Inter Press ServiceOpinion – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sun, 19 Aug 2018 11:05:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 IPS Mourns the Passing of Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/ips-mourns-passing-former-united-nations-secretary-general-kofi-annan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ips-mourns-passing-former-united-nations-secretary-general-kofi-annan http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/ips-mourns-passing-former-united-nations-secretary-general-kofi-annan/#respond Sun, 19 Aug 2018 10:44:31 +0000 IPS Correspondents http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157260 Dear Nane Annan & Family, The IPS family would like to express our deepest condolences to you and your family on the passing of a husband, a father, a global statesman. As journalists, we find that few words can express our deep loss for a man who personalised and lived the vision and truth of a just and equal […]

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Kofi Annan's outstanding leadership on the global scale has been in the pursuit of the very mission for which the United Nations was created. Courtesy: Kofi Annan Foundation/Johannes Simon

By IPS Correspondents
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 19 2018 (IPS)

Dear Nane Annan & Family,

The IPS family would like to express our deepest condolences to you and your family on the passing of a husband, a father, a global statesman. As journalists, we find that few words can express our deep loss for a man who personalised and lived the vision and truth of a just and equal world.

IPS honours Kofi Annan’s outstanding leadership in the pursuit of the very mission for which the United Nations was created: a world seeking global peace, political stability, recognition of human dignity and the pursuit of human development.

Through some of the greatest global crises of our time, Annan stood steady and firm, championing global peace and equality, even long after his retirement.

No news agency has recognised more Annan’s commitment towards the advancement of the concerns of the world’s poorer nations in their fight against poverty and hunger, and their battle against the spread of HIV/AIDS.

His firm commitment to environmental sustainability, his consistently strong advocacy of human rights, his promotion of gender empowerment and the attainment of a larger freedom for all are values and missions that run through the heart and soul of our organisation. Just as it ran through him.

As this soul of matchless courage and integrity is laid to rest, we look to the stars and know, that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but merely changes form. And through this pain of a hard goodbye, we take up the energy and continue the services to humankind that Annan and IPS began at the same time.

Sincerely,

Inter Press Service Director General, Journalists
and Global Associates 

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Take Charge of Your Food: Your Health is Your Businesshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/take-charge-of-your-food-your-health-is-your-business/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=take-charge-of-your-food-your-health-is-your-business http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/take-charge-of-your-food-your-health-is-your-business/#respond Fri, 17 Aug 2018 10:22:03 +0000 Sunita Narain http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157235 Sunita Narain is Director-General of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) & Editor of Down to Earth magazine in New Delhi

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Credit: IPS

By Sunita Narain
NEW DELHI, Aug 17 2018 (IPS)

The minimum we expect from the government is to differentiate between right and wrong. But when it comes to regulating our food, it’s like asking for too much. Our latest investigation vouches for this. The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE)’s pollution monitoring laboratory tested 65 samples of processed food for presence of genetically modified (GM) ingredients.

The results are both bad and somewhat good. Of the food samples tested, some 32 per cent were positive for GM markers. That’s bad. What’s even worse is that we found GM in infant food, which is sold by US pharma firm, Abbott Laboratories, for toddlers with ailments; in one case it was for lactose intolerant infants and the other hypoallergenic—for minimising possibility of allergic reaction.

Sunita Narain. Credit: Center for Science and Education

Sunita Narain. Credit: Center for Science and Education

In both cases, there was no warning label on GM ingredients. One of the health concerns of GM food is that it could lead to allergic reactions. In 2008 (updated in 2012), the Indian Council of Medical Research issued guidelines for determining safety of such food, as it cautioned that “there is a possibility of introducing unintended changes, along with intended changes which may in turn have an impact on the nutritional status or health of the consumer”.

This is why Australia, Brazil, the European Union and others regulate GM in food. People are concerned about the possible toxicity of eating this food. They want to err on the side of caution. Governments ensure they have the right to choose.

The partial good news is that majority of the food that tested GM positive was imported. India is still more or less GM-free. The one food that did test positive is cottonseed edible oil. This is because Bt-cotton is the only GM crop that has been allowed for cultivation in India.

This should worry us. First, no permission has ever been given for the use of GM cottonseed oil for human consumption. Second, cottonseed oil is also mixed in other edible oils, particularly in vanaspati.

Under whose watch is GM food being imported? The law is clear on this. The Environment Protection Act strictly prohibits import, export, transport, manufacture, process, use or sale of any genetically engineered organisms except with the approval of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.

In fact, they will say, there is no GM food in India. But that’s the hypocrisy of our regulators–make a law, but then don’t enforce it. On paper it exists; we are told, don’t worry. But worry we must.

The 2006 Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA) reiterates this and puts the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in charge of regulating use. The Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules 2011 mandate that GM must be declared on the food package and the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act 1992 says that GM food cannot be imported without the permission of GEAC. The importer is liable to be prosecuted under the Act for violation.

Laws are not the problem, but the regulatory agencies are. Till 2016, GEAC was in charge–the FSSAI said it did not have the capacity to regulate this food. Now the ball is back in FSSAI’s court. They will all tell you that no permission has been given to import GM food.

In fact, they will say, there is no GM food in India. But that’s the hypocrisy of our regulators–make a law, but then don’t enforce it. On paper it exists; we are told, don’t worry. But worry we must.

So, everything we found is illegal with respect to GM ingredients. The law is clear about this. Our regulators are clueless. So, worry. Get angry. It’s your food. It’s about your health.

What next? In 2018, FSSAI has issued a draft notification on labelling, which includes genetically modified food. It says that any food that has total GM ingredients 5 per cent or more should be labelled and that this GM ingredient shall be the top three ingredients in terms of percentage in the product.

But there is no way that government can quantify the percentage of GM ingredients in the food—this next level of tests is prohibitively expensive. We barely have the facilities. So, it is a clean chit to companies to “self-declare”. They can say what they want. And get away.

The same FSSAI has issued another notification (not draft anymore) on organic food. In this case, it says that it will have to be mandatorily “certified” that it does not contain residues of insecticides. So, what is good needs to be certified that it is safe.

What is bad, gets a clean bill of health. Am I wrong in asking: whose interests are being protected? So, take charge of your food. Your health is your business.

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Excerpt:

Sunita Narain is Director-General of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) & Editor of Down to Earth magazine in New Delhi

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Music: Nigeria’s New Cultural Exporthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/music-nigerias-new-cultural-export/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=music-nigerias-new-cultural-export http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/music-nigerias-new-cultural-export/#respond Thu, 16 Aug 2018 12:19:51 +0000 Franck Kuwonu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157227 It is a cold evening in Antwerp, Belgium’s second-largest city, famous for diamonds, beer, art and high-end fashion. Inside a small restaurant, a mix of the latest American pop and rap—clearly enjoyed by diners—is playing on a radio. Nigerians Olalekan Adetiran and Adaobi Okereke, enjoying a kebab dinner, are startled when the radio begins playing […]

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Wizkid performs in London, United Kingdom. Photo: Alamy/Michael Tubi - Nigerian music is drawing interest from beyond the borders, showcasing the vitality of a creative industry that the government is now depending on, among other sectors, to diversify the economy and foster development.

Wizkid performs in London, United Kingdom. Photo: Alamy/Michael Tubi

By Franck Kuwonu, Africa Renewal*
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 16 2018 (IPS)

It is a cold evening in Antwerp, Belgium’s second-largest city, famous for diamonds, beer, art and high-end fashion. Inside a small restaurant, a mix of the latest American pop and rap—clearly enjoyed by diners—is playing on a radio. Nigerians Olalekan Adetiran and Adaobi Okereke, enjoying a kebab dinner, are startled when the radio begins playing the unmistakable “Ma Lo”—a catchy, midtempo and bass-laden song by popular Nigerian artistes Tiwa Savage and Wizkid.

The song, currently a hit in Nigeria and across Africa, awakens thoughts of home; they cannot stop smiling at the pleasant surprise. They are visiting Belgium as part of a tour of European countries and their cultural landmarks.

A week earlier, barely two months after its release, the eye-popping video of the song had been viewed on YouTube more than 10 million times—and counting.

For Mr. Adetiran, hearing “Ma Lo” on a Belgian radio station not known to cater to African communities confirms that music from Naija (as Nigerians fondly refer to their country), is going places. It reflects the greater reach of a new generation of Nigerian artists.

Just like the country’s movie industry, Nollywood, Nigerian music is drawing interest from beyond the borders, showcasing the vitality of a creative industry that the government is now depending on, among other sectors, to diversify the economy and foster development.

 

 

Greater recognition

Last November, Wizkid won the Best International Act category at the 2017 MOBO (Music of Black Origin) Awards held in London, the first for an Africa-based artist. He beat back competition from more established global celebrities such as Jay-Z, Drake, DJ Khaled and Kendrick Lamar.

At the same MOBO Awards, Davido, another Nigerian artist, took home the Best African Act award for “If,” one of his hit songs—a love-themed ballad with a blend of Nigerian rhythms and R & B.

Since its release in February 2017, the official “If” video has racked up more than 60 million views on YouTube, the highest number of YouTube views for any Nigerian music video and one of the highest ever recorded for a song by an African artist.

Across the African continent, other musical groups, such as Kenya’s boy band Sauti Sol, Tanzania’s Diamond Platnumz and South Africa’s Mafikizolo, have collaborated with or featured Nigerian top stars in attempts to gain international appeal. Reuters news service calls Nigerian music a “cultural export.”

The Nigerian government is now looking to the creative industries, including performing arts and music, to generate revenues.

 

A billion-dollar industry?

“When we talk about diversifying the economy it is not just about agriculture or solid minerals alone, it is about the creative industry—about the films, theatre and music,”
Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s minister of information and culture


In rebasing or recalculating its GDP in 2013, the Nigerian government included formerly neglected sectors, such as the entertainment industries led by Nollywood. As a result, the country’s GDP increased sharply, from $270 billion to $510 billion, overtaking South Africa that year as the continent’s biggest economy, notes the Brookings Institution, a US-based nonprofit public policy think tank.

Brookings reports, however, that the GDP rise didn’t show an increase in wealth and that a recent crash in the price of oil, the country’s main export, is slowing economic growth.

Nigerian music sales revenues were estimated at $56 million in 2014, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), an international accounting and auditing firm. The firm projects sales revenues to reach $88 million by 2019.

Globally, the creative industry is among the most dynamic economic sectors. It “provides new opportunities for developing countries to leapfrog into emerging high-growth areas of the world economy,” the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), a UN body that deals with trade, investment and development issues, said in a 2016 report.

Over the last decade, Europe has been the largest exporter of creative products, although exports from developing countries are growing fast too, UNCTAD reported.

According to PwC, lumped together, annual revenues from music, movies, art and fashion in Nigeria will grow from $4.8 billion in 2015 to more than $8 billion in 2019,.

Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics reports that the local music sector grew “in real terms by 8.4% for the first three months of 2016” and that in the first quarter of 2017, the sector grew by 12% compared with the same period one year prior.

The growth may be attributed to a reversal in music consumption patterns, according to local media reports. Up to the early 2000s, the music in clubs and on the radio in Nigeria was dominated by British and American hit songs.

Not anymore. Reportedly, most Nigerians now prefer songs by their local artists to those by foreigners, even the big ones in the West.

“When I go out, I want to hear songs by Davido or Whizkid or Tekno; like other people, I cannot enjoy myself listening to songs by foreign artistes anymore,” says Benjamin Gabriel, who lives in Abuja. With a population of about 180 million, Nigerian artists have a huge market to tap into. The big ones like Whizkid and Davido are feeling the love—maybe the cash too!

 

The new oil

“We are ready to explore and exploit the ‘new oil,’” Nigeria’s minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed, commented ahead of a creative industry financing conference held in Lagos last July.

“When we talk about diversifying the economy it is not just about agriculture or solid minerals alone, it is about the creative industry—about the films, theatre and music,” Mr. Mohammed said.

He was reacting to UNCTAD’s findings that the creative industry contributed £84.1 (about $115.5) billion to the British economy in 2014 and $698 billion to the US economy that same year. “Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind,” Mr. Mohammed declared.

The Nigerian government is already providing incentives to investors in the sector, including a recent $1 million venture capital fund to provide seed money for young and talented Nigerians looking to set up business in creative industries.

The government is also allowing the industry “pioneer status,” meaning that those investing in motion picture, video and television production, music production, publishing, distribution, exhibition and photography can enjoy a three- to five-year tax holiday.

Other incentives, such as government-backed and privately backed investment funds, are also being implemented.

Yet as hopes of a vibrant industry rise, pervasive copyright violations could stunt its growth.

 

Profits are “scattered”

In December 2017, the Nigerian police charged three people in Lagos with copyright violations. Their arrests had been widely reported in the country months earlier. “Piracy: Three suspects arrested at Alaba with N50 million [US$139,000] worth of materials,” Premium Times, a Lagos-based newspaper, announced in a headline.

Alaba market in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, is famous for electronics, but it is also notorious for all things fake and cheap, attracting customers from across West Africa to East Africa.

Recent efforts by the authorities to fight piracy led to police raids of Alaba and other markets in the country, resulting in the seizure of pirated items worth $40 million.

Despite such raids, the business of pirated music and movie CDs continues unabated, turning enforcement efforts into a game of Whack-A-Mole. With minimal returns from CD sales, Nigerian artists rely on ringtone sales, corporate sponsorship contracts and paid performances to make ends meet. Most Nigerian artists now prefer online releases of their songs.

Still, online release poses its own challenges. For example, Mr. Adetiran and Mr. Okereke recall visiting in March 2017 a club in Dakar, Senegal, where DJs spun Nigerian beats nonstop. The two realised only much later that those songs had been downloaded from the Internet.

“When you create your content and put it out, it’s scattered,” Harrysong, a Nigerian singer, told the New York Times in June 2017, echoing Mr. Adetiran and Mr. Okereke’s experience. He was expressing performers’ sense of powerlessness as they lose control of sales and distribution of their music.

The Times summed it up like this: “Nigeria’s Afrobeat music scene is booming, but profits go to pirates.”

*Africa Renewal, a magazine published by the United Nations, was launched in 1987. It was formerly published as Africa Recovery/Afrique Relance. 

This article was originally published here

 

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Joint Action Needed to Reform our Food Systemhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/joint-action-needed-reform-food-system/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=joint-action-needed-reform-food-system http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/joint-action-needed-reform-food-system/#respond Wed, 15 Aug 2018 11:57:08 +0000 Carol Gribnau http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157220 Carol Gribnau is director of the Hivos global Green Energy and Green Food programs

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Smallholder coffee farmers. Credit: SAFE Platform

By Carol Gribnau
Aug 15 2018 (IPS)

While participating in this year’s High-level Political Forum (HLPF), one thing became crystal clear to me. Come 2030, we will not have healthy and affordable food if we continue with business as usual. But no one institution can single handedly change the course of our food system. The key to ensuring a sustainable food system is involving a diverse group of actors – from smallholder farmers to government – to generate ideas for change, together.

 

Save our coffee

Look at the coffee sector. Everybody loves their cup of coffee, but will we still be able to drink it in the future? Our recently launched 2018 Coffee Barometer, which measures the sector’s sustainability, finds that coffee has a global retail value of USD 200 billion, but less than 10 percent of it stays in producing countries. Without increased investments in sustainable coffee production and a living wage for the 25 million smallholder farmers who produce that coffee, our future supply is at risk.

This is why Hivos works in multi-stakeholder partnerships in Latin America (the SAFE Platform) and East Africa (the 4s@scale program) which together – through targeted support to both male and female farmers – have already benefited over 200,000 coffee farmers.

Carol Gribnau

Carol Gribnau

How multi-stakeholder collaboration works

Everyone recognizes the need for multi-stakeholder collaboration, but it’s good to understand exactly what we’re talking about. Connecting multiple stakeholders with various interested parties within a food system allows us to look at the challenges from a whole new perspective and address them in a way we never could if everyone worked independently to solve a problem. This sort of collaboration works best with:

Tailor-made approaches

There’s not one food system but multiple, very context-specific food systems. This requires a tailored approach for each scenario, where different actors work together to gain a deep understanding of local circumstances before designing solutions. The “Lab” approach, which Hivos applies in several countries, allows for exactly that and helps the actors move from global to national and local platforms. Given the complexity of food systems, local platforms are likely to be the most effective.

 

The right people at the table

The transformation towards sustainable food systems requires involving key actors, especially those whose voices are rarely heard in policy making: small-scale producers, (low-income) consumers and women. Making their food system visible to policymakers is crucial to ensure that policy and local realities are on the same page and power imbalances are addressed. Multi-stakeholder platforms that do not truly involve these key actors are not well designed. The choices of the convener who brings everyone to the table are critical.

One Plan for One Planet

Engaging multiple actors to transform the food system was in fact a hot topic from 9 to 17 July at the HLPF. It was a significant event for us to showcase our work on SDG 12 (“Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”). Together with the World Wildlife Fund and the governments of Switzerland and South Africa, Hivos co-leads the Sustainable Food Systems (SFS) program, one of the six programs within the One Planet Network, the official multi-stakeholder network putting SDG 12 into action.

 

 

Changing the food system in Zambia

Hivos promotes local multi-actor platforms – so called Food Change Labs – in several countries through our Sustainable Diets for All program. I presented one of these at the HLPF as a concrete example of using multi-stakeholder partnerships to support implementation on the ground.

The Zambia Food Change Lab brings together low-income consumers, traders, traditional leaders, producers, and government authorities, among others, to address the limited crop diversity on Zambian farms and in local diets. It’s a facilitated, safe space for them to build a collective understanding of Zambia’s current food system, generate ideas for change, and test these innovations on the ground. It fosters long-term engagement, collective leadership, and joint initiatives. When they work together, the impact is far-reaching and long-lasting. Outcomes such as strengthened capacities, networks and trust between actors have the potential to positively influence the system for many years to come.

 

 

Food Lab campaign for food diversity in Zambia. Credit: Hivos - Joint action needed to reform our food system

Food Lab campaign for food diversity in Zambia. Credit: Hivos

 

Call to action

On our last day at HLPF 2018, Hivos Director Edwin Huizing called on national governments to speed up their transitions, the private sector to bring a business case for a more solid, sustainable, and inclusive food system, and civil society organizations to build bridges with local communities and showcase best practices. Securing the active participation of Southern actors is particularly vital.

 

This opinion piece was originally published here

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Excerpt:

Carol Gribnau is director of the Hivos global Green Energy and Green Food programs

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Demonizing State-Owned Enterpriseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/demonizing-state-owned-enterprises/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=demonizing-state-owned-enterprises http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/demonizing-state-owned-enterprises/#respond Tue, 14 Aug 2018 12:28:11 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157208 To make the case for privatization from the 1980s, their real problems were often caricatured and exaggerated.

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Privatization has not provided the miracle cure for the problems (especially the inefficiencies) associated with the public sector. Credit: IPS

Privatization has not provided the miracle cure for the problems (especially the inefficiencies) associated with the public sector. Credit: IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR , Aug 14 2018 (IPS)

Historically, the private sector has been unable or unwilling to affordably provide needed services. Hence, meeting such needs could not be left to the market or private interests. Thus, state-owned enterprises (SOEs) emerged, often under colonial rule, due to such ‘market failure’ as the private sector could not meet the needs of colonial capitalist expansion.

Thus, the establishment of government departments, statutory bodies or even government-owned private companies were deemed essential for maintaining the status quo and to advance state and private, particularly powerful and influential commercial interests.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

SOEs have also been established to advance national public policy priorities. Again, these emerged owing to ‘market failures’ to those who believe that markets would serve the national interest or purpose.

However, neoliberal or libertarian economists do not recognize the existence of national or public interests, characterizing all associated policies as mere subterfuges for advancing particular interests under such guises.

Nevertheless, regardless of their original rationale or intent, many SOEs have undoubtedly become problematic and often inefficient. Yet, privatization is not, and has never been a universal panacea for the myriad problems faced by SOEs.

 

Causes of inefficiency

Undoubtedly, the track records of SOEs are very mixed and often vary by sector, activity and performance, with different governance and accountability arrangements. While many SOEs may have been quite inefficient, it is crucial to recognize the causes of and address such inefficiencies, rather than simply expect improvements from privatization.

First, SOEs often suffer from unclear, or sometimes even contradictory objectives. Some SOEs may be expected to deliver services to the entire population or to reduce geographical imbalances.

Other SOEs may be expected to enhance growth, promote technological progress or generate jobs. Over-regulation may worsen such problems by imposing contradictory rules.

Privatization has never been a universal panacea. One has to understand the specific nature of a problem; sustainable solutions can only come from careful understanding of the specific problems to be addressed.

To be sure, unclear and contradictory objectives – e.g., to simultaneously maximize sales revenue, address disparities and generate employment — often mean ambiguous performance criteria, open to abuse.

Typically, SOE failure by one criterion (such as cost efficiency) could be excused by citing fulfillment of other objectives (such as employment generation). Importantly, such ambiguity of objectives is not due to public or state ownership per se.

Second, performance criteria for evaluating SOEs — and privatization — are often ambiguous. SOE inefficiencies have often been justified by public policy objectives, such as employment generation, industrial or agricultural development, accelerating technological progress, regional development, affirmative action, or other considerations.

Ineffective monitoring, poor transparency and ambiguous accountability typically compromise SOE performance. Inadequate accountability requirements were a major problem as some public sectors grew rapidly, with policy objectives very loosely and broadly interpreted.

Third, coordination problems have often been exacerbated by inter-ministerial, inter-agency or inter-departmental rivalries. Some consequences included ineffective monitoring, inadequate accountability, or alternatively, over-regulation.

 

Hazard

Moral hazard has also been a problem as many SOE managements expected sustained financial support from the government due to weak fiscal discipline or ‘soft budget constraints’. In many former state-socialist countries, such as the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, SOEs continued to be financed regardless of performance.

Excessive regulation has not helped as it generally proves counter-productive and ultimately ineffective. The powers of SOEs are widely acknowledged to have been abused, but privatization would simply transfer such powers to private hands.

Very often, inadequate managerial and technical skills and experience have weakened SOE performance, especially in developing countries, where the problem has sometimes been exacerbated by efforts to ‘nationalize’ managerial personnel.

Often, SOE managements have lacked adequate or relevant skills, but have also been constrained from addressing them expeditiously. Privatization, however, does not automatically overcome poor managerial capacities and capabilities.

Similarly, the privatization of SOEs which are natural monopolies (such as public utilities) will not overcome inefficiencies due to the monopolistic or monopsonistic nature of the industry or market. The key remaining question is whether privatization is an adequate or appropriate response to address SOE problems.

 

Throwing baby out with bathwater

SOEs often enjoy monopolistic powers, which can be abused, and hence require appropriate checks and balances. In this regard, there are instances where privatization may well be best. Two examples from Britain and Hungary may be helpful.

The most successful case of privatization in the United Kingdom during the Thatcher period involved National Freight, through a successful Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). Thus, truck drivers and other staff co-owned National Freight and developed personal stakes in ensuring its success.

In Hungary, the state became involved in running small stores. Many were poorly run due to over-centralized control. After privatization, most were more successfully run by the new owners who were previously store managers.

Hence, there are circumstances when privatization can result in desirable outcomes, but a few such examples do not mean that privatization is the answer to all SOE problems.

Privatization has never been a universal panacea. One has to understand the specific nature of a problem; sustainable solutions can only come from careful understanding of the specific problems to be addressed.

 

Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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Excerpt:

To make the case for privatization from the 1980s, their real problems were often caricatured and exaggerated.

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Let Food Be Thy Medicinehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/let-food-thy-medicine/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=let-food-thy-medicine http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/let-food-thy-medicine/#respond Tue, 14 Aug 2018 10:10:59 +0000 Adelheid Onyango and Bibi Giyose http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157204 Adelheid Onyango is Adviser for Nutrition at the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Africa and Bibi Giyose is Senior Nutrition and Food Systems officer, and Special Advisor to the CEO of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

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Health is more than the absence of disease: adequate nutrition is a critical part of the equation

Typical food store in Brazzaville, Congo. Credit: WHO

By Adelheid Onyango and Bibi Giyose
BRAZZAVILLE, Congo, Aug 14 2018 (IPS)

When faced with a crisis, our natural reaction is to deal with its immediate threats. Ateka* came to the make-shift clinic with profuse diarrhoea: they diagnosed cholera. The urgent concern in the midst of that humanitarian crisis was to treat the infection and send her home as quickly as possible. But she came back to the treatment centre a few days later – not for cholera, but because she was suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Doctors had saved her life but not restored her health. And there were others too, who like Ateka eventually succumbed to severe malnutrition.  

This scene could have taken place in any of the dozen or so African countries that have suffered a cholera outbreak this year alone. Experience from managing epidemics has shown that when the population’s baseline nutritional status is poor, the loss of life is high.

Beyond malnutrition’s damaging impact on bodily health, it weakens the immune system, reducing the body’s resistance to infection and resilience in illness.

Most of the diseases that entail catastrophic costs to individuals, households and national healthcare systems in Africa could be avoided if everyone was living actively and consuming adequate, diverse, safe and nutritious food. After all, a healthy diet not only allows us to grow, develop and prosper, it also protects against obesity, diabetes, raised blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

On the flipside, integrating the treatment of malnutrition in the response to humanitarian crises assures survival and recovery better than an exclusive focus on treating diseases.

As countries across the continent commit themselves to Universal Health Coverage (UHC), the same lessons need to apply. UHC is ultimately about achieving health and wellbeing for all by 2030, a goal that is inextricably linked with that of ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition.

With 11 million Africans falling into poverty every year due to catastrophic out-of-pocket payments for healthcare, no one can question the need to ensure that everyone, everywhere, can obtain the health services they need, when and where they need them, without facing financial hardship.

As wealth patterns and consumption habits change, the African region is now faced with the triple burden of malnutrition – undernutrition coupled with micronutrient deficiencies and increasing levels of obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases.

In 2016, an estimated 59 million children in Africa were stunted (a 17 percent increase since 2000) and 14 million suffered from wasting – a strong predictor of death among children under five. That same year, 10 million were overweight; almost double the figure from 2000. It’s estimated that by 2020, non-communicable diseases will cause around 3.9 million deaths annually in the African region alone.

Yet most of the diseases that entail catastrophic costs to individuals, households and national healthcare systems in Africa could be avoided if everyone was living actively and consuming adequate, diverse, safe and nutritious food. After all, a healthy diet not only allows us to grow, develop and prosper, it also protects against obesity, diabetes, raised blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

To tackle malnutrition, achieve UHC and ultimately reach the goal of health and wellbeing for all, governments need to put in place the right investments, policies and incentives.

As a starting point, governments need to assure the basic necessities of food security, clean water and improved sanitation to prevent and reduce undernutrition among poor rural communities and urban slum populations in Africa. For example, reduction in open defecation has been successful in reducing undernutrition in Ethiopia, parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Tanzania.

Then, to influence what people eat, we need to do a better job at improving food environments and at educating them about what constitutes a healthy diet. Hippocrates asserted that “all disease begins in the gut,” with the related counsel to “let food be thy medicine.”

Current research on chronic diseases is reasserting the health benefits of consuming minimally-processed staple foods which formed the basis of traditional African diets. This information needs to be communicated to the public through the health and education sectors and complemented by agricultural innovation to increase production of the nutrient-rich grains, crickets, herbs, roots, fruits and vegetables that were the medicine for longevity among our hardy ancestors.

But until that awareness is in place, policies and programmes are urgently needed to protect and promote healthy diets right from birth. This includes regulating the marketing of breast milk substitutes and foods that help establish unhealthy food preferences and eating habits from early childhood.

In South Africa, for example, the country with the highest obesity rate in Sub-Saharan Africa, the government has introduced a ‘sugar tax’ that is expected to increase the price of sugary soft drinks. The hope is that this will encourage consumers to make healthier choices and manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar in their products.

Finally, governments must create incentives – and apply adequately dissuasive sanctions when necessary – to help food manufacturers collaborate in promoting healthy diets through reformulation and informative labelling, for example. In cases of food contamination, we are very quick to take products off the shelves. Yet we are much slower to react to the illnesses caused by processed foods containing high quantities of salt, sugars, saturated fats and trans fats.

A shortcut to achieving Universal Health Coverage is to reduce the need for costly treatments. And there is no better way to do that than to ensure that everyone, everywhere, preserves their health and has access to safe and nutritious food: let food be thy medicine.

*name has been changed

 

The post Let Food Be Thy Medicine appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Adelheid Onyango is Adviser for Nutrition at the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Africa and Bibi Giyose is Senior Nutrition and Food Systems officer, and Special Advisor to the CEO of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

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2017 Global Findex: Behind the Numbers on Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/2017-global-findex-behind-numbers-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2017-global-findex-behind-numbers-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/2017-global-findex-behind-numbers-bangladesh/#respond Fri, 10 Aug 2018 09:11:19 +0000 Joep Roest http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157167 Joep Roest is Senior Financial Sector Specialist, Inclusive Markets, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP)

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Credit: Md Shafiqur Rahman, 2016 CGAP Photo Contest. 2017 Global Findex: Behind the Numbers on Bangladesh

Credit: Md Shafiqur Rahman, 2016 CGAP Photo Contest

By Joep Roest
WASHINGTON DC, Aug 10 2018 (IPS)

On the face of it, the 2017 Global Findex shows that Bangladesh has made great strides toward financial inclusion since the previous Findex was released in 2014.

In that time, the percentage of adults with financial accounts rose from 31 to 50 percent — a gain almost entirely due to a 20 percent increase in bKash mobile money accounts. As remarkable as these advances are, the data also reveal some challenges Bangladesh faces around financial inclusion.

To start with, Bangladesh has a lot going for it that help explain these overall gains. Its economy has done well over the past decade, with annual growth of 5 to 7 percent.

Roughly 20.5 million Bangladeshis escaped poverty between 1991 and 2010, more than halving the poverty rate from 44.2 to 18.5 percent. The increase in spending power likely fuels the growing demand for financial services.

Findex shows that 65 percent of Bangladeshi men have accounts while only 36 percent of women have accounts. Intermedia’s Financial Inclusion Insights survey bears this out, too. Of all its measured demographics, women saw the least growth in financial inclusion. Why are women being left behind?

The fact that Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world (three times more so than India) also works to its advantage when it comes to financial inclusion.

Banks, mobile network operators and other providers can cover large portions of the country’s 161 million people with relatively little infrastructure.

According to Intermedia, the percentage of the population living within 5 km of an access point jumped from 89 percent in 2013 to 92 percent in 2017, putting Bangladesh far ahead of other countries in South Asia.

This is important because studies show that proximity to an agent greatly increases the likelihood of use of financial services.

Bangladesh also enjoys rapidly improving mobile phone and internet connectivity, which has no doubt fueled the remarkable 20 percent surge in mobile money account ownership. In 2010, just 32 percent of the population subscribed to mobile services.

That number rose to 54 percent in 2017. Over the same period, mobile internet connectivity grew from 26 to 33 percent. Of course, there is still a lot of room for improvement. More than 70 million people still do not subscribe to mobile services at all.

Nevertheless, the growing popularity of cell phones is creating new opportunities for a new class of providers like bKash to reach customers with mobile financial services.

For all of these impressive gains, Findex also points to significant challenges for Bangladesh. A stark gender gap stands out. As my colleague Mayada El-Zoghbi discussed in an earlier post, Bangladesh is among a number of countries like Pakistan, Jordan and Nigeria whose overall advances in financial inclusion have left women behind.

In fact, Bangladesh’s gender gap in financial access grew a whopping 20 percentage points from 2014 to 2017. At 29 percentage points, it is now one of the largest gender gaps in the world.

 

Source: Mayada El-Zoghbi, “Measuring Women’s Financial Inclusion: The 2017 Findex Story”

Source: Mayada El-Zoghbi, “Measuring Women’s Financial Inclusion: The 2017 Findex Story”

 

Overall, Findex shows that 65 percent of Bangladeshi men have accounts while only 36 percent of women have accounts. Intermedia’s Financial Inclusion Insights survey bears this out, too. Of all its measured demographics, women saw the least growth in financial inclusion.

Why are women being left behind? It has often been noted that cultural norms play a role in Bangladesh, limiting women’s access to accounts and agents. While these constraints certainly play a big role, another related factor is the disparity in access to mobile phones.

According to Intermedia, 76 percent of Bangladeshi men own a phone, but just 47 percent of women can say the same. Since most of the country’s gains in financial inclusion have been driven by mobile financial services, this is a significant constraint for women.

Another challenge in Bangladesh, and a likely reason why overall financial inclusion numbers are not even higher, is the fact that its mobile financial services ecosystem has yet to mature to the point where a stream of innovative offerings entice more people to use digital financial services.

Although 18 mobile financial services providers are active in Bangladesh, bKash claims 80 percent market share. Its main competitor, Dutch-Bangla Bank Limited, has enjoyed moderate success but not enough to make much of an impression on the overall market.

As Findex shows, having such a dominant player in the market is a blessing and a curse. bKash has considerably increased people’s access to financial services. At the same time, the lack of competition has stifled innovation. There are few compelling mobile financial services in Bangladesh beyond person-to-person (P2P) transfers, which are the bread and butter of bKash’s business.

The lack of use cases beyond P2P transfers may be one of the reasons why over-the-counter transactions — in which people use agents’ accounts to transfer money so they don’t have to sign up for their own accounts — comprise 70 percent of total transactions, even though they are officially not permitted. People just don’t see good enough reasons to sign up for their own accounts.

Government policy has played a significant role in both driving these advances in financial inclusion and holding them back. On the one hand, the government’s “Digital Bangladesh” initiative and government-to-person (G2P) digitization programs have increased the number of people with financial accounts.

For example, in just six months, payments provider SureCash and the Ministry of Education enrolled 10 million poor women with accounts, into which they receive stipends. Programs like this can help close the gender gap.

Even more encouraging, the government has been exploring interoperable payments infrastructure that works beyond G2P. There is also momentum to clarify electronic know-your-customer requirements, which would make it easier for providers to use biometric identity verification and extend services to the poor.

On the other hand, mobile financial services regulations have been partly responsible for the lack of competition and innovation in the mobile financial services space. The market is open to banks and bank subsidiaries, but not nonbanks in general.

For instance, mobile network operators have a long-standing interest in directly providing mobile financial services to customers but have not been allowed to do so. As a result, bKash sits atop the market with only lackluster competition from banks.

A key question for the future of financial inclusion in Bangladesh will be to what extent FinTech players will be allowed to capitalize on the country’s generally favorable conditions around connectivity, scale and distribution. Another important question is to what extent international actors will shape the market.

Ant Financial’s recent stake in bKash may shake up the entire space. If their entry into other Asian markets is any indication, they take an active approach to their investments and will inject a much-needed stimulus into Bangladesh’s sleepy digital financial services space.

 

The post 2017 Global Findex: Behind the Numbers on Bangladesh appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Joep Roest is Senior Financial Sector Specialist, Inclusive Markets, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP)

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New Agreement with China: Opportunity to Save Mozambique’s Forestshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/new-agreement-china-opportunity-save-mozambiques-forests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-agreement-china-opportunity-save-mozambiques-forests http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/new-agreement-china-opportunity-save-mozambiques-forests/#respond Thu, 09 Aug 2018 14:32:14 +0000 Duncan Macqueen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157160 Duncan Macqueen is a principal researcher on forests at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)*

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Vast quantities of logs being unloaded in the port of Zhangjiagang, South-East China. China’s commitment to invest in establishing timber processing plants in Mozambique means it can help end the export of whole logs to China, introduce modern, efficient processing facilities that are less wasteful and so use fewer trees, create jobs for local people and increase much needed tax revenue. Credit: Simon Lim/IIED

By Duncan Macqueen
LONDON, Aug 9 2018 (IPS)

Mozambique’s forests are disappearing at an alarming rate, with most of the destruction caused by excessive logging, corruption and weak laws.

Better enforcement and improving regulations, including in its trade with China, are key to reversing this trend as ‘China in Mozambique’s forests: a review of issues and progress for livelihoods and sustainability’, a new report from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) shows.

About 10,000 square metres of Mozambique’s forests are being cut down every minute. And almost all of the 93% of its timber that it exports to China is from just five species. According to customs import and export data, the rate of harvesting these species exceeds even the highest limit permitted under Mozambique’s forest law. Some analysts are concerned that this could lead to the complete depletion of these commercial species over the next 15 years.

The country’s forests cannot sustain this rate of destruction. Not only will it devastate the country’s environment, it will also damage its development.

In June, China and Mozambique signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which has the potential to help save Mozambique’s forests and make its timber industry more sustainable.

One crucial aspect is that it commits China to invest in establishing timber processing plants within Mozambique. This will help put an end to the practice of shipping either whole logs or poorly cut timber to China, which in some cases are not useable by the time it arrives. Or due to outdated technology, has resulted in unnecessary and significant waste.

In China, state of the art industrial processing plants are standard. With China adopting a ‘go global’ investment strategy it has an opportunity to transfer high-tech processing technology to Africa. The new processing facilities that have already been established in Mozambique can cut the timber with minimal waste.

New giant drying warehouses allow freshly cut wood to dry properly stopping it from warping en route to China where it is turned into furniture, flooring, panelling and a range of other household items.

A Chinese worker at the timber depot of Green Timber, a Chinese-owned timber concession operating in Mozambique’s Nampula and Zambezia provinces. Green Timber has a concession area in excess to 200,000 hectares. Some of their timber is sawn and used in Mozambique but much of it is exported uncut. Credit: Mike Goldwater

The more processing that can take place in Mozambique, the more the timber industry can provide local jobs, while also increasing the amount of tax that is paid to the Mozambique government. Better processing also means that fewer trees are cut for each item created because the processing is more precise and wastes less wood.

This type of increased investment also acts as an incentive for Chinese companies to care about the health of the forest. In committing significant amounts of money, they will expect to see a sustainable supply of timber over the long term in order to pay back their investments. This will not be possible if the forests are depleted by over logging.

The Memorandum of Understanding also calls for the two governments to work together to increase such investments and develop a bilateral verification system to combat illegal logging and sustainably manage forests. Cutting out low-cost, illegal operators is an important part of making sustainable forestry pay.

One frequent problem has been that the volume of timber leaving Mozambique has been recorded as significantly lower than the amount recorded on arrival. According to UN Comtrade, in 2013 Mozambique reported exporting 280,796 cubic metres of timber to China. The amount recorded on arrival was more than double that at 601,919 cubic metres.

By jointly developing a bar-coded, internet-based, electronic timber tracking system that allows real-time data entry and checking throughout the supply chain, Mozambique’s ability to control legal and illegal logging can be increased.

Beyond the Memorandum, inspection and monitoring also need to be improved. Mozambican forest experts have calculated that the number of forest inspectors needs to be more than doubled from 630 to 1,800 to help implement any new timber tracking system.

Mozambique also needs to implement substantial reforms to its forest law. Legal reforms began in 2015 but have stalled. Critical is the need to change how concessions for logging are granted. There are two types of licences: Long-term industrial-scale concessions and short-term simple licences.

Simple licences, which are granted for up to 10,000 hectares of forest designated for logging, are particularly destructive.

Loading logs on a flatbed lorry. Credit: Mike Goldwater

Renewable every five years, the short licence period and minimal management requirements makes these forests especially vulnerable to wholesale plundering of valuable species, as there is no incentive for companies to give smaller trees time to mature for future harvests.

And in 2017, geo-referenced mapping revealed that some of the concession areas are more than six times larger than officially allowed.

It is crucial that simple licences are scrapped and that all concessions are granted for 50 years, with mandatory regular compliance assessments and sustainable management plans.

The forest law also needs to grant commercial forest rights to communities that already have land rights. Currently, local forest communities are required to abide by the same expensive and complicated process as industrial companies when applying for concessions – including having to build a processing plant.

Because of this, many communities collaborate with illegal loggers to earn at least some money from the rapidly diminishing forests. In a couple of cases, local NGOs have helped communities apply for concessions, but the costs and complexities of running a processing industry is far beyond their means. More needs to be done to secure their commercial rights.

This could include establishing new community forest concessions that are conditional on keeping the forest intact. By giving local women and men the right to make money from timber sales to third parties, they will have more incentive to protect the forests.

Mozambique and China are in a position to make the changes needed to establish a sustainable forest industry that will benefit local forest communities and the country as a whole. Now it is just a question of whether they have the political and practical will.

For IIED’s video ‘China’s Investment, Africa’s forests’ and for more information on China in Africa’s forests see: https://www.iied.org/finding-green-path-for-china-africa

*The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is a policy and action research organisation based in the United Kingdom. It promotes sustainable development to improve livelihoods and protect the environments on which these livelihoods are built. For more information please see www.iied.org

The post New Agreement with China: Opportunity to Save Mozambique’s Forests appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Duncan Macqueen is a principal researcher on forests at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)*

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Indigenous Peoples Least Responsible for the Climate Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/indigenous-peoples-least-responsible-climate-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-least-responsible-climate-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/indigenous-peoples-least-responsible-climate-crisis/#comments Thu, 09 Aug 2018 07:43:06 +0000 Jamison Ervin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157153 Jamison Ervin is Manager, UNDP’s Global Programme on Nature for Development

 
This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds initiated by IPS on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on August 9.

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Photo - UNDP/ PNG-Bougainville People celebration

By Jamison Ervin
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 9 2018 (IPS)

Indigenous peoples, who comprise less than five percent of the world’s population, have the world’s smallest carbon footprint, and are the least responsible for our climate crisis. Yet because their livelihoods and wellbeing are intimately bound with intact ecosystems, indigenous peoples disproportionately face the brunt of climate change, which is fast becoming a leading driver of human displacement.

In Papua New Guinea, for example, residents of the Carteret Islands – one of the most densely populated islands in the country – have felt the effects of climate change intensify over recent years. With a high point on their islands of just 1.2 meters above sea level, every community member is now at risk from sea level rise and storm surges.

Moreover, the community depends almost entirely on fishing for their food and livelihoods, but the health of sea grass beds and coral reefs has gradually deteriorated from warming waters and coral bleaching.

The residents of these islands faced a stark choice – to be passive victims of an uncertain government resettlement program, or to take matters into their own hands. They chose the latter. In 2005, elders formed a community-led non-profit, called Tulele Peisa, to chart their own climate course. In the Halia language, the name means “Sailing the Waves on our Own,” an apt metaphor for how the community is navigating rising sea levels.

In 2014, the initiative won the prestigious, UNDP-led Equator Prize, in recognition for their ingenuity, foresight and proactive approach in facing the challenges of climate change, while keeping their cultural traditions intact.

Earlier this month, Jeffrey Sachs published an article entitled “We Are All Climate Refugees Now,” in which he attributed the main cause of climate inaction to the willful ignorance of political institutions and corporations toward the grave dangers of climate change, imperiling future life on Earth. 2018 will likely be recorded as among the hottest year humanity has ever recorded.

Yet a slew of recent articles highlight that we are not on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. We have not shown the collective leadership required to tackle this existential crisis.

Carteret Islanders have been broadly recognized as the world’s first climate refugees, but they are not alone. Arctic indigenous communities are already facing the same plight, as are their regional neighbors from the island nation of Kiribati.

According to the World Bank, their plight will likely be replicated around the world, with as many as 140 million people worldwide being displaced by climate change within the next 30 years or so.

But the Carteret Island leaders are more than just climate refugees. They have done something precious few political leaders have done to date – they recognized the warning signs of climate change as real and inevitable, they took stock of their options, and they charted a proactive, realistic course for their own future that promised the most good for the most people. Therefore, they could also be called the world’s first true climate leaders.

Let’s hope that our world’s politicians and CEOs have the wisdom, foresight and fortitude of the elders of Carteret Islanders. Because like it or not, we will all be sailing the climate waves on our own, with or without a rudder and a plan.

The post Indigenous Peoples Least Responsible for the Climate Crisis appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jamison Ervin is Manager, UNDP’s Global Programme on Nature for Development

 
This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds initiated by IPS on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on August 9.

The post Indigenous Peoples Least Responsible for the Climate Crisis appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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States Must Act Now to Protect Indigenous Peoples During Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/states-must-act-now-protect-indigenous-peoples-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=states-must-act-now-protect-indigenous-peoples-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/states-must-act-now-protect-indigenous-peoples-migration/#respond Wed, 08 Aug 2018 19:13:13 +0000 UN experts on Indigenous Peoples http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157142 States around the world must take effective action to guarantee the human rights of indigenous peoples, says a group of UN experts. In a joint statement marking International day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the experts say it is crucial that the rights of indigenous peoples are realised when they migrate or are displaced from […]

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Indigenous men and women of Nuñoa in Puno, Peru, spin and weave garments based on the fiber of the alpacas. Credit: SGP-GEF-UNDP Peru/Enrique Castro-Mendívil

By UN experts* on Indigenous Peoples
GENEVA/NEW YORK, Aug 8 2018 (IPS)

States around the world must take effective action to guarantee the human rights of indigenous peoples, says a group of UN experts. In a joint statement marking International day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the experts say it is crucial that the rights of indigenous peoples are realised when they migrate or are displaced from their lands:

“In many parts of the world, indigenous peoples have become migrants because they are fleeing economic deprivation, forced displacement, environmental disasters including climate change impacts, social and political unrest, and militarisation. Indigenous peoples have shown remarkable resilience and determination in these extreme situations.

We wish to remind States that all indigenous peoples, whether they migrate or remain, have rights under international instruments, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

While States have the sovereign prerogative to manage their borders, they must also recognise international human rights standards and ensure that migrants are not subjected to violence, discrimination, or other treatment that would violate their rights. In addition, states must recognise indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination; lands, territories and resources; to a nationality, as well as rights of family, education, health, culture and language.

The Declaration specifically provides that States must ensure indigenous peoples’ rights across international borders that may currently divide their traditional territories.

Within countries, government and industry initiatives, including national development, infrastructure, agro-business, natural resource extraction and climate change mitigation, or other matters that affect indigenous peoples, must be undertaken with the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples, such that they are not made to relocate against their will. States must recognise that relocation of indigenous peoples similarly triggers requirements including free, prior and informed consent, as well as restitution and compensation under the Declaration.

We are concerned about human rights violations in the detention, prosecution and deportation practices of States. There is also a dearth of appropriate data on indigenous peoples who are migrants. As a result of this invisibility, those detained at international borders are often denied access to due process, including interpretation and other services that are essential for fair representation in legal processes.

We call on States immediately to reunite children, parents and caregivers who may have been separated in border detentions or deportations.

In addition, States must ensure that indigenous peoples migrating from their territories, including from rural to urban areas within their countries, are guaranteed rights to their identity and adequate living standards, as well as necessary and culturally appropriate social services.

States must also ensure that differences among provincial or municipal jurisdictions do not create conditions of inequality, deprivation and discrimination among indigenous peoples.

We express particular concern about indigenous women and children who are exposed to human and drug trafficking, and sexual violence, and indigenous persons with disabilities who are denied accessibility services.

We look forward to engagement in the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration regarding indigenous peoples’ issues.

On this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we urge States, UN agencies, and others, in the strongest terms possible, to ensure indigenous peoples’ rights under the Declaration and other instruments, and to recognise these rights especially in the context of migration, including displacement and other trans-border issues.”

(*) The experts: The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a subsidiary body of the Human Rights Council. Its mandate is to provide the Council with expertise and advice on the rights of indigenous peoples as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and to assist Member States in achieving the ends of the Declaration through the promotion, protection and fulfilment of the rights of indigenous peoples. It is composed of seven independent experts serving in their personal capacities and is currently chaired by Ms Erika Yamada.

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council, with a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights. The Forum is made up of 16 members serving in their personal capacity as independent experts on indigenous issues. Eight of the members are nominated by governments and eight by the President of ECOSOC, on the basis of broad consultation with indigenous groups. It is currently Chaired by Ms Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine. 

The Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Ms Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. 

The United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples was established by the General Assembly in 1985. The Fund provides support for indigenous peoples’ representatives to participate in sessions of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Human Rights Council, including its Universal Periodic Review, and UN human rights treaty bodies. Its Board of Trustees is currently Chaired by Mr. Binota Dhamai.

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Along with Peace, Eritreans Need Repression to Endhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/along-with-peace-eritreans-need-repression-to-end/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=along-with-peace-eritreans-need-repression-to-end http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/along-with-peace-eritreans-need-repression-to-end/#respond Wed, 08 Aug 2018 14:50:43 +0000 Laetitia Bader http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157137 Laetitia Bader is a senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch

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The rugged landscape of Tigray, Ethiopia’s most northern region, stretches away to the north and into Eritrea. Once Eritrea was Ethiopia’s most northern region until gaining independence in 1991. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

The rugged landscape of Tigray, Ethiopia’s most northern region, stretches away to the north and into Eritrea. Once Eritrea was Ethiopia’s most northern region until gaining independence in 1991. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By Laetitia Bader
ROME, Aug 8 2018 (IPS)

“Military service was the only prospect on my horizon — I didn’t want that,” a 20-year-old Eritrean who fled the country last year told me. “My dad had spent his whole life in military service.”

The young man, whom I recently met at an informal settlement in Rome, dreaded Sawa camp, where most Eritrean students spend their final year of high school before indefinite national service. To avoid that system, which has destroyed citizens’ lives since the border war with Ethiopia began in the late 1990s, hundreds of thousands of people, including children, have fled into exile. One young Eritrean we recently spoke to described national service as “bad treatment without any end in sight.”

On July 9, in a significant turn of events, Eritrea’s long-serving president, Isaias Afewerki, and Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, signed a declaration announcing “a new era of peace and friendship” between the countries.

Since then, each government has appointed an ambassador to the other country and reopened telephone, road and air connections for the first time in decades. Officials now discuss the possibility of land-locked Ethiopia using Eritrea’s Red Sea ports, unimaginable only a year ago. Ethiopia’s official news agency even announced a friendly football match scheduled for late August.

 

Peace has been a long time coming

In May 1998 a bloody border war erupted, and an estimated 100,000 people, mainly soldiers, are believed to have died and countless civilians were displaced, detained or summarily deported.  While active fighting ended in December 2000, enmity did not: Ethiopia rejected an international border commission’s ruling that the town of Badme, where the war began, was Eritrean territory.

Laetitia Bader - Along with Peace, Eritreans Need Repression to End

Laetitia Bader

President Isaias and Eritrea’s ruling elite have used this “no war no peace” as a justification to hold much of the country’s population largely hostage. Many of those with contrary or critical views of governance were jailed or forced to flee, deemed to have undermined Eritrea’s national security.

Repression is well-entrenched. The president has refused to hold elections since independence in 1993 and to implement the constitution with its bill of rights. The country has no functioning legislature nor independent judiciary.

Eritrea’s horrific prison system is bursting with political prisoners. The government has effectively eliminated independent public criticism. It is one of the leading jailers of journalists in Africa,  and does not permit independent domestic media, non-governmental groups, or opposition political parties. Rare public protests – such as November 2017 protests at a private Islamic school in Asmara against the arrest of the school’s nonagenarian honorary president – are met with mass arrests and occasionally with lethal force.

Freedom of religion, seen as a threat to loyalty to the nation, is severely restricted. Members of “unrecognized” religions are regularly incarcerated until they renounce their faith.

Eritrea’s horrific prison system is bursting with political prisoners. The government has effectively eliminated independent public criticism. It is one of the leading jailers of journalists in Africa, and does not permit independent domestic media, non-governmental groups, or opposition political parties.

Indefinite endless national service — which channels Eritreans, some underage, into either the military or civilian positions — is ultimately the government’s main system of control over the population. Inside, they face serious abuses, including torture, lack of food, and insufficient pay to support a family.  In 2016, a United Nations Commission of Inquiry characterized national service as “enslavement.”

But with the July 9 declaration, the Eritrean government’s– never legitimate justification for its repressive policies and system suddenly disappeared.

In recent weeks, there have been unconfirmed reports in the media of a handful of releases of detainees, including Jehovah’s Witnesses.

But the jury is still out as to whether the government will start to dismantle the systematic repression. Many Eritreans have taken to social media calling for key rights reforms, but so far, such reforms have not occurred.

President Isaias has often been impervious to condemnation for this human rights record, but regional and international entities reengaging with Eritrea should encourage him to take concrete steps to end government repression.

They should urge the government to immediately release the surviving members of a group of 21 journalists and prominent government officials held incommunicado since September 2001, at least 10 of whom are believed to have died in detention, and confirm the whereabouts and conditions of other political prisoners held incommunicado.  The government should also immediately release prisoners held for their religious beliefs, including the patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox church and at least 53 Jehovah’s Witnesses, 3 of whom have been held for 24 years.

International actors should call on the government to cooperate with United Nations’ and African Commission’s independent experts and allow them to visit the country to monitor detention facilities. The government should also make a public commitment to abide by the 1997 constitution, which would provide a framework for more substantial reforms.

Finally, it should announce a timetable for demobilizing national service conscripts and start by immediately releasing those who have served more than five years.

High-level public rapprochement is important, but if Eritrea wants the full benefits of peace, it needs allow its citizens the freedom to enjoy them and give its youth the chance to hope again.

The post Along with Peace, Eritreans Need Repression to End appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Laetitia Bader is a senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch

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Beyond Boundaries – Cultural Literacy in Indiana & Rwandahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/beyond-boundaries-cultural-literacy-indiana-rwanda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=beyond-boundaries-cultural-literacy-indiana-rwanda http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/beyond-boundaries-cultural-literacy-indiana-rwanda/#respond Wed, 08 Aug 2018 12:08:02 +0000 Vera Marinova http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157129 Vera Marinova is Associate Director of Indiana University's Global Living-Learning Community and director of Books & Beyond

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Vera Marinova is Associate Director of Indiana University's Global Living-Learning Community and director of Books & Beyond

By Vera Marinova
BLOOMINGTON, Indiana, Aug 8 2018 (IPS)

For ten years now, in special partnership with the community of Musanze, Rwanda, Indiana University (IU) has created meaningful programs and connections across the country. It is an unlikely partnership, one that formed over 10 years ago with a university alum recognizing an opportunity for not only cultural literacy but friendship.

It was 2005 and IU alumna Nancy Uslan was traveling in Rwanda when she noticed none of the school children in the local primary school had books. She came back to the states and turned to her alma mater to create a program that would not only provide high-quality books to students at the Kabwende Primary School, but would also provide a cultural exchange between U.S. elementary-school students and Rwandan students.

Fast forward 10 years later, and IU’s impact in Rwanda has grown exponentially. For the past 6 years, we have expanded the program in a variety of ways and this summer (Aug. 10-18, 2018), in efforts to commemorate our 10 years of service in Rwanda, we have invited a number of faculty and professionals who will each work on specific projects associated with the promotion of literacy and education.

We still provide books — 20,000 total this year — but we have grown to include teacher training; a three-week, literacy-focused camp for students; the school’s first library and three playgrounds.

And we’re not done. This year, we are providing eye exams and glasses for hundreds of students. We will also be providing 3-D prosthetic hands to four young people in the area, along with partnering with a local high school to teach 3-D printing and bring those vocational skills to the community to create tools needed in construction, that are hard to find locally in Rwanda.

In essence, this holistic approach has helped us to look “beyond” as the program continues to grow and find new ways to share and partner with communities in Rwanda. We remain committed to create, grow, and further educational opportunities for children in both Rwanda and America.

I am extremely proud of the work IU is doing in Rwanda and the commitment and enthusiasm our students and faculty have for making a difference both at home and abroad. In celebrating ten years of successful engagement between our two nations, we have created lasting partnerships and friendships that will last a lifetime to come.

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Excerpt:

Vera Marinova is Associate Director of Indiana University's Global Living-Learning Community and director of Books & Beyond

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The Legalization of Abortion in Argentina will Benefit Thousands of Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/legalization-abortion-will-benefit-thousands-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=legalization-abortion-will-benefit-thousands-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/legalization-abortion-will-benefit-thousands-women/#respond Wed, 08 Aug 2018 09:19:39 +0000 Nelly Minyersky http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157123 The author of this oped, Nelly Minyersky, is a lawyer and family law specialist, writing for Amnesty International

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A demonstration in support of legal abortion in Argentina. Credit: Demian Marchi/Amnesty International

A demonstration in support of legal abortion in Argentina. Credit: Demian Marchi/Amnesty International

By Nelly Minyersky
BUENOS AIRES, Aug 8 2018 (IPS)

We are at an historic moment in Argentina, a turning point in the path of women’s rights.

Although women in Argentina enjoy a regulatory framework that can be considered progressive in Latin America (regardless of its efficiency and/or effectiveness), it is clear that criminalization of abortion (Art. 86 of the Criminal Code of the Nation) constitutes a flagrant violation of a plethora of rights that are legitimately ours and which are enshrined in the National Constitution and Human Rights Treaties. These texts form a body of constitutional rules and regulations that include the right to freedom, equality, autonomy, to freedom from discrimination, to public health, family planning, etc.

For decades, Argentine women have been fighting to break the iron fist that attempts to decide our destiny and our life choices for us. One sector of society and the state exercise power over the lives and autonomy of women without mentioning the illegitimacy and immorality of their position, turning legitimate behaviour (such as sexual relations) into potentially criminal action.

These people do not understand that when the human rights platform is expanded (such as through the decriminalization and legalization of abortion), no-one is forced to exercise those rights. The beliefs and conscience of each individual empowers them to invoke such rights or not, as they see fit. Maintaining the current situation therefore involves imposing beliefs on a wide sector of society, with the state interfering in the private lives of pregnant women.

Through their action, the anti-rights or “pro-life” sector, as they call themselves, imposes authoritarian restrictions on the life and destiny of a majority of women in our country. They prevent women from enjoying human rights that relate fundamentally to the most intimate, private and deep aspects of their personality: their sexual freedom, family planning, when, how and with whom to have children.

The tragedy is that these positions are held without any minimum or essential basis in the biological or legal sciences. They have tried, vexatiously, to place the embryo and/or fetus on an equal footing with women in all rights and aspects, and to give equal weight to the embryo and to the life of the woman, even though this latter physically exists and is a legal and moral person. In their presentations, they show videos which, in reality, are premature births and not abortions, they falsify statistics and refer to techniques that neither exist nor are practised in this country, with the sole aim of deceiving society.

Nelly Minyersky

They also incorrectly refer to Human Rights Treaties, particularly the Pact of San José, with regard to references to the right of a person as from the moment of conception. The proper interpretation of this article, as noted in the Pact itself and in the way in which the Convention was approved, makes it clear that this wording was intended to protect norms that already respected terminations taking place in Latin America.

We must also not forget that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the CEDAW Committee have both repeatedly called on the Argentine State to protect women and adolescents of all ages by making available to them the legal and other means that will help to prevent forced pregnancies and by amending abortion laws.

The draft Law on Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy is an enormous step forward in the recognition of women’s autonomy. It accepts the principles of bioethics, which are based on express recognition of human dignity as a founding principle. It completely decriminalizes consensual abortion up to and including week 14.

It maintains that women should not be penalized when they have been the victim of rape or where there is a risk to the mother’s life, and includes norms such as informed consent and the right of adolescents to seek medical care even without the presence of an adult (on the understanding that it is a bioethical duty to treat any person within the health system who, when faced with rejection, would clearly opt for the worst solution). It also includes a duty on the part of the health service to prevent, inform and support. In the context of a plural society, neither bioethics nor the law can be subordinate to “a moral duty”.

After decades of fighting for the decriminalization and legalization of abortion, spearheaded by members of the “National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion” (Campaña Nacional por el Derecho al Aborto Legal, Seguro y Gratuito) which, in recent years, has been calling for laws to be passed in this regard and has submitted draft bills on seven opportunities,  a debate and preliminary approval have finally been achieved in Argentina’s Chamber of Deputies, with more than a million people of different genders and ages protesting in the streets of the city.

In accordance with our legislative procedure, the draft is now therefore being considered in the Senate, with a vote due on the 8th of this month. On that day, there will be two million people on the streets of Buenos Aires to support and demand approval of a law that the women of Argentina deserve.

Approval of this law, which already has preliminary legislative approval, will offer health and quality of life benefits to thousands upon thousands of girls, teenagers and women. We must not be afraid when debates result in an extension of rights, and in full equality before the law and in life.

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Excerpt:

The author of this oped, Nelly Minyersky, is a lawyer and family law specialist, writing for Amnesty International

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Why We Need Decentralized Renewable Energy to Power the Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/why-we-need-decentralized-renewable-energy-to-power-the-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-we-need-decentralized-renewable-energy-to-power-the-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/why-we-need-decentralized-renewable-energy-to-power-the-world/#respond Tue, 07 Aug 2018 15:45:45 +0000 Eco Matser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157110 Eco Matser is Hivos global Climate Change / Energy and Development Coordinator

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Hydro plant, Sumba, Indonesia. Credit: Josh Estey/Hivos - Why We Need Decentralized Renewable Energy to Power the World

Hydro plant, Sumba, Indonesia. Credit: Josh Estey/Hivos

By Eco Matser
AMSTERDAM, Aug 7 2018 (IPS)

As the energy sector is transforming, there is a growing consensus that sustainable energy is a catalyst for achieving most Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): it is crucial for better health, education, jobs, food production and conservation, as well as water use and quality.

Today, 1 billion people still live without access to electricity and 3 billion have no access to clean cooking fuels.

This transformation involves decentralized solutions that are changing how people interact with each other and their energy providers. It influences the role of citizens not only as consumers but also as “prosumers” or energy entrepreneurs.

 

Access to energy

Access to energy is not just an end in itself. It is also a stepping stone to overcome two major challenges the world is facing:

  • mitigating climate change and degradation of natural resources
  • ensuring that all people everywhere are able to take charge of their own lives in inclusive and open societies

Where does energy come into the picture?

Traditionally, having access to energy often meant you had to live near a power grid or rely on diesel and kerosene or firewood. But the urgency of combating climate change, combined with technological advances and significant price reductions, has rapidly increased the availability and affordability of renewable energy. In addition, the move from centralized power distribution to decentralized off-grid and mini-grid systems powered by renewables is gaining strength. This would make much more energy available for disadvantaged communities and remote areas.

To move forward, policies must become more supportive while energy finance needs to fundamentally change. Currently, the main problem is not a lack of finance, but how finance flows – mainly to on-grid systems in higher income countries – while the greatest need is for off-grid systems in lower income areas.

 

Sumba: a frontrunner example of energy transition

Eco Matser, Hivos global Climate Change / Energy and Development Coordinator

Eco Matser, Hivos global Climate Change / Energy and Development Coordinator

The Indonesian island of Sumba is a frontrunner example of an ambitious and innovative energy transition. Hivos introduced the Sumba Iconic Island initiative in 2009, and it has since become living proof that decentralized sustainable energy systems positively affect green, inclusive growth. This initiative succeeded thanks to its multi-stakeholder approach with governments (local and national), private sector, and community-based organizations closely working together. Through decentralized mini-grid and off-grid solutions, the project has provided energy access for more people than ever before. In addition, Sumba stands as an inspiring example for local citizens and the Indonesian government of the opportunities renewable energy brings.

 

 

Leaving no one behind

Transitioning to decentralized energy systems will be one of the key success factors for achieving SDG7 before 2030. If we want to create sustainable and resilient societies, we have to focus on the millions that still lack even basic energy services, while also drawing attention to the current inequalities in global energy systems. In particular, we must empower women and youth to become entrepreneurs in the green energy transition.

Working alongside local partners on the ground, we can make sure that future energy systems are developed with the end-user in mind. This means creating more enabling environments for energy entrepreneurship and channeling both public and private finance into decentralized solutions for low-income communities and remote rural areas. In countries such as Kenya and Nepal, the government has already successfully implemented financial pay-as-you-go models with personalized repayment schemes. Yet these best practices need to materialize faster and on a much larger scale if we are serious about leaving no one behind.

 

Multistakeholder partnerships

Another decisive component for universal energy access is the presence of multi-stakeholder initiatives. Without partnerships, the transition will struggle to pick up speed. This is why Hivos led the creation of the Brooklyn Coalition in 2017 to accelerate the uptake of decentralized renewable energy. Uniting the governments of the Netherlands, Nepal and Kenya, private sector actors Schneider Electric and Selco, and the CSOs Hivos, ENERGIA and SNV, this coalition works to promote green societies where citizens are the driving force behind new solutions for their energy needs. Here, there is a big role to play for organizations that represent civil society at the UN’s High-level Political Forum (HLPF) review of SDG7.

Equally important is the interlinkage with other SDGs. Energy access is also vital for sustainable production, resilient water resources and inclusive cities. Providing energy for households, communities and workplaces forms the basis of thriving societies.

With great progress in many countries worldwide, there is good reason to be optimistic. Now, we must stress the continued need for enabling policies and investment in decentralized renewable energy solutions to complement grid systems and bring everyone along in the green energy transition.

This opinion was originally published here

The post Why We Need Decentralized Renewable Energy to Power the World appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Eco Matser is Hivos global Climate Change / Energy and Development Coordinator

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Farmer-Herder Conflicts on the Rise in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/farmer-herder-conflicts-rise-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=farmer-herder-conflicts-rise-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/farmer-herder-conflicts-rise-africa/#respond Mon, 06 Aug 2018 15:51:42 +0000 Juliana Nnoko-Mewanu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157073 Juliana Nnoko-Mewanu is a women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch who has done extensive work on land rights issues.

 
This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds initiated by IPS on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on August 9.

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The post Farmer-Herder Conflicts on the Rise in Africa appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Juliana Nnoko-Mewanu is a women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch who has done extensive work on land rights issues.

 
This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds initiated by IPS on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on August 9.

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Winds of Change on Kenya’s Northern Bordershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/winds-change-kenyas-northern-borders/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=winds-change-kenyas-northern-borders http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/winds-change-kenyas-northern-borders/#respond Mon, 06 Aug 2018 15:09:48 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157082 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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At the Global Peace Leadership Conference in Uganda, President Museveni flanked by high level leaders from Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, Inter-Governmental Authority for Development(IGAD). Credit: State House 03 August 2018

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 6 2018 (IPS)

Previously characterised by belligerence, based on competition for resources, the border regions of Eastern Africa can sense the blissful wind of peace approaching.

It is not a wind being blown by strict military enforcement of borders, but rather by the opening up of them, and empowerment of former warring neighbours to find collective coping mechanisms for environmental and economic shocks which have previously driven them to battle.

The charm of soft power as an alternative to aggression and inter-tribal warfare was a key highlight at the 6th annual Global Peace Leadership Conference held in Kampala, and whose theme was Moral and Innovative Leadership: New Models for Sustainable Peace and Development.

In the region, the new paradigm is being inspired by successes of the Kenya-Ethiopia Cross Border Programme, which was launched in December 2015 by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and the former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia. In a joint article by Ambassador Amina Mohamed, the former Foreign Minister of Kenya and Dr Tedros Adhnom, the former Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, said, “peace and development initiative offers hope of resolving conflicts in border areas of Kenya and Ethiopia”.

The initiative, driven by the need to foster peace and sustainable development in the cross-border area of Marsabit County, Kenya, and the Borana/Dawa Zones, Ethiopia, is supported by IGAD, the European Union and Japan and implemented by the United Nations family in Kenya and Ethiopia together with local authorities on both sides.

“The programme we are launching today is transformative in its ambition…our task is to end the conflict, make certain that Kenyans and Ethiopians along the border have the same opportunities as those of other citizens in the two countries,” remarked Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta during the launch of the programme.

That programme was ignited by the United Nations, under the leadership of the former Resident Coordinator, Ms Nardos Bekele-Thomas. The current Country Team has given it momentum, and it has morphed into what is now recognized as a global best practice.

In an independent assessment, the United Nations University Centre for Policy Research hailed Kenya’s multidimensional cross-border programme for “simultaneously addressing violent extremism, human trafficking, economic development, local governance and inter-communal peace with mutually reinforcing objectives and means”.

The initiative slots in well with the vision of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his report on Peace-building and Sustaining Peace, which observed that UN agencies must “rally stakeholders to action within the entire peace continuum – from prevention, conflict resolution and peacekeeping to peacebuilding and sustainable long-term development”.

The programme has now inspired a similar initiative in what is known as the Karamoja Cluster, also a conflict-prone border region shared by four countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda.

Map of the Karamoja area

On 26 July 2018, ministers from the four countries held consultations in Uganda, where they signed a communique on cooperation for the development of cross-border areas in the Cluster.

It was signed by Uganda’s State Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Hon Musa Ecweru, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and ASAL Areas Hon. Eugene Wamalwa, Ethiopia’s Minister for Livestock and Fisheries Prof Fekadu Beyene and South Sudan’s Minister for Environment and Forestry Hon. Josephine Napwon.

“The conflicts in South Sudan, Congo and Somalia are causing proliferation of arms into Kenya and Uganda, and this is curtailing the development in the area. What we are doing now will give a more lasting solution,” said Uganda’s Minister for Karamoja Affairs Hon. John Byabagambi.

Kenya’s Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said that “peace will not prevail in the absence of basics such as water and food, and in the case of pastoralists, pasture for their herds“.

The Governments of Kenya and Uganda supported by their respective UN Resident Coordinators are developing a concept note that will put in place concrete modalities of cooperation by the affected countries. The mission is to develop the Karamoja Cluster as a single socio-economic zone, with joint policies and programs that will build resilience to overcome resources and erode current fault-lines–critical if this region is to realise SDGs.

The long term vision is that prevention strategies will be driven by private investment as a sustainable pathway to countering inequity and promoting inclusivity for the region’s peripheral communities.

There are already some good vibes coming from the region; last April 2018, leaders from South Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda joined their counterparts from Kenya in the fourth edition of the Turkana Cultural Festival in Lodwar, Kenya.

In place of belligerence, the speeches harped on forging of trade relationships and unifying the region’s populations. Clearly, falling back into the safety of tribal enclaves is now recognised as an outdated sophism.

Slowly but surely, a light of peace is piercing through the Pearl of Africa, and it is sure to cause a rainbow of friendship between communities in the region.

The UN Country Teams in the region have the persistency of purpose, the determination to continue as the ‘sinews of peace’, so that neighbour shall not be forced by socio-economic circumstance to rise against neighbour.

The post Winds of Change on Kenya’s Northern Borders appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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“Outrage is Appropriate, Surprise is Not”: Tackling Sex Abuse in the Aid Sectorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/outrage-appropriate-surprise-not-tackling-sex-abuse-aid-sector/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=outrage-appropriate-surprise-not-tackling-sex-abuse-aid-sector http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/outrage-appropriate-surprise-not-tackling-sex-abuse-aid-sector/#respond Mon, 06 Aug 2018 13:30:28 +0000 Jacqui Hunt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157075 Jacqui Hunt* is Regional Director for Europe, Equality Now

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Horror of sexual exploitation in the aid sector must be confronted. Credit: International Development Committee

By Jacqui Hunt
LONDON, Aug 6 2018 (IPS)

A new report on the scale and extent of sexual abuse and exploitation in the aid sector should come as no surprise. It is now time for international agencies, including the UN, to step up and show some much-needed leadership to tackle this issue once and for all.

The report, published 31 July 2018 by the UK House of Commons International Development Committee (IDC), has condemned the “complacency, verging on complicity” of the aid sector in responding to widespread sexual abuse and exploitation by its staff.

The IDC established its enquiry following revelations that Oxfam covered up accounts of sexual misconduct be senior employees, including allegations that staff made women – some of whom may have been minors – transact sex for aid during the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

The enquiry and subsequent report reveal that this is far from an isolated incident, with the several aid and development organizations involved apparently being more concerned with their reputation than with the safety of victims.

While outrage at these findings is appropriate, unfortunately surprise is not. The enquiry’s report reaffirms what those of us campaigning for change have known for some time: sexual abuse and exploitation is endemic, and is sustained through a lack of accountability for perpetrators. It is carried out in all walks of life, including by the so-called good guys.

A sector-wide issue

For years, aid organizations have systematically ignored problems and failed to effectively implement policies to stop predatory sexual misbehavior, including the use of prostituted women and girls.

Let’s be clear. Whether or not you believe prostitution is sexual exploitation or not, there is no such thing as a child prostitute and men who “buy” sex from minors are rapists.

Reporting procedures are often unclear or non-existent, and the prevailing lack of accountability has undermined reporting mechanisms by sending a strong message that there is little to be achieved by disclosing allegations.

Even in cases where abuse is reported, culprits have often not been held to account, and instead have been moved to different posts or enabled to get jobs at other organizations within the sector, where they have abused more victims elsewhere.

Adding to the toxic mix has been the tendency for whistleblowers to feel penalized, unprotected, and at risk of their career being damaged by speaking out.

These issues have made it impossible to accurately measure the true extent of the problem, although according to the IDC, the cases recently made public are just the “tip of the iceberg”.

This kind of impunity for those who sexually exploit and abuse others when they are at their most vulnerable is utterly unacceptable. Aid and development agencies need to put in place effective zero tolerance policies regarding sexual exploitation, including a total and enforced ban on staff and contractor use of prostitution.

This involves having a comprehensive understanding about the various crosscutting forms of discrimination and oppression that women and girls may face, and which are exacerbated in situations of conflict and natural disasters.

A lack of support for victims compounds the problem. The IDC report recommends a ‘victim-centered’ approach, where their welfare is put front and center. This needs to be fully integrated across all aspects of the sector’s response.

Indeed, evidence submitted jointly by Rape Crisis and Equality Now is referenced in the report, citing our recommendation that anyone who speaks out about violations should be afforded independent advocacy and support from a specialist in sexual violence and its impacts.

The role of the UN

Addressing these issues will require fundamental changes to be made to the way that aid and development agencies operate, and the IDC’s findings highlight the need for clear and effective leadership to guide best practice in the sector.

As the gold standard for international aid agencies, it is the UN that should be leading by example.

The United Nations has admitted receiving 70 new allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse from April to June this year alone. However, the UN has itself consistently failed to address sexual abuse and exploitation, not only of aid recipients but also of its own staff – something on which Equality Now has been calling for change since at least 2009.

The IDC report is critical of the UN for its lack of joined-up approach, despite its self-professed “zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.” This is not the first time that the UN has come under fire for its ineffectiveness in this area, with revelations earlier this year about key exemptions to its policy “making a mockery” of its ongoing fight against harassment.

With the aid sector reeling from the recent revelations, and the extent of the problem clear from the IDC report, it is now more important than ever for the UN to put in place clear, effective policies that protect victims and whistleblowers.

The tremendous work achieved by the international development sector should not mean we turn a blind eye to sexual exploitation and other violence and abuse of power perpetrated predominantly against women and girls by men employed in the industry.

It is crucial that all those within the industry take account of the superior position of power that someone from an aid organization may have and can easily exert over those who are vulnerable. Sexual exploitation must end and the exploiters held properly accountable – the UN among others has to fully recognize and internalize its role in achieving this, and step up to the challenge.

*Jacqui Hunt is a prominent campaigner for women and girls’ rights, and has spearheaded several of Equality Now’s successful campaigns, including for creation of a United Nations Working Group to focus on ending discrimination against women in law and in practice.

A lawyer who trained and worked with international law firm Linklaters, she started her professional career with Amnesty International, working in campaigning and research at the United Nations and in press and special projects. She joined the Board of Equality Now in 1992, the year of its founding, and was later asked to start the London office, which she opened in 2004.

The post “Outrage is Appropriate, Surprise is Not”: Tackling Sex Abuse in the Aid Sector appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jacqui Hunt* is Regional Director for Europe, Equality Now

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Protecting the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as They are Forced to Move into Citieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/op-ed-protecting-rights-indigenous-peoples-forced-move-cities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=op-ed-protecting-rights-indigenous-peoples-forced-move-cities http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/op-ed-protecting-rights-indigenous-peoples-forced-move-cities/#comments Sun, 05 Aug 2018 19:18:15 +0000 Sopho Kharazi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157063 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds initiated by IPS on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on August 9.

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Sharmila Munda, a woman from the Shantal indigenous community in Chatra, Bangladesh, collects wood for her livelihood. Credit: Rafiqul Islam Sarker / IPS

By Sopho Kharazi
STEPANTSMINDA, Georgia, Aug 5 2018 (IPS)

On Aug. 9 the observance of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples will take place in the Economic and Social Council Chamber at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, bringing together U.N. agencies and member states, civil society and indigenous peoples’ organisations.

This year’s day is themed “Indigenous Peoples’ Migration and Movement.” It examines conditions in the territories of indigenous peoples; causes of migration, trans-border movement and displacement; and how to reinvigorate the identities of indigenous peoples and protect their rights internationally.

In an event organised by the Secretariat of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, a panel will focus discussion on indigenous peoples living in “urban areas and across international borders”.

Indigenous people have unique languages, follow diverse traditions, have a special relationship with their land and have different ideas about the concept of development. However, instead of nurturing and preserving the uniqueness of these people, they are being neglected by the governments and communities of the countries in which they live.

“Despite their cultural diversity and homelands across 90 countries, [indigenous peoples] share common challenges related to the protection of their rights as distinct peoples. Three hundred and seventy million indigenous peoples make up less than five percent of the world’s population but account for 15 percent of the poorest,” Irina Bokova, director general of U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), said at last year’s event.

The situation is worsened by the fact that their identities and rights to “lands, territories and resources” are being challenged. All together, land dispossession or forcible removal of indigenous peoples from their land, “poverty, militarisation, natural disasters, lack of employment opportunities, and the deterioration of traditional livelihoods,” represent push factors leading to the migration of indigenous peoples to urban areas, according to the U.N.

One of the most vivid examples of land dispossession is the case of the Ogiek community from Kenya, east Africa.

In 2015, the Siemenpuu Foundation, a Finish non-governmental organisation (NGO) that supports environmental and democratic initiatives, interviewed Peter Kitelo, a Kenyan from the Ogiek community who lived in Mountain Elgon Forest.

The Kenyan government transformed some parts of the forest into “game reserves” while other parts of forest were sold as private property. All these actions led to the eviction of the Ogiek from their lands.

Migration from their land does not only mean the loss of property for the Ogiek. According to Kitelo, Ogiek people “don’t conserve the forest. They look at [a] forest as you look at [a] human being. Like it’s just there.”

These words, on the one hand, demonstrate the special relationship between indigenous peoples and their lands. On the other hand, they show how land dispossession underestimates identities and the sense of self-determination of indigenous peoples.

Today, approximately 40 percent of Latin America’s indigenous peoples live in cities, according to the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Despite this, nobody talks about how indigenous peoples alter after migrating to urban areas. It is well-known that indigenous peoples face hardships integrating into society as they are frequently neglected, deprived of health services, education and proper employment. However, this still does not demonstrate the emotional and mental struggles of indigenous migrants.

In an interview with NGO Rio on Watch, José Urutau Guajajara, one of the key leaders in the movement for indigenous rights in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, said that since the dominant culture within the city “is very strong, they [indigenous peoples] change.”

“The head changes and the person changes. Indigenous people don’t believe in themselves. They reject themselves. This rejection comes from the influence of the dominant culture, in all its forms: spiritual, ethnic, in the language, and the entire culture in general.

“It’s a psychological erasure, a complete erasure. It’s very difficult to practice your culture, especially in urban spaces and in the communities. You’ve got to be living with relatives, or else you don’t practice and you’re swallowed up by the dominant culture. So you can’t reject it,” Guajajara had said.

This idea is supported by Caroline Stephens, who examines impacts of urbanisation on indigenous peoples in her book State of the World’s Minorities. According to her, indigenous youth, who are sometimes victims of racism in cities, stop recognising themselves as indigenous as they consider their origin and distinct appearance the reason for their victimisation. This shows how marginalisation and discrimination forces indigenous peoples living in urban areas to consciously reject their self-identification.

In order to solve the problem accompanying indigenous migrations, the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has published some recommendations.

First, relevant states should cooperate with indigenous peoples in order to establish centres for them in urban areas. These centres should provide medical and legal assistance to indigenous migrants.

Second, relevant states should recognise the rights of indigenous peoples in accordance to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and should help forcefully displaced indigenous migrants return to their communities.

Finally, the U.N. recommends that relevant states should cooperate with indigenous peoples in order to employ them and help them develop economically.

As Bokova stated, “this will not only be beneficial to indigenous peoples but for all of humanity and our planet.”

The post Protecting the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as They are Forced to Move into Cities appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds initiated by IPS on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on August 9.

The post Protecting the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as They are Forced to Move into Cities appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Trump’s Attacks on Media Violate Basic Norms of Press Freedom, Human Rights Experts sayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/trumps-attacks-media-violate-basic-norms-press-freedom-human-rights-experts-say/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trumps-attacks-media-violate-basic-norms-press-freedom-human-rights-experts-say http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/trumps-attacks-media-violate-basic-norms-press-freedom-human-rights-experts-say/#comments Fri, 03 Aug 2018 13:16:41 +0000 David Kaye and Edison Lanza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157047 David Kaye is the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression for the United Nations and Edison Lanza is Special Rapporteur for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

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David Kaye is the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression for the United Nations and Edison Lanza is Special Rapporteur for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

By David Kaye and Edison Lanza
GENEVA / WASHINGTON, Aug 3 2018 (IPS)

U.S. President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on the free press are strategic, designed to undermine confidence in reporting and raise doubts about verifiable facts.

The President has labelled the media as being the “enemy of the American people” “very dishonest” or “fake news,” and accused the press of “distorting democracy” or spreading “conspiracy theories and blind hatred”.

Journalists wait for the arrival of official delegations at the Geneva II Conference on Syria, in Montreux, Switzerland. Credit: UN Photo/Violaine Martin

These attacks run counter to the country’s obligations to respect press freedom and international human rights law. We are especially concerned that these attacks increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence.

Over the course of his presidency, Mr. Trump and others within his administration, have sought to undermine reporting that had uncovered waste, fraud, abuse, potential illegal conduct, and disinformation.

Each time the President calls the media ‘the enemy of the people’ or fails to allow questions from reporters from disfavoured outlets, he suggests nefarious motivations or animus. But he has failed to show even once that specific reporting has been driven by any untoward motivations.

It is critical that the U.S. administration promote the role of a vibrant press and counter rampant disinformation. To this end, we urge President Trump not only to stop using his platform to denigrate the media but to condemn these attacks, including threats directed at the press at his own rallies.

The attack on the media goes beyond President Trump’s language. We also urge his entire administration, including the Department of Justice, to avoid pursuing legal cases against journalists in an effort to identify confidential sources, an effort that undermines the independence of the media and the ability of the public to have access to information.

We urge the Government to stop pursuing whistle-blowers through the tool of the Espionage Act, which provides no basis for a person to make an argument about the public interest of such information.

We stand with the independent media in the United States, a community of journalists and publishers and broadcasters long among the strongest examples of professional journalism worldwide. We especially urge the press to continue, where it does so, its efforts to hold all public officials accountable.

We encourage all media to act in solidarity against the efforts of President Trump to favour some outlets over others.

Two years of attacks on the press could have long term negative implications for the public’s trust in media and public institutions. Two years is two years too much, and we strongly urge that President Trump and his administration and his supporters end these attacks.

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Excerpt:

David Kaye is the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression for the United Nations and Edison Lanza is Special Rapporteur for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

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Going Cashless, Led by Swedenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/going-cashless-led-sweden/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=going-cashless-led-sweden http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/going-cashless-led-sweden/#respond Fri, 03 Aug 2018 12:45:34 +0000 Stefan Ingves http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157045 Stefan Ingves is the governor of Sveriges Riksbank, the central bank of Sweden, described as the world’s oldest central bank.

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Stefan Ingves is the governor of Sveriges Riksbank, the central bank of Sweden, described as the world’s oldest central bank.

By Stefan Ingves
STOCKHOLM, Aug 3 2018 (IPS)

Sweden is rapidly moving away from cash. Demand for cash has dropped by more than 50 percent over the past decade as a growing number of people rely on debit cards or a mobile phone application, Swish, which enables real-time payments between individuals.

More than half of all bank branches no longer handle cash. Seven out of ten consumers say they can manage without cash, while half of all merchants expect to stop accepting cash by 2025 (Arvidsson, Hedman, and Segendorf 2018). And cash now accounts for just 13 percent of payments in stores, according to a study of payment habits in Sweden (Riksbank 2018).

Stefan Ingves

Digital solutions for large payments between banks have existed for some time; the novelty is that they have filtered down to individuals making small payments. And my country isn’t alone in this regard.

In several Asian and African countries—for example, India, Pakistan, Kenya, and Tanzania—paying by mobile phone instead of cards or cash is commonplace.

Given that the role of a central bank is to manage the money supply, these developments potentially have wide-ranging consequences. Are central banks needed as issuers of a means of payment in a modern digital payments market?

Are banknotes and coins the only means of payment for retail payments that should be supplied by a central bank? Is there a risk of future concentration in the payments market infrastructure that central banks should be monitoring?

In Sweden, clearing and transfers between accounts are concentrated in one system, Bankgirot. Once the payments market infrastructure is in place, the marginal costs for payments are low and positive externalities are present. What do we mean by “positive externalities”?

A classic example is the telephone. Having the first telephone is not very valuable, as there would be no one to call. However, as more people eventually connect to the telephone network, the value of the phone increases.

The same is true for the payments market—the value of being connected to a payments system increases as more people join. Moreover, payments can also be regarded as collective utilities.

Considering this, my view is that the state does indeed have a role to fill in the payments market—namely, to regulate or provide the infrastructure needed to ensure smooth functioning and robustness.

Citizens can expect a payments market to meet a few basic requirements. First, its services should be broadly available. Second, its infrastructure should be safe and secure. Sellers and buyers should be convinced that the payment order will be carried out—a necessary condition for people to be willing to use the system. Third, it should be efficient: payments should be settled fast, at the lowest possible cost, and the system should be perceived as simple and easy to use.

Do we fulfill these requirements? I am becoming increasingly uncertain whether we can respond with an unequivocal yes.

If banknotes and coins have had their day, then in the near future, the general public will no longer have access to a state-guaranteed means of payment, and the private sector will to a greater extent control accessibility, technological developments, and pricing of the available payment methods.

It is difficult to say at present what consequences this might have, but it will likely further limit financial access for groups in society that currently lack any means of payment other than cash. Competition and redundancy in the payments infrastructure will likely be reduced if the state is no longer a participant. Today, cash has a natural place as the only legal tender. But in a cashless society, what would legal tender mean?

In this regard, one might ask whether central banks should start issuing digital currency to the public. This is a complex issue and one central banks will likely struggle with for years to come. I approach the question as a practical, not a hypothetical, matter.

I am convinced that within 10 years we will almost exclusively be paying digitally, both in Sweden and in many parts of the world. Even today, young people, at least in Sweden, use practically no cash at all.

This demographic dimension is also why I believe that cash’s decline can be neither stopped nor reversed. While the Nordic countries are at the forefront, we are not alone. It is interesting to see how quickly the Chinese payments market, for instance, is changing.

And then there is the emergence of crypto assets. I do not consider these so-called currencies to be money, as they do not fulfill the three essential functions of money—to serve as a means of payment, a unit of account, and a store of value. This view is shared by most of my colleagues.

Crypto assets’ main contribution is to show that financial infrastructure can be built in a new way with blockchain technology, smart contracts, and crypto solutions. Although the new technology is interesting and can probably create value added in the long run, it is important that central banks make it clear that cryptocurrencies are generally not currencies but rather assets and high-risk investments.

The clearer we are in communicating this, the greater the chance that we can prevent unnecessary bubbles from arising in the future. We may also want to review the need for regulatory frameworks and supervision for this relatively new phenomenon.

It is worth mentioning that digitalization, technical improvements, and globalization are positive developments that increase our collective economic welfare. We can only speculate on what new payments services may be developed in the future. But there are several challenges ahead.

One key issue we face is whether central banks can stop supplying a state-guaranteed means of payment to the general public. Another is whether the infrastructure for retail payments should be transferred to a purely private market. The state cannot entirely withdraw from its social responsibility in these areas. But exactly what its new role will become remains to be seen.

The link to the original article follows:
http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2018/06/central-banks-and-digital-currencies/point.htm?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

The post Going Cashless, Led by Sweden appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Stefan Ingves is the governor of Sveriges Riksbank, the central bank of Sweden, described as the world’s oldest central bank.

The post Going Cashless, Led by Sweden appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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