Meta jfittxu l-passi tagħna

Big Brother is listening

Kellu jkun rapport tal-Vodafone dwar l-operazzjonijiet tagħha globali li nissel interess tal-istampa lokali dwar il-fatt li s-servizzi tas-sigurta’ f’Malta għandhom jew jista’ jkollhom aċċess għat-telefonati tagħna u/jew għal informazzjoni relatata għal dawn it-telefonati.

Dan l-aċċess hu permess mil-liġi kemm fil-ġlieda kontra l-kriminalita’ kif ukoll biex tiġi difiża s-sigurta’ tal-istat.

Ħadd m’hu jikkontesta li s-servizzi tas-sigurta’ għandu jkollhom dan id-dmir.

Id-diffikulta hi dwar x’kontrolli u x’verifika issir biex ikun assigurat illi jkun ġustifikat li jkun hemm dan l-aċċess. Il-liġi Maltija tagħti din l-awtorita’ lill-Ministru responsabbli mis-Servizz tas-Sigurta. Li qed jiġi propost fid-dibattitu pubbliku li qed jiżviluppa hu li m’għandux jibqa’ jkollu l-awtorita’ li jiddeċiedi jekk is-servizzi tas-sigurta’ għandux ikollhom dan l-aċċess, iżda li din l-awtorita’ għandha tgħaddi f’idejn il-Qrati. Għandhom ikunu l-Qrati ta’ Malta li jirċievu talba għal aċċess għal informazzjoni konnessa mat-telefonati u għandhom ikunu huma li jgħarblu jekk dan l-aċċess huwiex meħtieġ u neċessarju.

Dan id-dibattitu jinkwadra fid-dibattitu usa dwar id-dritt li għandu kull ċittadin għal privatezza tad-data diġitali privata dwaru, liema argument Alternattiva Demokratika żviluppat waqt il-kampanja elettorali għall-Parlament Ewropew. Sfortunatament, dakinnhar, kemm il-partiti politiċi l-oħra kif ukoll il-gazzetti u mezzi tax-xandir baqgħu siekta. Ftit ġimgħat ilu dan is-suġġett ma kien jinteressa lil ħadd!

Tajjeb li niftakru li l-Qorti Ewropeja tal-Ġustizzja fil-bidu t’April 2014 ħassret Direttiva Ewropeja dwar għal kemm żmien il-kumpaniji tat-telekomunikazzjoni għandhom iżommu data diġitali kif ukoll dwar min u kif għandu jkollu aċċess għal din id-data [Data Retention Directive]. Il-Qorti Ewropeja fil-waqt li fehmet il-ħtieġa li fl-interess tal-ġlieda kontra l-kriminalita jkun hemm aċċess mill-forzi tal-ordni ma qablitx li kien hemm biżżejjed garanziji għall-privatezza taċ-ċittadin.

Tajjeb li niftakru li minn żmien għal żmien ikun hemm allegazzjonijiet li l-forzi tas-sigurta’ jkunu abbużaw minn dan id-dritt ta’ aċċess. Per eżempju dan l-aħħar ġejna mfakkra li kien hemm dan is-suspett waqt il-kampanja referendarja dwar id-divorzju in konnessjoni mat-telfon ċellulari ta’ Varist Bartolo kif ukoll dak ta’ Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando.

Kien hemm każ ieħor li s’issa għadu ma ngħatx spjegazzjoni sodisfaċenti dwaru. Ma nafx kemm tiftakru x’ġara nhar it-Tnejn 14 ta’ Diċembru 2009, dakinnhar li Franco Debono ma kienx mar għal votazzjoni l-Parlament imbagħad f’daqqa waħda tfaċċa fil-Parlament skortat.

L-Orizzont ta’ nhar il-Ġimgħa 18 ta’ Diċembru 2009 kienet ippubblikat  artiklu investigattiv ta’ John Pisani intitolat : “Intuża apparat tas-Servizz Sigriet biex instab Franco Debono nhar it-Tnejn. MISSJONI IMPOSSIBLI.”

Il-Gvern, dakinnhar kien ċaħad, imma din iċ-ċaħda ma kienet ikkonvinċiet lil ħadd.

Nistgħu nissugraw li jkun possibli li l-istat jispjuna fuqna b’dan il-mod?

 ippubblikat fuq iNews nhar it-Tlieta 24 ta’ Ġunju 2014

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Snippets from AD’s electoral manifesto: (1) Corporate Social Responsibility

Environment

The following extract is taken verbatim from Chapter 14 of AD’s Electoral Manifesto

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
In today’s world various organisations publish reports on a regular basis in which they list their impacts primarily on the community in which they operate.
In Malta only two companies do so, Bank of Valletta and Vodafone. To date they have published two editions of their reports. Each of these publications is of a positive nature but in every case there is room for improvement both in the policy direction as well as in content.
It is necessary that all companies listed on the Stock Exchange as well as parastatal organisations such as Enemalta and the Water Services Corporation together with all companies employing more than 1000 employees publish such information. It is important to underline that environmental reporting is as important as financial reporting and hence it should also be audited.

L-estratt segwenti hu mehud kelma b’kelma mill-Manifest Elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika (Kaptlu 14)

Responsabbiltà Soċjali tal-Industrija u n-Negozju (CSR)
Fid-dinja tal-lum huma diversi l-organizzazzjonijiet li jippubblikaw fuq bażi regolari rapporti li fihom jelenkaw f’dettall l-impatti tagħhom prinċipalment (iżda mhux biss) fuq il-komunità fejn joperaw.
F’Malta huma żewg kumpaniji biss li jagħmlu dand: il-Bank of Valletta u Vodafone. S’issa ppubblikaw żewg edizzjonijiet tar-rapporti tagħhom. Kull wieħed minn dawn il-pubblikazzjonijiet hu ta’ kontribut pożittiv imma f’kull każ hemm lok għal titjib kemm fid-direzzjoni politika kif ukoll fil-kontenut tar-rapport.
Huwa neċessarju li dan ikun estiż għall-kumpaniji kollha elenkati fil-Borża kif ukoll għall-Korpi Parastatali bħall-Enemalta u l-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma flimkien ma’ dawk il-kumpaniji fis-settur privat li jimpjegaw iktar minn 1,000 ruħ. Huwa importanti li jkun sottolineat li r-rappurtaġġ ambjentali huwa importanti daqs dak finanzjarju u għaldaqstant għandu jkun ukoll soġġett għal proċess tal-verifika.

Reflections on an Environment Policy

The current debate on what should form part of a National Environment Policy is a healthy exercise. It is focusing not only on the different aspirations of each citizen but also on the role of each one of the towns and villages which together constitute this country.

The environmental issues we face are the result of the manner we organise our lives both individually and as a community. In fact it can be safely stated that the manner in which economic activity has been organised throughout time has created different environmental and social impacts.

The exercise at this point in time is hence the clear identification of these impacts and subsequently seeking the best manner in which they can be tackled. This is done on two fronts: firstly through the formulation of an environment policy and secondly by integrating this environment policy with economic and social policy within the National Strategy for Sustainable Development (NSSD).

The NSSD has already been formulated and approved by Cabinet almost three years ago after a long process of consultation. It established targets and objectives which have unfortunately been ignored by the same Government which has approved them. This necessarily leads to the conclusion that these exercises can be a waste of time as their only purpose seems to be an exercise to prove that the new hands on deck can do things in a better way than those they have replaced. 

The National Environment Policy Issues Paper identifies a number of areas which are to be tackled but excludes a number of important ones. What is in my view objectionable and bordering on the insulting is the ignoring by the Issues Paper of the NSSD. It also ignores matters which have been tackled by the NSSD as well as the specific targets identified. This the NSSD did after extensive consultation with civil society, which the Issues Paper promises to go through again.

 

Eco-taxation

One such case refers to the use of economic instruments to attain environmental objectives. The Issues Paper queries whether and to what extent there is agreement  with the use of such instruments to further environmental objectives. Simultaneously with the publication of the Issues Paper, Finance Minister Tonio Fenech through the pre-budget document was lauding the idea of introducing a carbon tax and the possible utilisation of the proceeds to affect a tax shift. This is in the spirit of the former EU Commission President  (French Socialist) Jacques Delors’ 1993 EU White Paper entitled “On growth, competitiveness and employment. The challenges and ways forward into the 21st century”.

So whilst the Environment Ministry is requesting our opinion on the use of eco-taxation (and other instruments) it seems that the Finance Ministry is dead-set to proceed.  Do these two Ministries form part of the same government? 

Both the Environment Ministry and the Finance Ministry would do well to go back in time to the debate on the introduction of the eco-contribution (2003-05) where they could identify a number of issues raised by civil society.

Should fiscal objectives be the purpose of environmental taxation or would it rather be environmental improvement? All over the globe governments declare that their aim in applying eco-taxation is environmental improvement. Yet they resist transferring political responsibility for environmental taxation from the Finance Ministry to the Environment Ministry. Such a move would lend credence to statements on the environmental objectives of eco-taxation and would ensure that the design of specific measures is more in line with encouraging changes in behaviour. Retaining political responsibility for environmental taxation at the Finance Ministry on the other hand signifies that the objective is to tax behaviour but not  to change it. This reluctance is generally reflected in the manner  in which eco-taxes are designed. Fiscal policy makers pay attention to the fact that changing behaviour would mean drying up a source of revenue. Hence eco-taxes designed for fiscal objectives are intended not to affect the elasticity of demand. This is done by selecting items in respect of which there are no alternatives and thus irrespective of tax added to the price there is no alternative to purchasing the product or service. The eco-contribution exercise clearly illustrates this argument.

 

Environmental nuisance 

The Issues Paper has failed to project an understanding that environmental issues can be most effectively tackled at a micro-level. In fact the Issues Paper adopts an exclusively macro approach and does not give any weight to the real life issues. Issues of environmental nuisance are the ones which the man in the street feels strongly about. These include primarily noise, air quality and odour nuisance caused by neighbours in residential areas. They could range from an air conditioner fixed below your bedroom window to a neighbour’s fireplace chimney spewing smoke right into your living room or a bakery belching black smoke onto your washing line. Or the newly opened restaurant or snack bar in a transformed ground floor flat whose operator wouldn’t care less about where the odours from his kitchen end up.    

Information

Access to environmental information is an important aspect of environment policy. Yet the drafters of the Issues Paper ignored it. The environmental information aspects of the Åarhus Convention have been incorporated into Maltese legislation as a direct result of Malta’s EU accession. This legislation provides a mechanism through which the citizen requests the release of information which up till then would be withheld by the authorities. This is a very primitive form of governance. The state should release information without having its hand forced to do it. This is the minimum required in an age of transparency and accountability. 

Policy proposals and other initiatives must be buttressed by studies which not only justify the proposal or initiative but which also identify the resulting impacts and the manner in which these can be addressed. Studies must be published at an early stage and not in the final stages of a discussion. Otherwise the public debate cannot be fruitful.

Transparency and accountability

Transparency and accountability are not only duties of the state. They are also a responsibility of private enterprise.  Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reporting is one way in which private enterprise informs the public on its activities. It is a function as important as financial reporting. Financial reporting having been accepted by society for quite a long time as a reporting requirement.

In Malta currently two companies publish a CSR report. Vodafone (Malta) and Bank of Valletta (BOV) have already published two editions of their CSR report. There has been considerable improvement in the information made available by Vodafone (Malta) in its second report, but BOV’s reporting  can be substantially improved.

The environment policy should identify the type of organisations that should have the duty to report publicly and on a regular basis on their environmental and other impacts. By organisations I understand not just industry and business but also public corporations, government departments and local authorities. A reasonable first step would be for companies quoted on the stock exchange to take the lead followed by public bodies such as Enemalta, Water Services Corporation, Heritage Malta and Air Malta.

CSR reporting should be guided by international standards such as the Global Reporting Initiative G3 guidelines and should be subject to auditing in order to verify that the statements made reflect what the organisation is really up to. 

Alternattiva Demokratika, AD, the Green Party in Malta has earlier this month published a document in reply to the National Environment Policy Issues Paper which lists and discusses the areas missed out by the said Issues Paper.  In addition to focusing on the urgent need to implement the NSSD, environment information, environmental nuisance and environment information it also points out the need to tackle the uptake of environmental management systems such as ISO 14001 and the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) Regulations of the European Union, light pollution, contaminated land, environmental and sustainability planning at a locality level better known as Local Agenda 21,  the role of civil society and environmental NGOs in environment policy and environment  research.  

We hope that when the environment policy is drafted it will include the widest possible list of issues and will tackle them in an holistic manner keeping in mind the parameters established in the National Sustainable Development Strategy.                 

Alternattiva Demokratika considers that environment policy is one of several instruments through which improvement in the quality of life can be attained. Protecting the environment signifies that we better our quality of life. It also signifies that each one of us acts in a responsible manner. However primarily it must be government which leading the way should act in an appropriate manner in order that it leads by example.

 published in

The Independent on Sunday, October 17, 2010, Environment Supplement

Holding Business to Account

times_of_malta196x701

published on April 11, 2009

by Carmel Cacopardo

_________________________________________________________________________________________ 

On September 13, 1970, in the New York Times magazine, economist Milton Friedman said that the sole purpose of business was to generate profits for shareholders. The business of business, he argued, is business.

Forty years on some still think on the same lines: that shouldering environmental and social impacts generated by business is not the business of business. They insist that, if pressed to address its impacts, business would consider relocating, seeking countries where legislation relative to environmental and social protection is minimal or inexistent.

By publishing its Corporate Social Responsibility report for 2006-08, Vodafone Malta is making a very powerful statement: modern business thinks otherwise. It considers that the business of business is much wider than business. In its second CSR report, Vodafone outlines its initiatives in managing its corporate risks and responsibilities in greater detail than it did two years ago.

CSR signifies a commitment that business is carried out in a responsible manner. Tree-planting and sponsorship of worthy causes, though laudable, are marginal to CSR!

Vodafone’s statements on the management of hazardous waste relating to mobile phones are welcome as are its declarations on its reduced carbon footprint.

The listing of ethical purchasing criteria make excellent reading although the manner in which these have been applied could have been substantially more informative. In particular, it would have been appropriate if stakeholders were informed whether there were any suppliers who fell foul of the said criteria during the reporting period. The adopted criteria use the available guidelines, standards and tools that have been drawn up globally to facilitate sustainability benchmarking and reporting. They are largely modelled on the social accountability standard SA8000, full compliance to which should lead to the ethical sourcing of goods and services. This standard has also been used by others, among which Avon Products Inc., The Body Shop, Reebok International, Toys ‘R’ Us and The Ethical Trading Initiative.

On a different note, reporting on the radiation emission levels of its base stations and the identification of the standards to which it conforms makes Vodafone’s second CSR report an adequate reporting tool. This is an issue, however, which requires more analysis and discussion.

In line with global CSR reporting standards, Vodafone discloses of being in breach of consumer legislation on one occasion during the reporting period relative to comparative advertising. Such disclosure, though not yet an everyday occurrence in these islands, is an essential element of CSR reporting.

Vodafone’s third CSR report should move a further step forward: Its statements should be subject to an audit and be independently verified as being correct. CSR reporting is as important as financial reporting and should be subject to the same level of assurance.

Vodafone has made an important contribution to CSR reporting in Malta.

Together with BOV, it has made the first strides locally in this previously unexplored domain. It is hoped that the competition in the communications industry in Malta would make equally valid contributions. While Go plc could substantially improve on its 61-word paragraph devoted to CSR in its 2007 annual report (the latest available), stakeholders await Melita’s first utterances on the matter.

Although some tend to equate CSR with corporate philanthropy, this is just one tiny element of CSR. To make sense, corporate philanthropy must be founded on and be the result of a sound CSR. A company can sponsor environmental initiatives but, if its own environmental policy is blurred, the sponsorships dished out could only be considered as an exercise in green-washing. When deciding on sponsorships, business should be consistent with the manner it carries out its day-to-day operations. Corporate philanthropy would thus be much more than another cheap marketing ploy.

Vodafone Malta, through its CSR report is laying its cards on the table. As a result, its corporate philanthropy can be viewed in context. It would be quite a feat if, for example, the banking sector in Malta could follow suit by determining and applying environmental criteria in the advancing of finance to the building industry and, subsequently, informing stakeholders of its achievements through CSR reporting! With just one stroke of a pen, the banking sector in Malta can prevent substantial damage to both the natural and the historical environmental.

The adoption of CSR by business signifies the acceptance of the fact that its shadow is much wider than its shareholders.

Business is responsible towards its shareholders but it is accountable towards its stakeholders: employees, customers, consumers, trade unions, environmental groups and also future generations. It is with this wider stakeholder group that business must develop a dialogue. Such a dialogue must be based on trust and, consequently, it must be both transparent and leading to genuine accountability. It is not just governments that need to be accountable! CSR reporting is a tool that can be of considerable assistance in achieving this purpose.