'Greenwashing' at COP25, Australia scraps 'medevac' for refugees, IPPF sweeping reforms: This week in development

Spain's acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Madrid, Spain. Photo by: REUTERS / Sergio Perez

Climate activists question a COP25 sponsor, Australia scraps medical evacuation for refugees, and the decades-old International Planned Parenthood Federation decides it’s time for big changes. This week in development:

The 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference kicked off in Madrid to a chorus of social media outrage at “greenwashing hypocrisy.” After Chile resigned as host of COP25 due to unrest in the country, Spain had just months to pull together the gathering of some 25,000 delegates from 200 nations. But this was no excuse to bring on Spanish energy giant Endesa as a sponsor, several climate activists and government officials have said on Twitter. Endesa, the largest electric utility provider in Spain, paid $2.2 million to be a “diamond sponsor” of the conference and gain access to a large exhibition space in the conference’s stakeholder area, according to Spanish-language news outlet El Independiente. In 2018, Endesa was Spain’s biggest corporate polluter, responsible for 23% of industrial emissions and for almost 9% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the country, according to a report on Spain’s “climate emergency.” The Spanish energy giant sparked further controversy by buying front-page ads in multiple newspapers ahead of the summit, which appeared to position the company as a climate champion: "Endesa presents its solutions for an emission-free society at COP25."

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Australia's conservative government has scrapped a law that allowed sick refugees held in its offshore immigration detention centers to be transferred to Australia for treatment. The medical evacuation law, commonly known as the Medevac Bill, applied to refugees held in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, where medical treatment is limited. Offshore detention, a hard-line policy brought into place in 2013 to deter asylum-seekers arriving to Australia by boat, has long come under fire from refugee advocates. Under the policy, asylum-seekers found at sea are sent offshore for "processing," rather than being settled in Australia. The government’s decision to repeal the Medevac Bill, based on “security concerns” that refugees were abusing the system in order to get to Australia, has triggered further criticism from the international community. "Medevac was solely designed to provide people with healthcare, not influence immigration outcomes. How much hate do we have to have in our hearts to deny innocent people healthcare? This is an absolute low,” Dr. Barri Phatarfod, founder of Doctors for Refugees, was quoted as saying in an article by Al Jazeera, which has reported that there are more than 400 people still detained in PNG and Nauru.

The International Planned Parenthood Federation has approved sweeping reforms to its governance and financial systems, six months after allegations of safeguarding failures and fraud rocked the organization. The decades-old charity was past due for a shake-up, several insiders told Devex this week. “We all knew the organization needed reform … IPPF was on the edge of becoming invisible and conservative ... because it had been without strong leadership for so long,” one senior official in the global SRHR community said. At a meeting in New Delhi last weekend, representatives from IPPF’s 134 member associations agreed to replace the charity’s existing governing council with a smaller, independently appointed and more diverse executive committee, and stripped the group’s six regional councils of their decision-making powers. The organizational and financial reforms come alongside safeguarding and whistleblowing reforms introduced earlier in the year. Donors and sexual health advocates have welcomed the changes, which come after an intense review initiated by IPPF in mid-May following allegations of sexual misconduct, fraud, and bullying related to Lucien Kouakou, the organization’s former Africa regional director.

About the author

  • Kelli Rogers

    Kelli Rogers is an Associate Editor for Devex. Based on the U.S. West Coast, she works with Devex's team of correspondents and editors around the world, with a particular focus on gender. She previously worked as Devex’s Southeast Asia correspondent based in Bangkok, covering disaster and crisis response, resilience, women’s rights, and climate change throughout the region. Prior to that, she reported on social and environmental issues from Nairobi, Kenya. Kelli holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, and has since reported from more than 20 countries.

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