Inter Press ServiceJoel Jaeger – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 20 Sep 2018 13:45:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 A Game-Changing Week on Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/a-game-changing-week-on-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-game-changing-week-on-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/a-game-changing-week-on-climate-change/#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 00:55:41 +0000 Joel Jaeger http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137813 – In recent days, two major developments have injected new life into international action on climate change. At the G20 summit in Australia, the United States pledged 3 billion dollars and Japan pledged 1.5 billion dollars to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), bringing total donations up to 7.5 billion so far. The GCF, established through […]

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UN Climate Wall at COP 15, Copenhagen. Credit: Troels Dejgaard Hansen/cc by 2.0

By Joel Jaeger
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 19 2014 (IPS)

– In recent days, two major developments have injected new life into international action on climate change.

At the G20 summit in Australia, the United States pledged 3 billion dollars and Japan pledged 1.5 billion dollars to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), bringing total donations up to 7.5 billion so far. The GCF, established through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, will distribute money to support developing countries in mitigating and adapting to climate change."While the figures might sound big, they pale in comparison to the actual needs on the ground and to what developed countries spend in other areas – for instance, the U.S. spends tens of billions of dollars every year on fossil fuel subsidies.” -- Brandon Wu of ActionAid USA

The new commitments to the GCF came on the heels of a landmark joint announcement by U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, creating ambitious new targets for domestic carbon emissions reduction.

The United States will aim to decrease its greenhouse gas emissions between 26 and 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. China will aim to reach peak carbon emissions around the year 2030 and decrease its emissions thereafter.

The two surprising announcements “really send a strong signal that both developed and developing countries are serious about getting to an ambitious climate agreement in 2015,” said Alex Doukas, a climate finance expert at the World Resources Institute, a Washington, DC think tank.

The GCF aims to be the central hub for international climate finance in the coming years. At an October meeting in Barbados, the basic practices of the GCF were firmly established and it was opened to funding contributions.

The 7.5 billion dollars that have been committed by 13 countries to the GCF bring it three quarters of the way to its initial 10-billion-dollar goal, to be distributed over the next few years. The gap may be closed on Nov. 20 at a pledging conference in Berlin. Several more countries are expected to announce their contributions, including the United Kingdom and Canada.

While the fund is primarily designed to aid developing countries, it has “both developed and developing country contributors,” Doukas told IPS. “Mexico and South Korea have already pledged resources, and other countries, including Colombia and Peru, that are not necessarily traditional contributors have indicated that they are going to step up as well.”

The decision-making board of the GCF is split evenly between developed and developing country constituencies.

“For a major, multilateral climate fund, I would say that the governance is much more balanced than previously,” Doukas said. “That’s one of the reasons for the creation of the Green Climate Fund, especially from the perspective of developing countries.”

As IPS has previously noted, the redistributive nature of the GCF acknowledges that the developing countries least responsible for climate change will often face the most severe consequences.

Advocates hope that the United States’ and Japan’s recent contributions will pave the way for more pledges on November 20th and a more robust climate finance system in general.

According to Jan Kowalzig, a climate finance expert at Oxfam Germany, the unofficial 10-billion-dollar goal for the GCF was set by developed countries, but developing countries have asked for at least 15 billion dollars.

The 10-billion-dollar goal is “an absolute minimum floor for what is needed in this initial phase,” he told IPS.

Brandon Wu, a senior policy analyst at ActionAid USA and one of two civil society representatives on the GCF Board, asserts that the climate finance efforts will soon need to be scaled up drastically.

“While the figures might sound big, they pale in comparison to the actual needs on the ground and to what developed countries spend in other areas – for instance, the US spends tens of billions of dollars every year on fossil fuel subsidies,” he told IPS.

The GCF may run into problems if countries attach caveats to their contributions, specifying exactly what types of activities they can be used for.

“Such strings are highly problematic as they run against the consensual spirit of the GCF board operations,” Kowalzig said.

He also warned that some of the contributions may come in the form of loans which need to be paid back instead of from grants.

After the pledging phase, much work remains to be done to establish a global climate finance roadmap towards 2020.

“The Green Climate Fund can and should play a major role,” Kowalzig said, “but the pledges, as important and welcome as they are, are only one component of what developed countries have promised to deliver.”

The other major development of the past week, Obama and Xi’s carbon emissions reduction announcement, also deserves both praise and scrutiny.

In an op-ed in the New York Times, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made clear the historic nature of the agreement.

“Two countries regarded for 20 years as the leaders of opposing camps in climate negotiations have come together to find common ground, determined to make lasting progress on an unprecedented global challenge,” he wrote.

While Barack Obama may be committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, Congress has expressed reservations. Mitch McConnell, soon to be the Senate majority leader, has called the plan “unrealistic” and complained that it would increase electricity prices and eliminate jobs.

On the Chinese side, Xi’s willingness to act on climate change and peak carbon emissions by 2030 was a substantial transformation from only a few years ago.

Andrew Steer, president and CEO of the World Resources Institute, said in a press release that China’s announcement was “a major development,” but noted that a few years difference in when peak emissions occur could have a huge impact on climate change.

“Analysis shows that China’s emissions should peak before 2030 to limit the worst consequences of climate change,” he said.

Researchers have said that China’s emissions would have peaked in the 2030s anyway, and that a more ambitious goal of 2025 could have been possible.

Still, the agreement indicates a new willingness of the world’s number one and number two biggest carbon emitters to work together constructively, and raises hopes for successful negotiations in December’s COP20 climate change conference in Lima, Peru.

Héla Cheikhrouhou, executive director of the GCF, was unapologetically enthusiastic about the new momentum built in recent days.

“This week’s announcements will be a legacy of U.S. President Obama,” she announced. “It will be seen by generations to come as the game-changing moment that started a scaling-up of global action on climate change, and that enabled the global agreement.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Polarised Congress Reflects Divided U.S. Publichttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/polarised-congress-reflects-divided-u-s-public/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=polarised-congress-reflects-divided-u-s-public http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/polarised-congress-reflects-divided-u-s-public/#respond Wed, 12 Nov 2014 14:26:55 +0000 Joel Jaeger http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137721 Less than 15 percent of U.S. citizens approve of the job that Congress is doing, a 40-year low, and few expect last week’s congressional elections to herald a new era of political cooperation. However, the polarised, gridlocked Congress reflects the increasing divisions in U.S. society itself. “The share of Americans who are consistently liberal or […]

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The U.S. Capitol Building undergoes a restoration project to repair more than 1,000 cracks that have appeared in the dome. Credit: Architect of the Capitol/cc by 2.0

By Joel Jaeger
NEW YORK, Nov 12 2014 (IPS)

Less than 15 percent of U.S. citizens approve of the job that Congress is doing, a 40-year low, and few expect last week’s congressional elections to herald a new era of political cooperation.

However, the polarised, gridlocked Congress reflects the increasing divisions in U.S. society itself.

“The share of Americans who are consistently liberal or consistently conservative is much greater today than it has been in the past,” said Jocelyn Kiley, associate director of research at the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan think tank that conducts public opinion polling.

“About 20 percent of the public is across-the-board either liberal or conservative, and that’s about double what it was 20 years ago,” she told IPS.

Essentially, the Pew Research Center found that U.S. citizens are becoming more ideologically consistent.

Democrats vs. Republicans

Democrats

Left-leaning – Liberal

More likely to support:
-Federal funding for education and healthcare
-Economic regulation
-Redistribution of wealth
-Gay marriage
-Abortion rights
-Decreased military spending
-Minimum wage increases
-Environmental protection

Republicans
Right-leaning – Conservative

More likely to support:
-Limited government
-The free market
-Individual liberty
-Gun rights
-Strong national security
-Increased military spending
-Free trade
-Oil-drilling

This means that if a person holds a liberal viewpoint on one particular issue, it is safer to assume that he or she also holds a liberal standpoint on other issues as well. Likewise with conservatives.

It’s important to note that U.S. citizens’ political views are not becoming more extreme; they are simply lining up in two consistent camps more so than in the past, a phenomenon that has been called sorting.

In the past, each party had some appeal to the other side. In the mid-1900s, liberal Republicans existed in the Northeast, and conservative Democrats existed in the South. No longer.  Today, there is little to no overlap between the parties.

According to the Pew Research study, “today, 92% of Republicans are to the right of the median (middle) Democrat, compared with 64% twenty years ago. And 94% of Democrats are to the left of the median Republican, up from 70% in 1994.”

Because of sorting, hostility between liberals and conservatives has risen.

When consistent partisans cannot think of a single issue on which they agree with the other side, they find it much harder to relate.

Pew Research found that, “In each party, the share with a highly negative view of the opposing party has more than doubled since 1994. Most of these intense partisans believe the opposing party’s policies ‘are so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being.’”

Currently, 43 percent of those who voted for Republicans and 38 percent of those who voted for Democrats view the opposite party in strongly negative terms.

Partisan animosity has even expanded to aspects of life usually seen as apolitical.

Thirty percent of across-the-board conservatives and 23 percent of across-the-board liberals say they would be unhappy if a family member married someone from the other party.

When it comes to the news media, liberals and conservatives live in different worlds. Another study, Political Polarization and Media Habits, found that liberals tend to trust a variety of news sources, while conservatives distrust most news sources and orient around one single media outlet.

Consistent liberals were likely to name CNN, NPR, MSNBC or the New York Times as their main news source, but no single outlet predominated. On the other hand, 47 percent of consistent conservatives named Fox News as their main news source. No other outlet came close.

On social media too, partisans find themselves in ideological echo chambers.

When on Facebook, conservatives are “more likely than those in other ideological groups to hear political opinions that are in line with their own views,” while liberals “are more likely than those in other ideological groups to block or ‘defriend’ someone on a social network – as well as to end a personal friendship – because of politics,” according to the study.

Despite concerns over polarisation, U.S. politics does still contain a moderate centre.

As Kiley puts it, “There are still many, many Americas who are not ideological down-the-line liberals or down-the-line conservatives.”

So where are these centrists? Not participating in politics, usually.

Kiley explains what is known as the political activism gap: the more consistent a person’s political views, the more likely he or she is to be politically engaged.

“Fully 78 percent of people with consistently conservative views say they always vote, 58 percent of people with consistently liberal views say they always vote, but that number is closer to about 40 percent among people who have about an equal mix of liberal and conservative positions,” she said.

The political activism gap applies beyond just voting too. Consistent partisans donate to campaigns, volunteer for political causes, and write letters to public officials at a higher rate than their more moderate peers.

As a result, government policymakers miss out on the voices in the centre.

Combine ideological sorting, increased partisan animosity, media isolation and the political activism gap, and you have a recipe for government gridlock.

Congress has not been this polarised since the late 1800s, during reconstruction after the U.S. Civil War.

“Sorting makes it more difficult to form cross-party coalitions,” Morris Fiorina, a Stanford political scientist, told IPS via email. “Each party has a very distinct base, so members have no electoral reason to reach across party lines and may well incur a penalty.”

In next year’s new session of Congress, many commentators do not believe there will be much progress.

“Whether gridlock will continue depends on how a Republican congressional majority chooses to behave,” Fiorina said. “If they believe that winning the presidency in 2016 requires that they demonstrate a capacity to govern responsibly, there is some possibility for cutting deals with Obama.  But they may not be able to control their hard-right wings.”

Even if Congress does somehow find a way to pass any significant legislation in the new session, it can expect to encounter a deeply divided public reaction.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Venezuela’s Security Council Election Inspires Controversyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/10/venezuelas-security-council-election-inspires-controversy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=venezuelas-security-council-election-inspires-controversy http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/10/venezuelas-security-council-election-inspires-controversy/#respond Fri, 17 Oct 2014 09:52:40 +0000 Joel Jaeger http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137272 Venezuela’s election to the U.N. Security Council is inspiring controversy even before it votes on a single resolution. On Thursday the U.N. General Assembly elected Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela to serve as non-permanent members of the Security Council for the next two years, beginning January 1st. Angola, Malaysia and Venezuela ran uncontested […]

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By Joel Jaeger
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 17 2014 (IPS)

Venezuela’s election to the U.N. Security Council is inspiring controversy even before it votes on a single resolution.

On Thursday the U.N. General Assembly elected Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela to serve as non-permanent members of the Security Council for the next two years, beginning January 1st.

Angola, Malaysia and Venezuela ran uncontested in their respective regional groups, while New Zealand and Spain fought off Turkey to claim the two open spots in the “Western European and Others” group.

Venezuela’s confirmation may not have been surprising, given that it was the only country competing for the Latin American and Caribbean seat, but it was controversial.

Venezuela had previously attempted to secure a place on the Council in 2006, but the United States’ public opposition stopped it in its tracks. Venezuela’s then-president Hugo Chávez had called George W. Bush “the devil” in a speech at the General Assembly less than a month before.

This time around, with Chávez replaced by Nicolás Maduro, the United States held its tongue before the elections.

After the vote, however, it was a different story.

In a statement following the elections, U.S. representative to the U.N. Samantha Power said that “Venezuela’s conduct at the U.N. has run counter to the spirit of the U.N. Charter, and its violations of human rights at home are at odds with the Charter’s letter.”

“The United States will continue to call upon the government of Venezuela to respect the fundamental freedoms and universal human rights of its people,” she said.

Venezuela also attracted criticism from several human rights groups.

“Under the UN Charter, candidates to the Security Council must be those who have contributed to international peace and security,” said Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based NGO. “Yet Venezuela is notorious as the only country at the U.N. Human Rights Council last year to vote against holding Syria accountable, effectively backing its mass murder of 200,000 people.”

With 181 “yes” votes from the General Assembly’s 193 voting members, Venezuelan diplomats and politicians were euphoric.

According to Venezuela’s foreign minister, Rafael Ramirez Carreño, the election was “the result of a long and sustained effort of president Nicolás Maduro when he decided to move forward with its model of the peaceful settlement of conflicts, which has been so successful domestically.”

Ramirez also dedicated the victory to Hugo Chávez, who died in office last year.

Chávez may be gone, but his presence will be felt in the Council. María Gabriela Chávez, Hugo’s daughter, was recently appointed to be Venezuela’s deputy U.N. ambassador.

Venezuela and the other four incoming countries will join current non-permanent members Chad, Chile, Jordan, Lithuania and Nigeria.

The Security Council is made up of five permanent members, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and the United States, who all yield veto power, and ten non-permanent members who rotate in two-year cycles.

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Arms Trade Treaty Gains Momentum with 50th Ratificationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/arms-trade-treaty-gains-momentum-with-50th-ratification/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=arms-trade-treaty-gains-momentum-with-50th-ratification http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/arms-trade-treaty-gains-momentum-with-50th-ratification/#comments Sun, 28 Sep 2014 10:17:50 +0000 Joel Jaeger http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136910 With state support moving at an unprecedented pace, the Arms Trade Treaty will enter into force on Dec. 24, 2014, only 18 months after it was opened for signature. Eight states – Argentina, the Bahamas, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Czech Republic, Saint Lucia, Portugal, Senegal and Uruguay – ratified the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) at a […]

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State parties to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) are obligated under international law to assess their exports of conventional weapons to determine whether there is a danger that they will be used to fuel conflict. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS

By Joel Jaeger
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 28 2014 (IPS)

With state support moving at an unprecedented pace, the Arms Trade Treaty will enter into force on Dec. 24, 2014, only 18 months after it was opened for signature.

Eight states – Argentina, the Bahamas, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Czech Republic, Saint Lucia, Portugal, Senegal and Uruguay – ratified the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) at a special event at the United Nations this past Thursday, Sep. 25, pushing the number of states parties up to 53.

As per article 22 of the treaty, the ATT comes into force as a part of international law 90 days after the 50th instrument of ratification is deposited.

“We are dealing with an instrument that introduces humanitarian considerations into an area that has traditionally been couched in the language of national defence and security, as well as secrecy." -- Paul Holtom, head of the peace, reconciliation and security team at Coventry University’s Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations
According to a statement by the Control Arms coalition, “The ATT is one of the fastest arms agreements to move toward entry into force.”

The speed at which the treaty received 50 ratifications “shows tremendous momentum for the ATT and a lot of significant political commitment and will,” said Paul Holtom, head of the peace, reconciliation and security team at Coventry University’s Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations.

“The challenge now is to translate the political will into action, both in terms of ensuring that States Parties are able to fulfil – and are fulfilling – their obligations under the Treaty,” Holtom told IPS in an email.

So what are the requirements under the ATT?

ATT states parties are obligated under international law to assess their exports of conventional weapons to determine whether there is a danger that they will be used to fuel conflict.

Article 6(3) of the treaty forbids states from authorising transfers if they have the knowledge that the arms would be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. Article 7 prohibits transfers if there is an overriding risk of the weapons being used to undermine peace and security or commit a serious violation of international humanitarian or human rights law.

In addition, states parties are required to take a number of measures to prevent diversion of weapons to the illicit market and produce annual reports of their imports and exports of conventional arms.

The treaty applies to eight categories of conventional arms, ranging from battle tanks to small arms and light weapons.

The successful entry into force of the ATT will be a big win for arms control campaigners and NGOs, who have been fighting for the regulation of the arms trade for more than a decade.

When Control Arms launched a global campaign in 2003, “Mali, Costa Rica and Cambodia were the only three governments who would publically say that they supported talk of the idea of an arms trade treaty,” Anna MacDonald, director of the Control Arms secretariat, told IPS.

NGO supporters of the treaty often brought up the fact that the global trade in bananas was more regulated than the trade in weapons.

The organisations in the Control Arms coalition supported the ATT process through “a mix of campaigning, advocacy, pressure on governments” and “proving technical expertise on what actually could be done, how a treaty could look, [and] what provisions needed to be in it,” MacDonald said.

All of the legwork has paid off, as the treaty will become operational far earlier than many expected.

Today’s 53rd ratification is just the start. So far, 121 countries have signed the treaty, and 154 voted in favour of its adoption in April 2013 in the General Assembly.

“There’s no reason why we would not expect all of those who voted in favour to sign and ultimately to ratify the treaty,” said MacDonald.

Sceptics contend that the worst human rights abusers will not agree to the treaty. For example, Syria was one of three states that voted against the ATT’s adoption in the General Assembly.

However, MacDonald believes that once enough countries join the ATT, the holdouts will face an enormous amount of political pressure to comply as well.

With a sufficient number of states parties, the ATT will “establish a new global standard for arms transfers, which makes it politically very difficult for even countries that have not signed it to ignore its provisions,” she told IPS.

MacDonald cited the Ottawa Convention, which banned anti-personnel landmines, as an example.

Many of the world’s biggest landmine users and exporters have not joined the Ottawa convention, but the use of landmines has fallen anyway because of the political stigma that developed.

Much work remains to be done in the months before Dec. 24 and in the upcoming years as the ATT system evolves.

States will need to create or update transfer control systems and enforcement mechanisms for regulating exports, imports and brokering as well as minimising diversion, according to Holtom.

“There are a lot of issues to be discussed before the Conference of States Parties and it will take several years before we can really see an impact,” he told IPS. “But we need to now make sure that the ATT can be put into effect and States and other key stakeholders work together towards achieving its object and purpose.”

The first conference of states parties will take place in Mexico in 2015.

Participating countries must provide their first report on arms exports and imports by May 31, 2015 and a report on measures that they have taken to implement the treaty by late 2015, Holtom said.

No matter the challenges to come, the simple fact that arms trade control is on the agenda is quite historic.

“We are dealing with an instrument that introduces humanitarian considerations into an area that has traditionally been couched in the language of national defence and security, as well as secrecy,” said Holtom.

On Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon claimed, “Today we can look ahead with satisfaction to the date of this historic new Treaty’s entry into force.”

“Now we must work for its efficient implementation and seek its universalisation so that the regulation of armaments – as expressed in the Charter of the United Nations – can become a reality once and for all,” he said in a statement delivered by U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Climate Summit: Much Talk, A Bit of Walkhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/climate-summit-much-talk-a-bit-of-walk/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-summit-much-talk-a-bit-of-walk http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/climate-summit-much-talk-a-bit-of-walk/#respond Wed, 24 Sep 2014 11:43:28 +0000 Joel Jaeger http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136855 Speaking to more than 120 heads of state at the U.N. Climate Summit, actor and newly appointed U.N. Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio made clear the long-ranging impact of the attendees’ decisions. “You will make history,” he said, “or you will be vilified by it.” Tuesday’s climate summit was not a part of the U.N. […]

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Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, a member of civil society from the Marshall Islands, received a standing ovation at the opening of the U.N. Climate Summit 2014 for her poem addressed to her daughter. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

By Joel Jaeger
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 24 2014 (IPS)

Speaking to more than 120 heads of state at the U.N. Climate Summit, actor and newly appointed U.N. Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio made clear the long-ranging impact of the attendees’ decisions.

“You will make history,” he said, “or you will be vilified by it.”All eyes were on China and the United States, respectively the number one and number two carbon emitting countries in the world.

Tuesday’s climate summit was not a part of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiation framework. Instead, it was a special event convened by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to catalyse public opinion and increase political will for a binding climate agreement to be negotiated in Paris at the end of 2015.

“This mixture of governmental, business, cities, states [and] civil society engagement is certainly unprecedented and it offers a chance to open the climate change discussion at a heads of state level as never before,” said Jennifer Morgan, director of the climate and energy programme at the World Resources Institute (WRI), in a statement before the summit.

The secretary-general opened the summit by exhorting leaders to make substantial commitments to mitigate climate change.

“Climate change is the defining issue of our age,” he said. “We must work together to mobilise markets” and “commit to a meaningful, universal climate agreement in Paris in 2015.”

In three simultaneous sessions, world leaders announced national action and ambition plans to combat climate change. These announcements included pledges to cut emissions, donate money to the Green Climate Fund, halt deforestation and undertake efforts to put a price on carbon.

Representatives from small island states lamented that their countries would be underwater in only a few decades, while African leaders pointed out the growing number of climate refugees.

All eyes were on China and the United States, respectively the number one and number two carbon emitting countries in the world.

U.S. President Barack Obama announced that all future U.S. investments in international development would consider climate resiliency as an important factor. He also said that the U.S. would meet its target of reducing carbon emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2020.

“We recognise our role in creating this problem. We embrace our responsibility to combat it,” Obama said. “We will do our part and we will help developing nations to do theirs.”

“But we can only succeed in combating climate change if we are joined in this effort by every nation, developed and developing alike. Nobody gets a pass.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping did not attend the climate summit, but instead sent Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.

While some were disappointed at Xi’s absence, the fact that such a high-ranking Chinese official would speak of the necessity of climate change mitigation was cause for optimism.

In a reaction statement, WRI’s Jennifer Morgan said that “China’s remarks at the Climate Summit go further than ever before. Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli’s announcement to strive to peak emissions ‘as early as possible’ is a welcome signal for the cooperative action we need for the Paris Agreement.”

China alone accounts for one quarter of worldwide carbon emissions annually.

Narendra Modi, newly elected prime minister of India, also declined to attend the climate summit. India is the world’s third largest emitter of carbon.

Midway through the day, the secretary-general was insistent that real progress was being made.

“This summit is not about talk,” he said. “The climate summit is producing actions that make a difference.”

One of the most concrete things that nations can do to combat climate change is to make pledges to the Green Climate Fund.

The Green Climate Fund is a UNFCCC mechanism designed to transfer money from developed countries to developing countries, to build climate resilience.

During the summit French President François Hollande pledged one billion dollars to the Climate Fund over the next few years. Several other countries, including Norway and Switzerland, also promised to contribute smaller amounts. Germany pledged one billion dollars to the fund several months ago.

Still, these efforts do not nearly close the climate resilience gap between rich and poor states.

Bolivian President Evo Morales voiced a common frustration in his statement on behalf of the G77 and China, a group of developing countries.

“Developing countries continue to suffer the most from the adverse impacts of climate change… even though they are historically the least responsible for climate change,” he said.

Morales criticised developed countries for failing to uphold their commitments, and said that developing countries would only be able to fulfil their commitments to reducing carbon without substantial financial assistance from developed countries.

It’s easy “to get caught in the zero-sum game” when talking about steps to mitigate climate change, David Waskow, head of WRI’s International Climate Initiative, told IPS. However, “one of the things that was heard frequently today from the podium was the recognition that climate action and economic growth and development can go hand in hand.”

Historical responsibility is a concern, he said, but it should not stop poor countries from recognising that “there are paths forward on climate action that can in fact be beneficial for development.”

Waskow pointed out that renewable energy will soon be just as cheap as fossil fuels in many countries, and could provide significant development benefits in rural areas far from the main electricity grid.

In addition to the climate summit’s main speeches, numerous side events took place, including thematic debates on the economic case for action and on climate science. A special session entitled “Voices from the Climate Front Lines” highlighted the experiences of children, youth, women and indigenous peoples in building resilience to climate change.

Meanwhile, popular support for action against climate change is gaining energy.

Around 100 climate-related events are taking place in New York between Sep. 22 and 28 as part of the Climate Week NYC campaign.

Two days before the summit, around 400,000 climate supporters joined the People’s Climate March in New York, several times the expected number.

Buses carried in marchers from across the United States. Solidarity marches and events occurred in 166 countries.

Ban, Leonardo DiCaprio, climate change activist and ex-U.S. President Al Gore and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio all participated in New York’s march.

Despite the strong turnout, many climate supporters fear that the hype surrounding the summit and the 2015 Paris conference will amount to nothing more than it did in 2009, when hopes of a climate agreement in Copenhagen fizzled.

When asked whether enough had changed since 2009 to result in a successful climate treaty, Brandon Wu, senior policy analyst at ActionAid USA, told IPS “I think there’s been enough [change] to get something through. I don’t think there’s been enough to get through something as ambitious as we need.”

For the 2015 Paris agreement to succeed, negotiators will need a “clear, focused and strong draft agreement” by the end of the U.N.’s climate change conference (COP20) in Lima this December, said COP20 president and Peruvian environmental minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal in a press call.

Major economies will need to come forward by March 2015 with their proposed contributions to the Paris framework.

In his remarks at the climate summit, Al Gore put forward his take on what was necessary for a successful climate treaty.

“All we need is political will, but political will is a renewable resource.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Climate Summit Builds Political Willhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/climate-summit-builds-political-will/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-summit-builds-political-will http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/climate-summit-builds-political-will/#respond Tue, 23 Sep 2014 09:33:42 +0000 Joel Jaeger http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136849 Speaking to more than 120 heads of state at the U.N. Climate Summit, actor and newly appointed U.N. Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio made clear the long-ranging impact of the attendees’ decisions. “You will make history,” he said, “or you will be vilified by it.” Tuesday’s climate summit was not a part of the U.N. […]

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By Joel Jaeger
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 23 2014 (IPS)

Speaking to more than 120 heads of state at the U.N. Climate Summit, actor and newly appointed U.N. Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio made clear the long-ranging impact of the attendees’ decisions.

“You will make history,” he said, “or you will be vilified by it.”

Tuesday’s climate summit was not a part of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiation framework. Instead, it was a special event convened by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to catalyse public opinion and increase political will for a binding climate agreement to be negotiated in Paris at the end of 2015.

“This mixture of governmental, business, cities, states [and] civil society engagement is certainly unprecedented and it offers a chance to open the climate change discussion at a heads of state level as never before,” said Jennifer Morgan, director of the climate and energy programme at the World Resources Institute (WRI), in a statement before the summit.

The Secretary General opened the summit by exhorting leaders to make substantial commitments to mitigate climate change.

“Climate change is the defining issue of our age,” he said. “We must work together to mobilize markets” and “commit to a meaningful, universal climate agreement in Paris in 2015.”

In three simultaneous sessions, world leaders announced national action and ambition plans to combat climate change. These announcements included pledges to cut emissions, donate money to the Green Climate Fund, halt deforestation and undertake efforts to put a price on carbon.

Representatives from small island states lamented that their countries would be underwater in only a few decades, while African leaders pointed out the growing number of climate refugees.

All eyes were on China and the United States, respectively the number one and number two carbon emitting countries in the world.

U.S. President Barack Obama announced that all future U.S. investments in international development would consider climate resiliency as an important factor. He also said that the U.S. would meet its target of reducing carbon emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2020.

“We recognize our role in creating this problem. We embrace our responsibility to combat it,” Obama said. “We will do our part and we will help developing nations to do theirs.”

“But we can only succeed in combating climate change if we are joined in this effort by every nation, developed and developing alike. Nobody gets a pass.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping did not attend the climate summit, but instead sent Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.

While some were disappointed at Xi’s absence, the fact that such a high-ranking Chinese official would speak of the necessity of climate change mitigation was cause for optimism

In a reaction statement, WRI’s Jennifer Morgan said that “China’s remarks at the Climate Summit go further than ever before. Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli’s announcement to strive to peak emissions ‘as early as possible’ is a welcome signal for the cooperative action we need for the Paris Agreement.”

China alone accounts for one quarter of worldwide carbon emissions annually.

Narendra Modi, newly elected prime minister of India, also declined to attend the climate summit. India is the world’s third largest emitter of carbon.

Midway through the day, the Secretary General was insistent that real progress was being made.

“This summit is not about talk,” he said. “The climate summit is producing actions that make a difference.”
One of the most concrete things that nations can do to combat climate change is to make pledges to the Green Climate Fund.

The Green Climate Fund is a UNFCCC mechanism designed to transfer money from developed countries to developing countries, to build climate resilience.

During the summit French President François Hollande pledged one billion dollars to the Climate Fund over the next few years. Several other countries, including Norway and Switzerland, also promised to contribute smaller amounts. Germany pledged one billion dollars to the fund several months ago.

Still, these efforts do not nearly close the climate resilience gap between rich and poor states.

Bolivian President Evo Morales voiced a common frustration in his statement on behalf of the G77 and China, a group of developing countries.

“Developing countries continue to suffer the most from the adverse impacts of climate change… even though they are historically the least responsible for climate change,” he said.

Morales criticized developed countries for failing to uphold their commitments, and said that developing countries would only be able to fulfil their commitments to reducing carbon without substantial financial assistance from developed countries.

It’s easy “to get caught in the zero-sum game” when talking about steps to mitigate climate change, David Waskow, head of WRI’s International Climate Initiative, told IPS. However, “one of the things that was heard frequently today from the podium was the recognition that climate action and economic growth and development can go hand in hand.”

Historical responsibility is a concern, he said, but it should not stop poor countries from recognizing that “there are paths forward on climate action that can in fact be beneficial for development.”

Waskow pointed out that renewable energy will soon be just as cheap as fossil fuels in many countries, and could provide significant development benefits in rural areas far from the main electricity grid.

In addition to the climate summit’s main speeches, numerous side events took place, including thematic debates on the economic case for action and on climate science. A special session entitled “Voices from the Climate Front Lines” highlighted the experiences of children, youth, women and indigenous peoples in building resilience to climate change.

Meanwhile, popular support for action against climate change is gaining energy.

Around 100 climate-related events are taking place in New York between September 22 and 28 as part of the Climate Week NYC campaign.

Two days before the summit, around 400,000 climate supporters joined the People’s Climate March in New York, several times the expected amount.

Buses carried in marchers from across the United States. Solidarity marches and events occurred in 166 countries.
The Secretary General, Leonardo DiCaprio, climate change activist and ex-U.S. President Al Gore and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio all participated in New York’s march.

Despite the strong turnout, many climate supporters fear that the hype surrounding the summit and the 2015 Paris conference will amount to nothing more than it did in 2009, when hopes of a climate agreement in Copenhagen fizzled.

When asked whether enough had changed since 2009 to result in a successful climate treaty, Brandon Wu, Senior Policy Analyst at ActionAid USA, told IPS “I think there’s been enough [change] to get something through. I don’t think there’s been enough to get through something as ambitious as we need.”

For the 2015 Paris agreement to succeed, negotiators will need a “clear, focused and strong draft agreement” by the end of the U.N.’s climate change conference (COP20) in Lima this December, said COP20 president and Peruvian environmental minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal in a press call.

Major economies will need to come forward by March 2015 with their proposed contributions to the Paris framework.
In his remarks at the climate summit, Al Gore put forward his take on what was necessary for a successful climate treaty.

“All we need is political will, but political will is a renewable resource.”

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Tackling Climate Change and Promoting Development: A “Win-Win”http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/tackling-climate-change-and-promoting-development-a-win-win/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tackling-climate-change-and-promoting-development-a-win-win http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/tackling-climate-change-and-promoting-development-a-win-win/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 14:23:28 +0000 Joel Jaeger http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136682 A widespread perception exists that developing countries must make a choice between tackling climate change and fighting poverty. This assumption is incorrect, according to the authors of a new report on green growth. The New Climate Economy (NCE) report was launched on Tuesday at the United Nations by the Global Commission on the Economy and […]

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The cost of solar energy has fallen by 90 percent in the last half dozen years. Credit: UN Photo/Pasqual Gorriz

By Joel Jaeger
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 17 2014 (IPS)

A widespread perception exists that developing countries must make a choice between tackling climate change and fighting poverty. This assumption is incorrect, according to the authors of a new report on green growth.

The New Climate Economy (NCE) report was launched on Tuesday at the United Nations by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, which is chaired by former Mexican President Felipe Calderón."Reforms will entail costs and trade-offs, and will often require governments to deal with difficult problems of political economy, distribution and governance.” -- Milan Brahmbhatt of WRI

“The report sends a clear message to government and private sector leaders: we can improve the economy and tackle climate change at the same time,” said Calderón.

“Future economic growth does not have to copy the high carbon path that has been observed so far,” he added.

Focusing on the global aggregate rather than individual countries, the NCE report charts the path that the world economy must take over the next 15 years. To improve the lives of the poor and lower carbon emissions to a safe level, a vast transformation must be made. But here is the surprise: it will cost much less than expected.

In a business-as-usual scenario, the world will invest about 89 trillion dollars in urban, agricultural and energy infrastructure over the next 15 years, the report predicts.

On the other hand, a low-carbon path would require 94 trillion dollars over the next 15 years, and its benefits in reducing resource scarcity and improving basic liveability would more than make up for the difference.

The window of opportunity will not stay open for long, however.

“If we don’t take action in the coming years it will be every day more expensive and more difficult to shift towards the low carbon economy at the global level,” Calderón said.

Jeremy Oppenheim, global programme director for the NCE report, explained the details.

The commission’s work focuses on three systems: cities, land use and energy. In each case, the implementation of greener policies can also lead to greater development.

In terms of urban systems, “our main focus has been how to drive to higher productivity in cities through improved transport systems,” Oppenheim said. Economic gains can be achieved “through improved urban form by having cities that are denser and that are essentially better places to live.”

Urban sprawl is the enemy when it comes to environmentally-friendly city design. For example, Barcelona and Atlanta both have about five million people, but Barcelona fits into 162 square kilometres, while Atlanta is spread across 4,280 square kilometres. As a result, Atlanta emits more than 10 times more CO2 per person than Barcelona.

Efficient cities generally deliver improved economic and environmental performance.

Low-income countries must “get the infrastructure right the first time so they urbanise in a high productivity way,” Oppenheim told IPS.

Moving on to agriculture, Oppenheim said that “we think that it is possible to increase yields by more than one percent a year.”

The NCE report states that “restoring just 12% of the world’s degraded agricultural land could feed 200 million people by 2030, while also strengthening climate resilience and reducing emissions.”

Reducing deforestation also has wide benefits to the economic system and to agricultural productivity, as well as the obvious climate benefits.

The report recommends that world leaders halt deforestation of natural forests by 2030 and restore at least 500 million hectares of degraded forests and agricultural lands.

As for the third system to be reformed, energy, the biggest economic and environmental opportunity will come from a shift away from the widespread use of coal. Coal is not as economically efficient as once thought, especially since the health problems caused by coal pollution reduce national incomes by an average of four percent per year.

The report’s authors recommend a halt to the creation of new coal plants immediately in the developed world and by 2025 in middle-income countries. Natural gas may serve as a stopgap for a short period of time, but it too must eventually give way to low-carbon energy sources.

Transforming so much energy infrastructure may be more economical than expected.

“We are stunned by the progress that has been made in renewable energy,” Oppenheim said. “The cost of solar has come down by 90 percent in the last half dozen years.”

If the price of solar energy continues its downward tumble, it will soon be cheaper than fossil fuels, leading to a natural shift in investment even without government intervention.

Governments will have to make a number of significant decisions to facilitate the change, however.

Currently, the market for energy is distorted by government subsidies. According to the report, governments around the world subsidise fossil fuels for an estimated 600 billion dollars, but only subsidise clean energy for 100 billion.

Lord Nicholas Stern, co-chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, says that “those subsidies have to go.”

“They’re giving the wrong signals. They’re encouraging the use of polluting fossils fuels. They’re subsidising damage.”

Governments need to set up “strong, predictable and rising carbon prices,” according to Stern.

With clarity on carbon prices, incentives to pollute would decrease and investors would put their money towards low-carbon options.

Although the NCE report may be the most optimistic document on climate change to come out of the U.N. in years, the authors do realise that their recommendations may be difficult to follow.

Milan Brahmbhatt, a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute and one of the authors of the NCE report, told IPS that “there is no simple reform formula or agenda that will work for all countries.”

“The report focuses specifically on ‘win-win’ reforms to strengthen growth, poverty reduction and improvements in well-being, which also help tackle climate risk,” Brahmbhatt said. “‘Win-wins’ are not necessarily ‘easy wins’ though. Reforms will entail costs and trade-offs, and will often require governments to deal with difficult problems of political economy, distribution and governance.”

The report’s launch was strategically timed one week before the secretary-general’s climate summit, which will convene an unprecedented number of world leaders to make public pledges on national climate change mitigation efforts. Ban Ki-moon hopes the summit will generate the necessary political will for a binding climate change agreement to be negotiated in Paris next year.

A binding agreement in Paris would give countries the confidence to pursue strong national climate policies, knowing that they are not the only ones doing so, and could give assistance to developing countries that are more vulnerable to climate change but less responsible for it, according to Stern.

While the NCE report only covers the next 15 years, 2030 will not signal the end of efforts to tackle climate change. “Beyond 2030 net global emissions will need to fall further towards near zero or below in the second half of the century,” the report says.

It may not cover everything, but the NCE report reassures worried leaders of the enormous potential for green growth. The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, an independent initiative created by Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Norway, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom, plans to directly share its report with world leaders in an upcoming consultation period.

Felipe Calderón believes that the report’s optimistic and practical message will help it make a big splash.

“With this report we now have a set of tools that global leaders can use to foster the growth that we all need while reducing the climate risks that we all face,” he said.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at joelmjaeger@gmail.com

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Global Citizenship: “From Me to We to Peace”http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/global-citizenship-from-me-to-we-to-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-citizenship-from-me-to-we-to-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/global-citizenship-from-me-to-we-to-peace/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 14:56:05 +0000 Joel Jaeger http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136569 If a Silicon Valley existed for the culture of peace, it would most likely look to global citizenship as the next big industry shake-up. “Global citizenship, or oneness of humanity [is] the essential element of the culture of peace,” Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, former under-secretary general and high representative of the U.N., told IPS on the […]

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The U.N. has held High-Level Forums on the Culture of Peace for the past three years. Ambassador Chowdhury moderates a panel at last year’s event. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Joel Jaeger
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 10 2014 (IPS)

If a Silicon Valley existed for the culture of peace, it would most likely look to global citizenship as the next big industry shake-up.

“Global citizenship, or oneness of humanity [is] the essential element of the culture of peace,” Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, former under-secretary general and high representative of the U.N., told IPS on the sidelines of the General Assembly’s High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace Tuesday.“We need to think about the culture of peace as a start-up operation." -- Kathleen Kuehnast

The day-long forum included panel discussions on global citizenship and the contributions of women and youth to a nonviolent world community.

Ambassador Chowdhury took the lead in putting the culture of peace on the U.N. agenda in the late 1990s. The culture of peace concept was evolving in the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), but Chowdhury felt that it deserved to be discussed at an even higher level.

The U.N. needed “to shift gear” away from peacekeeping operations “to focus on individual and community transformation,” Chowdhury told IPS.

In 1999, at the urging of Chowdhury, the General Assembly (GA) passed the milestone Resolution 53/243 on the “Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace.”  The resolution asserts that a culture of peace is a way of life based on non-violence, territorial integrity, human rights, the right to development, freedom of expression and the promotion of equal rights for women and men.

Article 4 of the resolution makes clear that “Education at all levels is one of the principal means to build a culture of peace.” Governments, civil society, the media, parents and teachers are all called upon to promote a peaceful culture.

The 1999 resolution also led to the observance from 2001 to 2010 of the U.N. International Decade for Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World.

While its official decade may be over, the culture of peace continues to be relevant 15 years after Resolution 53/243 was adopted. Each year, the GA adopts a resolution reaffirming the commitment of member states to building a culture of peace.

This year’s all-day event built on the success of two past high-level forums in 2012 and 2013, giving member states, U.N. entities and civil society a chance to exchange ideas on how to best promote nonviolence, cooperation and respect for all.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon kicked off the day with an endorsement of the culture of peace.

“We need new forms of cultural literacy and diplomacy, between societies and within them,” he said. “We need educational curricula to deepen global solidarity and citizenship.

“Every day, I see the need to build a new culture of mediation, conflict resolution, peace-building and peace-keeping.”

Interactive panels focused on the keys to attaining a culture of peace.

Lakhsmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, highlighted the role of women in building and sustaining the culture of peace.

Women “must be seen as agents of conflict prevention,” she said.

“With women, mothers, grandmothers, other family members often being the first teachers of children, they have and can play a vital role in educating young people to the value of peace.”

Women should bring their leadership and solutions to the peacemaking table, according to the panellists.

The youth population is also crucial to making a culture of peace a reality.

“Young people can be agents of peace,” said Ahmad Alhendawi, the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth. “We must continue working together to ensure that the largest generation of humans is an opportunity, not a liability for our time.”

Kathleen Kuehnast, director of the Centre for Gender and Peacebuilding at the U.S. Institute of Peace, received a round of applause when she proposed a new perspective on the culture of peace, invoking the analogy of creative, high-energy entrepreneurship.

“We need to incentivise peacebuilding,” she said. “We need to think about the culture of peace as a start-up operation. What we need is a Silicon Valley for nonviolent approaches to global problem solving.”

Dot Maver, president of the New York-based National Peace Academy, identified emerging trends and concepts that herald the rise of global citizenship, such as the sharing economy, the global commons and bioregional dialogues.

As a human community, “We are making this shift from I or me to we,” Maver said. Global citizenship is a pathway “from me to we to peace.”

While the U.N. is a strong supporter of global citizenship and the culture of peace, it could do a much better job of spreading the message, according to Ambassador Chowdhury.

The “U.N. has been focusing and putting most of its money on hardware for peacekeeping,” Chowdhury told IPS. It should be concentrating more on the “transformation of individuals into agents of peace and nonviolence.”

Throwing money at educational infrastructure will not be enough, Chowdhury said, because there is no guarantee that it would go toward the right type of education. The U.N. must work more with communities and societies to build education systems that teach young people to be citizens of the world.

“It has to be a comprehensive approach,” Chowdhury said. “It should be a transformational investment.”

In her remarks, Dot Maver made the observation that “energy follows thought, and we know that whatever we choose to focus on, we will get more of in life.”

Supporters of the culture of peace hope that the energy and ideas from Tuesday’s high-level forum will spread the message of global citizenship to the human community, leading to a true transformation.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at joelmjaeger@gmail.com

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LGBT Visibility in Africa Also Brings Backlashhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/lgbt-visibility-in-africa-also-brings-backlash/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lgbt-visibility-in-africa-also-brings-backlash http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/lgbt-visibility-in-africa-also-brings-backlash/#respond Tue, 09 Sep 2014 10:48:52 +0000 Joel Jaeger http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136540 Eighteen-year-old Gift Makau enjoyed playing and refereeing football games in her neighbourhood in the North West Province of South Africa. She had come out to her parents as a lesbian and had never been heckled by her community, according to her cousin. On Aug. 15 she was found by her mother in a back alley, […]

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Kenyan LGBT rights supporters protest Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law. Credit: Dai Kurokawa/EPA

By Joel Jaeger
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 9 2014 (IPS)

Eighteen-year-old Gift Makau enjoyed playing and refereeing football games in her neighbourhood in the North West Province of South Africa. She had come out to her parents as a lesbian and had never been heckled by her community, according to her cousin.

On Aug. 15 she was found by her mother in a back alley, where she had been raped, tortured and killed.“Homophobia becomes both a ruse and a distraction from other real substantive issues, whether those are economic or political.” -- HRW's Graeme Reid

Shehnilla Mohamed, Africa director for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGHLRC), said that Gift’s murder was part of a disturbing trend in which gender-nonconforming individuals are targeted for so-called corrective rape.

“Corrective rape is really the attempt of the society to try to punish the person for acting outside the norm,” Mohamed said.

In the past 10 years in South Africa, 31 lesbians have been reported killed as the result of corrective rape, she said.  A charity called Luleki Sizwe estimates that 10 lesbians are raped or gang raped a week in Cape Town alone.

Transgender, gay or effeminate men are also the subject of corrective rape, but they are less likely to be murdered and are less likely to report it.

If this is happening in South Africa, the only mainland African country to allow legal same-sex marriage, what is it like to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) elsewhere on the continent?

“The type of brutality that you see happening to lesbians and to homosexuals in parts of Africa is just beyond comprehension,” Mohamed told IPS. “It’s like your worst horror movie, and even worse than that.”

More than two-thirds of African countries have laws criminalising consensual same-sex acts, according to IGLHRC.

“Overall what we’ve seen is a fairly bleak picture that’s emerging,” said Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT Program at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Africa is seeing “an intensification of the political use of homophobia,” he said.

Nigeria and Uganda made headlines in early 2014 when they signed anti-homosexuality bills that handed out long prison sentences for being homosexual or for refusing to turn in a known homosexual.

On Aug. 1, Uganda’s law was declared unconstitutional on procedural grounds by its supreme court, but Shehnilla Mohamed expects that it will be back on the table again once international attention shifts away.

Long-time African leaders who wish to extend their stay in office often try to whip up anti-homosexuality sentiment.

“Homophobia becomes both a ruse and a distraction from other real substantive issues, whether those are economic or political,” Graeme Reid said.

Chalwe Mwansa, a Zambian activist and IGHLRC fellow, told IPS that in his country, politicians equate cases of pedophilia and incest with homosexuality, fabricating sensational stories to inflame the public. This strategy diverts attention away from problems with unemployment, poverty, health and education.

Some leaders also claim that homosexuality is an un-African, Western imposition. Mohamed believes it is the exact opposite.

Homosexuality “existed in a lot of the African cultures and a lot of the African traditions,” she told IPS. “It was quite an accepted pattern.”

Same-sex relationships did not begin to develop a negative connotation until after colonisation brought Western religion, she said.

In an environment of antipathy, LGBT individuals have few places to turn to for help. The police station is often not a sanctuary for those who have been raped.

Mohamed recently spoke to a transgender man in South Africa who was accosted in the lobby of his block of apartments by a group of men who thought he was a woman. When they found out he was a man they raped and “beat him so badly that he was totally unrecognisable,” she said.

The man ended up contracting HIV/AIDS.

In South Africa, after being raped, a person is supposed to report it to the police and receive a free post-exposure prophylaxis within 72 hours to minimise the risk of transmission. However, this man was too afraid to go into the station, knowing that the police would most likely feel that he had deserved it.

The problem is even worse in countries like Nigeria that have criminalised homosexuality. According to Michael Ighodaro, a fellow at IGLHRC from Nigeria, after its anti-homosexuality bill was passed in January, 90 percent of gay men who were on medications stopped going to clinics to receive them, out of fear that they would be arrested.

Even at home, LGBT individuals in Africa face an uphill struggle. Anti-homosexuality laws do have a current of support throughout society. LGBT people often fear ostracisation by their families, so hide their sexual or gender identity.

The increased prominence of LGBT issues in national debates in Africa in the past decade has inspired a bit of a backlash.

Njeri Gateru, a legal officer at the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission of Kenya, says that Kenya lies in a tricky balance. Society does not actively persecute LGBT individuals if they outwardly conform to sexual and gender norms, but “problems would arise if people marched in the streets or there was an article in the press.”

“We cannot continue to live in a balance where we are muzzled and we are comfortable being muzzled,” Gateru said at a HRW event in New York.

Religion plays a significant role in the lack of acceptance of gender non-conforming groups in Africa.

IGLHRC’s Mohamed said that even “people with master’s degrees, who are highly educated, who work in white collar jobs will say ‘God does not like this.’”

“I think pointing out that LGBTI people are human beings, are God’s creation just like everybody else is really something that we’ll keep on pushing,” she said.

According to Gateru, even when churches open their doors to LGBT groups, they sometimes do it for the wrong reasons.

A year or so ago, a group of Kenyan evangelical leaders announced that they were going to stop turning LGBT individuals away from churches because, in their words, ‘Jesus came for the sinners, not the righteous.’

The churches are “welcoming you to change you or to pray for you so you can change, which is really not what we want,” said Gateru. “But I think it’s a very tiny step.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has repeatedly and consistently criticised discrimination against LGBT groups and condemned new anti-homosexuality laws.

Activist groups welcome the support of prominent religious leaders such as Tutu, and are planning a conference in February to bring together pastors, imams and rabbis to discuss LGBT issues and religion in Africa.

In general, LGBT activist organisations have their work cut out for them.

LGBT advocacy groups “most of the time are working undercover, are working underground, or if they are registered and are working as an NGO, are constantly being harassed by the authorities or by society,” Mohamed said.

IGLHRC was founded in 1990, and helps local LGBT advocacy groups around the world fight for their rights through grant making and work on the ground.

“What we really need is to mainstream homosexual rights, LGBTI rights into the basic human rights discourse,” said Mohamed.

During August’s U.S.-Africa summit in Washington, IGLHRC urged the U.S. to hold African leaders to account.

Depending on the country, the U.S. does have an ability to advance human rights through external pressure. Mohamed speculated that the striking down of Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill just days before the summit was a public relations stunt by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, since he wanted a warm reception by the White House.

Nigeria, the other country to introduce a new law in 2014, is more difficult to influence than Uganda, according to Michael Ighodaro. Because of its oil wealth, the Nigerian government would not care if the United States were to pull funding.

The U.S.-African summit, since it was focused on business, offered an opportunity for LGBT advocacy groups to point out the economic costs of sidelining an entire sector of the population.

Mohamed said that LGBT individuals are often “too scared to apply for certain jobs because of how they would be treated. If they did apply they probably would never get the jobs because of the stigmas attached.”

Despite the difficult journey to come, supporters of LGBT rights in Africa can look back to see that some progress has been made.

HRW’s Reid said that the LGBT movement was practically invisible in Africa just 20 years ago.

“In a sense this very vocal reaction against LGBT visibility can also be seen as a measure of the strength and growth of a movement over the last two decades,” he said.

Things may get a little tougher before they get better, Njeri Gateru told IPS, but “history is on our side.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at joelmjaeger@gmail.com

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SDGs Make Room for Education for Global Citizenshiphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/sdgs-make-room-for-education-for-global-citizenship/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sdgs-make-room-for-education-for-global-citizenship http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/sdgs-make-room-for-education-for-global-citizenship/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 16:39:02 +0000 Joel Jaeger http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136416 Civil society leaders and U.N. development experts gathered on Wednesday to discuss the role of education for global citizenship in the post-2015 development agenda. The workshop, sponsored by Soka Gakkai International (SGI), was part of the U.N.’s 65th Annual Department of Public Information/Non-Governmental Organization (DPI/NGO) Conference. Education “is linked to all areas of sustainable development […]

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Soka Gakkai International (SGI) sponsors a workshop on education for global citizenship in the post-2015 development agenda. Credit: Hiro Sakurai / SGI

By Joel Jaeger
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 29 2014 (IPS)

Civil society leaders and U.N. development experts gathered on Wednesday to discuss the role of education for global citizenship in the post-2015 development agenda.

The workshop, sponsored by Soka Gakkai International (SGI), was part of the U.N.’s 65th Annual Department of Public Information/Non-Governmental Organization (DPI/NGO) Conference.“We are part of a bigger humanity.” -- Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury

Education “is linked to all areas of sustainable development and is vital in achieving all Sustainable Development Goals and targets,” Hiro Sakurai, SGI’s U.N. liaison office director, told IPS.

“Education for global citizenship deserves particular attention and emphasis in this regard as it helps link issues and disciplines, brings together all stakeholders, and fosters shared vision and objectives,” he said.

Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, former under-secretary general and high representative of the U.N., gave the event’s keynote address. He expressed his excitement at the increased prominence of global citizenship in development circles.

According to Ambassador Chowdhury, global citizenship requires “self-transformation” and can be a “pathway to a culture of peace.”

Progress requires a “determination to treat each one of us as a global citizen,” he said. “We are part of a bigger humanity.”

Saphira Ramesfar of the Baha’i International Community also spoke to the transformative nature of global citizenship.

“It is not enough for education to provide individuals who can read, write and count,” she said. “Education must be transformative and bring shared values to life, cultivating an active care for the world itself and for those with whom we share it. Education needs to fully assume its role in building just, unified and inclusive societies.”

In the past, attempts to build global citizenship have focused on the young, but Ambassador Chowdhury argued for a more expansive understanding of the concept.

“I believe that education for global citizenship is for all of us, irrespective of our age, irrespective of whether we are going through a formal education process or not,” Chowdhury said.

Anjali Rangaswami of the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs explained how NGOs have actively participated in the crafting of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Past years have set “a very high standard for civil society engagement,” according to Rangaswami.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), set to expire in 2015, included a target of universal primary education. The SDGs, if adopted in their current draft form, would aim for universal secondary education as well.

Under target four, the SDGs specifically mention education for global citizenship, an issue left unaddressed by the MDGs.

The U.N’s Global Education First Initiative (GEFI), which lists “fostering global citizenship” as one of its three main priorities, was influential in this new development.

According to Min Jeong Kim, head of GEFI’s secretariat team, the initiative was launched by the secretary-general in 2012 because “at that point education had sort of stagnated after rapid growth following adoption of [the] MDGs.”

After the panel speakers concluded, participants in the workshop broke into small groups to share their own perspectives on education for global citizenship.

The event was also co-sponsored by the Baha’i International Community, Global Movement for a Culture of Peace, Human Rights Education Associates, Sustainable Development Education Caucus and Values Caucus, bringing a wide variety of expertise to the table.

The SDGs are an opportunity for a whole new outlook on education.

Education should be focused on developing meaningful lives, rather than focused on making a living, Ambassador Chowdhury told IPS.

So far the paradigm has been “if you get a good job, then your education is worth it, and if you do not get a good job, then your education is worthless,” he said. “That has to change.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at joelmjaeger@gmail.com

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UN AoC Focuses on Youth & Peace Buildinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/un-aoc-focuses-on-youth-peace-building/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-aoc-focuses-on-youth-peace-building http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/un-aoc-focuses-on-youth-peace-building/#respond Thu, 21 Aug 2014 08:19:36 +0000 Joel Jaeger http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136277 Speaking to 75 youths representing 75 countries, U.N. Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson offered a sweeping assessment of the United Nations’ place in the world and outlined his hopes for the future. “We are right now in a time when we are testing multilateralism [and] testing international cooperation,” Eliasson said. “The whole new global landscape […]

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By Joel Jaeger
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 21 2014 (IPS)

Speaking to 75 youths representing 75 countries, U.N. Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson offered a sweeping assessment of the United Nations’ place in the world and outlined his hopes for the future.

“We are right now in a time when we are testing multilateralism [and] testing international cooperation,” Eliasson said. “The whole new global landscape is changing so quickly.”

According to Eliasson, the proliferation of information in today’s day and age has spurred expectations for immediate results.

“We have to deliver, both nation states and international organizations.”

Wednesday’s event, Youth and Peacebuilding at the United Nations, was organized as a part of the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations – Education First (UNAOC-EF) Summer School.

Participants in the summer school were selected based on their involvement in intercultural and interfaith dialogue and youth issues. One third of the attendees came from countries in conflict, in a reconciliation process or at high risk of conflict.

In the face of the challenges confronting the United Nations, the Deputy Secretary General identified four sources of hope.

The first was sitting right in front of him. “You are the hope,” he said to the young people who had gathered to hear him speak.

He expressed his encouragement at the eagerness and capacity of new generations for positive change.

Women’s empowerment was the second reason why Eliasson expected the future to be brighter than today.

“This century… women will finally for the first time in history play the role that they deserve,” he said.

The advancement of science and technology and the promise of international institutions were his last two sources of hope.

The U.N.’s job, according to Eliasson, is to “make a little difference between the world as it is and the world as it should be. I won’t say that we can or should even try to close that gap, we won’t do that, but we should at least diminish that gap.”

Cecile Mazzacurati, Youth and Gender Policy Advisor at the U.N.’s Peacebuilding Support Office, also spoke at the event, directly addressing the topic of youth and peace.

Peace workers often think of young people as perpetrators or victims of violence instead of potential peacebuilders, she said.

“We tend to see… a large youth population as a potential threat and not as a resource and not a demographic dividend that we should build on.”

The Security Council has never addressed the nexus of youth, peace and security. However, Mazzacurati said that the Peacebuilding Support Office, along with civil society and NGOs, has created a set of guiding principles for youth participation in peacebuilding. She hoped that the topic would gain more prominence in the future.

UNAOC-EF Summer School participants asked the panellists a number of questions on topics such as violence against journalists, religious extremism, and how to get involved with the U.N., their curiosity and engagement further bolstering the panellists’ confidence in the new generation.

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U.N. Prepares for Overhaul of Arms Trade Reportinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/u-n-prepares-for-overhaul-of-arms-trade-reporting/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-n-prepares-for-overhaul-of-arms-trade-reporting http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/u-n-prepares-for-overhaul-of-arms-trade-reporting/#respond Mon, 18 Aug 2014 17:23:51 +0000 Joel Jaeger http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136187 The Arms Trade Treaty is about to provide the biggest shake-up to conventional arms trade transparency since the end of the Cold War. U.N. officials and civil society experts expect the quality and quantity of reports on the international arms trade to increase as the current platform, the U.N. Register of Conventional Arms, is augmented […]

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The Arms Trade Treaty was approved by the U.N. General Assembly on April 2, 2013. It is seven ratifications away from entering into force. Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

By Joel Jaeger
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 18 2014 (IPS)

The Arms Trade Treaty is about to provide the biggest shake-up to conventional arms trade transparency since the end of the Cold War.

U.N. officials and civil society experts expect the quality and quantity of reports on the international arms trade to increase as the current platform, the U.N. Register of Conventional Arms, is augmented by the forthcoming Arms Trade Treaty.“There is a culture of secrecy in a number of states. In general, they don’t want to produce any information for the public domain.” -- Paul Holtom

Established by the U.N. General Assembly in 1991, the U.N. Register requests that countries produce official reports of their arms imports and exports each year. The information is then published for all to see on a U.N. website.

However, reporting to the U.N. Register is purely voluntary.

Daniël Prins, chief of the Conventional Arms Branch at the U.N. Office for Disarmament Affairs, told IPS that “most countries in the world have at one time or another reported to the U.N. Register, but on a year on year basis we don’t receive the complete picture.”

Glancing through the U.N. Register’s yearly summaries, it is easy to see that something is missing. According to the data in the Register, 760 battle tanks were exported in 2012, but only 446 were imported.

Exporters of weapons are generally more willing to provide information than importers, according to Paul Holtom, head of the Peace, Reconciliation and Security Team at Coventry University’s Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations.

“There is a culture of secrecy in a number of states,” Holtom told IPS, specifically mentioning arms importers in the Middle East and Africa. “In general, they don’t want to produce any information for the public domain.”

Countries have also blamed their incomplete reports on unavailability of information, lack of resources, poor inter-agency cooperation, and lack of time.

Participation in the U.N. Register peaked in 2001, when 126 countries submitted national reports. By 2012 it had dropped to 72 countries.

Enter the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which was approved by the U.N. General Assembly on Apr. 2, 2013 and is expected to enter into force in late 2014 or early 2015. The ATT is much more than just a transparency convention, since it regulates arms transfers at a broader level, but it does specifically address reporting.

Unlike the voluntary U.N. Register, the ATT’s reporting requirements are legally mandated.

Countries that ratify the ATT “have an obligation as a state party to produce an annual report on imports and exports,” Holtom said.

The ATT’s reporting requirements include all seven categories of weapons from the U.N. Register: battle tanks, combat vehicles, large calibre-artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, and missiles and missile launchers.

But the ATT goes one step further by requiring reports on small arms and light weapons as well. With the U.N. Register, small arms were only a secondary consideration.

Civil society members see the inclusion of small arms in the ATT as a much-needed development, since the majority of conflict deaths are caused by small arms.

“The Arms Trade Treaty has the potential to increase the level of reporting on small arms and light weapons, and to improve comprehensiveness and level of detail,” Sarah Parker, a senior researcher at the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey, told IPS.

However, Parker also cautioned that the scope of the ATT’s categories will need to expand to accommodate new weapons and technologies.

Daniël Prins says the ATT has the capacity to keep up with the times.

“Of course it doesn’t include every item that militaries use – trucks for instance – but all major weapons systems are covered,” he said.

“The treaty has provisions for changing it, for adaption, at least six years after entry into force. Of course, you need a willingness of its members to go there, but it’s perfectly possible to keep the treaty’s scope up to date with technology.”

The U.N. Register and the ATT’s reporting instruments will run in parallel.

According to Holtom, who served as the consultant for a 2013 group of governmental experts on the U.N. Register, getting rid of the Register would mean losing valuable information from countries that are not ready to start reporting for the ATT.

“Russia and China… report regularly to the U.N. Register,” he told IPS, but “they’ve made no signal of having any intention in the near future to sign the ATT, let alone ratify.”

One hundred and eighteen countries have signed the ATT, and 43 states have ratified. The treaty officially enters into force three months after the fiftieth ratification.

“I’m surprised that it’s actually been so quick,” Holtom said.

A 2015 entry into force was originally seen as a best case scenario, but it is soon likely to become a reality.

Prins expressed the expectation that the number of ratifications will grow well over the minimum of 50. The immediate goal should be to have more than half of the U.N.’s members be a State Party — a fuller embrace of the treaty will take years of concerted action, but is very much possible, he said.

Of course, the ATT will have less of an impact if the leading importers and exporters are not on board. The European Union is committed to the treaty, but the United States and Russia seem disinclined to join.

President Obama signed the treaty last year, but a bipartisan majority of Congress has come out in opposition to ratification. Still, even outside the ATT, the U.S. does not have total freedom to export arms as it chooses.

“The U.S. argues that it already has one of the most rigorous export control systems in the world,” Parker told IPS. “I think this is legitimate, frankly.”

India and China, the two largest importers of conventional arms, both abstained from the General Assembly’s vote on the ATT in 2013. India pledged to assess the treaty’s impact on its defence, security, and foreign policy interests. China’s abstention was procedural, as it did not object to any specifics of the treaty.

Preparation for the ATT’s entry into force has already begun.

The U.N. Office for Disarmament Affairs has established a trust fund to assist countries with implementation of the treaty, Prins told IPS.

States parties will establish specific procedures for reporting as the ATT system develops over the years.

“Mexico has offered to host the first conference of states parties, which will likely take place next year, sometime between April and September,” Parker said.

Stepping back from the technical details, on the broader scale, does arms trade transparency actually deter war?

According to Paul Holtom, “transparency on its own is insufficient for addressing conflict. What you really want to have is transparency connected with responsibility and accountability.”

The public dissemination of export and import numbers should spur active national debates on the merits of particular weapons transfers, Holtom believes.

Public debates could be also be initiated by an independent observer body.

“There are plans for something called an ATT monitor,” Parker told IPS.

NGOs, civil society and academic institutions in the ATT monitor would scrutinise where states were transferring weapons and evaluate the advisability of the export based on the circumstances of the importing country, she said.

Whatever happens, it is clear that the ATT will be an improvement over the U.N. Register.

Take the recent decisions by the United States and France to arm the Kurdish militia in Iraq, for example. Neither country has indicated the number of weapons being transferred.

Because the Kurds are a sub-national group, these transfers do not fall under the scope of the U.N. Register, which only applies to state-to-state exchanges. However, according to Holtom, the ATT requires transparency on transfers to non-state actors as well. Under the ATT, the United States and France would need to report those transfers.

The U.N. Register was developed in the context of the immediate post-Cold War. As the nature of warfare shifts from international disputes to conflicts involving sub-state armed groups, the ATT will bring arms trade transparency into the present.

Edited by: Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at joelmjaeger@gmail.com

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Malala, U.N. Chief Push for Action on MDGshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/malala-u-n-chief-push-for-action-on-mdgs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=malala-u-n-chief-push-for-action-on-mdgs http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/malala-u-n-chief-push-for-action-on-mdgs/#respond Mon, 18 Aug 2014 07:46:41 +0000 Joel Jaeger http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136202 Malala Yousafzai and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon spoke with 500 young people at a U.N. event Monday, marking 500 days until the conclusion of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Malala, the famous Pakistani student who was shot by the Taliban on a school bus in 2012, focused on her signature issue: education. She brought […]

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By Joel Jaeger
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 18 2014 (IPS)

Malala Yousafzai and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon spoke with 500 young people at a U.N. event Monday, marking 500 days until the conclusion of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Malala, the famous Pakistani student who was shot by the Taliban on a school bus in 2012, focused on her signature issue: education. She brought in experience from a whirlwind year of travel and advocacy.

“Every place that I go to there are so many incredible children, girls and boys, who are speaking up for their rights,” she said.

“When I went to Kenya, I met amazing girls who loved their books, who loved their pens, and who loved going to school. I haven’t seen such love ever before, and I saw how education has brought change in their community.”

In Nigeria, Malala met with parents of girls who were abducted by Boko Haram. She also spoke with several of the girls who had escaped from the militant group, and was astonished to hear that they were not receiving education or any help coping with their trauma.

“People are highlighting it on Twitter, but no one is really helping these girls,” she said.

Ever the optimist, Malala said her recent visit to Trinidad and Tobago gave her hope for the future.

“I went there and their education is free. Primary education is free, secondary education is free, tertiary education is free, and even if you want to do a Masters, half of the money is paid by the government.”

Even though Trinidad and Tobago is not particularly rich, she said, the country is developing because it uses its oil and gas revenues for education instead of losing it to corruption.

According to the most recent MDG report, primary education enrolment in developing countries increased from 80 percent in 1990 to 90 percent in 2012.

Ninety percent is not enough for Malala. Fifty-eight million primary-school-age children around the world still did not have access to education as of 2012.

“It was my dream to see every child going to school and it still is my dream,” Malala said.

Ban Ki-moon called the Pakistani schoolgirl “a daughter of the United Nations” and praised her for changing the landscape of the U.N.’s commitment to the MDGs, particularly in regard to education.

The U.N. hopes that Monday’s event, titled “500 Days of Action”, will build up momentum for the final stretch of the MDGs.

The MDGs have been the most successful anti-poverty campaign in history, according to the United Nations. Since 1990, extreme poverty has been reduced by more than half and child mortality has almost halved. However, much work remains to be done, particularly in terms of education.

“500 days are left, but that doesn’t mean that after 500 days we won’t do anything,” said Malala. She pointed to the U.N.’s preparations for the Sustainable Development Goals, which will extend the concept of the MDGs out to 2030.

Malala, for her part, lives her values. She brought her homework to the U.N. to work on in her free moments.

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Will Climate Change Lead to Conflict or Cooperation?http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/will-climate-change-lead-to-conflict-or-cooperation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-climate-change-lead-to-conflict-or-cooperation http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/will-climate-change-lead-to-conflict-or-cooperation/#comments Mon, 04 Aug 2014 18:26:46 +0000 Joel Jaeger http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=135923 The headline of every article about the relationship between climate change and conflict should be “It’s complicated,” according to Clionadh Raleigh. Director of the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, Raleigh thinks that researchers and the media have put too simplistic a spin on the link between climate change and violence. In recent years, […]

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In conflict-prone regions such as Darfur, violence is sometimes blamed on climate change. Credit: UN Photo/Albert González Farran

By Joel Jaeger
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 4 2014 (IPS)

The headline of every article about the relationship between climate change and conflict should be “It’s complicated,” according to Clionadh Raleigh.

Director of the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, Raleigh thinks that researchers and the media have put too simplistic a spin on the link between climate change and violence.“It’s just appalling that we’re at this stage 100 years after environmental determinism should have been rightly dismissed as any sort of framework for understanding the developing world,” -- Clionadh Raleigh

In recent years, scientists and the United Nations have been increasing their focus on climate conflict. The debate ranges from sensational reports that say the world will soon erupt into water wars to those who do not think the topic is worthy of discussion at all.

Much of the uncertainty over the connection between climate change and armed conflict exists because it is such a fledgling area of interest. According to David Jensen, head of the U.N. Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding programme, the relationship between climate change and conflict began receiving significant U.N. attention only in recent years.

“While the debate on this topic started in 2006-2007, there remains a large gulf between what is discussed at the global level and in the Security Council, and what is actually happening at the field level,” he told IPS.

A body of peer-reviewed literature on climate change and conflict has recently begun to emerge, but scientists have discovered that the link between climate change and conflict is more complex than they expected.

“A number of studies have found a statistical link between climate change and conflict, but they tend to focus on a specific area and cover a short time period,” Halvard Buhaug, director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo’s Conditions of Violence and Peace department, told IPS. “The challenge is to determine whether these studies are indicative of an overarching, more general trend, which hasn’t been documented yet.”

Much of the nuance behind the climate conflict correlations is lost when technical scientific reports are spread to a wider audience.

Buhaug told IPS that “parts of the public debate on climate change and violence are accurate, but there is an unfortunate tendency, whether by researchers or the media, to exaggerate the strength behind the scientific research and under-communicate scientific uncertainty.”

“In some media reports, phrases like ‘may’ are turned into ‘will’ and the future is portrayed in… gloomy shades.”

Following is a sampling of the back-and-forth debate taking place in the scientific community:

A prominent study by Burke etal. (2009) concluded that rising temperatures would lead to increased battle deaths in Africa. It predicted that if current trends held, increased temperatures would cause 393,000 extra battle deaths in Africa by 2030.

According to Buhaug (2010), the prevalence and severity of African civil wars has decreased since 2002 in spite of increased warming, defying Burke’s hypothesis. In his study, he found no evidence of a correlation between temperature and conflict.

Hendrix and Salehyan (2012) found that extreme deviations in rainfall, whether it was more rain or less rain than usual, are positively associated with all types of political conflict in Africa.

Benjaminsen et al. (2012) found little evidence for claims that rainfall variability is a substantial driver of conflict in Mali.

In 2013, Hsiang, Burke and Miguel published a meta-analysis of 60 studies on the subject in Science. They found that the majority of studies from all regions support the conclusion that climate change does and will lead to higher levels of armed conflict.

In a response in Nature Climate Change, Raleigh, Linke and O’Loughlin (2014) criticized the above study for using faulty statistics that ignored political and historical drivers of conflict and overemphasized climate change as a causal factor.

The debate over whether climate change exists and is human-caused has long been settled by scientists. The debate over whether it will impact armed conflict goes on.

A deeper understanding of the connection between climate change and conflict requires a careful examination of the drivers of violence and the role of the environment in individuals’ livelihoods.

Cullen Hendrix, assistant professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, told IPS that the relationship between climate and conflict is mediated by levels of economic development.

Climate conflict is most likely to occur in rural, non-industrialised regions “where a large portion of the population is still dependent on the natural environment for their income and sustenance,” he said.

In most sub-Saharan African countries, more than two-thirds of the population is employed in agriculture. A change in climate conditions could have negative impacts on stability. However, researchers would emphasise that it is important not to jump to conclusions and assume that climate change will necessarily lead to conflict.

“Almost all of us would acknowledge that other factors such as political exclusion of persecuted minority groups or economic inequalities or weak central government institutions matter more [than climate]” Hendrix told IPS. “But that’s not the same as saying that climate doesn’t matter.”

When asked about the biggest lessons learned during his time with UNEP, Jensen had a similar take. “When you’re trying to rebuild communities and livelihoods, you can’t just focus on a single stress factor like climate change, you have to be looking at multiple factors and building resilience to all kinds of shocks and stresses…including climate change but not exclusively.”

Hendrix expects the next generation of scientific work to examine how drought, floods, desertification and other climate change phenomena could impact conflict “through indirect channels such as suppressing economic growth or causing large-scale migration from one country to another.”

In post-conflict situations and fragile states at risk of climate conflict, governance and land distribution have emerged as key considerations.

“Clarity on land and resource rights is one of the key prerequisites to reducing vulnerability and supporting livelihood recovery,” Jensen told IPS.

Clionadh Raleigh, who is also a professor of Human Geography at the University of Sussex, believes that government land distribution policies are often the real source of conflict, but their impact is obscured by the climate conflict debate.

“If you were to ask somebody in Africa ‘what are the conflicts about here?’ they might readily say something like land or water access,” she told IPS. “But land and water access are almost entirely determined by local and national government policy, so they don’t have almost anything to do with climate.”

Certain leaders have attempted to blame climate change for the consequences of their own disastrous policies, according to Raleigh. Robert Mugabe has blamed Zimbabwe’s famines on climate change, instead of his own corrupt land reallocation policies.

Omar al-Bashir blamed the Darfur conflict on drought instead of the government’s shocking political violence against a large chunk of its population.

While climate change itself is a topic of utmost importance, is it even worth it to talk about its connection to armed conflict? Raleigh doesn’t think so.

“It’s just a simplistic, nonsense narrative that the climate makes people violent,” Raleigh told IPS.

She believes the climate conflict debate falls into a trap called environmental determinism, a school of thought that asserts that climatic factors define human behaviour and culture. For example, it assumes that a society will act in a certain way depending on whether it is located in a tropical or temperate region.  Environmental determinism gained prominence in the late 19th century but soon declined in popularity amidst accusations of racism and imperialism.

“It’s just appalling that we’re at this stage 100 years after environmental determinism should have been rightly dismissed as any sort of framework for understanding the developing world,” Raleigh told IPS.

Buhaug believes the climate change and armed conflict debate does have merit, since most scientists are careful to not ascribe too much causal weight to one particular factor.

However, he does worry that “there is a tendency in research, but especially in the communication of research, to ignore the importance of political and socio-economic conditions and the motive and agency of actors.”

Raleigh, for her part, wishes the whole debate would just go away.

“People have an often mistaken interpretation of what’s going on at the sub-national level, on the local level within African states and developing countries,” she told IPS. “And they just assume that violence is one of the first reactions to societal change, when it is far more likely to be cooperation.”

Environmental cooperation occurs at both the inter-state and local levels, according to Jensen. At the local level, “in Darfur, we see different groups coming together to co-manage water resources.” At the trans-national level, “there’s a lot of talk about water wars between countries, but we often see the opposite in terms of much more cooperation between states over shared water resources.”

Following this line of thinking, the U.N. has tried to expand the climate conflict discussion from focusing on problems to exploring new solutions.

In November 2013, it launched a new website for experts and field practitioners to share best practices in addressing environmental conflicts and using natural resources to support peacebuilding, Jensen told IPS.

Climate change will most likely wreak havoc on the natural world and it may create the conditions for increased violence, but environmental scientists and practitioners agree: the future is not determined.

Edited by: Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at joelmjaeger@gmail.com

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Ethiopia Shoulders Heavy Refugee Burdenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/ethiopia-shoulders-heavy-refugee-burden/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ethiopia-shoulders-heavy-refugee-burden http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/ethiopia-shoulders-heavy-refugee-burden/#respond Wed, 23 Jul 2014 10:23:38 +0000 Joel Jaeger http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=135740 Ethiopia plays host to a refugee population higher than the entire population of Luxembourg, in large part due to the recent conflict in South Sudan. On Wednesday, John Ging, Operations Director of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, spoke about his recent trip to Ethiopia, stressing the seriousness of South Sudan’s crisis […]

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By Joel Jaeger
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 23 2014 (IPS)

Ethiopia plays host to a refugee population higher than the entire population of Luxembourg, in large part due to the recent conflict in South Sudan.

On Wednesday, John Ging, Operations Director of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, spoke about his recent trip to Ethiopia, stressing the seriousness of South Sudan’s crisis and the sacrifice of the Ethiopian government and people.

“Ethiopia sets a global standard for its generosity and its humanity with regard to hosting so many refugees,” Ging told reporters. “There are now over 600,000 in total in Ethiopia in over 22 locations in the country.”

Already the destination of refugees from Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea, Ethiopia has faced an increased burden as 180,000 South Sudanese have poured across the border into its Gambella region since January.

With an original population of only 300,000, the Gambella region may soon be overwhelmed.

Ging highlighted the needs of both the South Sudanese refugees and their Ethiopian hosts.

“We shouldn’t just look at a response for the refugees. We must also look at a response for the host communities who themselves are impoverished,” he said.

“The influx of refugees compounds the challenges that they face themselves in terms of their own economic status and prospects.”

Ging praised the current response by the Ethiopian authorities and the U.N. Refugee Agency’s “very strong cadre of humanitarian staff,” but made clear that the refugees’ plight was not receiving enough attention.

“The appeal for the refugee component in this crisis is only 25 percent funded. That means that across the board the delivery of services does not meet what the refugees are entitled to,” he said.

In addition to the insufficient level of contributions, the timing of the funding has been causing headaches. Ging lamented that since the humanitarian appeals did not receive upfront funding, the U.N. could not distribute aid until the rainy season had begun, creating an expensive logistical nightmare.

The camps face substantial shortfalls in water, sanitation and food.

About 90 percent of Ethiopia’s refugee population consists of women and children. More than 30 percent of the children suffer from malnutrition.

“Food distribution is funded until September but if there is not new funding the food distribution will stop,” said Ging.

He called on the rest of the international community to shoulder its share of the burden.

Amid the bad news, Ethiopia’s willingness to welcome its neighbours still inspires, said Ging. It has recently given university scholarships to more than 1,700 Eritrean students.

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U.S., Russia, China Hamper ICC’s Reachhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/u-s-russia-china-hamper-iccs-reach/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-s-russia-china-hamper-iccs-reach http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/u-s-russia-china-hamper-iccs-reach/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 18:10:39 +0000 Joel Jaeger http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=135685 Despite making important strides in the first dozen years of its existence, the International Criminal Court (ICC) faces a daunting task if it hopes to create a reputation as a truly global institution. With a skewed distribution of states parties and cases, the ICC has struggled to mature at its seat in The Hague as […]

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President of the International Criminal Court Sang-Hyun Song speaks at a U.N. event. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

By Joel Jaeger
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 22 2014 (IPS)

Despite making important strides in the first dozen years of its existence, the International Criminal Court (ICC) faces a daunting task if it hopes to create a reputation as a truly global institution.

With a skewed distribution of states parties and cases, the ICC has struggled to mature at its seat in The Hague as an effective and comprehensive purveyor of justice.“It is a global entity. It is not a universal entity.” -- William Pace

The Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding treaty, authorises the Court to prosecute individuals who have committed genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. It was adopted in 1998 and came into force in 2002.

Some 122 states have ratified or acceded to the Rome Statute, but many of the world’s most populous countries have remained outside its jurisdiction.

William Pace, the convenor of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), told IPS, “[The ICC] doesn’t apply to half the people on the planet, but it applies to almost two-thirds of the member states of the United Nations, which is also over three billion people.

“It is a global entity,” he said. “It is not a universal entity.”

Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch’s international justice programme, told IPS that “There is unevenness in state party representation, with Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa in particular being starkly missing.”

The most crucial impediment to the ICC’s global reach is the fact that the United States, Russia and China have not joined the ICC and continue to obstruct its functioning with U.N. Security Council vetoes.

Cases can be brought to the ICC by the chief prosecutor, by the countries themselves or by referral from the Security Council. The judicial functioning of the Court is independent of the United Nations, but when Security Council referrals become involved, politics can easily creep in.

Most recently, Russia and China prevented the Security Council from referring the conflict in Syria to the ICC on May 22.

Dicker called the United States, Russia and China key obstacles to the ICC’s future.

“These three who have remained outside the reach of the Rome Statute of the ICC have shielded themselves and, through their use of the veto on the Council, their allies from accountability when national courts in those countries don’t do the job,” he said at a recent press conference on the future of the ICC.

Without U.S. ratification of the Rome Statute, the ICC will find it difficult to achieve global legitimacy.

Dicker told IPS that the United States’ attitude has slowly evolved since the early 2000s, when “the [George W.] Bush administration was on a crusade against the International Criminal Court.”

In the wake of increased flexibility towards the Court in the later Bush years, “the Obama administration has significantly strengthened the cooperation afforded by the U.S. government to the Court,” he said. However, U.S. diplomatic support for the Court has only extended to “situations where the Court’s position and U.S. foreign objectives coincide.”

The U.S. Congress has not overturned the American Servicemembers Protection Act of 2002, also known as the “Hague Invasion Act.” According to Human Rights Watch, the law “authorizes the use of military force to liberate any American or citizen of a U.S.-allied country being held by the Court.”

The United States’ non-participation in the ICC damages the Court, but not irrevocably.

“It was constantly said throughout the treaty negotiation period of the 1990s and the ratification period of the last decade that if you don’t have the United States as a part of the ICC, it won’t work,” Pace told IPS. “Well, it is working, even with the handicap of having the great powers against it, but it is up, it’s running and I don’t know a week that goes by that someone doesn’t invoke the ICC.”

As the Court conducted its first investigations and prosecutions, it encountered significant opposition from the African Union (AU). All eight of the countries currently under investigation by the ICC are African, spurring accusations that the Court is unfairly targeting the continent.

The cases in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, and Mali were referred to the ICC by the countries themselves, while the cases in Sudan and Libya were referred by the Security Council and the cases in Kenya and Côte d’Ivoire were brought to the Court by the chief prosecutor.

“The politics of Kenya and Sudan are escalating the tensions between the ICC and the African Union,” Stephen Lamony, the CICC’s Senior Adviser for Africa, told IPS.

The indictments of President of Sudan Omar al-Bashir and Uhuru Kenyatta – who was later elected president of Kenya – in 2009 and 2011 provoked criticism by the AU that the ICC was a tool of Western imperialism.

Why is a court based in Europe targeting African leaders, critics ask, but ignoring atrocities in Syria, Gaza, or North Korea?

The AU has been developing an African Court of Justice and Human Rights to compete with the ICC, “to ensure that Africans are prosecuted in Africa,” said Lamony.

However, at the end of June the AU voted to give sitting heads of state immunity from the incipient African Court, leading African grassroots activists to fume that the problem is not the ICC, but the culture of impunity amongst African leaders.

“The heads of state are trying to protect themselves, and the ordinary man and woman are saying ‘no, you should be held to the same standards. You should stop committing these crimes against us,’” Lamony told IPS.

Six of the 10 situations under preliminary examinations by the ICC are in non-African countries. If one of these countries is chosen to be the next object of investigation, the Court may dispel some, but not all of the criticism it has received for focusing on Africa.

According to Lamony, “At this stage, no African leader is threatening to withdraw from the ICC,” because the condemnation of the Court mainly comes from countries that are not states parties.

Despite the imbalance in the makeup of the ICC’s states parties and its Africa-heavy case load, much of civil society is convinced that its very existence changes the international landscape.

“Justice is not living in tents or trailers anymore. It is now a permanent institution in the ICC,” Dicker said. “And that fact alone spurs expectations and demands for justice where mass atrocity crimes occur.”

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U.S. Counter-Terrorist Sting Ops Overstep Proper Boundshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/u-s-counter-terrorist-sting-ops-overstep-proper-bounds/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-s-counter-terrorist-sting-ops-overstep-proper-bounds http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/u-s-counter-terrorist-sting-ops-overstep-proper-bounds/#respond Mon, 21 Jul 2014 11:05:29 +0000 Joel Jaeger http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=135675 In its zealous pursuit of terrorism since September 11, 2001, the U.S. government created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals in sting operations and alienated the American Muslim community, according to a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released Monday. The report, “Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Procedures”, documents cases against American […]

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By Joel Jaeger
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 21 2014 (IPS)

In its zealous pursuit of terrorism since September 11, 2001, the U.S. government created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals in sting operations and alienated the American Muslim community, according to a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released Monday.

The report, “Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Procedures”, documents cases against American Muslim defendants in which the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) overstepped its bounds.

“The United States government has failed to meet its international legal obligations with respect to its investigations and prosecutions of terrorism suspects, as well as its treatment of terrorism suspects in custody,” says the report.

More than 500 individuals have been prosecuted in federal courts for terrorism or related offences since 2001. Many prosecutions have respected the law, according to HRW, but an alarming number have not.

One of the most disturbing trends in US counterterrorism policy is the prevalence of discriminatory sting operations.

In a sting operation, a law enforcement informant collaborates with a suspected terrorist in the planning of an attack, sometimes providing financial support or fake weaponry, and then arrests the individual when he or she attempts to carry out the plan.

Problems arise when the government persuades or pressures a hesitant individual to act. These investigations often target individuals with intellectual and mental disabilities and the indigent, according to the report.

“In some cases the Federal Bureau of Investigation may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by conducting sting operations that facilitated or invented the target’s willingness to act,” the report says.

In the report, a former FBI agent questioned the efficacy of sting operations. “When the FBI undercover agent or informant is the only purported link to a real terrorist group, supplies the motive, designs the plot and provides all the weapons, one has to question whether they are combatting terrorism or creating it,” he said.

Almost 15 percent of federal counterterrorism convictions involved a sting operation in which the informant played an active role in the plot.

In recent years, the U.S. government has attempted to build trust with American Muslim communities, but its controversial counterterrorism measures have undercut its own efforts.

For example, the arrest of Adel Daoud in autumn 2013 raised an uproar in Chicago’s Muslim community over the use of sting operations. Daoud was only 17 when undercover FBI employees began to cultivate a fake plot with him to attack a Chicago bar through an online Islamic forum.

His eventual arrest prompted “speculation about why the FBI deployed undercover agents to ensnare the teenager, rather than contact his parents or community leaders,” the report says.

According to HRW, unscrupulous law enforcement practices in terrorism cases “have alienated the very communities the government relies on most to report possible terrorist threats and diverted resources from other, more effective ways, of responding to the threat of terrorism.”

Building on the criticisms it raises, HRW ends its report by calling on the U.S. government to restrict and regulate the use of informants and develop rights-respecting partnerships with local community groups.

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Reallocation of Finance Needed for Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/reallocation-of-finance-needed-for-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=reallocation-of-finance-needed-for-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/reallocation-of-finance-needed-for-sustainable-development/#respond Fri, 18 Jul 2014 11:03:10 +0000 Joel Jaeger http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=135674 Successful sustainable development financing will require a reallocation of investment and the creation of innovative partnerships, according to the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing (ICESDF). The committee conducted a briefing Friday on the progress of its new report. The report seeks “to provide a sustainable development financing strategy for the United Nations […]

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By Joel Jaeger
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 18 2014 (IPS)

Successful sustainable development financing will require a reallocation of investment and the creation of innovative partnerships, according to the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing (ICESDF).

The committee conducted a briefing Friday on the progress of its new report.

The report seeks “to provide a sustainable development financing strategy for the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015,” according to Ambassador Pertti Majanen, co-chair of ICESDF.

“We found that needs are extremely large, and the challenge in meeting them is huge, but it is achievable,” he said. “Public and private savings, already at around 22 trillion US dollars a year, are sufficient to meet the needs.”

“Nonetheless, it is clear that the current allocation of investment will not deliver sustainable development. The challenge of policymakers is thus to facilitate investment of diverse public and private, domestic and international financing flows in sustainable development.”

Mansur Muhtar, the other co-chair of ICESDF, focused on the specific policies that need to be implemented for successful sustainable development financing, on both the national and international levels.

“National efforts need to be complemented by international public support and an enabling international environment,” he said.

Countries need to “formulate their own national financing strategies aimed at addressing sustainable development goals,” Muhtar said, “and look at this in a holistic and synergistic and interrelated manner.”

The committee wishes to promote the development of “efficient and transparent tax systems through the broadening of the tax base and improving tax administration as well as closing loopholes.”
National development banks could play an important role in domestic public financing, according to Muhtar.

ICESDF stressed that national governments must cooperate with and encourage private sector sustainable development financing.

Muhtar cautioned that blended financial instruments can shift risk from the private sector to the public sector, but remained confident that “innovative financial structures can overcome past impediments.”

On the international level, the committee “felt that there should be a focus on strengthening tax cooperation, facilitating greater exchange of innovation [and] encouraging country-by-country reporting,” Muhtar said. These measures are designed to stem illicit flows and increase financial transparency.

Sustainable development financing works best in a fair and open financial system, said ICESDF. The committee encouraged global and regional dialogue and the sharing of best practices in the structuring of sustainable development financing arrangements.

ICESDF will release its final report upon the conclusion of its next meeting from August 4 to August 8.

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Noncommunicable Diseases Receive Vital Attentionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/noncommunicable-diseases-receive-vital-attention/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=noncommunicable-diseases-receive-vital-attention http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/noncommunicable-diseases-receive-vital-attention/#respond Fri, 11 Jul 2014 10:30:58 +0000 Joel Jaeger http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=135536 Less than two percent of all health-related development assistance is directed at noncommunicable diseases, despite the fact they are responsible for more than 60 percent of all deaths worldwide. Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched its Noncommunicable Diseases Country Profiles 2014 report, which documents the impact of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) on 193 countries. […]

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By Joel Jaeger
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 11 2014 (IPS)

Less than two percent of all health-related development assistance is directed at noncommunicable diseases, despite the fact they are responsible for more than 60 percent of all deaths worldwide.

Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched its Noncommunicable Diseases Country Profiles 2014 report, which documents the impact of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) on 193 countries.

Although many assume that NCDs like cardiovascular disease and cancer predominantly affect developed nations, the report found that “developing countries have the greatest vulnerability and the least resilience in preventing and controlling NCDs.”

The report was released in the midst of a two-day High-level Meeting of the U.N. General Assembly on the comprehensive review and assessment of the progress achieved in the Prevention and Control of NCDs.

Speaking at the opening of the NCD review meeting, John W. Ashe, current president of the U.N. General Assembly, remarked that “NCDs are now recognised by the WHO as the largest single cause of death and disability worldwide, responsible for some 36 million deaths” per year.

The current push against NCDs began in 2011 when the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Political Declaration on NCDs. To achieve the commitments of the declaration, the WHO designed an NCD Global Action Plan, composed of concrete actions for countries to take to reduce premature mortality from NCDs.

Countries pledged to reduce the use of alcohol and tobacco, halt the rise in diabetes and obesity and provide preventative therapy for heart attacks and strokes.

According to the NCD Country Profiles 2014 report, “while many countries have started to align their policies and resources with the nine global targets and the WHO Global NCD Action Plan 2013-2020, progress in countries has been insufficient and highly uneven.”

“A significant number of developing countries are struggling to move from commitment to action,” it says. “This is not the result of lack of political will. Rather, many developing countries don’t have the resources… needed to address the significant health and socioeconomic impacts of NCDs.”

At the report’s release, health officials from several countries also raised concerns over the misdistribution of health resources within countries. They argued for a shift of focus from disease treatment to disease prevention.

Health advocates highlighted the economic and social impact of NCDs on women at a side event to the NCD review.

According to a survey of 10,000 women from 10 different countries, “22 percent of the women said that more than 25 percent of their family’s income is spent on NCD’s,” said Nalini Saligram, founder of a global health non-profit called Arogya World.

Women shoulder a double burden, since they suffer from NCDs but also are the primary caregivers for family members with NCDs, the women’s health advocates agreed.

The Country Profiles 2014 report provides a comprehensive summary of the effect of NCDs, and disaggregates its measurements to account for the divergent impacts on men and women.

The new report documents what has changed since the WHO’s last report in 2011 and provides a benchmark for future improvements.

“I always say what gets measured, gets done,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO. “This is the only way to make sure the momentum is being kept.”

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Amnesty International Calls for Accountability in CARhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/amnesty-international-calls-for-accountability-in-car/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=amnesty-international-calls-for-accountability-in-car http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/amnesty-international-calls-for-accountability-in-car/#respond Thu, 10 Jul 2014 10:00:55 +0000 Joel Jaeger http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=135500 Perpetrators of human rights atrocities in the Central African Republic operate with complete impunity because of the country’s feeble judicial system and ongoing instability, according to an Amnesty International report released Thursday. Based on interviews conducted between December 2013 and May 2014, the report chronicles human rights violations on all sides of the conflict between […]

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By Joel Jaeger
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 10 2014 (IPS)

Perpetrators of human rights atrocities in the Central African Republic operate with complete impunity because of the country’s feeble judicial system and ongoing instability, according to an Amnesty International report released Thursday.

Based on interviews conducted between December 2013 and May 2014, the report chronicles human rights violations on all sides of the conflict between the mostly Christian Anti-balaka and the mostly Muslim Séléka armed groups.

“Since December 2013, deliberate large-scale killings of civilians, including women and children, have continued unabated, sometimes followed by mutilation, dismembering and burning of the bodies,” the report said. “Acts of cannibalism have also been reported.”

The report, entitled Central African Republic: Time for Accountability, identifies about twenty alleged human rights abusers, including François Bozizé and Michel Djotodia, both former presidents of the Central African Republic (CAR) who are at the centre of the conflict.
Amnesty International also spotlighted the alleged killing of civilians on CAR territory by the Chadian national army and the Chadian contingent of the African Union’s CAR peacekeeping force.
“Most of the attacks have been conducted openly, the perpetrators showing no remorse or fear of sanction,” the report said.

CAR’s failure to effectively investigate past human rights abuses has convinced violators that they will not be held accountable.

According to the report, the security situation in the CAR holds much of the blame for the culture of impunity. The transitional government, assisted by 5,800 African Union peacekeepers and 2,000 French soldiers, has been unable to stem the violence, leaving the judicial system in a precarious position.

On at least three occasions, human rights abusers have broken out of the country’s only operational prison en masse.

Because of violence targeted at those who speak out against the massacres, magistrates fear for their lives and those of their family members. In May 2014 the Bangui prosecutor announced that criminal proceedings would be suspended altogether.

In the report, Amnesty International criticizes the transitional government’s reluctance to move forward with investigations. The transitional authorities fear that the detention of prominent anti-Balaka and Séléka members would provoke retaliation and instigate even more instability.

The report worries that “Despite the urgency of the situation, the international community’s response to the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in CAR has been far too slow.”

Amnesty International concludes the report by calling for a coordinated international effort to restore CAR’s justice system and hold human rights abusers accountable for their war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“The net is closing in on those responsible for human rights abuses,” said Christian Mukosa, Amnesty International’s CAR expert. “Their names and whereabouts are known. Their crimes are being documented. And they will face justice.”

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