Taarana – A school for children with special education needs


It has long been a dream of my wife and I to set up a school for children with learning disabilities that provides quality education at affordable costs. This dream is now coming true with the establishment of Taarana, a centre for children with special educational needs under the aegis of the Vijayaratnam Foundation in Malaysia.


Such a school requires highly specialised training facilities and teachers specifically qualified in this niche area. As we would like to keep the fees reasonable enough for lower and middle income families, we are organising a series of fund raiser events in aid of Taarana.

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Why Vegetarian?


Many non-vegetarians, especially in the western world are quick to identify vegetarianism with some kind of spiritual or religious belief – as something traditionally oriental or even new age, like the practice of Yoga! This is, of course, perfectly understandable, given that a majority of the world’s non-meat-eaters share a connection with eastern philosophy and thinking, particularly in countries like India where the predominant Hindu population has traditionally followed a vegetarian diet. However, there is an increasing number of vegetarians all over the world (including the west), who choose to forego the consumption of meat for more practical reasons, grounded in reality.

In China, vegetarianism has been around in a lesser form since at least the 7th Century and has been practised by devout Buddhists. In recent years, it has seen a new resurgence in the cities as the emerging middle class in China pay attention to issues of health and diet. In 2010, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao proposed a nationwide campaign of “one day of vegetarian every week” mainly as part of a broader environmental platform.

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The Kyoto Protocol was a great controversy in Cancun: should there be a second commitment for the industrialised countries, or a commitment for all countries in the world. That is the controversy we already had in Copenhagen and we have it again in Cancun. And for the moment there is no solution in sight.

On December 11, Cancun agreements concluded by over 190 countries spell out the contours of a new climate deal. As has been widely reported, they represent certain fundamental departures from the existing provisions of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol of 1997. The principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR)” lies at the heart of the UNFCCC. Under this principle, and as elaborated in the Kyoto Protocol, mandatory emissions reduction commitments were applicable only to developed countries. There was also clear linkage under the UNFCCC between adherence by developing countries to their obligations under the convention, and the ‘effective implementation’ by developed countries of their commitments to provide financial resources and transfer of technology.

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Climate Change Negotiations No.34


The legacy of Copenhagen was an end of utopia: global negotiations are no surprise packet from which an all-embracing treaty to rescue the climate can be conjured. And they have long since ceased to be the only arena in which the international climate policy is made.

The legacy of Cancun should be an end to defeatism: the UN climate summits are not a waste of time. As they are the fairest and most important decision-making fora for combating global warming, there is no substitute for them. However, escaping the spiral of summit hysteria on the one hand and summit scepticism on the other, is not a solution in itself. What will be needed at the next rounds of negotiations is a vision that looks well beyond the current piecemeal approach and the coexistence of various fora.

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Climate Change Negotiations No. 33


The Cancun climate deal put an end to the defeatism of large UN summits and shows they are the fairest way to decide on global warming issues. Though Cancun failed to give birth to a binding treaty, the negotiators were able to agree on a number of aspects and adopt a large package of decisions. This includes a new attempt to extend or even find a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in two years.

As part of this negotiating timetable, each industrialised country will submit a strategy for its low-carbon development. Moreover, the financial promises made in Copenhagen were finally carved in stone. By 2012, the developing countries will first receive $30 billion to support their climate efforts. By 2020, as much as $ 100 billion is to be mobilised every year. To this end, the industrialised and developing countries intend to spend the next few months negotiating on a sizable climate fund with a fair distribution of votes.

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