Assembly, given its universality, should unequivocally urge Parties to undertake urgent action now to meet their commitments under the Convention, provide clear policy direction in this regard and to support to the Bali Plan of Action.

19.  Mr. President, the G-77 & China believes that the road to Copenhagen, where the concluding talks on the current process on the Bali Roadmap will be held in 2009, will be a difficult one, particularly for developing countries and the poorest and most vulnerable.  Leadership will therefore be critical if our response is to reflect the scale of the challenge.  We need an effective and comprehensive global response, within the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, to cover adaptation, technology transfer and financing, as well as mitigation.  Without rapid and tangible efforts by developed countries in this regard, climate change will lead to increased poverty and will negate our efforts at achieving sustainable development.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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NOTE:  The Group of 77 (G-77) was established on 15th June 1964 by seventy-seven developing countries – signatories of the ‘Joint Declaration of the Seventy-Seven Countries’, issued at the end of the first session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva.  Beginning with the first Ministerial Meeting of the Group of 77 in Algiers (Algeria), from 10-25 October 1967, which adopted the ‘Charter of Algiers, a permanent institutional structure gradually developed which led to the creation of Chapters of the Group of 77, with Liaison Offices in Geneva (UNCTAD), Nairobi (UNEP), Paris (UNESCO), Rome (FAO/IFAD), Vienna (UNIDO), and the Group of 24 (G-24) in Washington, D.C. (IMF and World Bank).  Although the Members of the G-77 have increased to 130 Countries, the original name was retained because of its historic significance.

Brazil, South Africa, India and China (BASIC) are all Members of G-77.

Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and the Caribbean island states of Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Dominica (ALBA – Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América / Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) are also all Members of G-77.

The Group of 77 (G-77) WebSite is located at … www.g77.org

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