Tewolde latest - Urgent Protest Needed (23/5/2005)



excerpts from the letter:

...it now looks certain that I will have been prevented from joining you in those negotiations.

...Thank you all for your tremendous moral support, my friends. And I assure you that I will not be demoralized by those who are not my friends.

Your comrade in the search for safety for all life, especially for the safety of the poor of the Earth,

Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher

Urgent Protest Needed For Dr. Tewolde
The Independent Science Panel
Promotion of Science for the Public Good http://www.indsp.org

This letter is from Dr. Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, who has still not received a visa from the Canadian Government to enable him to attend a crucial biosafety meeting in Montreal that will be dealing with the issues of labelling of genetically modified (GM) products and liabilities in case of damages.

See "Canada denies visa for Africa''s chief biosafety and biodiversity negotiator" http://www.i- sis.org.uk/CanadaVisa.php

Please step up your protests to the Canadian government, enclosing Dr. Tewolde''s letter:

Hon. Pierre Pettigrew, Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Email: [email protected] Telephone (613) 995-8872 Fax: (613) 995-9926
Hon. Andy Mitchell ,Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food,
[email protected] Telephone:(613) 996-3434 Fax: (613) 991-2147
Hon. Stéphane Dion, Minister of the Environment, [email protected]
Telephone: (613) 996-5789 Fax: (613) 996-6562
Hon. Hon. Joseph Volpe, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration,
[email protected] Telephone: (613) 992-6361 Fax: (613) 992-9791

and copy to: Dr. Hamdallah Zedan, Executive Secretary of the CBD [email protected]

Dear Friends,

On 17 May 2005, I informed you by e-mail of my problems with obtaining a visa to enter Canada for the biosafety negotiations which will take place in Montreal from 25 May to 3 June 2005. On 20 May 2005 I sent you an update. I have still not got a visa to Canada. So, I am now giving you a second update.

Today is 23 May 2005. Inspite of intimations from some quarters that I will get a Canadian visa, I still do not know when, or if at all, I will get that elusive visa. I would not be the first one prevented from going to Montreal on legitimate government duty demanded by international agreements because Canadian immigration authorities failed to honour their commitment to facilitate the giving of visas to delegates. My colleague at the Environmental Protection Authority of Ethiopia, Mr. Dereje Agonafir, was to participate in the meeting of the Expert Group on Outcome-oriented Targets for the Programmes of Work on the Biodiversity of Inland Water Ecosystems and Marine and Coastal Ecosystems, 25-27 October 2004. He was refused a Canadian visa. I then wrote a protest letter of the High Commission of Canada in Nairobi. I know of another Ethiopian refused a visa in 2004. He was to attend a meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

This means that now I cannot give the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity a precise enough travel plan to enable them to arrange my flight to Montreal, which they kindly do because I am a delegate from one of the poorest of countries.

The negotiations on liability and redress under the Cartagena Protocol will start the day after tomorrow, on 25 May 2005. Whatever happens tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after..., therefore, it now looks certain that I will have been prevented from joining you in those negotiations. Of course, I will keep on trying to join you at any time before and including 3 June 2005.

Now, it seems certain that I have failed in my duty of trying to help put in place an international liability and redress regime to protect the interests of the poor of my country, the poor of the world, and the biodiversity of the biosphere from adventurism in genetic engineering. I hold the Government of Canada responsible for my forced dereliction of duty.

Given this, I would demand redress from the Government of Canada if I could. But we, the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, have not passed any binding decision that I know of to enable me to do that. If I am wrong in my understanding, I would appeal to those of you my friends who read this Second update and who know the law better than I do to advise me. In the mean time, I will set aside the issue of liability and redress concerning my forced dereliction of duty and focus on the future.

Many of you will recall that, in 1998 in Montreal when we were negotiating the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the delegations of the industrialized countries refused to even consider liability and redress in genetic engineering. Those of us from the developing countries had to refuse to consider any issue other than liability and redress before we could arrive at a compromise. This compromise was to start negotiating on an international regime on liability and redress when the Protocol has come into force (See Article 27 of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety). Now, 7 years later, I have a feeling of déjà vu of a Miami Group behaviour. Shall we keep being haunted by past scenes of disharmony instead of looking forward only because our Secretariat is in Canada? I suggest that you exorcise the unpleasant past by passing a decision like the following at COP/MOP 2:

A) Any delegate shall be given a visa by the Government of Canada on demand provided that that demand is conveyed formally from the delegate''s Government which is a Party to the Convention on Biological Diversity or any protocol emanating from it to the effect that the delegate will be travelling to Canada for work related to the Convention on Biological Diversity or to any protocol emanating from it.

B) One refusal or delay by the Government of Canada in issuing a visa requested as in (a) above that results in any diminition of participation by the delegate in the planned work shall become sufficient ground for the closure of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Montreal and its transfer to the territory of another Party. The complete transfer of the Secretariat shall be effected within 2 years from the date when the impeded work of the delegate was to have began.

Today is a public holiday in Canada - Queen Victoria''s birthday. I expect that this holiday will delay whatever might have happened with my request for a Canadian visa. In any case, I join all Canadians in commemorating this symbolic day. I invite you all my friends from the rest of the world to join them as well. I will tell you how I will commemorate it.

I will be remembering the genocide that wiped out the Carribs and other indigenous peoples in the New World; I will be remembering the millions of my fellow Africans who perished opposing slavery and who suffered as slaves; I will be remembering the millions of all our ancestors who died opposing colonialism and those who survived to become disposable objects on their own lands; I will be remembering our parents who freed us from colonialism and died in improving our chances of enjoying the dignity that life deserves. Obviously, I will be remembering the opposite of what the Canadian public holiday formally commemorates, which I presum is the greatness of the Victorian era. But I know that many Canadians will join me in remembering also what I will be remembering. Globalization has scrambled not only the genome, but also the globe; not only biology, but also geography. Geography has not yet been scrambled enough to bring me to Montreal at any time I want, but it is scrambled enough to make Montreal hear and see Addis Ababa and vice versa. I will thus be thinking also of the scrambled world; not only of the scrambled genome. I will be thinking of the thousands who died in Rwanda, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Liberia and the United States. I will be thinking of the thousands who are dying in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Congo Democratic Republic and the Sudan. I will also be thinking of the thousands who died of the tsunami in South-East Asia, South Asia and Eastern Africa. I will be thinking of the destruction of humans and other forms of life that could be prevented and that is being promoted. I will be thinking of the many species that are becoming extinct.

But I am an optimist. The global scrambling is going to be fully harnessed to save life. It is only the baggage from the Victorian era that is still causing destruction. However, the scrambling caused by globalization makes it easy for us to leave this baggage on the wayside of history. My ancestors who valiantly fought and kept out colonial Western Europe would, if they could now see, be gratified with the support that I, their less significant descendant, am getting from all of you in the world, including from those of you in Western Europe, and especially from those of you in North America!

For the time being, this is all that I feel that I need to say to you in way of updating you, my friends. Of course, I am happy that those who are not my friends are also updated.

Thank you all for your tremendous moral support, my friends. And I assure you that I will not be demoralized by those who are not my friends.

Your comrade in the search for safety for all life, especially for the safety of the poor of the Earth,

Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher


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