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Refugee camps can wreak enormous environmental damages – should source countries be liable for them?

International law bars nations from causing environmental harms in other states. Should that include sending thousands of refugees over the border in search of food, water and shelter?

Tents in a Rohingya refugee camp cluster on a muddy hillside in Bangladesh. Saleh Ahmed, CC BY-ND

While it may seem that much of the world has been locked down during the past pandemic year, more than 80 million people are currently on the move – unwillingly.

Facing conflict in Syria, human rights violations in Myanmar and violence in Eritrea, among other hot spots, refugees are trying to relocate to North America and Western Europe, or at least to neighboring countries.

Large camps of displaced persons can wreak major environmental damage. Refugees use and pollute water, deplete wood supplies for fuel, and poach animals for food, often harming parks, nature reserves and World Heritage Sites. These impacts make host countries less willing to receive more refugees.

International law offers refugees only limited protection. Mainly, it bars forcing them to return to the places where they were persecuted. It is quite difficult for refugees to attain adequate redress or relief.

We study international law and the human dimensions of global environmental change. Our research on the environmental calamity caused by over 1 million Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar into Bangladesh has convinced us that a new angle is worth considering.

We believe that countries offering safe harbor to refugees should have a legal option to sue the sending country for environmental damages. Such payments would help pay for some of the impacts of housing thousands of displaced persons, and could even provide some direct support to the refugees for their living costs.

Refugees strain resources

Imagine a million homeless people suddenly moving to your region without jobs, money, food or belongings. They would have myriad needs, starting with clean water, toilets, health care and food.

This is the situation in Bangladesh, where over 1 million displaced Rohingya have fled since August 2017 to escape violence in their home country, Myanmar. The resulting environmental damage in Bangladesh is unprecedented and massive.

Temporary makeshift housing for Rohingya has destroyed at least 3,713 acres of critical reserve forests as refugees cut trees for housing and fuel. As a result, soil erosion has increased dramatically. More than 100 tons of human waste and garbage has polluted canals and waterways, severely degrading local air quality. Camps have been constructed in areas that are habitat for Asian elephants, leading to clashes between humans and these endangered animals.

The limits of international law

Under current international law, a sending state that causes people to run away does not typically bear any financial responsibility. We believe it is time to hold governments that cause massive exoduses accountable for human and financial losses.

Rohingya refugees search for their belongings following a fire at the Nayapara refugee camp in Teknaf, Bangladesh, Jan. 14, 2021. AFP via Getty Images

There are strong historical grounds for holding the sending state responsible for environment damage. In the Trails Smelter Arbitration of 1938 and 1941, the U.S. successfully sued Canada for pollution damages caused by a smelting factory near the border. The Canadian company had to cease operations because its factory emitted harmful fumes, and it was required to pay for the damages it caused.

This case established a principle called the “no-harm rule,” which dictates that a state has a strict obligation not to cause environmental harm in another state. Today the no-harm rule reflects customary international law – a set of international rules that all states accept as binding and are obligated to uphold.

Like fumes from a factory, refugees can cross international borders as they flee from persecution. The sending state caused them to flee, and could have prevented their exodus from happening. The receiving state presumably has not consented to a huge influx of displaced people that causes severe environmental damage.

A state can rely on customary international law to bring a cause of action against another state, and make use of international bodies like the United Nations to engage the process and involve international actors and organizations. States can also invoke principles of customary international law in international courts, such as the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.

The International Court of Justice, for example, relied on the no-harm rule both in its 1996 Advisory Opinion Regarding the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons and a 1997 dispute between Hungary and Slovakia over a hydroelectric dam on the Danube River.

Refugee camps in Idlib, Syria, flooded in heavy rains, Jan. 31, 2021. Muhammad al-Rifai/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The human right to a clean environment

International law does recognize that governments have a duty to protect and preserve the environment, and to provide stable and suitable places for all people. States have begun to codify this responsibility in treaties like the Arab Charter on Human Rights, the American Convention of Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The Council of Europe also has recognized the right to a clean and healthy environment. Court decisions under the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms have relied on the right to life, the right to health and the right to privacy and family life to uphold a right to a clean environment.

More than 100 states have already codified the right to a clean environment in their constitutions. Recent lawsuits against states include one against Indonesia for unhealthy air quality in Jakarta and another against the Brazilian government filed by a number of opposition parties for not adequately protecting the environment, including healthy biodiversity and a safe climate in the Amazon rainforest.

The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment created the Framework Principles on Human Rights and the Environment in 2018. This document affirms that states should work together to prevent global environmental harm and to protect vulnerable groups.

Bangladesh could challenge Myanmar in court

Based on these principles and precedents, we believe that Bangladesh has a strong legal foundation to challenge Myanmar for environmental damages. The impacts on Bangladesh of accepting huge numbers of Rohingya can be calculated and presented in court. The right to a clean environment also can prevent states from creating forced massive human displacement in the future.

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Bangladesh can demonstrate that Myanmar bears responsibility for environmental damages because Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya caused them to flee, and it can claim costs involved in caring for them. Long recognized as one of the world’s most environmentally vulnerable countries, Bangladesh needs to avoid further environmental damage as it provides basic needs for the Rohingya population.

In our view, the very land that displaced people occupy can help them and their hosts find relief under the law.

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Spread & Containment

Middle-aged Americans in US are stressed and struggle with physical and mental health – other nations do better

Adults in Germany, South Korea and Mexico reported improvements in health, well-being and memory.

Middle age was often a time to enjoy life. Now, it brings stress and bad health to many Americans, especially those with lower education levels. Mike Harrington/Getty Images

Midlife was once considered a time to enjoy the fruits of one’s years of work and parenting. That is no longer true in the U.S.

Deaths of despair and chronic pain among middle-aged adults have been increasing for the past decade. Today’s middle-aged adults – ages 40 to 65 – report more daily stress and poorer physical health and psychological well-being, compared to middle-aged adults during the 1990s. These trends are most pronounced for people who attained fewer years of education.

Although these trends preclude the COVID-19 pandemic, COVID-19’s imprint promises to further exacerbate the suffering. Historical declines in the health and well-being of U.S. middle-aged adults raises two important questions: To what extent is this confined to the U.S., and will COVID-19 impact future trends?

My colleagues and I recently published a cross-national study, which is currently in press, that provides insights into how U.S. middle-aged adults are currently faring in relation to their counterparts in other nations, and what future generations can expect in the post-COVID-19 world. Our study examined cohort differences in the health, well-being and memory of U.S. middle-aged adults and whether they differed from middle-aged adults in Australia, Germany, South Korea and Mexico.

A middle-aged woman looking sad sitting in front of artwork.
Susan Stevens poses for a photograph in her daughter Toria’s room with artwork Toria left behind at their home in Lewisville, N.C. Toria died from an overdose. Eamon Queeney/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

US is an outlier among rich nations

We compared people who were born in the 1930s through the 1960s in terms of their health and well-being – such as depressive symptoms and life satisfaction – and memory in midlife.

Differences between nations were stark. For the U.S., we found a general pattern of decline. Americans born in the 1950s and 1960s experienced overall declines in well-being and memory in middle age compared to those born in the 1930s and 1940s. A similar pattern was found for Australian middle-aged adults.

In contrast, each successive cohort in Germany, South Korea and Mexico reported improvements in well-being and memory. Improvements were observed in health for each nation across cohorts, but were slowed for Americans born in the 1950s and 1960s, suggesting they improved less rapidly than their counterparts in the countries examined.

Our study finds that middle-aged Americans are experiencing overall declines in key outcomes, whereas other nations are showing general improvements. Our cross-national approach points to policies that could could help alleviate the long-term effects arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Will COVID-19 exacerbate troubling trends?

Initial research on the short-term effects of COVID-19 is telling.

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the fragility of life. Seismic shifts have been experienced in every sphere of existence. In the U.S., job loss and instability rose, household financial fragility and lack of emergency savings have been spotlighted, and children fell behind in school.

At the start of the pandemic the focus was rightly on the safety of older adults. Older adults were most vulnerable to the risks posed by COVID-19, which included mortality, social isolation and loneliness. Indeed, older adults were at higher risk, but an overlooked component has been how the mental health risks and long-haul effects will likely differ across age groups.

Yet, young adults and middle-aged adults are showing the most vulnerabilities in their well-being. Studies are documenting that they are currently reporting more psychological distress and stressors and poorer well-being, compared to older adults. COVID-19 has been exacerbating inequalities across race, gender and socioeconomic status. Women are more likely to leave the workforce, which could further strain their well-being.

A older women hugs her daughter.
Middle-aged people often have parents to take care of as well as children. Ron Levine/Getty Images

Changing views and experiences of midlife

The very nature and expectations surrounding midlife are shifting. U.S. middle-aged adults are confronting more parenting pressures than ever before, in the form of engagement in extracurricular activities and pressures for their children to succeed in school. Record numbers of young adults are moving back home with their middle-aged parents due to student loan debt and a historically challenging labor and housing market.

A direct effect of gains in life expectancy is that middle-aged adults are needing to take on more caregiving-related duties for their aging parents and other relatives, while continuing with full-time work and taking care of school-aged children. This is complicated by the fact that there is no federally mandated program for paid family leave that could cover instances of caregiving, or the birth or adoption of a child. A recent AARP report estimated that in 2020, there were 53 million caregivers whose unpaid labor was valued at US$470 billion.

The restructuring of corporate America has led to less investment in employee development and destabilization of unions. Employees now have less power and input than ever before. Although health care coverage has risen since the Affordable Care Act was enacted, notable gaps exist. High numbers of people are underinsured, which leads to more out-of-pocket expenses that eat up monthly budgets and financially strain households. President Biden’s executive order for providing a special enrollment period of the health care marketplace exchange until Aug. 15, 2021 promises to bring some relief to those in need.

Promoting a prosperous midlife

Our cross-national approach provides ample opportunities to explore ways to reverse the U.S. disadvantage and promote resilience for middle-aged adults.

The nations we studied vastly differ in their family and work policies. Paid parental leave and subsidized child care help relieve the stress and financial strain of parenting in countries such as Germany, Denmark and Sweden. Research documents how well-being is higher in both parents and nonparents in nations with more generous family leave policies.

Countries with ample paid sick and vacation days ensure that employees can take time off to care for an ailing family member. Stronger safety nets protect laid-off employees by ensuring that they have the resources available to stay on their feet.

In the U.S., health insurance is typically tied to one’s employment. Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic over 5 million people in the U.S. lost their health insurance when they lost their jobs.

During the pandemic, the U.S. government passed policy measures to aid people and businesses. The U.S. approved measures to stimulate the economy through stimulus checks, payroll protection for small businesses, expansion of unemployment benefits and health care enrollment, child tax credits, and individuals’ ability to claim forbearance for various forms of debt and housing payments. Some of these measures have been beneficial, with recent findings showing that material hardship declined and well-being improved during periods when the stimulus checks were distributed.

I believe these programs are a good start, but they need to be expanded if there is any hope of reversing these troubling trends and promoting resilience in middle-aged Americans. A recent report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation concluded that paid family leave has a wide range of benefits, including, but not limited to, addressing health, racial and gender inequities; helping women stay in the workforce; and assisting businesses in recruiting skilled workers. Research from Germany and the United Kingdom shows how expansions in family leave policies have lasting effects on well-being, particularly for women.

Middle-aged adults form the backbone of society. They constitute large segments of the workforce while having to simultaneously bridge younger and older generations through caregiving-related duties. Ensuring their success, productivity, health and well-being through these various programs promises to have cascading effects on their families and society as a whole.

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Frank J. Infurna receives funding from the National Institute on Aging and previously from the John Templeton Foundation. The content is solely his responsibility and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agencies.

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Commodities

Euro 2020 – a football tournament where the big players come from China and the US

Much of the money that pays for the competition is spent to build global brands.

Simon Lehmann / Alamy Stock Photo

With Euro 2020 now under way after a year of pandemic delay, football fans will be hoping for great performances from Europe’s finest players. Some of us will watch the tournament unfold on our Hisense televisions, and many will choose to order in some half time refreshments, maybe via the Just Eat delivery service, possibly sent using a Vivo mobile phone.

Sustained by cans of Heineken, as goals are scored, supporters will upload celebration clips on to TikTok. And after the final, what better way to recharge than by arranging a holiday on Booking.com, perhaps flying on Qatar Airways.

For while fans will have their eyes firmly fixed on the efforts of players worth billions of pounds on the field, another big money game will be taking place off it. The Euros is one of the world’s biggest sport events, and a bonanza for corporate sponsors and partners (just a few of which are mentioned above).

In return for being exposed to the eyes of the world, Euros sponsors pay huge amounts of money. Just how much is difficult to say, as fees are commercially sensitive data. But in one case – that of Alipay (part of the Alibaba empire) – it is believed the Chinese company paid £176 million for an eight year deal.

UEFA has sold these deals in three ways: National Team Football Official Sponsors, Euro 2020 Official Sponsors, and Euro 2020 Official Licensees. And the origins of the companies and brands sponsoring this year’s event are a clear indication of how the beautiful game is valued by the corporate world.

Alongside UEFA partners such as FedEx and Konami, each of the national teams bring their own roster of sponsors, which makes for quite a cluttered selection of brands competing for attention. There’s England’s £50 million, five-year contract with BT, for example, while the Germans will bring Lufthansa to the tournament, Carlsberg will promote its association with Denmark and South Korea’s Hyundai will be represented by the Czech Republic.

The list goes on (and on). To capture the complex network of sponsors at Euro 2020 we created a network graphic of some of the most prominent and significant deals on show over the coming weeks. For reasons of clarity, we wern’t able to include every sponsor, but the range on display is revealing.

Graphic of Euro 2020 teams and sponsors.
Euro 2020 teams and associated sponsors. Paul Widdop and Simon Chadwick, Author provided

What becomes immediately clear is that although the UEFA European Championship is a continental tournament, its commercial reach is truly global. A significant number of sponsors are either not European or else have divisions that operate way beyond the borders of Europe.

At the same time, the sponsorship portfolio shows us that football is at the heart of the entertainment, lifestyle and digital economies. Gone are the days of motor-oil and office photocopier sponsorships. Instead we see a profusion of drinks brands, confectionery products and airlines.

In addition, the sponsorship of teams appears to go hand-in-hand with the promotion of national identity and national industry. “Brand Germany” for instance, is strongly represented by some of the country’s most important corporations, including Adidas and Volkswagen.

The appearance of Gazprom meanwhile, reflects the increasing use by nations of sponsorship as a geopolitical instrument. Indeed, the state owned Russian gas company has recently put its associations with UEFA and others to influential use.

Europe’s own goal

Equally, “Brand China” is now a major industrial and political power, and home to five of UEFA’s biggest tournament sponsors (Alipay, Antchain, Hisense, TikTok and Vivo).

Corporate America continues to endure too, represented by the likes of Coca Cola and IMG. The US has always been the home of contemporary sport sponsorship, and the country’s businesses continue to derive significant commercial value from it.

In fact, the underdogs in this big-money corporate competition appear to be the Europeans themselves. For an event being staged in countries including England, Italy, Spain and Romania, UEFA draws very few of its sponsors from the continent. Instead, it is clear that organisations from China and the US have both the financial muscle and the tactical brains to successfully dominate the tournament.

This reflects broader global trends which indicate the declining presence of European industry. European companies account for a falling percentage of global output. The market capitalisation of European firms is way behind that of American corporations and is fast being caught by Chinese firms. And the world’s technological hot spots are found in places such as Shenzhen and Silicon Valley, not in Europe.

Whether the footballing squad from France, Portugal or Switzerland lifts the trophy in July, there is no doubt that the UEFA tournament will be an on field triumph for Europe.

But the forces of globalisation, digitalisation and politico-economic change, reflected in the Euros’ portfolio of sponsors, will keep on playing long after the final whistle blows. And European industry could pay the penalty with a swift exit from the global industrial competition.

Simon Chadwick works with UEFA on its Certificate in Football Management programme.

Paul Widdop ne travaille pas, ne conseille pas, ne possède pas de parts, ne reçoit pas de fonds d'une organisation qui pourrait tirer profit de cet article, et n'a déclaré aucune autre affiliation que son organisme de recherche.

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Science

EU adds another rare blood condition as side effect of AstraZeneca shot

Europe’s drug regulator on June 11 identified another rare blood condition as a potential side effect of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine and said it was looking into cases of heart inflammation after inoculation with all coronavirus shots.

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EU adds another rare blood condition as side effect of AstraZeneca shot

(Reuters; )

Europe’s drug regulator on Friday identified another rare blood condition as a potential side effect of AstraZeneca’s (AZN.L) COVID-19 vaccine and said it was looking into cases of heart inflammation after inoculation with all coronavirus shots.

The European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) safety committee said that capillary leak syndrome must be added as a new side effect to labelling on AstraZeneca’s vaccine, known as Vaxzevria.

People who had previously sustained the condition, where fluids leak from the smallest blood vessels causing swelling and a drop in blood pressure, should not receive the shot, the EMA added.

The regulator first began looking into these cases in April and the recommendation adds to AstraZeneca’s woes after its vaccine was associated with very rare and potentially lethal cases of blood clotting that come with a low platelet count.

Last month, the EMA had advised against using the second AstraZeneca shot for people with that clotting condition, known as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS).

The committee reviewed six validated cases of capillary leak syndrome in people, mostly women, who had received Vaxzevria, including one death. Three had had a history of the condition.

A vial of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is seen at a vaccination centre in Westfield Stratford City shopping centre, amid the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in London, Britain, February 18, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

AstraZeneca declined to immediately comment.

More than 78 million Vaxzevria doses have been administered in the European Union, Liechtenstein, Iceland & Norway and Britain.

Britain’s regulator, the MHRA said on Thursday it had received 8 reports of capillary leak syndrome in the context of more than 40 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine given, and currently does not see a causal link.

Separately, the EMA said it was continuing its probe into cases of heart inflammation known as myocarditis and pericarditis, primarily following inoculation with the Pfizer/BioNTech (PFE.N), (22UAy.DE) and Moderna mRNA shots, but also after the J&J (JNJ.N) and AstraZeneca vaccines.

U.S. health officials said on Thursday they had registered a higher-than-expected number of heart inflammation cases in young men who received a second dose of the mRNA shots, though a causal relationship could not be established. read more

Israel’s Health Ministry said this month it had found a likely link to the condition in young men who received the Pfizer/BioNTech shot. read more

Both Pfizer and Moderna have acknowldged the observations but said a causal association with their vaccines has not been established.

BioNTech said adverse events, including myocarditis and pericarditis, are being regularly and thoroughly reviewed by the companies and regulatory authorities.

“More than 300 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine have been administered globally and the benefit risk profile of our vaccine remains positive.”

The United States and Israel have been months ahead of the EU in vaccinating men below 30, who are particularly prone to heart inflammation, giving them potentially more cases to analyse.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

 

Reuters source:

https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/eu-advises-against-astrazeneca-shot-people-with-rare-blood-condition-2021-06-11

 

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