The Word “Science” Has Disappeared From The EPA’s Mission Statement

March 11th, 2017 by EARTH PEOPLES

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is under a communications blackout, has its long-time archenemy as its new chief, is having its funding dramatically cut, is having all its major climate change mitigation provisions and water protection rules rolled back, and may be entirely abolished by the end of 2018. Times are bad, to summarize.

The newly minted powers-that-be are also having a fiddle with the EPA’s website, something which is being tracked by the non-profit group, the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI). Although plenty of references to climate change have been slipping away as of late, the most recent change is particularly egregious.

The EPA’s Office of Science and Technology (OST) once had a mission statement that began thusly: “OST is responsible for developing sound, science-based standards, criteria, health advisories, test methods and guidelines…” It talks about using “scientific and technological foundations” to achieve things like clean water and pristine aquatic environments.

Now, the mission statement notes that it works on “economically and technologically achievable performance standards to address water pollution.” The word “science” has been completely removed from the site – despite the fact that, lest we forget, this if the Office of Science and Technology.

This is ludicrous, that much is obvious. Worryingly, this goes in line with what Scott Pruitt and his anti-environmental cronies were saying at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland. One lawyer who handled the transition between the Obama EPA team and the Trump one even said that the EPA should not conduct science at all.

This situation is so bizarre that there aren’t enough superlatives or analogies to adequately convey its malevolence effectively. Taking the “science” out of the Office of Science and Technology is like taking the “space” out of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It’s like removing the spaghetti from bolognese, the coffee out of an espresso, or the alcohol out of a bar.

It’s like taking cats off the Internet – what is the point of it without them?

You can’t base environmental protection on anything that’s not scientific. Are they going to use the entrails of a chicken to guide them? Will they search their feelings and use the Force? Flip a coin? Consult a Magic 8-Ball?

Science, it seems, is just massively inconvenient for those that like to do whatever they want with no care for the consequences of it. With few exceptions, the GOP of 2017 is the party to beat when it comes to science denial.

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EPA’s Environmental Justice Head Resigned After 24 Years. He Wants to Explain Why.

March 10th, 2017 by EARTH PEOPLES

“To move backward didn’t make any sense.”

By REBECCA LEBER for Mother Jones

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office on Environmental Justice submitted his resignation on Tuesday. First reported by InsideClimate News, the resignation of Mustafa Ali comes as the Trump administration considers layoffs and budget cuts at the EPA that, if enacted, would eliminate the environmental justice budget and cut funding to grants for pollution cleanup.

Ali, a founder of the program in 1992 who has worked there since, told Mother Jones he resigned because he was concerned the administration’s proposals to roll back its environmental justice work would disproportionately affect vulnerable communities. “That is something that I could not be a part of,” Ali says.

“Each new administration has an opportunity to share what their priorities and values are,” he says, adding that he has “not heard of anything that was being proposed that was beneficial to the communities we serve. To me, that was a signal that communities with environmental justice concern may not get the attention they deserve.”

The office, created during the George H.W. Bush administration, defines its mission as reducing the disproportionate impacts environmental problems have on minority, low-income, and indigenous people by integrating these concerns into all the EPA’s decision-making. Since its founding, the office has distributed $24 million in grants to 1,400 communities.

In his resignation letter, Ali attempted to make the case for the Office of Environmental Justice by appealing to Pruitt’s interest in economic growth. He described what happened in Spartanburg, South Carolina, which received a $20,000 grant from the EPA to address the community’s abandoned dump sites that were leaching toxic chemicals. The mostly low-income, African American residents of the region experienced high rates of cancer and respiratory disease. Local black leaders leveraged that grant into $270 million from investors and the government to revitalize the city, “creating jobs and improving their environments through collaborative partnerships,” Ali wrote. “When I hear we are considering making cuts to grant programs like the EJ small grants or Collaborative Problem Solving programs, which have assisted over 1400 communities, I wonder if our new leadership has had the opportunity to converse with those who need our help the most.”

Ali spoke to Mother Jones from Flint, Michigan, where he was attending a two-day environmental justice summit in the city that famously confronted an environmental crisis when the community’s drinking water was found to be contaminated with lead. He says he will continue the work he has focused on for 25 years as the new senior vice president of the Hip Hop Caucus, a national nonprofit that organizes and recruits activists to promote social justice, including on climate change. “I want to make sure I am investing my time and talents in a place that is going to be supportive of that work,” he says.

Ali hopes his resignation will bring attention to the effects on low-income and marginalized communities of the new administration’s program cuts and loosened regulations.

During his confirmation hearings, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt told Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) that he is “familiar with the concept of environmental justice” and acknowledged that the “administrator plays an important role regarding environmental justice.”

“Under his leadership, he has the ability to move to the next level if he chooses to,” Ali says. Environmental justice leaders “have dedicated decades to trying to gain traction and make progress. We’ve done some of that, and to move backward didn’t make any sense to me.”

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Syrian Arab women battle IS, social stigma

February 12th, 2017 by EARTH PEOPLES

by Middle East Online

Arab female fighters battling Islamic State group in Syria are also facing off against disapproval from their relatives, wider society.

SDF now counts more than 1,000 Arab women in its ranks

DAMASCUS – They are fighting the world’s most feared jihadists, but hundreds of Arab female fighters battling the Islamic State group in Syria are also confronting the disapproval of their relatives and society.

“I braved my tribal clan, my father, my mother. Now I’m braving the enemy,” says 21-year-old Batul, who is part of an Arab-Kurdish alliance battling to capture IS’s Syrian stronghold of Raqa.

She is one of more than 1,000 Arab women who have joined Kurdish male and female fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, according to a spokeswoman.

Standing in the desert some 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Raqa, Batul speaks passionately about her decision to fight IS, which holds the nearby village of Al-Torshan.

“My parents told me: ‘either you put down your weapons or we disown you’,” she says, wearing an ammunition vest and a floral scarf around her shoulders.

Her parents have not spoken to her since.

Batul comes from the Al-Sharabiyeh tribe, one of the best-known of the conservative Sunni Arab tribes of northeast Syria.

Her family views her as a rebel, who removed the headscarf worn by many Muslim women and refused her father’s orders to pray in front of him.

But she is proud of the decision she took two years ago to join the YPJ, the female counterpart to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, which is a key component of the SDF alliance.

“I joined the YPJ to liberate my homeland, but also to free women from slavery,” she says.

“We must no longer remain cloistered behind four walls.”

– ‘My weapon is part of me’ –

Syrian Kurds and Arabs has been fighting IS since late 2015, with air support and other backing from the US-led coalition against the jihadist group.

But the current battle for Raqa is the first time Batul has been on the front line, where warplanes roar overhead carrying out strikes, and mortars boom in the distance.

“The first time I held a weapon, I was very afraid,” she admits.

“But now, my weapon has become part of me. It frees me and protects me.”

She speaks in Arabic, but her sentences are peppered with Kurdish words picked up from her fellow fighters.

“The relations between us and the Kurdish women are good. We don’t speak the same language, but we’re all here to free the country and women.”

Jihan Sheikh Ahmad, spokeswoman for the campaign on Raqa, said the SDF now counts more than 1,000 Arab women in its ranks.

“The YPJ’s experience has had a positive impact on society,” she said.

“The more territory we liberate, the more Arab female fighters have joined us.”

In a tent near the front line, six young Arab female fighters joke and share secrets as they sip tea.

– ‘Same rights as men’ –

“My goal is to liberate women from the oppression of Daesh (IS), but also societal oppression,” says Hevi Dilirin, an Arab woman who adopted a Kurdish nom de guerre when she joined the YPJ.

“In our society, women have no say. But they should have the same rights as men,” she says, dressed in a camouflage jacket and white-and-grey sneakers.

Syria’s Kurds have emphasised gender equality in both their militias and nascent autonomous institutions.

Since the outbreak of the conflict in March 2011, they have sided with neither rebels nor government forces, concentrating instead on developing a semi-autonomous region in north and northeastern Syria, as well as fighting IS.

But the Arab tribes there are among the more conservative segments of the population, and 21-year-old Doza Jiyan says most Arab families find the concept of female fighters “hard to accept.”

“In our Syrian society, we find it bizarre for a woman to take up arms,” adds Jiyan, from the town of Ras al-Ain in Hasakeh province.

But she speaks confidently as she discusses the military situation with male colleagues.

“IS is no longer invincible, they’re only fighting on motorbikes and mining the villages,” she says.

IS’s extensive use of IEDs and mines has slowed the SDF’s progress towards Raqa, the jihadist’s group most important remaining bastion in Syria.

The SDF announced a new phase in their bid to capture Raqa on February 4, pressing towards the city gradually from the north and northeast.

Jiyan is convinced that the SDF’s military successes will eventually sway the opinion of her relatives and society, and she has no plans to leave.

“I’m very happy here,” she says.

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Kurdistani delegates to carry out meeting in Moscow

February 12th, 2017 by EARTH PEOPLES

by(A.K) ANHA

Party representatives from all four parts of Kurdistan (North, West, South and East) will come together for a meeting expected to take place in the Russian capital Moscow on February 15.
PYD Russian Representative Ebdulselam Eli told ANHA that they aimed to make a joint Kurdistani meeting on the status of Kurdistan in the Middle East with the participation of Kurdish parties.
Eli, who made explanations on the subject, noted that there had been preparations for a conference at this level and said, “We are going through a delicate process. Moreover, discussions on the future of Syria in Geneva and Astana were carried out. With this, the role of the Kurds in international arena is on the rise. For this, the Kurdish powers need to be gathered around for a common evaluation.”
According to Eli, a road map about the status of the Middle East and Kurdistan will be followed at the meeting.
Ferhad Batîîf, Chairman of the Syrian Kurdish Autonomy Council, said that they invited all Kurdish circles in connection with the preparations for the conference.
The names of Kurdish officials who have been invited to the Moscow talks are: PYD Co-Chair Asya Abdullah, Chairman of Executive Council of Kobanê Canton Enwer Muslim, HDP Urfa MP Osman Baydemir, Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan’s lawyers, PUK, Gorran Movement and KDP representatives, along with other figures.
Also invited are Russian Foreign Political Affairs President Kasachev Kostantin Yusofovich, Russian Justice Organization Politicians, Middle East Political Experts and some personalities.
Relations with Russia
Regarding relations with Russia, PYD Representative Ebdullselam Eli stated that relations with the Russian Government were good, and noted that the Ankara Government was uncomfortable with these good relations and therefore wanted to create an obstacle. “Although Turkey is uncomfortable, our relations with Russia are at a good level. This meeting we will do after Moscow now is important in terms of improving our relations. Russia has an active role in the Kurdish region, and no power can reverse it.”
Sihanok Dîbo: The role of the Kurds in the region in the future will be evaluated
PYD Representative Sîhanok Dîbo made evaluations on the matter, saying that there were radical initiatives for the political solution of the Syrian crisis, stating, “The Moscow meeting which took place before was already an example of this. Kurds are the main actors for the political solution [in Syria] and it is not possible to solve the crisis without them. The February 15 Conference is the continuation of these initiatives.”
Dîbo noted that Russia is a country which follows the developments in Syria and its regions, especially those happening in the autonomous regions. Dîbo added that they had offered the draft of the Democratic Federation Project to the parties in Moscow and opened it to discussions. The PYD representative stressed that the second meeting in Moscow will therefore discuss the role of the Kurds in the region.

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Kurds’ language in official settings sees new life in Syria

February 12th, 2017 by EARTH PEOPLES

Kurdish officials have reclaimed their tongue, reintroducing Kurmanji dialect of their language into the school curriculum Kurdish-majority regions in Syria.
Middle East Online

International works of literature translated into Kurdish

QAMISHLI – Abdo Shehu sits in an office in Kurdish-majority Qamishli in northeast Syria, surrounded by copies of the first Western novel available in the city in his own language.

The novel is “Snow” by French writer Maxence Fermine, the first fruits of a new project to translate international works of literature into a language that was effectively banned in Syria until recently.

The 29-year-old is working as part of the “Hunar” project, named for the Kurdish word for pomegranate, launched two months ago to translate literature into the Kurdish language in Kurdish-majority parts of Syria.

For years, Syria’s Kurds were banned from using their language in official settings and prevented from learning it in schools or publishing magazines or books in the tongue.

The restrictions were parts of a larger programme of constraints placed on Kurds, who make up around 10 percent of Syria’s pre-war population, including depriving them of Syrian nationality.

“I spent three months in a prison in Damascus in 2009, and was threatened with expulsion from university, because I was found with books in Kurdish,” said Shehu.

“Our language and our culture were banned by the authoritarian Baath party, which wanted to get rid of the Kurds and their culture,” he added.

But Syria’s central government no longer has much sway over the Kurdish-majority regions of the country, in the north and northeast.

– ‘Very few authors’ –

It withdrew its security forces from Kurdish-majority regions in 2012, a year after the uprising broke out against President Bashar al-Assad.

And since then, the Kurds have walked a careful line between the government and rebels, while focusing on building a semi-autonomous region.

Kurdish officials have reclaimed their tongue, reintroducing the Kurmanji dialect of their language into the school curriculum and restoring Kurdish names to villages and towns.

The project has already translated three more works, including “The Epic of Gilgamesh”, a poem from ancient Mesopotamia and among the earliest known literary writings in the world, from Arabic, and a study of the Kurdish people, from English.

Those books will soon go into publication, and work will continue with new volumes, which are chosen by a committee that weighs various criteria, including whether the works are relevant to Kurdish life.

It is a non-profit initiative, and funded by private donors, with translators working on a volunteer basis.

The translated version of “Snow” has already gone on sale, for just over one US dollar a piece, enough to cover the costs of printing, according to Shehu.

After translation, each work is reviewed by a committee for approval, which tried, without success, to reach Fermine to obtain copyright permissions before publication began.

After decades of marginalisation, today very few Kurdish authors write in their mother tongue, encouraging avid readers like Shehu to translate works from other languages.

“There are only very few authors who write literature in Kurdish,” writer Hussein Zido, 45, said.

“Kurds never obtained their cultural, social or political rights throughout their long history in the Middle East,” he said.

The “Hunar” project aims to save the Kurdish language from extinction by translating books from the rest of the world into Kurdish, Shehu said.

“We’re doing our best not only to translate literature, but also philosophy and thought… so that Kurds can read world literature in their mother tongue.”

To swell the body of homegrown books, Malfa Ali, one of the founders of the project, is also compiling traditional Kurdish folktales and songs to put them into print.

The 37-year-old said he spends long exhausting hours collecting these tales directly from the storytellers themselves.

They have never been formally recorded because publishing Kurdish-language books was forbidden.

“We’ll start gathering all the stories told in the area and then we’ll move on to the songs,” he said.

The project also hopes one day to produce a complete dictionary of the Kurdish language, including words and phrases from the tongue’s spoken form.

– Protecting Kurdish –

Kurdish areas have seen a cultural revival since 2012, with new cultural associations and magazines taking life.

Syrian authorities forced the Kurdish magazine “Sormi” to close down in its original Arabic-language form in 2008, but since the uprising it has reopened, this time publishing in Kurdish.

The latest issue of the bi-monthly, which relaunched in 2015 offering readers articles by Kurdish authors, is themed “Identity and Language”.

“The Kurdish language is the first thing we have to protect. It never had its chance before, despite representing the identity of a whole people,” said Abbas Musa, a member of the magazine’s editorial team.

“We’re striving to offer something different and varied to those interested in culture,” he said of the magazine, which is published in Qamishli and distributed in two other cities.

The 31-year-old said he hoped highbrow articles in Kurdish would show his mother tongue is “not weak”.

Fellow “Sormi” editor Bahar Murad, 39, also translates children’s stories from English to Kurdish.

In his office at the culture magazine, he points to a recent translation of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”.

He wants to see children reading in their mother tongue, he said.

“They’ve asked me to translate Little Red Riding Hood.”

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Germany largely bans fracking with new laws

February 12th, 2017 by EARTH PEOPLES

Particularly risky fracking is now banned until at least 2021, and “conventional” fracking will be governed by much tighter rules. For environmentalists, the laws do not go far enough: They want a complete ban.

A new legislative package on the use of fracking in Germany went into effect on Saturday, following much heated debate.
The legislation largely bans a particularly controversial form of fracking and imposes stricter rules on fracking overall. The German parliament and the 16 German states had approved the laws in June and July of 2016 after years of push-and-pull over environmental concerns and economic interests.
For environmentalists, the new laws don’t go far enough: They want a complete ban on all types of fracking. “If we want to meet the climate goals set in Paris, we need a clear ban on every type of oil and gas fracking,” said Kai Niebert, the chairman of Deutscher Naturschutzring, an umbrella organization for German environmentalist groups.

What is fracking?
Fracking – short for hydraulic fracturing – is a method used for extracting fossil fuels. A mix of water, sand and chemicals is pushed into the ground at high pressure to press out gas or oil. It allows the extraction of previously out-of-reach resources, but also poses environmental risks.
The new German laws distinguish between “conventional fracking” and “unconventional fracking.”
image©DW
Unconventional fracking is used when gas or oil is found not just embedded in rock strata but bound to the stone. In these cases, the fossil fuel often no longer has gaseous or liquid form. Extremely high pressure and high amounts of fracking liquid – often containing highly toxic chemicals – are needed to extract the fuel.
That practice is now banned in Germany until at least 2021, with the exception of up to four test drillings for scientific purposes. The German parliament is set to reassess the ban in four years’ time.
Conventional fracking is used when oil or gas can be reached comparatively easily. Less pressure, less liquid and fewer dangerous chemicals are usually needed to capture the fossil fuels. This method has been used in Germany since the 1960s, often in tandem with regular drilling: When a source is running low, conventional fracking is used to drive out the remaining oil or gas.
It will remain legal in Germany, but will be subject to tighter restrictions. It is, for example, no longer allowed in areas where drinking water is sourced.
Across Europe, laws on fracking vary from one country to the next. While France banned the procedure in 2011, the administration in the United Kingdom has plans to use fracking to explore its gas reserves to become more energy-independent in the post-Brexit era.
In the United States, unconventional fracking is particularly widespread. While some US states have banned the procedure, most states – especially those with large fossil fuel reserves – allow this type of drilling. President Donald Trump recently approved the Dakota Access pipeline, which is supposed to transport oil obtained through fracking in North Dakota across the US.
mb/tj (AFP, dpa)

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TRUMP PLANEJA CORTES NOS APORTES PARA A ONU E SUAS ORGANIZAÇÕES

January 31st, 2017 by EARTH PEOPLES

Ainda é conversa de corredor, mas parece que Trump vai mesmo cortar o dinheiro que os EUA mandam para a ONU e suas organizações. É possível que saia uma ordem executiva com uma lista de critérios para o corte dos fundos para organizações internacionais. Um destes critérios é o reconhecimento da Autoridade Palestina como membro pleno. Uma das organizações que reconhece a Palestina é a UNFCCC, a Convenção do Clima. Hoje, a pingada anual dos EUA de US$ 4 milhões para a UNFCCC representa 20% do seu orçamento. Esta é uma das possíveis medidas para que Trump consiga uma de suas metas: cortar 40% das verbas que os EUA pingam nas várias organizações internacionais

http://www.climatechangenews.com/2017/01/25/trump-planning-review-of-un-treaties-funding-report/

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GOVERNO VAI MEXER NO PROJETO DE CÓDIGO DA MINERAÇÃO

January 31st, 2017 by EARTH PEOPLES

Em 2013, o governo mandou para o Congresso um projeto de lei redefinindo o Código de Mineração. O texto havia sido quase que inteiramente elaborado pelas empresas mineradoras e abrangia alterava aspectos do licenciamento ambiental, mexia no tamanho e na repartição dos royalties e redefinia a duração de concessões e os processos de obtenção e renovação. Um mimo para as grandes mineradoras. Na semana passada apareceu a notícia de que, pelas dificuldades encontradas para aprovar o texto, o governo vai retirar o projeto de lei, dividi-lo em três partes e mandar outra vez. Assim espera que o trambolho passe mais fácil.

É bom ficar de olho no que vem por aí.

http://economia.estadao.com.br/noticias/geral,uniao-vai-refazer-codigo-de-mineracao,70001643479

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The Geneva Peace Talks on Syria and the Kurds

January 28th, 2017 by EARTH PEOPLES

By Kamran Matin, 12/12/2016

Syria’s catastrophic civil war has entered its sixth year. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have lost their lives or been injured and millions more displaced. The country’s infrastructure is in ruin and its social fabric has disintegrated. And yet, all attempts at a peaceful resolution of the conflict have so far failed.

In fact, the prospects of a negotiated peace appear even more remote since it might be argued that following recent victories in East Aleppo the Assad regime might be less interested in a negotiated peace.

However, these victories, as significant as they might be, cannot possibly lead to a return to the pre-2011 situation restoring the Ba’ath regime’s effective control over the whole of Syria’s population and territory.

Given the depth of enmity that separates the government and a large portion of the Syrian population, the scale of Syrian state’s resources, and the size and number of the opposition groups and their foreign backers, any long lasting peace could only be achieved through some form of peace process. This is also the general lesson of the past cases of civil wars across the world.

As we all know there have been many peace initiatives and actual negotiations over the past five years or so. From the first peace proposal by the Arab League in November 2011 to the Geneva III peace conference in February 2016, there have been at least thirteen peace talks and ceasefire initiatives but none of them has been successful in terms of its own stated goals.

Here I don’t have time and space to consider the structural and conjunctural reasons for the failure of the previous peace negotiations. Rather, I want to focus on one counterintuitive feature that all previous peace talks have had in common, namely, the exclusion of the Kurds and their main political parties and representatives.

The main reason for the consistent exclusion of the Kurds from various peace initiatives is well known: Turkey’s open diplomatic and geostrategic blackmailing of the UN and western powers involved in the peace initiatives. Unfortunately, thus far both the UN special envoy for Syria and the US and its coalition partners have succumbed to Turkey’s pressures.

The fact that the exclusion of the Kurds is detrimental to the peace process is obvious: no conflict can possibly be resolved when a major party to that conflict is absent from the negotiating table.

But rather than elaborating on the negative impact of the Kurds’ exclusion from Geneva peace talks and previous peace initiatives I’d like to argue what positive impact their inclusion might have on any future peace talks.

Most peace initiatives to end civil wars face two main challenges: convincing the combatants to accept and implement a peace settlement; and designing credible guarantees on the terms of the agreement.

Academic research shows that the second element, that is, implementation guarantees, are actually the more important element and often more difficult to address not least because they need external assistance.

Given the complexity of the Syrian civil war, the multiplicity of combatant groups and the number of external states with a stake in the conflict a conventional sequential approach to these two elements is likely to be rather difficult.

In other words, belligerent parties are unlikely to agree on a peace settlement before a clear mechanism of implementation is developed. And no implementation mechanism will be developed or seen as credible by all sides unless a peace settlement is clarified and agreed upon.

The logical question of this circumstance is that in Syria’s case the two stages of the peace process, that is, peace settlement and implementation guarantees, have to be combined into a single process.

This would be similar to the basic framework of the successful negotiations between Iran and P5+1 over Iran’s nuclear project according to which all parties agreed that ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed upon’.

So, the question is how exactly can the presence of the Kurds in the Geneva peace talks or any other future peace initiative facilitate this process?

In my opinion the answer primarily lies in the basic political vision for a future Syria that Syrian Kurds offer; a vision that is now being practically implemented in large parts of Northern Syria through the political framework of the ‘Democratic Federal System of Rojava – Northern Syria’.

The democratic federal system that Syrian Kurds in close collaboration and consultation with other ethno-cultural communities inhabiting Rojava have developed is marked by four main features: decentralisation of power, formal recognition of Syria’s ethno-religions diversity, gender equality, and bottom-up, local self-administration.

This model of governance therefore enshrines democracy at political, cultural, societal, and gender levels. As such democratic federalism stands in stark contrast to Syria’s current unitary, centralised, and ethnicised state which is by definition politically undemocratic, culturally repressive, and administratively over-centralised. More importantly, these features are arguably the root causes of not only the current tragic conflict in Syria but also of the systemic crisis and unprecedented levels of violence that have engulfed much of the Middle East.

Now, to return to the original question why this vision for Syria’s future can enhance the prospects of a peace settlement?

It seems to me that it can do so because the Kurdish model of democratic federalism addresses the main concerns of all sides through a structural devolution of power to different regions and districts of varying territorial scale. And perhaps more importantly it minimises the medium and long-term role of external actors in relation to the implementation of the peace settlement.

This is crucial because arguably the main reason for the failure of the previous peace efforts has been not just the vagueness of the substantive content of the proposals for the future shape of Syria as a political entity but also lack of effective and credible implementation guarantees. Such guarantees have been very difficult to provide precisely because the potential external guarantors, i.e. the majority of the foreign and regional backers of the Syrian regime and different opposition groups, have rather divergent interests and aims and hence are unlikely to commit to any concrete mechanism of implementation before maximising their strategic gains. This latter circumstance has been the primary reason for the failure of previous peace initiatives and the continuation of the conflict.

By developing and implementing a de-centralised form of self-administration based on councils of varying scales culminating at cantons, different ethno-religious and linguistic communities inhabiting different parts of Syria are empowered to run their own affairs through local and regional political and administrative structures that have high levels of autonomy but remain part of a radically democratised Syria as a sovereign and united, but not unitary, state.

Such a system therefore immediately removes two major fear factors that many observers have identified as the main reasons for the continuation of the conflict: the Alawite community’s fear of being subject to a Sunni majoritarian rule that can easily degenerate into a majoritarian despotism repressive of cultural and national diversity as the examples of Turkey, Iran, and, post-2003 Iraq, clearly shows.

And equally importantly, it also minimises the fear of the Sunni majority of a return to the Ba’athist form of a brutal and arbitrary form of Alawite minoritarian autocracy.

Clearly this process is not entirely self-driven and a degree of international monitoring and assistance is required especially at the early stages. But this is likely to be minimised since under the democratic federalist model the scope and practical task of implementation itself are sub-divided and delegated to the actual stake-holders.

In short, Rojava’s experience of democratic federalism and its exemplary practice of peaceful inter-ethnic coexistence and popular self-governance can bring to the negotiating table precisely those substantive ideas and inspirations that have so far been absent from the attempted peace initiatives.

For this to happen European Parliament, other EU organs, and influential western states ought to take necessary steps to ensure the genuine representation of Syrian Kurds and their legitimate political representatives in any future peace talks on Syria.

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Kurdish-Syrian people must be included in peace talks

January 28th, 2017 by EARTH PEOPLES

The Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and its political arm the PYD will not be invited to planned peace talks in Kazakhstan, a PYD official said on Tuesday, an outcome that would leave a key player in the conflict off the negotiating table.
Syria’s government and rebel forces started a ceasefire on Dec. 31 as a first step toward face-to face negotiations backed by Turkey and Russia, but the date and its participants remain unclear.
The truce is also under growing strain as rebels have vowed to respond to government violations and President Bashar al-Assad said on Monday the army would retake an important rebel-held area near Damascus.
“We are not invited. That’s for sure,” Khaled Eissa, a PYD member told Reuters in France. “It seems there were some vetoes. Neither the PYD or our military formation will be present,” he said.
Assad’s ally Russia had previously sought the PYD’s presence at other negotiations in Switzerland.
But Turkey, which opposes Assad, regards both the YPG and PYD as extensions of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) separatists in its own territory and has said two groups should not be represented in Astana.
The Syrian Kurds aim to cement the autonomy of areas of northern Syria where Kurdish groups have already carved out self-governing regions since the start of the war in 2011, though Kurdish leaders say an independent state is not the goal.
“What we have been told is that there will only be a limited number of armed groups and not political groups,” Eissa said, adding that for a comprehensive peace deal in Syria the Kurds would at one point have to be invited to the negotiating table.
The main Syrian political opposition umbrella group that includes about half a dozen armed groups, the Riyadh-backed High Negotiations Committee, is meeting in the Saudi capital later this week to discuss the Astana talks, although it is also unclear whether Moscow intends to invite them, diplomats and opposition officials said.
Ankara intervened in Syria last year in support of rebel groups fighting under the Free Syrian Army (FSA) banner sought to drive Islamic State from positions it had used to shell Turkish towns, and also to stop YPG expansion.
The YPG and its allies backed by a U.S.-led coalition is fighting against IS militants around the group’s Syrian bastion Raqqa, while Turkish-backed rebels are fighting the jihadist group further northwest near areas under Kurdish control.
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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