Inter Press ServiceLyndal Rowlands – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 24 Nov 2017 14:52:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.3 Climate Funds for World’s Poorest Slow to Materialisehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/climate-funds-for-worlds-poorest-slow-to-materialise/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-funds-for-worlds-poorest-slow-to-materialise http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/climate-funds-for-worlds-poorest-slow-to-materialise/#comments Fri, 14 Apr 2017 04:44:23 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149960 Climate change is making poor countries poorer, yet funding meant to address its economic consequences has been slow to materialise. Instead funding bodies are choosing to invest in green energy projects in middle-income countries. The trend continued last week when the Green Climate Fund (GCF), a new multilateral financing body set up to fund climate change […]

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No U.S. Refuge for Syrians Even After Military Strikeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/no-u-s-refuge-for-syrians-even-after-military-strikes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-u-s-refuge-for-syrians-even-after-military-strikes http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/no-u-s-refuge-for-syrians-even-after-military-strikes/#comments Fri, 07 Apr 2017 23:31:19 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149866 U.S. President Donald Trump Thursday night described the deepening Syrian refugee crisis as partial justification for the first direct U.S. airstrike against the Syrian government, even though the United States still bans all refugees from Syria. Several rights groups responded Friday, calling on Trump to repeal the ban, which applies to migrants from Syria and […]

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Nikki Haley, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN holding up pictures of victims of the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria which prompted the Trump administration to launch an airstrike against the Assad government. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 7 2017 (IPS)

U.S. President Donald Trump Thursday night described the deepening Syrian refugee crisis as partial justification for the first direct U.S. airstrike against the Syrian government, even though the United States still bans all refugees from Syria.

Several rights groups responded Friday, calling on Trump to repeal the ban, which applies to migrants from Syria and 5 other countries in Africa and the Middle East.

“Trump was using very strong words last night to describe the cruelty and the horrors that children and civilians in general are enduring (in Syria),” Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, co-director of the US Program at Human Rights Watch told IPS.

“To try to keep refugees out of the United States is cruel,”McFarland Sánchez-Moreno added. “It’s contrary to the values that the U.S. has traditionally claimed to hold dear and inconsistent with some of the words that President Trump himself used last night.”

Speaking from Palm Beach, Florida on Thursday night Trump described how “even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered” in the alleged chemical weapons attack which took place earlier this week.

“Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed, and failed very dramatically.  As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize…” Trump continued.

“If we truly want to help protect the people of Syria, we must also be willing to offer the Syrians assistance as they flee attacks in search of safety," -- Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America

However despite the airstrike marking a change in direction in Syria for the Trump Republican administration, there is no indication the administration is considering a similar shift in its policy towards Syrian refugees.

Reactions from the 15 member states of the UN Security Council to the airstrike on Friday were mixed, with some supporting the strikes even though the United States carried out the unilateral attack without the backing of the council. Others, including Bolivia, which called the meeting, strongly opposed the attack.

Lord Steward Wood of Anfield, Chair of the UN Association of the UK, a civil society organisation questioned the United States decision to take “unilateral action without broad international backing through the UN,”

He said that such action “without a clear strategy for safeguarding civilians, and through further military escalation risks further deepening and exacerbating an already protracted and horrific conflict, leaving civilians at greater, not lesser, risk of further atrocities.”

“In the meantime, if President Trump wishes to help the victims of Assad’s atrocities, he could pledge to play a leading role in resettling the survivors,” Wood added.

Meanwhile Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America’s Senior Humanitarian Policy Advisor called for the United States to “change course” on Syrian refugees following the airstrikes.

Gottschalk said that the “innocent families” that Trump referred to “who were killed in Idlib are no different than the people who are attempting to seek refuge in the U.S.”

“Oxfam is urging the President to change course on his discriminatory ban that blocks Syrian civilians from finding refuge in the United States,” he said. “If we truly want to help protect the people of Syria, we must also be willing to offer the Syrians assistance as they flee attacks in search of safety.”

Although this is the first time that the United States has directly targeted Bashar Al-Assad’s government, airstrike monitoring project Airwars reports that there have been 7912 US-led coalition strikes targeting the so-called Islamic State since 2014. Airwars has also reported a spike in civilian casualties related to coalition air strikes in March 2017, rating 477 civilian casualties reports as ‘fair’.

However Airwars also reported that the U.S. strike on Shayrat Airfield in Homs in the early hours of Friday 7 April destroyed “up to 12 aircraft” describing this result as “significant” considering that “the primary cause of civilian deaths by (the) Syrian regime remains airstrikes.”

Earlier this week spokesmen for the UN Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric said that the Secretary-General was “deeply disturbed by the reports of alleged use of chemical weapons in an airstrike in the Khan Shaykhun area of southern Idlib, Syria.”

“The Secretary-General expresses his heartfelt condolences to victims of the incident and their families.”

Guterres had not yet commented on the U.S. airstrike against the Syrian government as of Friday evening.

Almost five million people have fled Syria since the conflict began over six years ago. Many areas of Syria are besieged and inaccessible to humanitarian assistance as well as UN monitors. This makes it difficult for the UN to monitor attacks such as the alleged chemical weapons attack which took place this week. This is also why the UN no longer provides an official death toll for the conflict, however in April 2016, UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura said that it is likely more than 400,000 people had been killed.

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Tomatoes, Limes and Sex-Selective Abortionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/tomatoes-limes-and-sex-selective-abortions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tomatoes-limes-and-sex-selective-abortions http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/tomatoes-limes-and-sex-selective-abortions/#comments Fri, 07 Apr 2017 04:45:55 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149843 The United States is withdrawing all of its funding from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) after claiming without evidence that the agency supports coercive abortions in China. UNFPA, which does not provide support for abortions anywhere, says that U.S. funds actually helped it to prevent some 295,000 unsafe abortions in 2016 by supporting voluntary family planning. IPS takes a look at one of the other ways the UNFPA is working to reduce abortions, by addressing gender-biased sex selection.

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Credit: Curt Carnemark / World Bank. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 7 2017 (IPS)

When Bimla Chandrasekharan saw that women who gave birth to baby girls were being sent out of the house by their angry husbands and mothers-in-law she realised a basic biology lesson was needed.

“We start educating them on this XY chromosome,” Chandrasekharan who is Founder and Director of Indian women’s rights organisation EKTA told IPS. “(But) we don’t say XY chromosome, we do it with tomatoes and limes. ‘Tomato tomato’ it becomes a girl, ‘tomato lime’ it becomes a boy.”

It is just a start but this lesson helps to show fathers that they in fact determine the sex of their children.

According to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), there are now 117 million girls who are ‘missing’ worldwide because of sex selective abortion and infanticide.

The problem ballooned in India and China in the 1990s, partly due to increased access to ultrasounds. But according to the UNFPA the problem has also now spread to new regions including Eastern Europe and South-East Asia.

A new UNFPA program to address the problem in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Viet Nam, Bangladesh and Nepal will draw on the experiences of both India and China in addressing the problem.

“The evidence we have (of what) what really works is changing social norms and gender norms that under-value girls and at the same time giving opportunities to girls and women.” -- Luis Mora, UNFPA

“Son preference is a practice that affects many societies around the world,” Luis Mora, Chief of the UN Population Fund’s Gender, Human Rights & Culture Branch told IPS.

“What we have seen over the last three decades is that the practice that initially was considered a sort of exception in China and India … has moved to other countries.”

Yet while the increase in sex selection has coincided with access to technologies like ultrasound, both Mora and Chandrasekharan agree that banning ultrasounds alone won’t fix the problem.

“In a patriarchal society there is always a preference for a male child,” says Chandrasekharan.

This is why EKTA challenges patriarchy and teaches mothers and fathers why they should want to have daughters just as much as they want sons.

Some of the reasons why sons are preferred over daughters are economic. In India parents have to pay a dowry for daughters. In many countries only sons can inherit property, daughters cannot.

But there are other reasons too.

As Chandrasekharan points out, some mothers fear bringing daughters into a world where they are likely to experience sexual harassment and abuse, a lifetime of unpaid housework, and marriage as young as 12 or 13.

Chandrasekharan, is an active member of a national campaign called Girls Count, which aims to fight sex selection in India, and receives funding from both UNFPA and UN Women.

She says that within Girls Count there are “two streams.”

“One stream of people believe in strict enforcement of the law,” says Chandrasekharan, “The other stream is challenging patriarchy, I belong to that stream,” She adds that she also believes in the law, but doesn’t think that laws alone work.

As Chandrasekharan points out India’s Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Technique Act was introduced in 1994, banning prenatal scanning and revealing the sex to parents, yet this law has not stopped sex-selective abortions.

Yet Chandrasekharan is also careful to say that challenging patriarchy doesn’t mean that her organisation is anti-men. Patriarchy is a system, she says that has consequences for both men and women, but mostly benefits men.

“We are not against you as an individual we are talking about a system,” she tells the men and boys she works with.

Mora also agrees that it is not possible to end sex selection without addressing gender inequality.

“The evidence we have (of what) what really works is changing social norms and gender norms that under-value girls and at the same time giving opportunities to girls and women.”

This includes giving rights, equal access to education, employment and land, says Mora. “These are the practical things that make a sustainable change.”

This is also why EKTA introduces role models to the community, to show that not all women will spend their lives doing unpaid housework.

EKTA’s most recent role model came from the local community herself. At a young age she met a family member who told her that she had flown to meet them by plane.

Even though the girl came from a marginalised Dalit family, she told her family that she wanted to be the ‘engine driver’ of a plane, since she didn’t yet know the word for pilot.

Last year, says Chandrasekharan, she became a full-fledged pilot and returned to speak to the community as part of EKTA’s role models program.

UNFPA’s new program in the six selected countries is funded by the European Union, however many other UNFPA programs are now in jeopardy, after the United States’ decision to withdraw all of its funding from the agency on Monday.

IPS spoke to Chandrasekharan during the annual UN Commission on the Status of Women.

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People With Autism Have Right to Autonomy Toohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/people-with-autism-have-right-to-autonomy-too/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=people-with-autism-have-right-to-autonomy-too http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/people-with-autism-have-right-to-autonomy-too/#comments Sun, 02 Apr 2017 03:20:12 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149749 Guardianship laws meant to protect people with autism actually deprive them of their basic rights and autonomy, according to experts on a UN panel. When people with autism turn 18, their parents or other caregivers are encouraged to legally become their guardians. However, as Zoe Gross an autism self-advocate says the practice deprives people with […]

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Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the Autism Research Center at the University of Cambridge, gives the keynote address during a special event held to mark World Autism Awareness Day. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 2 2017 (IPS)

Guardianship laws meant to protect people with autism actually deprive them of their basic rights and autonomy, according to experts on a UN panel.

When people with autism turn 18, their parents or other caregivers are encouraged to legally become their guardians. However, as Zoe Gross an autism self-advocate says the practice deprives people with autism of the ability to influence their own lives.

Gross was one of several panelists at a special event held to ahead of World Autism Awareness Day on the theme ‘Toward Autonomy and Self-Determination” at UN headquarters in New York on Friday.

The laws affect all aspects of a persons life, says Gross:

“Where you live, where you work, who you spend time with, whether you want to get married or have children, even whether to have medical procedures.”

“Regardless of whether your guardian is acting in your best interests or not, if you are under guardianship you don’t have access to the same rights that most adults take for granted,” -- Zoe Gross, Autism Self Advocate.

In some states, people under guardianship lose the right to vote while in extreme cases Gross says that people under guardianship have been forced to undergo involuntary sterilisation.

“Regardless of whether your guardian is acting in your best interests or not, if you are under guardianship you don’t have access to the same rights that most adults take for granted,” said Gross, who is Director of Operations at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

Theresia Degener, Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities spoke strongly against guardianship, also described as substituted decision making at the event.

“Substituted decision-making is a human rights violation,” said Degener. “It is called protection but it is oppression.”

“Guardianship laws are a harmful traditional legal practice coming from the north and it is now widespread all over the world and it must be repealed.”

2017 marks the 10th anniversary of World Autism Awareness Day.

“It has been 10 years since we joined with others to successfully campaign for a World Autism Awareness Day through the UN General Assembly,” Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation, told IPS.

“Our aim was to shine a bright light on autism as a growing global health issue,” she said.

“On this 10th anniversary, it is vital that the global community continues to increase awareness and develop knowledge across the world of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).”

“Only by celebrating the unique talents and achievements of persons with autism will we give a voice to the millions of individuals worldwide who are looking for ways to realise their full potential.”

Also speaking at the event, Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge spoke about how people with autism have difficulties with social relationships and communication but also need need respect and acceptance for their differences.

Baron-Cohen described how people with autism report feeling that even those they are close to may take advantage of their social naivety or different communication skills.

Baron-Cohen also emphasised that autism is a reflection of “neurodiversity, that our brains are not all wired the same.”

He also emphasised the potential positive sides of autism.

“Autism Is not a disease in the classical sense because it invariably leads to disability it also often leads to talent for example in excellent attention to detail and excellent ability to spot patterns.”

Baron-Cohen said that it was impossible to separate a discussion about independence and autonomy for people with autism from a discussion of their human rights.

“All people with autism, like all people with a disability, have legal capacity even if they need support to make decisions and need safe-guarding,” said Baron-Cohen.

“Legal capacity and equal recognition before the law are inherent rights that people with autism enjoy on an equal basis with other members of our societies,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterrres in a statement.

“Let us ensure that we make available the necessary accommodations and support persons with autism with access to the support they need and choose so they will be empowered to face the key milestones in every person’s life, such as deciding where and with whom to live, whether to get married and to establish a family, what type of work to pursue and how to manage their personal finances.”

“When they enjoy equal opportunity for self determination and autonomy, people with autism will be empowered to make an even stronger positive impact on our shared future.”

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New Tuberculosis Drugs May Become Ineffective: Studyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/new-tuberculosis-drugs-may-become-ineffective-study/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-tuberculosis-drugs-may-become-ineffective-study http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/new-tuberculosis-drugs-may-become-ineffective-study/#comments Fri, 24 Mar 2017 03:47:41 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149614 New antibiotics that could treat tuberculosis may rapidly become ineffective, according to new research published by the Lancet ahead of World Tuberculosis Day. The rise in multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, which affected 480,000 people in 2015, could mean that even newly discovered drugs will soon be useless, the study found. In total both drug resistant and non-drug […]

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A doctor examines the x-ray of a TB patient in New Delhi. Credit: Bijoyeta Das/IPS.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 24 2017 (IPS)

New antibiotics that could treat tuberculosis may rapidly become ineffective, according to new research published by the Lancet ahead of World Tuberculosis Day.

The rise in multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, which affected 480,000 people in 2015, could mean that even newly discovered drugs will soon be useless, the study found.

In total both drug resistant and non-drug resistant Tuberculosis (TB) killed an estimated 1.8 million people in 2015, making it the world’s deadliest infectious disease. The five countries where TB is most predominant are India, Indonesia, China, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa.

Multi-drug resistant tuberculosis reflects the meeting of an ancient and under-addressed disease – tuberculosis – with an emerging modern threat – antimicrobial resistance. The inappropriate use of antibiotics, including taking them without prescription or not following doctor’s orders closely is slowly rendering many antibiotics useless.

“Resistance to anti-tuberculosis drugs is a global problem that threatens to derail efforts to eradicate the disease,” said lead author of the Lancet report Professor Keertan Dheda from the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

“People with drug resistant TB who don’t have access to the two new drugs continue to be treated with older, more toxic regimens that cure only 50 percent of people treated and cause severe side effects ranging from severe nausea to deafness to psychosis,” -- MSF Access.

“Even when the drugs work, TB is difficult to cure and requires months of treatment with a cocktail of drugs. When resistance occurs the treatment can take years and the drugs used have unpleasant and sometimes serious side effects,” said Dheda.

Dheda added that it is important for improved diagnostic tests, which are currently being developed, to be made available in low-income countries “so as to inform treatment decisions and preserve the efficacy of any new antibiotic drugs for TB.”

The report was published in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine on World TB Day – 24 March.

Meanwhile, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) Access Campaign fewer than five percent of people with multi-drug resistant Tuberculosis have access to new medicines, four years after these medications were released.

“It’s downright disheartening that, with hundreds of thousands of people living with deadly drug-resistant tuberculosis, only 4,800 people last year received the two new drugs that could dramatically increase the number of lives saved,” said Dr. Isaac Chikwanha, TB advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign.

“Our first major problem is that pharmaceutical corporations are not even registering important new drugs in some of the countries hardest hit by TB; The next major problem is their high price,” said Dr. Chikwanha.

“People with drug resistant TB who don’t have access to the two new drugs continue to be treated with older, more toxic regimens that cure only 50 percent of people treated and cause severe side effects ranging from severe nausea to deafness to psychosis,” said MSF Access.

Dr Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization recently told IPS at a press conference on antimicrobial resistance that “there is no denying the fact that TB is a top priority for the world.”

She says that there are two high level meetings planned in 2017 and 2018 to “shine a light on TB” and give it “the political attention and the investment in research and development that it deserves.”

However according to both MSF Access and the new Lancet study, research and development alone, though needed, is not enough to address the shortcomings in the global response to TB and Antimicrobial Resistance without a matching political response.

In a comment article published alongside the new Lancet study David W Dowdy from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said that the difference between “a drug-resistant tuberculosis epidemic of unprecedented global scale” or “an unprecedented reversal of the global drug-resistant tuberculosis burden,” falls largely to whether there is “political will to prioritise a specific response to the disease.”

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Discrimination Compounds Global Inequality: UN Reporthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/discrimination-compounds-global-inequality-un-report/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=discrimination-compounds-global-inequality-un-report http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/discrimination-compounds-global-inequality-un-report/#respond Wed, 22 Mar 2017 04:34:24 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149536 Despite 25 years of impressive global development, many people are not benefiting from progress due to persistent discrimination, according to a UN report released Tuesday. The 2017 Human Development Report found that overall human development has improved significantly across all regions of the world since 1990. Yet despite these general improvements, poverty and inequality have […]

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UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 22 2017 (IPS)

Despite 25 years of impressive global development, many people are not benefiting from progress due to persistent discrimination, according to a UN report released Tuesday.

The 2017 Human Development Report found that overall human development has improved significantly across all regions of the world since 1990. Yet despite these general improvements, poverty and inequality have persisted.

“The world has come a long way in rolling back extreme poverty, in improving access to education, health and sanitation, and in expanding possibilities for women and girls,” said UN Development Program Administrator Helen Clark at the report’s launch. “But those gains are a prelude to the next, possibly tougher challenge, to ensure the benefits of global progress reach everyone.”

The report described how poverty and exclusion have remained, even in developed countries, where over 300 million people – including more than one-third of all children – live in relative poverty.

“We place too much attention on national averages, which often mask enormous variations in people’s lives,” -- Selim Jahan

The reasons for poverty and exclusion are often related to discrimination based on race, gender or migration status, the report found. Some of those most likely to live in poverty include indigenous people and people with disabilities. Meanwhile, more than 250 million people worldwide face discrimination solely on the basis of caste or another similar inherited lower status within society.

“By eliminating deep, persistent, discriminatory social norms and laws, and addressing the unequal access to political participation, which have hindered progress for so many, poverty can be eradicated and a peaceful, just, and sustainable development can be achieved for all,” Helen Clark said.

The largest group to be discriminated against globally is women and girls. Women are still poorer and earn less than men in every country globally and in 18 countries, women need their husband’s approval to work, the report found. Women now make up slightly less than half of the world’s population due to discrimination before and at birth through sex-selective abortion and infanticide.

“We place too much attention on national averages, which often mask enormous variations in people’s lives,” said Selim Jahan. “In order to advance, we need to examine more closely not just what has been achieved, but also who has been excluded and why.”

Other examples in this years report include the indigenous Parakanã, Asurini and Parkatêjê peoples of Brazil who were among more than 25,000 people forced to relocated due to the construction of the Tucuruí Dam in Brazil.

“Poor resettlement planning split up communities and forced them to relocate several times,” the report found.

Norway, Australia and Switzerland again topped the annual report as the world’s three most developed countries. Those countries with the lowest levels of human development were mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Pacific. Syria was ranked at 149 of 188 countries, a sharp fall from 107 in 2009 before the Syrian conflict began.

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“Hate Group” Inclusion Shows UN Members Still Divided on LGBT Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/hate-group-inclusion-shows-un-members-still-divided-on-lgbt-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hate-group-inclusion-shows-un-members-still-divided-on-lgbt-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/hate-group-inclusion-shows-un-members-still-divided-on-lgbt-rights/#respond Mon, 20 Mar 2017 17:14:36 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149488 A group designated as a hate group for its “often violent rhetoric” against LGBTI rights was an invited member of the United States Official Delegation to the annual women’s meeting say rights groups. C-FAM – one of the invited members of the United States official delegation to the meeting – has been designated as an Anti-LGBT hate group by […]

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Participants at a gay pride celebration in Uganda. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 20 2017 (IPS)

A group designated as a hate group for its “often violent rhetoric” against LGBTI rights was an invited member of the United States Official Delegation to the annual women’s meeting say rights groups.

C-FAM – one of the invited members of the United States official delegation to the meeting – has been designated as an Anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center “for its often violent rhetoric on LGBTQI rights” according to the International Women’s Health Coalition, who opposed the appointment.

Including C-Fam on the US delegation reflects ongoing disagreement between UN member states – and even within UN member states domestically – about the importance of including LGBTI rights within the UN’s work.

For the Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) community, there were many reasons to come to this year’s annual women’s meeting with “battle scars,” and “eyes open” says Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International.

In a statement issued in response to C-Fam’s appointment to the US delegation, Stern said described C-Fam as an organisation with a “violent mentality” and said that “it is essential that the US uphold American values and prevent all forms of discrimination at the CSW” and that “the US government must ensure protection for the world’s most vulnerable people.”

Globally LGBTI people are among those most vulnerable to discrimination, violence and poverty.  Yet explicit references to LGBTI rights continue to be left out of major UN documents, including the annual outcome document of the CSW, Stern told IPS.

“I see that the international (feminist) spaces are beginning to be receptive of trans people," -- Pepe Julien Onzema

“The agreed conclusions of the CSW have never in all of its history ever made explicit reference to sexual orientation, gender identy or intersex status so that’s decades of systematic exclusion,” she told IPS.

“What we’re asking is that our allies in government and our allies in different civil society movements understand that we need them to stand up for and with us in demanding inclusive references to our needs.”

However Stern said that she was also “very happy to say” that there is ”extraordinarily strong representation of LBTI rights” in side events at the year’s meeting, which each year brings thousands of government and non-government representatives to New York.

LBTI representatives at this year’s meeting included Pepe Julien Onzema, a trans male Ugandan activist who was a presenter at a non-government side event on Wednesday.

Onzema told IPS that although he has seen some open-mindedness in including trans people in the feminist movement internationally that there are still some challenges.

“I see that the international (feminist) spaces are beginning to be receptive of trans people,” but Onzema added that thinks that there is still “a lot of work to do.”

“Even we as activists we are still looking at each others’ anatomy to qualify people for these spaces.”

However Onzema who was attending the CSW for the first time said that he had felt welcomed at the meeting:

“I’m receiving warmth from people who know I am trans, who know I am from Uganda,” he said.

The Ugandan government’s persecution of the Ugandan LGBTI community has received worldwide attention in recent years. International organisations both for and against LGBTI rights have also actively tried to influence the domestic situation in the East African nation.

The US Mission to the United Nations could not immediately be reached for comment on the inclusion of C-Fam in the US delegation.

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UN Facing Famines, Conflicts and Now U.S. Funding Cutshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/un-facing-famines-conflicts-and-now-u-s-funding-cuts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-facing-famines-conflicts-and-now-u-s-funding-cuts http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/un-facing-famines-conflicts-and-now-u-s-funding-cuts/#comments Fri, 17 Mar 2017 05:48:53 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149461 In the midst of responding to the worst humanitarian crisis since records began, the UN is now faced with potential funding cuts from its biggest donor, the United States. On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump released “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” the first such budget proposal of his presidency. The […]

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Snow falls outside of the UN headquarters Secretariat building in New York. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 17 2017 (IPS)

In the midst of responding to the worst humanitarian crisis since records began, the UN is now faced with potential funding cuts from its biggest donor, the United States.

On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump released “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” the first such budget proposal of his presidency. The blueprint’s biggest proposed cuts target the Department of State, which would lose 29 percent of its budget, and the Environment Protection Agency, which would lose 31 percent.

Although details of exactly how the proposed cuts – which still require approval of U.S. Congress – would be made, are yet to emerge, funding for the UN and the USAID which both fall under the State Department is at risk.

“If approved – and that’s a big “if” – the Whitehouse’s plans could slash several billions in UN funding,” Natalie Samarasinghe Executive Director of the United Nations Association of the UK, told IPS.

These billions of dollars of potential cuts come at a time when the United Nations is occupied responding to both acute and chronic crises around the world.

“Some 20 million people are facing famine in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen,” said Samarasinghe.

“The number of people forced to flee their homes is now the biggest since records began,” she said. “These are people for whom the UN is literally the difference between life and death,” she said.

“The total foreign aid of the U.S. is about one percent of the budget - not 10 or 15 percent as some people seem to think - it’s one percent.” -- Michel Gabaudan

Michel Gabaudan, President of Refugees International, told IPS that it is important to keep the United States contribution in perspective when assessing the potential cuts.

“The U.S. contribution is critical, it is generous, it is vital, but it is not unduly high compared to other countries of the western bloc – who are the main funders of humanitarian aid – and we must keep this contribution in perspective.”

“The total foreign aid of the U.S. is about one percent of the budget – not 10 or 15 percent as some people seem to think – it’s one percent.”

“The magnitude of the U.S. economy means that that one percent of money is critical to humanitarian relief and to development programs but if you compare this with what some European countries are doing, like Switzerland, like the Nordics, like the Dutch … they are certainly giving more in terms of dollar per capita of their citizens,” he said.

Samarasinghe also noted that the proposed cuts are “still a relatively small amount compared to, say, fossil fuel subsidies.”

She said that it would be “politically challenging for European countries to pick up the slack, especially with elections looming in a number of countries.”

As an example, said Samarasinghe, a recent appeal from the Netherlands to fund reproductive health and safe abortions has not yet reached its $600 million target. That appeal was set up after Trump re-instated the Global Gag Rule, which removes U.S. funding from non-governmental organisations that carry out any activities related to safe abortion, regardless of the funding source.

Meanwhile, Deborah Brautigam an expert on China in Africa told IPS that it is unlikely that China will increase its funding to the United Nations as the United States steps back, because China already feels “very comfortable” in its current position at the UN. This position includes a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and UN development policies, which align with China’s priorities, such as industrialisation, said Brautigam who is Professor of International Political Economy and Director of the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University.

Two UN agencies that receive the most funding from the United States are the World Food Program, which provides emergency food assistance, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

However Gabaudan said that both the more immediate humanitarian aid as well as long-term development assistance are needed to address the world’s crises:

“The state department funds UNHCR and USAID funds development programs which tie the humanitarian aid with longer term issues,” said Gabaudan.

“Most displacement crises are protracted, people don’t leave and get back home after a year or two,” he said, as is the case with the Syrian conflict, which just surpassed six year on March 15th.

The budget proposal also reinforces other aspects of the emerging Trump Republican administration policies, including sweeping cuts to environment programs and cuts to programs, which assist the poor in the United States.

Nikki Haley, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations said in a statement that the cuts reflected a desire to make the United Nations more effective and efficient.

“I look forward to working with Members of Congress to craft a budget that advances U.S. interests at the UN, and I look forward to working with my UN colleagues to make the organisation more effective and efficient.”

“In many areas, the UN spends more money than it should, and in many ways it places a much larger financial burden on the United States than on other countries.”

However that financial relationship between the UN and the host of UN Headquarters is not unidirectional. According to the latest New York City UN Impact Report, the UN community contributed 3.69 billion dollars to the New York City economy in 2014.

In response to the budget blueprint Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that “the Secretary-General is grateful for the support the United States has given to the United Nations over the years as the organisation’s largest financial contributor.”

“The Secretary-General is totally committed to reforming the United Nations and ensuring that it is fit for purpose and delivers results in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.”

“However, abrupt funding cuts can force the adoption of ad hoc measures that will undermine the impact of longer-term reform efforts,” said Dujarric.

Dujarric’s statement also addressed aspects of the proposed budget, which claim to address terrorism. The proposal, which significantly increases spending on the U.S. military appears to favour a “hard power” militaristic approach over a “soft power” diplomatic and humanitarian approach.

“The Secretary-General fully subscribes to the necessity to effectively combat terrorism but believes that it requires more than military spending,” said Dujarric. “There is also a need to address the underlying drivers of terrorism through continuing investments in conflict prevention, conflict resolution, countering violent extremism, peacekeeping, peacebuilding, sustainable and inclusive development, the enhancement and respect of human rights, and timely responses to humanitarian crises.”

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Travel Restrictions Cast Shadow on UN Women’s Meeting: Rights Groupshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/travel-restrictions-cast-shadow-on-un-womens-meeting-rights-groups/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=travel-restrictions-cast-shadow-on-un-womens-meeting-rights-groups http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/travel-restrictions-cast-shadow-on-un-womens-meeting-rights-groups/#comments Thu, 16 Mar 2017 04:27:56 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149442 Increasing travel restrictions have prevented delegates from attending this year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), according to several women’s rights groups. The travel constraints go beyond U.S. President Donald Trump’s embattled travel ban on refugees and Muslim-majority countries, which was again blocked by a Federal Judge on Wednesday. Although the Executive Order […]

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A view of the General Assembly Hall during the opening meeting of the sixty-first session of the Commission on Stats of Women (CSW). Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 16 2017 (IPS)

Increasing travel restrictions have prevented delegates from attending this year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), according to several women’s rights groups.

The travel constraints go beyond U.S. President Donald Trump’s embattled travel ban on refugees and Muslim-majority countries, which was again blocked by a Federal Judge on Wednesday.

Although the Executive Order has not been re-enacted, women’s rights groups perceive that organising internationally is becoming more difficult. They report that some potential delegates were surprised that they were unable to obtain U.S. visas for the UN meeting; others were worried about increasingly strict treatment at U.S. airports; while others were prevented from travelling by their home countries.

The annual Commission on the Status of Women is usually one of the most vibrant and diverse meetings at UN headquarters in New York with hundreds of government ministers and thousands of delegates attending from around the world.

Sanam Amin from the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) told IPS that two members of the group’s delegation from from Bangladesh and Nepal, countries that “are not listed in the first or second version of (Trump’s travel) ban,” were unable to obtain visas.

“Multiple civil society organisations representatives from other countries are facing refusals and this is new to us, as we have never faced visa refusals after presenting UN credentials,” said Amin.

Amin also said that she had “been in contact with UN Women in Bangladesh, in Bangkok (ESCAP) and in New York over the visa refusal issue,” for weeks before the meeting, trying to find a solution.

“Those who were refused were expected by us to speak or participate in our side events and meetings with partner organisations and official delegations.” The APWLD, is an NGO which has accreditation with the UN Economic and Social Chamber.

Others unable to attend the event include a youth activist from El Salvador who on Wednesday participated in a side-event she had been meant to speak at, via video. Meanwhile women’s rights activists Mozn Hassan and Azza Soliman from Egypt were unable to attend because the Egyptian government has prevented them from leaving the country

"Multiple civil society organisations representatives from other countries are facing refusals and this is new to us, as we have never faced visa refusals after presenting UN credentials," -- Sanam Amin.

Representatives from civil society having difficulties obtaining visas to travel to attend UN meetings in the United States pre-dates the current Trump-Republican Administration. The U.S. Department of State advised IPS that it could not comment on individual visa cases. However while there are many potential reasons why visas may be refused, several groups perceive travel becoming more difficult in 2017.

“It’s incredibly ominous to have women’s rights activists feel like the revised executive order and overall hate rhetoric from the Trump administration makes them feel unsafe coming to this CSW and that is what we have heard,” Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International told IPS.

“We’ve heard women’s rights activists say that they worried about how they would be treated at U.S. borders and airports. We heard LGBTI activists who were coming to this meeting also worry about their own safety.”

Both Stern and Amin expressed concern about the implications and meanings of the travel ban, even though the courts have continued to keep it on hold, because even the revised ban, specifically restricts travel for nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

“The ban text even cites violence against women – in section one – in the six countries as reason to ‘not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred’,” said Amin.

“In fact, it (would restrict) civil society from those very countries from participating in events such as CSW. Instead, their governments are emboldened to take more regressive positions on women’s human rights, and the U.S., with its Global Gag Rule among other anti-women policies, is taking its place side-by-side with the very countries it has targeted with the ban,” she said.

Stern added that the theme of this year’s CSW – the economic empowerment of women – should not be a politicised issue.

“(It) should be a non-partisan issue that every government in the world can get behind because every government has a vested interest in the eradication of poverty and national economic development and we know that women are the majority of the world’s poor and so if you empower women economically than you empower families communities and nations,” said Stern.

She emphasised the importance of the meeting as a global forum for people who are actively working for gender justice around the world to speak with governments.

At the CSW “thousands of activists for women’s rights and gender justice (speak) with every government of the world to say what struggles they have from their own governments and the kind of accountability that they expect from the international system,” says Stern.

The rights organisations sponsoring the No Borders on Gender Justice campaign include: MADRE, Just Associates (JASS), Center for Women’s Global Leadership, AWID, Urgent Action Fund, Women in Migration Network and OutRight Action International.

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Climate Change Making Kenya’s Droughts More Severehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/climate-change-making-kenyas-droughts-more-severe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-making-kenyas-droughts-more-severe http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/climate-change-making-kenyas-droughts-more-severe/#comments Sun, 12 Mar 2017 19:04:31 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149371 The Super El Nino of 2015 to 2016 wrought droughts and floods around the world, yet it is its sister La Nina that is now fuelling drought and hunger in East Africa. IPS spoke with Macharia Kamau, Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and an expert on climate change and El Nino and La […]

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Macharia Kamau is Kenya's Permanent Representative to the United Nations. UN Photo/Mark Garten.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 12 2017 (IPS)

The Super El Nino of 2015 to 2016 wrought droughts and floods around the world, yet it is its sister La Nina that is now fuelling drought and hunger in East Africa.

IPS spoke with Macharia Kamau, Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and an expert on climate change and El Nino and La Nina.

“Climatic events have taken on a rather different pattern now because of climate change,” said Kamau.

These events, such as the current drought in East Africa, are becoming “more severe,” “less predictable” and are happening “more often,” he said. “Those three things put everyone who is on the path of these climatic events at higher risk.”

Kenya’s current severe drought, exacerbated by the recent La Nina, has left over two million people in Kenya without enough to eat.

“If you’re relying on rain-fed agriculture, then having the right weather, predictable weather, is crucially important,” -- Macharia Kamau

“We estimate about two million people have been affected,” said Kamau. Those most at risk of malnutrition include the elderly, young children and mothers who are breastfeeding, he said.

With two-thirds of its landmass already desert or semi-desert, Kamau says that Kenya is already vulnerable to low rain-fall.

However less reliable weather patterns associated with climate change, as well as increasingly frequent La Ninas and El Ninos, mean that farmers now have less time to recover in between extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods.

“If you’re relying on rain-fed agriculture, then having the right weather, predictable weather, is crucially important,” said Kamau, who is also the Special Envoy of the President of the UN General Assembly on Climate Change and was formerly the Special Envoy to the UN Secretary-General on El Niño, alongside former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson.

Yet it is not just people who cannot find enough water. During droughts Kenya’s pastoralists struggle to find enough water for their cows. While the government is helping relocate some livestock, the lack of rain places incredible strain on farmers.

Wild animals also struggle to find enough food during droughts.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare estimates that some 40 percent of the animals in the Tsavo West National Park during Kenya’s last severe drought.

Droughts has a “direct impact” on Kenya’s tourism industry which relies on visitors to its wildlife reserves, says Kamau.

Climate change is also affecting the East African coral reef, another important part of Kenya’s tourism industry.

“Acidification of the seas is beginning to effect the coral reefs, and you know the East African reef is one of the great reefs of the world. That, in and of itself, presents yet another challenge for fisheries, for biodiversity of the seas, for oxygenation of the ocean, (and) for tourism.”

“That’s another worrying situation,” said Kamau.

The recent La Nina which subsided in February follows the super El Nino of 2015 to 2016, one of the most severe El Ninos on record. Climate change is making El Ninos and La Ninas more frequent and more intense.

Although La Nina has subsided, Kamau doesn’t think that there will be much relief until at least April.

“If you are already without food or water for a couple of months and living off of disaster assistance, a week is a lifetime,” he said.

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Unhealthy Environment Causes 1 in 4 Child Deaths: WHOhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/unhealthy-environment-causes-1-in-4-child-deaths-who/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unhealthy-environment-causes-1-in-4-child-deaths-who http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/unhealthy-environment-causes-1-in-4-child-deaths-who/#respond Mon, 06 Mar 2017 01:14:50 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149263 Unhealthy environments – both inside and outside the home – cause the deaths of more than 1.7 million child under the age of five every year, according to two new reports released by the World Health Organization (WHO) Monday. Even in their own homes, many children in developing countries have neither clean air to breathe nor clean water to […]

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Unrest Brings North-East Nigeria Next to Starvationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/unresolved-brinks-north-east-nigeria-to-starvation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unresolved-brinks-north-east-nigeria-to-starvation http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/unresolved-brinks-north-east-nigeria-to-starvation/#respond Fri, 24 Feb 2017 15:23:27 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149091 Years of violence and unrest in North-East Nigeria have left millions of people at risk of starving to death. Both the violent up surging of Boko Haram and the government’s harsh military crackdown have left already historically marginalised communities with next to nothing. Some towns have already seen all of their children aged less than […]

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The military crackdown on Boko Haram has destroyed the economy around Lake Chad. Credit:Kristin Palitza/IPS

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 24 2017 (IPS)

Years of violence and unrest in North-East Nigeria have left millions of people at risk of starving to death. Both the violent up surging of Boko Haram and the government’s harsh military crackdown have left already historically marginalised communities with next to nothing.

Some towns have already seen all of their children aged less than five years of age die from starvation, according to Toby Lanzer, the UN’s coordinator for the region.

The violence, which began in North-East Nigeria has spilled over into the three other countries bordering Lake Chad: Cameroon, Niger and Chad.

A donor’s conference in Oslo, Norway on Friday raised $672 million dollars for the crisis – well short of the target of $1.5 billion.

IPS spoke to Sultana Begum, Oxfam Advocacy and Policy lead for the Lake Chad Basin crisis, who was in New York ahead of the donor’s conference.

The emphasis on responding militarily to the crisis has left already historically marginalised communities worse off, Begum told IPS.

“It isn’t just Boko Haram. It is the governments and the militaries of the region and the way that they are fighting this war,” she said. “In order to cut off Boko Haram from food and supplies, they have also cut off the lifeline of the civilian population.”

International governments have also been providing military and counter terrorism support in the region, says Begum, but she hopes they will also help support Nigeria to increase the humanitarian response through providing the funding needed to help people affected by the conflict.

“In order to cut off Boko Haram from food and supplies, they have also cut off the lifeline of the civilian population.” -- Sultana Begum, Oxfam

The military has also been funding vigilantes as a way to fight Boko Haram, a strategy which could potentially backfire and do further harm to local communities, according to a new report released Wednesday by the International Crisis Group.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian military has also been leading parts of the humanitarian response, such as running refugee camps, says Begum.

“New areas that the military has retaken, it is very militarized,” she says. “As soon as possible the military needs to hand (the camps) over to the civilian authorities, to humanitarians.”

However the vast majority of displaced people sheltered in the region are living in the homes of relatives, distant acquaintances and even strangers, who have opened their homes.

“These communities have been so incredibly generous some of them have taken 5, 6 families into their own homes,” said Begum.

“They’ve shared the little food that they have and they have very little themselves. They’ve really opened their hearts. Really they’re the heroes of the story, and they haven’t just been helping for 6 months, 5 months, many of them have been hosting these families in their homes for 2 to 3, sometimes 4 years. Some of the host communities hope that people will pay rent but people really can’t afford to pay rent.”

“There are some taking major, major risks to continue fishing.” -- Sultana Begum - Oxfam. Credit: Mustapha Muhammad/IPS.

“There are some taking major, major risks to continue fishing.” — Sultana Begum – Oxfam. Credit: Mustapha Muhammad/IPS.

Begum says that these communities are hosting some eighty percent of the people who are displaced in the region even though they themselves have their own struggles.

“If you look at Maiduguri, for example its an urban area, its an area that is historically been neglected. There are already issues to do with do people not having enough services like access to water, education.”

These host communities ”are really struggling themselves now,” says Begum. “They don’t have that much. There’s an economic crisis in Nigeria on top of everything else that’s going on. You know the price of food is really high. They have very little themselves and they need assistance.”

Sultana also notes that it’s important to recognise that people living on the edge economically may begin to see these groups as an option.

“When research has been done in terms of peoples’ motivations for joining Boko Haram, especially youth and young men in particular, the motivations are often to do with economics,” she said.

“Boko Haram offers them money. They offer them motorbikes. They offer them incentives. They offer them wives. You know these are all things that young men, they want. They need jobs, they need livelihoods and they want to get married and they want to have families and things like that. And those are opportunities they weren’t being offered.”

“So we’re hearing less about the ideological reasons why people are joining Boko Haram and more issues around the financial incentives.”

However in some cases the military crackdown has taken away what little economic opportunities these communities have.

Over the border in Niger, Begum says that emergency measures have destroyed the economy in the Diffa region.

“The two major economies are smoked fish and small pepper production.”

The small pepper “was so lucrative for the region,” people called it ‘red gold’.

“The emergency measures that were bought in banned fishing, banned the selling of fish, basically restricted peoples access to fuel and fertilizer, banned motorbikes, brought in curfews. So what that meant was that people stopped fishing. Most of these fishermen relied on fishing for 89 percent of their income,” she says.

“There are some taking major, major risks to continue fishing.”

“Some people have been killed by Boko Haram (or) they have been picked up by the military and accused of being Boko Haram, put into detention, or have disappeared.”

“The farmers are taking part in illegal trade. They are out trying to get hold of fuel and fertilizer illegally.”

This week the UN warned that North-East Nigeria alongside Yemen and Somalia, are at imminent risk of famine, after South Sudan on Monday became the first country to declare famine since 2012. In North-East Nigeria alone more than 5 million people now face serious food shortages, according to the UN.

In all of these four countries the current food crisis is considered man-made, the result of years of unresolved conflict.

However, despite their roots in conflict, much more than a military response is needed to end these crises.

Update: This article has been updated to include information about the funds raised in Oslo. An earlier headline has also been corrected.

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South Sudan Declares Famine, Other Countries May Follow Warns UNICEFhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/south-sudan-declares-famine-other-countries-may-follow-warns-unicef/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-sudan-declares-famine-other-countries-may-follow-warns-unicef http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/south-sudan-declares-famine-other-countries-may-follow-warns-unicef/#respond Tue, 21 Feb 2017 18:04:43 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149050 South Sudan Monday became the first country to declare famine since 2012, as UNICEF warned that 1.4 million children are at risk of dying from starvation with famine also imminent in Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen. Protracted conflict is the root cause of the food crises in all four countries, reflecting the reality that famine is […]

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Making the Deep Blue Sea Green Againhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/making-the-deep-blue-sea-green-again/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=making-the-deep-blue-sea-green-again http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/making-the-deep-blue-sea-green-again/#comments Mon, 20 Feb 2017 04:17:29 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149021 The UN Oceans Conference planned for June 2017 aims to create a more coordinated global approach to protecting the world's oceans from rising threats such as acidification, plastic litter, rising sea levels and declining fish stocks.

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A young boy stands near mangroves planted near his home in the village of Entale in Sri Lanka’s northwest Puttalam District. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 20 2017 (IPS)

Children growing up in the Seychelles think of the ocean as their backyard, says Ronald Jean Jumeau, Seychelles’ ambassador for climate change.

“Our ocean is the first and eternal playground of our children, they don’t go to parks they go to the ocean, they go to the beach, they go to the coral reefs, and all that is just collapsing around them,” Jumeau told IPS.

The tiny country off the East Coast of Africa is one of 39 UN member states known as small island states, or as Jumeau likes to call them: “large ocean states.”

Ambassadors and delegations from these 39 countries often speak at UN headquarters in New York steadfastly sounding the alarm about the changes to the world’s environment they are witnessing first hand. Jumeau sees these island states as sentinels or guardians of the oceans. He prefers these names to being called the canary in the gold mine because, he says: “the canaries usually end up dead.”

Yet while much is known about the threats rising oceans pose to the world’s small island states, much less is known about how these large ocean states help defend everyone against the worst impacts of climate change by storing “blue carbon.”

“We are not emitting that much carbon dioxide but we are taking everyone else’s carbon dioxide into our oceans,” says Jumeau.

"There’s 3 billion people around the world that are primarily dependent on marine resources for their survival and so they depend on what the ocean can produce,” -- Isabella Lövin, Sweden’s deputy prime minister.

Despite decades of research, the blue carbon value of oceans and coastal regions is only beginning to be fully appreciated for its importance in the fight against climate change.

“There’s proof that mangroves, seas salt marshes and sea grasses absorb more carbon (per acre) than forests, so if you’re saying then to people ‘don’t cut trees’ than we should also be saying ‘don’t cut the underwater forests’,” says Jumeau.

This is just one of the reasons why the Seychelles has banned the clearing of mangroves. The temptation to fill in mangrove forests is high, especially for a nation with so little land, but Jumeau says there are many benefits to sustaining them.

As well as absorbing carbon, mangroves guard against erosion and protect coral reefs. They also provide nurseries for fish.

Its not just coastal forests that take carbon out of the atmosphere. Oceans themselves also absorb carbon, although according to NASA their role is more like inhaling and exhaling.

The Seychelles, whose total ocean territory is 3000 times larger than its islands, is also thinking about how it can protect the ocean so it can continue to perform this vital function.

The nation plans to designate specific navigation zones within its territories to allow other parts of the ocean a chance to recover from the strains associated with shipping.

The navigation zones will “relieve the pressure on the ocean by strengthening the resilience of the oceans to absorb more carbon dioxide and ocean acidification,” says Jumeau. He acknowledges the plan will only work if all countries do the same but says you have to start somewhere.

Fortunately other countries are also, finally, beginning to recognise the importance of protecting the world’s oceans.

Isabella Lövin, Sweden’s deputy prime minister and climate minister told IPS that the world is going “in the totally wrong direction,” when it comes to achieving the goal of sustainable oceans and life below water.

“If you look at the trends right now, you see more and more overfishing, we are seeing more and more pollution, plastic litter coming into our oceans, and we’re also seeing all the stress that the ocean is under due to climate change, acidification of the water, but also the warming and sea level rises.

“All of this is putting a tremendous, tremendous pressure on our oceans,” said Lövin.

Together with Fiji, Sweden is convening a major UN Ocean Conference in June this year.

The conference aims to bring together not only governments but also the private sector and non-governmental organisations to create a more coordinated approach to sustaining oceans. It will look at the key role that oceans play in climate change but also other issues such as the alarming prospect that there will be more plastic in our seas than fish by the year 2050.

“There’s 3 billion people around the world that are primarily dependent on marine resources for their survival and so they depend on what the ocean can produce, so it’s about food security, it’s also about livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people that depend on small scale fisheries mostly in developing countries,” said Lövin.

Lövin also noted that rich countries need to work together with developing countries to address these issues, because the demand for fish in rich countries has put a strain on the global fish stocks that developing countries rely on.

“Rich countries … have been over-fishing with industrial methods for decades and now when they European oceans are being emptied more or less we have depleted our resources and then we import and we fish (over long distances in) developing countries’ waters.”

“We need to make sure that fish as a resource is conserved and protected for future generations.”

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No to Palestinian Peace Envoy: US to UNhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/no-to-palestinian-peace-envoy-us-to-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-to-palestinian-peace-envoy-us-to-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/no-to-palestinian-peace-envoy-us-to-un/#comments Tue, 14 Feb 2017 01:11:01 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148937 The failed appointment of former Palestinian-Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as the UN’s peace envoy to Libya has shown that divisions over Palestine still run deep at the world body. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ pick as his Special Representative in Libya, was quickly vetoed by U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley on Friday 10 February. […]

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The flags of UN observer states the Vatican and Palestine. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 14 2017 (IPS)

The failed appointment of former Palestinian-Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as the UN’s peace envoy to Libya has shown that divisions over Palestine still run deep at the world body.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ pick as his Special Representative in Libya, was quickly vetoed by U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley on Friday 10 February.

Haley said on Friday that the United States was “disappointed” to see a letter indicating Fayyad would be appointed for the role.

By Monday Fayyad was no longer under consideration

In Dubai on Monday, Guterres described the turn of events as a “loss for the Libyan peace process,” describing Fayyad as “the right person for the right job at the right moment.”

Guterres also noted the importance of appointment given the ongoing instability in Libya.

“Let’s not forget that Libya is not only relevant in itself, Libya has been a factor of contamination to the peace and stability in a wide area, namely in Africa, in the Sahel, and to bring an end to the conflict in Libya is in everybody’s interest.”

However few if any conflicts have remained on the UN’s agenda as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Indications that the Palestinian question – as it is referred to in UN Security Council meetings – may become a source of tension between the United Nations and the Trump – Republican administration began before Trump had taken office.

On December 22, the United States under then President Barack Obama allowed Security Council Resolution 2334 condemning Israeli settlements to pass by abstaining – the resolution was supported by the 14 other Security Council members, including U.S. allies such as New Zealand, the United Kingdom and France.

The resolution stated that “Israel’s establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, had no legal validity.”

In an apparent break from protocol for a President-elect, Donald Trump appeared to respond to the vote on December 23 with a Tweet stating: “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th.”.

Haley later described the resolution as “a terrible mistake,” in her confirmation hearing for the role of U.S. Ambassador to the UN.

Following the vote Israel passed a law on 6 February retrospectively recognising Jewish Settelements built on confiscated Palestinian land in the occupied territories.

Kofi Annan, Chair of The Elders and former UN Secretary-General, described the law as “highly damaging” to “prospects for peace.”

“Prime Minister Netanyahu should show leadership to overturn this law, paying heed to the objections of Israel’s Attorney General, broad segments of Israeli society, and members of his own Likud Party,” said Annan.

The United States has remained Israel’s closest ally both for strategic reasons as a partner in the Middle East and due to domestic support for Israel. This support comes in part from America’s Jewish population. While the current administration supports Israel, their support for Judaism is less clear, after the White House failed to refer to Jews or Judaism in its statement issued on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Meanwhile support for Israel also comes from groups such as Christians United for Israel who say on their website that they have over 3 million members. The group’s website homepage also includes a pop-up campaign calling to defund the United Nations.

The United States provides 22 percent of the UN budget, making it the largest single member state contributor.

There is yet to be any concrete indication from either Trump or Haley that the U.S. intends to reduce U.S. funding to the UN other than through a leaked draft Executive Order published by some media outlets.

However some Republican lawmakers have been more open in their opposition to the UN’s seeming sympathy towards Palestine, presenting a bill, which has not yet passed, to withhold U.S. funding to the UN until Resolution 2334 has been repealed.

Palestine has been a non-member observer state at the UN since 2012. In a symbolic gesture, the UN began flying the Palestinian flag in September 2015, alongside the Holy See – Vatican – which is also an observer state.

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Radio: the Original Social Mediahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/radio-the-original-social-media/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=radio-the-original-social-media http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/radio-the-original-social-media/#respond Mon, 13 Feb 2017 03:56:40 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148921 Each year on February 13, World Radio Day, the UN brings attention to the humble wireless, which was invented back in 1895, more than 100 years before the World Wide Web was created in 1990.

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Supporting Local Organisations: A Syrian Perspectivehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/supporting-local-organisations-a-syrian-perspective/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=supporting-local-organisations-a-syrian-perspective http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/supporting-local-organisations-a-syrian-perspective/#comments Fri, 10 Feb 2017 05:44:39 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148882 Just 0.2 percent of humanitarian funding goes directly to local and national NGOs, according to a major UN review of humanitarian financing published ahead of the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit. Yet nearly one year after the summit, little has changed. International donors continue to overlook organisations with local roots and local knowledge, despite their often much lower operating costs. The […]

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Fadi Hallisso is co-founder of Syrian NGO Basmeh and Zeitooneh. Credit: L Rowlands/IPS.

By Lyndal Rowlands
NEW YORK, Feb 10 2017 (IPS)

Just 0.2 percent of humanitarian funding goes directly to local and national NGOs, according to a major UN review of humanitarian financing published ahead of the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit.

Yet nearly one year after the summit, little has changed. International donors continue to overlook organisations with local roots and local knowledge, despite their often much lower operating costs.

The High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing Report to the UN Secretary-General argued that responses to crises needed to be put back in the hands of the people most affected.

The panel’s members said that when they spoke to local and national organisations they heard a common complaint; that international organisations were “treated as sub-contractors rather than true partners.”

To find out what it’s like for local organisations working in humanitarian settings, IPS spoke with Fadi Hallisso, a co-founder of Basmeh and Zeitooneh, a Syrian organisation that supports Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Turkey.

Hallisso described how some of Basmeh and Zeitooneh’s programs have achieved success despite skepticism from big international donors.

Very little we see stories about the successful examples of Syrians who are trying to help and trying to do something good on the ground,” -- Fadi Hallisso

One such case, says Halliso, was a workshop Basmeh and Zeitooneh started in Beirut where refugees embroider shoes and make other handcrafts:

“We approached different international organisations and all of them were saying this is not feasible. We’ve done the market study. There is no market for these things,” said Hallisso.

So Basmeh and Zeitooneh went to local businessmen and asked them to donate the funds to start the project instead.

With these funds the workshop became successful, the products the refugees make are now exported to the United States and Europe. Only once the project was successful, says Halliso were international donors suddenly interested.

However despite this lack of initial support from international donors Halliso says he has also witnessed international programs struggling to gain traction with locals.

In one case, an international NGO that set up recreation centres didn’t know why people weren’t using the centres. “They asked for our help to recruit people and find them children to come,” said Halliso.

“They were coming from Syria with only the clothes they had. They had far much more basic needs than just these spaces and they didn’t know the world of NGOs, they didn’t know who these people are and didn’t trust them, so why send their kids?”

He said that this example showed the importance of showing people solidarity by showing that you “understand their needs and are responding to them”.

While not all local organisations have achieved success, Basmeh and Zeitooneh has now grown to have over 500 employees says Halliso.

“I never imagined even in the best-case scenario that we would become an organization with 500 employees in several countries, so we were just doing what we felt it is our duty to do, to help our people, our citizens, to show them humanity, and this proved to be the right response because we understood what they needed.”

Yet although Basmeh and Zeitooneh has grown it still encounters challenges when dealing with international donors.

These include long delays waiting for needs assessments to be carried out and a lack of interest in funding smaller projects.

As Halliso explains, while donors may worry that local organisations don’t “have the financial systems in place, don’t have the policies and procedures that prevent corruption and stealing of money,” it is also difficult for local organisations to find support to develop these systems.

“We had trainings on how to write proposals, but writing proposals is not everything. We needed support to buy accounting software. No one from our donors was willing to give us the money, the cash money needed to buy this software.”

Yet, it is not just major international donors who are unsure how to fund local organisations. Individual donors are also unsure how to support local organisations directly from overseas..

“I often meet with people who ask me, ‘I want to help, but I don’t know how and I don’t know where to give my money to because I’m afraid that this will go to the wrong hands or to terrorist groups.’”

One way to address this gap, says Halliso is through the media.

“I think our problem is the media in general around Syria is too much taken about covering the military action, about speaking about terrorism and ISIS. Very little we see stories about the successful examples of Syrians who are trying to help and trying to do something good on the ground,” he said.

Halliso was in New York for meetings organised by the international organisation Oxfam, which has partnered with Basmeh and Zeitooneh, prior to the travel ban imposed on Syrians travelling to the United States.

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Trump’s Muslim Ban a Test for Unity and Solidarityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/trumps-muslim-ban-a-test-for-unity-and-solidarity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trumps-muslim-ban-a-test-for-unity-and-solidarity http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/trumps-muslim-ban-a-test-for-unity-and-solidarity/#respond Wed, 01 Feb 2017 16:14:30 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148766 Outgoing African Union Chair Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has described the United States ban on refugees and immigrants from seven countries as “one of the greatest challenges and tests to our unity and solidarity.” Speaking to African leaders on Monday Zuma asked why “the very country to whom our people were taken as slaves during the Trans-Atlantic […]

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Outgoing African Union Chair described the Muslim ban as a test for unity and solidarity. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas.

By Lyndal Rowlands
NEW YORK / UNITED NATIONS, Feb 1 2017 (IPS)

Outgoing African Union Chair Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has described the United States ban on refugees and immigrants from seven countries as “one of the greatest challenges and tests to our unity and solidarity.”

Speaking to African leaders on Monday Zuma asked why “the very country to whom our people were taken as slaves during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, have now decided to ban refugees from some of our countries.”

On Friday 27 January United States President Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily ceasing entry to the United States for nationals of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The order also suspended the entire U.S. refugee program for 120 days and indefinitely blocked all refugees from Syria from entering the United States.

African leaders are not the only ones who see the ban as a test of unity and solidarity.

Others see growing anti-Muslim sentiment as a rallying point for solidarity between different religious groups, with American Jews questioning the “terrible irony” of the bill being signed on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

IPS spoke with Fadi Hallisso, a former Jesuit from Syria and Said Sabir Ibrahimi, who was born in Afghanistan and is involved in interfaith solidarity events between Jewish and Muslim people living in New York.

“Religion is a powerful tool, but instead of using it for destruction and hatred, we are going to use it to build bridges between different communities to pave the way towards a better community for our kids,” -- Fadi Hallisso

Hallisso, is the co-founder of Basmeh and Zeitooneh a Syrian NGO, whose five founders include three Christians.

“Our work in Turkey and Lebanon is almost 100 percent with Muslim Syrians,” Hallisso told IPS. “I think working hand-in-hand with different people from different religious backgrounds is what we need right now.”

“Religion is a powerful tool, but instead of using it for destruction and hatred, we are going to use it to build bridges between different communities to pave the way towards a better community for our kids,” he said.

Trump’s order also states that once the U.S. refugee program resumes it will prioritise claims from religious minorities – prompting some to believe that Christian refugees from these Muslim majority countries will be prioritised.

However Hallisso, himself a Syrian Christian, disagreed that in the case of Syria Christians are more persecuted than Muslims.

“We are all human beings suffering from an impossible situation that we wish to have an end to soon,” he said.

Hallisso described the women’s marches that occurred the day after Trump’s inauguration as an important act of solidarity.

“I wish we can in the coming few months and years to expand this solidarity to become global solidarity movement,” he said. “If the people of goodwill do not work together and the bad guys would have the last say.”

Said Sabir Ibrahimi, who was born in Afghanistan and now lives in New York told IPS that he has seen a growing movement of people of different background in the United States bridging divides.

Ibrahimi is part of a group which organises interfaith solidarity events between Jewish and Muslim people living in New York.

“We sense open Islamaphobia and subtle anti-semitism – not to mention the anti-women rhetoric and more,” Ibrahimi told IPS.

“The good news is that some Muslim-Jewish and other faith or non-faith groups have come together to voice their concerns about this whole chaotic policy shift and we have witnessed these groups showing up in protests in large crowds, across the country, in unprecedented ways probably since the 1960s during the Vietnam war.”

Meanwhile, the White House has also been criticised for failing to mention Jewish people in its statement issued on Holocaust Memorial Day.

“I think it’s so bizarre to talk about the Holocaust and not mention Jewish people,” said Ibrahimi. “It was the Jewish people who had suffered the most during those horrific times of World War Two.”

He said that people are drawing connections and associating significance with the marginalisation of minorities in Nazi Germany and the events unfolding in the United States.

For some American Jews, it was no coincidence that the dramatic change in US immigration policy was announced on Holocaust Remembrance Day:

Jeremy Ben-Ami, President of Liberal Jewish advocacy group J Street said that it was a “terrible irony” that Trump signed the order on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“The fact that President Trump’s order appears designed to specifically limit the entry of Muslims evokes horrible memories among American Jews of the shameful period leading up to World War Two, when the United States failed to provide a safe haven for the vast majority of Jews in Europe trying to escape Nazi persecution,” said Ben-Ami.

Meanwhile, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that she was ready to register as a Muslim in response to Trump’s proposed Muslim Registry – which as yet has not been enacted:

“I was raised Catholic, became Episcopalian & found out later my family was Jewish. I stand ready to register as Muslim in #solidarity,” said Albright who came to the United States from Czechoslovakia as a refugee.

Hallisso expressed dismay that the United States a country “built on immigration,” and “built by immigrants escaping religious persecution in Europe” has begun “portraying all immigrants and refugees as potential terrorists.”

“To see this coming from Americans now, some American leaders, is for me devastating because it is like someone ignoring all of the history of his own country,” he said.

“But also it is problematic for us in the Middle East for a number of reasons, because for God’s sake, how do you expect countries like Lebanon and Jordan and Turkey to continue to receive more than a million refugees if 10,000 Syrian refugees coming to the United States are a problem?”

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Insecurity Fuelling Food Shortages in Lake Chad Basin: UN Coordinatorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/insecurity-fuelling-food-shortages-in-lake-chad-basin-un-coordinator/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=insecurity-fuelling-food-shortages-in-lake-chad-basin-un-coordinator http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/insecurity-fuelling-food-shortages-in-lake-chad-basin-un-coordinator/#respond Mon, 30 Jan 2017 19:30:59 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148730 Children under five years of age are not surviving due to severe food shortages in some parts of the Lake Chad region, says Toby Lanzer, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel. “I saw adults sapped of energy who couldn’t stand up, I saw an entire town devoid of two-year olds, three-year […]

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Toby Lanzer, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel speaks at the International Peace Institute. Credit: L Rowlands / IPS.

By Lyndal Rowlands
Jan 30 2017 (IPS)

Children under five years of age are not surviving due to severe food shortages in some parts of the Lake Chad region, says Toby Lanzer, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel.

“I saw adults sapped of energy who couldn’t stand up, I saw an entire town devoid of two-year olds, three-year olds, four-year olds, and when we asked where are the children – and I get upset when I say this – we were told that they had died, they had starved.”

This was the situation Lanzer saw on a visit to the town of Bama in Northern Nigeria in 2016. He described the visit at a discussion with policy makers, diplomats and journalists at the International Peace Institute – a New York think tank – on Wednesday 25 January.

Communities across the Lake Chad basin have lost the last three planting seasons - Toby Lanzer.

The crisis has left millions of people living on the edge in the Lake Chad basin, due to a combination of abject poverty, climate change and violent extremism, said Lanzer. Four countries – Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Nigeria – border Lake Chad, which has shrunk dramatically since the 1960s.

“Around Lake Chad there are now well over 10 million people who I could categorise as desperately in need of … life-saving aid,” he said, including 7.1 million people categorised as “severely food insecure.”

In response to a question from IPS, Lanzer described how ongoing violence in the region has contributed to the food shortages:

“About 85 percent of people across this part of the world depend on the weather and agriculture livestock – it’s an agro-pastoralist community.”

“If your movement is confined you may not plant and communities across the Lake Chad basin have lost the last three planting seasons if you don’t plant than you don’t harvest and if you don’t harvest than you don’t have food,” he said.

“If your cattle or your goats or your livestock isn’t moving cows that don’t walk get sick and they die and then you’ve lost your livelihood,” he added.

Lanzer, whose humanitarian career has seen him work in Sudan, South Sudan, Timor-Leste, and the Central African Republic said that the poverty in the Lake Chad region is some of the worst he has witnessed.

“I don’t think I’ve been to villages before where people don’t have flip-flops, where people don’t have plastic,” he said.

However Lanzer noted that ongoing violence in the region – including due to extremist group Boko Haram – was one of the biggest factors disrupting the lives of people in the region.

Els Debuf, Senior Adviser and Head of Humanitarian Affairs at the International Peace Institute said that although the crisis in the Lake Chad region is one of the most severe it is also one of the most under-reported.

She noted that despite the region’s extreme poverty, communities were also sheltering refugees and internally displaced persons:

“Close to two and half million refugees and internally displaced people – the vast majority of whom are children – are sheltered throughout the region by communities who are themselves among the poorest and most vulnerable in the world,” she said.

The governments of Norway, Nigeria and Germany are planning a pledging conference to raise funds for the crisis in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region on 24 February in Oslo, Norway.

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Tobacco Industry Misleads Developing Countries Over Regulationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/tobacco-industry-misleads-developing-countries-over-regulations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tobacco-industry-misleads-developing-countries-over-regulations http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/tobacco-industry-misleads-developing-countries-over-regulations/#respond Fri, 13 Jan 2017 21:34:35 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148500 Low and middle-income countries have far fewer tobacco regulations than high-income countries and are paying the price – with bigger health and economic impacts. Yet, according to new wide-ranging research published by the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco companies are misleading governments, telling them that tobacco regulations will potentially harm their economies. The research was […]

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A cigarette vendor in Manila sells a pack of 20 sticks for less than a dollar. Credit: Kara Santos/IPS

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 13 2017 (IPS)

Low and middle-income countries have far fewer tobacco regulations than high-income countries and are paying the price – with bigger health and economic impacts.

Yet, according to new wide-ranging research published by the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco companies are misleading governments, telling them that tobacco regulations will potentially harm their economies.

The research was compiled in a new monograph titled The Eonomics of Tobacco and Tobacco Control, published jointly by the WHO and the National Cancer Institute of the US-based National Institutes of Health.

Frank Chaloupka, who edited the monograph, told IPS that when low and middle income countries do implement regulations, there is usually a much bigger pay off.

“We present some new evidence in the monograph on tobacco advertising bans that shows they have a bigger effect in low- and middle-income countries than they do in high-income countries,” said Chaloupka who is also Distinguished Professor of Economics & Public Health at the University of Illinois.

"Tobacco advertising bans ... have a bigger effect in low- and middle-income countries than they do in high-income countries" -- Frank Chaloupka

“I think it’s partly because of the fact that in a lot of low- and middle-income countries they haven’t been exposed to the same information about the health consequences of tobacco use, people are more susceptible to the industry(’s positive) portrayals of tobacco,” noted Chaloupka.

For example, says Chaloupka, graphic warning labels have proven more effective in low- and middle-income countries.

“People can really see the damage caused by tobacco through the graphic warnings.” For those who have had less exposure to these warnings from other sources of information, the warnings have an even bigger impact.

Taxes on tobacco sales in low and middle countries also have a bigger impact than in high-income countries, Chaloupka added.

“Given people’s lower incomes, people are more responsive to changes in the price,” he said.

There are several reasons why low- and middle-income countries have less tobacco regulations than high-income countries, said Chaloupka, but one problematic cause is misleading arguments made by the industry:

“The industry’s arguments around things like illicit trade, impact on jobs and the broader economic impact, the impact on the poor, the impact on their tax revenues, really the economic arguments that the industry uses against tobacco control are really misleading, and for the most part, false.”

This has contributed to a widening gap between regulations in low and middle-income versus high-income countries. The gap has also widened because of how quickly high-income countries moved to implement control measures:

“We’ve seen governments get serious and really take action, and adopt strong tobacco control measures, push up taxes, ban smoking in public places, ban tobacco marketing as a result we’ve seen tobacco use falling for at least a few decades in most high-income countries.”

While some low and middle-income countries may lack the capacity to implement complex regulations, Chaloupka noted that often simpler policies can be more effective.

“The Philippines (had) a complicated tax system where we had different rates on different brands,” he said. “Over time they moved toward a significant reform in their system and they’re in the process of moving to a single uniform tax which is a lot easier to administer and much better at deterring tax avoidance and tax evasion.”

However although so-called excise taxes on tobacco products can act as a deterrent worldwide they are far from helping governments recoup the costs of tobacco use to economies and society.

“The estimate we have for the global cost is about $1.4 trillion, and less than $300 billion being generated in tax revenues,” said Chaloupka, adding that less than $1 billion of tobacco-related tax revenues is being used for tobacco control.

Chaloupka also pointed to Turkey as an example of a middle-income country that has successfully regulated tobacco use.

“If you go back a few decades the Turkish government used to be the tobacco industry in Turkey. They used to be one of the biggest growers of tobacco leaf in the world, and over time they’ve completely moved in the other direction.”

“They privatised their tobacco industry (and) they didn’t make any promises to the tobacco companies that moved into their markets, and really then did move forward with strong tobacco control policies.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article referred to “$300 million being generated in tax revenues” and “$1 million of tobacco-related tax revenues…” it should have read billion(s) not million(s).

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