Inter Press ServiceTharanga Yakupitiyage – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 15 Jan 2019 15:33:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 Building Mongolia’s Green Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/building-mongolias-green-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-mongolias-green-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/building-mongolias-green-future/#respond Tue, 15 Jan 2019 08:59:05 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage and IPS Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159633 A country that has contributed least to global climate change now has to cope with and adapt to the very real effects they are faced with.

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January 2018 alone saw temperatures drop to -50 degrees Celsius. This has had vast impacts on Mongolia’s herders. Credit: Michelle Tolson/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage and IPS Correspondent
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 15 2019 (IPS)

The landlocked country of Mongolia sparks certain images in the mind—rolling hills with horses against a picturesque backdrop.

However, the East Asian country is facing a threat that will change its landscape: climate change.

“Climate change isn’t affecting everyone around the world evenly. Small island states is an example and another example is people who live in more norther climates like Mongolia,” United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment John Knox told IPS.

“The problem for Mongolia is, with respect to climate change, is that it contributes almost nothing to greenhouse gasses…so that means instead Mongolia has to be concerned with adaptation,” he added.

According to the Mongolian Ministry of Environment, the mean air temperature increase by more than 2 degrees Celsius between 1940 and 2014, more than twice the global average.

This has increased the frequency of natural disasters such as what is locally known as “dzud”—a summer drought followed by a severe winter, a phenomenon that has increased over recent years.

January 2018 alone saw temperatures drop to -50 degrees Celsius.

This has had vast impacts on the country’s herders.

Almost 50 percent of the Mongolia’s 3 million population are employed in animal husbandry. They produce 35 percent of agricultural gross production and account for 30 percent of the country’s export.

At the same time, 28 percent of the population live at or below the poverty line, making them dependent on this trade.

Almost 50 percent of the Mongolia’s 3 million population are employed in animal husbandry. They produce 35 percent of agricultural gross production and account for 30 percent of the country’s export. Credit: Michelle Tolson/IPS

“Any adverse impact of a changing climate on pasture availability would threaten forage yield, livestock productivity, and, ultimately, local and national food production capacity. Hence, environment and climate condition play a key role in the sustainable development of the country,” said Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)’s Mongolia representative Romain Brillie.

Approximately 70 percent of grassland in the country is impacted by desertification while the area of barren land expanded 3 times between 1992 and 2006.

While overgrazing has contributed to the changes in the environment, climate change has exacerbated the impacts.

Without sustainable livelihoods, many have poured into the country’s cities including Ulaanbaatar where they live in informal settlements without basic facilities such as running water or sanitation.

And to cope with the long and harsh winters, families use coal-fired stoves, contributing to air pollution.

In fact, Ulaanbaatar has one of the highest rates of air pollution in the world, increasing the risk of acute and chronic respiratory issues.

According to U.N.’s Children Agency (UNICEF), the three diseases that have resulted in the most lost life-years in the East Asian countries are related to air pollution.

But steps are being taken to mitigate the crisis, Brillie noted.

“Mongolia has been very active in establishing a conducive policy environment for climate change mitigation and adaptation…for instance, Mongolia is one of the countries that has been the most successful in accessing the Green Climate Fund,” he told IPS.

In 2017, the government adopted a new law which aims to increase the country’s share of renewable energy in total primary energy sources to 25 percent by 2025, and 30 percent by 2030.

Mongolia has already started investing in wind power, establishing its first wind farm in 2013.

GGGI has also been working with the government to support its green development targets in energy and green finance.

In 2018, GGGI helped secure 10 million dollars from the Government of Mongolia and Mongolian commercial banks to invest into the Mongolia Green Finance Corporation, a vehicle to leverage investments by the financial sector.

Knox highlighted the importance of such civil society in efforts towards climate change mitigation and adaptation.

“I think it’s at the individual and community level that we really see sustainable development take hold,” he said.

Brillie also pointed to the much needed role of the private sector, stating: “Financing Mongolia’s NDC’s alone would require 6,9 billion dollars and public investment alone cannot match the extent of the challenge…policy, regulatory and financial incentives and guarantees need to come together to help private companies invest into green projects.”

While there are now standards in place, Knox noted the need to implement and enforce them including in efforts to cut back on coal energy.

Currently, only seven precent of Mongolia’s energy production is renewable energy, and they will have to ramp up action if they are to reach their 2030 target.

And the Paris Agreement should be the light forward.

“In many ways, the threat of climate change in Mongolia can only be addressed by collective action by the major emitters of the world…The parties to the Paris Agreement need to surmount up their commitments as quickly as possible and they need to take more effective actions to implement the commitments they have already undertaken,” Knox told IPS.

Brillie spotlighted the role youth can and will play in the country’s sustainable, green future as GGGI works with Mongolia’s Ministry of Environment to promote green education.

“Young people are already driving change across the world. We must provide the skills to create new and green lifestyle,” he said.

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Excerpt:

A country that has contributed least to global climate change now has to cope with and adapt to the very real effects they are faced with.

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Walking Miles In Their Shoeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/walking-miles-shoes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=walking-miles-shoes http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/walking-miles-shoes/#respond Thu, 10 Jan 2019 09:42:23 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159574 In light of the millions of refugees escaping persecution in search of a safer, more prosperous future, a new campaign aims to raise awareness of the difficult journeys such populations take around the world. Launched by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the 2 Billion Kilometres to Safety raises awareness of the long, precarious journeys […]

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A Rohingya couple, Mohammad Faisal and his wife Hajera, pose for a photo with their child at their camp at Teknaf Nature's Park, Bangladesh. Some refugees had to walk 60 miles on foot to reach the safety of Bangladesh Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 10 2019 (IPS)

In light of the millions of refugees escaping persecution in search of a safer, more prosperous future, a new campaign aims to raise awareness of the difficult journeys such populations take around the world.

Launched by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the 2 Billion Kilometres to Safety raises awareness of the long, precarious journeys that many refugees take and calls on the public to amp up support.

“Every day, we are inspired by the acts of kindness from people who are doing their very best to improve life for refugees: the activists, the communities hosting refugees, businesses, donors, volunteers,’” said UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner Kelly T. Clements.

“This campaign will encourage people to support refugees through something they are already doing – walking, cycling, running,” she added.

According to UNHCR, people who are forced to flee travel approximately 2 billion km every year to reach the first point of safety.

In 2016, South Sudanese refugees travelled over 400 miles to reach Kenya while Rohingya refugees in Myanmar travelled up to 50 miles in search of safety in Bangladesh.

Later aided by the U.N. agency, Alin Nisa and her family were forced to flee from Myanmar to Bangladesh after an armed group attacked the village and abducted community members.

Crossing mountains and rivers, Nisa carried her two young children while her husband carried his mother who could not walk.

They travelled 60 miles on foot, finally reaching the Kutupalong refugee settlement in Bangladesh.

Similarly, Zeenab and her family fled Syria after their home was destroyed and travelled over 90 miles to Jordan’s za’atari refugee camp.

“We’re grateful. Winter here is difficult, but it’s still better than Syria,” she told UNHCR.

And how better to understand refugees’ plight than actually walking in their shoes and covering the same distance?

Clements highlighted the importance of remembering refugees’ very real and dangerous journeys, especially as misconceptions continue to be spread about them.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres echoed similar sentiments upon the adoption of the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) in December, stating: “There are many falsehoods about the world’s migrants. But we must not succumb to fear or false narratives. We must move from myth to reality.”

Such narratives have been most apparent in the United States which has seemingly shut the door on refugees.

The Trump administration first implemented a 120-day refugee ban, followed by a ban on refugees from “high-risk” countries including South Sudan and Syria.

In January 2017, the U.S. government cut the refugee quota by more than half, which led to only 22,000 refugees being resettled in the country in 2018, the lowest rate since 1980.

Most recently, the administration has deployed troops at the U.S.’ southern border in an effort to prevent refugees and migrants who have travelled across Central America from entering the country or seeking asylum.

Anti-refugee rhetoric has also been on the rise in Europe, including Belgium which has seen violent riots against the country’s participation in the GCM.

People across 27 countries will take part in the 2 Billion Kilometres to Safety campaign, and UNHCR hopes to raise over 15 million dollars to support refugees with registration, food, water, shelter, and healthcare.

UNHCR’s funding requirements for 2019 amount to a record 8.5 billion dollars and has thus far received 926 million dollars in pledges.

Though the GCM is a stepping stone towards awareness and action, there is still much left to do.

U.N. Special Representative for International Migration Louise Arbour expressed such views in her closing remarks at the GCM conference, stating: “To the millions who have left their homeland, either recently or a long time ago, most of them in full compliance with the law, we have much more to offer: whether an opportunity to return home, after years abroad, taking back with them their skills and the fruits of their labour, or whether an increased chance to see their children having a better future in a country that they will be proud to call their home.”

Globally, over 68 million have been forcibly displaced. Of this, 25 million are refugees, a figure that has increased by almost 3 million within just one year.

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Recorded Increase in Human Trafficking, Women and Girls Targetedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/recorded-increase-human-trafficking-women-girls-targeted/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=recorded-increase-human-trafficking-women-girls-targeted http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/recorded-increase-human-trafficking-women-girls-targeted/#respond Wed, 09 Jan 2019 08:03:42 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159551 Human trafficking is on the rise and it is more “horrific” than ever, a United Nations agency found. In a new report examining patterns in human trafficking, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found that the global trend has increased steadily since 2010 around the world. “Human trafficking has taken on horrific dimensions […]

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Children from rural areas and disempowered homes are ideal targets for trafficking in India and elsewhere. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 9 2019 (IPS)

Human trafficking is on the rise and it is more “horrific” than ever, a United Nations agency found.

In a new report examining patterns in human trafficking, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found that the global trend has increased steadily since 2010 around the world.

“Human trafficking has taken on horrific dimensions as armed groups and terrorists use it to spread fear and gain victims to offer as incentives to recruit new fighters,” said UNODC’s Executive Director Yury Fedotov.

Asia and the Americas saw the largest increase in identified victims but the report notes that this may also reflect an improved capacity to identify and report data on trafficking.

Women and girls are especially vulnerable, making up 70 percent of detected victims worldwide. While they are mainly adult women, girls are increasingly targeted by traffickers.

According to the 2018 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, girls account for 23 percent of all trafficking victims, up from 21 percent in 2014 and 10 percent in 2004.

UNODC also highlighted that conflict has increased the vulnerability of such populations to trafficking as armed groups were found to use the practice to finance activities or increase troops.   

Activist and U.N. Goodwill Ambassador Nadia Murad was among thousands of Yazidi women and girls who was abducted from her village and sold into sexual slavery by the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, a tactic used in order to boost recruitment and reward soldiers. 

Murad recently received the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, dedicating it to survivors of sexual violence and genocide.

“Survivors deserve a safe and secure pathway home or safe passage elsewhere. We must support efforts to focus on humanity, and overcome political and cultural divisions. We must not only imagine a better future for women, children and persecuted minorities, we must work consistently to make it happen – prioritising humanity, not war,” she said.

“The fact remains that the only prize in the world that can restore our dignity is justice and the prosecution of criminals,” Murad added.

Sexual exploitation continues to be the main purpose for trafficking, account for almost 60 percent, while forced labor accounts for approximately 34 percent of all identified cases.

Three-quarters of all female victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation globally.

The report also found for the first time that the majority of trafficked victims are trafficked within their own countries of citizenship.

The share of identified domestic victims has more than doubled from 27 percent in 2010 to 58 percent in 2016.

This may be due to improved border controls at borders preventing cross-border trafficking as well as a greater awareness of the different forms of trafficking, the report notes.

However, convictions have only recently started to grow and in many countries, conviction rates still remain worryingly low.

In Europe, conviction rates have dropped from 988 traffickers convicted in 2011 to 742 people in 2016.

During that same time period, the number of detected victims increased from 4,248 to 4,429.

There also continue to be gaps in knowledge and information, particularly in certain parts of Africa, Middle East, and East Asia which still lack sufficient capacity to record and share data on human trafficking.

“This report shows that we need to step up technical assistance and strengthen cooperation, to support all countries to protect victims and bring criminals to justice, and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” Fedotov said at the report’s launch.

Adopted in 2015, the landmark SDGs include ambitious targets including the SDG target 16.2 which calls on member states to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children.

SDG indicator 16.2.2 asks member states to measure the number of victims of human trafficking per 100,000 population and disaggregated by sex, age, and form of exploitation, reflecting the importance of improving data recording, collection, and dissemination.

“The international community needs to…stop human trafficking in conflict situations and in all our societies where this terrible crime continues to operate in the shadows,” Fedotov said.

“I urge the international community to heed Nadia [Murad]’s call for justice,” he added.

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Negotiating for Naturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/negotiating-for-nature/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=negotiating-for-nature http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/negotiating-for-nature/#respond Fri, 14 Dec 2018 12:59:15 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159252 Wildlife is being wiped out in an unprecedented rate, and it’s our fault. But a new deal could provide a new pathway forward. Concerned over the rate of biodiversity loss, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is calling for a new deal for nature and people in order to accelerate and integrate action between […]

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Concerned over the rate of biodiversity loss, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is calling for a new deal for nature and people. South Africa’s white rhinoceros recovered from near-extinction thanks to intense conservation efforts. Credit: Kanya D’Almeida/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 14 2018 (IPS)

Wildlife is being wiped out in an unprecedented rate, and it’s our fault. But a new deal could provide a new pathway forward.

Concerned over the rate of biodiversity loss, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is calling for a new deal for nature and people in order to accelerate and integrate action between three core areas: biodiversity, land degradation, and climate change.

“The trends are shocking. We are facing a decline which is unprecedented and its accelerating,” WWF’s Director General Marco Lambertini told IPS.

“This is a global issue. Almost no country is completely exempt,” he added.

And it’s not just the iconic species like pandas, elephants, and tigers, he noted.

According the WWF’s recent Living Planet report, populations of vertebrate species have declined by 60 percent around the world in just 40 years.

Freshwater species alone faced a decline of over 80 percent.

Such population declines were especially prominent in South and Central America, where there is 89 percent less wildlife than in 1970.

Among the biggest drivers of biodiversity loss are directly linked to human activities, namely land conversion and overexploitation.

Over 40 percent of the world’s land has been converted or set aside for agriculture alone.

The Amazon, which is home to over 10 percent of the world’s species, has seen deforestation and habitat conversion to make way for agricultural activities such as cattle ranching and soy cultivation.

Though there has been some efforts to halt and reverse such harmful activities, 20 percent of the Amazon disappeared in just 50 years.

In Indonesia, primates are facing a heightened risk of extinction as forests are destroyed to produce palm oil.

“Food production is the single most important driver of wild habitat loss…very few people realise the connection between the food that they eat and the impact it is having on wildlife and wild habitats in the world,” Lambertini said.

But it doesn’t stop there.

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), unsustainable land management, which encompasses many modern crop and livestock practices, is causing soil and land degradation thus contributing to both desertification and further biodiversity loss.

“With our current trends in production, urbanisation, and environmental degradation, we are losing and wasting too much land,” said UNCCD’s Executive Secretary Monique Barbut in the group’s Global Land Outlook report.

“We are losing our connection with the earth. We are losing too quickly the water, soil, and biodiversity that support all life,” she added.

Lambertini echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating: “There’s not going to be a prosperous, healthy, happy, just future for us in a degraded planet.”

Finding Common Ground

UNCCD is one of three conventions that were established during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Its sister conventions include the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Though significant as separate frameworks, Lambertini highlighted the need for more integration between the three conventions as the three issues are interconnected.

“We are calling for a new deal for nature…that really recognises those interdependencies and that they need to be integrated—land degradation, climate change, and nature conservation,” he said.

The Executive Secretaries of the three conventions also recognised the intersectionality of the three issues during the U.N. climate change conference in 2017, calling for the establishment of a project preparation facility.

The facility would help promote an coordinated action towards the convention’s common issues and finance large-scale multi-disciplinary projects.

However, little has been mentioned of it since.

Similar to the Paris climate accord, the proposed “new deal for nature and people” would ramp up the international community’s efforts through ambitious goals and targets to halt biodiversity loss and protect and restore nature.

Unlike the majority of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the end date of the biodiversity-related targets under the SDGs is in 2020 and it is expected that many countries will not come close to reaching the targets given current trends.

The new deal for nature would therefore be a post-2020 framework, helping governments to keep up, if not raise, their efforts.

A recent U.N. Biodiversity Conference agreed to begin a preparatory process, marking a first step towards a new framework. However, WWF noted that ambition was weak.

“The world needs to wake up to the risks of biodiversity loss. All stakeholders; business, government and people, need to act now if we are to have any hope of creating a sustainable future for all and a New Deal for Nature and People in 2020,” Lambertini said.

“For this to happen, we need a cohesive vision and strong political will – something [Conference of the Parties 14] has unfortunately lacked,” he added.

The Value of Nature

The Living Planet Index calculated that nature provides services worth $125 trillion annually while also providing us with fresh air, clean water, food, and medicine.

Wildlife play an essential role, and can even help restore and conserve land.

“We often forget that these creatures are fundamental to maintaining ecosystems like forests, oceans, wetlands, grasslands and make services that are fundamental to us,” Lambertini told IPS.

“There is a huge link between biodiversity and their ecosystems…and our fight against climate change,” he added.

For instance, approximately 87 percent of all flowering plant species are pollinated by animals, and crops that are partially pollinated by animals account for 35 percent of global food production.

Primates also help disperse seeds and pollen, helping maintain tropical rainforests which are play a crucial role in global rainfall patterns and carbon emissions reduction.

During the recent U.N. climate change conference in Poland, many looked to natural climate solutions including forests which help cut emissions by up to 30 percent.

WWF is urging all stakeholders to come together to deliver on a comprehensive framework to help protect the environment by the next U.N. biodiversity conference set to take place in China in 2020.

“It’s time to stop taking nature for granted—we are depending on nature more than nature depends on us,” Lambertini said.

“Don’t leave nature and environmental conservation and climate change as an afterthought, they have to be driving the thinking and the planning at the policy level as much as the economic level,” he concluded.

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Women’s Resistance, Inequality Marks 2018http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/womens-resistance-inequality-marks-2018/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-resistance-inequality-marks-2018 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/womens-resistance-inequality-marks-2018/#respond Tue, 11 Dec 2018 12:59:56 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159159 Despite the rise in women’s resistance, women’s rights continue to be sidelined and increasingly face blatant attacks, Amnesty International said. Marking the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Amnesty International launched its annual report reviewing the state of human rights around the world—and it doesn’t look good. “In 2018, we witnessed […]

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United Nations Women and partners in Colombia organised a public concert in November and lit public buildings in orange calling for women’s right to live a life free of violence. However, despite the rise in women’s resistance, women’s rights continue to be sidelined and increasingly face blatant attacks, according to Amnesty International. Courtesy: UN Women

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 11 2018 (IPS)

Despite the rise in women’s resistance, women’s rights continue to be sidelined and increasingly face blatant attacks, Amnesty International said.

Marking the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Amnesty International launched its annual report reviewing the state of human rights around the world—and it doesn’t look good.

“In 2018, we witnessed many of these self-proclaimed ‘tough guy’ leaders trying to undermine the very principle of equality – the bedrock of human rights law. They think their policies make them tough, but they amount to little more than bully tactics trying to demonise and persecute already marginalised and vulnerable communities,” said Amnesty International’s Secretary-General Kumi Naidoo in the foreword of the report.

Amnesty’s Director of Gender, Sexuality, and Identity Yamini Mishra echoed similar sentiments to IPS, noting that these “tough guys leaders” have come into power using misogynistic, xenophobic, and homophobic platforms.

“It is very distressing,” she said.

But among the rays of hope is women-led movements, Mishra added.

While the #MeToo movement has captured international attention, women have mobilised mass movements on women’s rights around the world in the past year at a scale never seen before.

In Argentina, one million women took to the streets demanding the legalisation of abortion, while in Nigeria thousands of displaced women mobilised for justice for the abuses they suffered at the hands of Boko Haram and Nigerian security forces.

“Mobilisation really comes from people,” Mishra told IPS.

While some of these movements were galvanised in response to newer forms of oppression, others are against old forms of discrimination that have no place in today’s society.

Mishra pointed to India where earlier this year, a group of women activists advocated for their right to participate in a historic pilgrimage to Sabarimala temple, one of the holiest sites in Hinduism which has long barred entry to women of menstruating age.

While the Right to Pray movement successfully led to the Supreme Court overturning the ban, violent protests have erupted in the southern state of Kerala as devotees block women from entering the temple.

It is thus hard to celebrate the rise of women’s activism as the stark reality is that many governments and societies continue to support policies and laws that oppress women, this year’s ‘Rights Today’ report found.

This can especially be seen around sexual and reproductive health rights.

El Salvador has some of the stricter abortion policies in the world as women can be jailed if they are suspected of having an abortion.

Almost 30 women are reportedly incarcerated under the policy.

In February, Teodora del Carmen Vasquez was released after spending a decade in prison after having pregnancy-related complications which resulted in a stillbirth.

Despite protests against the draconian law,  the country failed to pass a reform to decriminalise abortion in April, leaving women and girls with no control over their reproductive and sexual health.

Mishra particularly expressed concern over the increasing attacks on women human rights defenders (WHRDs).

According to Front Line Defenders, approximately 44 WHRDs were killed in 2017, an increase from 40 in 2016 and 30 in 2015.

Among those killed in 2018 was Marielle Franco, a Brazilian politician and human rights activist who was shot in her car in March.

Women activists have also been jailed around the world including Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef, Saudi activists who led the movement fighting for women’s right to drive.

Amnesty International recently found that several Saudi Arabian activists, including women, have also faced sexual harassment and torture while in detention.

Such attacks on human rights defenders is not happening in a vacuum, but rather in a world where civil society space is shrinking, Mishra noted.

“It is important for us to recognise that even the shrinking of civil society space is not gender-neutral…women human rights defenders as opposed to male human rights defenders face specific kinds of vulnerabilities and heightened vulnerabilities,” she said.

Mishra highlighted the need for action at all levels to achieve human rights for all, but civil society in particular must step up.

“All these years, human rights organisations have really not done enough on women’s rights. We’ve always treated it as a secondary kind of issue…now that it has been 70 years of UDHR, it is time for us to think how do we really bring women to the centre of our work,” she told IPS.

The report urges civil society and governments to raise their commitments to uphold women’s rights, and implement changes to harmful national laws.

Naidoo particularly pointed to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), whose 40th anniversary is soon approaching, will be an “important milestone that the world cannot afford to overlook.”

While CEDAW is the second most ratified human rights treaty, with 189 state parties, the non-legally binding document allows states to reject provisions.

For instance, Kuwait reserved its right to not implement Article 9 which grants women equal rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children.

Niger expressed reservation to Article 2 which states the need to refrain from engaging in any act of discrimination against women and to modify and abolish existing laws and practices which constitute such discrimination.

“Governments must stop merely paying lip-service to women’s rights. If the undeniable surge of women’s activism this year proves anything, it is that people will not accept this. And neither will we,” Naidoo wrote.

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Looking Beyond Fossil Fuels To Reduce Emissionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/looking-beyond-fossil-fuels-reduce-emissions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=looking-beyond-fossil-fuels-reduce-emissions http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/looking-beyond-fossil-fuels-reduce-emissions/#respond Thu, 06 Dec 2018 10:16:04 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159069 In midst of the 24th United Nations climate change conference (COP24), many are trying to double down in the search for practical, actionable solutions to the climate crisis: land itself. Ahead of the ongoing COP24, the U.N. Environmental Programme (UNEP) launched a report warning that the international community’s pledges under the Paris agreement, known as […]

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In 2017 Sri Lanka was hit by the worst drought in 40 years. It forced thousands in Sri Lankans to abandon their livelihoods and seek work in cities. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 6 2018 (IPS)

In midst of the 24th United Nations climate change conference (COP24), many are trying to double down in the search for practical, actionable solutions to the climate crisis: land itself.

Ahead of the ongoing COP24, the U.N. Environmental Programme (UNEP) launched a report warning that the international community’s pledges under the Paris agreement, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs) are insufficient to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

The greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and, thus, ambition gap has already lead to the current impacts of climate change that can be seen around the world and will continue to see for decades to come, World Resources Institute’s (WRI) global climate senior associate and one of the lead authors of UNEP’s report Kelly Levin told IPS.

“The ambition of current country commitments is not in line with the spirit of the Paris Agreement. If we continue to do what we are doing right now, we are going to see over 3 degrees Celsius warming,” she said.

“The urgency and need to act has has never been higher,” Levin added.

Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) Chief Natural Resource Economist and one of the report’s contributing authors Ruben Lubowski echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating: “We are nowhere near where we need to be, and we need to do better both in terms of getting the NDCs on track and then ratcheting them up over time to go beyond that.”

UNEP’s annual ‘Emissions Gap Report’ found that governments must triple their efforts as emissions must be reduced by a quarter by 2030 to keep warming no more than 2 degrees Celsius and would have to be halved to read the 1.5 degree Celsius target.

Not only is there a gap, but the report also found that there was a rise in emissions in 2017 unlike recent years.

While much of the attention remains on the need to reduce fossil fuel use, land restoration and reforestation are often neglected as solutions to the crisis.

“I think that there is an underrecognition of how important the land sector in particular is right now…it is one of the most immediately available opportunities and relatively least cost,” Lubowski said.

According to the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the land-use sector represents between 25 to 30 percent of total global emissions.

Tropical deforestation alone accounts for 8 percent of the world’s annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. If it were a country, it would be the world’s third-biggest emitter.

Though land-use change emissions have remained relatively flat, action targeting the sector is “low-hanging fruit” that can close the emissions gap by up to 30 percent, Lubowski noted.

“Reducing deforestation has already proven to be the most viable large-scale solution. What’s needed I think is to go beyond these just sticks and try to introduce some carrots in terms of some positive incentives…And we haven’t even come close to exhausting that opportunity,” he added.

Moving Around The Money

Fiscal policy reform is among the most effective tools to create incentives for low-carbon investments and reduce GHG emissions.

“Both the traditional fiscal policies as well as creating these carbon markets and emissions trading programs have really a big part to play in land-use, particularly tropical deforestation,” Lubowski told IPS.

He pointed to ecological fiscal transfer as one such policy as it allows local governments to receive tax revenue and resources based on their performance on conservation.

The inclusion of conservation indices as part of decisions around fiscal allocation provides incentives for local municipalities to protect land and forests as well as resources to expand such protections.

Without resources, local governments may be forced to allocate land to agriculture, industry, and construction in order to generate revenue.

Only a few countries have implemented the policy with Brazil being the first to take advantage of the opportunity with its ICMS-E programme.

This has lead to a 165 percent increase in the extent of conservation area between 1992 and 2000—equivalent to an increase of more than one million hectares of protected areas.

For instance, Parana, a southern Brazilian state, devoted five percent of the municipal tax share towards the protection of biodiversity conservation areas and watershed areas and has since expanded its protected areas.

Brazil’s efforts in curbing deforestation as a whole led to the decrease of almost 30 percent of GHG emissions.

However, there are now concerns that the newly elected Jair Bolsonaro will reverse the country’s trends after advocating for the reduction in conservation areas, increase in mining in the Amazon, and even the abolishment of the Ministry of Environment.

Neighbouring Colombia has taken a slightly different approach to that of Brazil by implementing a tax for every ton of CO2 a company is responsible for emitting.

Revenue from the tax are allocated towards land preservation and sustainable development in rural communities.

The fiscal policy also provides an incentive for companies as they can be exempt from paying a carbon tax if they become carbon-neutral or engage in offsetting activities such as environmental projects.

A similar carbon offsetting and reduction approach is also being designed by the aviation industry which is could be responsible for approximately five percent of global GHG emissions by 2050.

The Future is Trees

Since the land sector make up approximately 20-25 percent of NDCs, it is increasingly important to implement policies towards restoration and conservation, Lubowski noted.
However, both Levin and Lubowski noted that this will not be enough to reduce the emissions gap and reverse trends.

“We need action in every sector. We need to step away from fossil fuel energy sources and move towards clean energy sources, we need to stop deforestation and restore our lands, we need to curb emissions from agriculture, we need to address transportation and have zero energy cities,” Levin told IPS.

According to the UNEP report, if all fossil fuel subsidies alone were phased out, it would lead to a 10 percent reduction of emissions by 2030.

“We know what the ingredients are for success, we know how to do this. It’s not going to cost a lot and it will actually bring significant [benefits]… it’s just a question of getting down to it,” Levin added.

“I am definitely worried about where we are, especially if we are thinking about 1.5, the land sector becomes even more important in terms of not only reducing emissions which is essential but also going negative,” Lubowski said.

He urged for more international cooperation in reducing emissions and greater focus on forestry as a way to ramp up ambition in a cost-effective way.

Levin highlighted the need for countries to scale up their commitments by 2020 and COP to step up.

“[COP] will be a really important moment to reaffirm the process for countries…it’s the first test of the spirit of the Paris Agreement and it needs to send a really clear message of enhancing ambition,” she said.

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Using Data to Restore Landhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/using-data-restore-land/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=using-data-restore-land http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/using-data-restore-land/#respond Tue, 13 Nov 2018 18:55:44 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158650 A new landmark initiative aims to make quality data and tools available to the international community in order to combat an “existential crisis”: land degradation. The Land Degradation Neutrality Initiative (LDN), launched by United Nations-backed partnership the Group of Earth Observations (GEO), aims to put data directly into the hands of local and national decision […]

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Large tracts of land, like these in the Sinhapura area of Sri Lanka’s North Central Polonnaruwa Province, have been degraded by years of overuse. Credit: Sanjana Hattotuwa/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 13 2018 (IPS)

A new landmark initiative aims to make quality data and tools available to the international community in order to combat an “existential crisis”: land degradation.

The Land Degradation Neutrality Initiative (LDN), launched by United Nations-backed partnership the Group of Earth Observations (GEO), aims to put data directly into the hands of local and national decision makers to help stop and reverse environmental degradation.

“Land degradation is an existential crisis. Until now, monitoring it in real time felt like an insurmountable challenge. No longer,” said Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) upon welcoming the new initiative.

“With Earth observation datasets and the practical tools to use them readily available, decision-makers and land users will have immediate and actionable information to scale up sustainable land management and planning. It is a first step to boosting our resilience,” she added.

According to the UNCCD, land quality is getting worse as over 75 percent of the world’s land surface is significantly and negatively impacted by human activity across 169 countries.

The consequences of the growing problem includes more and severe droughts, high loss of wildlife, internal displacement, and forced migration.

In fact, without urgent climate action, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America could see more than 140 million people move within their own countries by 2050, further increasing competition for shrinking space.

The lack of action on one of the world’s biggest environmental problems is largely due to the lack of accurate data and tools to monitor it.

“At national and local levels, monitoring has been essential to government responses to land degradation,” UNCCD’s Policy Officer Sasha Alexander and lead scientist Barron Joseph Orr told IPS.

They also noted the lack of uniform indicators in order to monitor and measure land degradation.

In 2009, a global survey revealed that nearly 1,500 unique indicators were being used by countries to monitor the challenge.

“In order to have a harmonised understanding of this major environmental challenge, it has become clear that a minimum set of essential variables, combined with the flexibility for countries to add additional indicators deemed nationally or locally relevant, would be necessary,” Orr said.

The GEO LDN initiative, unveiled in Kyoto last week, hopes to bring together Earth Observation (EO) data providers and governments in order to develop quality standards, analytical tools, and capacity-building to strengthen land degradation monitoring and reporting.

The importance of such data is also recognised in the globally-adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which includes a target to combat desertification and land degradation and an indicator to assess the proportion of land that is degraded over total land area.

Of course, data alone will not be enough to combat degradation.

But with the right data, governments will be able to prioritise interventions as well as plan and manage land better.

“Using an agile development approach…governments with limited capacity are now able to do far more with monitoring data than in the past, not only reporting at the global level, but using what is being learned from these data sets to make the course corrections necessary to help ensure the right mix of interventions to avoid, reduce and reverse land degradation,” Alexander told IPS.

She pointed to the case of Brazil which successfully implemented a project to reverse degradation in the drylands region of northeastern Brazil.

After using data to identify priority areas, the Recovery Units of Degraded Areas and Reduction of Climate Vulnerabilities (URAD) initiative was established to finance actions including the provision of techniques and trainings to municipal governments.

The initiative recognised that environmental actions alone will not be sufficient as economic and social aspects must be taken into account in order to have lasting change.

While local communities have long been suspicious of government projects, the effective participation of populations and the project’s promotion of sustainable value chains and income generation help inspire “noticeable attitude and behaviour changes.”

Alexander noted that Brazil provides an example of how LDN can be achieved, and why it is crucial to link global and national monitoring with more site-specific monitoring at the project level.

The GEO LDN initiative has already been garnering interest worldwide from developing and developed countries alike.

Following the launch, Germany committed 100,000 Euros towards the cause, and more can be expected to come.

The GEO LDN initiative is a result of UNCCD’s call made at the Conference of the Parties (COP13) to bring data providers and users together and support global efforts to halt, reduce, and reverse land degradation.

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Truth Never Dies: Justice for Slain Journalistshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/truth-never-dies-justice-slain-journalists/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=truth-never-dies-justice-slain-journalists http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/truth-never-dies-justice-slain-journalists/#comments Sun, 04 Nov 2018 21:51:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158507 Violence and toxic rhetoric against journalists must stop, say United Nations experts. Marking the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, U.N. Special Rapporteurs David Kaye, Agnes Callamard, and Bernard Duhaime expressed concern over the plight that journalists are increasingly facing. “Journalists around the world face threats and attacks, often instigated by government […]

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Journalists around the world face threats and attacks, often instigated by government officials, organised crime, or terrorist groups said U.N. Special Rapporteurs David Kaye, Agnes Callamard, and Bernard Duhaime, expressing concern over the plight that journalists are increasingly facing. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 4 2018 (IPS)

Violence and toxic rhetoric against journalists must stop, say United Nations experts.

Marking the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, U.N. Special Rapporteurs David Kaye, Agnes Callamard, and Bernard Duhaime expressed concern over the plight that journalists are increasingly facing.

“Journalists around the world face threats and attacks, often instigated by government officials, organised crime, or terrorist groups,” their joint statement said.

“These last weeks have demonstrated once again the toxic nature and outsized reach of political incitement against journalists, and we demand that it stop,” they added.

While Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal death and the subsequent lack of accountability has dominated headlines, such cases are sadly a common occurrence.

According to the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 1010 journalists have been killed in the last 12 years.

Nine out of ten such cases remain unsolved.

Latin America and the Caribbean has among the highest rates of journalists killed and impunity in those cases.

Between 2006-2017, only 18 percent of cases of murdered journalists were reported as resolved in the region.

In the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) annual impunity index, Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia make the top 14 countries in the world with the worst records of prosecuting perpetrators.

Out of the 14 journalists murdered in Mexico in 2017, there have been arrests in just two cases.

In an effort to raise awareness of crimes against journalists, UNESCO has launched the #TruthNeverDies campaign, publicising the stories of journalists who were killed for their work.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that crimes against journalists do not go unpunished,” said UNESCO’s Director-General Audrey Azoulay said.

“We must see to it that journalists can work in safe conditions which allow a free and pluralistic press to flourish. Only in such an environment will we be able to create societies which are just, peaceful and truly forward-looking,” she added.

Among the journalists spotlighted in the campaign is Paul Rivas, an Ecuadorian photographer who travelled to Colombia with his team to investigate drug-related border violence. They were reportedly abducted and killed by a drug trafficking group in April, and still little is known about what happened.

Similarly, Mexican journalist Miroslava Breach Valducea was shot eight times outside her home, and gunmen left a note saying: “For being a loud-mouth.” She reported on organised crime, drug-trafficking and corruption for a national newspaper.

U.N. experts Kaye, Callamard and Duhaime urged states to conduct impartial, prompt and thorough investigations, including international investigation when necessary.

“Staes have not responded adequately to these crimes against journalists…impunity for crimes against journalists triggers further violence and attacks,” they said.

They also highlighted the role that political leaders themselves play in inciting violence, framing reporters as “enemies of the people” or “terrorists.”

Recently, over 200 journalists denounced President Donald Trump’s attacks on the media in an open letter, accusing him of condoning and inciting violence against the press.

“Trump’s condoning of political violence is part of a sustained pattern of attack on a free press — which includes labelling any reportage he doesn’t like as ‘fake news’ and barring reporters and news organisations whom he wishes to punish from press briefings and events,” the letter stated.

The letter came amid Trump’s comments during a rally which seemingly praised politician Greg Gianforte who assaulted Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs in May 2017.

“Any guy who can do a body slam, he’s my kind of—he’s my guy,” he told supporters.

Similar rhetoric is now being used around the world, including in Southeast Asian countries where the “fake news” catchphrase is being used to hide or justify violence.

For instance, when speaking to the Human Rights Council, Philippine senator Alan Peter Cayetano denied the scale of extrajudicial killings in the country and claimed that any contrary reports are “alternative facts.”

“We call on all leaders worldwide to end their role in the incitement of hatred and violence against the media,” the rapporteurs’ joint statement concluded.

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A “Crisis Point” for Human Rights Defendershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/crisis-point-human-rights-defenders/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=crisis-point-human-rights-defenders http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/crisis-point-human-rights-defenders/#respond Thu, 01 Nov 2018 11:45:00 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158471 Globally, the people working to defend our human rights are increasingly under attack, reaching a “crisis point.” More than 150 human rights defenders (HRDs) from around the world gathered in Paris this week to set out a vision for the enduring fight for human rights at the second Human Rights Defenders World Summit. Among those […]

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United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet highlighted the key role that human rights defenders play in societies. Governments have fallen short on their commitments as HRDs continue to be killed around the world with impunity. Credit: United Nations Women

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 1 2018 (IPS)

Globally, the people working to defend our human rights are increasingly under attack, reaching a “crisis point.”

More than 150 human rights defenders (HRDs) from around the world gathered in Paris this week to set out a vision for the enduring fight for human rights at the second Human Rights Defenders World Summit.

Among those who attended was United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet who highlighted the key role that HRDs play in societies.

“When you see someone in chains—someone whose rights are being denied—you don’t turn away. You challenge injustice. You stand up for the rights of others,” she told participants.

“Every step towards greater equality, dignity, and rights which has been made…has been achieved because of the struggles and the advocacy of human rights defenders,” Bachelet added.

The meeting marks the 20th anniversary of the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the international community during the first summit to ensure all can enjoy “freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want.”

However, governments have fallen short on their commitments as HRDs continue to be killed around the world with impunity.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst recently expressed alarm over such trends, stating: “The Declaration has become a milestone in the human rights project…however, I am more concerned than ever.”

“We are facing an alarming panorama for human rights defenders. Their situation is deteriorating all over the world despite States’ obligations to ensure the protection of human rights defenders,” he added.

Amnesty International’s Secretary General Kumi Naidoo said the level of danger facing activists worldwide has reached crisis point. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Amnesty International’s Secretary General Kumi Naidoo echoed similar sentiments during the summit, stating: “The level of danger facing activists worldwide has reached crisis point. Every day ordinary people are threatened, tortured, imprisoned and killed for what they fight for or simply for who they are. Now is the time to act and tackle the global surge in repression of human rights defenders.”

In a recent report, Forst found that at least 3,500 HRDs have been killed since the adoption of the Declaration.

In 2017 alone, over 300 HRDs across 27 countries were killed, double the numbers from 2015, Front Line Defenders found.

Almost 85 percent of the recorded murders were concentrated in five Latin American countries: Colombia, Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico.

Colombia, which is currently the deadliest place for HRDs, saw a increase in the number of murders of HRDs following the 2016 peace agreement between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

In 2017, over 120 social and environmental leaders were killed by paramilitary or unidentified armed groups largely in areas where FARC has since left, contributing to struggles for power and land.

In May, Luis Alberto Torres Montoya and Duvian Andres Correa Sanchez were killed. They were a part of the Rios Vivos Movement which has rallied against the Hidroituango hydroelectric dam for its environmental and human rights impacts including the displacement of local communities.

In fact, Front Line Defenders found that 67 percent of those killed in 2017 were defending land, environmental, and indigenous people’s rights, and almost always in the context of mega projects, extractive industry, and big business.

The Wayúu Women’s Force, an indigenous environmental group, have been facing death threats for its opposition to a coal mine operating on their ancestral territory. A right-wing paramilitary group Aguilas Negras, or Black Eagles, reportedly dispersed leaflets promising to “clean” the region of the indigenous Wayúu.

“Every case of an attack on a human rights defender constitutes an attack on human rights – the rights of us all,” Bachelet said.

However, impunity continues to reign in many countries including in Colombia where human rights groups have said the government is failing to investigate crimes and prosecute those behind them, and have urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open a formal investigation.

But even in cases where the perpetrators are brought to a court, justice still remains elusive.

In Guatemala, the head of security of a mine—then owned by Canadian company Hudbay Minerals—was acquitted for the 2009 murder of indigenous activist Adolfo Ich Chaman and shooting of German Chub despite witness testimony and physical evidence.

The 2013 lawsuit also included 11 women who were allegedly raped at gunpoint by the mining company’s security forces during a forced eviction in 2007.

Following the ruling, the judge requested that criminal charges be brought against those involved in the prosecution including Chaman’s wife for “obstructing justice and falsifying information.”

“The systemic, widespread impunity is a very bad signal sent to the families of the victims and to anyone standing up for human rights…beyond these attacks and killings, it is ultimately our rights, our democracies that are in great danger,” Forst recently said to the General Assembly.

There has been some progress in recognising the importance and achievements of HRDs around the world. Most recently, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Yazidi activist Nadia Murray and Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege for their role in the fight to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.

Both Forst and Bachelet stressed the need to take action and for all stakeholders to use this opportunity to move forward, particularly in the wake of the 20th anniversary of the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights Defenders as well as the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted at the Palais de Chaillot where the Summit aptly held their closing ceremony.

“The Summit is a key opportunity for human rights defenders around the world, facing vilification and increased attacks, to come to together and discuss next steps on their own terms,” Forst said.

“What human rights defenders teach us is that all of us can stand up for our rights and for the rights of others, in our neighborhoods, in our countries and all over the world. We can change the world,” Bachelet echoed.

This year has seen numerous events focusing on HRDs including the three-day summit and an upcoming high-level meeting to take place in mid-December in New York to address good practices and new opportunities in the Declaration’s implementation.

 

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LGBT Violence and Discrimination is “Disastrous”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/lgbt-violence-discrimination-disastrous/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lgbt-violence-discrimination-disastrous http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/lgbt-violence-discrimination-disastrous/#respond Sat, 27 Oct 2018 12:03:44 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158395 Transgender and gender-diverse people are facing unprecedented levels of violence and discrimination around the world and states must act to ensure they are not left behind, said a United Nations rights expert. In a report presented to the U.N. General Assembly, U.N. Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and […]

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Two marchers in Taiwan's annual LGBT Pride March in Taipei City in this picture dated 2013 affirm that "I am proud to be gay; I'm not a sex refugee!" United Nations independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity Victor Madrigal-Borloz exsaid levels of violence towards and the lack of recognition of gender identities, especially transgender people, stating that the situation is “disastrous.” Credit: Dennis Engbarth/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 27 2018 (IPS)

Transgender and gender-diverse people are facing unprecedented levels of violence and discrimination around the world and states must act to ensure they are not left behind, said a United Nations rights expert.

In a report presented to the U.N. General Assembly, U.N. Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity Victor Madrigal-Borloz expressed concern over the levels of violence towards and the lack of recognition of gender identities, especially transgender people, stating that the situation is “disastrous.”

“These persons are suffering levels of violence and discrimination that are offensive to human conscience,” he said during a press conference.

Madrigal-Borloz noted that 71 countries criminalise sexual orientation and gender identity diversity. Of them, some 20 countries criminalise certain activities of forms of gender identity.

Alongside persistent discrimination, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities continue to be subject to violence simply because of their identities.

In the United States, at least 22 transgender people have been killed so far in 2018, many of them women of colour.

Most recently, 31-year-old Ciara Minaj Carter Frazier was stabbed to death in Chicago. Her death puts this year on track to match, if not surpass, the 28 murders of transgender people in 2017.

Brazil has one of the world’s highest rates of LGBT-targeted violence as 2017 saw a record 445 reports of murders of LGBT Brazilians. Among them is Dandara dos Santos, a transgender woman who was tortured, beaten, and shot in northeastern Brazil.

Many fear that such violence will only get worse under the looming presidency of Jair Bolsonaro who has said homosexuality is “an affront to the family structure” and that it can be cured with violence.

“Clearly, criminalisation is creating a situation where persons are not only not protected, but actively persecuted on the basis of their gender identity,” Madrigal-Borloz said.

He also noted that LGBT communities are further marginalised as they are denied access to services such as education, health, and housing.

Approximately one in five transgender individuals have reported being homeless during their lifetime in the U.S., and an estimated 20-40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT.

Madrigal-Borloz said that this situation is partly attributed to the lack of legal recognition of gender identities.

“The measures adopted to ensure that there is conformity between their self identified gender and the legal recognition are of fundamental importance to prevent violence and discrimination,” he said.

According to a leaked memo obtained the New York Times, the Trump Administration is pushing federal agencies to narrow the definition of sex “on a biological basis” under Title IX—a civil rights law that bans discrimination on the basis of sex “any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

It could be enforced in a way that allows discrimination against transgender people in access to employment, health, school, and housing.

The U.N. delegation to the U.N. has also reportedly been seeking to remove references to “gender” in U.N. documents, another move signalling the government’s rollback of protections and recognition of transgender people.

Similar actions can be seen around the world, including in Hungary where prime minister Viktor Orban banned gender studies programs at universities.

“The government’s standpoint is that people are born either male or female, and we do not consider it acceptable for us to talk about socially constructed genders rather than biological sexes,” a spokesperson for the prime minister said.

However, the has been some progress, said Madrigal-Borloz, whose report highlighted some of the international community’s best practices on discrimination and violence against LGBT communities.

For instance, Uruguay, in recognition of diverse gender identities and the obstacles that transgender people face in exercising their rights under the law, implemented a program designed to help transgender people navigate the law as well as access social security programs and employment opportunities.

In New Zealand, people can choose to have their gender in their passport marked as male, female or a third category based solely on self-determined identity. This also applies to children under the age of 18.

“There is a historical recognition of the fact that a diversity of gender identities have been recognised in all cultures and traditions around the world and that the outlawing or stigmatising surrounding certain gender expressions have more the result of certain processes—in some cases colonial domination and in some cases normalisation based on certain conceptions of gender,” Madrigal-Borloz said.

“But I do believe that there is enough evidence that in longstanding cultural and societal tradition, gender diversity has played a role in all corners of the world,” he added, highlighting the need for the legal recognition of gender identity.

The U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also recently said that the organisation must “redouble” efforts to end violations against LGBT communities around the world.

“As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let me underscore that the United Nations will never give up the fight until everyone can live free and equal in dignity and rights,” he said.

While the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), globally adopted in 2016, do not explicitly mention LGBT communities, they still highlight the need to include everyone without discrimination.

“There is a situation that requires immediate and prompt action of the state to actually make sure that these persons are not left behind in the spirit of the Sustainable Development Goals,” Madrigal-Borloz said.

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With Poor Human Rights Record, Repatriation Not Possiblehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/poor-human-rights-record-repatriation-not-possible/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poor-human-rights-record-repatriation-not-possible http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/poor-human-rights-record-repatriation-not-possible/#respond Fri, 26 Oct 2018 10:44:55 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158377 Policies that allow for impunity, genocide, and apartheid are “intolerable” and make repatriation of Rohingya refugees impossible, say United Nations investigators. While presenting an annual report to the member states at the U.N., Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee expressed disappointment in Myanmar’s government under State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, stating […]

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Rohingya after they fled Myanmar in 2017 arrive at Shahparir Dip in Teknaf, Bangladesh. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 26 2018 (IPS)

Policies that allow for impunity, genocide, and apartheid are “intolerable” and make repatriation of Rohingya refugees impossible, say United Nations investigators.

While presenting an annual report to the member states at the U.N., Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee expressed disappointment in Myanmar’s government under State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, stating her hope that it “would be vastly different from the past, but it really is not that much different.”

“The government is increasingly demonstrating that it has no interest and capacity to establish a fully functioning democracy for all its people,” Lee said during a press conference.  

She also added that the Nobel peace prize laureate is in “total denial” about the mistreatment and violence against the Rohingya which forced over 700,000 to flee across the border to Bangladesh, and questioned her staunch support for the rule of law.

“If the rule of law were upheld, all the people in Myanmar, regardless of their position, would be answerable to fair laws that are impartially applied, impunity would not reign, and the law would not be wielded as a weapon of oppression,” Lee said.

The Chair of the U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar Marzuki Darusman, who also presented a report to the U.N., echoed similar sentiments, noting that the government’s “hardened positions are by far the greatest obstacle.”

“Accountability concerns not only the past but it also concerns the future and Myanmar is destined to repeat the cycles of violence unless there is an end to impunity,” he said.

One of conditions that contributed to the atrocities committed since violence erupted in August 2017 is the shrinking of democratic space, they noted.

While the arrests of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo gripped international headlines, the government has been increasingly cracking down on free speech and human rights defenders in the country.

Most recently, three journalists from Eleven Media—Nayi Min, Kyaw Zaw Linn, and Phyo Wai Win—were detained and are being investigated for online defamation. If charged and convicted, the journalists face up to two years in prison.

Lee and Darusman also expressed concern over the apartheid-like conditions in Myanmar that persist today including restrictions on movement and access to services such as healthcare and education.

While the government is building new infrastructure for both Rohingya still inside the country and those who fled, Lee noted they are usually segregated from Buddhist communities.

If a policy of separation rather than integration continues, atrocities will be committed yet again.

“It is an ongoing genocide,” Darusman said.

In the fact-finding mission report which looked into the past year’s events, investigators found that four out of five conditions for genocide were met: killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, and imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.

Of those, three conditions can still be seen in the country.

For instance, in 2015, Myanmar’s government imposed “birth spacing” restrictions on women, requiring a 36-month interval between children with forced use of contraception in the interim.

The Population Control Healthcare Bill was introduced in response to a 2013 government report that saw “the rapid population growth of the Bengalis [Rohingya] as an extremely serious threat.”

Prior to this, the government enacted a two-child limit on the Muslim community in Rakhine.

And it is because of these conditions that Rohingya refugees cannot go back.

“Repatriation is not possible now. Unless the situation in Myanmar is conducive, I will not encourage any repatriation. They should not go back to the existing laws, policies, and practices,” Lee said.

She urged for the civilian government to adopt laws that protect and advance human rights for all, and for Suu Kyi to use “all her moral and political power” to act.

“Myanmar now stands at a crossroads—they can respond as a responsible member of the United Nations and take up the call for accountability or they can be on the same self-self-destructive road,” Darusman said.

Of the actions that can be taken towards the path to accountability is the pardoning of human rights defenders and journalists who have been arbitrarily detained in order to restore democratic space.

Myanmar should also allow for unhindered access for humanitarian actors and U.N. investigators, Lee added.

“I think we are at a point where Myanmar and the international community both are at [a] juncture where the right choice to make will determine the future of not only Myanmar but peace and security in the region and the world,” she said.

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The Invisible, Hungry Handhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/invisible-hungry-hand/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=invisible-hungry-hand http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/invisible-hungry-hand/#respond Wed, 24 Oct 2018 16:40:54 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158314 The very people who help put food on our tables often face numerous human rights violations, forcing them go to bed hungry. In an annual report set to be presented to governments at the United Nations this week, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Hilal Elver found that agricultural workers worldwide continue to face […]

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A worker on a farm in Kiambu district, central Kenya, that produces tea for export. Nearly 80 percent of rural farmers in developing countries earn less than USD1.25 per day. Credit: Charles Wachira/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 24 2018 (IPS)

The very people who help put food on our tables often face numerous human rights violations, forcing them go to bed hungry.

In an annual report set to be presented to governments at the United Nations this week, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Hilal Elver found that agricultural workers worldwide continue to face barriers in their right to food including dangerous work conditions and the lack of employment protections.

“[Agricultural workers] are a major element of our reaching available food but they are among the world’s hungriest people,” she said, highlighting the paradoxical relationship.

“We are dealing with smallholder farmers, poverty, inequality, and land issues but we don’t deal with the actual workers working from farm to table—there’s a huge chain of production that we are not paying attention,” Elver added.

Agricultural workers make up over one billion, or one-third, of the world’s workforce.

Despite playing a critical role in global food security, many farm workers are left without enough money to feed themselves or their families in both developing and developed countries due to low wages or even late payments.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO), nearly 80 percent of rural farmers in developing countries earn less than USD1.25 per day. In Zambia, for example, agricultural workers earn less than USD2 per day on third-party farms.

In the United States, while the minimum wage is higher, 50 percent of farmworkers were paid less than minimum wage and 48 percent suffered from wage theft.

A survey by the Food Chain Workers Alliance also found that one-quarter of all farm workers have incomes below the federal poverty line, contributing to farmers’ food insecurity and trapping them in poverty.

Migrants and women in the sector often face the brunt of such violations, Elver noted.

“Employers are more likely to consider migrant workers as a disposable, low-wage workforce, silenced without rights to bargain collectively for improved wages and working condition,” she said.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Turkish lawyer Hilal Elver, in Buenos Aires. In an annual report Elver found that agricultural workers worldwide continue to face barriers in their right to food including dangerous work conditions and the lack of employment protections. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

For instance, in California, which produces the majority of the country’s fruits and vegetables, 91 percent of farmworkers are foreign-born, primarily from Mexico. The rates of food insecurity for such labourers and their families range from 40 to 70 percent across the state.

While many industries have adopted minimum wage standards put forth by the International Labor Organization (ILO), they remain unenforced.

Elver also noted that the agricultural sector is the one of the world’s most dangerous sectors with more than 170,000 workers killed every year on unsafe farms, twice the mortality rate of any other industry.

This is partly attributed to the exposure of toxic and hazardous substances such as pesticides, often leading to a range of serious illnesses and even death.

Argentine farmworker Fabian Tomasi, who recently died after contracting severe toxic polyneuropathy linked to his exposure to agrochemicals, is a reminder of this.

Glyphosate, a weed-killer developed by controversial company Monsanto, has been widespread around the world and its use has increased in the South American nation, which is one of the world’s largest soy producers.

Since its use, there has also been an increase in cancer and birth defects in farming regions in Argentina with rural populations experiencing cancer rate three times higher than those in the cities.

The World Health Organization also classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

In developed countries, acute pesticide poisoning affects one in every 5,000 agricultural workers, the report found.

In the U.S., Dewayne Johnson also used Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicides while working as a groundskeeper in California. Years later, he discovered he had non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a debilitating blood cancer.

After bringing the case to court, a California jury ruled against the agrochemical corporation, claiming that it caused Johnson’s terminal cancer and that they acted with malice and negligence in failing to warn consumers.

Monsanto continues to deny allegations that their glyphosate-based products cause cancer.

Now, the U.S. government is trying to reverse a ban on another pesticide chlorpyrifos which has been associated to developmental issues among children and respiratory illnesses.

However, like Johnson, many agricultural workers around the world have begun to organise and rise up to the face of corporations and countries that fail to protect their human rights.

“This is an important new thing, giving the public much more understanding about pesticides,” Elver said.

Migrant farmworkers from Vanuatu recently won a settlement against company Agri Labour Australia after being underpaid and working in dangerous conditions which included exposure to chemicals.

But states must do more to protect and promote the rights of agricultural workers, Elver noted.

“Labour rights and human rights are interdependent, indivisible, and mutually inclusive. The full enjoyment of human rights and labour rights for agricultural workers is a necessary precondition for the realisation of the right to food,” she said.

The report states that governments must set “living wage” and working standards, and it should establish enforcement and inspection mechanisms to ensure such standards are being met.

The international community should also reduce pesticide use worldwide, including the ban of highly hazardous pesticides and the development of alternative pest management approaches.

International organisations such as ILO and FAO also have a role to play and should establish a fact-finding group to examine whether nations are implementing such changes.

Companies who fabricate evidence or misinform the public of health and environmental risks should be penalised, the report adds.

“It is time for States to step up, and take swift and urgent action to hold accountable those who commit human rights violations against agricultural workers and to prevent further violations,” Elver concluded.

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The Right to Choosehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/the-right-to-choose/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-right-to-choose http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/the-right-to-choose/#respond Sun, 21 Oct 2018 17:41:55 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158275 Reproductive choice can transform the world and our goals towards a sustainable society, a new report says. Every year, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) examines the state of the world population. In this year’s report, the agency focuses on the power of reproductive choice and the role it can play to promote social and […]

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Manes Feston, flanked by her children, holds her four-month-old son Fedson. He was one of triplets but his siblings died because of a lack of welfare support. High fertility rates can be seen in much of Africa with four or more births per woman. Generally, these countries are poorer with limited access to quality healthcare and contraception. Credit: Travis Lupick/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 21 2018 (IPS)

Reproductive choice can transform the world and our goals towards a sustainable society, a new report says.

Every year, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) examines the state of the world population. In this year’s report, the agency focuses on the power of reproductive choice and the role it can play to promote social and economic development.

“Choice can change the world,” UNFPA’s executive director Natalia Kanem said in the report’s foreword.

“It can rapidly improve the well-being of women and girls, transform families, and accelerate global development,” she added.

While progress has been achieved, the international community still has a ways to go, UNFPA’s Washington D.C. director Sarah Craven told IPS.

“There is no country in the world where reproductive rights and choices are enjoyed by all people at all times,” she said.

The State of the World Population 2018 report examines global fertility trends and how they are influenced by choice or the lack thereof.

High fertility rates can be seen in much of Africa with four or more births per woman.

Generally, these countries are poorer with limited access to quality healthcare and contraception.

UNFPA found that over 20 percent of women in the region want to avoid a pregnancy but have an unmet need for family planning.

At the same time, almost 20 million—or 38 percent—of the region’s pregnancies each year are unintended.

Practices such as early marriage, which is associated to an early start to child bearing, is also common.

In sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 38 percent of women are married by the age of 18. In Niger, 76 percent of girls marry by the age of 18.

Child marriage, which is accompanied with the end of education and the lack of opportunities for employment and thus reduced earnings in adulthood, denies girls’ decision-making power and their right to choose.

It also hinders progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as the elimination of poverty, achievement of good health and well-being, and access to decent work.

Countries with high fertility have faster population growth, which poses challenges for governments already struggling to make progress on the SDGs and to provide education, healthcare, and employment opportunities.

On the other hand, while there are trends towards lower birth rates as a result of greater access to services, some women are having fewer children due to constraints rather than choice.

“The gap between desired and actual family size suggests that women and men are not fully able to realise their reproductive rights,” the report states.

For instance, the culture of overwork in East Asia has made it difficult for many to have both a career and a family.

In South Korea, almost 20 percent of employed women worked more than 54 hours a week in 2014.

The East Asian nation has a fertility rate of 1.17 births per woman, below the recommended replacement level of 2.1 and the level needed to sustain the current size of the population.

In Japan, which also has concerning fertility levels, the demanding work environment has even led to “karoshi,” or death by overwork.

In 2013, journalist Miwa Sado died of a heart failure and investigators found that she had logged 159 hours of overtime work one month before she died.

In 2015, 24-year-old Matsuri Takahashi committed suicide. It emerged that she worked for over 100 hours of overtime at her advertising job and had barely slept in the period leading up to her death.

In an effort to address this problem, both countries have started to put policies in place to restrict work hours.

However, women with children also often face discrimination in the labour market, which can be seen in countries such as South Korea and Japan where mothers predominately hold low-salary positions and have limited career options, resulting in vast gender wage gaps.

With fewer children and young adults, the labour force has been shrinking contributing to weaker economies.

At the same time, as older people account for larger shares of the population, governments face challenges to cover health-care costs and social security systems, further weakening economies.

Among the recommendations in the report is to provide universal access to quality reproductive healthcare, including access to modern contraceptives, make available sexuality education, and achieve gender equality.

“Choice can be a reality everywhere. This is something that governments should prioritise,” Craven told IPS.

In high fertility countries, there is a need for education on reproductive rights and employment opportunities for rural women while low fertility countries should implement family-friendly policies such as child care services and parental leave.

Questions and challenges remain as to how governments should achieve such policies as the debate over reproductive choice in many countries is often grounded in religious beliefs.

In the United States, a new set of proposed rules will expand religious exemptions, allowing employers to deny health care access such as reproductive health coverage and access to contraception.

In Saudi Arabia, child marriage is still widespread and often justified by clerics.

Craven expressed concern over any policy that restricts individuals to access information and services, and highlighted the importance of reproductive choice.

“You will not achieve the SDGs if you don’t also achieve reproductive rights of your citizens,” she said.

Kanem echoed similar sentiments in the foreword of the report, stating: “The way forward is the full realisation of reproductive rights, for every individual and couple, no matter where or how they live, or how much they earn…the real measure of progress is people themselves: especially the well-being of women and girls, their enjoyment of their rights and full equality, and the life choices that they are free to make.”

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Don’t “Whitewash” Khashoggi’s Murderhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/dont-whitewash-khashoggis-murder/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dont-whitewash-khashoggis-murder http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/dont-whitewash-khashoggis-murder/#respond Fri, 19 Oct 2018 08:50:18 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158257 In the midst of international outrage over the alleged murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, human rights groups have called for a United Nations investigation into the incident. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Reporters Without Borders joined efforts to appeal for an independent investigation into the alleged torture […]

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According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 44 journalists have been killed so far in 2018 alone, 27 of whom were murdered. Courtesy: UN Geneva

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 19 2018 (IPS)

In the midst of international outrage over the alleged murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, human rights groups have called for a United Nations investigation into the incident.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Reporters Without Borders joined efforts to appeal for an independent investigation into the alleged torture and murder of Khashoggi to avoid a “whitewash.”

“This sends an incredibly chilling signal to journalists around the world that their lives don’t matter and that states can have you murdered with impunity,” said CPJ’s Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney at a press conference at the U.N.

“We believe that the only way to ensure that there is no whitewash in the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi is that the United Nations take on an independent, transparent and international investigation,” he added.

Human Rights Watch’s U.N. Director Louis Charbonneau echoed similar sentiments, stating: “We need accountability and in order to have accountability, we need credible information and an investigation.”

Originally hailing from Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi was a permanent resident in the United States and worked as a columnist for the Washington Post.

He was last seen visiting a Saudi consulate in Turkey and leaks from Turkish sources have painted a gruesome picture of the incident including the dismemberment of his body.

Audio and visual recordings have also suggested that Saudi officials close to the crown prince Mohammed bin Salman are the perpetrators.

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident as journalists continue to be killed around the world for their work.

According to CPJ, 44 journalists have been killed so far in 2018 alone, 27 of whom were murdered.

“This incident didn’t happen in a vacuum. Jamal Khashoggi is not one case that is an anomaly. It happened in a context of an increased crackdown on dissent since June 2017 when the crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman took his position,” said Sherine Tadros, Amnesty International’s head of the New York U.N. office, pointing to Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

Since the crown prince took power, the detention of dissidents has increased including human rights defenders such as Samar Badawi, a prominent women’s rights advocate.

The Middle Eastern country is also ranked at third in CPJ’s Most Censored Countries list, just behind North Korea and Eritrea.

Khashoggi’s last column for the Washington Post was aptly on the need for freedom of expression in the Arab world where he stated: “The Arab world needs a modern version of the old transnational media so citizens can be informed about global events…through the creation of an independent international forum, isolated from the influence of nationalist governments spreading hate through propaganda, ordinary people in the Arab world would be able to address the structural problems their societies face.”

Mahoney highlighted the need to act against the threats that journalists face.

“We have to fight back on this because if we don’t, that space will continue to be shrink. Countries like Saudi Arabia, which has wealth and influence, will continue to suppress journalism,” he said.

The four human rights groups called on Turkey to ask U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to establish an independent investigation.

Though both Saudi Arabia and Turkey are conducting their own investigations, many fear the findings will not be credible.

“This is what the U.N. was created for, this is why we need it. We need credibility,” said Charbonneau.

“If in fact it’s true, that the most senior members of the Saudi government were behind the execution and dismemberment of Mr. Khashoggi, then we don’t want the culprits investigating themselves. This is now how we run criminal investigations,” he added.

Despite Turkey’s similarly poor record on protecting journalists, the human rights groups said that it is President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s time to step up.

“We want the Turkish Government…to step forward, to use this as an opportunity to move forward into the future and out of the past…to send a message to the world that we want reporting, we want credible information and we will protect journalists,” Charbonneau said.

It wouldn’t be the first time at the U.N. was requested to conduct an investigation.

In 2009, Pakistan requested then Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to probe into the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The inquiry found a whitewash of the incident by the country’s authorities.

U.N. officials such as new U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet have also called for an impartial, transparent investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance and death.

“His family and the world deserves to know the truth,” she said.

The organisations urged for quick action, and for other governments to press Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

“It is gathering momentum and we hope that the momentum will be such that Turkey will not be able to say no and will actually have to step forward and do this and the Saudis would be under so much pressure that they will have to cooperate,” Charbonneau said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited the two countries and their heads of state on the case and has since pushed to give Saudi Arabia some more time to finalise their investigation before acting.

Before the trip, U.S. president Donald Trump initially lambasted journalists for treating Saudi Arabia as guilty before being proven innocent.

“If we are looking for proving Saudi Arabia’s innocence, we believe that there is no other way—our best shot for a credible investigation, a transparent investigation, and an investigation that wont be politicised is for the U.N. to conduct it and is for Turkey to make this request,” Tadros said.

She additionally appealed to the U.N. Secretary-General to step up and act boldly.

“We cannot live in a world where governments can use chemical weapons against their own citizens and nothing happens. Where a military can ethnically cleanse, torture, and rape an entire community and no one is held into account. Where a journalist in a major city walks into a consulate and is tortured and killed and nothing happens,” Tadros said.

“Every time the U.N. system and particularly the U.N. Secretary-General fails to speak up, he enables another tragedy, another person who is killed, another population that is ethnically cleansed every single time,” she added.

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Rural Migration: An Opportunity, Not A Challengehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/rural-migration-opportunity-not-challenge/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rural-migration-opportunity-not-challenge http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/rural-migration-opportunity-not-challenge/#respond Mon, 15 Oct 2018 11:03:04 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158170 While it can be a challenging issue, migration must be seen as an opportunity and be met with sound, coherent policies that neither stem nor promote the phenomenon. A new report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) examines rural migration and urges countries to maximise the contribution of such migrants […]

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Women and children caught in a dust-laden gust at an IDP settlement 60km south of the town of Gode, reachable only along a dirt track through the desiccated landscape. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Women and children caught in a dust-laden gust at an IDP settlement 60km south of the town of Gode, reachable only along a dirt track through the desiccated landscape. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 15 2018 (IPS)

While it can be a challenging issue, migration must be seen as an opportunity and be met with sound, coherent policies that neither stem nor promote the phenomenon.

A new report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) examines rural migration and urges countries to maximise the contribution of such migrants to economic and social development.

“We cannot ignore the challenges and costs associated with migration,” FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva said.

“The objective must be to make migration a choice, not a necessity, and to maximise the positive impacts while minimising the negative ones,” he added.

FAO’s senior economist and author of the report Andrea Cattaneo echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating; “Migration, despite all the challenges that it may pose, really represents the core of economic, social, and human development.”

Though international migration often dominates headlines, the report shows that internal migration is a far larger phenomenon.

More than one billion people living in developing countries have moved internally, with 80 percent of moves involving rural areas.

Migration between developing countries is also larger than those to developed countries. For instance, approximately 85 percent of refugees globally are hosted by developing countries, and at least one-third in rural areas.

Cattaneo additionally highlighted the link between internal and international migrants, noting that in low-income countries, internal migrants are five times more likely to migrate internationally than people who have not moved.

A significant portion of international migrants are also found to have come from rural areas. FAO found that almost 75 percent of rural households from Malawi migrate internationally.

Abdul Aziz stands with his child in Dhaka's Malibagh slum. He came to Bangladesh’s capital a decade ago after losing everything to river erosion, hoping to rebuild his life, but only to find grinding poverty. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Abdul Aziz stands with his child in Dhaka’s Malibagh slum. He came to Bangladesh’s capital a decade ago after losing everything to river erosion, hoping to rebuild his life, but only to find grinding poverty. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Why all the movement?

While human movements have long occurred since the beginning of time, many migrants now move out of necessity, not choice.

Alongside an increase in protracted crises which force communities out of their homes, it is the lack of access to income and employment and thus a sustainable livelihood that is among the primary drivers of rural migration.

In China, significant rural-urban income gaps drove rural workers to abandon agriculture and migrate to cities.

Between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of China’s population living in urban areas increased from 26 percent to 56 percent, and an estimated 200 million rural migrants now work in the East Asian nation’s cities.

However, such rapid urbanisation increasingly seen around the world is posing new challenges in the availability of resources.

Poor environmental conditions and agricultural productivity have also driven rural workers away.

A recent study revealed that a 1 degree Celsius increase in temperature is associated with a 5 percent increase in the number of international migrants, but only from agriculture-dependent societies.

In other countries such as Thailand and Ghana, migration is prompted by the lack of infrastructure and access to services such as education and health care.

This points to the importance of investing in rural areas to ensure migration is not overwhelming and that residents have the means to live a prosperous life.

However, it is very important to consider the right type of investments and development, Cattaneo said.

“The type of development matters. Development per say is not going to reduce migration…but if you have the right type of development and investments in rural areas, you can make the case that you can reduce some of this migration,” Cattaneo told IPS.

A forward outlook

In the report, FAO advocates a territorial development approach to reduce rural out-migration  and thus international migration including investments in social services and improving regional infrastructure in or close to rural areas.

For instance, investments in infrastructure related to the agri-food system—such as warehousing, cold storage, and wholesale markets—can generate employment both in agriculture and the non-farm sectors and provide more incentive for people to stay instead of move to already overburdened cities.

Policies should also be forward-thinking and context specific, Cattaneo noted while pointing the consequences of climate change. This could mean investing in new activities that are viable to a particular region while another region moves towards more drought-resistant crop.

While migration may still continue, it will not be driven by the lack of economic opportunities or suitable living conditions.

“Migration is a free choice but if you put in place good opportunities at home, many people may decide not to migrate. Some will still want to migrate and that’s fine—that’s actually the type of migration that works. It’s not out of need, it’s out of choice,” Cattaneo told IPS.

In fact, migration often plays a significant role in reducing inequalities and is even included as a target under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 10, which aims to reduce inequality within and among countries.

Whilst reducing their own inequalities, migrants also contribute to economic transformation and development around the world.

“We focus on the challenges without looking at the opportunities that can come with migration because at the end of the day, people are a resource for society,” Cattaneo said.

“If we can find a way to put them into productive use, then that’s an added value for the destination or host country,” he added, pointing to Uganda as an example.

In recent years, Uganda has seen an influx of refugees from conflict-stricken nations such as South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

With its open-door policy, the East African country now has 1.4 million refugees, posing strains on resources.

Despite the challenges, its progressive refugee policy allows non-nationals to seek employment, go to school, and access healthcare. The government also provides a piece of land to each refugee family for their own agricultural use.

“This is a country that has looked beyond the challenges to see the opportunities, and they are making these people be productive part of society,” Cattaneo said.

With certain rhetoric that has cast migrants in a negative light, the international community still has a way to go to learn how to turn challenges into opportunities.

“Much remains to be done to eliminate poverty and hunger in the world. Migration was – and will continue to be – part and parcel of the broader development process,” Graziano da Silva concluded.

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“Our Choices Matter More Than Ever Before” To Limit Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/choices-matter-ever-limit-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=choices-matter-ever-limit-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/choices-matter-ever-limit-climate-change/#respond Wed, 10 Oct 2018 08:53:24 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158087 The release of a groundbreaking report has left the international community reeling over very real, intensified impacts of climate change which will hit home sooner rather than later. So what now? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has revealed that the international community is severely off track to limit climate change and that we […]

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Flooding in Trinidad's capital of Port of Spain. As human activities have already caused approximately 1°C global warming above pre-industrial levels, impacts of the changing climate have already unfolded and manifested through floods, droughts, and heatwaves. Credit: Peter Richards/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 10 2018 (IPS)

The release of a groundbreaking report has left the international community reeling over very real, intensified impacts of climate change which will hit home sooner rather than later. So what now?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has revealed that the international community is severely off track to limit climate change and that we will see the world warm over 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030 if no urgent action is taken.

“It is quite discouraging to be told how little time we have,” Amnesty International’s policy advisor Chiara Liguori told IPS.

Policy director of the Climate and Energy Programme at the Union of Concerned Scientists Rachel Cleetus echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating: “This report should be the shot in the arm that governments of the world need. They asked for this information in 2015 and it is now before us, and it is deeply sobering.”

As human activities have already caused approximately 1°C global warming above pre-industrial levels, impacts of the changing climate have already unfolded and manifested through floods, droughts, and heatwaves.

This year saw an unprecedented global heatwave from the Arctic to Japan.

In the United States, extreme heat now causes more deaths in cities than all other weather events combined while Japan saw 65 peopled killed in one week due to a heatwave, which was declared to be a “national disaster.”

The IPCC report, called Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C, known as SR15, projects that such extreme weather events will only get worse if warming is not limited to below 1.5°C compared to 2°C.

For instance, the 91 authors who prepared the report estimated that there will be lower risks for heat-related morbidity and mortality at 1.5°C compared to 2°C.

Seas will rise 0.1 meters less at global warming of 1.5°C, which means than 10 million fewer people would be exposed to related risks including flooding and displacement particularly in small island nations.

Impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems, including species extinction of coral reefs, are also projected to be lower at 1.5°C.

“Even though it seems like a small difference, there are really consequential differences between 1.5 and 2°C,” said Cleetus.

“Every fraction of a degree we can avoid is important,” she added.

While small island developing states advocated heavily for limiting warming to 1.5°C before the Paris Agreement, the international community settled on 2°C.

However, due to the lack of climate-related commitments, the world is on a path for a temperature rise of more than 3°C.

“The feasibility of 1.5°C is tied up in policy decisions we make, technology choices, social and economic choices…and we’ve got no time to waste,” Cleetus said.

Both Cleetus and Liguori highlighted the need for a large-scale transformation in all sectors including the energy sector.

The report notes that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will need to decrease by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ by 2050.

This means that any remaining CO2 emissions would need to be removed from the air.

Many have looked to CO2 removal technologies such as bioenergy with CO2 capture and storage (BECCS), a process, which involves burning biomass such as plant matter for energy, collecting the CO2 they emit, and then storing the gasses underground.

However, Liguori noted that the controversial BECCS technology requires large lots of land in order to grow biomass, which could displace agricultural production and even communities.

“We’ve already seen patterns of climate change mitigation measures that are taken in the name of combatting climate change but at the same time they don’t respect human rights and result in serious consequences for people,” she told IPS.

“It can put an excessive burden on people that are already the most exposed to climate change and less able to defend their rights,” Liguori said.

In May 2018, Amnesty International documented how the Sengwer indigenous community from Embobut forest, Kenya were forced from their homes and stripped of their lands after a government campaign to reduce deforestation.

However, claims that the Sengwer are harming the forest were not substantiated, Liguori said.

“All these measures need to be compliant with human rights, because you cant just transfer one problem to the other. We need to shift towards a zero-carbon economy but we cannot replicate the same pattern of human rights violations that we have currently,” she added.

Cleetus also pointed to the need for climate finance for developing countries.

“Countries need help making this clean energy transition as well as help to invest in resilience to keep their communities safe—this is a piece that must be addressed,” she told IPS.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) has been a crucial instrument to address climate change in developing countries and support efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

However, of the USD10 billion pledged to the fund, only three billion has been paid leaving the GCF in desperate need of sustained if not increased financial commitments from countries in order to limit warming to below 1.5°C.

But countries such as Australia and the U.S. have rejected requests to provide more money.

Climate finance has been a major sticking point in many international negotiations including at the Conference of the Parties (COP) and is predicted to pose a major hurdle at the upcoming COP in Poland where governments will convene to finalise the implementation rules for the Paris Agreement.

While the solutions to address and respond to climate change exist, it is this lack of political will and engagement that is most concerning.

“There is a lot we can do to seriously limit emissions and its up to the policymakers and governments of the world to step up,” Cleetus said.

And people have already begun to fight back, holding their governments accountable to climate action.

Most recently, the Hague Court of Appeal upheld a 2015 ruling which ordered the Dutch government to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

The case, put forth by the Urgenda Foundation and a group of almost 1,000 residents, argued that a failure of the government to act on climate change amounts to a violation of the rights of Dutch citizens.

Similar cases can now be seen around the world.

“This is quite encouraging because it is an element that can push governments to get there, to step up their commitments,” Liguori said.

Cleetus expressed her hope for the future of climate action and urged the international community to do more to make the transition to a carbon-free economy and society a reality.

“We don’t have to make a false choice between sustainable development, poverty eradication, and our climate goals. They can go hand in hand and indeed they must go hand in hand if we are going to surmount these policy and political obstacles to climate action,” she said.

“Our choices still matter—in fact our choices matter more than ever before. It is in our hands what the future of our world climate will look like and the kind of climate we will leave to our children and grandchildren,” Cleetus concluded.

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Over and Under Nutrition: Two Sides of an Unhealthy Coinhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/nutrition-two-sides-unhealthy-coin/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nutrition-two-sides-unhealthy-coin http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/nutrition-two-sides-unhealthy-coin/#respond Thu, 04 Oct 2018 03:39:34 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157966 A dramatic shift in the way we eat and think about food is more urgent than ever to prevent further environmental degradation and an even larger health epidemic.    A diverse group of experts from academia, civil society, and United Nations agencies convened at the sidelines of the General Assembly to discuss the pervasive issue […]

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Poor dietary intake and lack of food varieties affect huge numbers of children, who mostly hail from large, impoverished families in Nepal. Malnutrition is a significant concern in Nepal as around one million children under 5 years suffer from chronic malnutrition and 10 percent suffer from acute malnutrition. Credit: Naresh Newar/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 4 2018 (IPS)

A dramatic shift in the way we eat and think about food is more urgent than ever to prevent further environmental degradation and an even larger health epidemic.   

A diverse group of experts from academia, civil society, and United Nations agencies convened at the sidelines of the General Assembly to discuss the pervasive issue of food insecurity and malnutrition and potential solutions to overhaul the system.“Sustainable food choices is starting to both look good and taste good which hasn’t been the story of the past.” -- founder of EAT Gunhild Stordalen

“It’s striking that we are still, despite all the advances we have seen in science and technology, we still have this big gap between those who eat too much and those who don’t have enough food to eat,” Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition Foundation’s head of media relations Luca Di Leo told IPS.

According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018, the number of hungry people increased to over 820 million in 2017 from approximately 804 million in 2016, levels unseen for almost a decade.

At the same time, and perhaps paradoxically, obesity rates have rapidly increased over the last decade from 11.7 percent in 2012 to 13.2 percent in 2016. This means that in 2017, more than one in eight adults, or over 670 million people, in the world were obese.

Adult obesity and the rate of its increase is highest in North America, and increasing trends can now also be seen across Africa and Asia.

Participants at the International Forum on Food and Nutrition stressed the need to deal with both forms of malnutrition, and pointed to the lack of access to healthy food as the culprit.

“It’s not just what’s in the food, it’s what’s in the discourse about food…there is more than one way to eat badly,” said director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Centre David Katz.

However, many noted that there is a lack of a unified, factual consensus on what constitutes a healthy diet from a sustainable food system.

“Without goals to mobilise collective action, and also no mechanisms to either coordinate nor monitor progress, it is really hard to achieve large-scale system change,” said founder of EAT Foundation, a science-based global platform for food system transformation, Gunhild Stordalen.

Katz echoed similar sentiments, stating: “You will never get there if you can’t agree where there is…we must rally around a set of fundamental truths.”

Fighting the System

Among these truths is the need to overhaul the entire food and agricultural system.

Despite the notorious and shocking findings from the 2004 ‘Supersize Me’ documentary, the consumption of unhealthy processed foods and sugar has only increased.

According to the Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition’s Food Sustainability Index (FSI) 2017, the United States had the highest sugar consumption out of 34 countries in 2017.

The average person in the U.S. consumes more than 126 grams of sugar per day, twice the amount that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends for daily intake.

This not only leads to increasing obesity rates, but it has also contributed to a rise in levels of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

“The number of lost years to nutritional deficiencies and cardiovascular diseases has been going up very sharply in the United States,” said Leo Abruzzese from the Economist Intelligence Unit, which develops the index.

“One of the U.S.’ less impressive exports has been bad nutrition…people aren’t necessarily dying but they are living pretty miserable lives. Under those circumstances, wouldn’t you think there has to be something done?” he told IPS.

The FSI also found that the U.S.’ consumption of meat and saturated fat is among the highest in the world, contributing to unhealthy diets and even climate change.

According to U.N. University, emissions from livestock account for almost 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Beef and dairy alone make up 65 percent of all livestock emissions.

In fact, meat and dairy companies are on track to become the world’s biggest contributors to climate change, surpassing the fossil fuel industry.

However, Stordalen noted that delivering healthy and sustainable diets is within our reach.

Alternatives to meat have taken many countries by storm, and could slowly transform the fast food and meat industries. Consumers can now find the ‘impossible burger,’ a meatless plant-based burger, in many restaurants and fast food chains such as White Castle.

Recently, the U.S.-based vegan meat companies Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods was recently honoured by U.N. Environment with the Champions of the Earth award.

“Sustainable food choices is starting to both look good and taste good which hasn’t been the story of the past,” Stordalen said.

“Once people get the taste of better solutions, they not only start craving but even demanding  a better future. They come together to make it happen,” she added.

The FSI is also a crucial tool to guide governments and policymakers to pay attention to progress and weaknesses in their own country’s food systems.

“By collecting all of these [indicators] together, we essentially have a framework for what we think a good food system would look like,” Abruzzese said.

In some African countries even though there is enough food, it is the type of food that is available that counts. In Malawi, for instance, even though families had increased access to maize, nearly half the children are malnourished. In this dated picture, these children from south Madagascar are malnourished. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

A Problem of Power

The lack of access to healthy food and its consequences can also be seen at the other end of the food value chain: producers.

Women account for up to 60 percent of agricultural labour across Africa, yet still have poor access to quality seeds, fertiliser, and mechanical equipment. At the same time, they often look after the household, taking care of children and cooking meals.

Such gender inequality has been found to contribute to poorer household nutrition, including increases in stunting among children.

Forum participants highlighted the need to empower women farmers and address the gender inequalities in agriculture in order to advance food and nutrition security as well as establish sustainable societies.

“The opposite of hunger is power,” said University of Texas’ research professor Raj Patel, pointing to the case of Malawi.

In Malawi, more than half of children suffer from chronic malnutrition. The harvesting of corn, which is the southeastern African country’s main staple, is designated to women who are also tasked with care work.

“Even when there was more food, there was more malnutrition,” said Patel.

One northern Malawian village tackled the issue through the Soils, Food, and Healthy Communities Project and achieved extraordinary results.

Alongside actions to diversify crop, the project brought men and women together to share the workload such as cooking together and involving men in care work.

Not only did they achieve gender equality in agriculture, the village also saw dramatic decreases in infant malnutrition.

“We need to value women’s work,” Patel said.

Future of Food

Fixing the food and agricultural system is no easy task, but it has to be done, attendees said.

“We know what the problems are, we’ve also identified the potential solutions…and the main solution is each and every one of us,” Di Leo told IPS.

One of the key solutions is education and empowering people to be agents of change.

“Healthy production will come if the consumer ask for the healthy eating. And healthy eating will come if the consumer has the right education and information,” Di Leo said.

For instance, many do not see or know the link between food and climate change, he added.

In fact, a 2016 study found that there was a lack of awareness of the association between meat consumption and climate change and a resistance to the idea of reducing personal meat consumption.

“It’s a kind of change that needs a bottom-up approach,” Di Leo said.

Stordalen echoed Di Leo’s comments, calling for a global ‘dugnad’—a Norwegian word describing the act of a community uniting and working together to achieve a goal that will serve them all.

“The state of the global food system calls for new collaborative action,” she said.

“It’s time to officially ditch the saying that ‘the more cooks, the worse soup’ because we need everybody involved to serve our people and planet the right future.”

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More Women Owning Agricultural Land in Africa Means Increased Food Security and Nutritionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/women-owning-agricultural-land-africa-means-increased-food-security-nutrition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-owning-agricultural-land-africa-means-increased-food-security-nutrition http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/women-owning-agricultural-land-africa-means-increased-food-security-nutrition/#respond Sun, 30 Sep 2018 12:01:24 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157894 Despite women being key figures in agriculture and food security, gender inequality is holding back progress towards ending hunger, poverty, and creating sustainable food systems.  During a high-level event on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, the African Union (AU) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO) reviewed the persistent […]

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Evidence shows that when women are empowered, farms are more productive, natural resources are better managed, nutrition is improved, and livelihoods are more secure. Credit: Kristin Palitza/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 30 2018 (IPS)

Despite women being key figures in agriculture and food security, gender inequality is holding back progress towards ending hunger, poverty, and creating sustainable food systems. 

During a high-level event on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, the African Union (AU) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO) reviewed the persistent gender gaps in agri-food systems in Africa and highlighted the need for urgent action. “It is therefore economically rewarding to invest in women’s education and economic empowerment since women often use a large portion of their income on children and family welfare.” -- AU commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture Josefa Leonel Correa Sacko.

“There is a strong momentum to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment in agri-food systems because women constitute the majority of agricultural labour,” said AU commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture Josefa Leonel Correa Sacko.

However, despite women’s crucial role in such systems, there are persistent gender gaps.

“We need to better recognise and harness the fundamental contribution of women to food security and nutrition. For that, we must close persisting gender gaps in agriculture in Africa,” said FAO’s Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva.

“Evidence shows that when women are empowered, farms are more productive, natural resources are better managed, nutrition is improved, and livelihoods are more secure,” he added.

While women account for up to 60 percent of agricultural labour, approximately 32 percent of women own agricultural lands across 27 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa through either joint, sole ownership, or both.

Only 13 percent of women, compared to 40 percent of men, have sole ownership on all or part of the land they own, according to the Regional Outlook on Gender and Agrifood Systems, a joint report by the FAO and AU that was presented during the event.

In 2016, thousands of rural women across Africa gathered at Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro to protest and demand the right to land and natural resources.

Some even climbed to the peak of Africa’s highest mountain, showcasing their determination for change.

Even when women are able to own their own land, many still lack access to productive resources and technologies such as fertiliser, agricultural input, mechanical equipment, and finance.

This poses numerous challenges along the food value chain, including food loss.

Globally, approximately one-third of all food produced is lost or wasted. Food loss and waste is a major contributor to climate change and in Sub-Saharan Africa, the economic cost of such losses amount up to USD4 billion every year, FAO found.

Closing productivity gaps could increase food production and consumption by up to 10 percent and reduce poverty by up to 13 percent.

While women account for up to 60 percent of agricultural labour, approximately 32 percent of women own agricultural lands across 27 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa through either joint, sole ownership, or both. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

The FAO-AU assessment also estimated that agricultural output could more than triple if farmers had access to the finance needed to expand quality and quantity of their produce.

Panellists noted that addressing the agricultural gender gaps in Africa could additionally boost food security and nutrition in the region.

Globally, hunger is on the rise and it is worsening in most parts of Africa. Out of 821 million hungry people in the world in 2017, over 250 million are in Africa.

Many African nations are also seeing a rapid rise in obesity, which could soon become the continent’s biggest public health crisis.

“It is therefore economically rewarding to invest in women’s education and economic empowerment since women often use a large portion of their income on children and family welfare,” Sacko said.

Graziano da Silva noted that among the key issues is the lack of women in governance systems and decision-making processes. 

Between five and 30 percent of field officers from ministries and rural institutions are women while only 12 to 20 percent of staff in ministries of agriculture are female.

This coincides with the lack of gender targeting and analysis mechanisms, resulting in services that target male-dominated sectors.

If such trends continue, Africa will not be close to achieving many of the ambitious development goals including the Malabo Declaration, which aims to achieve inclusive growth, sustainable agriculture, and improved livelihoods.

There has been some positive trends as many African countries have started to recognise the importance of putting women at the heart of the transformation of rural food systems.

Botswana’s Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme provides grants to women, enabling them to start their own enterprises and advance their economic well-being.

First Lady of Botswana Neo Jane Massi attended the high-level event and stressed the “importance of inclusive growth in our national development agendas in order to ensure that no one is left behind.”

Similarly, the Joint Programme on Accelerating Progress towards the Economic Empowerment of Women, implemented by various U.N. agencies including FAO and U.N. Women, has provided more than 40,000 women with training on improved agricultural technologies and increased access to financial services and markets.

While women’s participation in decision making has increased from 17 to 30 percent, Graziano da Silva stressed the need for better and more balanced representation of women at all levels.

Presenting the recommendations from the AU-FAO outlook report, Sacko called for an “enabling environment,” reinforcement of accountability mechanisms for gender equality and women’s empowerment, and a “gender data revolution” to better inform gender-sensitive policies and programs.

“Let us be ambitious, and let us all put our wings together,” Massi concluded.

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Without Food Security, There Is No Peacehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/without-food-security-no-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=without-food-security-no-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/without-food-security-no-peace/#comments Thu, 27 Sep 2018 05:33:09 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157799 Reversing years of progress, global hunger is on the rise once again and one of the culprits is clear: conflict. A high-level side event during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly brought together, U.N. officials, governments, and civil society to assess and recommend solutions to the pressing issue of conflict-based food insecurity.  […]

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Two mothers and their children look to shore after arriving by boat to Mingkaman, Awerial County, Lakes State, South Sudan. In 2014 in less than a month close to 84,000 fleeing the fighting in Bor crossed the river Nile. South Sudan has been mired in civil conflict since December 2013. Some 2.8 million people, a majority of whom depend on livestock for their livelihoods, are now facing acute food and nutrition insecurity, according to FAO. Credit: Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 27 2018 (IPS)

Reversing years of progress, global hunger is on the rise once again and one of the culprits is clear: conflict.

A high-level side event during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly brought together, U.N. officials, governments, and civil society to assess and recommend solutions to the pressing issue of conflict-based food insecurity. “The use of hunger as a weapon of war is a war crime. Yet, in some conflict settings, parties to conflict use siege tactics, weaponise starvation of civilians, or impede life-saving humanitarian supplies to reach those desperately in need." -- Action Against Hunger’s CEO Veronique Andrieux

“Conflict-related hunger is one of the most visible manifestations to human suffering emerging from war…this suffering is preventable and thus all the more tragic,” said United States’ Agency for International Development’s (USAID) administrator Mark Green.

According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018, the number of hungry people increased to over 820 million in 2017 from approximately 804 million in 2016, levels unseen for almost a decade.

The Global Report on Food Crises found that almost 124 million people across 51 countries faced crisis-level food insecurity in 2017, 11 million more than the year before.

Conflict was identified as the key driver in 60 percent of those cases.

The report predicts that conflict and insecurity will continue to drive food crises around the world, including in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

Panellists during the “Breaking the Cycle Between Conflict and Hunger” side-event noted food insecurity is often a tell-tale sign of future potential conflict and can lead to further insecurity.

“Building resilience…is indeed fundamental for strengthening social cohesion, preventing conflict, and avoiding forced migration. Without that, there is no peace,” said Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO) director-general Jose Graziano da Silva.

World Food Programme’s executive director David Beasley echoed similar sentiments, stating: “If you don’t have food security, you’re not going to have any other security. So we have to address the fundamentals.”

In an effort to address conflict-based hunger and the worrisome reversal in progress, the U.N. Security Council for the first time recognised that armed conflict is closely linked to food insecurity and the risk of famine earlier this year.

The group unanimously adopted resolution 2417 condemning the use of starvation as a weapon of war and urged all parties to conflict to comply with international law and grand unimpeded humanitarian access.

While participants lauded the historic resolution, they also highlighted that it alone is not enough.

“Humanitarian action and technical solutions can mitigate the effects of food crises but we desperately need political solutions and we need to implement [resolution] 2417 if we are to reverse the shameful, upwards trajectory of hunger primarily resulting from conflict,” said Action Against Hunger’s CEO Veronique Andrieux.

In order to prevent food crises and thus conflicts from escalating, the international community must take a holistic, preventative approach and strengthen the humanitarian-development nexus.

Before the long-running war began, Syria faced a drought which caused a spike in prices and led to food shortages. Many theorise that it was these very conditions that set off the civil war in 2011. This is a picture dated August 2014 of the then rebel-held Aleppo city, Syria. The government has since taken control of the city. Credit: Shelly Kittleson/IPS

Beasley pointed to the case of Syria where a seven-year long conflict has destroyed agricultural infrastructure, local economies, and supply chains and has left over six million food-insecure.

“The cost for us to feed a Syrian in Syria was about 50 cents a day which is almost double the normal cost because it is a war zone. If that same Syrian was in Berlin, it would be euros per day,” he told attendees.

“It is a better investment if we address the root cause as opposed to reacting after the fact,” Beasley added.

Before the long-running war began, Syria faced a drought which caused a spike in prices and led to food shortages. Many theorise that it was these very conditions that set off the civil war in 2011.

“Early action response to early warning is critical. We cannot wait for the conflict to start. We know that it will start,” said Graziano da Silva.

And it is data that can help establish early detection and prevent such crises, Graziano da Silva along with the other panelists stressed.

The Global Network against Food Crises (GNFC), which publish the Global Report on Food Crises, brings together regional and national data and analysis to provide a comprehensive picture of food insecurity globally.

It was the GNFC that enabled agencies to mitigate food crises and avert famine in northern Nigeria and South Sudan.

Just prior to the side event, FAO and the European Commission partnered to boost resilience and tackle hunger by contributing over USD70 million.

Panelists stressed the importance of such partnerships in addressing and responding to the complex issue of conflict-based food insecurity.

“At the ground, when we work together, it’s not only that we do better…we are much more efficient,” Graziano da Silva said.

Andrieux highlighted the need to uphold respect for international humanitarian law and that the U.N. and member states must hold all parties to the conflict to account.

“The use of hunger as a weapon of war is a war crime. Yet, in some conflict settings, parties to conflict use siege tactics, weaponise starvation of civilians, or impede life-saving humanitarian supplies to reach those desperately in need,” she said.

“We believe this is failing humanity,” Andrieux added.

Green pointed to the conflict in South Sudan where fighters have blocked desperately needed humanitarian assistance and attacked aid workers.

The African nation was recently ranked the most dangerous for aid workers for the third consecutive year.

“All the parties to the conflict are culpable, all the parties to the conflict are guilty, and they have all failed themselves, their people, and humanity,” Green told attendees.

Though the task of tackling conflict-based hunger is not easy, the solutions are there. What is now required is commitment and collective action, panelists said.

“All of us working together with effective solutions—we can truly end world hunger,” Beasley said.

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Q&A: An Uncertain Future Ahead for Rohingya in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-uncertain-future-ahead-rohingya-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-uncertain-future-ahead-rohingya-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-uncertain-future-ahead-rohingya-bangladesh/#respond Wed, 26 Sep 2018 08:45:09 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157770 IPS Correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage talks to AMBASSADOR MASUD BIN MOMEN, permanent representative of Bangladesh to the U.N about the Rohingya' crisis.

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A Rohingya woman and her child at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 26 2018 (IPS)

Over one year ago, Bangladesh opened its doors in response to what is now the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. But questions still remain on how to rehabilitate the steadily growing population. 

After a military crackdown on suspected terrorists in August 2017, over 700,000 Rohingya fled from their homes in Rakhine State, Myanmar to Bangladesh, bringing with them stories of the horrors they have experienced.

The United Nations described the military offensive as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and a recent fact-finding mission called for the investigation and prosecution of top officials from Myanmar’s military for possible crimes of genocide.

However, recurring cycles of violence can be traced back to 1978 and now 1.3 million Rohingya reside in Bangladesh, leaving the small South Asian nation straining for resources to provide to grief-stricken refugees and overcrowded camps.

So far, only one third of the humanitarian appeal for refugees and local host communities have been met and still many challenges remain from environmental stress to trafficking to the lack of shelters.

Bangladesh’s prime minister Sheikh Hasina, who was in Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people of 2018, has been lauded for her humanitarian gesture and her government’s work in addressing the crisis.

Many international and national organizations are working to support the Rohingya refugees. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in particular and its head William Lacy Swing have worked relentlessly to not only provide support to the refugees but also to find a lasting solution to the crisis. Swing has worked closely with the prime minister and her government and engaged with the many parties involved to bring about an end to the tragedy.

In recognition of his untiring efforts, Inter Press Service (IPS) is honouring Swing with the Person of the Year Award at an event to be held at the U.N. headquarters on Sept. 27. The prime minster will receive the IPS U.N. North America’s Humanitarian Award for her decision to give shelter to the over one million Rohingya refugees who were driven out of their homes, tortured, burnt, raped and left stateless and hopeless.

Ahead of the Hasina’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly, which is expected to focus on the Rohingya crisis and call for international action to resolve the crisis, IPS spoke to ambassador Masud Bin Momen, permanent representative of Bangladesh to the U.N.about the ongoing challenges, support, and future action plans.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Inter Press Service (IPS): Could you talk about the situation in Bangladesh—are refugees still arriving? What conditions are Rohingya refugees arriving in and what conditions are they seeing and living with in Bangladesh?

Masud Bin Momen (MBM): The situation in Cox’s Bazar is terrible. Having to shelter more than 700,000 Rohingyas from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which is the fastest-growing crisis of its kind in the world, and provide them with humanitarian support is an onerous responsibility. It was the bold decision of our honourable prime minister to take up such a huge responsibility responding to humanity’s call. It takes a lot of courage and magnanimity of heart to make such a politically sensitive decision.

And the influx of Rohingyas has not stopped. It is continuing although in much smaller numbers. The freshly-arrived Rohingyas are still giving a grim picture of the ground situation in the Rakhine state. They are telling us about insecurity, threat, persecution, hunger, lack of livelihood opportunities, which is forcing them to leave Myanmar.

IPS: What has the government been doing as of late with regards to supporting Rohingya refugees there now? What have been some of the challenges to support these refugees?

MBM: The camp conditions in Cox’s Bazar may not be perfect and surely, one would understand how difficult it is for a developing country to cater to the humanitarian needs of such a huge population. But our government is trying its best to further improve the camp conditions to ensure basic necessities of the Rohingyas.

The challenges are manifold, I would mention only a few. Providing them with the basic amenities has been the biggest challenge.

For firewood, the Rohingyas have destroyed the forest and vegetation around the camps creating serious threat to the ecology of the area. The shelters that they have built on the slope of the hills are vulnerable to landslide during the monsoon.

For livelihood they are competing with the locals. This is reducing employment opportunities of the local population thus creating concern among the host communities. Their presence is affecting the local law and order situation. The possibility of radicalisation looms large. As their stay lingers, there is the possibility of mingling with the local population which could make their repatriation more difficult.

A Rohingya girl proudly holds up her drawing at a UNICEF school at Balukhali camp, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

IPS: Could you talk about the controversies surrounding repatriation? Why has it been stalled, and are conditions favourable or safe for Rohingya refugees to go back to Myanmar right now? 

MBM: Although Rohingyas want to return to their homes in Rakhine they would not return to Myanmar until and unless the ground condition in the Rakhine state is conducive for their return. This is the singular impediment to return. Improving ground conditions is entirely Myanmar’s responsibility. Since the ground condition is not yet conducive, the Rohingyas are not signing the declaration for voluntary return and hence repatriation is being delayed.

IPS: If refugees cannot return to Myanmar yet, what does Bangladesh plan to do with regards to support? Are there future actions planned to enhance camps and living conditions?

MBM: If they do not return in the foreseeable future we perhaps have no other option but to continue to give them refuge. We would not send them back against their will. As our prime minister said, we would share our meals with them (Rohingyas). There cannot be a more poignant message of our goodwill to the Rohingyas. Our government is relentlessly working to improve the camps and the living conditions therein. We are also developing an island for relocation of some of the Rohingyas.

IPS: What are your thoughts to the criticism that the island which you mentioned is not safe to live, particularly due to violent weather and high risk of floods? 

MBM: This is an entirely wrong perception. Keeping the entire Rohingya population in a geo-politically sensitive place like Cox’s Bazar is not feasible at all. Cox’s Bazar simply does not have the physical capacity or the infrastructure to sustain such a huge Rohingya population. So, they have to be relocated and the island you are talking about is one such place for possible relocation.

Initially about 100,000 Rohingyas are planned to be relocated. The criticism that you have referred to is baseless coming from ill-informed quarters. Our government is working hard to make the island livable with self-sustaining livelihood options. And until it is made entirely livable, Rohingyas are not going to be relocated there.

IPS: What are your thoughts on the International Criminal Court (ICC) launching a preliminary examination? 

MBM: We feel that this is a positive development in ensuring accountability of the perpetrators. If the ICC can come up with some concrete outcome, it might also serve as an important factor in building confidence among the Rohingyas which will facilitate their repatriation.

IPS: Do you have a response or message to Myanmar’s government regarding the crisis? And perhaps a message to the International community in addressing the situation? 

MBM: We would urge upon Myanmar to make ground conditions in the Rakhine state conducive for return and take back the Rohingyas as soon as possible. The comprehensive implementation of the Kofi Annan Commission’s recommendations would be able to address the root causes of the Rohingyarians.

We urge upon the international community is to take custodianship of the bilateral arrangements for return that Bangladesh and Myanmar have signed and impress upon Myanmar to take back the Rohingyas.

*Interview has been edited for length and clarity

The post Q&A: An Uncertain Future Ahead for Rohingya in Bangladesh appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

IPS Correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage talks to AMBASSADOR MASUD BIN MOMEN, permanent representative of Bangladesh to the U.N about the Rohingya' crisis.

The post Q&A: An Uncertain Future Ahead for Rohingya in Bangladesh appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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