Shell in China

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I am living in a country that will likely triple its economy within 20 years, according to the World Bank. Energy and petrochemical use will grow sharply. The extra energy needed by China between now and 2020 is equivalent to all of Western Europe’s energy demand today. Air pollution is already a serious problem in many Chinese cities. With coal meeting 70% of today’s energy needs, China’s greenhouse gas emissions are the second highest in the world. The government is committed to delivering tomorrow’s energy in a sustainable way and we are working closely with our Chinese partners to help develop the clean energy and petrochemicals the country needs to grow.

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Developing gas: West-East project

The West-East gas project moved forward in 2002. It will develop gas from China’s major reserves in the West and transport it more than 4,000km to the fast growing cities of the East. When completed the project will deliver approximately o third of China’s current gas demand. We are a potential investor in the project and, as part of a group of international companies, signed a Joint Venture Framework Agreement with PetroChina in 2002. Working with our partners to manage the environmental and social impacts of such a complex project remains a challenge. We have agreed environmental and social standards with PetroChina, and completed extra environmental and social impact assessment work to international standards. This included one of the largest social impact surveys ever done in China. It was carried out by UNDP, which interviewed approximately 10,000 people along the pipeline’s path (see www.unchina.org/undp/documents/siasurvey).

This work has led to environmental and social management plans being developed, including plans for dealing with protected areas, cultural heritage sites and reserves, and managing biodiversity.

Quality transport fuels and renewable energy

Shell is also selling high quality lubricants in more than 250 Chinese cities, is setting up a joint venture with Sinopec for 500 service stations, and is part of a project in Xinjiang, Western China, to deliver solar electricity to up to 78,000 rural homes.

Resettlement at Nanhai petrochemicals complex

In 2002, we gave the final go-ahead to build a large petrochemicals complex in Daya Bay, Southern China, a $4.3 billion project in which CNOOC Petrochemicals Investment Limited and Shell each have a 50% share in a joint venture company, the CNCXDC and Shell Petrochemicals Company Limited. It is Shell’s largest investment so far in China. The joint venture is working with the government to mitigate the impact on the environment and manage social issues related to the project. The joint venture is committed to meet international social and environmental standards, including Shell’s Business Principles. A full environmental and social impact assessment was completed in August 2002 (see www.cnoocshell.com).

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As with many projects in China, people needed to be relocated. We have developed a Resettlement Action Plan (see www.cnoocshell.com) in line with World Bank standards to help manage this process. The move is being carried out by the government in accordance with this plan. Nearly 1,500 families were moved in February 2002 to accommodation better than they left to allow site preparation to begin. Another 900 families living close to the site will be moved in the middle of 2003. The joint venture company is monitoring the resettlement, and a team of external experts led by Robert Barclay (an internationally-recognised resettlement expert), started a programme of checking progress of the resettlement every six months.

We also asked the UNDP to review the resettlement programme. Their report is expected to identify areas for further improvement of resettlement practices that can be applied elsewhere in China.

Tan Ek Kia, Country Chair of Shell Companies in North East Asia, reports.

Surviving the Bank Crisis

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Byline: Linda Stern

Last week’s banking news–the federal government stepped in to shore up mortgage-buying giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and to take over the bad-loan dependent IndyMac Bank–left many consumers in a panic. But some experts see the intervention as an opportunity for folks to get their finances in order. “This is all good news for consumers,” says Kathleen Day of the Center for Responsible Lending, a Washington policy group. Here’s what the events mean for you.

* Mortgage shoppers: Last week’s actions may ease the supply of mortgage money, but qualifying for those loans remains a challenge. “The traffic has picked up, but only about half the people coming in are qualifying for a loan and having enough money to do the transaction,” says Marc Savitt, a mortgage broker from Martinsburg, W.Va., and president of the mortgage brokers’ trade group. At issue are higher fees and borrowing standards for anyone with credit scores below 680, a level that used to be high enough during the loan-pushing bubble. You’ll need to prove your salary and have enough cash in the bank to make a down payment as high as 20 percent. Start by checking your credit score at myfico.com, and do what you can to raise your score over 700 so you can get lower rates. Paying down some balances in a hurry or even raising your borrowing limits can sometimes bump up your score. Then cast a wide net for a lender that will give you the deal you like. “There are huge disparities on pricing from one side of town to the other,” reports Keith Gumbinger of research firm HSH Associates. “You can find pricing down in the 6 [percent range] and others up in the 8’s in the same city.” Check rates with a couple of local brokers, a national mortgage bank and at online sites like hsh.com. But don’t wait too long; interest rates are likely to rise.

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* Mortgage sufferers: If you’re already in a mortgage that’s causing you problems, this might be a golden opportunity for a refinance. Folks who have been making timely payments on subprime loans for two years or more could qualify for a more stable, lower-cost loan. If you’re in over your head, don’t wait for more trouble. Find a nonprofit housing counselor at the Housing and Urban Development Web site (hud.gov), or find an attorney who specializes in defending against foreclosure at the National Association of Consumer Advocates (naca.net). They may be able to negotiate a revision to your mortgage contract while the bank that holds it is facing its own problems and doesn’t want to foreclose.

* House hunters: First-time home buyers may be sitting pretty. Most housing markets are awash in inventory, interest rates remain low and they can take their own sweet time to shop for the best combination of price and loan. Use that time to build that down payment, and to ask all of those questions about the roof and the heating system that bubble-era buyers never had time to tackle.

* Savers: If you’ve just been minding your own business, making your mortgage payments on time and putting money in the bank for a rainy day, you should take some steps to protect yourself, too. Keep good records of the mortgage payments you’ve been making. Mortgage-servicing firms who get into trouble could get sloppy about recording your checks, and that would be bad.

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Bank savers need not panic: the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has been bending over backward to reassure depositors that IndyMac was an anomaly. Nonetheless, depositors who had uninsured money at the bank were getting 50 cents on the dollar last week, so it would be foolhardy to leave more than the insured amount in any one bank (all branches of a bank count as the same bank). That means $100,000 in coverage per individual, $250,000 for a retirement account and an additional $100,000 for each individual in a joint account. Cumulatively, that means as much as $450,000 per person in each bank. Any more than that, and you should consider investing it on Wall Street, where analysts say there are deals to be had in mortgage-backed securities and bank stocks. At least until that other shoe goes kerplunk.

The spirit of service

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The careers and achievements of the men and women profiled in this supplement offer compelling evidence that work in government offers challenges that find no parallel in the private sector. These winners of the second annual Service to America Medals all have dealt with problems of fascinating dimension whose solutions are of great importance to our national welfare.

A new appreciation for government is abroad in the land, arising principally from the pressing challenges the nation faces in the international arena. Terrorism, the war in Iraq, and troubles in the Middle East and in Europe are front-page news every day, and more Americans now know that their security depends on compatriots working in defense, diplomacy, and intelligence occupations of the federal government.

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Still, it remains a challenge to interest people–especially young people raised in the go-go private economy of the past two decades–in government service. Government needs soldiers, sailors, and airmen, diplomats and spooks, but it also needs lawyers, accountants, doctors, financial analysts, trade specialists, and many, many others. And so, it can be said, government needs a makeover, a face-lift, to improve its public image and to shed the stereotypes that depress interest in working for Uncle Sam.

This is one objective of the SAM program, which was created last year in a partnership between the magazines of the Atlantic Media Co. and the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing the federal workforce. We wanted to celebrate the best in the federal service by honoring people doing interesting work and doing it well. And we wanted to publicize their stories. This supplement will be received by more than the 400,000 subscribers to our magazines–The Atlantic Monthly, Government Executive, and National Journal.

The pages that follow profile this year’s award winners, whose achievements span the great range of issues the people of government conftont. The winners include:

* Stephen McHale, who was assigned the job of creating a new 59,000 person agency, the Transportation Security Administration, charged with a vital mission in thwarting terrorism.

* James Bagian, a former astronaut who set out to invent a new system for improving the safety of patients in medical facilities.

* Alyson McFarland, who at the tender age of twenty-eight played an important role in a diplomatic crisis involving North Korean refugees.

* Paul Polski, an engineer whose federal laboratory developed explosive-detection technology–and who now is leading deployment of the machines in the nation’s airports.

* Riaz Awan, who was sent to the Ukraine to oversee construction of a $768 million sarcophagus to prevent more radiation leaks from the damaged Chernobyl nuclear reactor.

* Earl Stockdale, the army’s top environmental lawyer, who is constructing the legal framework for the largest environmental restoration program ever undertaken–in Florida’s Everglades.

* Denise Johnson, who for fifteen years has led America’s effort to eliminate polio from the world.

* Ed Needham, who headed the team whose investigative work led to arrest of the “Lackawanna Six,” a cell of al Qaeda partisans in upstate New York.

* Nelson Hernandez, who invented and now runs Money Smart, a program teaching low-income adults about using basic financial services.

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* This year’s winners will be honored at a black-tie gala at Washington’s National Building Museum. Cabinet members, members of Congress, figures from the entertainment world, and the national news media will be on hand to see them receive their medals.

Last year’s winners were celebrated in their agencies and communities. Some of their stories were of interest to the national media as well. The poignant story of the long, tough investigation of the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, church bombing by two FBI agents was one such case, for it brought to justice the men whose criminal actions killed four little bids.

By seeking justice in this case, Ben Herren and Bill Fleming made a big difference in the lives of the people so grievously harmed by the Birmingham bombing–as the father of one of the girls attested during last year’s awards ceremony. This year’s winners, too, have made a big difference in the life of our nation, quietly doing work essential to the public welfare.

Building capacities on evidence-based SRHR advocacy in Nepal

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Nepal, a country with 83% of the population living in rural areas (1) and with 40% living in poverty, is also a country with stark gender inequality. This is reflected in the gender gap in socioeconomic and health indicators, particularly on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Until recent data came out, Nepal had one of the highest mortality rates in South Asia. (2) Majority of these deaths are attributed to unsafe abortions. Although there is no systematic collection of abortion data, some studies, such as a hospital-based study, revealed that more than a half of the total maternal deaths in hospitals in Nepal were due to unsafe abortions. (3) The 1998 Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Study of the Ministry of Health, on the other hand, found that abortion accounted for 10% of maternal mortality. As abortion was illegal in the country until recently, the rate of covert abortions was estimated by a community-based study to be 117 per 1,000 women between 15-49 years. (4)

Through nearly three decades of efforts by different organisations and individuals, abortion was legalised in Nepal in 2002. However, daunting challenges remain in effectively implementing the law, such as: a) socio-cultural and religious challenges of overcoming social stigma and religious restrictions; b) health system challenges (e.g., uneven quality of care and service in Comprehensive Abortion Care or CAC centers, inadequate number of doctors, no separate budget allocation to the safe abortion programme); and c) legal challenges (e.g., no clear legal definition of abortion in law, abortion still dealt under the Homicide Chapter).

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It is within this scenario that Beyond Beijing Committee (BBC) began implementing the Women’s Health Rights Advocacy Partnership (WHRAP) project in Nepal in 2003. BBC works at local, national and regional levels, ensuring participation of marginalised rural women and focusing on holding duty bearers accountable for fulfilling women’s health and wellbeing. At the community level, BBC works with eight local non-government organisations (NGOs) and community-based organisations (CBO) in two districts: Bardiya and Makwanpur. Key WHRAP strategies include: a) conducting baseline research on the SRH situation in project sites and collecting case studies related to abortion and maternal mortality; b) capacity building workshops on research, strategic evidence-based advocacy, media advocacy and health systems monitoring, for local NGOs and CBOs; and c) production of references such as a pictorial Advocacy Tool in Nepali, which uses a rights-based approach and contains key messages on health service provision, safe abortion and safe motherhood.

Local evidence is then used to inform strategic planning, as well as local and district-level advocacy and monitoring interventions to key stakeholders, such as health providers, community health workers, community leaders, local media and Village Development Committees. These same rural women’s concerns are then brought up to the national level by rural women and CBOs themselves in policy dialogues and other interactions with national SRHR focal points, including representatives from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Women, National Planning Commission, and others.

Concrete results from advocacy efforts are often difficult to see in a short time. Still, BBC/WHRAP, through its interventions with partner CBOs, has been successful in bringing about some changes. Having gained advocacy skills and knowledge of SRHR issues and government commitments, rural women and CBOs have been empowered. They have spoken up in public meetings and policy dialogues, demanding accessible and free abortion services in primary health posts; they have challenged political parties to commit to including SRHR as a priority area for action in their parties’ manifestos in upcoming elections. On the SRH services delivery side, concrete changes include successfully lobbying for the increase in the number of government doctors in the Makwanpur district hospital from one to two, while in Bardiya there are now two doctors whereas before there was none. In addition, the Makwanpur district hospital has increased the number of days wherein they provide safe abortion services from two to six days a week, and has reduced the abortion fee from Nrs. 1200 to Nrs. 1000 (about US$18.90 to US$15.75).

BBC/WHRAP Team, BBC, Nepal.

Email: beyondbeijing@wlink.com.np

Endnotes

(1) UNFPA. 2007. State of the World Population: Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth. New York.

(2) The 2006 Nepal Demographic and Health Survey reports that the MMR has been reduced to 281 out of 100,000 (from 539 out of 100,000 in 1996). The various contributing factors for the decrease, such as conflict and the legalisation of abortion, still needs to be fully understood.

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(3) Thapa, P.J.; Thapa, S.; Shrestha, N. 1992. “A hospital based study of abortion in Nepal.” Studies in Family Planning. Vol.23, No.5, pp.311-318.

(4) Thapa, S.; Thapa, P.J.; Shrestha, N. 1994. “Abortion in Nepal: Emerging insights.” Journal of Nepal Medical Association. Vol.32, pp.175-190.

(5) WHRAP is a regional project to increase the capacity and effectiveness of civil society to advocate for SRHR at the local, national and regional levels. It is being implemented by ARROW and national partners in four countries in South Asia: Bangladesh (BWHC and Naripokkho), India (CHETNA and SAHAYOG), Nepal (BBC) and Pakistan (Shirkat Gah), with support from the Danish Family Planning Association.

(6) BC’s partners at the grassroots level are Asmita, Nari Sip Srijana Kendra, Youth Welfare Society and HimRights/Hetauda in Makwanpur, and Nepal Red Cross Society/Gulariya, Social Campaign for Integrated Development, Nepal National Depressed Social Welfare Organization, and Bardiya Handicapped Rehabilitation Centre in Bardiya.

>>> Click here: Rights for women in Iraq

Rights for women in Iraq

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Saddam Hussein’s regime was cruel and brutal towards women. The demise of that regime, offers them a new opportunity to participate fully in Iraqi society.

To ensure Iraqi women can take advantage of this tremendous opportunity, the rights of women need to be institutionalized, their personal security guaranteed and their access to opportunity ensured.

Last Thanksgiving I visited Iraq and met with many Iraqi women. At the time, women on the Governing Council in Baghdad were fighting to get their rights guaranteed on paper. These women were particularly concerned about efforts to limit their participation in Iraq’s political future. The concern was well-founded.

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In January, the Iraqi Governing Council proposed Resolution 137, which would have shifted jurisdiction over family life from civil law to Islamic law, giving local religious leaders control over women’s right to property inheritance, divorce, child custody and even movement. After objections from women in the U.S. and Iraq, Ambassador Bremer refused to sign the measure. But Iraqi women continue to worry that in the absence of enforceable constitutional guarantees, extremists will seek to weaken their legal status.

The women of Iraq are under no illusions about the great struggle that lies ahead. They took to the streets to demand more protections in the transitional constitution. That is why the Interim Constitution signed March 8th establishes the equality of Iraqi men and women and sets a goal that women occupy 25 percent of legislative posts.

The need for struggle is no surprise, given that women remain significantly underrepresented in all the decision-making bodies controlled by the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority. Even the interim constitution was drafted by an all-male Constitutional Committee. That is why the women had to demonstrate to win protections.

Many challenges remain as the country contemplates free elections. For Iraqi women to exercise political rights, their personal security must be protected. Iraqis now fear that free elections cannot take place unless security is significantly improved.

And, despite all efforts to bring about their inclusion, without the necessary resources and training to run for office, Iraq’s women will continue to be marginalized.

In February I wrote to President Bush to express concern about the future of Iraq’s women and to ask that the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) take immediate actions. The Bush administration has pledged to include women in decision-making bodies and to improve personal protection.

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The priority that the United States places on rights for women in Iraq conveys a broader message to the international community about our commitment to human rights and the importance of full participation by all citizens in a successful democracy.

Our message should be simple: a Democracy built without the full participation of half the population is unsustainable.

BY HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON

U.S. Senator (D-NY)