Inter Press ServiceBaher Kamal – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 20 Jan 2018 07:09:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.5 To Be a Latin-American Migrant in Madridhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/latin-american-migrant-madrid/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-american-migrant-madrid http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/latin-american-migrant-madrid/#comments Wed, 20 Dec 2017 14:46:17 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153635 If you are in Madrid and have some spare time, just go to an area which residents consider a “high class” neighbourhood situated in a district bordering Barrio de Salamanca, one of the richest areas in the Spanish capital. There you will see relatively modern buildings next to old houses constructed under Francisco Franco’s rule […]

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In a main street between Plaza del Ecuador and Plaza de la República Domenicana, in Barrio de Hispanoamérica” neighbourhood, Madrid. Credit: IPS/Baher Kamal

By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Dec 20 2017 (IPS)

If you are in Madrid and have some spare time, just go to an area which residents consider a “high class” neighbourhood situated in a district bordering Barrio de Salamanca, one of the richest areas in the Spanish capital.

There you will see relatively modern buildings next to old houses constructed under Francisco Franco’s rule (1939-1975) and sold to military officials at token prices. You will also see many shops run by Chinese migrants, selling cheap but nice cloth in what used to be boutiques frequented by wealthy middle-aged women.

But what you will often see are old Spanish men and women, some of them in wheelchairs, who are patiently accompanied and taken care of by Latin American migrants, going for a walk, sitting in a small park to breath some fresh air and take the sun.

Before that, these very same migrants would have walked the dogs of the elderly persons for whom they work, went shopping for food, read books or newspapers to them, and helped them wash their faces before dressing them up to go out.

Back home, the accompanying migrants will clean the house, wash, iron, cook, give them their medicine, answer the phone calls of their very busy, very short of time working sons and daughters.

“Good People”

“They are good people, all old people are good people,” Nancy*, a 33-year old Ecuadorian migrant, told IPS. “It is a tough job because they [the elderly] spend their time either complaining or saying confused words or speaking to their late husbands or wives,” she tells IPS.

In spite of that and of some prejudices against migrants in general, such as “they come to Spain to take our jobs” or “to cheat our elderly people and take their money,” Nancy* does not complain.

“Yes, we hear these things but when you look at the old people we assist and see their resigned look or watch them sleeping like babies, you feel more pity than anger.”

Nancy* gets 620 euro a month (some 700 dollars) helping her pay her rent and send a little money to her own elderly parents in Ecuador. She is now looking for two part-time jobs to earn a bit more.

Vladomiro* (37) is Colombian and assists don Jaime, an 87-year-old man who did well running a small grocery. Like Nancy*, Vladimiro* feels compassion.

“In our country we all respect elderly people… they have worked hard all their lives, they built up their families and did all what they could for their daughters and sons to have studies and a better future that what they had,” Vladomiro tells IPS.

Both Nancy* and Vladomiro* confess to feeling homesick for their families, their countries, their food, their habits and traditions. But they are relieved as they can send some money to their families and help their sons and daughters have a better life.

By the way, this neighbourhood full of elderly people accompanied by Latin American migrants is called Barrio de Hispanoamérica and its streets all bear the names of Latin American countries and capital cities.

If you instead go to the popular Malasaña neighbourhood, you will see many ethnic restaurants run by Latin American migrants, serving traditional dishes though moderating the taste to adapt it to the Spanish clientele’s eating habits.

Jose* is a 39-year Peruvian. He works as waiter and partner at a small restaurant. His wife Alicia (35), also from Peru, works in the kitchen.

He tells IPS that they met in Madrid and married here, and do not want to have children for now as they’re working hard to save money that can allow them both help their parents and also one day return to their country to have a “decent” life.

Potosi street, walking from Colombia street to La Habana avenue, Madrid. Credit: IPS/Baher Kamal

The Big Boom

Jose* is proud as they managed to resist the temptation of buying a flat in Madrid’s outskirts, like other migrants did a decade ago or so.

It was a time of prosperity due to a spectacular construction boom. Developers were offering jobs to thousands of people, many of them migrants, in a singular marathon to build high-rise blocs, paying up to 3,000 euro (some 3,500 dollars) to even unskilled bricklayers, without even questioning if those migrants had legal residency permits.

During that boom, banks immediately rushed to offer easy, fast, attractive credit to everybody, migrants included, to buy property, furniture and cars. “Many migrants did,” says to IPS Dominican Danny* (45) who was visiting his friend Jose*.

Then came the 2008 global financial crisis. “The workers lost their jobs, they could not pay their monthly instalment, the banks sued them, the judges ordered their eviction, and they lost all the money they had paid to the banks, apart from their flats, furniture and cars,” he explains.

The result is that hundreds of them found themselves on the street and had to return to their countries of origin, almost empty-handed.

In fact, recent data published by the Spanish National Institute of Statistics (Instituto Nacional de EstadísticaINE) reveals that a growing number of Latin Americans have been returning to their countries.

Latin Americans in Spain

In Spain, it is estimated that there are some 1.8 million Latin American immigrants, with Colombians, Argentinians, Bolivians and Peruvians representing the main groups, with an increasing number of Andean people residing in this country.

On average, they transfer around 15 per cent of their annual income to their countries of origin, especially in the case of Ecuadorians and Colombians.

In the Andean region, migrants’ remittances amounted to 9,200 million dollars in 2006, according to the Andean Community. Colombia is the country with the largest remittances received with 3,890 million dollars in 2006; followed by Ecuador, with 2,916 million dollars; Peru, with 1,825 million dollars; and Bolivia, with 569 million dollars.

Data related to the first quarter of 2017 confirms that Latin American immigrants in Spain have been sending about 15 per cent of their annual income to their countries of origin, with an average close to 270 euros per month.

But the fact that migrants are returning does not put an end to migration challenges. “Rather than being viewed as an isolated phenomenon, return migration is an integral part of international migration,” UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) senior Migration specialist Ana Fonseca had explained in a related event in Ecuador.

Spanish to Latin America

Meanwhile, the Spanish statistics agency INE estimates the number of Spanish citizens residing abroad has reached 2,406,611 as of January 1, 2017, evidencing an increase of 4.4 per cent (101,581 people) with respect to data for the same period of the previous year.

An IOM 2015 report showed that since the beginning of 2010, more Spanish citizens emigrated to Latin America than Latin Americans who do the opposite.

As for the countries of destination, the UK received 13,281 Spanish more than in 2015, followed by the US (11,675), France (10,889), Argentina (8,814), Germany (8,656), Mexico (7,643), Cuba (6,136), Ecuador (4,107), Colombia (2,835) and the Dominican Republic (2,095).

Back to Madrid—according to a study on migration in this region, migrants are beneficial also from a purely economic perspective. “For each euro Madrid region spends in services for migrants, it gets back 2 euros in |taxes and social] benefits.”

Perhaps many Spanish unemployed people are not aware of this study—otherwise they would not be blaming migrants but rather their own government and rich corporations for the lack of jobs.

*Names of migrants have been changed to protect their identities.

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No Health Protection for Migrant-Women Healthcare Givershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/no-health-protection-migrant-women-healthcare-givers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-health-protection-migrant-women-healthcare-givers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/no-health-protection-migrant-women-healthcare-givers/#respond Mon, 18 Dec 2017 14:51:47 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153596 While the media may be attracted by images of migrants drowning or sold as slaves, another flagrant but lesser-known drama is that of care workers, who are overwhelmingly women, often migrants, and who make a very large contribution to global public health, but are exposed to great health risks themselves with little or no protection, […]

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Credit: UN

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Dec 18 2017 (IPS)

While the media may be attracted by images of migrants drowning or sold as slaves, another flagrant but lesser-known drama is that of care workers, who are overwhelmingly women, often migrants, and who make a very large contribution to global public health, but are exposed to great health risks themselves with little or no protection, let alone basic labour rights.

Migrant women care workers buttress health systems in countries where there are shortfalls in health-care provision, while their own rights to health and well-being can be eroded and their health-care needs unfulfilled, the UN leading health agency reminded on the occasion of the World Migrants Day on 18 December.

These migrant women care workers act as “a cushion for states lacking adequate public provision for long-term care, child care and care for the sick,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

Ageing in late industrial and middle-income economies, combined with rising demographic dependency ratios and female labour force participation, have led to emerging care deficits in many contexts in developed and developing countries, it explained.

“Around the world, more women are entering the labour force, taking them away from traditional unpaid caring roles in the home. Increasingly, immigrant women are being drawn into receiving country economies to care, often in informal settings, and frequently engaged by private households, without full access to social protection and labour rights.”

A striking fact is that fewer than 15 per cent of home-based long-term care workers are estimated to be formally employed.

For its part, the Organisation for Economic and Cooperation Development (OECD) International Migration Outlook 2015 reported on the percentage of foreign-born workers among the total home-based caregivers of long-term care in a number of industrialised countries.

These percentages amounted to nearly 90 per cent in Italy, around 75 per cent in Greece, over 65 per cent in Spain, and 50 per cent in Luxembourg.

WHO’s report deals with paid home-based care workers who attend to the varied needs of children, older people, people with disabilities and the disabled and the sick.

Shocking Facts

Here are some key facts provided by WHO:

— Those who are hired informally often lack the statutory labour rights accorded to them through a contract, including pensions and benefits, and may receive wages that are significantly lower than those paid for equivalent work in the formal health-care system,

— Migrant women care workers face particular challenges because of the vagaries of immigration laws in various destination countries, which often prevent them from entering the country legally or taking paid employment.

— This lack of legal status puts undocumented immigrants working in the care sector in many countries at risk of abuse by unscrupulous employers.

— The care sector itself is rendered unable to fully benefit from the work of immigrant workers who may want to provide in-home care but are unable to find a legal path to enter the country or obtain employment.

— Migrant care workers generally encounter harsher working conditions and have fewer rights and less adequate health coverage than do native workers. Because care work is frequently relegated to the informal sector, employees find that access to health care or insurance is not guaranteed but granted at the whim of employers.

In the United States in 2010, for example, almost one quarter of foreign-born workers employed in health care support jobs, such as nursing, psychiatric, or home health aides lacked health insurance themselves.

— Much has been written about the poor conditions that care workers, especially migrants, regularly face, including low wages, long hours, and inadequate housing and food for those who “live-in.” Many studies report that such work often entails lack of respect and status and even verbal, physical and sexual abuse,

— In the most extreme instances, when recruiters or employers confiscate workers’ passports and deduct travel costs and other expenses from their wages (or fail to pay them altogether), care work jobs become a modern form of indenture

— Many migrant women care workers experience poor reproductive and sexual health. There is also ample evidence that they are subject to physical violence, including sexual harassment/ assault and regular beatings.

For example, 44 per cent of Filipina migrants reported knowing another domestic worker who had experienced physical abuse, 27 per vent knew someone who had experienced sexual harassment, and 22.4 per vent knew someone who had been raped.

IOM marks International Migrants Day on 18 December with a series of worldwide events including a Geneva award ceremony for the Global Migration Film Festival. Credit: IOM

The Day

William Lacy Swing, director general of the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM), made an urgent call for “Safe Migration for a World on the Move” ahead of the International Migrants Day.

IOM plans to mark the Day with a series of worldwide events including a Geneva awards ceremony for the Global Migration Film Festival, which includes many public and private sector partners participating with IOM missions in over 100 countries.

In addition to film screenings in Geneva and New York, IOM also plans to participate in a UN leadership debate featuring UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres at Manhattan’s UNICEF House, touching on the global compact on migration, expected to be adopted by the end of 2018.

The UN leadership debate will explore the common ground on migration, rather than the divisions, said Swing. Despite often-sharp rhetoric, migration “is less a problem to be solved than a human reality to be managed.”

Planned UNICEF House events include the opening of the critically acclaimed art installation UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage (See: www.Together-in-NY.org), brining to life stories of refugees who have settled in the US by exploring past traumas through three-dimensional models of their homes mounted on suitcases they carried on their journeys.

Safe Migration, Not Leaky Boats

In an Op-Ed column penned for International Migrants Day: Our Right of Passage Should be Safe Migration, Not Leaky Boats), Swing wrote, “While we live at a time when a privileged elite considers global mobility virtually its birth-right, it is denied to countless others trapped in hopelessly bad economic or conflict circumstances.”

He warned that denial leads to “smuggling networks, human traffickers and modern-day enslavers who ply their trade these days with complete impunity.”

Hundreds of millions who are not part of the growing, truly global labour talent market find themselves outside looking in, and looking onto a world they can only dream of, Swing added. “They face enormous income disparities and hardships and no chance of getting a visa or a work permit.”

It comes as no surprise then that vast armies of hopeful young migrants want to climb aboard the “leaky boats” referred to by the UN secretary general, Swing continued, adding that driven by lack of economic opportunity, often exacerbated by climate change, they too are vulnerable to the siren song of social media.

“That’s where smuggling networks, human traffickers and modern day enslavers ply their trade these days with complete impunity. These cruel deceptions go unchecked, as the social media giants chase new markets in the global south.”

Just a quick reminder: a big power like the United States drew millions of migrants when it had an open-door policy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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Libya: Up to One Million Enslaved Migrants, Victims of ‘Europe’s Complicity’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/libya-one-million-enslaved-migrants-victims-europes-complicity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=libya-one-million-enslaved-migrants-victims-europes-complicity http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/libya-one-million-enslaved-migrants-victims-europes-complicity/#comments Wed, 13 Dec 2017 13:37:53 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153523 “European governments are knowingly complicit in the torture and abuse of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants detained by Libyan immigration authorities in appalling conditions in Libya,” Amnesty International charged in the wake of global outrage over the sale of migrants in Libya. In its new report, ‘Libya’s dark web of collusion’, Amnesty International […]

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In Libya, dozens of migrants sleep alongside one another in a cramped cell in Tripoli's Tariq al-Sikka detention facility. Credit: UNHCR/Iason Foounten

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Dec 13 2017 (IPS)

“European governments are knowingly complicit in the torture and abuse of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants detained by Libyan immigration authorities in appalling conditions in Libya,” Amnesty International charged in the wake of global outrage over the sale of migrants in Libya.

In its new report, ‘Libya’s dark web of collusion’, Amnesty International (AI) details how European governments are actively supporting a sophisticated system of abuse and exploitation of refugees and migrants by the Libyan Coast Guard, detention authorities and smugglers in order to prevent people from crossing the Mediterranean.

The Geneva-based UN International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates that the number of migrants trapped in Libya could amount to up to one million, and it is now rushing to rescue the first 15,000 victims through a massive repatriation emergency plan. A major airlift is underway as IOM starts flying 15,000 more migrants from Libya before year end.“European governments have not just been fully aware of these abuses... they are complicit in them” -- John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International

“Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in Libya are at the mercy of Libyan authorities, militias, armed groups and smugglers often working seamlessly together for financial gain. Tens of thousands are kept indefinitely in overcrowded detention centres where they are subjected to systematic abuse,” said John Dalhuisen, AI’s Europe Director, on Dec 12.

“European governments have not just been fully aware of these abuses; by actively supporting the Libyan authorities in stopping sea crossings and containing people in Libya, they are complicit in these abuses,” Dalhuisen affirmed.

“By supporting Libyan authorities in trapping people in Libya, without requiring the Libyan authorities to tackle the endemic abuse of refugees and migrants or to even recognise that refugees exist, said Dalhuisen, European governments have shown where their true priorities lie: namely the closure of the central Mediterranean route, with scant regard to the suffering caused.

Another EU ‘Shame’ Pact

AI’s revelation of such collusion between the European Union and Libya comes amidst a worldwide wave of denunciations against the measure adopted in 2016 by the EU member states –particularly Italy—aiming at closing off the migratory route through Libya and across the central Mediterranean.

These measures have been implemented with little care for the consequences for those trapped within Libya’s lawless borders, AI said, adding that Europe’s cooperation with Libyan actors has taken the following three-pronged approach:

Firstly, they have committed to providing technical support and assistance to the Libyan Department for Combatting Illegal Migration, which runs the detention centres where refugees and migrants are arbitrarily and indefinitely held and routinely exposed to serious human rights violations including torture.

Secondly, they have enabled the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept people at sea, by providing them with training, equipment, including boats, and technical and other assistance.

Thirdly, they have struck deals with Libyan local authorities and the leaders of tribes and armed groups – to encourage them to stop the smuggling of people and to increase border controls in the south of the country.

UNHCR teams in Libya have been responding to the urgent humanitarian needs in and around Sabratha, a city located some 80 kilometres west of the Libyan capital, Tripoli. Credit: UNHCR

“Auctioned as Merchandise”

Meanwhile, after shocking images showing an auction of people were captured on video, UN human rights experts have urged the government of Libya to take immediate action to end the country’s trade in enslaved people.

“We were extremely disturbed to see the images which show migrants being auctioned as merchandise, and the evidence of markets in enslaved Africans which has since been gathered,” the UN human rights experts said in a joint statement.

It is now clear that slavery is an “outrageous reality” in Libya, they affirmed, adding that the auctions are reminiscent of “one of the darkest chapters in human history, when millions of Africans were uprooted, enslaved, trafficked and auctioned to the highest bidder.”

Slavery, Trafficking, Extortion, Rape, Torture…

The UN human rights experts also warned that migrants in Libya are “at high risk of multiple grave violations of their human rights, such as slavery, forced labour, trafficking, arbitrary and indefinite detention, exploitation and extortion, rape, torture and even being killed.”

“The enslavement of migrants derives from the situation of extreme vulnerability in which they find themselves. It is paramount that the government of Libya acts now to stop the human rights situation deteriorating further, and to bring about urgent improvements in the protection of migrants.”

The UN member states must “stop ignoring the unimaginable horrors endured by migrants in Libya, must urge countries to suspend any measures,” they urged.

AI, a global movement of more than 7 million people in over 150 countries campaigning to end human rights abuses, has also warned that the criminalisation of irregular entry under Libyan law, coupled with the absence of any legislation or practical infrastructure for the protection of asylum seekers and victims of trafficking, has resulted in “mass, arbitrary and indefinite detention becoming the primary migration management system in the country.”

The UN Migration Agency (IOM) provides lifesaving equipment to Libyan authorities as part of a wider intervention to strengthen the Government’s humanitarian capacity. Credit: UN Migration Agency

“Horrific Treatment”

Refugees and migrants intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard are sent to detention centres where they endure “horrific treatment,” AI warned.

Up to 20,000 people currently remain contained in these overcrowded, unsanitary detention centres. Migrants and refugees interviewed by Amnesty International described abuse they had been subjected to or they had witnessed, including arbitrary detention, torture, forced labour, extortion, and unlawful killings, at the hands of the authorities, traffickers, armed groups and militias alike.

Dozens of migrants and refugees interviewed described the “soul-destroying cycle of exploitation” to which collusion between guards, smugglers and the Libyan Coast Guard consigns them. Guards at the detention centres torture them to extort money, AI informs.

“If they are able to pay they are released. They can also be passed onto smugglers who can secure their departure from Libya in cooperation with the Libyan Coast Guard. Agreements between the Libyan Coast Guard and smugglers are signalled by markings on boats that allow the boats to pass through Libyan waters without interception, and the Coast Guard has also been known to escort boats out to international waters.”

Libyan Coast Guard officials are known to operate in collusion with smuggling networks and have used threats and violence against refugees and migrants on board boats in distress, AI has denounced.

IOM Moves to Relieve Plight of Migrants

Backing an African Union-European Union plan, adopted in the two blocs’ summit (29-30 November 2017 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire), IOM’s director general William Lacy Swing committed his organisation to fully support this initiative to alleviate the plight of thousands of migrants trapped in Libya.

In the wake of “shocking reports about rampant migrant abuse and squalid and overcrowded conditions across multiple detention centers” in Libya, talks at the AU-EU Summit led to a major stepping up of measures to tackle smuggling and mistreatment of migrants on the central Mediterranean migration route, which claimed 2,803 migrant lives to drowning this year alone, IOM on 1 December informed.

IOM is now rapidly scaling up its voluntary humanitarian return programme, which has brought more than 14,007 migrants back to their home countries so far in 2017.

A large-scale airlift is already underway in which IOM expects to take a further 15,000 migrants home from detention in Libya by end of the year. The establishment of a planned joint task force with all concerned parties is aimed at ensuring that the migration crisis in Libya is dealt with in a coordinated way.

“Scaling up our return programme may not serve to fully address the plight of migrants in Libya, but it is our duty to take migrants out of detention centers as a matter of absolute priority,” IOM director general Swing said.

He added that IOM intends to work with all UN partners and ensure proper coordination and prompt referral of any persons for whom return may not be suitable. These initiatives come following the IOM director general’s discussions with African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, as well as with EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini and UN Secretary General.


Addressing the UN Security Council, Secretary-General António Guterres highlights the need for global solidarity to tackle the security challenges in the Mediterranean.

Up to One Million Migrants Trapped in Libya

To date IOM has registered more than 400,000 migrants in Libya, and it estimates their number to be more than 700,000 to 1 million. The scaling up of the assistance will also include migrants wishing to go back home but who are not in detention centers.

“Large numbers of migrants are held in overcrowded detention centers, in conditions that fall far short of basic and humane standards. A large number of those migrants have expressed a wish to return to their countries of origin and IOM is now scaling up its air operations out of Libya to assist those men, women and children who may wish to return home.”

IOM’s initial effort will focus on 15,000 migrants, which it aims to help return and reintegrate in countries of origin before the end of the year. “This is a choice people make voluntarily, hoping for a new start at home,” said Othman Belbeisi, IOM’s chief of Mission in Libya.

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Trump-Mideast: Much More than a ‘Kiss of Death’ to Palestinianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/trump-mideast-much-kiss-death-palestinians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-mideast-much-kiss-death-palestinians http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/trump-mideast-much-kiss-death-palestinians/#comments Thu, 07 Dec 2017 15:59:56 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153387 US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital does not represent only a ‘kiss of death’ to the two-State solution, but also a strong blow in the face of 57 Muslim countries, let alone igniting fire in this easily inflammable region, providing more false arguments to criminal terrorist groups to escalate their […]

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Southern aerial view of the Temple Mount, Al-Aqsa in the Old City of Jerusalem. Al-Aqsa Mosque is considered to be the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. Credit: Godot13. Attribution: Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 4.0. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Dec 7 2017 (IPS)

US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital does not represent only a ‘kiss of death’ to the two-State solution, but also a strong blow in the face of 57 Muslim countries, let alone igniting fire in this easily inflammable region, providing more false arguments to criminal terrorist groups to escalate their brutal attacks, in addition to taking a step further in Washington’s new conflict with Iran and the ‘restructuring’ of the Middle East.

These are the main conclusions both Middle East analysts and international policy experts reached as soon as Trump announced on 6 December 2017 his decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thus recognising as capital of Israel this Holy City, home to essential shrines of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The ‘Old City’ of Jerusalem has been steadily considered by Palestinians to become the capital of their future State, should all international agreements –including the United Nations General Assembly—implement their commitment for the two-State solution, one Israeli and one Palestinian.

Israeli captured Arab East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war and since then has gradually annexed against all international protests and non-recognition. The ‘Old City’ in Jerusalem hosts Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina.

Palestinian leaders have already warned that Trump’s move could have dangerous consequences, calling for massive popular mobilisations that are feared to lead to new bloodshed in the occupied West Bank and Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

“This is much more than a kiss of death to the longstanding international consensus to establish two-States as the sole feasible solution,” a former Egyptian high-ranking military official told IPS under condition of anonymity.

“[Trump’s] decision will add more dangerous fuel to the current rekindled flame over hegemony dispute between Shias lead by Iran and Sunnis lead by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States, which fire President Trump has now contributed to strongly blow on.”

Donald Trump. Photo: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

According to the retired high military official who participated in secret regional negotiations over the Middle East conflict, “The US has visibly shown its strategy to support the Sunni States in the Arab Gulf… Just see president Trump’s new weapons sale deal –worth 100 billion dollars—with the Saudi regime, and its tacit support –and even physical involvement—in the ongoing genocidal war against Yemen.”

Gulf Sunni Arab countries are home to a high percentage of Shias who have been systematically ruled by Sunni regimes. In some of them, like Bahrain, it is estimated that the Shias represent up to 60 per cent of the total population in spite of which they are considered minorities.

Oil, that “Black Gold”

The Egyptian analyst would not exclude a new armed conflict between the Gulf Arab Sunni states and Shia Iran. Such an armed conflict would break the already fragile stability in the region, leading to a strong rise in oil prices.

“This eventually would clearly benefit the US fossil energy sector, would weaken the oil-dependent European economies, let alone striking a strong blow to the also foreign oil-dependent China.”

Hatred, Terrorism

Another immediate, dangerous consequence of President Trump’s decision is a feared new wave of terrorist attacks against US, Israel and Western interests worldwide.

In fact, the Palestinian radical movement Hamas, which rules Gaza, has already urged Arabs and Muslims worldwide to “undermine U.S. interests in the region” and to “shun Israel.”

On this, Lebanese Muslim Shia cleric A. Khalil, expressed to IPS his “deep fear that the [Trump’s] decision will help criminal terrorist groups, falsely acting in the name of Islam, to exploit the furious anger of lay people against the US-led aggression against Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen… to commit more and more brutal, inhumane attacks.”

This will tragically and dangerously unleash a new wave of hatred and Islamophobia that will only add fuel to popular anger, to the benefit of terrorist groups, added the cleric.

For his part, Ahmed El-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar – which is considered the world’s highest institution of Sunni Islamic learning– announced on 5 December 2017 that Al-Azhar rejects Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“The US president’s decision denies the rights of Palestinians and Arabs to their holy city; it ignores the feelings of one-and-a-half-billion Muslims as well as millions of Arab Christians who have a connection to Jerusalem’s churches and monasteries,” he said in a statement issued following Trump’s announcement.

Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church and Al-Azhar issued statements warning of the “serious potential consequences” of Trump’s plan to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to relocate the US embassy there.

“Politically Correct” Words

Meanwhile, politicians have reacted to president Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel. Here some examples:

Mahmoud Abbas, president of Palestinian Authority, alerted of its “dangerous consequences,” while Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas chief, talked about “igniting the sparks of rage.”

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stressed his country’s firm stance on preserving the legal status of Jerusalem within the framework of international references and relevant UN resolutions, stressing the need to ensure that the situation in the region is not complicated by measures that undermine the chances of peace in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia expressed “grave and deep concern,” while King Abdullah II of Jordan warned of “dangerous repercussions.”

Haider al-Abadi, Iraqi prime minister expressed “utmost concern,” and Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, secretary general of the Arab League, which groups all 22 Arab countries, characterised Trump’s decision as a “dangerous measure.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Jerusalem is a “red line for Muslims,” threatening cutting relations with Israel.

And Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary general, opposed Trump’s “unilateral action,” while Frederica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy representative, called for resolving Jerusalem’s status through negotiations.

Will words and “politically correct” statements reverse this new situation? Most likely they will not, at least if you judge by what’s happened over the last 98 years, i.e. since the then British Empire released its 1919 Balfour Declaration granting Israel a national home in Palestine.

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Resistance to Antibiotics: The Good, the Bad and the Uglyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/resistance-antibiotics-good-bad-ugly/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=resistance-antibiotics-good-bad-ugly http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/resistance-antibiotics-good-bad-ugly/#respond Wed, 06 Dec 2017 16:08:18 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153352 The growing resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobials due to their overuse and misuse both in humans and animals has become an alarming global threat to public health, food safety and security, causing the deaths of 700,000 people each year. This is a fact. The good news is that now more and more countries have […]

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Antimicrobial drugs play a critical role in the treatment of diseases, their use is essential to protect both human and animal health. However, antimicrobials are often misused for treatment and prevention of diseases in livestock sector, aquaculture as well as crop production. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Dec 6 2017 (IPS)

The growing resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobials due to their overuse and misuse both in humans and animals has become an alarming global threat to public health, food safety and security, causing the deaths of 700,000 people each year. This is a fact.

The good news is that now more and more countries have adopted measures to prevent the excessive and wrong use of antimicrobials. The bad ones are that these drugs continue to be intensively utilised to accelerate the growth of animals, often for the sake of obtaining greater commercial benefits.

According to the first annual survey conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), and a global intergovernmental body on animal health—the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), more than 6.5 billion people – over 90 per cent of the world’s population – now live in country that has in place, or is developing, a national action plan on antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

“Nearly all of these plans cover both human and animal health in line with the recommended ‘one health‘ multi-sectoral approach,” FAO said on 17 November.

The survey’s release came at the end of the World Antibiotic Awareness Week, which kicked off on 13 November, announcing that more countries have unveiled plans to tackle AMR.

So far so good.

Ferocious Superbugs

The bad news is that careless disposal of antibiotics could produce ‘ferocious superbugs,’ warns the United Nations.

In fact, growing antimicrobial resistance linked to the discharge of drugs and some chemicals into the environment is one of the most worrying health threats today, according to new research from the United Nations that highlights emerging challenges and solutions in environment.

“The warning here is truly frightening: we could be spurring the development of ferocious superbugs through ignorance and carelessness,” on 5 December said Erik Solheim, chief of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

The Frontiers Report, launched on the second day of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), running through 6 December in Nairobi, looks at the environmental dimension of antimicrobial resistance in nanomaterials; marine protected areas; sand and dust storms; off-grid solar solutions; and environmental displacement – finding the role of the environment in the emergence and spread of resistance to antimicrobials particularly concerning.

The other bad news is that while antimicrobial medicines – antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals or antiparasitics – are widely used in livestock, poultry and aquaculture operations to treat or prevent diseases, the survey alerts that their over-use and misuse –such as for “promoting growth”– is leading to the emergence of microbes resistant to these drugs, making the diseases they cause difficult or in cases, impossible, to treat.

Epic Proportions

“Humans exposed to these antimicrobial resistant pathogens are also affected in the same way.”

And here comes the recurrent alert: despite progress, the global push to address this problem – which is taking on “epic proportions” – is still in its early stages.

There are weak points that still need to be shored up – particularly in the food and agriculture sectors of low- and middle-income countries, key battlegrounds against ‘superbugs’ resistant to conventional medicines, FAO cautions.

“In particular, there are major gaps in data regarding where, how and to what extent antimicrobials are being used in agriculture; also systems and facilities for tracking the occurrence of AMR in food systems and the surrounding environment need to be strengthened.”

“The goal is to help them develop the tools and capacity to implement best practices in animal and crop production, reduce the need for antimicrobials in food systems, develop surveillance capacity to assess the scale of AMR and efforts to control it, and strengthen regulatory frameworks to minimise the misuse of antibiotics while simultaneously ensuring access to drugs for treating sick animals,” said Ren Wang, FAO Assistant Director-General for Agriculture and Consumer Protection.

What Is the Problem?

The UN food and agriculture specialised agency provides the following sound explanation:
Since the introduction of penicillin in the middle of the 20th century, antimicrobial treatments have been used not only in human medicine but in veterinary care as well.

At first, they were utilized to treat sick animals and to introduce new surgical techniques, making it possible, for example, to perform caesarean sections in cattle on farms. With the intensification of farming, however, the use of antimicrobials was expanded to include disease prevention and use as growth promoters.

The use of antimicrobials in healthy animals to prevent diseases has now become common in husbandry systems where large numbers are housed under moderate to poor hygienic conditions without appropriate biosafety measures in place. Similarly, when a few members of a flock have a disease, sometimes all animals are treated to prevent its spread.

Besides such uses for treatment (therapeutic) and prevention (prophylactic uses), antimicrobials have been added — in low dosages– to animal feed to promote faster growth, FAO warns, adding that “although more and more countries prohibit the use of antimicrobials as growth promoters, it remains common in many parts of the world.”

A row of cattle waiting to be fed at the National Livestock Development Board Farm in Mahaberiyathenna, Sri Lanka. Credit: FAO

Although the UN agency does not say explicitly why this happens, it could be easily deduced that it is due to the voracious appetite for greater profits.

FAO goes on to warns that in the coming decades, the use of antimicrobials in animal production and health will likely rise as a result of economic expansion, a growing global population, and higher demand for animal-sourced foods. Indeed, their use in livestock is expected to double within 20 years.

“It is likely that the excessive use of antimicrobials in livestock (and aquaculture) will contaminate the environment and contribute to a rise of resistant microorganisms. This poses a threat not only to human health, but also to animal health, animal welfare, and sustainable livestock production — and this has implications for food security and people’s livelihoods.”

And the more antimicrobials are misused, the less effective they are as medicines in both veterinary and human healthcare, as the misuse drives AMR to evolve and emerge in disease-causing microorganisms, t adds.

Another major specialised UN agency, WHO, explains that antimicrobial resistance describes a natural phenomenon where microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi lose sensitivity to the effects of antimicrobial medicines, like antibiotics, that were previously effective in treating infections.

“Any use of antimicrobials can result in the development of AMR. The more antimicrobials are used, the more likely microorganisms will develop resistance, and the misuse and excessive use of antimicrobials speeds up this process.”

Examples of misuse include using an incorrect dose or administering an antimicrobial at the wrong frequency or for an insufficient or excessive duration, according to WHO.

The Dangers

AMR causes a reduction in the effectiveness of medicines, making infections and diseases difficult or impossible to treat, the UN health agency warns, adding that “AMR is associated with increased mortality, prolonged illnesses in people and animals, production losses in agriculture, livestock and aquaculture.

“This threatens global health, livelihoods and food security. AMR also increases the cost of treatments and care.”

Should all this not be enough, the WHO chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, says, “Antibiotic resistance is a global crisis that we cannot ignore… If we don’t tackle this threat with strong, coordinated action, antimicrobial resistance will take us back to a time when people feared common infections and risked their lives from minor surgery.”

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South-South Cooperation Key to a New Multilateralismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/south-south-cooperation-key-new-multilateralism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-south-cooperation-key-new-multilateralism http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/south-south-cooperation-key-new-multilateralism/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2017 14:36:16 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153298 “There are new challenges to all states: among them, the real threat to multilateralism… South-South and triangular cooperation can contribute to a new multilateralism and drive the revitalisation of the global partnership for sustainable development.” This is how Liu Zhenmin, the UN under-secretary general for Economic and Social Affairs, underscored the importance of South-South Cooperation […]

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Mongolian farmers harvest carrots as part of an FAO South-South Cooperation Programme between China and Mongolia. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Dec 4 2017 (IPS)

“There are new challenges to all states: among them, the real threat to multilateralism… South-South and triangular cooperation can contribute to a new multilateralism and drive the revitalisation of the global partnership for sustainable development.”

This is how Liu Zhenmin, the UN under-secretary general for Economic and Social Affairs, underscored the importance of South-South Cooperation at an event marking the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation on 12 September, just few weeks ahead of the Global South-South Development Expo 2017 in Antalya, Turkey (27 to 30 November).

The statement came a few weeks ahead of US President Donald Trump’s announcement that his country was revoking its commitment to the September 2016 UN-promoted global pact that aims at guaranteeing the human rights of migrants and refugees worldwide, in what is widely considered as his third blow to multilateralism in less than one year since he took office after US withdrawal from both the Paris Climate Agreement and UNESCO.

Solutions and strategies created in the South are delivering lasting results around the world, said Amina Mohammed, the UN deputy secretary-general, on the occasion of the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation.

“Nearly every country in the global South is engaged in South-South cooperation,” she added, citing China’s Belt and Road Initiative, India’s concessional line of credit to Africa, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the Strategic Association Agreement by Mexico and Chile as few examples.

The deputy UN chief, however, also cautioned that progress has been uneven and extreme poverty, deep inequality, unemployment, malnutrition and vulnerability to climate and weather-related shocks persist, and underscored the potential of South-South cooperation to tackle these challenges.

Not a Substitute for North-South Cooperation

Significantly, Amina Mohammed highlighted that the support of the North is crucial to advance sustainable development.

“South-South cooperation should not be seen as a substitute for North-South cooperation but as complementary, and we invite all countries and organizations to engage in supporting triangular cooperation initiatives,” she said, urging all developed nations to fulfil their Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitments.

A Kenya delegation discuss with Indonesia goverment official about food security in their country. Credit: FAO

She also urged strengthened collaboration to support the increasing momentum of South-South cooperation as the world implements the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Further, noting the importance of the upcoming high-level UN Conference on South-South Cooperation to be hosted by Argentina on 20-22 March 2019, she said, “It will enable us to coordinate our South-South efforts, build bridges, cement partnerships, and establish sustainable strategies for scaling up impact together.”

The UN General Assembly decided to observe this Day on 12 September annually, commemorating the adoption in 1978 of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries.

Key to Overcoming Inequalities

At the opening of the Global South-South Development Expo 2017 in Antalya, Turkey, Fekitamoeloa Katoa Utoikamanu, the UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), on 27 November said that as the most vulnerable countries continue to face serious development challenges, South-South cooperation offers “enormous opportunities and potential” to effectively support them in accelerating progress on implementing globally agreed goals.

“These are all countries faced with complex and unique development challenges which lend themselves to exploring how and where we can maximize South-South cooperation and leverage global partnerships to support countries’ efforts toward sustainable and inclusive futures,” said Utoikamanu.

The 2017 Global Expo gathered 800 participants from 120 countries, senior UN officials, government ministers, national development agency directors, and civil society representatives, to share innovative local solutions and push for scaling up concrete initiatives from the global South to achieve the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The central promise of the 2030 Agenda is to ‘leave no-one behind,’ and thus is about addressing poverty, reducing inequality and building a sustainable future of shared prosperity,” she explained. “But it is already clear that these noble Goals will be elusive if the 91 countries my Office is a voice for remain at the bottom of the development ladder.”

As such, she added, South-South collaboration has led to increasing trade between and with emerging economies, investors, providers of development cooperation and sources of technological innovations and know-how. “This trend is confirmed by trade preferences for [least developed country products], enhanced trade finance opportunities, but also innovative infrastructure finance emerging.”

“The complex and pressing challenges the vulnerable countries experience demand that we further strengthen and leverage South-South cooperation,” said Utoikamanu, adding that South-South cooperation is “not an ‘either-or’ – it is a strategic and complementary means of action for the transfer and dissemination of technologies and innovations. It complements North-South cooperation.”

Science, Technology, Innovation

The Antalya week-long Global South-South Development Expo 2017 focused on a number of key issues, including how to transfer science, technology and innovation among developing countries and, in general, on solutions ‘for the South, by the South.’

The future will be determined by the abilities to leverage science, technology and innovation for sustainable growth, structural transformation and inclusive human and social development, said Utoikamanu. “It is proven that innovative technologies developed in the South often respond in more sustainable ways to the contextual needs of developing countries. Last, but not least, this is a question of cost.”

In all this, the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries has a major role to play in boosting science, technology and innovation capacity. “It must facilitate technology transfer and promote the integration of [least developed countries] into the global knowledge-based economy.”

Hosted by the Government of Turkey and coordinated by the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), the Antalya Global South-South Development Expo 2017’ was wrapped up on 30 November under the theme “South-South Cooperation in the Era of Economic, Social and Environmental Transformation: The Road to the 40th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action.”

Jorge Chediek, the Director of UNOSSC, said: “Many of the achievements of the expo are not reflected in these very impressive numbers themselves, they are reflected in the partnerships that are being established, in institutional friendships and agreements that are been developed and that will certainly generate results.”


UN Day for South South Cooperation. Credit: United Nations

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Six ‘Signature Solutions’ – New Development Plan for a New Erahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/six-signature-solutions-new-development-plan-new-era/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=six-signature-solutions-new-development-plan-new-era http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/six-signature-solutions-new-development-plan-new-era/#respond Thu, 30 Nov 2017 14:02:18 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153258 While the top priority of any development strategy is still the same – to leave no one behind – the new challenges that have emerged show the need to adapt the actions necessary to face them. This appears to be the key rationale behind the new 21 century development plan, which identifies six “signature solutions” […]

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The UN flag. Credit: Sriyantha Walpola/IPS

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 30 2017 (IPS)

While the top priority of any development strategy is still the same – to leave no one behind – the new challenges that have emerged show the need to adapt the actions necessary to face them.

This appears to be the key rationale behind the new 21 century development plan, which identifies six “signature solutions” against which the UN development agency will align its resources and expertise to make a real impact on poverty, governance, energy access, gender equality, resilience and environmental sustainability.

“This is a new plan for a new era,” said Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) while announcing on 28 November the new development Strategic Plan, which he characterised as a new and ambitious blueprint for development in the 21st century.

Six key areas of collaboration among four UN agencies:

(a) Eradicating poverty;
(b) Addressing climate change;
(c) Improving adolescent and maternal health;
(d) Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls;
(e) Ensuring greater availability and use of disaggregated data for sustainable development;
(f) Emphasising that development is a central goal in itself, and that in countries in conflict and post-conflict situations the development work of the entities of the UN development system can contribute to peace-building and sustaining peace, in accordance with national plans, needs and priorities and respecting national ownership.

SOURCE: UNDP

Dramatic Changes

“The dramatic changes we see in the world have occurred on such a scale and at such a pace that our institutions are struggling to keep up. More is being demanded of us.”

The nations of the world have committed to achieving the 2030 Agenda and the UN system has been tasked to support them, Steiner continued, adding that this is the driving force of the Secretary-General’s UN reform agenda, and we must rise to the challenge.

The new strategic plan, which covers a four–year period (2018-2021), is anchored in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and is committed to the principles of universality, equality and leaving no one behind.

The plan sets out a vision for the evolution of UNDP over the next four years, responding to a changing development landscape and the evolving needs of partners.

Building on the agency’s 50 years of experience, it describes how it will support countries to achieve the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals and related agreements.

Poverty, Transformations, Resilience

This plan has been designed to be responsive to the wide diversity of the countries we serve, Steiner said.

“This diversity is reflected in the three broad development settings described in the plan: eradicating poverty; structural transformations; and building resilience. It also describes how our two new platforms; country-level and global, will enable UNDP to deliver our support in a more effective way.”

On 13 February 2017, first-grade students in eastern Ukraine, including 6-year-old Sasha (in red sweater), participate in a drill to practice their response to a shelling. Credit: UNICEF/UN053119/Zmey


As well as formally endorsing the plan, the Board approved UNDP’s integrated resources plan and integrated budget estimates 2018-2021.

UNDP’s Executive Board is made up of representatives from 36 countries and provides inter-governmental support to and supervision of UNDP activities, ensuring that the Organization remains responsive to the evolving needs of programme countries.

Commenting on the new plan, the President of the UNDP Board Ib Petersen, Permanent Representative of Denmark, stated that the plan is an essential tool for the organisation to continue to evolve and adapt over the next four years.

On the ground in nearly 170 countries and territories, this UN agency offers global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations.

The agency’s vision for the Strategic Plan is to help countries achieve sustainable development “by eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, accelerating structural transformations for sustainable development and building resilience to crises and shocks.”

Four billion people have no social security protection. Ronda (right), who has been living in the open, washes clothes in the UN Protection of Civilians Site that houses thousands of displaced people in Wau, South Sudan. Credit: UNICEF/Ohanesian (file)


The plan describes how UNDP will better adapt to the range of country contexts in which it works, framed through:

(a) The three broad development settings to which its approach responds;

(b) A series of signature solutions that define the agency’s core work;

(c) The two platforms through which it will deliver its work; (i) Country support platforms for the Sustainable Development Goals; (ii) A global development advisory and implementation services platform;

(d) An improved business model to underpin our efforts.

Four UN specialised agencies, among others, are set to join efforts to implement the new strategy: UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women).

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One Third of Food Lost, Wasted – Enough to Feed All Hungry Peoplehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/one-third-food-lost-wasted-enough-feed-hungry-people/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=one-third-food-lost-wasted-enough-feed-hungry-people http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/one-third-food-lost-wasted-enough-feed-hungry-people/#comments Tue, 28 Nov 2017 13:41:35 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153224 Believe it or not, the way to eradicate hunger from the face of the Earth is as feasible as it is handy. In fact, the current loss and waste of one-third of all food produced for human consumption would be just enough to feed the nearly one billion people who go to bed hungry every […]

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One Third of Food Lost, Wasted – Enough to Feed All Hungry People

Save lives by giving food today . Photo: WFP

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 28 2017 (IPS)

Believe it or not, the way to eradicate hunger from the face of the Earth is as feasible as it is handy. In fact, the current loss and waste of one-third of all food produced for human consumption would be just enough to feed the nearly one billion people who go to bed hungry every single night.

Here, the figures are self-explanatory: as much as 1.3 billion tons per year of food is lost or wasted throughout the supply chain, from initial agricultural production down to final household consumption, according to the UN.

Moreover, it is not just about losing or wasting food—it also implies a waste of resources used in production such as land, water, energy and inputs, increasing the greenhouse gas emissions.

“Up to one third of all food is spoiled or squandered before it is consumed by people. It is an excess in an age where almost a billion people go hungry,” adds the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

 

Food waste, food losses represent a waste of resources used in production such as land, water, energy and inputs, increasing the green gas emissions in vain. Photo: FAO

Food losses represent a waste of resources used in production such as land, water, energy and inputs, increasing the green gas emissions in vain. Photo: FAO

 

But… What Is Food Loss and Food Waste?

Food loss and food waste refer to the decrease of food in subsequent stages of the food supply chain intended for human consumption. Food is lost or wasted throughout the supply chain, from initial production down to final household consumption, explains FAO.

The decrease may be accidental or intentional, it adds, but ultimately leads to less food available for all. Food that gets spilled or spoilt before it reaches its final product or retail stage is called food loss, it adds. This may be due to problems in harvesting, storage, packing, transport, infrastructure or market /price mechanisms, as well as institutional and legal frameworks.

Harvested bananas that fall off a truck, for instance, are considered food loss, according to FAO. Food that is fit for human consumption but is not consumed because it is or left to spoil or discarded by retailers or consumers is called food waste.

Key facts on food loss and waste you should know!

• Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted.
.
• Food losses and waste amounts to roughly US$ 680 billion in industrialised countries and US$ 310 billion in developing countries.
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• Industrialised and developing countries dissipate roughly the same quantities of food — respectively 670 and 630 million tonnes.
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• Fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.
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• Global quantitative food losses and waste per year are roughly 30% for cereals, 40-50% for root crops, fruits and vegetables, 20% for oil seeds, meat and dairy plus 35% for fish.
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• Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).
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• The amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world's annual cereals crop (2.3 billion tonnes in 2009/2010).
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• Per capita waste by consumers is between 95-115 kg a year in Europe and North America, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, south and south-eastern Asia, each throw away only 6-11 kg a year.
SOURCE: FAO http://www.fao.org/save-food/resources/keyfindings/en/
This may be because of rigid or misunderstood date marking rules, improper storage, buying or cooking practices. A carton of brown-spotted bananas thrown away by a shop, for instance, is considered food waste, says the UN agency.

 

Where Is Food Lost and Wasted?

Significantly, the World Resources Institute (WRI) explains that food loss and waste occurs more ‘near the fork’ in developed regions and more ‘near the farm’ in developing regions.

In the case of the European Union member countries, for instance, recent estimates of European food waste levels (FUSIONS, 2016) reveal that 70 per cent of the European bloc of 27 states, food waste arises in the household, food service and retail sectors, with production and processing sectors contributing the remaining 30 per cent.

Such high rates led the EU member states to commit to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), adopted in September 2015, including a target to halve per capita food waste at the retail and consumer level by 2030, and reduce food losses along the food production and supply chains.

Meanwhile, in the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30-40 per cent of the food supply.

This estimate, based on estimates from USDA’s Economic Research Service of 31 per cent food loss at the retail and consumer levels, according to the Office of the Chief Economist, United States Department of Agriculture.

This amount of waste, adds the Office of the Chief Economist in US, has far-reaching impacts on food security, resource conservation and climate change:

 

  • Wholesome food that could have helped feed families in need is sent to landfills.
  • The land, water, labor, energy and other inputs used in producing, processing, transporting, preparing, storing, and disposing of discarded food are pulled away from uses that may have been more beneficial to society – and generate impacts on the environment that may endanger the long-run health of the planet.
  • Food waste, which is the single largest component going into municipal landfills,quickly generates methane, helping to make landfills the third largest source of methane in the United States.

 

On September 16, 2015, the first-ever national food loss and waste goal in the United States was launched, calling for a 50-percent reduction by 2030.

 

What to Do?

Back to the global level, the UN specialised agency reminds that hunger is still one of the most urgent development challenges, yet the world is producing more than enough food.

The FAO-led SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction is partnering with international organisations, the private sector and civil society to enable food systems to reduce food loss and waste in both the developing and the industrialised world.

Governments, research institutions, producers, distributors, retailers and consumers all have different ideas about the problem – the solutions – and the ability to change. What are they waiting for?

 

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Desperate Need to Halt ‘World’s Largest Killer’ — Pollutionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/desperate-need-halt-worlds-largest-killer-pollution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=desperate-need-halt-worlds-largest-killer-pollution http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/desperate-need-halt-worlds-largest-killer-pollution/#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 16:49:44 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153098 Now that the lights of the UN climate change summit’s meeting rooms have been turned off in Bonn, after a week of intense negotiations and some partial results, another major environmental event is now scheduled in Nairobi, this time to search for ways to halt the world’s major killer – pollution. The argument is clear: […]

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Birds scavenging for food amidst the debris at the landfill in Danbury, Connecticut in the United States. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 20 2017 (IPS)

Now that the lights of the UN climate change summit’s meeting rooms have been turned off in Bonn, after a week of intense negotiations and some partial results, another major environmental event is now scheduled in Nairobi, this time to search for ways to halt the world’s major killer – pollution.

The argument is clear: every part of the planet and every person is affected by pollution, “the world’s largest killer”, and while solutions are within reach, new policies, enhanced public and private sector leadership, redirected investments and massive funding are all “desperately” needed, a major UN report has warned.

The new UN Environment Programme (UNEP)’s 2017 Executive Director’s Report: Towards a Pollution-Free Planet, which was made public on 16 November by UNEP’s Executive Director Erik Solheim, analyses impacts on human health and ecosystems brought on by air, land, freshwater, marine, chemical and waste pollution.

A Pollution-Free Planet?

Five key messages to advance towards the goal of a pollution-free planet:
1. Political leadership and partnerships at all levels, mobilising the industry and finance sectors;
2. Action on the worst pollutants and better enforcement of environmental laws;
3. Sustainable consumption and production, through improved resource efficiency and lifestyle changes, better waste prevention and management;
4. Investment in cleaner production and consumption to counter pollution, alongside increased funding for pollution monitoring and infrastructure to control pollution; and
5. Advocacy to inform and inspire people worldwide.

SOURCE: UNEP’s 2017 Executive Director's Report: Towards a Pollution-Free Planet

“None of us is now safe, so now all of us have to act, ” said Solheim while presenting the report to the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, 6-17 November, explaining that it provides a clearer picture than ever before of the scale of the pollution menace – and the scale of action that will be needed.

Ways to undertake such action are scheduled to be on the agenda of hundreds of governments, business sector and civil society representatives as well as scientists and experts, participating in the UN Environment Assembly – the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment – from 4-6 December in Nairobi.

According to the report, while everyone is affected by pollution, some are directly exposed by handling chemicals at work or by living in the 80% of cities whose air doesn’t meet UN health standards. Others are among the 3.5 billion people who rely on our polluted seas for food, or make up the 2 billion who still do not have access to clean toilets.

 

1 in 4 Deaths Worldwide

The new comprehensive assessment also highlights that nearly a quarter of all deaths worldwide – or 12.6 million people a year – are due to environmental causes. “The health effects are stark, with air pollution alone killing some 6.5 million annually, affecting mostly poor and vulnerable people.”

Meanwhile, ecosystems are also “greatly damaged” by coastal, wastewater and soil pollution, it warns, adding that the vast majority of the world’s wastewater is released “untreated”, affecting drinking water to 300 million people.

The report lists implementation, knowledge, infrastructure, limited financial and industry leadership, pricing and fiscal, and behavioural as five main gaps that limit effective action.

“The only answer to the question of how we can all survive on this one planet with our health and dignity intact is to radically change the way we produce, consume and live our lives,” said on this Ligia Noronha, one of the report’s coordinators.

 

Hurricane Irma cut a path of devastation throughout the Caribbean, including in Punta Alegre, on the north coast of Ciego de Avila, Cuba. Credit: Jose M. Correa/UNDAC

Paris Is Not Enough

Just one week ahead of the Bonn climate conference, UNEP warned that pledges made under the Paris Climate Change Agreement are only “a third of what is required by 2030 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

“One year after the Paris Agreement entered into force, we still find ourselves in a situation where we are not doing nearly enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future,” said the UNEP chief on 30 October.

The Paris accord, adopted in 2015 by 195 countries, seeks to limit global warming in this century to under 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level.

However, UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report warns that as things stand, “even full implementation of current national pledges makes a temperature rise of at least 3 degrees Celsius by 2100 very likely.”

“Should the United States follow through with its stated intention to leave the Paris accord in 2020, the picture could become even bleaker.”

The Emissions Gap Report says that adopting new technologies in key sectors, such as agriculture, buildings, energy, forestry, industry and transport, at investment of under 100 collars per tonne, could reduce emissions by up to 36 gigatonnes per year by 2030, more than sufficient to bridge the gap.

Meanwhile, other greenhouse gases, such as methane, are still rising, and a global economic growth spurt could easily put carbon dioxide emissions back on an upward trajectory.

Carbon Dioxide Levels Surge to New High

On top of this, the UN weather agency on the same day, 30 October 2017, warned that the levels of carbon dioxide (C02) surged at “record-breaking speed” to new highs in 2016.

Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), issued this alert in Geneva at the launch of the organisation’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, indicating that carbon dioxide concentrations reached 403.3 parts per million in 2016, up from 400 parts per million in 2015.

“We have never seen such big growth in one year as we have been seeing last year in carbon dioxide concentration,” said Taalas, underlining that it is time for governments to fulfil the pledges they made in Paris in 2015 to take steps to reduce global warming.

 

And Not At All in the Right Direction

Emphasising that the new figures reveal “we are not moving in the right direction at all,” he added that “in fact we are actually moving in the wrong direction when we think about the implementation of the Paris Agreement and this all demonstrates that there is some urgent need to raise the ambition level of climate mitigation, if we are serious with this 1.5 to 2C target of Paris Agreement.”

Population growth, intensified agricultural practices, increases in land use and deforestation, industrialisation and associated energy use from fossil fuel sources “have all contributed to increases in concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere since the industrial era, beginning in 1750.”

10 to 20 Times Faster than Ever

To put that into perspective, WMO says that before the industrial era, a CO2 change of 10 parts per million took between 100 and 200 years to happen.

“What we are doing now with the atmosphere is 10 to 20 times faster than ever been observed in the history of the planet,” Tarasova said. In fact, according to the WMO’s report, which covers all atmospheric emissions, CO2 concentrations are now 145 percent of pre-industrial levels.

After carbon dioxide, the second most important greenhouse gas is methane; its levels rose last year but slightly less than in 2014. Nitrous oxide is the third most warming gas; it increased slightly less last year than over the last decade.

Question: how many summits, reports, warnings, alerts, and scientific evidence are still needed for humans to halt this process of self-destruction?

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Good to Know (Perhaps) That Food Is Being ‘Nuclearised’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/good-know-perhaps-food-nuclearised/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=good-know-perhaps-food-nuclearised http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/good-know-perhaps-food-nuclearised/#comments Thu, 16 Nov 2017 13:00:51 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153061 It might sound strange, very strange, but the news is that scientists and experts have been assuring, over and again, that using nuclear applications in agriculture –and thus in food production—are giving a major boost to food security. So how does this work? To start with, nuclear applications in agriculture rely on the use of […]

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Using nuclear sciences to feed the world. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 16 2017 (IPS)

It might sound strange, very strange, but the news is that scientists and experts have been assuring, over and again, that using nuclear applications in agriculture –and thus in food production—are giving a major boost to food security. So how does this work?

To start with, nuclear applications in agriculture rely on the use of isotopes and radiation techniques to combat pests and diseases, increase crop production, protect land and water resources, and ensure food safety and authenticity, as well as increase livestock production.

This is how the UN food and agriculture organisation and the UN atomic energy agency explain this technique, highlighting that some of the most innovative ways being used to improve agricultural practices involve nuclear technology.

Both the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have been expanding knowledge and enhancing capacity in this area for over 50 years.

Climate Change

One reason is that the global climate is changing, altering the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and seriously impacting food security.

Rising sea levels, ecosystem stress, glacier melt and altering river systems exacerbate the vulnerability of particular social groups and economic sectors, FAO reports, adding that it is also altering the distribution, incidence and intensity of terrestrial and aquatic animal and plant pests and diseases.

“Most developing countries are already subject to an enormous disease burden, and both developing and developed countries could be affected by newly emerging diseases. Making global agricultural systems resilient to these changes is critical for efforts to achieve global food security.”

The two UN agencies have been assisting countries to develop capacity to optimise their use of nuclear techniques to confront and mitigate impacts of climate change on agricultural systems and food security – nuclear techniques that can increase crop tolerance to drought, salinity or pests; reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase carbon sequestration from agricultural systems.

They can also track and control insect pests and animal diseases; adjust livestock feed to reduce emissions and improve breeding; optimise natural resource management through isotopic tracking of soil, water and crops; and provide information essential for assessing ecosystem changes and for forecast modelling.

The results of “using nuclear sciences to feed the world” have led to some major success stories, they say.

The agricultural sector uses nuclear and related technologies to adapt to climate change by increasing resource-use efficiency and productivity in a sustainable way. Credit: FAO

Seven Examples

FAO provides the following seven examples of how nuclear technology is improving food and agriculture:

1. Animal Productivity… and Health

Nuclear and related technologies have made a difference in improving livestock productivity, controlling and preventing trans-boundary animal diseases and protecting the environment.

For example, Cameroon uses nuclear technology effectively in its livestock reproduction, breeding, artificial insemination and disease control programmes. By crossing the Bos indicus and the Bos taurus (two local cattle breeds), farmers have tripled their milk yields – from 500 to 1 500 litres – and generated an additional 110 million dollars in farmer income per year.

Another programme has dramatically curbed the incidence of Brucellosis, a highly contagious zoonosis, or disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans who drink unpasteurised milk or eat undercooked meat from infected animals.

2. Soils and Water

Nuclear techniques are now used in many countries to help maintain healthy soil and water systems, which are paramount in ensuring food security for the growing global population.

For instance, in Benin, a scheme involving 5 000 rural farmers increased the maize yield by 50 per cent and lowered the amount of fertiliser used by 70 per cent with techniques that facilitate nitrogen fixation.

Similarly, nuclear techniques allow Maasai farmers in Kenya to schedule small-scale irrigation, doubling vegetable yields while applying only 55 per cent of the water that would normally be applied using traditional hand watering.

3. Pests

The nuclear-derived sterile insect technique (SIT) involves mass-rearing and sterilising male insects before releasing them over pest-infested areas.

The technique suppresses and gradually eliminates already established pests or prevents the introduction of invasive species – and is safer for the environment and human health than conventional pesticides.

The governments of Guatemala, Mexico and the United States have been using the SIT for decades to prevent the northward spread of the Mediterranean fruit fly (medfly) into Mexico and USA.

In addition, Guatemala sends hundreds of millions of sterile male medflies every week to the US states of California and Florida to protect valuable crops, such as citrus fruits. With the sterile male medflies unable to reproduce, it is really the perfect insect birth control.

The nuclear-derived sterile insect technique (SIT) involves mass-rearing and sterilizing male insects before releasing them over pest-infested areas. Credit: FAO

4. Food Safety

Food safety and quality control systems need to be robust at the national level to facilitate the trade of safe food and to combat food fraud, which costs the food industry up to 15 billion dollars annually.

Nuclear techniques help national authorities in over 50 countries to improve food safety by addressing the problem of harmful residues and contaminants in food products and to improve their traceability systems with stable isotope analysis.

For example, scientific programmes in Pakistan, Angola and Mozambique now enable the testing for veterinary drug residues and contaminants in animal products.

Already some 50 Pakistani food production and export institutions benefit from the new laboratory testing capabilities, which help ensure they meet international food standards and boost the country’s reputation in the international food trade.

5. Emergency Response

Radioactivity is present in everything that surrounds us – from the sun to soil. But should a nuclear incident or emergency happen, an understanding of the movement of radioactivity through the environment becomes crucial to prevent or alleviate the impact on agricultural products.
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During the 2011 nuclear emergency in Japan, FAO and IAEA compiled an extensive and authoritative database on food contaminated with radioisotopes. This database supported the information exchange and facilitated appropriate follow-up actions to protect consumers, the agri-food sector and the world at large.

6. Climate Change

The agricultural sector uses nuclear and related technologies to adapt to climate change by increasing resource-use efficiency and productivity in a sustainable way.

The nuclear-derived crossbreeding programme in Burkina Faso is a great example of helping farmers to breed more productive and climate-resistant animals. It is underpinned by genetic evaluations in four national laboratories, with scientists also able to use associated technology to produce a lick feed that provides the bigger, more productive livestock with the nutrients they need.

7. Seasonal Famine

Crop-breeding programmes use nuclear technology to help vulnerable countries ensure food security, adapt to climate change and even to tackle seasonal famine. New mutant crop varieties shorten the growing process, thereby allowing farmers to plant additional crops during the growing season.

In recent years, farmers in northern Bangladesh have been using a fast-maturing mutant rice variety called Binadhan-7. This variety ripens 30 days quicker than normal rice, giving farmers time to harvest other crops and vegetables within the same season.

Now that you know that food has been “nuclearised”… enjoy your meal!

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The Harsh Plight of 152 Million Child Labourershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/harsh-plight-152-million-child-labourers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=harsh-plight-152-million-child-labourers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/harsh-plight-152-million-child-labourers/#respond Tue, 14 Nov 2017 06:21:35 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153008 While trillions of dollars are being spent on exploring remote galaxies, Planet Earth is still home to harsh realities that could be easily –and much less expensively—resolved. One of them is that worldwide 152 million children are currently victims of child labour. Of this total, 60 per cent of child labourers – aged 5-17 years […]

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Child labour is mostly found in agriculture. 108 million boys and girls are engaged in child labour in farming, livestock, forestry, fishing or aquaculture, often working long hours and facing occupational hazards. Child labour violates children’s rights. Credit: FAO

Child labour is mostly found in agriculture. 108 million boys and girls are engaged in child labour in farming, livestock, forestry, fishing or aquaculture, often working long hours and facing occupational hazards. Child labour violates children’s rights. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 14 2017 (IPS)

While trillions of dollars are being spent on exploring remote galaxies, Planet Earth is still home to harsh realities that could be easily –and much less expensively—resolved. One of them is that worldwide 152 million children are currently victims of child labour.

Of this total, 60 per cent of child labourers – aged 5-17 years – work in agriculture, including farming, fishing, aquaculture, forestry, and livestock.

This makes a total of around 100 million girls and boys used as a cheap or even unpaid work force.

Key facts

• 108 million boys and girls between 5 and 17 years are identified as child labourers in agriculture
• Worldwide, nearly 70.9 per cent of child labour is found in agriculture
• Agriculture is one of the most dangerous sectors in terms of rates of work-related fatalities, non-fatal accidents and occupational diseases.
• Most (70 per cent) of all child labourers are unpaid family workers.

Source: FAO

The majority (67.5 per cent) of these 152 million child labourers are unpaid family members. In agriculture, however, this percentage is higher, and is combined with very early entry into work, sometimes between 5 and 7 years of age. Add to all this that about 59 per cent of all children in hazardous work aged 5–17 is in agriculture.

This scary data, elaborated by key specialised UN agencies, also shows that agriculture is one of the three most dangerous sectors in terms of work-related fatalities, non-fatal accidents and occupational diseases.

“Poverty is the main cause of child labour in agriculture, together with limited access to quality education, inadequate agricultural technology and access to adult labour, high hazards and risks, and traditional attitudes towards children’s participation in agricultural activities,” says the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Especially in the context of family farming, ILO adds, small-scale fisheries and livestock husbandry, some participation of children in non-hazardous activities can be positive as it contributes to the inter-generational transfer of skills and children’s food security.

Child Farmers, Hederos, Fishers…

For its part, another major UN specialised agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), also underlines the fact that child labour is mostly found in agriculture, with a total of 108 million boys and girls engaged in child labour in farming, livestock, forestry, fishing or aquaculture, “often working long hours and facing occupational hazards.”

Child labour violates children’s rights, warns the Rome-based organisation, adding that by endangering health and education of the young, it also forms an obstacle to sustainable agricultural development and food security.

What Is Child Labour?

According to FAO, child labour is defined as work that is inappropriate for a child’s age, affects children’s education, or is likely to harm their health, safety or morals.

It should be emphasised that not all work carried out by children is considered child labour. Some activities may help children acquire important livelihood skills and contribute to their survival and food security.

However, much of the work children do in agriculture is not age-appropriate, is likely to be hazardous or interferes with children’s education.

For instance, FAO explains that a child under the minimum age for employment who is hired to herd cattle, a child applying pesticides, and a child who works all night on a fishing boat and is too tired to go to school the next day would all be considered child labour.

Moreover, child labour perpetuates a cycle of poverty for the children involved, their families and communities. Without education, these boys and girls are likely to remain poor. “The prevalence of child labour in agriculture violates the principles of decent work. By perpetuating poverty, it undermines efforts to reach sustainable food security and end hunger.”

Any Chance to Eradicate Child Labour?

The shocking reality has been put before the eyes of 1,500 participants from 193 countries in the IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 14-16 November, aiming at addressing the consolidation of the global commitment to the eradication of child labour, ILO informs.

The Conference is intended to focus on child labour from different perspectives: public policies, legal framework and tools available to disseminate and manage the information, as well as the children’s schooling, the school-to-work transition for youth, and how to ensure healthy working conditions for them.

The global estimates presented at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2017 show that 152 million children are currently victims of child labour. Credit: ILO

The global estimates presented at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2017 show that 152 million children are currently victims of child labour. Credit: ILO

Other topics include child labour in rural economies and in crisis situations – such as natural disasters and conflicts–, and how to prevent child labour in the supply chains.

With agriculture one of the major activities involving child labour, FAO works with partners to address the root causes of child labour, in particular with ILO and other major UN and international through the International Partnership for Cooperation on Child Labour in Agriculture International Partnership for Cooperation on Child Labour in Agriculture, which was established in 2007.

Examples of specific actions in support of the prevention of child labour in agriculture are:

–Sharing knowledge and building capacity: The work that children perform in agriculture is often invisible, because available data on the activities that girls and boys are involved in, as well as the risks associated with them, are limited.

In response, FAO works to promote a greater knowledge base on child labour across countries and within different agricultural subsectors. It enables the exchange of good practices and develops tools in support of national capacity building and institutional development.

The organisation also provides support to overcome constraints to agricultural production that create a demand for child labour such as limited uptake of labour-saving technologies. Finally, it promotes the adoption of safer agricultural practices to mitigate occupational hazards.

— Supporting at at regional and country-level: Child labour in agriculture is challenging to address, because the agricultural sector tends to be under-regulated in many countries.

FAO supports governments to ensure that child labour issues are better integrated into national agriculture development policies and strategies. It also promotes coordinated action and implementation of national and regional commitments.

— Promoting global action: FAO engages in major international initiatives, including the World Day Against Child Labour, to raise awareness on priority areas of action to eradicate child labour in agriculture.

Across its work areas, it pays increasing attention to child labour issues and ensuring that these are considered in its global mechanisms.

For instance, in 2013, a revised International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management to encourage governments and the pesticide industry to adopt measures to reduce children’s vulnerability to exposure.

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Nations without Nationality – An ‘Unseen’ Stark Realityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/nations-without-nationality-unseen-stark-reality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nations-without-nationality-unseen-stark-reality http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/nations-without-nationality-unseen-stark-reality/#respond Fri, 10 Nov 2017 07:00:39 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152964 Here’s another ‘unseen’ stark reality—that of millions of people around the world who are deprived of their identity, living without nationality. Their total number is by definition unknown and their only ‘sin” is that they belong to an ethnic, religious or linguistic minority in the country where they have often lived for generations. These millions […]

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Born stateless, this baby acquired nationality in 2008 in Bangladesh. Credit: UNHCR/G.M.B. Akash

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 10 2017 (IPS)

Here’s another ‘unseen’ stark reality—that of millions of people around the world who are deprived of their identity, living without nationality. Their total number is by definition unknown and their only ‘sin” is that they belong to an ethnic, religious or linguistic minority in the country where they have often lived for generations.

These millions of human beings are victims of continued discrimination, exclusion and persecution, states a UN refugee agency’s new report, calling for “immediate action” to secure equal nationality rights for all.

“Stateless people are just seeking the same basic rights that all citizens enjoy. But stateless minorities, like the Rohingya, often suffer from entrenched discrimination and a systematic denial of their rights,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi on the launch of the report, This Is Our Home: Stateless minorities and their search for citizenship on the beginning of November.

Any Solution?

Ensuring equal access to nationality rights for minority groups is one of the key goals of UNHCR’s #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness by 2024.

To achieve this, UNHCR urges all States to take the following steps, in line with Actions 1, 2, 4, 7 and 8 of UNHCR’s Global Action Plan to End Statelessness:

• Facilitate the naturalisation or confirmation of nationality for stateless minority groups resident on the territory provided that they were born or have resided there before a particular date, or have parents or grandparents who meet these criteria.
• Allow children to gain the nationality of the country in which they were born if they would otherwise be stateless.
• Eliminate laws and practices that deny or deprive persons of nationality on the basis of discriminatory grounds such as race, ethnicity, religion, or linguistic minority status.
• Ensure universal birth registration to prevent statelessness.
• Eliminate procedural and practical obstacles to the issuance of nationality documentation to those entitled to it under law.

SOURCE: UNHCR

This report explains the circumstances that have led to them not being recognised as citizens, drawing on discussions with four stateless or formerly stateless minority groups. The findings in this report underscore the critical need for minorities to enjoy the right to nationality.

“Imagine being told you don’t belong because of the language you speak, the faith you follow, the customs you practice or the colour of your skin. This is the stark reality for many of the world’s stateless. Discrimination, which can be the root cause of their lack of nationality, pervades their everyday lives – often with crippling effects,” says Grandi.

The report notes that more than 75 per cent of the world’s known stateless populations belong to minority groups. “Left unaddressed, their protracted marginalisation can build resentment, increase fear and, in the most extreme cases, lead to instability, insecurity and displacement.”

Even Before the Ongoing Rohingya Crisis

Based on research prior to late August when hundreds of thousands of Rohingya – the world’s “biggest stateless minority” – began fleeing Myanmar to Bangladesh, the report reminds that their situation is nonetheless illustrative of the problems that years of discrimination, protracted exclusion and their impact on citizenship status can lead to.

“In recent years, important steps have been taken to address statelessness worldwide. However new challenges, like growing forced displacement and arbitrary deprivation of nationality, threaten this progress. States must act now and they must act decisively to end statelessness,” Grandi stressed.

The report shows that, for many minority groups, the cause of statelessness is difference itself: their histories, their looks, their language, and their faith.

“At the same time, statelessness often exacerbates the exclusion that minority groups face, profoundly affecting all aspects of their life – from freedom of movement to development opportunities, and from access to services to the right to vote.”

What Statelessness Is All About

According to the UN, statelessness can exacerbate the exclusion that minorities already face, further limiting their access to education, health care, legal employment, freedom of movement, development opportunities and the right to vote.

Fatmira Mustafa, a mother of four, collects rubbish from bins for a living. She has been anxiously waiting for the day when the owner of the plot on which her family is squatting will knock on her door to claim the land. Credit: UNHCR/Roger Arnold

“It creates a chasm between affected groups and the wider community, deepening their sense of being outsiders: of never belonging.”

In May and June 2017, UNHCR spoke with more than 120 individuals who belong to stateless or formerly stateless minority groups in three countries: the Karana of Madagascar, Roma and other ethnic minorities in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and the Pemba and Makonde of Kenya. These are the key findings of UNHCR’s consultations:

Discrimination, Lack of Documentation

Discrimination and exclusion of ethnic, religious or linguistic minority groups often lies at the heart of their statelessness, adds UNHCR. At the same time, their statelessness can lead to further discrimination, both in in practice and in law: at least 20 countries maintain nationality laws in which nationality can be denied or deprived in a discriminatory manner.

“Discrimination against the stateless minorities consulted manifests itself most clearly in their attempts to access documentation needed to prove their nationality or their entitlement to nationality, such as a national ID card or a birth certificate.”

Lack of such documentary proof can result in a vicious circle, where authorities refuse to recognize an otherwise valid claim to nationality.

“The authorities told me that I had to go to Kosovo to get a certificate that I was not a citizen of Kosovo. But how could I travel there without documents?” asks Sutki Sokolovski, a 28-year-old ethnic Albanian man. His mother, who abandoned him as a child was from Kosovo (S/RES/1244(1999)), but he was born in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and has lived there his entire life.


“I felt like I was a slave. Now I feel like I have been born again,” says 51-year-old Amina Kassim, a formerly stateless member of the Makonde community in Kenya. Credit: UNHCR/Roger Arnold.

Poverty

The UN body explains that because of their statelessness and lack of documentation, the groups consulted are typically excluded from accessing legal or sustainable employment, or obtaining the kinds of loans or licenses that would allow them to make a decent living. This marginalisation can make it difficult for stateless minorities to escape an on-going cycle of poverty.

Examples among other testimonies included: “The biggest problem is the poverty caused by my statelessness. A stateless person cannot own property. I feel belittled and disgraced by the situation that I am in,” notes Shaame Hamisi, 55 from the stateless Pemba community in Kenya.

Fear

All the groups consulted spoke of their fear for their physical safety and security on account of being stateless. Being criminalized for a situation that they are unable to remedy has left psychological scars and a sense of vulnerability among many.

“They [police] know what we do, where we go. They ask for our IDs, when we say we don’t have any, we are arrested and beaten,” says Ajnur Demir, 26, from the Roma community from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Stateless Children

On this, a 3 November 2015 UN report – I am Here, I Belong: The Urgent Need to End Childhood Statelessness— had already warned in a report that stateless children across the world share the same feelings of discrimination, frustration and despair.

According to that report, urgent action is needed before statelessness “sets in stone” problems haunting their childhood.

“In the short time that children get to be children, statelessness can set in stone grave problems that will haunt them throughout their childhoods and sentence them to a life of discrimination, frustration and despair,” said the by then the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres and now UN Secretary General, adding that no child should be stateless.

“Stateless young people are often denied the opportunity to receive school qualifications, go to university and find a decent job. They face discrimination and harassment by authorities and are more vulnerable to exploitation. Their lack of nationality often sentences them and their families and communities to remain impoverished and marginalised for generations.”

What future for them… and for humankind?

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Climate Change Summit a Step Further, Yes… But Where To?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/climate-change-summit-step-yes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-summit-step-yes http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/climate-change-summit-step-yes/#respond Mon, 06 Nov 2017 14:12:41 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152903 The UN Climate Change Summit in Bonn is a step further, most experts say. Fine, but towards what? On the one hand, the organisers – the UN, Fiji and Germany – express strong hopes that it will speed up the implementation of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement. On the other, a giant contributor to […]

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Scene from Codrington town in Barbuda during the Secretary-General’s visit to survey the damage caused by recent hurricanes. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 6 2017 (IPS)

The UN Climate Change Summit in Bonn is a step further, most experts say. Fine, but towards what?

On the one hand, the organisers – the UN, Fiji and Germany – express strong hopes that it will speed up the implementation of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement.

On the other, a giant contributor to global warming – the United States – decided to desert that milestone Agreement. Meanwhile, major European powers have been, again, prodigious in unmet promises.

The UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn is the next step for governments to implement the Paris Climate Change Agreement and accelerate the transformation to sustainable, resilient and climate-safe development, said Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on this major event, in the former German capital, on 6-17 November 2017.

As such Convention, the Bonn-based UNFCCC is the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent “dangerous human interference|” with the climate system.

The Paris Climate Change Agreement entered into force on November 2017 and the era of implementation has begun, reminds Espinosa, emphasising that the Bonn conference will further clarify the enabling frameworks that will make the agreement fully operational and the support needed for all nations to achieve their climate change goals.

“It is also an excellent example of the cooperation and collaboration between nations that will truly meet the global climate change challenge… This meeting is incredibly important.”

The conference –known as the signatory countries or Contracting Parties 23 session (COP 23)– is presided over by the government of Fiji with support by Germany. Prior to its opening, Espinosa encouraged governments, the private sector, and civil society organisations to be ready to work together to “accelerate implementation and take the crucial next steps towards transformative change.”

“We all have a role to play, and COP 23 will shine a light on both action underway and the many possible actions every individual and institution can take moving forward.”

Although small island states contribute the least to climate change, they bear the brunt of its effects. Credit: FAO/Sue Price


The Polluters Do (Not) Pay Principle

This is on the one hand. On the other, the US administration announced that it would promote coal, natural gas, fossil oil and nuclear energy as an answer to the climate change challenge. And the US President Donald Trump spelled out in September this year his decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

In spite of this negative development, the UNFCCC executive secretary expressed optimism ahead of the last Group of the seven more industrialised powers (G 7)–The Web of Paris Cannot Be Broken by One Missing Link, she said on July 7.

The point is that is it is not about the US only. In fact, other major contributors to global warming and gas emissions, such as many European highly industrialised countries, have been heralding day after day their formal commitment to reduce gas emissions, expand the use of alternative sources of energy, and a long etcetera.

So far, major car-makers have been very active promoting the sale of vehicles moved by electric and, hybrid engines.

For now, China as a key source of pollution seems to be addressing the need to slow down the fast process of climate change in a serious manner.

The Visible Dangers

Meantime, the grave impacts of climate change are visible on almost all fronts. See: Floods, Hurricanes, Droughts… When Climate Sets the Agenda

At the same time, the leaders of two top UN specialised organisations, have been warning that Climate change migration is reaching crisis proportions. See: Climate Migrants Might Reach One Billion by 2050

Another major UN organisation has recently explained the reasons of the massive displacement of people. See: The Roots of Exodus: Why Are People Compelled to Leave their Homes?

In Barbuda, Secretary-General António Guterres walks through Codrington town and meets with returnees. Credit:UN Photo/Rick Bajornas


One key cause of the growing, dangerous impact of climate change is the prevailing economic model consisting of voracious depletion of natural resources in both production and consumption patterns has proved to be one of the world’s main killers due to the huge pollution it causes for air, land and soil, marine and freshwater. See: Pollution or How the ‘Take-Make-Dispose’ Economic Model Does Kill

And the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has warned that pressures on global land resources are now greater than ever, as a rapidly increasing population coupled with rising levels of consumption is placing ever-larger demands on the world’s land-based natural capita. See: Alert: Nature, on the Verge of Bankruptcy.

On top of this and that, the United Nations weather agency announced on 30 October 2017 that the levels of carbon dioxide (C02) surged at “record-breaking speed” to new highs in 2016.

Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) issued this warning in Geneva, at the launch of the organisation’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.

The report indicates that carbon dioxide concentrations reached 403.3 parts per million in 2016, up from 400 ppm in 2015. “We have never seen such big growth in one year as we have been seeing last year in carbon dioxide concentration,” said Taalas.

The WMO chief said “We are not moving in the right direction at all… In fact we are actually moving in the wrong direction when we think about the implementation of the Paris Agreement …”

A Common Cause, Really?

The UNFCCC explains that the Paris Agreement builds upon this Convention and – for the first time – brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. As such, it charts a new course in the global climate effort.

The Paris Agreement’s central aim –it reminds– is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The central aim should definitely be to prevent the growing everyday human dramas such as the loss of food security and means of survival, the forced need to abandon their homes and families to face death and brutality at the hands of smugglers and human traffickers, to be exploited as “modern” slaves, and to prevent the world’s seas and oceans from being home to more plastic than fish.

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The Roots of Exodus: Why Are People Compelled to Leave their Homes?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/roots-exodus-people-compelled-leave-homes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=roots-exodus-people-compelled-leave-homes http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/roots-exodus-people-compelled-leave-homes/#respond Mon, 30 Oct 2017 12:58:35 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152799 Facts are facts, and one of them is that while everybody talks about the growing forced movement of people –be they migrants or refugees—decision-makers haven’t seriously acted on the root causes of why millions of humans are compelled to leave their homes. There has been a surge in international migration in recent years, reaching a […]

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Children of Peace - Stories and Dreams of Conflict-displaced Children, by Krizia Kaye Viray. Credit: Julie Christine Batula / IOM

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 30 2017 (IPS)

Facts are facts, and one of them is that while everybody talks about the growing forced movement of people –be they migrants or refugees—decision-makers haven’t seriously acted on the root causes of why millions of humans are compelled to leave their homes.

There has been a surge in international migration in recent years, reaching a total of 244 million individuals in 2015. Forced displacement has also reached a record high, with 65.3 million individuals displaced worldwide by the end of 2015 – including refugees, internally displaced persons and asylum seekers.

These figures have been repeated agin and again by the leading world specialised bodies and experts. Most importantly: they have also been explaining the major reasons behind such an unprecedented exodus.

Climate Change

Key Facts

• In 2015, there were 244 million international migrants, representing an increase of 40% since 2000. They included 150 million migrant workers.
• About one-third of all international migrants are aged 15–34. Women account for almost half of all international migrants.
• A large share of migrants originate from rural areas. Around 40% of international remittances are sent to rural areas, reflecting the rural origins of a large share of migrants.
• In many African countries, more than 50% of rural households report having at least one internal migrant.

SOURCE: FAO

Climate change migration is reaching crisis proportions, wrote Robert Glasser, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction and the head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, and William Lacy Swing, the Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Over the last 18 months, some 20 countries have declared drought emergencies, forcing millions off their land, they added. “Often not for the first time and, for many, it may likely be the last time as they turn their backs on the countryside and try to make a life in urban slums and informal settlements.”

For at least the last two years, Glasser and Lacy Swing remind, we have seen more people forced from their homes by extreme weather events than by conflict — according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, over 40 million people have been internally displaced by floods, storms, and, in some cases, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and landslides, in 2015 and 2016.

“And these numbers do not take into account the many people compelled to move every year as a result of slow-onset disasters, such as drought and environmental degradation. Nor do they factor in the millions affected by these disasters who are trapped and unable to flee their consequences.”

Migration flows can be heavily influenced by extreme weather, geophysical and hydrological events, they said. “Part of ensuring that people move as a matter of choice rather than necessity is to strengthen synergies between disaster risk reduction and climate change adaption, ensuring that both agendas take into consideration migration dimensions, including displacement risks.”

Food Insecurity and Conflict

Meanwhile, two other United Nations specialised agencies – the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP), have been focusing on other major causes why people are forced to abandon their homes and even countries.

Credit: UNICEF


It is recent 2017 report “At the root of exodus: Food security, conflict and international migration,” WFP says that though the initial driver of migration may differ across populations, countries and contexts, migrants tend to seek the same fundamental objective: to provide security and adequate living conditions for their families and themselves.

The study sought to answer some of the following questions: What is it that compels people to leave their homes? What role does food insecurity play in migration? Are these factors common across all international migrants, or do unique root causes spur specific migrant populations to move from their homes?

One major conclusion is that countries with the “highest level of food insecurity, coupled with armed conflict, have the highest outward migration of refugees.” Additionally, when coupled with poverty, food insecurity increases the likelihood and intensity of armed conflicts; something that has clear implications for refugee outflows.

Whenever the term migrant is used in the report, it refers to all migrants, including refugees.

“Food insecurity was also shown as a significant determinant of the incidence and intensity of armed conflict.” And it was also found to be “a critical ‘push’ factor driving international migration, along with income inequality, population growth and the existence of established networks for migration.”

Credit: UNICEF


Further, the act of migration itself can cause food insecurity, given the lack of income opportunities and adverse travel conditions along the journey, in addition to the potentially crippling costs of transit, the report underlines.

“This has clear implications for policymakers who aim to stem the dangerous land and sea journeys many migrants are forced to make.”

The WFP study provides some examples. For instance, among migrants from Bangladesh and East and West Africa, food insecurity and resource constraints are key drivers for outward migration, whereas lack of safety and security were triggers for migration from Afghanistan and Syria, the study says.

Many Afghans and Syrians reported that sustained conflict had destroyed employment opportunities and access to markets, leading to a depletion of assets, adds the study. “Food insecurity is a consequential factor for migration from Afghanistan and Syria.”

For its part, the FAO states that migration should be a choice, not a necessity.

“International cooperation should address the structural drivers of large movements of people and create conditions that allow communities to live in peace and prosperity in their homelands.”


A world on the move: Refugees and Migrants. Credit: UN DESA

FAO underlines that agriculture and rural development can address the root causes of migration, including rural poverty, food insecurity, inequality, unemployment, lack of social protection as well as natural resource depletion due to environmental degradation and climate change.

Therefore, it stresses that investing in sustainable rural development, climate change adaptation and resilient rural livelihoods is an important part of the global response to the current migration challenge.

Working with governments, UN agencies, the private sector, civil society and local communities, FAO plays an important role in addressing the root causes of internal and international migration and displacement and in harnessing the developmental potential of migration, especially in terms of food security and poverty reduction.

Protracted Crises

The UN specialised agency also underlines that agricultural and rural development can contribute to address the root causes of migration and build the resilience of both displaced and host communities, laying the ground for long-term recovery.

For this, it works with relevant stakeholders to strengthen their capacities to provide viable livelihood opportunities in agriculture and rural areas in countries in protracted crises.

It also protects the right to food of all people on the move, while fostering their integration and strengthening the social and economic resilience of host communities.

In short: the causes of the growing massive displacement of human beings are well known. People are forced to leave their homes and families due to the flagrant lack of political wisdom and the capacity of decision-makers to address the roots instead of just complaining and alarming their societies. Do they really think that building walls and wire fences can stop climate change, food insecurity, poverty and conflicts?

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Pollution or How the ‘Take-Make-Dispose’ Economic Model Does Killhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/pollution-take-make-dispose-economic-model-kill/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pollution-take-make-dispose-economic-model-kill http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/pollution-take-make-dispose-economic-model-kill/#respond Thu, 26 Oct 2017 05:08:14 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152732 The prevailing “Take-Make-Dispose” linear economic model consisting of voracious depletion of natural resources in both production and consumption patterns has proved to be one of the world’s main killers due to the huge pollution it causes for air, land and soil, marine and freshwater. Just to have an idea, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) […]

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Oil fields ablaze in Mosul, Iraq. Credit: UNEP

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 26 2017 (IPS)

The prevailing “Take-Make-Dispose” linear economic model consisting of voracious depletion of natural resources in both production and consumption patterns has proved to be one of the world’s main killers due to the huge pollution it causes for air, land and soil, marine and freshwater.

Just to have an idea, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly a quarter of all deaths worldwide, amounting to 12.6 million people in 2012, are due to pollution, with at least 8.2 million attributable to non-communicable environmental causes, and more than three quarters occurring in just three regions.

As in most other pollution-related impacts, low- and middle-income countries –those who are among the least industrialised nations on Earth– bear the brunt of pollution-related illnesses, with a disproportionate impact on children.

The latest global and regional environmental assessments give an indication of the magnitude of current threats: air pollution; land and soil pollution; freshwater pollution, and marine and coastal pollution. All this in addition to crosscutting causes such as chemicals and waste, reports the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

As if the death of millions of humans every year due to human-made pollution were not enough, it also impacts the global economy. The UN estimates that outdoor air pollution costs about 3 trillion dollars, while the cost of indoor pollution reaches 2 trillion dollars a year.

Climate change is also modifying weather patterns, affecting the levels and occurrence of pollutants and airborne allergens, such as ozone and pollen, and in some cases exposing people to higher concentrations over longer periods than in previous decades, according to UNEP’s report Towards a Pollution-Free Planet.

#CleanSeas. Credit: UNEP


The report provides some key examples: air quality is a problem in nearly all regions; water pollution is a major cause of death of children under five years of age; nutrient over-enrichment of land and water is causing shifts in ecosystems and loss of biodiversity; plastics in the ocean is on the rise and there is still no acceptable “storage or disposal option” for processing of older-generation nuclear fuel. See: World Campaign to Clean Torrents of Plastic Dumped in the Oceans

Here are some key details regarding the major threats caused by the prevailing linear economic model as summarised by UNEP’s Towards a Pollution Free Planet report:

Air

Air pollution is the world’s single greatest environmental risk to health. Some 6.5 million people across the world die prematurely every year from exposure to out-door and indoor air, and nine out of ten people breathe outdoor air polluted beyond acceptable World Health Organization guidelines levels.

WHO also reports that air pollution disproportionately affects the most vulnerable, including those with mental disabilities and young children.

On this, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that approximately 2 billion children live in areas where outdoor air pollution exceeds the guidelines, and 300 million in areas where outdoor air pollution is at least six times higher.

In addition to the impact on human health, other air pollutants cause climate change and affect ecosystems, such as short-lived climate pollutants including black carbon and ground-level ozone, warns WHO.

The main sources of outdoor air pollution are fossil fuel emissions from coal burning for power and heat, transport, industrial furnaces, brick kilns, agriculture, domestic solid fuel heating, and the unregulated burning of waste materials such as plastics and batteries in open pits and incinerators, according to UNEP’s report.

Other important sources include the burning of peat-lands, both of which generate haze, sand and dust storms, as well as desertification, which often results from land degradation, including deforestation and wetland drainage.

The report says indoor air pollution accounts for 4.3 million deaths, 18 per cent of ischaemic heart disease and 33 per cent of all lower respiratory infections. It in particular affects women, children, the sick and elderly, and those in low-income groups, as they are often exposed to high levels of pollutants from cooking and heating.

The UN Environment Assembly, the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment, will gather in Nairobi, Kenya, from 4-6 December 2017 under the overarching theme of pollution. Credit: UNEP


Land and Soil

“Towards a Pollution-Fee Planet” also informs that land and soil pollution is largely the product of poor agricultural practices, inefficient irrigation, improper solid waste management – including unsafe storage of obsolete stockpiles of hazardous chemicals and nuclear waste – and a range of industrial, military and extractive activities.

“Leachates from mismanaged landfills and uncontrolled dumping of waste from households, industrial plants and mine tailings can contain heavy metals, such as mercury and arsenic, as well as organic compounds and pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics and microorganisms.”

UNEP explains that pollutants easily degrade land, soils and the underlying aquifers and are hard to remove, thus humans and wildlife living near former industrial sites and some reclaimed lands are at potential risk of continued exposure to pollution if sites are not decontaminated properly.

The primary pollutants of concern in land and soil include heavy metals such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium and chromium, persistent organic pollutants and other pesticides, and pharmaceuticals, such as antibiotics used for livestock management, the report adds.

Globally, estimates indicate that at least 1 million people are unintentionally poisoned every year by excessive exposure and inappropriate use of pesticides, with health effects on all, according to UNEP.

The main driver for the use of synthetic chemical pesticides is the reduction of the negative impacts of pests, such as insects, diseases and weeds, on crop yields, estimated in the 1990s to account for 40 per cent of the world’s losses, it informs.

Women

The number of women working as pesticide applicators varies, but in some countries, women make up 85 per cent or more of the pesticide applicators on commercial farms and plantations, often working while pregnant or breastfeeding, says the report. Women are also uniquely exposed to pesticides even when they do not directly apply them.

Just a couple of examples: in Pakistan, where cotton is picked by women, a survey found that 100 per cent of the women picking cotton 3-15 days after pesticides had been sprayed suffered acute pesticide poisoning symptoms. And in Chile, in 1997, of the 120 reported pesticide poisonings, 110 were women, nearly all employed in the lower industry.

Pesticide exposure can cause lifelong harm and increase the risk of preterm births, birth defects, childhood mortality, reduced sperm function and a range of adult diseases, warns the report.

Otherwise, the rise of antimicrobial resistance as a result of overuse and improper use of antimicrobials, including antibiotics used in food production, is now a globally significant issue. See: When Your Healers Become Your Killers and What Do You Really Eat When You Order a Steak, Fish or Chicken Filet?

A major concern is that this may cause rapid changes to the microbial composition of soil, freshwater and biota, and drive the development of multi-strain microbial resistance worldwide, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Freshwater

As if all tis were not sufficient, the Towards a Pollution-Free Planet says that freshwater bodies are heavily affected by pollution, particularly by a range of nutrients, agro-chemicals and pathogens from untreated wastewater, and heavy metals from mining and industrial effluents

Moreover, polluted water is also more likely to host disease vectors, such as cholera-causing Vibrio and parasitic worm-transmitted bilharzia.

Another scary fact in the report is that over 80 per cent of the world’s wastewater is released into the environment without treatment. Globally, 58 per cent of diarrhoeal disease –a major driver of child mortality– is due to a lack of access to clean water and sanitation.

These are just some of the major consequences of the current so-called linear economic model, which perhaps should be rather known as the relentless destruction of both nature… and humans.

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World Campaign to Clean Torrents of Plastic Dumped in the Oceanshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/world-campaign-clean-torrents-plastic-dumped-oceans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-campaign-clean-torrents-plastic-dumped-oceans http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/world-campaign-clean-torrents-plastic-dumped-oceans/#respond Fri, 20 Oct 2017 13:39:18 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152613 With 30 countries from Kenya to Indonesia and from Canada to Brazil now involved in the world campaign to beat pollution by countering the torrents of plastic trash that are degrading oceans and endangering the life they sustain, the UN has strengthened its massive efforts to clean up the seas, which are the Earth’s main […]

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"Oceans: our allies against climate change. How marine ecosystems help preserve our world." Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 20 2017 (IPS)

With 30 countries from Kenya to Indonesia and from Canada to Brazil now involved in the world campaign to beat pollution by countering the torrents of plastic trash that are degrading oceans and endangering the life they sustain, the UN has strengthened its massive efforts to clean up the seas, which are the Earth’s main buffer against climate change.

The 30 countries – all members of UN Environment Programme (UNEP)’s #CleanSeas campaign – account for about 40 per cent of the world’s coastlines–they are drawing up laws, establishing marine reserves, banning plastic bags and gathering up the waste choking their beaches and reefs.

Five ways the oceans help fight climate change and its effects:


1. Trapping carbon: Mangroves, coral reefs, salt marshes and sea-grasses make up just 1 per cent of the ocean’s seabed, but they contain between 50-70 per cent of the carbon stored in the oceans.
- Like forests, marine ecosystems take greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and trap them, some of it for thousands of years. As such, these ecosystems are known as “blue carbon sinks.”

2. Reducing coastal erosion: Overtime, waves carry away sediment from the shore. When this happens more quickly or forcefully, for example because of large storms, it has the potential of causing major damage to homes and coastal infrastructure.
- Sea grasses may look like our grass fields on land, but they are actually flowering plants that live in the salty environments of the sea floor and help hold sediment in place. Salt marshes, mangroves and coral reefs also help in slowing erosion and protecting shorelines.

3. Protecting marine life and biodiversity: Coral reefs occupy less than 0.1 per cent of the world's ocean surface, yet they provide a home for at least 25 per cent of all marine biodiversity. Often popular tourist attractions, coral reefs are the least secret of the ocean’s secret weapons. They draw people in to observe the wealth of marine life that they host.
- However, coral reefs are delicate ecosystems that are increasingly strained by human activity. Careless tourism, water pollution, overfishing, rising temperature and acidity are all damaging these ecosystems, sometimes beyond repair.

4. Forming barriers to storms: Mangroves, salt-tolerant shrubs or small trees that grow in saline water of coastal areas, create barriers to destructive waves and hold sediments in place with their underwater root systems. This protects coastal communities in times of cyclones or other tropical storms.
- In fact, scientists concluded that mangroves could have reduced the damages caused by the 2008 Nargis cyclone in Myanmar, where parts of the coastline had lost up to 50 per cent of its mangrove cover.

5. Slowing down destructive waves: Salt marshes are coastal wetlands that are flooded and drained by salt water brought in by the tides. Salt marshes are well-known for protecting the coast from soil erosion.
- However, they are also an effective defence against storm surges and devastating waves. Salt marshes can reduce wave sizes by up to 20 per cent.
- As the waves move through and around these marshes, the vegetation quells the force of the water and buffers the effects of these waves on coastal communities, FAO reports, adding that once viewed as wastelands, salt marshes can rival tropical rainforests in terms of biologically productive habitats, as they serve as nurseries and refuges for a wide variety of marine life.

SOURCE: FAO’s Guide to the Ocean

The populous nations of East and South-East Asia account for most of the plastic trash entering the global ocean, UNEP reports, adding that in order to address this menace at its source, Indonesia has pledged to reduce its generation of plastic trash by 70 per cent by 2030, while the Philippines plans new laws targeting single-use plastics.

Human Addiction To Plastic Bags

Humanity’s unhealthy addiction to throwaway plastics bags is a particular target, the UN environment agency warns, while informing that countries including Kenya, France, Jordan, Madagascar and the Maldives have committed to banning plastic bags or restricting consumers to re-usable versions for which they have to pay. See: Plastic No More… Also in Kenya

“Legislation to press companies and citizens to change their wasteful habits is often part of broader government strategies to foster responsible production and consumption – a key step in the global shift toward sustainable development.”

According to UNEP, Belgium and Brazil, for instance, are both working on national action plans to curb marine pollution. Costa Rica has embarked on a five-year strategy to improve waste management that includes a push to reduce the use of plastics.

Eight Billion Tonnes of Plastic… A Year

The flow of pollution means detritus such as drink bottles and flip-flops as well as tiny plastic fragments including micro-beads used in cosmetics are concentrating in the oceans and washing up on the most remote shorelines, from deserted Pacific islets to the Arctic Circle, the UN specialised body informs.

“Humans have already dumped billions of tonnes of plastic, and we are adding it to the ocean at a rate of 8 million tonnes a year,” UNEP warns, adding that as well as endangering fish, birds and other creatures who mistake it for food or become entangled in it, plastic waste has also entered the human food chain with health consequences that are not yet fully understood.

It also harms tourist destinations and provides breeding grounds for mosquitoes carrying diseases including dengue and Zika.

The #CleanSeas campaign aims to “turn the tide on plastic” by inspiring action from governments, businesses and individuals on ocean pollution. See also: UN Declares War on Ocean Plastic

Pollution is the theme of the 2017 United Nations Environment Assembly, which is meeting in Nairobi, Kenya from 4 to 6 December.

Forming barriers to storms. Credit: FAO


The Main Buffer against Climate Change

Another UN agency reminds that while it is well known that forests, especially rainforests, are key allies in the fight against climate change as they absorb greenhouse gas emissions, oceans are the earth’s main buffer against it.

In fact, about 25 per cent of the greenhouse gases that we emit actually gets absorbed by the oceans, as does over 90 per cent of the extra heat produced by human-induced climate change, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports.

“However, oceans are also one of the most affected by it.”

According to the Rome-based UN agency, human activities are resulting in acidification and increasing water temperatures that are changing our oceans and the plant and animal life within them.

More Plastic than Fish?

The UN estimates that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 – with over 5 trillion pieces of plastic weighing more than 260,000 tonnes currently floating in the world’s oceans. Meanwhile, harmful fishing subsidies that contribute to overfishing are estimated to be as high as 35 billion dollars.

Coral reefs and coastal environments in tropical regions, including mangroves and salt marshes, are in particular danger, warns the UN food and agriculture agency.

“These ecosystems store much of the carbon, which then remains in the oceans for hundreds of years, and are thus one of our “allies” against climate change.”

However, since the 1940s, over 30 per cent of mangroves, close to 25 per cent of salt marshes and over 30 per cent of sea-grass meadows have been lost.

“Right when we need them the most, we are losing these crucial ecosystems.”


UN #CleanSeas campaign aims to combat marine plastic litter

Did You Know That…

FAO tells some key facts about the oceans:

— The ocean has it all: from microscopic life to the largest animal that has ever lived on earth, from the colourless to the iridescent, from the frozen to the boiling and from the sunlit to the mysterious dark of the deepest parts of the planet.

— The ocean is the largest ecosystem on earth and provides 99 per cent of the living space for life. It is a fascinating, but often little explored place.

— The ocean affects us in many different ways. It provides us with an important source of food and other natural resources. It influences our climate and weather, provides us with space for recreation and gives us inspiration for stories, artwork and music.

— The list of benefits we get from the ocean is almost endless! But we are also affecting the ocean.

— Overfishing is reducing fish populations, threatening the supply of nutritious food and changing marine food webs.

— Our waste is found in massive floating garbage patches and plastics have been found from the arctic to the bottom of the deepest places in the ocean.

— Climate change and its related impacts, such as ocean acidification, are affecting the survival of some marine species.

— Coastal development is destroying and degrading important marine habitats. Even recreation is known to impact marine habitats and species.

— We need a clean and healthy ocean to support our own health and survival, even if we don’t live anywhere near it.

Now you know! It would good to also remember that humankind managed to survive over millions and millions of years… without plastic!

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What Do You Really Eat When You Order a Steak, Fish or Chicken Filet?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/really-eat-order-steak-fish-chicken-filet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=really-eat-order-steak-fish-chicken-filet http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/really-eat-order-steak-fish-chicken-filet/#respond Wed, 18 Oct 2017 12:41:37 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152567 The world is running out of antibiotics to combat the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) warned while announcing the World Antibiotic Awareness Week on 13-19 November. The reason, according to WHO, is that most of the drugs currently in the clinical pipeline are modifications of existing classes of antibiotics […]

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Cattle is by far the most susceptible livestock to Bovine TB (animal tuberculosis). Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 18 2017 (IPS)

The world is running out of antibiotics to combat the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) warned while announcing the World Antibiotic Awareness Week on 13-19 November.

The reason, according to WHO, is that most of the drugs currently in the clinical pipeline are modifications of existing classes of antibiotics and are only short-term solutions. See: The World Is Running Out of Much Needed New Antibiotics

Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), on 20 September said on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), “A stronger global effort, including larger investments and improved surveillance measures, is required to ensure that antimicrobials are used responsibly and in ways that do not threaten public health and food production.”

What is it?


Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a major global threat of increasing concern to human and animal health.

It also has implications for both food safety and food security and the economic wellbeing of millions of farming households--FAO

AMR refers to when micro-organisms – bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites – evolve resistance to antimicrobial substances, like antibiotics.

This can occur naturally through adaption to the environment, the pace of AMR's spread is now on the uptick due to inappropriate and excessive use of antimicrobials.

Various factors are at play:

• Lack of regulation and oversight of use
• Lack of awareness in best practices that leads to excessive or inappropriate use
• The use of antibiotics not as medicines but as growth promoters in animals
• Over-the-counter or internet sales that make antimicrobial drugs readily availability common
• Availability of counterfeit or poor-quality antimicrobials

As a result of AMR, medicines that were once effective treatments for disease become less so – or even useless, leading to a reduced ability to successfully treat infections, increased mortality; more severe or prolonged illnesses; production losses in agriculture; and reduced livelihoods and food security.

The health consequences and economic costs of AMR are respectively estimated at 10 million human fatalities a year and a 2 to 3.5 percent decrease in global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), amounting to US$ 100 trillion by 2050. However, the full impact remains hard to estimate.

SOURCE: FAO

“We need surveillance on antimicrobial use and the spread of AMR – not only through hospitals, but throughout the food chain, including horticulture and the environment for more comprehensive risk assessments.”

This was not the first time UN agencies have sounded the alarm about the misuse and abuse of antibiotics both in humans and animals. To learn more, IPS interviewed Dr. Juan Lubroth, Coordinator on AMR and Chief Veterinary Officer at FAO.

Dr Juan Lubroth. Credit: FAO


So, what do you really eat when you order a steak, fish or chicken filet? IPS asked.

“Meat! Meat, and other foods of animal origin are high quality nutritious products that are very important, not least for women and growing children, and especially in the developing world or wherever under- and mal-nutrition are rampant,” Lubroth answers.

There is a widespread misunderstanding that food may contain hazardous antimicrobial residues if an animal was previously treated with these medicines, he said.

“This is not the case if farmers and other producers comply with the rules in respecting the withdrawal periods. These withdrawal periods ensure that the antimicrobial in question has been eliminated from the system of the animal so that the meat, the milk or eggs are fit for human consumption.”

According to Lubroth, the problem with antimicrobial resistance in farming lies in poor management systems where antimicrobials are given routinely and in excessive amounts which in turn drives development of antimicrobial resistance.

“As a consumer, you have the power to make a difference by choosing animal products from sustainable farming systems operated responsibly.”

A farmer and her cattle in Cambodia, which is sharing with other countries its successful experience in dealing with AMR. Credit: FAO


Meantime, farmers need more tools in their toolbox to produce food more sustainably to feed a growing global population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, said the FAO Chief Veterinary Officer.

“More affordable vaccines and portable diagnostic tests for vets – or physicians, dentists, pharmacists – to accurately diagnose causes of disease will help to reduce reliance on antimicrobials. Innovations in alternatives to antimicrobials such as probiotics are promising too.”

Bacteria, Not Humans, But…

Antibiotics are medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infections. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of these medicines.

WHO notes that bacteria, not humans or animals, become antibiotic-resistant. However, these bacteria may infect humans and animals – terrestrial or aquatic – and the infections they cause are harder to treat than those caused by non-resistant bacteria.

The UN estimates that around 700,000 human deaths each year are estimated to be related to antimicrobial resistant infections. Across the globe, AMR further poses a major “threat to food safety and security, livelihoods, animal health and welfare, economic and agricultural development.”

And FAO reports that the intensification of agricultural production has led to an increasing use of antimicrobials – a use that is expected to increase by 67 per cent by 2030.

IPS asked Lubroth how to reconcile the need for antibiotics in food and agricultural production with ensuring human and animal health?

How to balance intensive and extensive production to meet the needs of a growing world population is a difficult and equally important question, he said. “Livestock, aquaculture and crop production needs to be guided by the right policies, ss do the human health sector and the environment sector.”

According to Lubroth, changes needed include better tracking of animals from primary production areas on farms to the market, and products to consumers, as well as regulation of antibiotic use through the approval of a licenced veterinarian, and better hygiene on farms to prevent infections.


Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health today. It poses a major challenge http://www.fao.org/antimicrobial-resi…

“Antimicrobials are essential to ensure animal health and for animal welfare. Sick animals under human care have a right to treatment, however, the routine use of antibiotics for growth promotion must be phased out.”

Lubroth emphasises that a sustainable agriculture sector is essential to safeguard food security and nutrition, development of countries and gender equality around the world, and that food security is a significant factor to achieve stability and peace.

“Optimising production practices such that we can minimize the need for antimicrobials requires investment. In this we all have a role to play, from government policies and investment in the food and agriculture sector, to the producers implementing the necessary practices, and the retailers and consumers where there needs to be a recognition that this does come at a cost and will impact the price of food.”

This is observed in some markets where meat produced “antibiotic-free” retails at a higher price, he said.

According to Lubroth, the best way to assist developing countries is have the enabling conditions for them to produce their own food and to take responsibility for their own national development.

Healthy Animals

The single most important action to create this balance is education – in all sectors, he said. For the food and agriculture sector, it is education about good management practices based on hygiene and care on the farm, which reduce the need to treat livestock or the growing fish. Herd, flock and aquaculture health is key.

“Healthy animals provide food and livelihoods and they do not need antimicrobials… We also need affordable and quick diagnostic tools to be used on the site to get the right treatment for the corresponding disease.”

How? FAO formed an inter-departmental working group on AMR, bringing together multidisciplinary experts. And it supports the agriculture sector to move towards responsible use of antimicrobials, and towards sustainable food production systems, and it is present in the rural communities and in constant dialogue with the farmers on site as well as in the halls of government ministries.

“In the end, this is where the change starts – in the meetings and communications between professionals and farmers.”

FAO is currently active on the ground in more than 25 countries to engage the food and agriculture sector in addressing AMR and provide them with support for implementation.

“But what we can invest is a tiny portion of what is needed by countries, as countries are developing their national action plans they are now starting to also cost their implementation and realise that this is a multimillion dollar investment.”

However, Lubroth explains, the benefit of such investment is multiple as many aspects such as improving biosecurity, implementing good hygiene practices among others can reduce the burden of disease in the production system and also improve the safety of the food produced. In this context it is a worthwhile investment, with great dividends in health.

The Business Sector

The business sector has been signalled as one of the major causes leading to the excessive use and misuse of antibiotics in the food and agriculture and animal production chains.

What is this sector’s response to the world efforts to reduce the misuse and abuse of antibiotics? IPS asked Lubroth.

The business sector is a very important stakeholder in this matter, he answers. They are in close contact with consumer demands and consumer behaviour patterns.

“They are often multinational companies with great potential to put demands on suppliers. And that is what is happening now – we see major food companies putting demands for improved policies on antimicrobial use in the supply chain.”

The Consumers

According to Lubroth, we also see that there are over 6 billion of consumers – their voice can be very powerful and can change industrial or commercial or marketing policies.

“We need to be careful though, so that animal welfare or health are not jeopardized by too strict policies. Sick animals will always need adequate treatment.”

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How to Change the Future of Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/change-future-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=change-future-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/change-future-migration/#comments Sat, 14 Oct 2017 19:34:43 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152497 The world is on the move. More people have been forced to flee their homes than at any time since the Second World War due to increased conflict and political instability, hunger, poverty, and an increase in extreme weather events linked to climate change. Such a short paragraph hardly depicts the growing drama of migration, […]

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DROUGHT IN THE HORN OF AFRICA. Food security conditions in drought-hit areas are alarming [...read more]. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 14 2017 (IPS)

The world is on the move. More people have been forced to flee their homes than at any time since the Second World War due to increased conflict and political instability, hunger, poverty, and an increase in extreme weather events linked to climate change.

Such a short paragraph hardly depicts the growing drama of migration, but much can be learned from World Food Day 2017, marked on 16 October, which this year proposes specific ways to address the huge challenge of massive human movement.

Large movements of people today are presenting complex challenges, which call for global action, says on this the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), adding that many migrants arrive in developing countries, creating tensions where resources are already scarce, but the majority, about 763 million, move within their own countries rather than abroad.

Ten facts you need to know about Hunger

1. The world produces enough food to feed everyone, yet, about 800 million people suffer from hunger. That is one in nine people. 60% of them are women.
2. About 80% of the world’s extreme poor live in rural areas. Most of them depend on agriculture.
3. Hunger kills more people every year than malaria, tuberculosis and aids combined.
4. Around 45% of infant deaths are related to malnutrition.
5. The cost of malnutrition to the global economy is the equivalent of USD 3.5 trillion a year.
6. 1.9 billion people – more than a quarter of the world’s population – are overweight.
7. One third of the food produced worldwide is lost or wasted.
8. The world will need to produce 60% more food by 2050 to feed a growing population.
9. No other sector is more sensitive to climate change than agriculture.
10. FAO works mainly in rural areas, in 130 countries, with governments, civil society, the private sector and other partners to achieve #ZeroHunger.

SOURCE: FAO

What to Do?

One key fact to understand the current reality is that three-quarters of the extreme poor base their livelihoods on agriculture or other rural activities.

Consequently, creating conditions that allow rural people, especially youth, to stay at home when they feel it is safe to do so, and to have more resilient livelihoods, is a crucial component of any plan to tackle the migration challenge, says the UN specialised body.

Meantime, one key solution is to invest in food security and rural development, which can address factors that compel people to move by creating business opportunities and jobs for young people that are not only crop-based (such as small dairy or poultry production, food processing or horticulture enterprises).

It can also lead to increased food security, more resilient livelihoods, better access to social protection, reduced conflict over natural resources and solutions to environmental degradation and climate change, FAO adds.

“By investing in rural development, the international community can also harness migration’s potential to support development and build the resilience of displaced and host communities, thereby laying the ground for long-term recovery and inclusive and sustainable growth,” according to the WFD 2017’s theme ”Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development.”

Migration is part of the process of development as economies undergo structural transformation and people search for better employment opportunities within and across countries.

The challenge is to address the structural drivers of large movements of people to make migration safe, orderly and regular, FAO underlines, adding that in this way, migration can contribute to economic growth and improve food security and rural livelihoods.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis has joined FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, a large number of agriculture ministers, including several from the Group of Seven (G7) most industrialised countries, and the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development to celebrate World Food Day 2017 at FAO on 16 October.

In an unprecedented gesture, Pope Francis on July this year donated 25,000 euro to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s “efforts supporting people facing food insecurity and famine in East Africa.”

The Pope said the funds are “a symbolic contribution to an FAO programme that provides seeds to rural families in areas affected by the combined effects of conflicts and drought.” See: Pope Francis Donates to FAO for Drought, Conflict-Stricken East Africa. Also see: East Africa’s Poor Rains: Hunger Worsened, Crops Scorched, Livestock Dead

World Food Day 2017 has been marked in the context of a world where global hunger is on the rise for the first time in decades. See: World Hunger on the Rise Again

Causes and Remedies

The WFD is marked just a week after FAO launched its State of Food and Agriculture 2017 report, in which it recalls that population growth, increasing urbanisation, modern technologies, and climate change are transforming the world at a fast pace.

The report posed questions such as what direction are these transformations headed in? Are they benefiting the poor and the food insecure? And will the food systems of the future be able to feed and employ the millions of young people poised to enter labour markets in the decades to come? See: How to Eradicate Rural Poverty, End Urban Malnutrition – A New Approach

Credit: FAO

The Day has also been preceded by a new study which reveals a widening gap in hunger. The 2017 Global Hunger Index (GHI) states that despite years of progress, food security is still under threat. And conflict and climate change are hitting the poorest people the hardest and effectively pitching parts of the world into “perpetual crisis.” See: Not True that Hunger Doesn’t Discriminate — It Does

Climate Change and the Migration Crisis

Meanwhile, two UN high officials —Robert Glasser, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction and the head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, and William Lacy Swing, the Director General of the International Organization for Migration— have addressed the key issues of climate change and migration.

Climate change migration is reaching crisis proportions, they wrote on 10 October, noting that over the last 18 months, some 20 countries have declared drought emergencies, with millions forced off their land.

According to Glasser and Swing, while it may not be the first time, for many, it could be the last time they turn their backs on the countryside and try to make a life in urban slums and informal settlements, adding that for at least the last two years, more people have been forced from their homes by extreme weather events than by conflict.

“We need to set about the long-haul task of making the planet fit for purpose once more through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and, in the meantime, making it more resilient to disasters, limiting the damage already done.”

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017, for it part, warned that exacerbated by climate-related shocks, increasing conflicts have been a key driver of severe food crisis and recently re-emerged famines.

Conclusion: the causes of growing human suffering have been clearly identified–conflict, political instability, hunger, poverty, and an increase in extreme weather events linked to climate change. Aemedies have been also presented. All is needed is for decision-makers to listen… and implement. The future of migration can in fact be changed.

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s World Food Day on October 16.

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Not True that Hunger Doesn’t Discriminate — It Doeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/not-true-hunger-doesnt-discriminate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=not-true-hunger-doesnt-discriminate http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/not-true-hunger-doesnt-discriminate/#respond Fri, 13 Oct 2017 15:27:25 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152470 In a world where only 8 individuals – all of them men—possess as much as half of all the planet’s wealth, and it will take women 170 years to be paid as men are*, inequality appears to be a key feature of the current economic model. Now a new study reveals that there is also […]

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According to a new study, hunger emerges the strongest and most persistently among populations that are already vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Credit: 2017 Global Hunger Index (GHI)

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 13 2017 (IPS)

In a world where only 8 individuals – all of them men—possess as much as half of all the planet’s wealth, and it will take women 170 years to be paid as men are*, inequality appears to be a key feature of the current economic model. Now a new study reveals that there is also a widening gap in hunger.

In fact, the 2017 Global Hunger Index (GHI) states that despite years of progress, food security is still under threat. And that conflict and climate change are hitting the poorest people the hardest and effectively pitching parts of the world into “perpetual crisis.”

Although it has been said that “hunger does not discriminate,” it does, says the 2017 Global Hunger Index, jointly published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Concern Worldwide, and Welthungerhilfe.

According to this study, hunger emerges the strongest and most persistently among populations that are already vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Hunger and inequality are inextricably linked, it warns. By committing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the international community promised to eradicate hunger and reduce inequality by 2030.

“Yet the world is still not on track to reach this target. Inequality takes many forms, and understanding how it leads to or exacerbates hunger is not always straightforward.”

Women and Girls

The GHI provides some examples–women and girls comprise 60 per cent of the world’s hungry, often the result of deeply rooted social structures that deny women access to education, healthcare, and resources.

Likewise, ethnic minorities are often victims of discrimination and experience greater levels of poverty and hunger, it says, adding that most closely tied to hunger, perhaps, is poverty, the clearest manifestation of societal inequality.

Three-quarters of the world’s poor live in rural areas, where hunger is typically higher.

The 2017 Global Hunger Index tracks the state of hunger worldwide, spotlighting those places where action to address hunger is most urgently needed.

This year’s Index shows mixed results: despite a decline in hunger over the long term, the global level remains high, with great differences not only among countries but also within countries.

For example, at a national level, Central African Republic (CAR) has extremely alarming levels of hunger and is ranked highest of all countries with GHI scores in the report.

While CAR made no progress in reducing hunger over the past 17 years—its GHI score from 2000 is the same as in 2017—14 other countries reduced their GHI scores by more than 50 per cent over the same period.

Meanwhile, at the sub-national level, inequalities of hunger are often obscured by national averages. In northeast Nigeria, 4.5 million people are experiencing or are at risk of famine while the rest of the country is relatively food secure, according to the 2017 Index.

Child Stunting

This year’s report also highlights trends related to child stunting in selected countries including Afghanistan, where rates vary dramatically — from 24.3 per cent of children in some parts of the country to 70.8 per cent in others.

While the world has committed to reaching Zero Hunger by 2030, the fact that over 20 million people are currently at risk of famine shows how far we are from realising this vision, warns the report.

“As we fight the scourge of hunger across the globe, we must understand how inequality contributes to it. To ensure that those who are affected by inequality can demand change from national governments and international organisations and hold them to account, we must understand and redress power imbalances.”

The study notes that on 20 February, the world awoke to a headline that should have never come about: famine had been declared in parts of South Sudan, the first to be announced anywhere in the world in six years. “This formal famine declaration meant that people were already dying of hunger.”

This was on top of imminent famine warnings in northern Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen, putting a total of 20 million people at risk of starvation, it adds.

“Meanwhile, Venezuela’s political turmoil created massive food shortages in both the city and countryside, leaving millions without enough to eat in a region that, overall, has low levels of hunger. As the crisis there escalated and food prices soared, the poor were the first to suffer.”

This year’s report also highlights trends related to child stunting in selected countries including Afghanistan, where rates vary dramatically — from 24.3 per cent of children in some parts of the country to 70.8 per cent in others.

According to 2017 GHI scores, the level of hunger in the world has decreased by 27 per cent from the 2000 level. Of the 119 countries assessed in this year’s report, one falls in the extremely alarming range on the GHI Severity Scale; 7 fall in the alarming range; 44 in the serious range; and 24 in the moderate range. Only 43 countries have scores in the low range.

In addition, 9 of the 13 countries that lack sufficient data for calculating 2017 GHI scores still raise significant concerns, including Somalia, South Sudan, and Syria.

To capture the multidimensional nature of hunger, GHI scores are based on four component indicators—undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting, and child mortality.

The 27 per cent improvement noted above reflects progress in each of these indicators according to the latest data from 2012–2016 for countries in the GHI:

• The share of the overall population that is undernourished is 13.0 per cent, down from 18.2 per cent in 2000.
• 27.8 per cent of children under five are stunted, down from 37.7 per cent in 2000.
• 9.5 per cent of children under five are wasted, down from 9.9 per cent in 2000.
• The under-five mortality rate is 4.7 per cent, down from 8.2 per cent in 2000.

By Regions

The regions of the world struggling most with hunger are South Asia and Africa south of the Sahara, with scores in the serious range (30.9 and 29.4, respectively), says the report.

Meanwhile, the scores of East and Southeast Asia, the Near East and North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States range from low to moderate (between 7.8 and 12.8).

These averages conceal some troubling results within each region, it says, adding that however, including scores in the serious range for Tajikistan, Guatemala, Haiti, and Iraq and in the alarming range for Yemen, as well as scores in the serious range for half of all countries in East and Southeast Asia, whose average benefits from China’s low score of 7.5.

For its part, the UN State of Food and Agriculture 2017 report, released on 9 October, warns that efforts to eradicate hunger and poverty by 2030 could be thwarted by a thorny combination of low productivity in developing world subsistence agriculture, limited scope for industrialisation, and rapid population growth.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report also argues that rural areas need not be a poverty trap.

In short, also hunger discriminates against the ultimate victims of all inequalities–the most vulnerable. Any reaction?

*Oxfam International’s report ‘An economy for the 99 per cent’.

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s World Food Day on October 16.

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How to Eradicate Rural Poverty, End Urban Malnutrition – A New Approachhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/eradicate-rural-poverty-end-urban-malnutrition-new-approach/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=eradicate-rural-poverty-end-urban-malnutrition-new-approach http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/eradicate-rural-poverty-end-urban-malnutrition-new-approach/#respond Mon, 09 Oct 2017 06:40:57 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152386 Population growth, increasing urbanisation, modern technologies, and climate change are transforming the world at a fast pace. But what direction are these transformations headed in? Are they benefitting the poor and the food insecure? And will the food systems of the future be able to feed and employ the millions of young people poised to […]

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Nuclear applications in agriculture rely on the use of isotopes and radiation techniques to combat pests and diseases, increase crop production, protect land and water resources, ensure food safety and authenticity, and increase livestock production. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 9 2017 (IPS)

Population growth, increasing urbanisation, modern technologies, and climate change are transforming the world at a fast pace. But what direction are these transformations headed in? Are they benefitting the poor and the food insecure? And will the food systems of the future be able to feed and employ the millions of young people poised to enter labour markets in the decades to come?

These are some of the main questions posed by the just-released State of Food and Agriculture 2017 report, which argues that a key part of the response to these challenges must be transforming and revitalising rural economies, particularly in developing countries where industrialisation and the service sector are not likely to be able to meet all future job demand. “Unless economic growth is made more inclusive, the global goals of ending poverty and achieving zero hunger by 2030 will not be reached,” Graziano da Silva.

“It lays out a vision for a strategic, ‘territorial approach’ that knits together rural areas and urban centres, harnessing surging demand for food in small towns and mega cities alike to reboot subsistence agriculture and promote sustainable and equitable economic growth,” says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in its report, issued on 9 October.

One of the greatest challenges today is to end hunger and poverty while making agriculture and food systems sustainable, it warns, while explaining that this challenge is “daunting” because of continued population growth, profound changes in food demand, and the threat of mass migration of rural youth in search of a better life.

The report analyses the structural and rural transformations under way in low-income countries and shows how an “agro-territorial” planning approach can leverage food systems to drive sustainable and inclusive rural development.

Otherwise, the consequences would be dire. In fact, the world’s 500 million smallholder farmers risk being left behind in structural and rural transformations, the report says, while noting that small-scale and family farmers produce 80 per cent of the food supply in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, and investments to improve their productivity are urgently needed.

“Urbanisation, population increases and income growth are driving strong demand for food at a time when agriculture faces unprecedented natural-resource constraints and climate change.”

Harvesting sunflowers in Pakistan. Credit: FAO

Moreover, urbanisation and rising affluence are driving a “nutrition transition” in developing countries towards higher consumption of animal protein. “Agriculture and food systems need to become more productive and diversified.”

Catalytic Role of Small Cities, Towns

According to the report, small cities and towns can play a catalytic role in rural transformation rural and urban areas form a “rural–urban spectrum” ranging from megacities to large regional centres, market towns and the rural hinterland, according to the report. In developing countries, smaller urban areas will play a role at least as important as that of larger cities in rural transformation.

“Agro-territorial development that links smaller cities and towns with their rural ‘catchment areas’ can greatly improve urban access to food and opportunities for the rural poor.” This approach seeks to reconcile the sectoral economic aspects of the food sector with its spatial, social and cultural dimensions.

On this, the report explains that the key to the success of an agro-territorial approach is a balanced mix of infrastructure development and policy interventions across the rural–urban spectrum.

“The five most commonly used agro-territorial development tools –agro-corridors, agro-clusters, agro-industrial parks, agro-based special economic zones and agri-business incubators – provide a platform for growth of agro-industry and the rural non-farm economy.”

A Clear Wake-Up Call

Announcing the report, FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva said that in adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development two years ago, the international community committed itself to eradicating hunger and poverty and to achieving other important goals, including making agriculture sustainable, securing healthy lives and decent work for all, reducing inequality, and making economic growth inclusive.

With just 13 years remaining before the 2030 deadline, concerted action is needed now if the Sustainable Development Goals are to be reached, he added.

“There could be no clearer wake-up call than FAO’s new estimate that the number of chronically undernourished people in the world stands at 815 million. Most of the hungry live in low-income and lower-middle-income countries, many of which have yet to make the necessary headway towards the structural transformation of their economies.”

Graziano da Silva said that successful transformations in other developing countries were driven by agricultural productivity growth, leading to a shift of people and resources from agriculture towards manufacturing, industry and services, massive increases in per capita income, and steep reductions in poverty and hunger.

Countries lagging behind in this transformation process are mainly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Most have in common economies with large shares of employment in agriculture, widespread hunger and malnutrition, and high levels of poverty, he explained.

Nuclear techniques are now used in many countries to help maintain healthy soil and water systems, which are paramount in ensuring food security for the growing global population. Credit: FAO

1.75 Billion People Survive on Less than 3.10 Dollars a Day

According to the latest FAO estimates, some 1.75 billion people in low-income and lower-middle-income countries survive on less than 3.10 dollars a day, and more than 580 million are chronically undernourished.

The prospects for eradicating hunger and poverty in these countries are overshadowed by the low productivity of subsistence agriculture, limited scope for industrialization and –above all– by rapid rates of population growth and explosive urbanisation, said Graziano da Silva.

In fact, between 2015 and 2030, their total population is expected to grow by 25 percent, from 3.5 billion to almost 4.5 billion. Their urban populations will grow at double that pace, from 1.3 billion to 2 billion.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of people aged 15–24 years is expected to increase by more than 90 million by 2030, and most will be in rural areas.

“Young rural people faced with the prospect of a life of grinding poverty may see few other alternatives than to migrate, at the risk of becoming only marginally better off as they may outnumber available jobs in urban settings.”

Enormous Untapped Potential

The overarching conclusion of this report is that fulfilling the 2030 Agenda depends crucially on progress in rural areas, which is where most of the poor and hungry live, said the FAO Director General.

“It presents evidence to show that, since the 1990s, rural transformations in many countries have led to an increase of more than 750 million in the number of rural people living above the poverty line.”

To achieve the same results in the countries that have been left behind, the report outlines a strategy that would leverage the “enormous untapped potential of food systems” to drive agro-industrial development, boost small-scale farmers’ productivity and incomes, and create off-farm employment in expanding segments of food supply and value chains.

“This inclusive rural transformation would contribute to the eradication of rural poverty, while at the same time helping end poverty and malnutrition in urban areas.”

A major force behind inclusive rural transformation will be the growing demand coming from urban food markets, which consume up to 70 per cent of the food supply even in countries with large rural populations, he added.

The FAO chief explained that thanks to higher incomes, urban consumers are making significant changes in their diets, away from staples and towards higher-value fish, meat, eggs, dairy products, fruit and vegetables, and more processed foods in general.

The value of urban food markets in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to grow from 150 billion dollars to 500 billion dollars between 2010 and 2030, said Graziano da Silva.

Urbanisation thus provides a “golden opportunity for agriculture”, he added. However, it also presents challenges for millions of small-scale family farmers. “More profitable markets can lead to the concentration of food production in large commercial farms, to value chains dominated by large processors and retailers, and to the exclusion of smallholders.”

Small-Scale Producers

According to the FAO head, to ensure that small-scale producers participate fully in meeting urban food demand, policy measures are needed that: reduce the barriers limiting their access to inputs; foster the adoption of environmentally sustainable approaches and technologies; increase access to credit and markets; facilitate farm mechanisation; revitalise agricultural extension systems; strengthen land tenure rights; ensure equity in supply contracts; and strengthen small-scale producer organisations.

“No amount of urban demand alone will improve production and market conditions for small-scale farming,” he said. “Supportive public policies and investment are a key pillar of inclusive rural transformation.”

The second pillar is the development of agro-industry and the infrastructure needed to connect rural areas and urban markets, said Grazano da Silva, adding that in the coming years, many small-scale farmers are likely to leave agriculture, and most will be unable to find decent employment in largely low-productivity rural economies.

Agro-Industry Already Important

In sub-Saharan Africa, food and beverage processing represents between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of total manufacturing value added in most countries, and in some more than 80 per cent, he said. “However, the growth of agro-industry is often held back by the lack of essential infrastructure – from rural roads and electrical power grids to storage and refrigerated transportation.”

In many low-income countries, such constraints are exacerbated by a lack of public- and private sector investment, FAO chief explained.

The third pillar of inclusive rural transformation is a territorial focus on rural development planning, designed to strengthen the physical, economic, social and political connections between small urban centres and their surrounding rural areas.

In the developing world, about half of the total urban population, or almost 1.5 billion people, live in cities and towns of 500,000 inhabitants or fewer, according to the report.

“Too often ignored by policy-makers and planners, territorial networks of small cities and towns are important reference points for rural people – the places where they buy their seed, send their children to school and access medical care and other services.”

Recent research has shown how the development of rural economies is often more rapid, and usually more inclusive, when integrated with that of these smaller urban areas.

“The agro-territorial development approach described in the report, links between small cities and towns and their rural ‘catchment areas’ are strengthened through infrastructure works and policies that connect producers, agro-industrial processors and ancillary services, and other downstream segments of food value chains, including local circuits of food production and consumption.”

“Unless economic growth is made more inclusive, the global goals of ending poverty and achieving zero hunger by 2030 will not be reached,” warned Graziano da Silva.

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