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US Republicans Extend Global Gag Rules, and Asia’s E-Trash Piles Up


Sorting electronic waste in Shanghai. A new report from the United Nations University and the Japanese Ministry of the Environment says Asia produced 16 million tons of e-waste in 2014. CREATIVE COMMONS

In this third installment of an occasional series on research and data useful to readers, PassBlue takes a look at financial threats to a United Nations agency focused on family planning and how e-waste in Asia is hurting the regional environment and public health.

With the fate of funding for the United Nations Population Fund, or UNFPA, soon to be taken up in budget deliberations in the United States Congress, PIA (Population Action International) has prepared a comprehensive, easy-to-read wall chart on how Republicans applied the “global gag rule” through orders issued in 2001 and 2003 by President George W. Bush, compares with the policy proposals of Donald Trump, made on Jan, 23, 2017. The policies, essentially anti-abortion measures with wide application and global reach, affect not only US government departments and agencies but also foreign nongovernmental organizations.

The chart, using side-by-side comparisons, shows that the Trump White House based its proposals on the two Bush directives. But Trump’s go further and outstanding questions remain as to how the US might proceed both in federal agencies and Congress in framing and enforcing policies internationally and how much of the funding could be affected. The chart includes the current working definition of US policy under Republicans. Prohibited activities include [to] “perform, counsel, refer, or advocate on abortion as a method of family planning . . . even if activities [are] supported with non-US funds.”

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Separately, the US advocacy organization Friends of UNFPA is concerned that “the new Administration wants to put UNFPA on the chopping block” and that members of Congress working on “misinformation” and “ideological agendas” will attempt to cut US funding. So the group is gathering data and asking Americans to lobby legislators against the threat.

More evidence of how waste material from the worldwide technology boom threatens the global environment has been highlighted by the Tokyo-based United Nations University and the Japanese Ministry of the Environment. They have produced a new Regional E-Waste Monitor for East and Southeast Asia, where decades of rising consumer purchasing power are taking a toll on the environment and public health. The report, which analyzes management of electrical and electronic trash in the region, notes that Asia is both the world’s largest manufacturer and market for these goods. In 2014, Asia generated 16 million tons of e-waste, says the report, part of a continuing global monitoring project by the university.

The report, with extensive graphics illustrating regional conditions, focuses on Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Hong Kong, China and Cambodia, which all together account for nearly 30 percent of the world’s population. In comparing models of waste management, the report found few Asian nations with good data collection on the problem. It said four factors were holding back better responses regionally: a lack of information and awareness; inadequate reporting; insufficient ability to capture and analyze statistical data; and unclear definitions of e-waste “that may result in double-counting or under-estimation.”


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Barbara Crossette is the senior consulting editor and writer for PassBlue and the United Nations correspondent for The Nation. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She has also contributed to the Oxford Handbook on the United Nations.

Previously, Crossette was the UN bureau chief for The New York Times from 1994 to 2001 and previously its chief correspondent in Southeast Asia and South Asia. She is the author of “So Close to Heaven: The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas,” “The Great Hill Stations of Asia” and a Foreign Policy Association study, “India Changes Course,” in the Foreign Policy Association’s “Great Decisions 2015.”

Crossette won the George Polk award for her coverage in India of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and the 2010 Shorenstein Prize for her writing on Asia.

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US Republicans Extend Global Gag Rules, and Asia’s E-Trash Piles Up
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