Inter Press ServiceOpinion – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 17 Nov 2018 01:08:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Africa Set for a Massive Free Trade Areahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/africa-set-massive-free-trade-area/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-set-massive-free-trade-area http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/africa-set-massive-free-trade-area/#respond Thu, 15 Nov 2018 16:20:34 +0000 Kingsley Ighobor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158690 Kingsley Ighobor, Africa Renewal*

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(From left) African Union chairperson and president of Rwanda Paul Kagame, president of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou and African Union Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat at the launch of AfCFTA in Kigali in March 2018. Credit: Office of President Paul Kagame

By Kingsley Ighobor
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 15 2018 (IPS)

Following the unveiling of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement in Kigali, Rwanda, in March 2018, Africa is about to become the world’s largest free trade area: 55 countries merging into a single market of 1.2 billion people with a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion.

The shelves of Choithrams Supermarket in Freetown, Sierra Leone, boast a plethora of imported products, including toothpicks from China, toilet paper and milk from Holland, sugar from France, chocolates from Switzerland and matchboxes from Sweden.

Yet many of these products are produced much closer—in Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, and other African countries with an industrial base.

So why do retailers source them halfway around the world? The answer: a patchwork of trade regulations and tariffs that make intra-African commerce costly, time wasting and cumbersome.

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), signed by 44 African countries in Kigali, Rwanda, in March 2018, is meant to create a tariff-free continent that can grow local businesses, boost intra-African trade, rev up industrialization and create jobs.

The agreement creates a single continental market for goods and services as well as a customs union with free movement of capital and business travellers. Countries joining AfCFTA must commit to removing tariffs on at least 90% of the goods they produce.

If all 55 African countries join a free trade area, it will be the world’s largest by number of countries, covering more than 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion, according to the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

The ECA adds that intra-African trade is likely to increase by 52.3% by 2020 under the AfCFTA.

Five more countries signed the AfCFTA at the African Union (AU) summit in Mauritania in June, bringing the total number of countries committing to the agreement to 49 by July’s end. But a free trade area has to wait until at least 22 countries submit instruments of ratification.

By July 2018, only six countries—Chad, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Ghana, Kenya, Niger and Rwanda—had submitted ratification instruments, although many more countries are expected to do so before the end of the year.

Economists believe that tariff-free access to a huge and unified market will encourage manufacturers and service providers to leverage economies of scale; an increase in demand will instigate an increase in production, which in turn will lower unit costs.
Consumers will pay less for products and services as businesses expand operations and hire additional employees.

“We look to gain more industrial and value-added jobs in Africa because of intra-African trade,” said Mukhisa Kituyi, secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, a body that deals with trade, investment and development, in an interview with Africa Renewal.

“The types of exports that would gain most are those that are labour intensive, like manufacturing and agro-processing, rather than the capital-intensive fuels and minerals, which Africa tends to export,” concurred Vera Songwe, executive secretary of the ECA, in an interview with Africa Renewal, emphasizing that the youth will mostly benefit from such job creation.

In addition, African women, who account for 70% of informal cross-border trading, will benefit from simplified trading regimes and reduced import duties, which will provide much-needed help to small-scale traders.

If the agreement is successfully implemented, a free trade area could inch Africa toward its age-long economic integration ambition, possibly leading to the establishment of pan-African institutions such as the African Economic Community, African Monetary Union, African Customs Union and so on.

A piece of good news

Many traders and service providers are cautiously optimistic about AfCFTA’s potential benefits. “I am dreaming of the day I can travel across borders, from Accra to Lomé [in Togo] or Abidjan [in Côte d’Ivoire] and buy locally manufactured goods and bring them into Accra without all the hassles at the borders,” Iso Paelay, who manages The Place Entertainment Complex in Community 18 in Accra, Ghana, told Africa Renewal.

“Right now, I find it easier to import the materials we use in our business—toiletries, cooking utensils, food items—from China or somewhere in Europe than from South Africa, Nigeria or Morocco,” Paelay added.

African leaders and other development experts received a piece of good news at the AU summit in Mauritania in June when South Africa, Africa’s most industrialised economy, along with four other countries, became the latest to sign the AfCFTA.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and another huge economy, has been one of the holdouts, with the government saying it needs to have further consultations with indigenous manufacturers and trade unions. Nigerian unions have warned that free trade may open a floodgate for cheap imported goods that could atrophy Nigeria’s nascent industrial base.

The Nigeria Labour Congress, an umbrella workers’ union, described AfCFTA as a “radioactive neoliberal policy initiative” that could lead to “unbridled foreign interference never before witnessed in the history of the country.”

However, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo expressed the view that the agreement is “where our [economic] salvation lies.”

At a July symposium in Lagos organised in honour of the late Adebayo Adedeji, a onetime executive secretary of the ECA, Yakubu Gowon, another former Nigerian leader, also weighed in, saying, “I hope Nigeria joins.”

Speaking at the same event, Songwe urged Nigeria to get on board after consultations, and offered her organisation’s support.

Last April, Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari signalled a protectionist stance on trade matters while defending his country’s refusal to sign the Economic Community of West African States-EU Economic Partnership Agreement. He said then, “Our industries cannot compete with the more efficient and highly technologically driven industries in Europe.”

In some countries, including Nigeria and South Africa, the government would like to have control over industrial policy, reports the Economist, a UK-based publication, adding, “They also worry about losing tariff revenues, because they find other taxes hard to collect.”

While experts believe that Africa’s big and industrialising economies will reap the most from a free trade area, the ECA counters that smaller countries also have a lot to gain because factories in the big countries will source inputs from smaller countries to add value to products.

The AfCFTA has also been designed to address many countries’ multiple and overlapping memberships in Regional Economic Communities (RECs), which complicate integration efforts. Kenya, for example, belongs to five RECs. The RECs will now help achieve the continental goal of a free trade area.

Many traders complain about RECs’ inability to execute infrastructure projects that would support trading across borders. Ibrahim Mayaki, head of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the project-implementing wing of the AU, says that many RECs do not have the capacity to implement big projects.

For Mr. Mayaki, infrastructure development is crucial to intra-African trade. NEPAD’s Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) is an ambitious list of regional projects. Its 20 priority projects have been completed or are under construction, including the Algiers-Lagos trans-Saharan highway, the Lagos-Abidjan transport corridor, the Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya power transmission line and the Brazzaville-Kinshasa bridge.

The AfCFTA could change Africa’s economic fortunes, but concerns remain that implementation could be the agreement’s weakest link.

Meanwhile African leaders and development experts see a free trade area as an inevitable reality. “We need to summon the required political will for the African Continental Free Trade Area to finally become a reality,” said AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, at the launch in Kigali.

*This article first appeared in Africa Renewal which is published by the United Nations.

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Excerpt:

Kingsley Ighobor, Africa Renewal*

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Kenya Looks to Lead the Way in Developing the Blue Economy’s Potentialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/kenya-looks-lead-way-developing-blue-economys-potential/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenya-looks-lead-way-developing-blue-economys-potential http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/kenya-looks-lead-way-developing-blue-economys-potential/#respond Thu, 15 Nov 2018 11:15:22 +0000 Ambassador Macharia Kamau http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158679 Ambassador Macharia Kamau is Principal Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Kenya, also the coordinating Ministry of the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, 2018.

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While Africa is bordered by two oceans and two seas, African-owned ships account for a tiny fraction – just over 1 percent - of the world’s shipping. Much of Sierra Leone’s indigenous fishing continues to be carried out by traditional methods and, aside from boats’ engines, remains unmechanised and labour intensive. Credit: Travis Lupick/IPS

By Ambassador Macharia Kamau
NAIROBI, Nov 15 2018 (IPS)

For many years now, the economic potential of the African continent has been discussed, promoted and hailed by everyone from economists to policymakers to world leaders – and with very good reason. After all, Africa is a vast, populous, developing continent with enormous natural and human resource riches and a raft of rapidly developing economies which are helping create prosperity and raise living standards and social opportunities through economic growth.

But those discussions and promotions have often focused heavily, if not exclusively, on the land-based economies of the continent, and little has been said about the equally vast potential of Africa’s blue economy.

The Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi from 26 to 28 Nov., is helping to bring this potential into focus – and not just for Africa, but for the entire global community – by highlighting the economic opportunities the world’s oceans, seas and rivers offer.

The global blue economy, by some estimates, generates up to USD 6 trillion for the global economy and, if it were a country, would be the seventh-largest economy is the world. It helps drive economic growth and provides jobs for hundreds of millions around the world, often to those in the poorest communities, in industries as diverse as fishing, transport, tourism, off-shore mining and others.

Ambassador Macharia Kamau, Principal Secretary, at Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the coordinating Ministry of the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, says more could be done by African nations to develop the continent’s blue economies.

But its potential is, so far, being underexploited in the countries which it could help most. This is no better exemplified than in Africa where almost three quarters of countries have a coastline or are islands, where the continent’s total coastline is over 47,000 km and with 13 million km2 of collective exclusive economic zones (EEZs).

Yet despite this, maritime trade among African countries makes up only just over 10 percent of total trade by volume. And while Africa is bordered by two oceans and two seas, African-owned ships account for a tiny fraction – just over 1 percent – of the world’s shipping. The International Energy Agency says ocean renewable energy can potentially supply more than four times current global energy demand. Africa could provide a significant share of that, but many renewable energy projects on the continent have so far focused on wind and solar or other renewable energy sources.

By any standards, Africa is at least underusing, possibly even drastically wasting, its blue economy potential. This must be rectified. By some estimates, the African maritime industry is already worth USD 1 trillion annually. But, with the right economic policies implemented, it could triple in just two years.

The good news is that Kenya, and other countries in Africa, are on the way to taking advantage of the blue economy’s potential and diversifying their economies to include a greater ‘blue’ share.

For instance, the Seychelles has established a Ministry of Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy while the African Union has put the blue economy at the heart of its 2063 development agenda. In South Africa, a national development plan includes a key focus on the blue economy which is projected to add USD 13 billion to the nation’s economy and create a million new jobs by 2030.

This is all very encouraging, but more could, and should, be done by African nations to develop the continent’s blue economies.

Kenya, as co-host of this conference, is looking to lead the way in developing the blue economy’s potential, not just for itself, but for the rest of Africa and the entire global community.

But we can only do this with other countries. Thankfully, the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference provides an excellent opportunity for other countries, such as co-hosts Canada and Japan. Canada are further along with their integration of the blue economy into their wider economies – from the breadth and size of their shipping and fishing industry to innovative recycling projects that help clean the ocean as well as providing work in coastal communities – to exchange ideas and experiences, as well as technical advances, with states who are just beginning the expansion of their blue economy activities.

The conference will also provide a timely and much-needed opportunity for countries to look together at how both the private and public sector can help finance initiatives and projects in various blue economy sectors to achieve the best effect.

Indeed, the private sector’s contribution to the development of the blue economy, especially in poorer nations with more limited means to diversify their economies, is crucial. In some states, the public sector would be unable to shoulder such a financial burden on its own and innovative methods of finance will be necessary.

This, of course, is not to play down the importance of the kind of bold initiatives like the ‘blue bonds’ issued by the Seychelles to support its efforts in the blue economy.

The Sustainable Blue Economy Conference will provide an excellent opportunity to hear about and discuss projects around the world which are both exploiting the economic potential of oceans, seas, lakes and rivers, but at the same time helping protect and conserve them. Credit: Nalisha Adams/IPS

But while the economic potential of the blue economy is clear, and the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference will help underline it, we must not forget the most important part of this economy – that it is sustainable. And it must remain so.

For all the economic opportunity it offers, the blue economy will deliver nothing if it is seen simply as an economic resource to be plundered for monetary gain.

Yes, like any economy, it can help to drive greater prosperity and raise living standards, creating jobs and wealth. But those jobs and the industries that support them, must be fostered and developed on the basis of long-term environmental sustainability.

This conference will provide an excellent opportunity to hear about and discuss projects around the world which are both exploiting the economic potential of oceans, seas, lakes and rivers, but at the same time helping protect and conserve them and discuss the best ways to put similar projects into practice, and to provide guidelines and draw up regulations to help ensure that economic growth, jobs and wealth are not being created at the expense of the environment.

This first Sustainable Blue Economy Conference  is a chance to set a course for an environmentally sustainable, prosperous and inclusive future for Kenya, other African states and nations around the world. Kenya is proud that it will be at the helm as this journey starts in Nairobi.

The post Kenya Looks to Lead the Way in Developing the Blue Economy’s Potential appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Ambassador Macharia Kamau is Principal Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Kenya, also the coordinating Ministry of the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, 2018.

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Earth’s Biodiversity: A Pivotal Meeting at a Pivotal Timehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/earths-biodiversity-pivotal-meeting-pivotal-time/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=earths-biodiversity-pivotal-meeting-pivotal-time http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/earths-biodiversity-pivotal-meeting-pivotal-time/#respond Thu, 15 Nov 2018 08:27:52 +0000 Cristiana Pasca Palmer and Anne Larigauderie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158677 Cristiana Pașca Palmer is the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Montreal, & Anne Larigauderie is the Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), Bonn

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Zainab Samo, along with her son and daughter, planting a lemon seedling on her farm in Oan village in Pakistan’s southern desert district of Tharparkar, to fight desert’s advance and for windbreak. Credit: Saleem Shaikh/IPS

By Cristiana Pașca Palmer and Anne Larigauderie
SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt , Nov 15 2018 (IPS)

The quality of the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink depend directly on the state of our biodiversity, which is now in severe jeopardy. We need a transformational change in our relationship with nature to ensure the sustainable future we want for ourselves and our children.

Largely overshadowed by other concerns in coverage of the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was a section on how much better it will be for biodiversity – the essential variety of all life on Earth – if global warming can be held to 1.5 degrees Celsius rather than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

Based on one modelling study, involving 105,000 species, the IPCC report estimates that 1.5°C of global warming will dramatically alter the world for 8% of plants, 4% of vertebrates and 6% of insects – eliminating more than half of their geographic range.

In a world 2°C warmer, the figures double for plants (16%) and vertebrates (8%), and triple for insects (18%). The knock-on effects for people would be severe.

Similarly, forest fires, the spread of invasive species and other biodiversity-related risks to human well-being are substantially lower at 1.5°C relative to 2°C of global warming.

Ocean temperatures and acidity will rise higher, and ocean oxygen levels will drop further, in a 2°C warmer world, leading to irreversible losses of marine and coastal ecosystems, less productive fisheries and aquaculture, less Arctic sea ice and fewer warm water coral reef ecosystems (70 to 90% losses at 1.5°C; more than 99% at 2ºC), with the loss of all the natural benefits that these provide to people around the globe.

One model projects a more than 3 million tonne drop in the world’s annual catch of marine fish at 2°C of global warming, twice the loss anticipated at 1.5°C.

It is against this deeply worrying backdrop that member States of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meets in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt Nov. 17 – 28 for the UN Biodiversity Conference. A central focus of the meeting will be a move towards a new set of global biodiversity action goals and targets.

The current goals, established in 2010 in Aichi, Japan, expire in 2020, when they are expected to be formally replaced.

Thankfully, we can point to meaningful progress on the protection and conservation of biodiversity over the past 10 years. For example, the annual rate of net forest loss has been halved; global protected areas have increased to 13% of coastal and marine areas and 15% of terrestrial areas (although not all world ecoregions are adequately covered, and most protected areas are not well connected); and the number of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture secured in conservation facilities has risen.

These successes are not, however, nearly enough to halt the ongoing loss of plant and animal diversity on Earth — a fundamental worldwide extinction crisis, deepening every year, and severely aggravated by climate change.

So, what can world policymakers do next?

To make better decisions on biodiversity, we need the best-possible understanding of the problems and the best evidence on which to act. Authoritative expert assessments, such as the IPCC report, and those of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the IPCC’s counterpart in biodiversity, provide this evidence.

Founded just six years ago, IPBES has already published seven major assessment reports on, for example, pollination and food production; land degradation and restoration; and regional assessments of biodiversity in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, and the Americas.

IPBES also has a landmark new assessment report in the pipeline, to be released in Paris next May – the first comprehensive global assessment of biodiversity since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005 – it will describe the state of biodiversity and ecosystem services around the world.

For almost three years, about 150 experts – including natural and social scientists, and indigenous knowledge holders – from almost 50 countries have contributed to the report, which covers land-based ecosystems, inland waters and the open oceans.

They have evaluated the changes that have occurred over recent decades, a range of possible scenarios through 2050, and the end results to expect from the pursuit of various policy options, including ‘business as usual’.

Once published, the IPBES global assessment will inform not just the critical deliberations on the world’s post-2020 biodiversity goals and targets, but all policies and actions related to biodiversity for the next decade and beyond – decisions fundamental also to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The choices humanity makes now will profoundly affect the world’s biodiversity, which in turn will impact the future economies, livelihoods, food security and quality of life of people everywhere. We must get them right.

The post Earth’s Biodiversity: A Pivotal Meeting at a Pivotal Time appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Cristiana Pașca Palmer is the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Montreal, & Anne Larigauderie is the Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), Bonn

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Climate of Repression a Dark Cloud over Upcoming Elections in Fijihttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/climate-repression-dark-cloud-upcoming-elections-fiji/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-repression-dark-cloud-upcoming-elections-fiji http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/climate-repression-dark-cloud-upcoming-elections-fiji/#respond Tue, 13 Nov 2018 12:45:58 +0000 Josef Benedict http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158651 Josef Benedict is a civic space research officer for global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

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A semi-submerged graveyard on Togoru, Fiji. The island states in the South Pacific are most vulnerable for sealevel rise and extreme weather. Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

By Josef Benedict
JOHANNESBURG, Nov 13 2018 (IPS)

Powdery white beaches. Crystal clear turquoise water. Palm trees swaying in the breeze.

This is the postcard picture of paradise that comes to mind when tourists think of Fiji. But for many citizens of the South Pacific’s largest island nation, and its media, the reality is anything but blissful.

And the repressive climate in which elections are about to take place serves to highlight the decline in democracy there in recent years.

In fact, since incumbent Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama seized power a coup in 2006, Fijians have seen their civic freedoms increasingly restricted through repressive laws and policies.

The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society across the globe, says these restrictions have also created a chilling effect within Fijian media and civil society.

Voters in this country of 900,000 people go to the polls on November 14 in the second national elections since the return to parliamentary democracy in 2014. But given the state of afffairs, serious questions have been raised about the poll’s legitimacy.

Bainimarama’s FijiFirst government took the reins democratically following the 2014 vote – after eight years of ruling by decree. To hold on to power, Bainimarama has tried to muzzle the media and any criticism.

For several years after the coup, a regime of heavy censorship was imposed, where officially-appointed censors roamed newsrooms, deciding what could and could not be published.

In 2010, the government introduced a media decree that imposed excessive restrictions on the right to freedom of expression with hefty penalties. It also barred foreign investors from owning more than 10 percent of a Fijian media outlet.

That law has since become a noose around the neck of the media sector, giving the authorities the license to imprison journalists or bankrupt editors, publishers and news organisations.

Three years ago, the noose tightened when the decree was amended to prohibit the airing of local content including news by subscription-based television services. Early this year, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein raised concerns about this law saying it “has the effect of inhibiting investigative journalism and coverage of issues that are deemed sensitive, as well as discouraging a plurality of views.”

Some outlets have tried to challenge the official suppression and paid for it. In 2012, The Fiji Times, one of the very few independent news outlets that has refused to toe the government line, and its editor-in-chief, Fred Wesley, were found guilty of contempt of court for reprinting an article first published in New Zealand, that criticised Fiji’s judiciary.

Four years later, four Fiji Times officials, including Wesley, were charged with sedition for a letter published in the weekly vernacular Nai Lalakai newspaper, that authorities found to contain inflammatory views about Muslims.

This, even though the letter was not written by any Fiji Times staff. Human rights groups believe the charges were politically motivated. Despite the judicial harassment, they were acquitted by the Fiji High Court in May 2018.

The sedition law has also been used by the Fijian authorities to target opposition politicians. In March, the Fiji United Freedom Party’s former leader, Jagath Karunaratne and former opposition parliamentarian, Mosese Bulitavu were convicted of spray painting anti-government slogans in 2011 – charges they have denied. Both were sentenced to almost two and a half years in prison.

The government has also in recent years tried to systemically weaken the power of trade unions, which has a strong voting bloc. Felix Anthony, the Fiji Trade Union Congress (FTUC) National Secretary, has blasted Bainimarama for preaching respect for human rights and painting a picture of Fiji for the international community that is in stark contrast to the reality on the ground.

Anthony has accused the government of ignoring workers’ collective bargaining rights and imposing individual contracts on civil servants, teachers, nurses and other workers in direct violation of labour laws and international conventions that Fiji has ratified. Over the last year, the trade union has been denied permission to hold peaceful marches on at least three occasions, without a valid reason.

Fiji’s draconian laws have compelled civil society organisations (CSOs) to tread carefully, fueling frustration at a narrow civic space and the suppression of dissenting voices. Nevertheless, rights groups have continued bravely to organize and demand reforms and accountability for rights violations.

While CSOs often play a crucial role in election preparations and promoting participatory democratic culture in many countries, this is not the case in Fiji. A 2014 Electoral Decree, which does not allow any CSO that receives foreign funding “to engage in, participate in or conduct any campaign, including organising debates, public forum, meetings, interviews, panel discussions, or publishing any material that is related to the election”, has effectively barred civil society participation in elections.

Clearly unjustified, this ban is a violation of freedom of expression and undermines civil society, a key pillar of any democratic society.

Despite these worrying restrictions, Fiji was elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in October 2018 for a three-year term. Among its commitments was that Fiji ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – a treaty that clearly outlines legal obligations to respect and protect the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and freedom of association. Demonstrated respect for these rights must begin with the upcoming elections and upheld by the winning party after it.

The next administration must take steps not only to ratify all human rights treaties but to ensure that all laws and decrees – such as the sedition and media laws – are revised or repealed to keep national legislation in step with international human rights law and standards.

Law enforcement officials, such as the police, who are seen to be controlled the executive, must be re-trained to ensure that they operate independently, respect the right to free speech and assembly and allow peaceful protests.

The incoming administration must take steps to foster a safe, respectful and enabling environment for civil society and swiftly remove measures that limit their right to participate in elections.

During the pledging event by candidate states to the UNHRC in Geneva in September, Fiji’s representative at council, Nazhat Shameem, committed to giving the South Pacific region a voice in world’s main human rights body.

A lofty promise for a government not in the habit of giving voice to interests beyond its own. Fiji should start by allowing its own citizens to speak out and express themselves at home, without fear of reprisals.

The post Climate of Repression a Dark Cloud over Upcoming Elections in Fiji appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Josef Benedict is a civic space research officer for global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

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Northeast Nigeria: Urgent Need to Combat Deadly Cholera Outbreakshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/northeast-nigeria-urgent-need-combat-deadly-cholera-outbreaks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=northeast-nigeria-urgent-need-combat-deadly-cholera-outbreaks http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/northeast-nigeria-urgent-need-combat-deadly-cholera-outbreaks/#respond Mon, 12 Nov 2018 14:07:40 +0000 Janet Cherono http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158642 Janet Cherono is Norwegian Refugee Council’s Program Manager in Maiduguri

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Overcrowding leading to poor sanitary conditions in IDPs camps and communities contributes to further cholera outbreak in Borno Nigeria.

By Janet Cherono
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, Nov 12 2018 (IPS)

The number of people who have been affected by cholera in northeast Nigeria has increased to 10,000. The disease is spreading quickly in congested displacement camps with limited access to proper sanitation facilities.

One of the major causes of the outbreak is the congestion in the camps that makes it difficult to provide adequate water, sanitation and hygiene services. The rainy season has also worsened the conditions.

NRC is calling on the local governments in Nigeria’s northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe to end the cycle of yearly cholera outbreaks.

If more land is not urgently provided for camp decongestion and construction of health and sanitation facilities, Nigeria is steering towards yet another cholera outbreak in 2019.

Over the last decade, northeast Nigeria and other areas of the Lake Chad Basin have been affected by cholera outbreaks almost every year, due to poor hygiene facilities in displacement camps and host communities. More than 1.8 million people are displaced in Nigeria, as a result of ongoing conflicts.

Maiduguri has the highest concentration of displaced people, with 243,000 displaced people cramped in camps, camp-like settlements and already crowded host communities, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration.

In Kagoni Sangaya displacement camp, the eight latrines that were built to cater for about 150 displaced people are now being shared by 500 people. Camp residents said they end up defecating in the open which causes cholera and other water borne diseases in the area.

More than 10,000 people have been afflicted by the ongoing cholera outbreak in Nigeria, according to the government. Of these, 175 were reported dead in the states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe as of early November 2018.

The number of deaths resulting from the disease is higher than would be expected in a situation where timely and efficient treatment is available. This indicates inexistent or insufficient access to clean water, sanitation, hygiene and health services.

We are calling on the authorities to provide more space in camps and host communities for the construction of new water and sanitation facilities, and for the international community to provide the necessary funding. Only this way can we prevent new cholera outbreaks.

NRC has responded to the cholera outbreak by transporting at least 180,000 liters of clean water daily from Maiduguri to communities around Tungushe and Konduga towns, constructing more latrines where there are space and by sharing information about hygiene and cholera prevention with affected communities.

Facts and Figures:

– By 7th November, the cholera outbreak in northeast Nigeria includes 1762 registered cases and 61 deaths in Yobe State, 2737 registered cases and 41 deaths in Adamawa State, and 5845 and 73 deathsin Borno State, according to figures from the World Health Organization and the Government of Nigeria.

– An estimated 7.7 million people in the three most affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe now depend on humanitarian assistance for their survival.

– NRC is currently providing life-saving assistance including food and livelihood support to help stabilize the living conditions of over 130,000 families displaced from their homes in northeast Nigeria.

– In 2018, NRC provided water, sanitation and hygiene services to over 56,000 people in Borno state.

– The humanitarian response plan for Nigeria is only 55% funded.

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Excerpt:

Janet Cherono is Norwegian Refugee Council’s Program Manager in Maiduguri

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Bringing Informal Workers to the Forefront of Our Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/bringing-informal-workers-forefront-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bringing-informal-workers-forefront-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/bringing-informal-workers-forefront-economy/#respond Mon, 12 Nov 2018 12:43:57 +0000 Annette Francis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158635 With 81 percent of India’s employed workforce being in the informal sector, we can't afford to ignore their potential. Here's how entrepreneurship could offer a solution.

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With 81 percent of India’s employed workforce being in the informal sector, we can't afford to ignore their potential. Here's how entrepreneurship could offer a solution.

Photo courtesy: Pratham Institute

By Annette Francis
MUMBAI, India, Nov 12 2018 (IPS)

The image of the ‘struggling’ daily wage labourer in India is one that stakeholders from across the development sector aspire to transform. Financial security, quality living conditions, and opportunity to thrive are the buzzwords in a conversation about the needs of this bracket. These workers—usually associated with the informal or unorganised sector—are assumed to represent the outliers of the national economy.

By definition, the informal sector includes those roles which aren’t taxed or monitored by any form of government. Recent findings however, indicate that 81 percent of India’s employed individuals work in the informal sector, of which 64 percent are engaged in non-agricultural forms of employment. Thus, while the informal sector may only contribute a sliver to national income charts, it clearly takes up a sizeable slice in the national employment pie.

These individuals aren’t guaranteed job security or minimum wage employment, and often lack essentials such as identification documents, bank accounts, insurance coverage, access to quality education, and more. If 81 percent of the nation is working in the informal sector, it implies that the work done by 81 percent of the nation isn’t formally recognised as ‘work’.

 

Challenges around formalising the informal sector

81 percent of India’s employed individuals work in the informal sector, of which 64 percent are engaged in non-agricultural forms of employment. Thus, while the informal sector may only contribute a sliver to national income charts, it clearly takes up a sizeable slice in the national employment pie.
If the problem is so apparent, then why has it been allowed to persist? To understand the wider challenges surrounding this situation, let us explore the case of the construction sector, one which contributes heavily to the migrating population and is widely recognised as a part of the informal economy.

 

1. Tracking and monitoring

For starters, monitoring this extensive cohort is a difficult task, owing to the widespread migration of the labour workforce. It is estimated that there are 5 to 6 million interstate migrants a year in India, growing at a rate of 4.5 percent annually. This includes undocumented workers who migrate seasonally across multiple locations, working for various employers, potentially across numerous sectors. These dynamic parameters make it challenging for government bodies to effectively track informal workers over a long duration. As a result, they are often excluded from state policies at both the source and destination.

 

2. Turning policy into action

For workers in the construction sector there are legal provisions, set within policies such as the Building and Other Construction Workers Act (BOCW, 1996), which aim to protect them from exploitation at the workplace.

However, converting these plans to action continues to be a challenging task. For instance, the act stipulates a cess collection, which is to be directed towards worker welfare. However while INR 70,000 crore had to be collected by the various Welfare State Boards, the actual collection amounted to only INR 26,962.18 crore rupees. Utilisation of the funds collected is even lower still.

The hierarchy of power set within this sector places contractors and sub-contractors at the top, while pushing labourers to the bottom of the barrel. The work hours are long and, the working conditions strenuous. Additionally, frequency of circulation of workers is high owing to the changing nature of skills required in a construction site. Since awareness about BOCW is limited among the workforce, there is hardly any demand for welfare measures.

 

3. Lack of capital

But the problem doesn’t end with worker’s rights. A closer look at the lives of contractors reveals that despite being higher in the hierarchy, they are handicapped by lack of capital and the irregularity of their revenue cycles. As a result, the job security of those employed under them is also at risk.

It is apparent that for these blue-collar entrepreneurs, there are several financial obstacles which prevent them from running their enterprises efficiently and ethically. For example, lack of collateral and poor credit scores prevent them from availing bank loans. Even if they manage to procure loans, the stringent frameworks set within financial institutions reduces the amount of working capital available for utilisation.

 

Entrepreneurship offers a solution

There are organisations working with entrepreneurs to help them overcome the challenges they face.

1. In 2016 Pratham (the organisation I am a part of), deployed the ‘Good Contractor‘ programme, which provides financial assistance, mentorship, and training for upcoming contractors. The USP of the project is that it has defined an ethics matrix with guidelines for labour welfare, and a candidate’s eligibility to continue in the programme is dependent on how they fulfil the requirements in the matrix.

By recognising upcoming contractors as entrepreneurs, the programme has managed to impact the lives of nearly 400 labourers through 35 contractors over two years in Mumbai. The financial autonomy and mentorship that this programme provides, should be recognised as the key drivers for participation from the workforce.

2. At the start of 2018, the Udhyam Learning Foundation launched the Udhyam Vyapaar model, working on a one-one basis with 30 entrepreneurs. The programme empowers youth at a grassroots level by providing one-one mentorship, to help overcome the challenges which they may be experiencing in running their enterprises.

The objective in this case is to foster entrepreneurs from low income backgrounds, irrespective of the sector or scale of the proposed business plans. The organisation plans to partner with NBFCs to provide funding for entrepreneurs in the nearby future.

3. Having worked on a voluntary basis for 5 years within Aurangabad and Nagpur,  Vruksh Ecosystem has been increasing awareness about the same within local communities, reaching out to over 5000 youth from both rural and urban backgrounds. It has managed to support 30 to 40 entrepreneurs working on enterprises within the sectors of agriculture, healthcare, clean mobility, and sustainable cities, and will officially be launched in, November 2018.

The common denominator for each of these organisations is the message of social impact at a grassroots level, while ensuring profitability for entrepreneurs. The numerous spill-over benefits which are generated through entrepreneurship, scales these models beyond the direct beneficiaries.

The chain reaction which can be generated by starting with a small cohort is what makes them truly click. The rise of these initiatives by nonprofit organisations, strengthens the idea that the solution for improving worker welfare lies in the overall systemic change that may be accelerated through entrepreneurship.

 

Role of civil society and CSR

With the push towards entrepreneurship created by the Start-Up India movement, workers in the informal economy cannot be excluded from the picture. While they may be at a disadvantage when compared to their counterparts in the white-collar end of the spectrum, it mustn’t be forgotten that these blue-collar entrepreneurs could open the doors required to organise 81 percent of the working Indian population. This is a mammoth task, which cannot be accomplished by simply creating amendments in policy. So, what do we need to do?

 

1. Inclusive entrepreneurship

We need to recognise that fostering entrepreneurship in an inclusive manner, is steadily becoming the need of the hour. In both rural and urban communities, programmes which focus on employability and foundation skills could begin to spread the idea that entrepreneurship is an accessible career path for people from all walks of life.

 

2. Training and mentorship

Once the message is out there, the next step is building programmes which can help these aspiring entrepreneurs navigate the challenges they will face. These individuals will require mentorship, training in communication, digital literacy, financial literacy, programme management, and so much more. The goal of their training and mentorship would be to enable them to build a sustainable future for themselves, while creating new job opportunities for others.

 

3. Financial support

Financial limitations are one of the primary bottlenecks which prevents interested parties from entering starting their own enterprises, and so corporates play a significant role in the success of entrepreneurship models. When the matter of CSR funds arise there needs to be greater willingness to experiment and invest in these models.

Microfinance institutions and NBFCs should be willing to grant business loans to entrepreneurs who are vetted and vouched for by partner nonprofits. With innovation comes risk, and funding entrepreneurs with limited collateral and personal finances is a gamble, but it is one that is necessary to ensure the success of their ventures.

On a final note, dignity of labour is a message that is yet to be accepted by the Indian community, and while we need skilled workers, the need for job creators is greater still. The cause of bringing the informal worker cohort to the forefront of our economy is one that needs to resonate in all corners of the nation. With a working age population of more than 850 million, we cannot afford to ignore the potential that 81 percent of our national workforce represents.

 

Annette Francis works with Pratham’s vocational training and entrepreneurship arm known as Pratham Institute. She currently focuses on research and innovation projects being pioneered by the organisation. Her primary area of interest is researching technology-based solutions for mitigating challenges in the development sector, specifically within the livelihood and education space. She has previously worked in a teaching capacity with nonprofit and for-profit organisations based in India and Scotland.

This story was originally published by India Development Review (IDR)

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Excerpt:

With 81 percent of India’s employed workforce being in the informal sector, we can't afford to ignore their potential. Here's how entrepreneurship could offer a solution.

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Considerations for Pakistan’s New Minister for National Food Security and Researchhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/five-considerations-pakistans-new-minister-national-food-security-research/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=five-considerations-pakistans-new-minister-national-food-security-research http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/five-considerations-pakistans-new-minister-national-food-security-research/#respond Mon, 12 Nov 2018 10:54:11 +0000 Ahmed Raza and Daud Khan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158632 Despite the fact that Pakistan’s industrial and services sector continue to grow in importance, what happens in the agriculture sector remains critical to the performance of Pakistan’s economy and the wellbeing of its people. According to data by the Government of Pakistan almost 60% of the country’s population live in rural areas.  For most of […]

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Farmers spread their produce under the sun in the courtyard of their home in Ghool village of the Chakwal district, Pakistan. Credit: Saleem Shaikh/IPS

Farmers spread their produce under the sun in the courtyard of their home in Ghool village of the Chakwal district, Pakistan. Credit: Saleem Shaikh/IPS

By Ahmed Raza and Daud Khan
ROME, Nov 12 2018 (IPS)

Despite the fact that Pakistan’s industrial and services sector continue to grow in importance, what happens in the agriculture sector remains critical to the performance of Pakistan’s economy and the wellbeing of its people.

According to data by the Government of Pakistan almost 60% of the country’s population live in rural areas.  For most of them agriculture forms the basis of their livelihood and spending on health, education, housing and clothing are critically dependant on the performance of the sector.

Poverty also tends to be more concentrated in rural areas and, as a consequence of the migration of many young males to urban areas, the bulk of tasks in agriculture and related rural activities are now carried out by women.

Better agriculture performance therefore also means greater wellbeing for a large segment of the population, less poverty and more money in the hands of women – something that is critical in bringing about a more gender balanced society.

In recent years the performance of agriculture has been lackluster. Since 2011/12 growth has averaged only 2.4% per year and in 2015/16 the agricultural GDP actually fell for the first time in Pakistan’s history. This resulted in strong protests from farmers and rural populations about the low priority given to agricultural and rural development by the outgoing PML-N government.

In recent years the performance of agriculture has been lackluster. Since 2011/12 growth has averaged only 2.4% per year and in 2015/16 the agricultural GDP actually fell for the first time in Pakistan’s history

Pakistan does not have a national level Ministry of Agriculture or of Rural Development.  Most of the responsibilities for agricultural development have been devolved to the provinces as part of the decentralization process that started in 2010 under the 18th Constitutional Amendment.

However, there is a Federal Ministry for National Food Security and Research (MNFSR) and it has a critical role to support and guide agriculture development across the four provinces.  In addition, a number of key policy levers related to trade, tariffs, support prices and regulations related to seeds and fertilizers remain under their control.

A new minister, Sahibzada Muhammad Mehboob Sultan, was appointed to the MNFSR in early October.  The new Minister has an important but uphill task ahead of him. This should not daunt him as many of the critical elements of an action plan are in place and it needs some strong political lobbying to get things moving.

More critically, as argued below, what he does will not require is more money and in fact a review of the current subsidies may actually reduce public outlays – something for which his counterpart the Minister of Finance will be grateful in these tough times.

 

Below is a list of four things the new minister should do:

 

First, operationalize the National Food Security Policy. A new National Food Security Policy was approved at the end of the tenure of the last Government – just before the dissolving of the assemblies. The new Minister should not see the National Food Security Policy as a legacy document of the previous regime.

The Policy has taken several years to complete and the exercise has been consultative and holistic, with strong involvement of the provinces, development partners and other stakeholders. It provides the necessary framework for visualizing the role of agriculture and food systems in the production and consumption of adequate, safe and nutritious foods without compromising the country’s natural resources while at the same time improving the incomes of vulnerable populations.

The new Minister should focus on translating the Policy into action. The focus should be on better managing trade and pricing policies – in particular liberalising trade in products such as wheat and sugar which are important to the poor and which can be imported at low prices, and, at the same time freeing up domestic markets for fruits, vegetables and livestock which are still subject to government monopolies and price caps; improving legislation particularly those related seeds and other inputs as well as to intellectual property rights which act as a brake on national and international investment in machinery, equipment and inputs; leading the way on top-end basic research especially with regard to new and emerging issues such as climate change;  maintain international collaborative agreements especially with regard to transboundary pests and disease control.

 

Second, support provinces with managing public expenditure in agriculture. Almost all development expenditures for agriculture and rural development are in the hands of the Provincial Governments.

Often much of these funds are inefficiently spent with poorly planned projects, slow implementation and high expenditures on recurrent costs, the bulk of which are salaries of support staff. All four provinces have formulated their own agricultural plans and strategies to relaunch growth in the agriculture sector which reflect the growing demand for horticultural and livestock products from the expanding urban population.

Public expenditures, both development and recurrent, will play a large role in bringing about this change. The new Minister should work with his provincial counterparts, supporting and helping them with the more technical complex and difficult tasks such as the restructuring of the public services, revamping their research systems and reforms of land tenancy arrangements.

 

Third, advocate for the phasing out of inefficient subsidies. Presently, inefficient subsidies in the agriculture sector, particularly on fertilizers and the procurement, storage and distribution of wheat, curtail its growth potential.

By the government’s own admission in the National Food Security Policy document, the subsidy on wheat costs the national exchequer close to 200 billion Pakistan rupees, and should be revisited. According to a recent report by the International Food Policy Research Institute, the gradual phasing out of subsidies could allow reallocation of public funds towards higher investments in rural infrastructure (such as roads and markets), agro-processing, food logistics and distribution, research and development, and extension services.

In addition, redistributive policies could provide the necessary impetus for enhancing inclusivity in the agriculture sector through better targeting of social safety nets to smallholder family farmers, leading to improved human and social capital in rural areas.

 

Fourth, foster coordination with other sector and related ministries.  Alleviating poverty, eradicating hunger and malnutrition and transforming food systems are challenges that require coordinated and coherent actions across food, healthcare and education sectors. The MNFSR should take on this task , taking advantage of international agreed and supported initiatives such as the national Zero Hunger Programme which integrates agriculture, nutrition and social welfare.

 

Ahmed Raza Gorsi works in international development specializing in food, agriculture and nutrition. Views expressed here are his own.

Daud Khan has more than 30 years of experience on global food security and rural development issues. Until recently, he was a staff member at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. He has degrees in economics from the LSE and Oxford – where he was a Rhodes Scholar; and a degree in Environmental Management from the Imperial College of Science and Technology.  

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Inside a Wagon in the Forest of Compiègnehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/inside-wagon-forest-compiegne/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=inside-wagon-forest-compiegne http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/inside-wagon-forest-compiegne/#respond Sun, 11 Nov 2018 14:26:10 +0000 Manuel Manonelles http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158629 What is the link between the current civil war in Syria, the austerity policy imposed by Germany during the last economic crisis or the Arab-Israeli conflict? Its origin, which lies in the world that was born a hundred years ago, inside a wagon in the middle of the Forest of Compiègne, northeast of Paris. Indeed, […]

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Picture taken after the signature of the armistice in the Forest of Compiègne. Credit: Public Domain

By Manuel Manonelles
GENEVA, Nov 11 2018 (IPS)

What is the link between the current civil war in Syria, the austerity policy imposed by Germany during the last economic crisis or the Arab-Israeli conflict? Its origin, which lies in the world that was born a hundred years ago, inside a wagon in the middle of the Forest of Compiègne, northeast of Paris.

Indeed, it was on November 11, 1914 that the signature of the Armistice between the Allied powers and the German Empire took place, in the above-mentioned wagon. This event marked de facto the end of World War I (1914-18), a conflict that changed the world and still today projects its shadows.

The Armistice was followed by the Paris Peace Conference and, as a consequence, the Treaty of Versailles, that of Sèvres and many others. The birth of the League of Nations, the policy of “reparations” or the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian, German and Ottoman empires, and in part the Russian one, were other outputs of the end of the Great War. The consequences of some of these historical events are still present today in the international agenda and determine the lives of millions of people, one century later.

 

The Middle East, Kurdistan and Syria

The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, through the Treaty of Sèvres of August 1920, opened a Pandora’s Box that we still strive to close today. Three examples: the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the civil war in Syria and the case of the Kurdistan.

Let us start with the last one, with Kurdistan. Sèvres foresaw the holding of a referendum to decide its future, a referendum that never took place. The uprising of Kemal Atatürk in Turkey, the subsequent war and the Treaty of Lausanne (1923) were the main causes, but the disunity between the Kurds we could call “pragmatic” and the supporters of a greater Kurdistan also influenced. Similarly, the fact that Sèvres planned to include the oil rich province of Mosul within the territory of an eventual free Kurdistan (which the British were coveting) helped to tip the balance in favor of Turkish interests.

Another unfortunate legacy is, in part too, the current civil war in Syria. It is widely known that the origin of this conflict is related to the emergence of the Arab Spring, the resilience of the al-Assad regime, the infiltration of radical jihadist groups, and the interests of many regional and global powers.

However, part of the current war’s cruelty is intimately related to a State, Syria, resulting from the end of the WWI, with their borders designed to satisfy, exclusively, the French and British colonial interests. A division based on a Franco-British secret agreement taken before the end war, the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916, that unscrupulously mixed and divided diverse ethnic and religious groups.

Even more, we cannot ignore the icing on the cake of all conflicts, the Arab-Israeli conflict. Its origin is linked to the Balfour declaration (1917) before the end of the Great War. This declaration was assumed by the San Remo Conference (1920) -also linked to the Paris Peace Conference- within the framework of the complex maneuvers of the great powers, and other influential groups of interests, during the reshaping of borders of the post-Ottoman Levant.

 

Inheritances in financial policy

In another vein, one of the main elements that also defined the treaties resulting from the Paris Peace Conference, and especially the Treaty of Versailles, was the policy of “reparations”. This policy mainly entailed that the countries that lost WWI had to face the payment of enormous sums to compensate the Allies.

This policy, so aggressive, led to the resignation of a young economist from the British delegation at the Peace Conference, called Keynes, who warned of the destabilizing effects in the economic and financial field that this could have. Indeed, this was one of the main causes of the German hyper-inflationary crisis of the years 1920-23, in which a loaf of bread reached the cost of billions of German marks. The influence of this crisis on the discrediting of the Weimar Republic and the consequent rise of Nazism is well known.

This sequence of events is at the base of the almost pathological animosity of the German economists to inflation. Since the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany, German official economic and financial policy has been always conditioned by a strict control of inflation: perceived as the mother of all possible and imaginable evils. This was the policy that Chancellor Merkel imposed, not only in Germany but also in the rest of Europe, during the last economic and financial crisis; a restrictive policy that would avoid the supposed danger of inflation. With the consequent austerity policies and their consequences…

All of this and more, a hundred years ago, started in a wagon inside the Forest of Compiègne, northeast of Paris.

Manuel Manonelles is the Delegate of the Government of Catalonia in Switzerland, as well as Visiting Professor at the University Ramon Llull – Blanquerna (Barcelona)

 

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Only Acting Together Can We Stop the Rise in Malnutritionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/acting-together-can-stop-rise-malnutrition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=acting-together-can-stop-rise-malnutrition http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/acting-together-can-stop-rise-malnutrition/#comments Thu, 08 Nov 2018 20:13:10 +0000 Julio Berdergue, Carissa Etienne, Marita Perceval, and Miguel Barreto http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158607 Julio Berdegué is FAO Regional Representative, Carissa F. Etienne is Director of PAHO, Marita Perceval is Director of UNICEF in Latin America and the Caribbean, Miguel Barreto is Regional Director of WFP

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In Latin America, 8.4% of women are in a situation of severe food insecurity, compared to 6.9% of men. In ten countries, 20% of the poorest children suffer three times more chronic malnutrition than the richest 20%. Indigenous populations suffer greater food insecurity than non-indigenous people, and rural populations have higher rates of poverty than urban ones.

A woman making tortillas in her home in the village of San Lorenzo, Chiapas, Mexico. In Latin America, 8.4% of women are in a situation of severe food insecurity, compared to 6.9% of men. Credit: FAO

By Julio Berdergué, Carissa F. Etienne, Marita Perceval, and Miguel Barreto
SANTIAGO, Nov 8 2018 (IPS)

The number of undernourished people increased for the third consecutive year in Latin America and the Caribbean. It has exceeded 39 million people. In addition, almost one in four adults is obese, while overweight affects 250 million; more than the entire population of Brazil.

For this reason, for the first time, four agencies of the United Nations system -FAO, PAHO/WHO, UNICEF and WFP- have joined together to publish the Panorama of food and nutrition security in Latin America and the Caribbean 2018.

In Latin America, 8.4% of women are in a situation of severe food insecurity, compared to 6.9% of men. In ten countries, 20% of the poorest children suffer three times more chronic malnutrition than the richest 20%.
This year’s edition focuses on inequality, a fundamental issue for the region. Inequality contributes both to hunger and several different forms of malnutrition. In Latin America, 8.4% of women are in a situation of severe food insecurity, compared to 6.9% of men. In ten countries, 20% of the poorest children suffer three times more chronic malnutrition than the richest 20%. Indigenous populations suffer greater food insecurity than non-indigenous people, and rural populations have higher rates of poverty than urban ones.

Without addressing inequality in food security and nutrition, we will not be able to fulfill the commitment we have adopted to leave no one behind, established in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

It is necessary to understand why malnutrition, lack of micronutrients, overweight and obesity have a greater impact on people with lower income, women, indigenous people, people of African descent and rural families. Above all, we must act in a differentiated way to ensure that these social groups and the populations of territories that are lagging behind can also fulfill their right to food.

FAO, PAHO/WHO, UNICEF and WFP are convinced that it is perfectly possible to transform our food systems to ensure a better diet for all, in a way that is more sustainable an adapted to climate change.

Today we understand that we need actions in production, international trade, processing and marketing of products to have healthy food. We can work to improve environments, in a way that facilitates access to healthy foods, and encourage practices that help people make more informed and responsible consumption decisions.

It is possible to change the current course of the region to accelerate progress towards the goal of eradicating hunger and all forms of malnutrition: the Sustainable Development Goal 2. For this, what we need most is to recover greater political commitment with the eradication of hunger and all forms of malnutrition.

Some governments are already implementing a new generation of policies to address the specificities of the groups that are suffering the most. Innovative public policies to reduce overweight and obesity are also being applied for the first time.

For these policies to be successful, we need the participation of everyone. Together we must think of ways for all the actors of the food system to act more responsibly with society and the environment, from producers to consumers. Together we can build food systems that ensure adequate food in the present and in the future. Together we can guarantee a healthy life for all and become the zero hunger generation.

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Excerpt:

Julio Berdegué is FAO Regional Representative, Carissa F. Etienne is Director of PAHO, Marita Perceval is Director of UNICEF in Latin America and the Caribbean, Miguel Barreto is Regional Director of WFP

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Empowering Women in Post-Conflict Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/empowering-women-post-conflict-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=empowering-women-post-conflict-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/empowering-women-post-conflict-africa/#respond Thu, 08 Nov 2018 10:43:25 +0000 Amber Rouleau http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158594 Amber Rouleau is with the communications office for African Women Rising

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African Women Rising AWR’s programs focus on providing people with access to capital to be able to invest in farming or businesses, working in partnership with farmers to sustainably improve yields and reduce vulnerability to environmental challenges, and providing adult and girls’ education to empower people to take action in their communities

This school was started by one of African Women Rising’s adult literacy groups. The government-run school is far away and children are not able to join until they are older as it is too far away for them to walk. Parents decided to take action, pool their resources and start their own school so their children would not fall behind. This demonstrates the power of community organizing. Credit: Brian Hodges Photography for African Women Rising

By Amber Rouleau
SANTA BARBARA, California, USA, Nov 8 2018 (IPS)

While its conflict ended in 2007, Northern Uganda struggles with its legacy as one of the most aid-dependent regions in the world.

Linda Cole, founder of African Women Rising (AWR), who has vast experience working in conflict and post-conflict regions, realized that programs don’t always reach the people who need it the most: those living in extreme poverty.

Couple this with the fact that most post-conflict programs are geared toward men, Cole created African Women Rising with the belief that there is a better way to impart meaningful and long-term change for women in these communities.

Rooted in the conviction that women should be active stakeholders in defining their own development strategies, AWR’s programs focus on providing people with access to capital to be able to invest in farming or businesses, working in partnership with farmers to sustainably improve yields and reduce vulnerability to environmental challenges, and providing adult and girls’ education to empower people to take action in their communities.

In order to become a better farmer, businesswoman, or simply a more productive member of society, women must know how to read, write and calculate. AWR is helping over 9,000 of the most vulnerable women and girls reclaim their lives, and empower future generations, building on initiatives which allow for self-sustaining solutions.

The majority of the women African Women Rising works with are widows, abductees, girl mothers, orphans or grandmothers taking care of orphans and other vulnerable children. For women who were forced to participate in the war against their own people, the return home is often a grim experience.

Many return to areas where access to primary health care, education or arable land to farm is tenuous at best. Accordingly, throughout the last twelve years, AWR has been working to break this paradigm of extreme dependency and create a foundation of self-sufficiency and sovereignty for women in these rural communities, with three foundational programs: micro-finance, education, and agriculture.

Brenda is 24 years old. She has 3 children, the two older ones go to school. Brenda is a participant in African Women Rising’s organic Field Crop program. Using local resources and simple methods for improving the soil and water conservation, she has been able to double her yield. Credit: Brian Hodges Photography for African Women Rising

In the last number of years, Northern Uganda has seen a dramatic increase in refugees coming from South Sudan. Over one million people have crossed the border, approximately 80% are women and children, some arriving into the communities where AWR is working. AWR is currently working with 6,600 refugees in Palabek settlement camp, helping them start and maintain permagardens to increase access to food and income.

Their micro-financing program is founded on proven Village Savings and Loan methodology, with an approach based on savings, basic business skills, and access to capital. AWR achieves this through rigorous capacity building and mentorship. The training classes focus on basic business knowledge and accounting to provide women with the tools to be successful.

The viability of AWR’s model lies in its use of community mobilizers who provide technical support and mentoring for each group over a three year period. This year, AWR groups will save over $2 million, all coming from women’s weekly savings of 25 to 75 cents.

“With the money I saved from the Micro Finance group in 2013 I hired a tractor to plow my land and plant simsim. With the income I bought cattle. I now have more than 80 cattle. African Women Rising has changed my life.” Credit: Brian Hodges Photography for African Women Rising

As the largest provider of adult literacy in Northern Uganda, AWR’s 34 adult literary centers provide education to more than 2,000 adults. However, they are more than a place to become literate. Participants identify issues that are relevant to them and discuss how to solve them.

For example, the lack of trustworthy candidates in a recent election made over 50 students to run for public office. Centers have also repaired boreholes, opened up new roads, started marketplaces and community schools for children.

African Women Rising is the largest provider of adult literacy in Northern Uganda. Their centers are more than a place to learn to read and write. Building upon the teachings of Paul Freire, they help communities organize, identify, and solve the challenges they are facing. Credit: Brian Hodges Photography for African Women Rising

Their education programs for girls focuses primarily on children of AWR members who participate in their livelihoods programs and are reaching a financial status where they can begin to sustainably afford school fees. In some of these regions, not a single girl graduates from primary school – and in Palabek refugee camp, AWR has built a structure, so teachers have a building in which to prepare and teach lessons.

Cole and her organization are working together with parents, caretakers, schools, and government officials to create sustainable change. The program provides academic mentorship and life skills to 1,150 girls in 11 remote schools in Northern Uganda, increasing access and removing obstacles to schooling.

This includes providing washable menstrual pads for girls, so they can stay in school when they are menstruating, one of the biggest barriers for girls in continuing their studies.

With each missed week, girls fall farther behind, often eventually dropping out entirely, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. AWR is building awareness and support for girls’ education in communities, and aims to have 55% of girls graduating their grade level this year.

The organization’s agricultural training program teaches community members how to create, manage, and maintain their gardens (allowing for not only food, but income), over a year’s seasonal cropping cycle, tracking 25 different agroecological based indicators (most agencies track 2 to 3 in a development setting).

Women learning how to use an A-frame to help dig swales to collect water for their Perma Garden. Credit: Brian Hodges Photography for African Women Rising

The Perma garden and Field crop programs increase soil fertility, water conservation, and crop yields, teaching farmers in a participatory approach designed to maximize exposure to practical lessons, ensuring year-round access to nutritious vegetables and fruit. A better diet and nutritional intake, means increased income for participants and increased access to healthcare and schooling.

Perma Gardens are designed to produce food year-round. This helps people through the hunger period and, for many, it is also a source of income. Credit: Brian Hodges Photography for African Women Rising

These programs are symbiotic, and while there are no quick fixes, simple, community-based solutions wholly learned over time changes lives. AWR believes in a just and equal world where all people have the opportunity and right to live their lives with dignity.

Through their programs they are working to break the cycle of poverty and dependence: as parents and caregivers are becoming financially stable they invest in the education of their children, and as children learn, a cycle of empowerment and self-sustainability begins. Like a seed planted in a garden, the cultivation of education provides opportunities for the entire community, for generations to come.

AWR depends on grants and donations. For more information on African Women Rising, or to donate, please visit http://www.africanwomenrising.org/

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Excerpt:

Amber Rouleau is with the communications office for African Women Rising

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Is Excessive Sovereign Debt a Threat to Peace?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/excessive-sovereign-debt-threat-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=excessive-sovereign-debt-threat-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/excessive-sovereign-debt-threat-peace/#respond Wed, 07 Nov 2018 11:39:33 +0000 Boudewijn Mohr http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158579 Boudewijn Mohr* is a former UNICEF country programme and operational management specialist who travelled across 36 countries on the African continent. He is also a former senior international corporate banker in New York, and author of the recently-released “A Destiny in the Making: From Wall Street to UNICEF in Africa”.

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Now if a sovereign debt crisis can be proven to threaten essential social and economic rights of populations and thus might constitute a threat to peace in that country and the sub-region, can the Security Council intervene on the basis of R2P? What is the correct point to intervene? When there are signs that excessive debt is threatening peace, could the Security Council intervene pre-emptively?

Opening day of the Annual Conference of the European Center for Peace and Development, City Hall, Belgrade, 26 October 2018

By Boudewijn Mohr
BEAUNE, Burgundy, France, Nov 7 2018 (IPS)

Some 30 years ago, the international banks were afloat with petrodollars, deposited by the oil exporting countries. The banks in turn stepped up lending to Latin America, in a big way. The new branch of Société Générale in New York where I was working at the time followed suit rapidly building up its portfolio, as the bank needed to make loans to get its branch off the ground.

Latin America was not my territory; my clients were French companies establishing subsidiaries in the United States. But when in 1982 I witnessed the panic in New York surrounding the implosion of Mexico’s debt, I wondered; and then began to write about it in a renowned Dutch newspaper in Holland, also offering ideas for solving the debt overhang.

I simply failed to grasp why commercial banks, in their eagerness to make loans, would lend so excessively, as they themselves must have known that such loans carried great risks. The banks probably did so willy-nilly, following in the footsteps of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

At that time, the IMF was trying to help redress large balance of payment deficits of countries in Latin America through imposing stiff austerity measures, curbing inflation and trying to rekindle growth.

Today the IMF does not wince pumping 57 billion dollars into Argentina, a questionable step, and if only for weakening its own capital base in exchange for an excessive sovereign loan.

Given Argentina’s history, a portion of the loan unlikely may never be repaid, would need to be re-phased or simply forgiven. Their president says that chance is “zero”. The IMF now needs a major capital injection that may not be so easy to negotiate this time around, according to the Financial Times.

Has then nothing changed since the 1980s?

Now if a sovereign debt crisis can be proven to threaten essential social and economic rights of populations and thus might constitute a threat to peace in that country and the sub-region, can the Security Council intervene on the basis of R2P? What is the correct point to intervene? When there are signs that excessive debt is threatening peace, could the Security Council intervene pre-emptively?

Not a whole lot in any case. But in my mind something important did change compared to 30 years ago: the world’s money supply today is unimaginably massive. You could call it a bubble of money in circulation; and that means that all that floating money, like the petrodollars of the past, needs to find a home, ergo loans to those countries that have less of it.

 

Poverty the ultimate threat facing humanity

Most researchers now agree that poverty is the ultimate threat facing humanity, and not only in the developing world. Everything bad emanates from it. Today poverty has increased to unbearable levels for many, a result of conflicts, climate change and rising food prices.

Today’s poverty reduction strategies now include provisions for the poor. This approach is rooted in UNICEF’s tireless campaign for economic adjustment with a human face in the ‘80s under the leadership of UNICEF’s Richard Jolly and his team of economists, and was enthusiastically endorsed by Jim Grant.

The proposal was to shield the poor and vulnerable from the worst effects of the austerity measures through strong social protection and safety nets. It is encouraging to note that Christine Lagarde pledged for more flexible measures in IMF lending that would include strong provisions to protect the most vulnerable.

This intention should be properly institutionalised and respected by her successors. For now, inequality in every aspect of life continues unabated; you are all familiar with the statistics.

 

Sovereign debt as a threat to peace

In 2012 the Max Planck Research Institute published a discussion paper with the most telling title “Sovereign debt crises as threats to the peace nations”. Its author, Matthias Goldmann, a senior research fellow, found that more reliable data than before enable researchers to point to a correlation between sovereign debt and the risk of armed conflict or even civil war. I have seen this in West and Southern Africa.

Sovereign debt reduces the ability of the state to adequately provide basic services to the most vulnerable, such as health and education services. I have witnessed in Africa that countries in pre-conflict situations have had declining budget allocations for health and education, far below internationally established norms (10% for health and 25% for education).

Beginning in the 1980s, poverty increased steadily in Côte d’Ivoire. World prices of cacao were steadily declining; and conflict in the form of protests and strikes began to rear its ugly head.

I was stationed in Abidjan when it got worse, with demonstrating university students, the university closed, burnt-out cars and soldiers roaming the streets in hijacked vehicles. It took 10 years for the civil conflict to end. In the end the country was exhausted and essentially bankrupt.

After the peace accords of 1992 Mozambique had no trouble finding loans and grants. At the 1995 Consultative Group Meeting in Paris, over 1 billion dollars was raised, a huge sum for its time. In the late 1990s Mozambique’s south developed fast with several huge investments from South Africa, for example a gigantic aluminum smelter near Maputo and upgrading of road and rail network. It was double-digit growth.

But the north, traditionally marginalised, stayed further behind. Not surprisingly, many years later the conflict flared up again between Frelimo and Renamo in the centre and north of the country.

In Rwanda, sovereign debt increased massively in the early 1990s. A structural adjustment programme imposed harsh austerity measures, but military expenditures were exempted. Public services collapsed with cuts in health and education expenditures. Development aid and foreign loans were channelled towards financing the military.

The army swelled to 40,000 troops. Clearly something bad was at hand. But nobody wanted to know. Ethnic tensions, already high in this small and overpopulated country, rose significantly, and then imploded into genocide. Rwanda’s sovereign debt was the worst debt trap the world had ever seen.

When Michel Camdessus retired from the IMF, he warned that poverty would “undermine societies through confrontation, violence and civil disorder”. This, I believe has always been so throughout history, but we paid lip service to change.

With all the problems our planet faces, inequality and poverty should not be the most difficult problems to solve once and for all. After all, states have the responsibility to protect its citizens in a human way, as adopted in 2006 in a unanimous resolution, R2P for short.

To note that R2P does not deny the right to use the military option as a last resort. What is new though is that the UN Security Council in case of a grave violation of this responsibility to protect its citizens, for example genocide, may decide to move into a sovereign nation.

Now if a sovereign debt crisis can be proven to threaten essential social and economic rights of populations and thus might constitute a threat to peace in that country and the sub-region, can the Security Council intervene on the basis of R2P?

What is the correct point to intervene? When there are signs that excessive debt is threatening peace, could the Security Council intervene pre-emptively? Goldmann argues that the Security Council might decide to intervene if there are additional factors, such as ethnical, racial, or structural inequality. These factors usually deteriorate as a result of economic hardship.

And lastly, how would the Security Council relate to and work with the major sovereign debt lender, the IMF, in pre-empting these threats to peace? Intriguing questions which beg for urgent answers.

*Prior to his stint with UNICEF, Boudewijn Mohr was a senior international corporate banker in New York, first with Chase Manhattan Bank in Wall Street and later at Societe Generale branch in New York City. This article is based on an address to the annual conference of the European Centre for Peace & Development in Belgrade last month. The theme of the conference was “A New Concept of Human Security.”

The post Is Excessive Sovereign Debt a Threat to Peace? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Boudewijn Mohr* is a former UNICEF country programme and operational management specialist who travelled across 36 countries on the African continent. He is also a former senior international corporate banker in New York, and author of the recently-released “A Destiny in the Making: From Wall Street to UNICEF in Africa”.

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Africa’s Giant Blue Economy Potentialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/africas-giant-blue-economy-potential/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africas-giant-blue-economy-potential http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/africas-giant-blue-economy-potential/#respond Tue, 06 Nov 2018 17:45:52 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee and Toshitsugu Uesawa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158549 Mr. Toshitsugu Uesawa is Japan’s Ambassador to Kenya and Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Japan joins Kenya as a co-host of the Blue Economy Conference. Kenya's Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma (left) met the Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono on October 6, 2018 in Tokyo. Credit: The Nation

By Siddharth Chatterjee and Toshitsugu Uesawa
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 6 2018 (IPS)

With good reason, Africa is excited over the prospects of sharing in the multi-trillion maritime industry, with the continent’s Agenda 2063 envisioning the blue economy as a foremost contributor to transformation and growth.

The United Nations has described Africa’s oceans, lakes and rivers as the “new frontier of the African renaissance”.

The Sustainable Blue Economy Conference is happening in Nairobi from 26 November to 28 November 2018. We commend the Governments Kenya and Canada for spearheading this important initiative.

The UN family is pleased to be part of this and Japan is honoured to join this as a co-host.

The theme of the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference and the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development, will focus on new technologies and innovation for oceans, seas, lakes and rivers as well as the challenges, potential opportunities, priorities and partnerships.

Ambassador Toshitsugu Uesawa

“The conference presents immense opportunities for the growth of our economy especially sectors such as fisheries, tourism, maritime transport, off-shore mining among others in a way that the land economy has failed to do,” said Ambassador Macharia Kamau, Principle Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Kenya.

The conference is anchored on the two conceptual pillars of: Sustainability, Climate Change and Controlling Pollution, and Production, Accelerated Economic Growth, Jobs and Poverty Alleviation.

Consider the potential: more than half of the countries in the continent are coastal and island states. Africa has a coastline of over 47,000 km and 13 million km2 of collective exclusive economic zones (EEZs).

Yet, very little of the potential of the blue economy is actually exploited. It is estimated that Africa’s coastline currently hosts a maritime industry worth $1 trillion per year, but could potentially be worth almost three times that in just two years’ time.

As the continent looks at the promise of prosperity from its maritime resources, it must keep an eye trained on the dangers that lurk when such resources are not properly managed.

With the narrative of oil discoveries, sustainable exploitation based on enforcement of national and international legislation must guide any strategies for exploitation of the blue economy.

Siddharth Chatterjee

Current realities in the sector justify the cautious approach: as a result of over-exploitation of the region’s fish stocks, it is estimated that Africa is losing US 1.3 billion dollars every year.

Globally, laissez faire activities around marine resources result in pollution that compromise biodiversity and human health. It is estimated for instance that between five and 13 million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year, causing at least $13 billion annually in economic losses.

For the more than one-quarter of Africa’s population that lives within 100 km of the coast and derive their livelihoods there, climate change, rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification and rising sea levels, all present further challenges.

These are the challenges that SDG 14 on conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources seeks to confront.

It is clear that if the continent is to establish a viable blue economy, African countries must begin with focus on the current limited infrastructure and capacities to assure maritime security and coastal protection.

The second imperative is to establish partnerships, including innovative financing models, preferably driven by the private sector.

The initial signs are encouraging. Already, more than half of the countries in Africa have adopted the African Charter on Maritime Security and Development (“Lomé Charter”), agreeing on continent-wide marine protection and security measures. This will include cooperation in training, establishment of national maritime coordination agencies, and most importantly, harmonisation of national maritime legislation.

The above will be part of the continent’s long term vision for the development of the blue economy, elaborated well in the Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy (2050 AIM Strategy).

We must come together to deal with the complexity of the task ahead. Challenges abound in the numerous negotiations, planning, coordination and stakeholder engagement tasks that must be achieved first.

Investors will be convinced in participating in the African blue economy, when some of the above are taken care of. The absence of data, policy and legal frameworks will be obvious impediments to the large-scale maritime infrastructure investments needed to realize the ambitious goals of the 2050 AIM Strategy.

At the internationalSustainable Blue Economy Conference that takes place in Nairobi, many investors and countries will have an opportunity to examine which sector of the blue economy they can realistically focus public and private investments in.

With proper regulatory frameworks, the blue economy sector will not only present pathways out of poverty for the continent, but they will also ensure an environmentally sustainable future.

The Blue Economy can be a driver of Africa’s structural transformation, sustainable economic progress, and social development.

The post Africa’s Giant Blue Economy Potential appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Mr. Toshitsugu Uesawa is Japan’s Ambassador to Kenya and Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Lessons for the ‘Rest’ from ersatz miracleshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/lessons-rest-ersatz-miracles/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lessons-rest-ersatz-miracles http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/lessons-rest-ersatz-miracles/#comments Tue, 06 Nov 2018 11:35:21 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158544 Of the ten fastest growing economies since 1960, eight are in East Asia. Two main competing explanations claimed to explain this regional concentration of catch up growth since the late 20th century, often referred to as the East Asian miracle. The dominant ‘neo-liberal’ Washington Consensus, sought to establish minimalist ‘night-watchman’ state, attributed this exceptional regional […]

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By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Nov 6 2018 (IPS)

Of the ten fastest growing economies since 1960, eight are in East Asia. Two main competing explanations claimed to explain this regional concentration of catch up growth since the late 20th century, often referred to as the East Asian miracle.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

The dominant ‘neo-liberal’ Washington Consensus, sought to establish minimalist ‘night-watchman’ state, attributed this exceptional regional performance to macroeconomic stability, public goods provision, and openness to trade and investment.

Meanwhile, more heterodox economists focused on the need for states to adopt pragmatic, experimental ‘trial and error’, selective approaches to overcome market and coordination failures in order to accelerate growth, especially through industrialization.

In this view, the developmental states of Northeast Asia used their ‘embedded autonomy’ viz a viz the private sector to accelerate technological catch-up and achieve rapid growth. But what then is to be learnt from the more modest and mixed progress in Southeast Asia?

Southeast Asia and the ‘Rest’
The conventional wisdom about Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand (MIT), is that states there lacked the strength, autonomy and embeddedness viz a viz the private sector to successfully adopt Northeast Asian development strategies.

Selective interventions in MIT were said to be subject to too much rent-seeking and corruption, which were widely believed to have slowed growth elsewhere. But this view does not quite fit the facts, i.e., sustained rapid growth in MIT.

Michael Rock’s Dictators, Democrats and Development in Southeast Asia shows how weaker and less autonomous states in MIT, subject to corruption and rent-seeking, successfully achieved rapid growth by pursuing unorthodox interventionist policies.

MIT undoubtedly looks much more like the Rest than Northeast Asia. They are resource rich, but have avoided the ‘resource curse’. They have high levels of ethnic heterogeneity, but have avoided related growth tragedies.

Like the Rest, they have poorer governance—weaker and less competent states, with less autonomy from the private sector, more corruption and rent-seeking. Yet, they have avoided the growth slowdowns and lost decades experienced by many of the Rest.

Nation building first?
So, how did MIT succeed while the Rest did not? Economic take-offs in MIT were preceded by rentier capitalist political elites gaining state control and pragmatically implementing industrial development strategies.

The successes were certainly not primarily about free trade, laissez faire, or being FDI friendly and export-oriented. They were also not easy, took time, and encountered political resistance, instability and violence.

Development did not emerge on the political agenda until elites needed to protect their conservative ‘nation-building’ projects. To consolidate power, they recognized that development and growth were in their long-term political interest.

The inability of political elites to successfully complete their nation-building projects is therefore crucial to understanding ‘failed states’. Such conservative nation-building projects were typically led by ‘centre right’ coalitions composed of monarchies, the military, police, bureaucracy and business elite.

The losers were the Left and popular groups, among others. With the defeat of the Left and histories of openness to foreign trade and investment, elites forged pro-growth political coalitions enabling an open capitalist, but nonetheless interventionist growth strategy to work.

Pragmatic development
This development strategy was more pragmatic than ideological, and rooted in essentially ‘experimental’, ‘muddling through’ and ‘trial and error’ approaches. Thus, even though these were ‘open economies’, the governments were not dogmatic ‘free traders’.

As MIT governments used both markets and states to sustain growth, development policies were certainly not laissez faire, even though they were capitalist, with states far more interventionist than mere night-watchmen.

MIT states sought to promote domestic capitalists to compete in the global economy. Such promotion of rentier business elites was reciprocated with ‘kickbacks’ for political elites to secure political support.

The fact that MIT growth was primarily driven by domestic, not foreign investment, has important implications for development policy. MIT’s favoured capitalists generally responded by substantially increasing the investment to GDP ratio.

MIT growth was thus investment, rather than export-led. The shares of manufactures in GDP and exports are larger than expected while export concentration indices are less than believed, suggesting that selective industrial policies worked, albeit unevenly.

Policy context
This strategy has influenced the size distribution of firms as a small number of very large conglomerates dominate—government-patronized ethnic Chinese conglomerates which dominate the MIT economies and, exceptionally, Malaysia’s ‘government-linked companies’.

This political economy ‘ecosystem’ could have failed if MIT governments were not developmentalist, or if the elites were too greedy, or if the private sector did not invest, or if there were no checks or balances.

Ruling political elites in MIT have been opportunistically or pragmatically nationalistic despite quasi-neoliberal rhetoric to the contrary. They pursued economic development as necessary for regime consolidation, national power and achieving their goals.

Catching-up?
Many observers correctly argue that MIT economies have not been consistently good at catching-up, which is only to be expected from experimenting. Nevertheless, their industrial policies have been effective in upgrading some firms and industries.

There is evidence of learning in aircraft, wood processing and automotive industries in Indonesia, and of substantial learning in palm oil processing and electronics in Malaysia, and agro-processing, cement, automotive parts, and component supplies in Thailand.

MIT governments and capitalists also learned from setbacks and failures without necessarily admitting to them, e.g., when governments took too much, or when government incentives failed, and policies had adverse consequences, even if unintended.

Sustaining growth, industrialization and technological progress remain preconditions for continuing income increases. Yet, all three now seem caught in so-called ‘middle income traps’. Escaping these traps will depend on the governing elites’ understanding of past progress.

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The Crumbling Architecture of Arms Controlhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/crumbling-architecture-arms-control/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=crumbling-architecture-arms-control http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/crumbling-architecture-arms-control/#respond Tue, 06 Nov 2018 11:00:44 +0000 Dan Smith http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158541 Dan Smith is Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

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By Dan Smith
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Nov 6 2018 (IPS)

At a political rally on Saturday, 20 October, US President Donald J. Trump announced that the United States will withdraw from the 1987 Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty). This confirms what has steadily been unfolding over the past couple of years: the architecture of Russian–US nuclear arms control is crumbling.

Building blocks of arms control

As the cold war ended, four new building blocks of East–West arms control were laid on top of foundations set by the 1972 Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems (ABM Treaty):

• The 1987 INF Treaty eliminated all ground-launched missiles with a range between 500 and 5500 kilometres, including both cruise and ballistic missiles.
• The 1990 Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty) capped at equal levels the number of heavy weapons deployed between the Atlantic and the Urals by members of both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO).
• The 1991 Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START I) reduced the number of strategic nuclear weapons; further cuts were agreed in 2002 and again in 2010 in the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START).
• The 1991 Presidential Nuclear Initiatives (PNIs) were parallel, unilateral but agreed actions by both the Soviet Union and the USA to eliminate short-range tactical nuclear weapons, of which thousands existed.

Taken together, the nuclear measures—the INF Treaty, START I and the PNIs—had a major impact (see figure 1).

Source: Kristensen, H. M. and Norris, R. S., ‘Status of world nuclear forces’, Federation of American Scientists, 2018.

The fastest pace of reduction was in the 1990s. A deceleration began just before the new century started, and there has been a further easing of the pace in the past six years. Nevertheless, year by year, the number continues to fall.

By the start of 2018 the global total of nuclear weapons was 14 700 compared with an all-time high of some 70 000 in the mid-1980s. While nuclear weapons are more capable in many ways than before, the reduction is, nonetheless, both large and significant.

Cracks appear: Charge and counter-charge

Even while the number continued to drop, problems were emerging. Not least, in 2002 the USA unilaterally withdrew from the ABM Treaty. However, that did not stop Russia and the USA from signing the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT Treaty) in 2002 and New START in 2010, but perhaps it presaged later developments.

Trump’s announcement brings a process that has been going on for several years towards its conclusion. The USA declared Russia to be violating the INF Treaty in July 2014. That was during the Obama administration.

Thus, the allegation that Russia has breached the INF Treaty is, in other words, not new. This year the USA’s NATO allies also aligned themselves with the US accusation, albeit somewhat guardedly (note the careful wording in paragraph 46 of the July Summit Declaration).

The charge is that Russia has developed a ground-launched cruise missile with a range over 500 kilometres. Many details have not been clearly stated publicly, but it seems Russia may have modified a sea-launched missile (the Kalibr) and combined it with a mobile ground-based launcher (the Iskander K system). The modified system is sometimes known as the 9M729, the SSC-8 or the SSC-X-8.

Russia rejects the US accusation. It makes the counter-charge that the USA has itself violated the INF Treaty in three ways: first by using missiles banned under the treaty for target practice; second by deploying some drones that are effectively cruise missiles; and third by taking a maritime missile defence system and basing it on land (Aegis Ashore) although its launch tubes could, the Russians say, be used for intermediate range missiles. Naturally, the USA rejects these charges.

A further Russian criticism of the USA over the INF Treaty is that, if the USA wanted to discuss alleged non-compliance, it should have used the treaty’s Special Verification Commission before going public.

This was designed specifically to address questions about each side’s compliance. The Commission did not meet between 2003 and November 2016, and it was during that 13-year interval that US concerns about Russian cruise missiles emerged.

Now Trump seems to have closed the argument by announcing withdrawal. Under Article XV of the treaty, withdrawal can happen after six months’ notice. Unless there is a timely change of approach by either side or both, the INF Treaty looks likely to be a dead letter by April 2019.

It could be, however, that the announcement is intended as a manoeuvre to obtain Russian concessions on the alleged missile deployment or on other aspects of an increasingly tense Russian–US relationship. That is what Russian deputy foreign minister, Sergey Ryabkov, implied by calling the move ‘blackmail’.

Arms control in trouble

Whether the imminence of the INF Treaty’s demise is more apparent than real, its plight is part of a bigger picture. Arms control is in deep trouble. As well as the US abrogation of the ABM Treaty in 2002,
• Russia effectively withdrew from the CFE Treaty in 2015, arguing that the equal cap was no longer fair after five former WTO states joined NATO;
• The 2010 New START agreement on strategic nuclear arms lasts until 2021, and there are currently no talks about prolonging or replacing it; and
• Russia claims that the USA is technically violating New START because some US launchers have been converted to non-nuclear use in a way that is not visible to Russia.

As a result, Russia cannot verify them in the way the treaty says it must be able to. The Russian Government’s position is that until this is resolved, it is not possible to start work on prolonging New START, despite its imminent expiry date.

It seems likely that the precarious situation of Russian–US arms control will simultaneously put increasing pressure on the overall nuclear non-proliferation regime and sharpen the arguments about the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW, or the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty).

For the advocates of what is often known as the nuclear ban, the erosion of arms control reinforces the case for moving forward to a world without nuclear weapons. For its opponents, the erosion of arms control shows the world is not at all ready for or capable of a nuclear ban.

The risk of a return to nuclear weapon build-ups by both Russia and the USA is clear. With it, the degree of safety gained with the end of the cold war and enjoyed since then is at risk of being lost. Aware of the well-earned reputation for springing surprises that the Russian and US presidents both have, there may be more developments in one direction or another in the coming weeks or even days.

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Excerpt:

Dan Smith is Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

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Ambitious Agenda, Ambitious Financing? UNGA Shows a Long Way Still to Go for SDGshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/ambitious-agenda-ambitious-financing-unga-shows-long-way-still-go-sdgs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ambitious-agenda-ambitious-financing-unga-shows-long-way-still-go-sdgs http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/ambitious-agenda-ambitious-financing-unga-shows-long-way-still-go-sdgs/#comments Mon, 05 Nov 2018 14:06:42 +0000 John Garrett and Kathryn Tobin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158517 John Garrett & Kathryn Tobin, WaterAid

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Aregashe Addis in the water utility store where she works in Debre Tabor, South Gondar, Amhara, Ethiopia. WaterAid and the UK’s Yorkshire Water utility have provided funding and training to improve the capacity and operations of the Debre Tabor Water Utility, ensuring the community’s poorest and most vulnerable people now have access to water. Credit: WaterAid/Behailu Shiferaw

By John Garrett and Kathryn Tobin
LONDON / NEW YORK, Nov 5 2018 (IPS)

There was a much-needed focus on financing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the September 2018 opening of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

Three years on from the watershed 2015 conferences in Addis Ababa, New York and Paris, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has released a new Strategy for Financing the 2030 Agenda, covering the period of 2018-2021.

Whilst welcoming the UN Secretary-General’s new ideas and reaffirmation of core Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) priorities, the UN’s 193 member states need to show stronger resolve and political will to break from today’s business-as-usual financing trajectories.

Willing the end, but not the means

With one-fifth of the time available to deliver the 2030 Agenda already gone, a serious disconnect between the ambition of the SDGs and the means of their implementation is opening up. Intending to set the international community on a course to achieve the SDGs, Guterres’s strategy aims to align global financing and economic policies with the 2030 Agenda and enhance sustainable financing strategies and investments at regional and national level whileseizing the potential of financial innovations, technologies and digitalisation.

Discussions around the strategy’s launch revealed plenty of evidence recognising the urgency of transforming economic and financial systems to advance sustainable development. Research by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), launched on the morning of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Meeting, points to alarming trends in several of the SDGs.

Four hundred million people are likely to be living in extreme poverty in 2030; there is slow progress in reducing inequalities in wealth, income or gender; world hunger is on the rise; and access to safe water and sanitation is actually in decline in some countries.

These human development challenges combine with unsustainable pressures on the environment, reflected in the increasing threats of climate change, rising sea levels, biodiversity loss and degradation of fresh water resources.

UNGA discussions also provided a clearer picture of the costs of achieving key SDGs. New estimates from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of the costs for achieving the SDGs in the sectors of health, education, water and sanitation, energy and transport infrastructure found that US$520 billion a year is required in low-income developing countries (LIDCs).

A central role for raising revenue at home

The SG’s strategy emphasises how important domestic public finance is for sustainable development, and we agree that national ownership should be at the heart of financing solutions. The IMF estimates scope for developing countries to raise tax rates by on average 5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from current levels.

WaterAid research on public finance and the extractive industries (a dominant sector in many LIDCs) finds that weak tax regimes or corruption are undermining domestic resource mobilisation and the provision of essential services to people.

In Madagascar, the Government received only 6% of the production value of its minerals in 2015, and in Zambia, forensic audits of copper producers released hundreds of millions of dollars to the exchequer in unpaid tax.

But it’s clear that countries’ efforts to raise revenue at home won’t on their own be enough to reach the ambition of the SDGs. To meet this financing gap, the UN has emphasised the role of private finance, including public-private partnerships and blended finance.

As the latest encapsulation of this trend, the Secretary-General’s strategy drew criticism from the Civil Society Financing for Development (FfD) Group for its over-reliance on mobilising private finance. While private finance is an important part of the financing solution, it is no panacea.

In New York, lenders and investors highlighted some of the obstacles to prioritising private finance in low-income contexts: insufficient data, information gaps and unviable risk premiums. Debt vulnerabilities preclude significant volumes of external non-concessional finance in many LIDCs’ contexts – particularly concerning since 40 percent of LIDCs are now in or approaching a state of debt distress.

Aligning investment and lending decisions with environmental, social and governance concerns, as South Africa and the European Union are seeking to do, is essential. The Secretary-General’s strategy sends a clear message that progress is too slow in aligning markets with sustainable development imperatives.

Recent forecasts of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that oil and coal consumption will reach record levels over coming years is one example of the misalignment of public policies and financial markets with Agenda 2030 and the transition to a low- or zero-carbon economy.

Towards transformative financing and national ownership of the 2030 Agenda

How can the urgency expressed at UNGA lead to the actions required to break out from a business-as-usual financing trajectory? The answer lies in two sides of the same coin: increase money coming into, and reduce money coming out from, LIDCs. We suggest three vital areas for greater attention from the international community.

First, curbing tax evasion and avoidance, and stopping illicit financial flows are essential steps to enable the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. Reform and restructuring of the taxation paradigms around extractive industries and other corporate investment in developing countries is fundamental, to prevent the ‘race to the bottom’ and ensure countries have both policy space and public finance to pay for their development objectives.

Taking action on tax havens—estimated to store wealth equivalent to 10% of global GDP—addressing transfer mispricing by transnational corporations, and supporting improvements in governance and transparency to tackle corruption are prerequisites.

What prevents countries from allocating sufficient resources to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and to sustainable development in general is just as important as what enables them to do so.

Second, achieving the 2030 Agenda requires a much stronger emphasis on international public assistance in grant form, both Official Development Assistance (ODA) and climate finance, targeted to the poorest countries. ODI’s report indicates that 48 of the poorest countries in the world cannot afford to fully fund the core sectors of education, health (including nutrition) and social protection – even if they maximise their tax effort.

And, while the 2030 Agenda may be voluntary, commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change, once ratified, become binding. The same holds true for human rights commitments.

Industrialised countries, overwhelmingly responsible for global warming and climate change, must fulfil their climate finance commitments as an essential first step towards climate justice. Poor communities urgently need support to adapt to the impacts of climate change—compensation for a looming environmental crisis they have had least responsibility in creating.

We could even propose combining targets for ODA and climate finance into a new SDG target for high-income countries. Merging existing targets for ODA (0.7% of GNI) and climate funding ($100 billion a year by 2020) could promote coherence and consistency, and ensure additionality of climate funding.

It could become a mandatory grant-based contribution for sustainable development from high-income countries (as opposed to loans, which can push countries further into debt). An initial combined target of 1% of GNI could be set with a deadline of 2020, rising again in 2025 to 2.5% of GNI – essentially a new Marshall Plan for global sustainable development. Financial transaction taxes and carbon taxes can be important components of funding this increase, supporting financial stability and the transition to a zero-carbon economy.

Third, the international community needs to support institutional strengthening in LIDCs on a much greater scale. IMF research suggests that successful anti-corruption and capacity-building initiatives are built on institutional reforms that emphasise transparency and accountability: for example, shining a light on all aspects of the government budget to improve public financial management and efficient spending. In the water and sanitation sector we find that well-coordinated, accountable institutions with participatory planning processes are necessary to strengthen the sector to enable universal and sustainable access by 2030.

Time is running out

The discussions around financing the 2030 Agenda at UNGA 2018 reminded us that time is running out. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on staying below 1.5 degrees temperature increase adds a new urgency.

Three years into the SDGs’ implementation, where are the ambitious multilateral financing commitments required to ensure that the 2030 Agenda including SDG6 become a reality for everyone across the globe? Fewer than 12 years remain to take urgent action nationally and globally to achieve the 2030 Agenda and ensure all the world’s inhabitants can live in dignity and see their human rights fulfilled.

Between now and next year’s High-Level Political Forum for heads of state in September 2019, the international community must generate the political momentum required for equitable and ambitious financing, to reach the shared commitments of the SDGs.

The post Ambitious Agenda, Ambitious Financing? UNGA Shows a Long Way Still to Go for SDGs appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

John Garrett & Kathryn Tobin, WaterAid

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Cholera Threatens a Comeback Worldwidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/cholera-threatens-comeback-worldwide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cholera-threatens-comeback-worldwide http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/cholera-threatens-comeback-worldwide/#respond Fri, 02 Nov 2018 07:21:47 +0000 Anna Kucirkova http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158488 Cholera outbreaks across history regularly killed a hundred thousand or more. It isn’t well known today because it was essentially eliminated in the Western world. It last erupted in the U.S. in the 1800s, eradicated by water and sewage treatment systems that prevented it from spreading via contaminated water. However, cholera is making a comeback […]

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More than 400,000 cases of cholera are suspected in Yemen, and nearly 1,900 people have died from associated cases in the last three months alone.

Tents set up at Alsabeen hospital in Sana'a Yemen for screening suspected cholera cases.

By Anna Kucirkova
TEXAS, USA, Nov 2 2018 (IPS)

Cholera outbreaks across history regularly killed a hundred thousand or more. It isn’t well known today because it was essentially eliminated in the Western world.

It last erupted in the U.S. in the 1800s, eradicated by water and sewage treatment systems that prevented it from spreading via contaminated water. However, cholera is making a comeback around the globe, and it could again become a major killer.

Cholera is caused by eating or drinking something contaminated with the Vibrio cholera bacteria. Because it is waterborne, Western cases tend to occur when someone eats contaminated sea food.

In the developing world, people drinking water from rivers where others bathe and defecate contribute to its spread. That is why the World Health Organization (WHO) records around 150,000 cholera cases per year.

Cholera remains common in places with poor sanitation systems or where they do not yet exist. That is why cholera is considered epidemic in places like Africa, Latin America and South Asia.

Tropical climates that don’t get cold enough to kill the bacteria, wet soil that breeds it, and unsanitary groundwater that mixes with drinking water can cause one patient’s effluent to spread to an entire community.

The literal environment prevents the bacteria from being truly eradicated, resulting in it being found in overcrowded slums. Storms and flooding can interfere with local water supplies, bringing in contaminated water that people then drink.

It periodically erupts in active war zones and overcrowded refugee camps that cannot maintain a clean water supply. The lack of proper hygiene in these places certainly contributes to its spread. Yemen and Syria, both in the midst of civil wars, are the worst examples of this.

The cholera outbreak in Haiti has shown that cholera can come roaring back after other natural disasters that disrupt clean water delivery. Globalism contributes to cholera’s spread, as well.

For example, the Haiti outbreak was likely precipitated by U.N. peacekeepers that picked up cholera in Nepal, arrived in Haiti and then infected the local water supply through poor hygiene. The outbreak killed over ten thousand and infected hundreds of thousands more.

Now a country already struggling to deal with critically damaged infrastructure has to manage cholera, too. This is a tragic blow, since Haiti worked for years to eradicate the disease.

The infection and death rates were made worse by the under-developed medical system that the disaster rendered inoperable. In nations with underdeveloped medical systems, they can’t keep up with the load of the epidemic, spreading faster and killing many more than it would in a better equipped region.

Bangladesh struggles with endemic cholera. One of their solutions was vaccination against the disease. Vietnam, too, has set up a vaccination program to prevent humans from becoming a transmission vector. Both countries have set up programs to curtail their devastating effects, as well.

Globalization can take cholera to countries that have lived without it so long that doctors don’t know what they’re dealing with. This can lead to the disease spreading beyond what can easily be contained.

Within a few hours of symptoms appearing, patients can lose so much fluid that they’re rendered bedridden. This dramatically increases the risk of transmission to others. These few hours are also the ideal time to give someone a mix of fluids and antibiotics to prevent them from becoming dangerously dehydrated. If a patient is misdiagnosed, they could die of dehydration within two or three days.

In tropical countries lacking fully developed water and sanitation infrastructure, the soil and untreated groundwater hosts cholera bacteria that can contaminate public water supplies.

The outbreak is made worse by patients spreading it through bodily fluids to those who may have safe drinking water. And because patients can readily travel, the disease can spread rapidly through new vectors.

The ebola outbreak in Dallas, Texas was caused by a man, who knew he was exposed, booking a flight to Texas to visit family he hadn’t seen in more than a decade. He arrived knowing he might carry the disease and with the hope he’d be treated in the more advanced American hospitals.

Cholera periodically spreads to new areas for the very same reason; people who are sick board buses and planes to get help elsewhere. The less dramatic example is someone carrying cholera traveling by car to an urban hospital, spreading the disease as they travel.

This is the downside of globalization and has long been the basis of strong immigration controls – to make certain that immigrants didn’t bring diseases with them. Tuberculosis was routinely screened for in the 1800s and 1900s, but buses, trains and aircraft make it possible for cholera to go global despite its rapidity.

Overcrowded cities have always provided a place for cholera to claim many victims. One major difference today is scale. A cholera epidemic in London two centuries ago would claim tens of thousands in a city of perhaps a million.

Third world cities that are home to five to fifteen million, many of whom live in slums, could see a million or more deaths in a bad cholera epidemic. And the constant flow of people from the countryside to the city in the developing world creates a constant risk of an epidemic.

Thanks to our understanding of disease transmission, sanitation and treatment, cholera (https://connectforwater.org/cholera-is-becoming-a-serious-problem-heres-why/) outbreaks are rarely as catastrophic as the past. But we need to recognize that modern medicine is still in a war with this ancient foe that will continue to threaten humanity for the foreseeable future.

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Keeping Journalists Safe Benefits Whole Societieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/keeping-journalists-safe-benefits-whole-societies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=keeping-journalists-safe-benefits-whole-societies http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/keeping-journalists-safe-benefits-whole-societies/#comments Thu, 01 Nov 2018 07:12:19 +0000 Sarah Lister and Emanuele Sapienza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158464 Sarah Lister is Director, UNDP’s Oslo Governance Centre, and Emanuele Sapienza is, Policy Specialist, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP.

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Journalists covering the arrival of delegations to address the General Assembly’s seventy-second general debate. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas - Matthew Lee, Journalist Banned from UN for Misconduct, Plans to Fight Back

Journalists covering the arrival of delegations to address the General Assembly’s seventy-second general debate. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Sarah Lister and Emanuele Sapienza
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 1 2018 (IPS)

Safety of journalists has featured prominently in international news in recent weeks. And yet, while some cases grab the headlines, many more do not, and the scale of the issue often goes unremarked. On this International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, it is worth pausing to reflect on some facts.

Over the period 2006-2017, UNESCO has recorded 1,010 killings of journalists. A total of 80 journalists and media workers were killed in 2018 as of 9 October. On average, every five days, a journalist is killed for bringing information to the public. Many people operating in the new media ecosystem – such as citizen journalists and bloggers – are experiencing growing harassment, in part due to their ambiguous status under national legislation.

Women journalists and media personnel have also been increasingly exposed to violence, with the number of women journalists killed worldwide rising steadily since 2010. But despite all of this, legal impunity for perpetrators of crimes against journalists remains the norm, as a staggering 90 percent of cases are unresolved.

Journalists are targeted for many reasons, and by many people. Some are investigating corruption and abuse of power. Some are expressing political or social views which others wish to silence. Some simply stand as a voice of peace in times of war. Irrespective of the motive, however, the systematic targeting of journalists is a telling reflection of how important – in fact, vital – their work is.

The intimidation, harassment and killing of journalists are – no doubt – extreme forms of censorship, and a violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which, among other things, recognizes the freedom to “seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers”.

But they also erode the conditions for peaceful and inclusive societies. For this reason, Goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – agreed in 2015 by more than 150 world leaders – has an indicator that tracks cases of killing, kidnapping, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention and torture of journalists and associated media personnel.

United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has spoken out on many occasions about the importance of governments ensuring accountability for crimes against journalists and the UN, across its agencies, funds and programmes, has committed to a comprehensive Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) engages in work to strengthen free and independent media, including in places where the media and journalists face pressures and threats of all sorts. In fact, a stock-taking exercise currently underway shows that, in the past few years alone, UNDP has implemented over 100 interventions in 60 different countries to enhance the media’s role in peace and development.

This work has taken many forms: from facilitating a “Journalists’ Pact for Strengthening Peace” in Lebanon, to promoting a balanced media coverage of elections in Georgia; from supporting insightful reporting on the extractive sector in Kenya, to providing training to journalists on how to make the most of open data in Moldova – just to mention a few examples.

A free and independent media sector is the bedrock of informed societies. It can support accountable and plural governance, it can provide a space for healthy public debate and dialogue and, under appropriate circumstances, can also play a role in reducing violent conflict.

In recent years, technological developments, including the rise of social and digital media, and the liberalization of media markets have fuelled a significant change, with profound implications on how people are informed and ways they can participate in governance.

Growing manipulation of public opinion is distorting political incentives in ways that are contrary to the public interest. Divisions in society are likely to become more easily exploited for political gain and the prospects for social cohesion look less promising, as public spaces become more fragmented and echo chamber effects become more intense.

These trends are extremely worrying and must be addressed urgently. But how can we protect the quality of public debate, and ensure the broader benefits to societies, if we do not defend independent media and public service journalism?

Journalists and other media workers must be protected from threats, violence, arbitrary detention and death. And those who perpetrate crimes against them must be brought to justice. Because information and ideas should be shared freely, without fear of repercussion for the benefit of whole societies.

The post Keeping Journalists Safe Benefits Whole Societies appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Sarah Lister is Director, UNDP’s Oslo Governance Centre, and Emanuele Sapienza is, Policy Specialist, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP.

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Is the United Nations in Kenya Fit For Purpose?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/united-nations-kenya-fit-purpose/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=united-nations-kenya-fit-purpose http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/united-nations-kenya-fit-purpose/#respond Wed, 31 Oct 2018 10:55:21 +0000 Yusuf Hassan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158454 The United Nations globally is witnessing some of the most ambitious reforms led by the UN Secretary General Mr. Antonio Guterres. Most relevant to us in Kenya is the entire reform of the development system and how the UN will adapt to a fast-changing development environment. The countdown to the ambitious SDGs is already on, […]

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President Uhuru Kenyatta and Siddharth Chatterjee the UN Resident Coordinator discuss youth unemployment in Kenya. Credit: State House Kenya

By Yusuf Hassan
NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 31 2018 (IPS)

The United Nations globally is witnessing some of the most ambitious reforms led by the UN Secretary General Mr. Antonio Guterres. Most relevant to us in Kenya is the entire reform of the development system and how the UN will adapt to a fast-changing development environment.

The countdown to the ambitious SDGs is already on, and the Agenda 2030 timeline implies we should already have gone one-fifth of the way towards all the targets. Kenya has been a champion of Agenda 2030 led by our own Ambassador Macharia Kamau, PS MFA, Kenya.

These include ridding Kenya of poverty and generally changing the narrative for those at the periphery of development and ensuring no one is left behind.

Kenya performed relatively well in the Millennium Development Goals, with that campaign being hailed for lifting more than one billion people out of extreme poverty and making inroads against hunger globally. However, Kenya was one of the countries that did not achieve MDG goals 4 and 5 which was about reducing maternal and child mortality.

Yusuf Hassan

Compared to the MDGs, Agenda 2030 is a doubling down, with global leaders having agreed on close to 170 targets summarized into 17 goals. Though countries will have to concentrate on those targets that are most urgent and of priority to them, the goals still mean greater challenges not only in financing programmes but in innovating for locally-applicable solutions.

One important transformation is in the operations of the Resident Coordinators(RC) System and new generation UN Country Teams. The Resident Coordinator’s Office is generally the engine of the UN development system on the ground, providing coordination, strategic policy, partnerships and investments around the SDGs.

In the reforms, the strengthened RC will be the representative of the UN Secretary-General on the ground and the most senior UN development officials at the country level and will be better positioned to ensure operational coherence and synergies in development, humanitarian and peace building action, according to the country context.

This takes effect on 01 January 2019.

Alignment of the work of UN in Kenya is expressed through the recently-launched United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF 2018-2022). The rigorous development process of UNDAF was led by the Treasury and Devolution ministries and coordinated with the UN Country Team.

More than 100 institutions were involved in the process to ensure the framework reflected priorities including Vision 2030, MTP III and the President Kenyatta’s bold Big 4 Agenda.

With Kenya being classified as a lower middle-income country, financial support to UN agencies has now undergone a considerable down-titration. Nevertheless, the current UNDAF has still committed up to 80% more resources towards finding solutions to the countries challenges between now and 2022.

Prime among those challenges include changing the narrative for the youth and advancing gender equality, but in that challenge lies an ideal common ground for joint programming not only between the development partners and UN but also bringing in the might of the private sector.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres is leading efforts to ensure that the UN is more effective, efficient, coherent, coordinated and a better performing United Nations country presence with a strengthened role of the UN Resident Coordinator.

The UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya, Siddharth Chatterjee at the launch of the UNDAF in June 2018 reiterated the fact that the UN agencies in Kenya have their shoulders squared to work with various partners to meet the challenges of our time. He emphasized that this will not be a “business usual” approach.

No doubt as a global body, the United Nations in Kenya is undertaking bold and innovative action that is required to deliver on the 2030 Agenda. This was acknowledged in an open letter by the Frontier Counties of Kenya to the UN stating, “The UN Kenya country team has demonstrated in action and words the principle of leaving no one behind and reaching the furthest behind first; as counties historically maginalised the ushers a new dawn of development”.

The President’s Big 4 agenda, the government’s keen interest to see rapid growth & progress and close working ties with the UN in Kenya, Kenya can become a model for the UN Delivering As One and ensuring “no one is left behind”.

Therein lies the UN “being fit for purpose.”

Hon Mr. Yusuf Hassan is a senior ranking Member of Kenya’s National Assembly and MP from Nairobi. He has served for over 18 years with the United Nations, including UNHCR & UNOCHA. He has also served as a senior adviser on refugees in the late UN SG Mr. Kofi Annan’s office. He is a graduate of the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy,Tufts University, USA.

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Q&A: Ready to Help India Access Climate Finance for a Greener Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/qa-ready-help-india-access-climate-finance-greener-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-ready-help-india-access-climate-finance-greener-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/qa-ready-help-india-access-climate-finance-greener-economy/#respond Wed, 31 Oct 2018 08:27:35 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158434 IPS correspondent Stella Paul interviews SHANTANU GOTMARE, Country Head, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), India

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The Indian government launched the Saubhagya scheme in 2017 and aims to provide electricity across the entire country. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
NEW DEHLI, Oct 31 2018 (IPS)

Even in remote and faraway places such as Andamans and Nicobar and Lakshadweep, islands off the coast of India, the government is keen to provide electricity across the entire country.

Last year it launched the Saubhagya scheme, which is about providing energy access to all. While the government is making progress, “it would be good to replace current diesel-based electrons with renewable and storage-based solutions. GGGI has already demonstrated this in Indonesia and proved that such shifts are commercially viable,” says Shantanu Gotmare, head of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) India office.

GGGI is a treaty-based international, inter-governmental organisation that works in developing countries helping them achieve green growth through greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction, creation of green jobs, wider access to clean energy, sustainable public transport, improved sanitation, and sustainable waste management.

In an exclusive interview with IPS, Gotmare speaks about innovative ways that India can curve its carbon footprint and achieve a greener economy.

He says another innovative way for India to become 100 percent electricity-capable is through a smart meter rollout.

“Although there is money, there is no proper structuring right now. A properly structured smart meter rollout can help save a lot of electricity waste through improved monitoring and data capture, automatic billing and efficient communication, and the saved power can be used to electrify several households. This is another area where GGGI can help the government,” he says.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Shantanu Gotmare, head of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) India office.

IPS: Is there a place where this smart meter rollout has taken shape?

A: At present, it is a priority for the government of India. India is committed to renewable energy and the day is not very far when people will see renewable energy in their neighborhood, but in a country where access to energy is still an issue, probably this still has to wait for a few years.

IPS: The latest IPCC report has just been made public and it states that the world only has 12 more years to keep the rate of global warming under 1.5 degrees. Keeping this in mind, can you tell us about your work on carbon mitigation in India and what are the three most important features of this work?

A: Reducing the carbon intensity is one of India’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) goals. The country has clearly stated that by 2030, the carbon emission intensity of its GDP will be reduced by at least 15 percent. Now, if you read the IPCC report, there are multiple activities that can be done to reduce the emission.

There are three things that GGGI can do and has been doing (to help India achieve this NDC)

1) Green mobility: GGGI has helped the government of Himachal Pradesh to introduce electric buses and is now doing it in two other states, including Karnataka.

2) Resource efficiency of water: In big cities, there is no account of the water that is treated and supplied by the municipality. This is almost like electricity which is stolen and is not accounted for. So we are looking at ways to get that water accounted for.

3) Effect of climate change on livelihood: We are about to launch a study to see how climate change is affecting livelihoods in the consumer commodity sector. Based on this study we will see what business models can be adopted to mitigate climate change in the tea and coffee sector.

IPS: Which are some of the easy and affordable ways for India to reduce its carbon footprint by reducing plastic use? 

A: Recycling building materials is a very simple and doable way. All over the country, the construction waste always goes to the landfill. Instead, this can be recycled and used to build pavements or bricks.

Secondly, everywhere these days people are building pavements and parking areas by using concrete layers which do not allow any water to percolate. Simple steps like making these layers porous can help the water flow freely to the ground, rainwater can easily percolate and groundwater can be recharged. If some financial designs, some business models and some regulations can be brought around this, it can bring around some industries and help strengthen the economy.

IPS: These measures sound so simple, yet why did nobody think about it?

A: Well, that is because we were not conscious about it. I think it’s like the ‘#metoo’ movement where there is consciousness before people start thinking and acting on it. Then of course there has to be finance which will come only when there is a market, which again happens when there are regulations.

IPS: In the environmental sector, those who have concrete ideas don’t have access to money, and those who have money say there are no bankable projects. What is your take on this?

A: I think it’s not that there is no capital or no opportunities. The rate at which the finance is available is the major issue. The cost of project developers or people who want to build a sustainable business – that is one issue and the second issue is lack of regulations to create the market. For example, when India announced that it wanted to produce 175 gigawatt of renewable energy, the rates were brought down from 6-7 rupees per units of electricity to 2-3 rupees. So there are regulations like this for the government to bring which can pave the way for the market to open up.

The other issues are sensitising people to accept the rate at which finances are distributed, financial restructuring and creating incentives for those who take steps for greening the economy like building green buildings.

IPS: We often hear people –particularly small, grassroots organisations- complain that their proposal was rejected by the Green Climate Fund because it wasn’t framed well. How can GGGI help?

A: We have done the readiness proposals which are built around the capacity in around eight countries across the world. We would love to partner with the government of India to help all of its accredited entities to access the GCF fund. GGGI has a very niche sort of knowledge in that and very specialised knowledge in accessing the GCF finance. We have conveyed this to the government and it’s now under consideration.

The post Q&A: Ready to Help India Access Climate Finance for a Greener Economy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

IPS correspondent Stella Paul interviews SHANTANU GOTMARE, Country Head, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), India

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North African Countries Need to Protect Their Economies From Illicit Tradehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/north-african-countries-need-protect-economies-illicit-trade/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=north-african-countries-need-protect-economies-illicit-trade http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/north-african-countries-need-protect-economies-illicit-trade/#respond Wed, 31 Oct 2018 06:39:24 +0000 Stefano Betti http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158448 Stefano Betti is Deputy Director-General, The Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT), an independent, business-led initiative to mitigate the economic and social damages of illicit trade by strengthening government enforcement mechanisms and integrating supply chain controls across industry sectors.

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By Stefano Betti
NEW YORK, Oct 31 2018 (IPS)

Since the 2011 revolution, Tunisia has been heralded as a model of democratic transition. However, nine governments in the past seven years have been struggling to revive the economy and the North African state faces the difficult task of maintaining faith in democracy amid a lagging economy, rising security challenges, and widespread corruption.

This challenge is exacerbated by a historic dependence on informal cross-border trade coupled with an economy that is itself largely informal, accounting for as much as 50% of Tunisia’s GDP. Taken together, these factors have provided fertile grounds for illicit trade to flourish.

Although headlines commonly focus on the illegal imports of fuel and tobacco, a wide variety of other products such as pharmaceuticals, fruit and vegetables, electronics, home appliances, clothes, and shoes are smuggled in and out of the country.

And, if these goods and the transactions remain within the informal network, the loss of government revenues can be significant. Illicit trade also undermines legitimate business, who can’t compete against smugglers. Furthermore, it deters foreign investments in the struggling economy.

Given its linkages to organized criminal activity, illicit trade can underpin wider risks to national and regional security. This is especially the case when existing routes and markets for cross-border smuggling of consumer products are exploited by criminal groups, including non-state armed actors, for trafficking in high profile illegal goods, such as drugs and arms.

To help inform governments on the effectiveness of their efforts to fight illicit trade, the Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT) commissioned the Economist Intelligence Unit to produce the Global Illicit Trade Environment Index as a tool to measure the extent to which countries enable or inhibit illicit trade.

Recent findings from the Index underscore the continued challenge that Tunisia faces in combatting illicit trade despite laudable efforts undertaken in recent years, including the Government’s crackdown on corruption and organized crime in 2017 that led to the arrest of several mafia bosses and smuggling ringleaders.

Tunisia ranks 53rd out of 84 countries evaluated worldwide. The overall low score is primarily a result of major price and tax differentials with its neighboring countries, systemic corruption, a lack of legal job opportunities in the formal market and porous borders, which together create an environment where illicit trade thrives.

Tunisia is by no means alone in facing this threat. All countries in the region are challenged to protect their economies from illicit trade. Algeria is ranked 58, Morocco is 65 and Libya holds the lowest ranking on the Index at 84. Clearly, more needs be done stop the surge in illicit trade that is flooding North Africa and drowning out economic development opportunities.

Yet, finding solutions is not a simple task. Smuggling economies have been an integral component of regional trade for centuries, with contraband and informal commerce serving as the main sources of employment in some border communities. The evolving geopolitics in the wake of the Arab Spring have changed security dynamics in the region, opening new routes and markets for exploitation of a broad range of illicit goods.

The Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (www.TRACIT.org) is stepping up to the challenge by leading business engagement with national governments and intergovernmental organizations to develop a comprehensive and effective anti-illicit trade program to curb illicit goods that harm legitimate businesses, workers, consumers and governments.

During a special event in Tunis hosted by American Chamber of Commerce Tunisia (AmCham Tunisia), TRACIT highlighted a number of priority areas that Tunisia might consider to enhance its overall policy environment to discourage illicit trade.

This includes a national strategy that addresses incentives for smuggling, such as reforming administered prices and subsidies, tariff policies and technical constraints to legal importation. While important pieces of legislation have been enacted in recent years, which led, among others, to a strengthened legal framework against intellectual property infringements and a better protection of whistle blowers in corruption cases, the enforcement of existing laws needs to be improved. To do so, it will be paramount to ensure the allocation of proper human and financial resources.

Crucially, policies to address illicit trade will need to be holistic and factor in broad social impact and local development issues. This includes steps to ensure that policies do not inadvertently de-stabilize communities that currently depend on informal cross-border trade. It is important that efforts to disrupt illicit trade include a development aspect to provide border regions with sustainable alternative sources of livelihood.

Finally, tackling illicit trade will also require improved and deepened cooperation between neighboring countries. Disparities in different governments’ policies and subsidies create large differences in prices and taxes and arbitrage opportunities for traffickers in illicit goods.

As far as possible, Tunisia should seek to align tariff rates and subsidy policies with its neighbors, strengthen border control and integrate the illicit trade threat into bilateral and regional-level discussions.

Tunisia, and the region more broadly, will continue to struggle with illicit trade until the root causes are targeted and abated. TRACIT looks forward to collaborating with the Tunisian government and private sector stakeholders to advance the anti-illicit trade agenda and ensure clean and safe trade and sustainable economic development.

*Stefano Betti is a leading expert in the area of international criminal policy and justice reform. He also currently collaborates with the Siracusa Institute for Criminal Justice and Human Rights as well as Oxford Economics on two illicit trade related projects. Before joining TRACIT, he was Senior Counsel at INTERPOL’s Office of Legal Affairs, where he headed the Organization’s legal program on illicit trade.

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Excerpt:

Stefano Betti is Deputy Director-General, The Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT), an independent, business-led initiative to mitigate the economic and social damages of illicit trade by strengthening government enforcement mechanisms and integrating supply chain controls across industry sectors.

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