Thursday, December 17, 2015

UN Paris Agreement 2015: Victory for mankind or empty promises to humanity?

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

Jubilations Over the Paris Agreement 
A funny African proverb says something to this effect:  “A ram that is suffering from diarrhoea messes up its own hind legs but boasts that it is soiling the pathway for commuters.”

Fellow citizens of the world, at long last, the much-touted UN Climate Change Summit 2015, dubbed Paris COP 21, has come to an end! And “Mother Earth, our Common Home” is free forever! Hopefully.

Trust the international civil servants with their legalese and romantic use of the English language when it comes to UN-sponsored events. But as a layman and for the purpose of this article, I intend to try as much as possible to break down the technical terms so that our own Junior High School graduates can understand the basic import of the Agreement that was adopted in Paris. After all is the Agreement not for the future generation?

Adoption of the Paris Agreement
On Monday, November 30, 2015, the Conference of the Parties Twenty-first session in Paris (COP 21) took off in Paris, the capital city of France. The jaw-jaw exercises ended on Friday, December 11, 2015. A protocol or legal instrument that was adopted is known as the Paris Agreement. It is under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), simply referred to as the Agreement.

Even before I elaborate on the Paris Agreement, let me inform my fellow citizens of the world that the said Agreement has not yet been signed. The drafters of the Agreement will now formally submit the document to the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon.  Then it will be open for signature in New York, United States of America, on 22 April 2016. There is a process to follow for this to be accomplished.

When the Agreement reaches New York, the UN Secretary-General will  be the first human being on earth to be invited to append his signature to it. This will be done at an event known as a high-level signature ceremony for the Agreement on 22 April 2016. the report says. Source: UN website

After the UN Secretary-General has signed the document, he, in turn, will now invite the rest of the member states of the world body, known in this context as Parties to the Convention" to another ceremony to sign the Agreement. These Parties are expected to do this “at their earliest opportunity, and to deposit their respective instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, where appropriate, as soon as possible.”

 It is anticipated that this signature business will continue until April 2017 when Parties to the Conference would have been expected to have  endorsed the accord.  So this ritual will take another two years to complete. This process is what is known in the civil service as bureaucracy. Thus, you can describe the simple signing of the Paris Agreement as the “international bureaucracy of first degree” if you please.
Reader, do you think a country like Ghana where bush fires, ‘galamsey’ or illegal mining and charcoal burning are destroying our forests, rivers and environment will have to wait until April 2017 before taking any necessary action? This is why all countries that have adopted their nationally intended contributions to reduction of green house emissions to climate change or global warming must take their destiny into their own hands.

 In other words, developing countries, especially in Africa, must not rely on the promises of industrialised nations at all.  It is some of their reckless human activities that brought us all where we are today. Most often some of their promises may not only be hyperbolic but hypocritical as well. They are déjàvu!

By the way, can somebody tell me whether Pope Francis was personally invited to the Paris Conference?  In the humble opinion of this writer, Pope Francis is the symbol of the future of our Planet, which he aptly refers to as “our Mother Earth, our Common Home!” He is the Angel of the environmental  sustainability of our time.

Ghana as a nation should not stand and stare into the sky expecting the Master Jesus to descent at all. Rather, we must be real as a people. What can we do to stop or at least to minimise  the effect of climate change on our environment? How do we manage our natural resources God has given us prudently?
Must we continue the rapacious pollution of our water bodies and the fast drying up of our rivers? Do we have to take delight in destroying our forest reserves? Do we have to be causing wild bush fires because of little rodents like rats? How do we ensure proper protection of our environment to guarantee food security through sustainable development processes? These are some fundamental questions that must engage our mental gymnastics locally, while hoping for the magic of the Paris Agreement globally.

What does the Paris Agreement say?
First of all it is important to mention that the Paris Conference has set a Climate Change Summit world record in terms of participation. For the first time, over 190 countries took part in the deliberations and negotiations.

Negotiators unanimously agreed that “emissions-slashing commitments” must contain in the Agreement. That industrialised nations who are the worse climatic offenders must help poor countries financially to fight climate change menace.

Previously most advanced nations were playing tricks at the negotiating table. Some of them pretended to be committed to the terms of various  agreements adopted be it Kyoto or Copenhagen or Rio de Janeiro etc. But when they returned home then they renege on their promises and go back to their bad habits of global warming.

The worse thing was that they never wanted to spend a “cent” or one Ghana Cedi to support developing countries in their fight against climate change. It was this singular adoption of “financial commitment” that was hailed as the victory of the Paris Agreement. It is historical!  But how much exactly in monetary terms was committed at the Conference?

Some foreign media reported that the target was about $100billion USD.  But they quickly added that although this amount was to be raised by 2025, the agreement failed to specify how much any country must pay so that they could be held accountable if they renege on their promises. This explains why as a writer in a developing country the title of my article is  “Victory for mankind or empty promises to humanity?”

The author works with Information Services Department in Ghana

Monday, December 14, 2015


Title: SLAVERY – A Phenomenon Of All Times

Author: Joyce M. Herry
Publisher: MI Publishing
No of Pages: 165
Reviewer: Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

Traditional African wisdom is reflected in this Ghanaian proverb that admonishes: “It is the person who is closer to the fire who knows how it burns!”

Perhaps, for those who know the author of this book personally may not hesitate to attest that the contents of the book epitomise the inner sentiment of the author. As a descendant of slave parentage of British West Indies Grenadian parents on the island of Aruba, she chose her words very, very carefully in authoring this book. And no objective reader, white or black should feel offended or misread her  intentions.

Before the opening paragraph of the Preface she quotes a famous essayist and influential thinker, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) who, once said: ‘Truth is the property of no individual but the treasure of all men.’

 Then the actual opening paragraph reads: “As a descendant of slaves from the British West Indies, I cannot really relate to what it is to be a slave.” She went on “I live in a tolerant country that was involved in the transatlantic slave trade. The slave trade brought prosperity and wealth to kingdoms, merchants, bankers investors, churches, European and American governments and individuals in possessions of shares from the slave trading companies.”

If Joyce, who states in the book that she lost her father at age five and was single-handedly raised by her mother with four other siblings, was not born a deep thinker herself, she could not have quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson as stated above.

But what was even more fascinating and mind-boggling about the book is the live photograph used for the illustration of the book cover itself. Black and white hands  holding a globe together. It is like the Universe in the hands of both black and white races. It implies that as far as the Creator of the Universe is concerned no race is superior or inferior to the other. On Page 13 the author illustrates this statement with a Bible quotation thus: “The Epistle (letter) of Paul of Tarsus to Philemon in the New Testament, Book 18: ‘…this gives further proof about slavery’ Paul’s letter was not only a protest against slavery; he recognized the fundamental relationship between the slave owner and his slave.”

The author further states that, ‘The Christian belief is that to God, all men are equal and through Christ they are bonded’ adding that ‘then there should not be relationships such as masters and servants or freed slaves.’ Joyce questions: “Now did God approve slavery? On the one hand slavery is justified and on the other hand it is condemned.” 

But I was amazed when I enquired about the significance of the cover. Joyce told me that the black hand was her own right hand and the white one was the left hand of her designer who is a white lady.
With this strong imaginary cover of the book, the author quotes Booker T. Washington (1856 – 1915), freed slave African American educator, author and one time advisor of Republican Presidents of the United States of America, who once wrote: ‘You cannot hold a man down without staying down with him.’

In fact, the 165 pages book is full of wise quotations, citations and references from great works of great minds of the past. And as a history book, facts and figures are well-researched. This is a non-fiction book so the author did not have the luxury to manufacture facts and figures. This explains why this reviewer stated above that the author chose her words “very, very carefully.” She did not allow her emotions to override her feelings. In other words, despite the pain and sufferings her African slave ancestors had to endure at the hands of white slave masters some 500 years ago, Joyce managed to control her thoughts and words.

The author did not only conduct research in other history books and news papers to come out with this book. She used the Holy Bible profusely. And it was some of the seemingly justifications of slavery in the Bible that seems to have infuriated Joyce the more. For example, in the last paragraph of Page 13, the author seems to be angered by a somewhat injustice or human right abuse that was alluded to by the story of Noah.

The paragraph reads: “Noah put a curse on his grandson Canaan to become the servant of his brothers, because Ham, Noah’s younger son, and the father of Canaan saw Noah drunk, naked and uncovered in his tent. Ham told his two brothers Shem and Japheth about the nakedness of their father. The brothers were too embarrassed to see their father naked; they took a garment, …”

The most interesting part of the story that agitated the mind of the author is this: “When Noah awoke sober and heard what his youngest son had done to him he laid a ‘curse’ on Ham’s son Canaan. Now, why would Noah curse Canaan, who was innocent to what his father Ham did to his grandfather Noah?” Joyce wanted to know. The reader must read the rest of the story in the book.

For purposes of this review, it is relevant to observe  that the author  broke the protocol by concluding  history with poetry. But this is not an ordinary poetry. It is a poetry that is relevant to the content of the book. Written by a Dutch Caribbean poet, the piece is entitled Slumbering Voices: The last verse of the poem reads:

… I’m not your black or your white
Not your anger or your longing
Never wanted to be
A bashing soul
I am me!
So back off!

Being the very first history book by the author although she had published other children’s works in Dutch and her native language Papiamento, she merits tonnes of commendations for such methodical and painstaking research work. However, proofreading needs to be improved upon in the future editions. This is a must read for all researchers, journalists, academics and students of history on slavery in Africa, Asia, Americas, Europe and indeed to the world at large, because Slavery is A Phenomenon Of All Times!

The reviewer is a Ghanaian journalist, author, poet and blogger in Accra, Ghana. He can be reached at 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Why  Ghanaians must  patronise made-in-Ghana goods and services
Magnificent Batakali of Ghana 

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

Listen to the wisdom of our ancestors, which is reflected in this Ghanaian proverb thus:  “A prince or princess does not rush out to go and watch the King in the street!”

Ghanaians are so religious that even Jesus Christ and Prophet Mohammed (Peace be unto him) would be yellow with envy when they visit Ghana one of these days soon. As for my Christian brothers and sisters, they have virtually turned themselves into ubiquitous evangelists. Every available public space is a preaching sanctuary. They preach in chop bars, buses, tro-tros, locomotives, canoes, and what have you? The only place I am yet to see them preaching is on a helicopter or aboard domestic flights from Accra to Kumasi. Most of them too don’t seem to know how to speak in parables like the Master Jesus did.

On Monday, November 23, 2015, something spectacular happened in the history of trade and industry in Ghana. It was on that day that MADE IN GHANA CAMPAIGN was officially launched in the country. When President John Dramani Mahama was propounding the theory of made-in-Ghana campaign at the launch, with Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, Trade and Industry Minister giving him that solid moral support, my mind went back to Allan Kyremanteng the then holder of that portfolio in President Kufuor administration who also launched Friday-wear concept.

 The difference is that this Government's  campaign is more holistic in scope and encompasses all sectors of the national economy. But the crux of the matter is that all Ghanaian leaders are desirous of encouraging Ghanaians to patronize indigenous Ghanaian goods and services, be it food or clothing or footwear and of late Kantanka vehicles etc.

But the object of this article is not to support President Kufuor or President Mahama or even the late Dan Lartey of domestication fame. On the contrary this author wishes to prick the conscience of Ghanaians as to why they should NOT patronize made in Ghana goods and services at all. Why?

Why should Ghanaians patronize made in Ghana goods and services? Don’t they know that if they do so they would be contributing to the socio-economic advancement of the country? Why should they do that? Who wants Ghana to advance socially and economically anyway? How can food and second-hand cloth importers make money if Ghanaians patronize made in Ghana goods and services?  Perhaps, a simplistic analogy may illustrate my argument better:  

  Supposing your biological parents were running some traditional cottage textile industry like kente or fugu-weaving business before you were born. Your parents never had the opportunity to go to school so the traditional indigenous technology they inherited from their own parents is what they have been using and are able to send you to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi a.k.a. Kumasi Legon.

Having studied modern technology in textile industry, will you use your scientific and technological expertise to modernize and expand your parent’s cottage industry upon completion of your course for the advancement of your family, society and   nation as a whole? If yes, why? And if no, why not?

Respected reader, shall we move the analogy further on a national scale to involve Ghana as a nation? Let’s take Ghana as our parents. And these parents of ours are wealthy as Ghana is very, very rich and endowed with natural and human resources.  Thus, whatever belongs to Ghana belongs to us the children. Ghana has gold, diamond, bauxite, cocoa, arable lands, rivers, lakes, and now oil and gas. So, as children of Ghana, do we have to abandon these resources and be chasing after other people’s resources even at the peril of our lives?

Realistically too, living in a globalized world, we cannot also say that we will not use other people’s goods and services at all. But what can we do to improve upon our own goods and services so that we can patronize what belongs to us as a people? It is from this viewing window that I should like beautiful people of Ghana to view the national MADE IN GHANA CAMPAIGN strategy.

Why should Ghanaians be characterized as “foreign-goods-prone-creatures?” In other words, why do most Ghanaians normally tend to prefer foreign goods to those   made in Ghana? Is it a psychological problem or colonial mentality syndrome, or both?  The reader should meditate on this rethorical question. But it is not enough to say Ghanaians should buy made-in-Ghana goods. If they are not doing so why?

 On the day the MADE IN GHANA CAMPAIGN was launched, Ghana’s Ministry of Trade and Industry produced a magnificent programme brochure in which the rationale behind the campaign was elaborated. On page 9 of the booklet a list of some Made-in-Ghana Priority Products were published. They included Poultry Products, Tomatoes, Textile & Garments, Cement, Roofing Sheets, Nails, Furniture, Pharmaceuticals, Printing, Steel Products, and Processed Foods. Others were Sugar, Vegetable Oil, Fruit Juice, Rice, Biscuits, Paints, Shoes, Electricals Bulbs, Electric Cables, Electric Meters, Ceiling Materials and Cosmetic Products.

What fascinated me most was the crafty and psychedelic logo with the red, gold and green star on a black circle background with inscription: Premium Quality. That logo reminds me of Fair Trade logo in Europe. In Europe any product like banana, coffee, cocoa or chocolate that bears the Fair Trade logo is of unique quality, produced in a prescribed hygienic environment.

I suggest that the Standards Sub-committee of MADE IN GHANA CAMPAIGN should   ensure that the made in Ghana logo will live up to its accolade- PREMIUM QUALITY! And if Ghanaians want Ghana to advance socially and economically, they should NOT   patronize made-in-Ghana goods and services. Period!

The author works with Information Services Department, Accra

Saturday, November 28, 2015

 Some terrible effect on our mother Earth by Climate Change
UN Climate Change Summit In Paris 2015: World Leaders Must Stop Paying Lip Service To Sustainable Development Matters

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

Do you remember this philosophical Ghanaian adage that says: “If you cut your own tongue and chew it with rapacious appetite, you have chewed no meat at all?”
 As world leaders, especially those from industrialised nations embark on their ‘talk shop’ journey to Paris, France in a few weeks or so for 2015 UN Climate Change Summit, they must bear in mind that the rest of the world is watching them with eagle eyes. They must know that we are in the 21st century and hardly can they play tricks with the destiny of humanity as far as environmental sustainability and climate change matters go!
On Tuesday, November 17, 2015, Institute for Environment and Sanitation Studies (IESS), University of Ghana, in collaboration with France Embassy, ABANTU for Development and other stakeholders, organised a training workshop for the media on Conference of the Parties (COP21) Negotiation Language and Process.” 
Two major thought-provoking presentations that were made by experts included “Process of Climate Change Negotiation & Critical Issues for Media and Civil Society Organisations (CSO) in COP21”. This was presented by Philip Acquah, Member, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC Roaster Expert).
Ms. Patience Damptey, Convener, Gender Action on Climate Change for Equity and Sustainability (GACCES), made a presentation on “Promoting Inclusiveness in the Outcome of COP21 (balance of power between Annex I & II countries and gender responsiveness”). The two resource persons did justice to their respective topics.
Africa going to Paris as a Team
As far as this writer is concerned, the training session was an eye opener. It came to light that at least the 46 African countries including Ghana have agreed, “Effective mitigation will not be achieved if individual agents advance their own interests independently”
 Theoretically, Africa knows that to meet the objectives of UN Sustainable energy for all by 2030, GHG emissions by worse offending nations ought to be reduced to levels acceptable to Africa and not the other way round.
Africa must insist on provision of energy services that will improve quality of life for the people of Africa in the area of health, life expectancy and comfort and productivity. Africa must stick to its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC). African experts must put this adopted position into practical application strongly at the negotiation table in Paris.  Otherwise, it would have been better they were not there at all.
Trends of Greenhouse Gases
What prompted this author to title this article as above is the fact that, if the trends of Greenhouse Gas emissions as disclosed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2014 Report is anything to go by then one will not be too harsh to describe industrialised countries as paying lip service to global climate change matters.
According to IPCC 2014 Report, total anthropogenic or man-made GHG emissions have continued to increase over 1970 to 2010 with larger absolute decadal increases toward the end of this period. Some of the main sources of greenhouse emissions or the rise in temperature that affect the climatic conditions of our mother Earth or “our Common Home” as Pope Francis would put it, include burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. These activities lead to higher carbon dioxide concentrations in the air.
It has been proved scientifically that land use or misuse of land as applies in this part of the world especially deforestation in the tropics account for up to one third of total “anthropogenic C02”.  In Ghana for instance, apart from deforestation through bush fires and charcoal burning, illegal gold mining known as “galamsey” is not only destroying our forests but also contaminates rivers and pollutes water bodies.
IPCC 2014 Report revealed that “Despite a growing number of climate change mitigation policies, annual GHG emissions grew on average by 1.0 gigatonne carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2eq) (2.2 %) per year from 2000 to 2010 compared to 0.4 GtCO2eq (1.3 %) per year from 1970 to 2000 (Figure Total anthropogenic GHG emissions were the highest in human history from 2000 to 2010 and reached 49 (±4.5) GtCO2eq/yr in 2010. The global economic crisis 2007/2008 only temporarily reduced emissions.”
Further, “CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes contributed about 78 % of the total GHG emission increase from 1970 to 2010, with a similar percentage contribution for the period 2000–2010. Fossil fuel-related CO2 emissions reached 32 (±2.7) GtCO2/yr, in 2010, and grew further by about
3 % between 2010 and 2011 and by about 1–2 % between 2011 and 2012.
“Of the 49 (±4.5) GtCO2eq/yr in total anthropogenic GHG emissions in 2010, CO2 remains the major anthropogenic GHG accounting for 76 % (38±3.8 GtCO2eq/yr) of total anthropogenic GHG emissions in 2010. 16 % (7.8±1.6 GtCO2eq/yr) come from methane (CH4), 6.2 % (3.1±1.9 GtCO2eq/yr) from nitrous oxide (N2O), and 2.0 % (1.0±0.2 GtCO2eq/yr) from fluorinated gases.”
IPCC 2014 Report concluded that, since 1970, about 25 % of anthropogenic GHG emissions have been in the form of non-CO2 gases annually. This is more reason why world leaders at the Paris Conference must not pay lip service to environmental sustainability. I suggest that Pope Francis’s PAPAL ENCYCLICAL LAUDATO SI must be discussed at COP21.

The author works with Information Services Department (ISD), Accra