Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net Turning the World Downside Up Fri, 29 May 2015 13:47:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.5 Relief Organisation Urges Mandatory Funding for Humanitarian Appealshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/relief-organisation-urges-mandatory-funding-for-humanitarian-appeals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=relief-organisation-urges-mandatory-funding-for-humanitarian-appeals http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/relief-organisation-urges-mandatory-funding-for-humanitarian-appeals/#comments Fri, 29 May 2015 13:47:37 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140848 UNICEF estimates that 3.5 million children in Pakistan suffer from acute malnutrition. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

UNICEF estimates that 3.5 million children in Pakistan suffer from acute malnutrition. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, May 29 2015 (IPS)

The United Nations is not only overwhelmed by a spreading humanitarian crisis, largely in Africa and the Middle East, but also remains hamstrung by a severe shortfall in funds, mostly from Western donors.

In conflict-ridden South Sudan, a major crisis point, about 40 percent of the country’s 11.4 million population is facing “alarming levels of hunger,” according to the Rome-based World Food Programme (WFP)."The system is overwhelmed and assistance often arrives too little and is too late." -- Shannon Scribner of Oxfam America

But lack of funding and shrinking access are compromising the agency’s ability to meet humanitarian needs.

Currently, the funding shortfall for WFP amounts to 230 million dollars for food and nutrition assistance.

Overall, the number of people requiring critical relief has more than doubled since 2004, to over 100 million today, according to the United Nations.

And current funding requirements for 2015 stand at a staggering 19.1 billion dollars, up from 3.4 billion dollars in 2004.

The United Nations considers four emergencies as “severe and large scale”: Central African Republic, Iraq, Syria and South Sudan.

And these crises alone have left 20 million people vulnerable to malnutrition, illness, violence, and death, and in need of aid and protection.

“Yet there is not enough funding to meet the needs,” Shannon Scribner, Humanitarian Policy Manager at Oxfam America, told IPS.

She said the current humanitarian system is led by the United Nations, funded largely by a handful of rich countries, and managed mostly by those actors, large international non-governmental organisations (including Oxfam), and the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement.

This system has saved countless lives over the past 50 years and it has done so with very little funding, she said, and less than what the world’s major donors spend on subsidies to their farmers.

“However, the system is overwhelmed and assistance often arrives too little and is too late,” she pointed out.

So strengthening the capacity of local actors to prevent, prepare and respond to emergencies in the first place makes sense, as well as increasing assistance to disaster risk reduction (DRR) that can have a high rate of return in saving lives and preventing damage to communities and infrastructure, as seen in South Asia, Central America, and East Africa.

However, between 1991 and 2010, only 0.4 percent of total official development assistance (ODA) went to DRR, Scribner said.

Last week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed a high-level U.N. panel to address the widening gap between resources and financing for the world’s pressing humanitarian efforts.

Oxfam has recommended the panel looks at having U.N. member states make mandatory payments to humanitarian appeals – similar to what is done for U.N. peacekeeping missions, in which funding is received by mandatory assessments charged to member states.

Currently, the United Nations and its key agencies are funded by assessed contributions from the 193 member states and based on the principle of “capacity to pay”, with the United States the largest single contributor at 22 percent of the U.N.’s regular budget. All of these are mandatory payments.

Additionally, U.N. agencies also receive “non core” resources which come from voluntary contributions from member states.

Over the last decade, Ban said, the demand for humanitarian aid had risen “dramatically” amid an uptick in water scarcity, food insecurity, demographic shifts, rapid urbanisation and climate change.

“All these and other dynamics are contributing to a situation in which current resources and funding flows are insufficient to meet the rising demand for aid,” he declared.

“Humanitarian actors expected to stay longer and longer in countries and regions impacted by long-running crises and conflicts.”

Over the past 10 years, the global demand for humanitarian aid has, in fact, risen precipitously, he pointed out.

Oxfam said 12.2 million people are in need of assistance in Syria, almost 4 million refugees and 7.6 million internally displaced people.

In Yemen, two out of three Yemenis needed humanitarian assistance before current crisis. And in both countries, the U.N. appeal is only 20 percent funded

Scribner told IPS one way to address the ongoing problem of assistance being too little and arriving too late is to invest more in humanitarian action led by governments in crisis-affected countries, assisted and held accountable by civil society, as it is often faster and more appropriate, and can even save more lives.

Yet, during 2007-2013, just 2.4 percent of annual humanitarian assistance went directly to local actors.

Meanwhile, the High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing will be co-chaired by the Vice President of the European Commission, Kristalina Georgieva of Bulgaria, and Sultan Nazrin Shah of Malaysia.

The Panel will also include Hadeel Ibrahim of the United Kingdom; Badr Jafar of the United Arab Emirates; Trevor Manuel of South Africa; Linah Mohohlo of Botswana; Walt Macnee of Canada; Margot Wallström of Sweden; and Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah of Sri Lanka.

The United Nations said the panel is expected to submit its recommendations to the Secretary-General in November 2015 which will help frame discussions at next year’s World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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U.N. Security Council Takes “Historic” Stand on Killings of Journalistshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/u-n-security-council-takes-historic-stand-on-killings-of-journalists/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-n-security-council-takes-historic-stand-on-killings-of-journalists http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/u-n-security-council-takes-historic-stand-on-killings-of-journalists/#comments Fri, 29 May 2015 13:14:57 +0000 Kitty Stapp http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140846 Protesters in Moscow demand that authorities investigate an attack on prominent Russian journalist Oleg Kashin on Nov. 6, 2010. Credit: Yuri Timofeyev/cc by 2.0

Protesters in Moscow demand that authorities investigate an attack on prominent Russian journalist Oleg Kashin on Nov. 6, 2010. Credit: Yuri Timofeyev/cc by 2.0

By Kitty Stapp
UNITED NATIONS, May 29 2015 (IPS)

When war breaks out, most non-combatants run the other way. But a handful of courageous reporters see it as their duty to tell the world what’s happening on the ground. And many pay a high price.

Since 1992, 1,129 journalists have been killed on the job, 38 percent of them in war zones, according to figures compiled by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). And increasingly, they are being deliberately targeted."As excellent as it may be, there is no certainty that a new resolution will in and of itself be enough to resolve the problem." -- Christophe Deloire of Reporters Without Borders

In an explicit recognition of the key role of the media in peace and security, the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted a resolution condemning all violations and abuses committed against journalists and deploring impunity for such acts.

“Recent killings of journalists have been given extensive and welcome attention around the world, including the brutal murders of Western media representatives in Syria,” said U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson.

“Yet we must not forget that around 95 per cent of the killings of journalists in armed conflict concern locally-based journalists, receiving less media coverage,” he added.

Syria remains the deadliest place for journalists, with at least 80 killed there since the conflict erupted in 2011. The second and third places in journalist deaths were shared by Iraq and Ukraine.

According to CPJ, about one quarter of the journalists killed last year were members of the international press, double the proportion the group has documented in recent years.

Eliasson urged member states to implement the U.N. Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, endorsed by the U.N. Chief Executives Board on Apr. 12, 2012.

Its measures include the establishment of a coordinated inter-agency mechanism to handle issues related to the safety of journalists, as well as assisting countries to develop legislation and mechanisms favourable to freedom of expression and information, and supporting their efforts to implement existing international rules and principles.

But this call may fall on deaf ears in some quarters. In March, a military spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition conducting air strikes in Yemen openly stated that media organisations associated with the Houthi rebels and former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh are legitimate targets.

On Mar. 18, Abdul Kareem al-Khaiwani a Yemeni journalist from Sana’a, was shot and killed by assailants on motorbikes after representing a Houthi group in a conference on Yemen’s future, while on Mar. 26 Shi’ite Houthi militiamen overran the Sana’a headquarters of three satellite television channels: Al-Jazeera, Al-Yaman-Shabab (Yemen-Youth), and Yemen Digital Media.

On Apr. 20, journalist and TV presenter Mohammed Shamsan and three other staff members of Sana’a-based television station Yemen Today were killed in an airstrike that appears to have deliberately targeted the broadcaster’s office.

Christophe Deloire, director-general of Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, said Wednesday that, “It’s historic that the Security Council should make a link between the right to freedom of expression and the need to protect journalists, even though it may seem obvious.”

But Deloire noted that hundreds of journalists have been killed since the last resolution was adopted in 2006 – 25 this year alone – and “as excellent as it may be, there is no certainty that a new resolution will in and of itself be enough to resolve the problem.”

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power singled out Colombia, once considered the most dangerous country for journalists in South America, as taking positive action by establishing a 160-million-dollar annual fund to protect 19 groups, including journalists.

Earlier this week, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos met with representatives of CPJ in Bogota and the Colombian press freedom group Foundation for a Free Press (FLIP) and pledged to prioritise combating impunity in attacks against the press.

While the security situation in Colombia has improved in recent years, impunity is entrenched and threats and violence against journalists continue, according to CPJ research.

“I envision a normal country where journalists won’t need bulletproof cars and bodyguards and will not need any protection,” said Santos, himself a former journalist and one-time president of the freedom of expression commission for the Inter-American Press Association.

“But for now we need to make sure that the programme is properly funded and effective,” he added.

Launched in 2011, the journalist protection programme provides protection for around 7,500 at-risk people, including human rights activists, politicians, and journalists, at a total cost of 600,000 dollars per day.

But the delegation recommended that it also focus on preventing attacks from occurring in the first place.

Colombia ranked eighth on CPJ’s 2014 Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are slain and their killers go free.

Iraq ranked number one, followed by Somalia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Syria, Afghanistan and Mexico.

At the Security Council meeting, Deloire from Reporters Without Borders called for the creation of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the protection of journalists in order to increase the prominence of the issue within the U.N system.

He stressed that a staggering 90 percent of crimes against journalists go unpunished.

“Such a high impunity rate encourages those who want to silence journalists by drowning them in their own blood,” Deloire said.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Humanitarian Crisis in South Sudan Continues to Worsenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/humanitarian-crisis-in-south-sudan-continues-to-worsen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-crisis-in-south-sudan-continues-to-worsen http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/humanitarian-crisis-in-south-sudan-continues-to-worsen/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 22:22:13 +0000 Ann-Kathrin Pohlers http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140844 Refugees dig for water in a dried up watering hole in Jamam camp, in South Sudan's Upper Nile state. Aid groups say 7.8 million people are now severely food insecure. Credit: Jared Ferrie/IPS

Refugees dig for water in a dried up watering hole in Jamam camp, in South Sudan's Upper Nile state. Aid groups say 7.8 million people are now severely food insecure. Credit: Jared Ferrie/IPS

By Ann-Kathrin Pohlers
MUNICH, Germany, May 28 2015 (IPS)

After peace talks failed earlier this month, the ongoing conflict in South Sudan between government forces and opposition forces that began at the end of 2013 is having a severe impact on the country’s food security and civilian safety.

While fighting continues, widespread burning, destruction, and looting of property have aggravated the efforts of both sides to gain control of the oilfields in the north of the country.

"South Sudan is locked in a horrible cycle of conflict and abuse and there has been absolutely no accountabillity whatsoever for any of these horrific abuses." -- Skye Wheeler, Human Rights Watch (HRW) Researcher for Sudan and South Sudan
“South Sudan is locked in a horrible cycle of conflict and abuse and there has been absolutely no accountabillity whatsoever for any of these horrific abuses,” Skye Wheeler, Human Rights Watch (HRW) Researcher for Sudan and South Sudan, based in Nairobi, told IPS.

To date, 10,000 people have been killed and two million forced to flee their homes.

Aid organisations are calling this a severe humanitarian crisis.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has decried the brutal violence against civilians and children, including the burning down of entire villages and the rapes and murders of women, and children as young as seven years old, over the past few weeks.

The states of Unity and Jonglei are the worst affected. It is unclear exactly who is responsible for the violence and destruction of property.

An estimated 13,000 children under 15 years of age have been recruited by both government and opposition forces, an act that constitutes a war crime, not only in South Sudan but also according to international law.

Another concern is the displacement of civilians and destruction of agriculture.

“People should be planting crops right now, instead they are fleeing,” Pawel Krzysiek, a staff member of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, told IPS.

With the rainy season fast approaching, farming communities in Unity State need to plant their crops now to ensure decent harvests, something they cannot do due to the fighting. Many people have little choice but to depend on food aid.

According to Oxfam,  two-thirds of the population is now food insecure, with 7.8 million people in “Phases 2, 3 and 4 of food insecurity.”

The number of hungry people is projected to rise to 4.6 million by the end of July, accounting for 40 percent of the population. The rights group further estimates that 800,000 people have reached “emergency levels of hunger, facing extreme and dangerous food shortages.”

An Oxfam statement released Wednesday cautioned that this latest analysis “was undertaken before the recent escalation of the war, so it is expected that for thousands of people in South Sudan, the outlook is now even worse.”

Children have been badly hit, with malnutrition at a “critical level” in 80 percent of all counties in the Greater Upper Nile, Warrap and Northern Bahr El Ghazal states.

Dependence on food aid will only increase now with worsening displacement – gaining access to those most in need is becoming increasingly difficult, aid workers say.

“ICRC is providing food and medicine for about 120,000 people. Many of them are displaced as a result of the fighting, which is challenging our aid workers,” Krzysiek says.

More than two million people are displaced, about 500,000 of them are completely cut off from services.

Besides civilians, aid organisation now find themselves affected, with ongoing violence limiting both the options and capacity of various humanitarian groups.

According to Krzysiek, medical facilities in Unity State and Jonglei State were attacked, targeted and detroyed. Aid organisations were forced to evacuate staff to ensure security.

ICRC was forced to move its base from the city of Kodok to Oriny to the disadvantage of civilians.

“The hospital of Kodok is the only one in its region and therefore very important. People now have even more limited access to health services and food because of the country‘s insufficient infrastructure,” Jean-Yves Clemenzo, based at the ICRC headquarters in Geneva, told IPS.

Humanitarian organisations putting their operations on hold could spell disaster for the roughly 50 percent of South Sudan’s 12 million who are almost entirely dependent on the delivery of aid supplies.

UNICEF estimates it will distribute aid to meet the humanitarian needs of children alone to the tune of 165 million dollars by the end of 2015.

Human Rights Watch is very concerned about the continous deterioration of the conflict. Over the last couple of months, dozens of cases have been documented in which civilians were arrested arbitrarily, beaten up or tortured by unidentified forces.

“It looks like we are seeing a repeat of late 2013, when government forces moved through these areas burning, looting and destroying large parts of it,” Wheeler told IPS.

South Sudan became an independent state in 2011, in a moment that marked the end of a two-decade-long war for independence, which claimed 2.5 million lives. But peace was short-lived.

In December 2012 a power struggle between South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his then-vice president Riek Machar escalated after Machar was accused of attempting to depose Mayardit.

War broke out once again on Dec. 15, 2013, and since then the world’s ‘newest country’ has been consumed by a tide of violence.

Back in March 2015, peace talks hosted by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa failed.

In response, the United Nations security council imposed sanctions on the country, in a resolution that threatened travel bans and asset freezes on individuals or entities “responsible for, complicit in, or engaged directly or indirectly in actions or policies threatening the peace, security or stability of South Sudan.”

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Opinion: Internet Should be Common Heritage of Humankind – Part IIhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-internet-should-be-common-heritage-of-humankind-part-ii/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-internet-should-be-common-heritage-of-humankind-part-ii http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-internet-should-be-common-heritage-of-humankind-part-ii/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 20:55:06 +0000 Branislav Gosovic http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140841 Srun Srorn, a trainer for the E-learning project, walks teachers at Koh Kong High School in Cambodia through a new online sexual education curriculum. Credit: Michelle Tolson/IPS

Srun Srorn, a trainer for the E-learning project, walks teachers at Koh Kong High School in Cambodia through a new online sexual education curriculum. Credit: Michelle Tolson/IPS

By Branislav Gosovic
VILLAGE TUDOROVICI, Montenegro, May 28 2015 (IPS)

The Internet – and the applications that it has spawned – is the single most important technological innovation that has brought together and interlinked humankind in a real, tangible and interactive way.

Among other benefits, it has:While having a universal presence in each country and in the life of the majority of humankind that enjoys its amenities, the Internet is untouchable, controlled by someone somewhere who is invisible and unknown.

  • Made possible instantaneous worldwide communication and interaction
  • Simplified and facilitated many previously time consuming, onerous and costly tasks
  • Enabled a networking that can serve as a means for building a global community, and developing understanding and cooperation
  • Created the “Internet dependence” for the well-being and functioning of society, economy, and daily life and existence of individuals, which has generated a common and shared interest in keeping the Internet functioning, in good order, and continuously improving it.

The Internet has meant a “great leap” forward for humankind and made it possible for it to “leap-frog” and “short-circuit” many of the obstacles and challenges that it had faced earlier on its road to a shared but uncertain future.

However, this great technological communication advance has not been accompanied by a corresponding socio-political leap of systemic change, and the Internet has been weighed down by the legacies of the past and the nature of the existing world order.

Rather than aiming to place the promise and capabilities of the Internet at the disposal of enlightened, common global objectives of humankind and to subject it to democratic multilateral governance, some of the key actors seem to view it primarily as their own property.

They want to be in charge of it and use it for their own strategic ends and objectives, for global expansion and dominance, and the exploitation of new technological possibilities to harvest the planet for what amounts to unlimited creation of wealth, including via virtual means, and massive “invisible” transfer of resources to the core countries of the North.

The resulting situation has been depicted aptly in the recent draft, “Tunis Call for a People’s Internet”, circulated at the Workshop “Organizing an Internet Social Forum – A Call to Occupy the Internet”, held at the April 2015 World Social Forum. It merits to be quoted:

“The Internet today has become an integral and essential part of our daily lives, more and more of our activities are organized through and around the virtual spaces, the networks, online services and the technology it comprises.  It has restructured the very way in which we live, work, play and organise our societies. In many aspects, this is so even for people who at present have no direct Internet access.

At the same time, we are alarmed to see how both our private and public spaces are being co-opted and controlled for private gain; how private corporations are carving the public internet into walled spaces; how our personal data is being manipulated and proprietised; how a global surveillance society is emerging, with little or no privacy; how information on the Internet is being arbitrarily censored, and people’s right to communicate curtailed; and how the Internet is being militarized. Meanwhile, decision-making on public policy matters relating to the Internet remains dangerously removed from the mechanisms of democratic governance.”

The Internet has become controversial not only because of the hegemonic attitude of the key country and because of the free hand given to its monopolistic global Internet-based corporations, but also because it is rooted in and fueled by larger controversies, including decades-old, unresolved development issues.

This includes the questions of transfer of science and technology, intellectual property regimes, and international regulation of transnational corporations, all of which have been on the international agenda for five decades without any visible progress having been made.

There is also the question of “ownership” and “participation”. There is a complete dependence on the Internet worldwide, an addiction that cannot be shaken off. While having a universal presence in each country and in the life of the majority of humankind that enjoys its amenities, the Internet is untouchable, controlled by someone somewhere who is invisible and unknown.

This dependencia when it comes to the Internet governance and control exercised by the interlinked centres in the North, which include military and security apparatus as well as cyber-corporations, produces a palpable feeling of discomfort, frustration, helplessness, exposure and loss of sovereignty, especially but not only in the developing countries.

Drawing on past experiences, principles of the U.N. Charter, and the developing countries’ initiatives for the establishment of a New International Economic Order (NIEO) and New International Information Order (NIIO), one can arrive at some conclusions and recommendations regarding a reform of the Internet and the bolstering of its usefulness to the international community and its common goals, including improved functioning of human society.

The aim should be to defuse the mounting conflict and discontent through political and conceptual liberation of the Internet by making it into a global public good and service within the U.N. framework, with specific objectives and functions directed at satisfying the needs of humankind and helping to overcome problems and challenges, including those stemming from past history and uneven progress and development of the international community.

The Internet should be declared as the common heritage of humankind, a global public good and service embedded within the framework of the United Nations.  This implies and requires, among other things:

  • That the Internet becomes part of the U.N. family by creating a UNINTERNET organization in the framework of the U.N. General Assembly, one inspired by democratic governance and solidarity of humankind
  • That the Internet management and innovation be shared and participatory, and that they involve both public and private entities in cooperative endeavours
  • That current international intellectual property regime undergoes a major review and fundamental modifications
  • That income generated by the Internet, including by global taxation of profits made by services that it enables, be used for global causes of public good within the framework of the United Nations and that in this manner the Internet becomes a major source of international funding for public purposes, including those related to overcoming poverty, sustainable development and climate change, food security, education and health, which now get a few drops from these massive global flows via philanthropic gestures of some who have become enormously wealthy thanks to the Internet
  • That the Internet global infrastructure be public property of the international community and that international non-profit enterprises be established under the U.N. auspices to provide Internet services, software and applications that would be in the public domain
  • That new modes of international accounting and regulation be evolved, as a means to obtain a global overview and control of the financial flows and services via the Internet
  • That a set of goals and objectives of the Internet be elaborated and adopted as the U.N. Declaration or Charter on the Internet, which would serve as the basic reference and guide for the Internet’s future development, management and operation.

Given the recent developments on the world scene, the overall context seems to be ripening for advocating the above approach, which implies a major departure from the present practices and would be a serious competitor to the existing North- and private corporations-dominated Internet.

It would also represent a return to the basic values embodied in the U.N. Charter and the decades-long U.N.-based efforts to evolve democratic and equitable world economic and political order.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Sri Lankan Women Stymied by Archaic Job Markethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/sri-lankan-women-stymied-by-archaic-job-market/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sri-lankan-women-stymied-by-archaic-job-market http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/sri-lankan-women-stymied-by-archaic-job-market/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 20:40:44 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140833 The few Sri Lankan women who seek employment find that the system does not work in their favour. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The few Sri Lankan women who seek employment find that the system does not work in their favour. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Amantha Perera
MIRIGAMA, Sri Lanka , May 28 2015 (IPS)

Wathsala Marasinghe, a 33-year-old hailing from the town of Mirigama, just 50 km from Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, once had high hopes that the progressive education and employment policies of this South Asian island nation would work in her favour. Today, she feels differently, believing that “an evil system” has let her down.

As a young girl, she attended one of the best schools in the area and was selected to attend a state university. “I went there with so much hope,” she tells IPS – but apparently with little knowledge of her true job prospects.

"Paternity leave, child care, crèche services at workplaces, and better and safer public transport facilities for women could be [provided] by the private and public sectors in order to incentivise women to join the labour market." -- Anushka Wijesinha, a consultant to Sri Lankan government ministries
As an undergraduate she studied Buddhism and her native tongue, Sinhala. Her plan was to secure a government job, possibly in teaching or in the public service, and preferably close to home.

But when it came time to job-hunt, she found herself coming up against one wall after another.

“I kept applying and going for interviews but never got a job except as a secretary at a small factory,” she says.

This post did not come close to her employment aspirations, and she was forced to quit after a month. “The salary was 8,000 rupees (about 59 dollars) – I had to spend half of that on traveling,” she explains. The average monthly income in Sri Lanka is about 300 dollars.

She continued to apply, but each time she found herself sitting among a crowd of applicants that seemed to get younger and younger.

The stark reality of the situation has now become clear to her, and she has given up going for interviews altogether, embarrassed to be in the company of other hopefuls who “look like my daughters.”

Marasinghe’s conundrum is not rare in Sri Lanka, despite the country’s purported efforts to achieve targets on gender equality and visible signs of progress on paper.

In 2012, the Gender Gap Report produced by the World Economic Forum ranked Sri Lanka 39th out of 135 countries surveyed, an unsurprisingly strong placement given that the country of 20 million people has a female adult literacy rate of 90 percent. This rises to 99 percent for female youth in the 15-24 bracket.

Furthermore, girls outnumber their male counterparts at the secondary level, indicating a dedication to gender equality across the social spectrum.

However this has not translated into equitable employment opportunities, or wage parity between men and women.

Government labour statistics indicate that 64.5 percent of the 8.8 million economically active people in Sri Lanka are men, while just 35.5 percent are women. Of the economically inactive population, just 25.4 percent are men, and 74.6 percent are women.

The female unemployment rate in Sri Lanka is over two-and-a-half times that of the male rate, and almost twice the national figure. According to government data, only 2.9 percent of men entering the labour market remain unemployed, while the corresponding figure for women is 7.2 percent. The national unemployment rate is 4.2 percent.

The same government figures indicate that education and skills do not necessarily help females secure employment – on the contrary, they could result in a lifetime of frustrations.

“The problem of unemployment is more acute in the case of educated females than educated males,” said the latest labour force survey compiled by the Census and Statistics Department.

Experts say there are a multitude of structural and social reasons behind the high rate of female unemployment.

For starters while nearly three in four males enter the job market, it is the reverse for women, with just 35 percent of working-age females actually seeking employment, resulting in a skewed supply chain.

Economist Anushka Wijesinha, who works as a consultant to government ministries, says that women who seek higher education also have higher job aspirations, but the job market has not grown fast enough to cater to such needs.

“Aspirations are shifting away from working in the industrial sector as before – more women are keen to work in services like retail […] but jobs in this sector haven’t grown fast enough to cater to the changing aspirations. So we are seeing ‘queuing’, women waiting for those jobs and not getting them,” he tells IPS.

Sri Lankan women say that improved transport, childcare and crèche facilities would create a more favorable employment environment. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Sri Lankan women say that improved transport, childcare and crèche facilities would create a more favorable employment environment. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Muttukrishna Sarvananthan, an economist who heads the Point Pedro Institute of Development, shares that analysis, but believes that female unemployment levels should be adjusted to include the roughly 600,000 Sri Lankan women working overseas, the bulk as domestic workers.

He is also an advocate of placing an economical value on women who are fully occupied with looking after households.

Currently, the single largest employer of women is the agricultural sector at 33.9 percent, while the services sector employs around 42 percent of women, while industries employ around 24 percent.

There are other reasons why women stay away from work. Nayana Siriwardena, a 35-year-old mother of two, used to work till she had her first child. After the government-stipulated three months’ maternity leave ran out, she had to return to work.

“What I found problematic was that the workplace could not be flexible enough to address my situation,” she said.

She worked in bookkeeping and tried to impress upon her employers that some of the work could be done from a remote location.

“But they did not understand that, which I found surprising because the company was quite progressive in other areas and also because young mothers are not a rare occurrence in any establishment.”

Wijesinha feels that maternal benefits themselves, which legally must be provided for three months, can act as a deterrent to some companies.

“Maternal benefits have to be paid in full by the employer. This means that employers may be deterred [from] hiring young women, because they know they likely have to pay maternal benefits,” he said.

Sarvananthan says that security for women – at the work place, during the commute, and for their offspring – could play a huge role in changing employment figures.

“In order to boost labour force participation by women, a carrot-and-stick approach could be pursued by the state. Paternity leave, child care, crèche services at workplaces, and better and safer public transport facilities for women could be [provided] by the private and public sectors in order to incentivise women to join the labour market,” he argues.

He also believes the government should ink an equal opportunities law that legally undermines discriminatory policies. Currently, the constitution stipulates that no one should be discriminated based on sex, but there is no law that provides for equal pay for the same work.

Having more women in the workplace is not only a current problem but could also be a future crisis, as Sri Lanka’s working population ages. Currently, 17 percent of the population is above the age of 55, while 25 percent is below 15 years, meaning only around 50 percent are believed to be in the working age group.

“Given that women comprise just over half of the population, and our working age population peak is beginning to wane, it is critical that we have maximum participation from women in the workforce,” Wijesinha states.

Many believe a higher portion of women in decision-making positions could right these imbalances.

Women’s political representation remains low, with less than 6.5 percent women in parliament, less than six percent in provincial councils, and fewer than two percent in local government.

As the country moves towards elections, activists and rights groups are calling for a 30 percent quota for women in the 20th amendment to the constitution.

If this goal is realised, it could spell change for people like Marasinghe, who, after a decade of searching for her elusive dream job, has all but given up hope.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Opinion: Let’s End Chronic Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-lets-end-chronic-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-lets-end-chronic-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-lets-end-chronic-hunger/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 16:43:36 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140834

Jomo Kwame Sundaram is the Coordinator for Economic and Social Development at the Food and Agriculture Organization and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
ROME, May 28 2015 (IPS)

At the 1996 World Food Summit (WFS), heads of government and the international community committed to reducing the number of hungry people in the world by half. Five years later, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) lowered this level of ambition by only seeking to halve the proportion of the hungry.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: Abdul Ghani Ismail

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: Abdul Ghani Ismail

The latest State of World Food Insecurity (SOFI) report for 2015 by the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Programme and International Fund for Agricultural Development estimates almost 795 million people—one in nine people worldwide—remain chronically hungry.

The number of undernourished people—those regularly unable to consume enough food for an active and healthy life—in the world has thus only declined by slightly over a fifth from the 1010.6 million estimated for 1991 to 929.6 million in 2001, 820.7 million in 2011 and 794.6 million in 2014.

With the number of chronically hungry people in developing countries declining from 990.7 million in 1991 to 779.9 million in 2014, their share in developing countries has declined by 44.4 per cent, from 23.4 to 12.9 per cent over the 23 years, but still short of the 11.7 per cent target.

Thus, the MDG 1c target of halving the chronically undernourished’s share of the world’s population by the end of 2015 is unlikely to be met at the current rate of progress. However, meeting the target is still possible, with sufficient, immediate, additional effort to accelerate progress, especially in countries which have showed little progress thus far.With high levels of deprivation, unemployment and underemployment likely to prevail in the world in the foreseeable future, poverty and hunger are unlikely to be overcome by 2030 without universally establishing a social protection floor for all.

Progress uneven

Overall progress has been highly uneven. All but 15 million of the world’s hungry live in developing countries. Some countries and regions have seen only slow progress in reducing hunger, while the absolute number of hungry has even increased in several cases.

By the end of 2014, 72 of the 129 developing countries monitored had reached the MDG 1c target — to either reduce the share of hungry people by half, or keep the share of the chronically undernourished under five per cent. Several more are likely to do so by the end of 2015.

Instead of halving the number of hungry in developing regions by 476 million, this number was only reduced by 221 million, just under half the earlier, more ambitious WFS goal. Nevertheless, some 29 countries succeeded in at least halving the number of hungry. This is significant as this shows that achieving and sustaining rapid progress in reducing hunger is feasible.

Marked differences in undernourishment persist across the regions. There have been significant reductions in both the share and number of undernourished in most countries in South-East Asia, East Asia, Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean—where the MDG target of halving the hunger rate has been reached.

While sub-Saharan Africa has the highest share of the chronically hungry, almost one in four, South Asia has the highest number, with over half a billion undernourished. West Asia alone has seen an actual rise in the share of the hungry compared to 1991, while progress in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Oceania has not been sufficient to meet the MDG hunger target by 2015.

Efforts need to be stepped up

Despite the shortfall in achieving the MDG1c target and the failure to get near the WFS goal of halving the number of hungry, world leaders are likely to commit to eliminating hunger and poverty by 2030 when they announce the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the United Nations in September.

To be sure, there is enough food produced to feed everyone in the world. However, hundreds of millions of people do not have the means to access enough food to meet their dietary energy needs, let alone what is needed for diverse diets to avoid ‘hidden hunger’ by meeting their micronutrient requirements.

With high levels of deprivation, unemployment and underemployment likely to prevail in the world in the foreseeable future, poverty and hunger are unlikely to be overcome by 2030 without universally establishing a social protection floor for all. Such efforts will also need to provide the means for sustainable livelihoods and resilience.

The Second International Conference of Nutrition in Rome last November articulated commitments and proposals for accelerated progress to overcome undernutrition. Improvements in nutrition will require sustained and integrated efforts involving complementary policies, including improving health conditions, food systems, social protection, hygiene, water supply and education.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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ACP Aims to Make Voice of the Moral Majority Count in the Global Arenahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/acp-aims-to-make-voice-of-the-moral-majority-count-in-the-global-arena/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=acp-aims-to-make-voice-of-the-moral-majority-count-in-the-global-arena http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/acp-aims-to-make-voice-of-the-moral-majority-count-in-the-global-arena/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 23:20:04 +0000 Valentina Gasbarri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140829 Opening Ceremony of the 101st Session of the ACP Council of Ministers, May 2015, with Secretary-General Dr Patrick I. Gomes (third from left) and President of the Council of Ministers Meltek Sato Kilman Livtuvanu (third from right). Credit: Valentina Gasbarri/IPS

Opening Ceremony of the 101st Session of the ACP Council of Ministers, May 2015, with Secretary-General Dr Patrick I. Gomes (third from left) and President of the Council of Ministers Meltek Sato Kilman Livtuvanu (third from right). Credit: Valentina Gasbarri/IPS

By Valentina Gasbarri
BRUSSELS, May 27 2015 (IPS)

“Four decades of existence is a milestone for the ACP as an international alliance of developing countries,” Dr Patrick I. Gomes of Guyana, newly appointed Secretary-General of the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of countries, said at the opening of the 101st Session of the group’s Council of Ministers.

“With the organisation currently repositioning itself for more strategic engagements with regards to its future, this is an opportunity not only to review the past, but also to project to the decades ahead, especially in terms of how to be effective and better respond to the development needs of our member countries in the 21st century,” he added.“From the viewpoint of the poor and vulnerable, we are the moral majority. Not only do we count, but we must continue to make our voice count in the global arena if we are to transform the ACP Group of States into a truly effective global player” – Meltek Sato Kilman Livtuvanu, President of the ACP’s Council of Ministers

The meeting, which opened May 26, brought together more than 300 officials from the ACP group who are determined to put an emphasis on re-positioning the ACP group as an effective player in a challenging global landscape.

At the group’s 7th Summit of Heads of State and Government held in Equatorial Guinea in December 2012, the group issued the Sipopo Declaration which noted that “at this historic juncture in the existence of our unique intergovernmental and tri-continental organisation, the demands for fundamental renewal and transformation are no longer mere options but unavoidable imperatives for strategic change”.

Meltek Sato Kilman Livtuvanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vanuatu and President of the ACP’s Council of Ministers, told the opening session of this week’s Council meeting that “from the viewpoint of the poor and vulnerable, we are the moral majority. Not only do we count, but we must continue to make our voice count in the global arena if we are to transform the ACP Group of States into a truly effective global player.”

A key focus of the 40th anniversary is how to enhance regional and intra-ACP relations in order to better position the ACP group to deliver on development goals in the post-2015 era, starting with playing a decisive role at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development to be held in July in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as well as at the U.N. Summit on the Post-2015 Development Agenda to be held in New York in September.

ACP Secretary-General Dr Patrick I. Gomes (left) and President of the Council of Ministers Meltek Sato Kilman Livtuvanu at the opening ceremony of the 101st Session of the ACP Council of Ministers, May 2015. Credit: Valentina Gasbarri/IPS

ACP Secretary-General Dr Patrick I. Gomes (left) and President of the Council of Ministers Meltek Sato Kilman Livtuvanu at the opening ceremony of the 101st Session of the ACP Council of Ministers, May 2015. Credit: Valentina Gasbarri/IPS

For ACP Secretary-General Gomes, the most critical meeting for the group will be the 8th ACP Summit, which had originally been scheduled to be held in November in Suriname before that country had to withdraw due to multiple commitments.

Inviting member countries to step forward and offer to host the event, Gomes said that the 8th Summit “must be a beacon that refines our strategic policy domains for the next decade and project a powerful political vision to serve the ACP in our engagement with the European Union.”

More importantly, that summit would provide the strategic direction and financial commitment necessary to build the capacity of the ACP group to address the development needs of its populations.

Viwanou Gnassounou of Togo, ACP Assistant Secretary-General for Sustainable Economic Development and Trade, told IPS that the group “will be fully engaged in 2015 in high-level negotiations not only calling for a strategic approach but also trying to raise our common voice in a more holistic manner.”

He said that the ACP is finalising a position paper to be presented in December at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris, as well as at the 10th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Nairobi in December.

Participants at the Council of Ministers meeting agreed that the plethora of priorities facing the ACP today calls for widening its partnership with the European Union and beyond, embracing the global South as well as emerging economies with greater determination, and promoting South-South and triangular cooperation.

The Cotonou Partnership Agreement which currently governs relations between the ACP and the European Union expires in 2020 and the ACP Secretariat has commissioned a consultancy exercise to formulate the ACP Group’s position future relations with the European Union.

The ACP-EU Joint Council of Ministers, which meets May 28, is expected to place a special focus on migration and discuss recommendations from an ACP-EU experts’ meeting on trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants following the unacceptable loss of thousands of lives in the Mediterranean Sea as people try to reach Europe.

The two sides are also expected to exchange views on the broad range of issues affecting the ACP-EU trade relations at multilateral and bilateral levels, as well as financing for development as a follow up to the ACP-EU Declaration on the Post-Development Agenda approved in June 2014, which called for “an ambitious financing framework to adequately tackle sustainable development issues and challenges.”

In this context, the declaration said that a “coherent response based on a global comprehensive and integrated approach, fuelled by traditional and innovative financing solutions and governed by principles for efficient resource use seems the most appropriate way to finance sustainable development.”

Edited by Phil Harris  

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The U.N. at 70: Drugs and Crime are Challenges for Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/the-u-n-at-70-drugs-and-crime-are-challenges-for-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-u-n-at-70-drugs-and-crime-are-challenges-for-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/the-u-n-at-70-drugs-and-crime-are-challenges-for-sustainable-development/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 21:25:27 +0000 Yury Fedotov http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140824 Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "The magnitude of the problems we face is such that it is sometimes hard to imagine how any effort can be enough to confront them. But to quote Nelson Mandela, 'It always seems impossible until it is done'. We must keep working together, until it is done" – Yury Fedotov. Credit: Courtesy of UNODC

Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "The magnitude of the problems we face is such that it is sometimes hard to imagine how any effort can be enough to confront them. But to quote Nelson Mandela, 'It always seems impossible until it is done'. We must keep working together, until it is done" – Yury Fedotov. Credit: Courtesy of UNODC

By Yury Fedotov
VIENNA, May 27 2015 (IPS)

With terrorism, migrant smuggling and trafficking in cultural property some of the world’s most daunting challenges, “the magnitude of the problems we face is such that it is sometimes hard to imagine how any effort can be enough to confront them. But to quote Nelson Mandela, ‘It always seems impossible until it is done’. We must keep working together, until it is done.”

The words are those of U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director Yury Fedotov, who was speaking at the closing of the 24th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (Crime Commission) held in the Austrian capital from May 18-22.

Earlier this month, IPS Editor-in-Chief Ramesh Jaura interviewed Fedotov on how the challenges facing the United Nations’ drugs and crime agency translate into challenges on the sustainable development front.“The share of citizens experiencing bribery at least once in a year is over 50 percent in some low-income countries. Many detected human trafficking movements are directed from poor areas to more affluent ones. Research also suggests that weak rule of law is connected to lower levels of economic development” – UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov

Q. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), established in 1997, understands itself as “a global leader in the fight against illicit drugs and international crime”. At the same time, you have taken up the cudgels on behalf of sustainable development. What role does the UNODC envisage for itself in achieving sustainable development goals to be agreed at the U.N. summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda in September?

A. Crime steals from countries, families and communities and hampers development while exacerbating inequality and violence, especially in vulnerable countries. Trafficking in diamonds and precious metals, for instance, diverts resources from countries that desperately need the income.

The share of citizens experiencing bribery at least once in a year is over 50 percent in some low-income countries. Many detected human trafficking movements are directed from poor areas to more affluent ones. Research also suggests that weak rule of law is connected to lower levels of economic development. These are just some of the many challenges that the international community faces around the world that are related to crime.

UNODC’s broad mandate includes stopping human traffickers and migrant smugglers, as well as tackling illicit drugs. It encompasses promoting health and alternative livelihoods and involves battling corruption, illicit financial flows, money laundering and terrorist financing. Our work confronts emerging and re-emerging crimes, including wildlife and forest crime, and cybercrime, among others, all of which hinder sustainable development.

Currently the United Nations is making the transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In Goal 16, the Open Working Group, responsible for identifying the development goals stressed the need to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, and to provide access to justice for all, as well as building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions. Justice is also one of the six essential elements identified by the Secretary-General in his own Synthesis Report on this subject.

Goal 3, which focuses on “ensuring healthy lives”, underlines the importance of strengthening prevention and treatment of substance abuse. These goals – justice and health – go to the very heart of UNODC’s mission. I am hopeful that when the U.N. Heads of State Summit on Sustainable Development in September 2015 takes place these goals will remain.

Q. UNODC organised its Thirteenth Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice from Apr. 12 to 19 in Doha, Qatar. The 13-page Doha Declaration contains recommendations on how the rule of law can protect and promote sustainable development. Is that the reason that you described Doha as a “point of departure”?

A. The Doha Declaration was passed by acclamation at the 13th Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, and contains crucial recommendations on how the rule of law can protect and promote sustainable development. The declaration is driven by the principle that these issues are mutually reinforcing and that crime prevention and criminal justice should be integrated into the wider U.N. system.

At the 24th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (May 18-22), there were nine resolutions before the Commission and they pave the way for the Doha Declaration to go before the U.N. General Assembly and ECOSOC for approval. The other resolutions, for instance on cultural property and standard rules on the treatment of prisoners, seek to implement the principles of the Doha Declaration.

It is for this reason that I described the 13th Crime Congress in Doha as a significant “point of departure”. Doha is the first, but not the last step in the process of implementing the Declaration and ensuring that we turn fine words into spirited and dedicated action in the areas of crime prevention and criminal justice – action that can benefit the millions of victims of crime, illicit drugs, corruption and terrorism.

If we do this, we have an opportunity to energise the 60-year legacy of Crime Congresses and give it the power to shape how we tackle crime and promote development for many years to come. Indeed, I see a strong, visible thread between the recent Crime Congress, September’s UN Summit on Sustainable Development and the 14th Crime Congress in Japan in five years’ time.

Q. The Doha Declaration also pleads for integrating crime prevention and criminal justice into the wider United Nations agenda. This suggestion comes at a point in time when the United Nations is turning 70. Are there some issues which the United Nations has ignored until now or is there a range of issues that have emerged over previous decades?

A. Member States are increasingly affected by organised crime, corruption, violence and terrorism. These challenges undercut good governance and the rule of law, threatening security, development and people’s lives.

Sustainable development can be safeguarded through fair, human and effective crime prevention and criminal justice systems as a central component of the rule of law. As stated by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “There is no peace without development; there is no development without peace; and there is no lasting peace and sustainable development without respect for human rights.”  We need to break down the walls between these activities and integrate the various approaches.

UNODC is well placed to assist. We work closely with regional entities, partner countries, multilateral and bilateral bodies, civil society, academia and the private sector to support the work on development. We can also offer our support at the global, regional, and local levels, through our headquarters and network of field offices.

Q. Do you find willingness on the part of all countries around the world to agree on national, regional and international legal instruments, to combat all forms of crime, and their willingness to pull on the same string when it comes to implementation?

A. Our work is founded on the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and its three protocols, the Convention against Corruption, international drug control conventions, universal legal instruments against terrorism and U.N. standards and norms on crime prevention and criminal justice.

Almost all of these international instruments have been universally ratified by the international community. Why? Because countries recognise that crime today is too big, too powerful, too profitable for any one country to handle alone. Countries recognise that, today, crime not only crosses country borders, but regional borders. It is a global problem that warrants comprehensive, integrated global solutions.

The UNODC approach to this unique challenge is threefold. First, we are building political commitment among Member States. Second, we deliver our activities through our integrated regional programmes across the world. Third, we are working with partners, both within and outside the United Nations, to ensure that our delivery is strongly connected to other activities at the field level.

In support of this action, and to give just one example, UNODC is networking the networks. Today’s criminals have widespread networks and vast resources; if we are to successfully confront them, we need to ensure greater cross-border cooperation, information sharing and tracking of criminal proceeds.  The initiative is part of an interregional drug control approach developed by UNODC to stem illicit drug trafficking from Afghanistan and focuses on promoting closer cooperation between existing law enforcement coordination centres and platforms.

Q. UNODC has assigned itself a wide range of tasks. Which are your priorities in the biennium ending this year, during which you have 760.1 million dollars at your disposal?

A. I would mention two matters that are of international importance. First, smuggling of migrants not just in the Mediterranean or the Andaman seas, but also elsewhere. We are witnessing unprecedented movements of people across the globe, the largest since the Second World War. People are leaving because of conflict, insecurity and the desire for a better life. They are falling into the arms of unscrupulous smugglers and many of them are dying, while trying to make the dangerous journey across deserts and seas.

Second, the nexus of transnational organised crime and terrorism is a major threat to global peace and security, and has been recognised as such in recent Security Council resolutions. Every extremist and terrorist group requires sustainable funding. The most reliable, and sometimes the only, means of achieving this is through illicit funds gained from transnational organised crime, including cybercrime, drug trafficking, people smuggling and many other crimes.

Information on the magnitude and exact nature of such relationships remains incomplete, and more research is needed. Based on data and analysis, however, for some regions, we can follow the funding in support of violent extremism and terrorism. In Afghanistan, for example, the Taliban could be receiving as much as 200 million dollars annually as a tax on the drug lords.

Edited by Phil Harris    

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Opinion: A Critical Moment to Fortify Nuclear Test Banhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-a-critical-moment-to-fortify-nuclear-test-ban/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-a-critical-moment-to-fortify-nuclear-test-ban http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-a-critical-moment-to-fortify-nuclear-test-ban/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 19:12:26 +0000 Lassina Zerbo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140821 Dr. Lassina Zerbo. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Dr. Lassina Zerbo. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Lassina Zerbo
VIENNA, May 27 2015 (IPS)

The 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference wrapped up last week in New York without agreeing on an outcome document. While this is unfortunate, it is important to remember that the future of the nuclear non-proliferation regime will be determined by more than whether the Review Conference participants produced a document addressing all that currently ails the NPT-based regime.

At the same time, all NPT Member States not only affirmed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) as an effective non-proliferation and disarmament measure that complements and reinforces the NPT, they also identified a legally binding test ban as an urgent priority.The CTBT is too important to let the rolling tides of history determine its fate.

The total cessation of nuclear test explosions has been an objective of the international community since just after the dawn of the nuclear age. Negotiated after the end of the Cold War and amidst fresh optimism over prospects for nuclear disarmament, the CTBT prohibits explosive nuclear testing by anyone, anywhere, without exception.

At the height of the Cold War, nearly 500 nuclear tests were carried out every decade. But since the CTBT opened for signature in 1996, only three countries have carried out nuclear tests. In fact, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is the only country in the world to have tested a nuclear device in more than 15 years. This is clear proof that the Treaty has been a resounding success in effectuating an end to nuclear testing.

The CTBT is not simply a handshake agreement between countries that they will promise to abide by the test ban. The Treaty is buttressed by a global network of over 300 monitoring stations constantly scanning the planet for signs of a nuclear explosion.

For those with any doubt that the CTBT is internationally and effectively verifiable, at 90 percent complete, the Treaty’s verification regime already provides a detection capability far better than what was thought to be attainable 20 years ago. We have succeeded in establishing the most sophisticated and extensive global verification regime ever conceived.

The determination to end nuclear testing has also played a decisive role in the NPT review process. The agreement to complete CTBT negotiations was one of the essential decisions that paved the way for the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995. In 2000, NPT States Parties identified the entry into force of the CTBT as the first of 13 practical disarmament steps.

While NPT members are fractured on how to resolve many of the problems eroding the non-proliferation regime, securing a legally binding test ban is an unequivocal priority for all countries considering the statements from over 100 individual countries, as well as from various groups.

For instance, the statement from the 117 members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) which are Party to the NPT – the largest group of countries – delivered by Iran, stressed the “significance of achieving the universal adherence to the CTBT and realizing its entry into force” and “strongly support[ed] a comprehensive ban on all forms of nuclear-weapon tests without exception, as well as any nuclear explosion, and reaffirm[ed] the importance of such a ban in the realization of objectives of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

The European Union (EU) Foreign Policy Chief (and member of the CTBT’s Group of Eminent Persons) Federica Mogherini, on behalf of the 28 countries of the EU and nine other countries, confirmed that the “CTBT remains a top priority.”

The 14 members of the Caribbean Community affirmed, “the elimination of the testing of nuclear weapons remains a critical element in the overall process of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation,” and urged the eight remaining States required to bring the Treaty into force to sign and/or ratify “immediately and unconditionally.”

In addition to the views of non-nuclear-weapon States, the five NPT-acknowledged nuclear weapon States also demonstrated their commitment to the CTBT in a joint statement which included “efforts to bring the CTBT into force at an early date.” They also reaffirmed their own moratoria on testing, called on other States to the same and confirmed the CTBT as an effective disarmament and non-proliferation measure.

It seems, then, that countries which failed to agree at the Review Conference do come together over the test-ban treaty. However, in light of last week’s outcome, mere words of support without real action are both insufficient and dangerous.

Bringing the CTBT into force is the responsibility of all countries. CTBT State Signatories benefit daily from the CTBTO’s monitoring assets which are at the disposal of the international community to support national security needs.

One advantage of the CTBT is its special mechanism for promoting its entry into force. For the seventh time, States Signatories (even those which have yet to ratify), intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organisations will convene this September to determine how to achieve this at the so-called Article XIV Conference in New York.

To ensure a robust and effective plan of action, I encourage all parties to consider the following: First, how to engage the remaining eight States required for the test ban to become legally binding so that they sign and/or ratify the CTBT; and second, what specific steps can current States Signatories take to advance the Treaty’s entry into force.

Of equal importance are concrete proposals to complete the unique, robust and unparalleled international verification system, as well as ensuring sustainable resources to remain ahead of the curve in maintaining this essential international verification system that delivers security, scientific, environmental, and many other benefits to its Member States every day.

In a complex and constantly changing world, a legally-binding and verifiable prohibition on nuclear testing provides for a degree of stability, and encourages multilateral cooperation and confidence building towards an enhanced regional and international security environment. The CTBT is too important to let the rolling tides of history determine its fate.

The coming weeks and months are crucial for countries to coalesce around the foundational assets within the broader NPT regime which is worth protecting and advancing. We are doing our part. We now look to the international community to step up to the plate and do their part. Together, we cannot afford to miss another opportunity.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Laissez Faire Water Laws Threaten Family Farming in Chilehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/laissez-faire-water-laws-threaten-family-farming-in-chile/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=laissez-faire-water-laws-threaten-family-farming-in-chile http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/laissez-faire-water-laws-threaten-family-farming-in-chile/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 07:44:19 +0000 Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140818 Cascada Barba de Abuelo, a waterfall in Aitken Park in the southern Chilean region of Aysén. Although the region has some of the world’s biggest freshwater reserves, local residents have to pay for the water they use for household needs and irrigation. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Cascada Barba de Abuelo, a waterfall in Aitken Park in the southern Chilean region of Aysén. Although the region has some of the world’s biggest freshwater reserves, local residents have to pay for the water they use for household needs and irrigation. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, May 27 2015 (IPS)

Family farmers in Chile are pushing for the reinstatement of water as a public good, to at least partially solve the shortages caused by the privatisation of water rights by the military dictatorship in 1981.

“Why should we pay for water rights if the people who were born and grew up in the countryside always had access to water?” Patricia Mancilla, a rural women’s community organiser in the southern region of Patagonia, remarked to Tierramérica.

That is a question echoed by small farmers throughout Chile.

This long, narrow country is rich in water, but it is unequally distributed: while to the south of Santiago annual freshwater availability per capita is over 10,000 cubic metres, it is less than 800 cubic metres per capita in the north, according to a 2011 World Bank study.

But the 1980 constitution made water private property, and the Water Code gives the state the authority to grant use rights to companies free of charge and in perpetuity. Water use is regulated by the Code, according to the rules of the free market.

The laissez-faire Code allows water use rights to be bought, sold or leased, without taking into consideration local priorities and needs, such as drinking water.

“Chile is the only country in the world to have privatised its water sources and water management,” activist Rodrigo Mundaca, secretary general of the Movement for the Defence of Water, Land and the Environment (MODATIMA), told Tierramérica.

Mundaca, an agronomist, added that Chile’s legislation “separates ownership of water from ownership of land, giving rise to a market for water,” which means there are people who own land but have no water, and vice versa.“Water is now, without a doubt, the most important environmental issue in this country. Small farmers have lost their land, and there are municipalities like Petorca, where more than 3,000 women live on their own because their husbands and partners have gone elsewhere to find work.” -- Rodrigo Mundaca

The 1973-1990 dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet created two categories of water use rights: consumptive and non-consumptive.

Consumptive water use refers to water that is removed from available supplies without returning to a water resource system.

In this category, 73 percent of water rights have gone to agriculture, nine percent to the mining industry, 12 percent to industry and six percent to the sanitation system, Mundaca said.

Non-consumptive use refers to water that is used but not consumed. This mainly includes water withdrawn for the purpose of generating hydroelectricity, and since 2009, 81 percent of these water use rights have been in the hands of the Italian-Spanish company Enel-Endesa, the activist said.

As a result, “today the communities of northern Chile are at loggerheads with the mining corporations, over water use; the communities of central Chile with agribusiness and agroexporters; and communities in the south with hydropower plants and forestry companies,” Mundaca said.

“Water is now, without a doubt, the main environmental issue in this country. Small farmers have lost their land, and there are municipalities like Petorca, where more than 3,000 women live on their own because their husbands and partners have had to leave to find work,” he added.

Latin America in general is one of the regions most vulnerable to the crises caused by climate change, according to the World Bank. But in Chile, small farmers are less vulnerable to climate change than to the “theft” of their water by large agroexporters, activists say.

Petorca, a case in point

“The water business reflects the conflicts of interest, influence peddling and corruption in Chile,” Ricardo Sanhueza told Tierramérica. Sanhueza is a small farmer who lives in the municipality of Petorca, 220 km north of Santiago, which illustrates the impact of the water management model put in place 34 years ago.

“I remember that even though we suffered from a major drought between 1987 and 1997, we always had clean drinking water,” he said.

The 70,000 people who live in Petorca, located in the province of the same name, depend on tanker trucks for their water supply.

“The problem here isn’t related to the climate,” he said. “The problem is the over-exploitation of the land and the abusive use of water….Political interests are undermining the foundations of small-scale family farming.”

According to a study by the National Human Rights Institute (INDH), a government body, the province’s water shortages are not only caused by drought but also by “business activities in that area.”

The report also states that the granting of rights to use water sources that have been exhausted has played a part in generating a water crisis that seriously affects the quality of life of the residents of the province of Petorca.

The prioritisation of the use of water for productive activities rather than human consumption has aggravated the problem, the study goes on to say.

Mónica Flores, a psychologist with the municipal Public Health Department, told Tierramérica with nostalgia that the Petorca river had completely dried up, putting an end to social activities and community life surrounding the river.

“The river emerged in the Andes mountains and flowed to the ocean,” she said. “But today you just see a gray line full of dirt and stones.”

“It marked a before and after,” Flores said. “My childhood revolved around the river: I played there with my friends, we would swim, we would flirt with each other. But my daughter’s life isn’t the same, it’s much lonelier.

“Many rituals played out by the river, which was the heart, the spinal column of the province,” she said, stressing the impact on the local population of the drying up of the river.

But Petorca is just one example of the water problem in Chile.

On Mar. 22, World Water Day, the INDH declared that “Chile’s development cannot come at the cost of sacrificing the water of local communities, or at the cost of mortgaging the future of coming generations.”

The hydric resources commission in the lower house of Congress is currently debating a reform of the Water Code, which would represent significant advances, such as giving a priority to water use for essential needs and replacing water use rights in perpetuity with temporary rights.

But the modifications will not be retroactive, and most water use rights have already been granted.

Moreover, the water use privileges enjoyed by the mining industry will not be touched by the reform. Nor has the question of water shortages for essential uses by small farmers and indigenous communities been addressed. And there is no talk of a constitutional amendment to make water a public good once again.

The constitution put in place by the dictatorship “states that all people are free and equal in dignity and rights,” Mundaca said. “However, vast segments of the population, deprived of water, depend on tanker trucks for drinking water, can only do a quick rinse around key areas instead of showering, and go to the bathroom in plastic bags.

“It’s shameful and wrong. People have to regain access to water one way or another,” he said.

This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Iran Sanctions Regime Could Unravel with Failed Nuclear Dealhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/iran-sanctions-regime-could-unravel-with-failed-nuclear-deal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=iran-sanctions-regime-could-unravel-with-failed-nuclear-deal http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/iran-sanctions-regime-could-unravel-with-failed-nuclear-deal/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 23:29:12 +0000 Jasmin Ramsey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140816 Representatives from Iran and the P5+1 pose for photos after talks concluded in Lausanne, Switzerland on April 2, 2015. Credit: US State Dept/public domain

Representatives from Iran and the P5+1 pose for photos after talks concluded in Lausanne, Switzerland on April 2, 2015. Credit: US State Dept/public domain

By Jasmin Ramsey
WASHINGTON, May 26 2015 (IPS)

Internationally supported sanctions against Iran could begin to crumble if talks over Iran’s nuclear programme fail to produce a final deal, according to Germany’s envoy to the United States.

“The alternatives to the diplomatic approach are not very attractive,” said Ambassador Peter Wittig Tuesday.“The alternatives to the diplomatic approach are not very attractive." -- German Ambassador Peter Wittig.

“If diplomacy fails, the sanctions regime might unravel…and we would probably see Iran enriching once again as it has done before the negotiations started,” said the diplomat during a panel discussion in Washington at the Atlantic Council.

The sanctions that have ravaged the Iranian economy face far less risk, however, if Tehran were seen as responsible for the failure, according to the United Kingdom’s envoy to the U.S.

“If there is not a deal because the Iranians simply will not live up to [their obligations] or [fail to] implement…then I think we carry on with the sanctions regime and in certain areas it may be right to try to raise the level of those sanctions,” said Ambassador Peter Westmacott.

But Westmacott agreed with his German counterpart that if Iran were not to blame, the sanctions regime could fall apart.

“At the same time, if we were to walk away or if the [U.S.] Congress was to make it impossible for the agreement to be implemented…then I think the international community would be pretty reluctant, frankly, to contemplate a ratcheting up further of the sanctions against Iran,” he said.

“A number of countries” already “don’t respect” sanctions and are buying Iranian oil, he added.

Looming Deadline

Ahead of the June 30 deadline for reaching a final deal, Iran will resume the negotiations with representatives from the P5+1 or E3+3 (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) Wednesday in the Austrian capital of Vienna.

Talks with Iran over its controversial nuclear program have been ongoing since 2003, when France, Germany and the United Kingdom (the E3) began to engage Iran in an attempt to limit its nuclear programme.

Iran contends its programme has always been peaceful. The United States intelligence community has assessed that Iran was previously working towards mastering the nuclear fuel cycle, but has not restarted a nuclear weapons program.

“It’s a political decision for them. Not that they don’t have the technical wherewithal, the technical competence, because they do,” said the U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper March 2 on PBS’ “Charlie Rose” show.

Although Iran and its negotiating partners have made several historic diplomatic strides since an interim nuclear agreement was reached 2013 in Geneva—notably the ongoing high-level direct contact between previously hostile Tehran and Washington—the talks have yet to produce a final deal.

It’s unclear how much progress has actually been made in the complex private negotiations since a preliminary framework agreement was declared on April 2, but the parties are currently in the drafting phase.

The French ambassador to the United States, Gerard Araud, wasn’t optimistic here Tuesday.

“It’s very likely that we won’t have an agreement before the end of June or even (right) after,” he said.

“Even if we get the best deal … afterwards, you will have to translate it into the technical annexes, so it may be … we could have a sort of fuzzy end to the negotiation,” he added.

High Stakes

While domestic politics in the key capitals of Tehran and Washington could ultimately prove to be the greatest barriers to a final deal, all sides seem to be waiting until after the deadline to make more moves.

But patience is running thin among key Iranian and American lawmakers, who have made no secret of their opposition to the talks. If no deal is reached by Jun. 30, the door to a wave of domestic criticism in both capitals will once again be wide open.

Peter Jenkins, who previously served as the U.K.’s permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations, told IPS that even if Iran were blamed for the breakdown of the talks, it wouldn’t end up totally isolated.

“I doubt the non-Western world will be ready to believe that the blame for a break-down lies solely with Iran,” said Jenkins.

“They will suspect that some of the blame should be ascribed to the U.S. and E.U. for making demands that go well beyond the requirements of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. So those of them that have been applying sanctions may break away,” he said.

“In the West, however, most countries will believe what the U.S. instructs them to believe and will continue to apply sanctions if required to do so by the U.S.,” he added.

As for an impending blame-game, Jenkins said the stakes are too high for everyone to submit to a complete breakdown at this point: “I think it much more likely that they will make a herculean effort to cobble together an agreement over the ensuing weeks.”

“Both sides have so much to gain from an agreement and so much to lose if they squander all that they have achieved to date,” he said.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Terror Groups May Be Winning Digital War on Extremist Ideologyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/terror-groups-may-be-winning-digital-war-on-extremist-ideology/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=terror-groups-may-be-winning-digital-war-on-extremist-ideology http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/terror-groups-may-be-winning-digital-war-on-extremist-ideology/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 21:10:07 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140813 Islamic State fighters pictured here in a 2014 propaganda video shot in Iraq's Anbar province.

Islamic State fighters pictured here in a 2014 propaganda video shot in Iraq's Anbar province.

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, May 26 2015 (IPS)

The United Nations is quick to point out the increasing pace at which digital technology is racing across the world.

Six out of every seven people are armed with mobile phones – and more than three billion, out of the world’s 7.1 billion people, have access to the Internet.In February, ISIL posted a polished, 50-page guide online called “The Hijrah to the Islamic State,” that instructs potential recruits how to make the journey to its territory – including everything from finding safe houses in Turkey, to what kind of backpack to bring, and how to answer questions from immigration officials without arousing suspicion.

Still, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warns that while advanced technologies are accelerating progress, there are also emerging threats.

“Extremist groups are using social networks to spread their hateful ideologies,” he told a Digital Forum in South Korea last week.

And despite the wide digital divide, he said, information and communication technologies (ICTs) are fast shaping the U.N.’s future sustainable development agenda.

“Our food agency uses mobile phones to help farmers set prices. Our relief operations communicate emergency information over online networks. And our messages go directly to the global public over Twitter and Facebook,” he said.

But there is also an increasing downside to the wide use of Twitter and Facebook: the world’s terror networks have been more adept at spreading their politically-loaded messages of hatred and religious extremism through the use of modern communication technologies – and keeping one step ahead of the governments pursuing them.

Ambassador Samantha Power, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, told the Security Council last month that groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and Al Shabaab are using the latest tools of modern technology to boost their cause.

“ISIL is showing increased sophistication in recruiting young people, particularly in virtual spaces,” Power said.

She said the group disseminates around 90,000 tweets each day, and its members and supporters routinely co-opt trending hashtags to disseminate their messages.

Nick Ashton-Hart, executive director of the Internet & Digital Ecosystem Alliance (IDEA), a Swiss non-governmental organisation (NGO), told IPS winning the digital argument, with those whose objective is the destruction of open, pluralistic societies, is a challenge.

“But online or offline it always has been,” he added.

Winning that argument requires demonstrating that secure, pluralistic societies have a better future to offer. “With respect to digital security, frankly, we are failing,” he said.

“Just look at basic international cooperation to protect people in their daily lives, from crime, fraud, and identity theft – as well as crimes like terrorism.”

The United States, he pointed out, has a backlog of more than 11,000 requests for legal assistance on all kinds of crime from the law enforcement officials of countries worldwide – and it is far from alone.

The international mutual legal assistance (MLAT) framework is simply not fit for digital purpose, said Ashton-Hart, the senior permanent representative of the technology sector to the U.N., its member-states, and the international organisations in Geneva.

Powers said ISIL even reportedly developed a Twitter app last year that allows Twitter subscribers to hand over control of their feed to ISIL – allowing ISIL to tweet from the individual subscriber’s account, exponentially amplifying the reach of its messages, Power said.

In February, ISIL posted a polished, 50-page guide online called “The Hijrah to the Islamic State,” that instructs potential recruits how to make the journey to its territory – including everything from finding safe houses in Turkey, to what kind of backpack to bring, and how to answer questions from immigration officials without arousing suspicion, she said.

“And it’s not just ISIL that is aggressively targeting children and youth – but al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, and other groups,” Power told delegates.

Last week, ISIL released a 34-minute video, purportedly from its recluse leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in which he appealed to Muslims to either join ISIL or carry out attacks in their home countries.

The online recording, the New York Times reported, was translated into English, French, German, Russian and Turkish, “an unusual move suggesting that the group was hoping for maximum exposure.”

According to the United Nations, some 600 million people were victims of cybercrimes two years ago.

And U.N. experts estimate these crimes will cost the global economy about 400 billion dollars every year.

Ashton-Hart told IPS the main global crime prevention treaty, the Convention on Transboundary Organised Crime, is starved of the funding necessary to fully implement it.

“Senior judges in the Hague tell me they cannot get the cooperation they need in basic digital evidence-gathering integral to prosecute monstrous crimes, in some cases the most grave crimes in existence.”

“If the international framework that ISIL want to tear down cannot manage these fundamentals, how can we expect to win the broader argument over extremism?” he asked.

He also said creating the practical measures that underpin trust between societies in basic law enforcement and baseline cybersecurity is not optional “and yet we still have more than 200 processes related to these issues without any structured, effective coordination between them to ensure sustainable, win-win outcomes.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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The U.N. at 70: A Glass Half Fullhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/the-u-n-at-70-a-glass-half-full/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-u-n-at-70-a-glass-half-full http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/the-u-n-at-70-a-glass-half-full/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 20:34:07 +0000 Dr. Palitha Kohona http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140810

Dr. Palitha Kohona is former Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

By Dr. Palitha Kohona
COLOMBO, May 26 2015 (IPS)

As the U.N. enters its 70th year, it is legitimate to ask whether it has been a success so far. Over the years, the media, in particular the Western media, has tended to highlight the U.N.’s failures.

Amb. Palitha Kohona. Credit: U.N. Photo/Mark Garten

Amb. Palitha Kohona. Credit: U.N. Photo/Mark Garten

The still unfinished business in the Korean Peninsula, the morass that was Congo, the impotency in Vietnam, it’s ineffectiveness during much of the cold war, the paralysis in Rwanda, it’s inability to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end, and many such unedifying instances have tended to garner the headlines.

But as Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold so succinctly proclaimed, the U.N. was not created to send humanity to heaven, simply to stop it from going to hell. Likewise, it has been said that if the U.N. did not exist we would have had to invent it.

Given the current global suspicions and rivalries, it is unlikely that we would succeed in creating a U.N. today from scratch. Despite all the criticisms for its failures, it has achieved much in its 70 years of existence. It could be described as the most successful and truly global political organisation ever created.

One of the key goals of the United Nations, created on the ashes of the devastating Second World War, was to prevent another world war. In this it has succeeded. The major powers have not battled each other militarily in the last 70 years. While innumerable regional, bilateral, and internal conflicts and proxy wars have caused millions of deaths and inestimable property damage, a global conflagration has been avoided.The end of the Cold War brought hope that the world body would be able to make useful progress on many fronts. But the rekindling of confrontational attitudes again among the major powers has introduced a new era of uncertainty.

The U.N. has been described as a private club. Its members decide what the club should do. Although the world at large may have other higher expectations, the U.N. is able to do only what it’s membership and the Charter would permit it to do. The most effective results are achieved where a consensus is obtained.

The way it’s constitution (the Charter) is formulated ensures that it’s powers are strictly constrained. (More about this later). At the same time the rights and privileges of those who won the Second World War are well and truly entrenched in a blatantly undemocratic manner, causing much disenchantment in a world where the political, economic and social power centres have shifted significantly.

Due to the manner it was designed, especially due to the power of veto conferred on the P5 in the Security Council, its freedom of action is limited to situations where the veto wielders agree. The Cold War paralyzed the U.N. substantially hobbling it during those dangerous years of East -West confrontation.

The end of the Cold War brought hope that the world body would be able to make useful progress on many fronts. But the rekindling of confrontational attitudes again among the major powers has introduced a new era of uncertainty.

Similarly, North South relations have always been clouded by suspicions traceable to the colonial experience. This constraint continues to influence attitudes and is not helped by an overbearing, “we know best” approach of the West. The Group of 77, originally intended to be the platform of developing countries on economic and social issues, is no longer 77. Taking in China (a P5 country), it has grown to 134. Not all of its members are poor developing countries.

Similarly, the Non Aligned Movement, originally intended to be the force not aligned to the East or the West, has tended to pull in different directions with no cohesive non aligned focus. Some have dropped out of this group. The growing tendency of the Security Council to adopt decisions binding on all member states on a range of issues that should properly be the responsibility of the General Assembly, has also come in for criticism.

The Security Council, dominated by the P5, has taken upon itself the task of legislating to the entire international community in certain situations, denying the vast majority of Member States any opportunity to influence such law making.

On the positive side, the human, social and economic rights standards of the world have improved substantially due to the work of the United Nations. From the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the Organisation has progressively adopted a range of multilateral conventions setting standards on civil and political rights, social, economic and cutural rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, indegenous rights, disabled persons’ rights, racial discrimination, etc.

With these globally agreed benchmarks in place, the world is certainly a better place today than it was in 1945. Admittedly, the conclusion of a multilateral treaty or becoming party to a treaty does not per se advance the condition of individual persons. But the very existence of these universally accepted standards, creates the incentive to strive for those higher goals. some times with a little bit of added pressure.

The U.N. has been mainly responsible for the unprecedented development of the international rule of law. The secretary-general’s office is the repository of over 550 multilateral treaties, the vast majority of them negotiated under the auspices of the U.N.. They cover almost every aspect of human interaction, including the environment, the oceans, aviation, trade, human rights, disarmament, terrorism, organised crime, the outer space, shipping, road rules, etc.

The complex network of rules encompassed in these treaties have established standards for the conduct of individual states as never before. The international rule of law thus established, seeps down to national level in many areas influencing the development of the rule of law within countries.

The U.N. and its agencies have been successful in mobilising the international community on various issues of common interest. As the scourge of terrorism surged across borders and became a threat to many countries, the U.N. was able to mobilize states and resources to address this threat.

Expertise was assembled, resources were mobilised, training was provided to countries that needed it, and awareness was raised to a high level. In the absence of the U.N. and it’s agencies, it is doubtful if these advances could have been achieved. Much more remains to be done.

Similarly, the global response to health threats such as the AIDS pandemic, the swine flu and avian flu threats that had the potential to cause havoc and the more recent Ebola epidemic were countered due to the existence of the U.N. and it’s agencies. The U.N. has developed an impressive ability to raise awareness rapidly and mobilise member states to respond quickly to threats of this nature.

The manner that the world body has responded to natural and man made disasters has saved countless lives and alleviated much misery. The U.N.’s ongoing work in the areas of the environment, the oceans and sustainable development will bring further benefits to humankind.

The U.N. has been successful in restoring normalcy to a number of global situations that threatened to continue causing untold violence and misery. Cambodia has emerged as a stable and increasingly prosperous country after a decade of conflict largely as a consequence of the U.N. brokered peace and the subsequent peacekeeping operation.

Timor Leste, after a quarter century of conflict, has established itself as a peaceful member of the international community. The U.N. prodded and cajoled Mozambique and Angola to a new era of peace.

South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy and majority rule was painstakingly facilitated by the U.N. The role of the world organisation in guiding the Former Yugoslavia’s successor states to peace, after the initial explosion of violence, was not insignificant. Even the complex legal question of succession was dealt with imaginatively by the world body.

This brings us on to a vital and expanded area of U.N. activity – peacekeeping. Since its first peacekeeping operations on the borders of Israel and between India and Pakistan, its peacekeeping role has expanded substantially, with peacekeepers being given multidimensional mandates.

Today the U.N. is actively engaged in peacekeeping operations in 16 countries. It has over 122,000 staff performing peacekeeping functions, including civilian, police and military personnel, contributed voluntarily by 122 Member States.

The cost of peace keeping exceeds 7.1 billion dollars, making it the costliest segment of U.N. operations. Now, U.N. peacekeepers may be permitted to play an offensive role to defend their mandates, including the protection of civilians.

While there are impressive success stories, peacekeeping related criticisms also abound. The U.N.’s peacekeeping efforts may meet with greater success if their mandates are formulated with better information originating at ground level and following more structured consultations, including with host governments, if the mandates are clearly defined and the peace keeping troops are better briefed, equipped and selected on the basis of experience and training, if operations are regularly reviewed and exit strategies are well defined. Unfortunately, there has been a tendency for some missions to be extended indefinitely.

As the world moves forward there is an increasing clamour to reform the United Nations to reflect contemporary political and economic circumstances. The most difficult challenge will be to reform the Security Council which substantially reflects the power structures of the post World War world. Two of the P5 are Europeans and members of the EU. It is quite likely that two elected members would also be members of the EU.

At the moment, the WEOG group in the Security Council with New Zealand has six members out of 15. Africa has three of the elected members, Latin America and the Caribbean two and Asia two plus the Permanent seat (China).

This imbalance in the Security Council structure can not be sustained. While an entity that reflects the privileges of the victors of a war concluded 70 years ago may not be modified by another war. But dramatically altered global socio-economic realities might help to introduce change.

Making the international civil service of the U.N. truly effective has been another challenge. Constantly criticised by the major contributors, it has chugged along for 70 years. While intermittent efforts have been made under different SGs to make it more dynamic and responsive to contemporary needs, it is probably the time to approach this task in a comprehensive manner. The Organisation must be able to deliver on its mandates efficiently to the satisfaction of member states.

By Kitty Stapp

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Opinion: Tobacco Taxes Too Effective to Overlook in Financing for Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-tobacco-taxes-too-effective-to-overlook-in-financing-for-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-tobacco-taxes-too-effective-to-overlook-in-financing-for-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-tobacco-taxes-too-effective-to-overlook-in-financing-for-development/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 10:14:49 +0000 Katie Dain http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140807 A woman smokes a cigarette branded ‘Fortune’ at a campaign rally for Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, a smoker who has said he has no intention of quitting the habit. The Philippines has the second highest number of smokers in South-east Asia. Credit: Kara Santos/IPS

A woman smokes a cigarette branded ‘Fortune’ at a campaign rally for Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, a smoker who has said he has no intention of quitting the habit. The Philippines has the second highest number of smokers in South-east Asia. Credit: Kara Santos/IPS

By Katie Dain
NEW YORK, May 26 2015 (IPS)

Governments are in the midst of tough talks in New York over the text of the Addis Ababa Accord, which is scheduled to be adopted at the end of the Third Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) , to be held in Ethiopia in July.

However at last report, negotiators continued to downplay a powerful mechanism that governments could use to help achieve and finance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in September: tobacco taxes.Tobacco use killed 100 million people in the 20th century and, if trends do not change, it will kill one billion people this century.

According to a recent estimate, increasing specific excise taxes on tobacco worldwide, in order to double prices, would raise about 100 billion dollars per year in revenues, in addition to the approximately 300 billion that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates governments already collect on tobacco.

Tobacco use is the world’s leading preventable cause of death, and the one risk factor common to four major non-communicable diseases (NCDs): cancers, cardiovascular and lung disease, and diabetes.

Tobacco use killed 100 million people in the 20th century and, if trends do not change, it will kill one billion people this century. The proposed SDGs recognise the devastating impact of NCDs and the tobacco use risk factor, and set targets for reducing the deadly impacts of both.

Fear of trampling on governments’ right to decide on taxation is reportedly at the heart of the negotiators’ reluctance to recommend taxation in general as a way to generate funding for sustainable development.

Yet, 180 of the world’s governments have already agreed that tobacco taxation is an important tool to both generate revenue and save lives. Meeting as the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), these governments have even agreed on guidelines that set out how to tax tobacco as effectively as possible.

Notably, these guidelines, to the FCTC’s Article 6, represent the first time that governments have agreed on what makes – and what doesn’t make – good tobacco tax policy.

Raising tobacco taxes, and subsequently tobacco prices, is good for health because it reduces the amount of tobacco consumed in three ways:

• Some existing smokers quit entirely;
• Some people, mostly teenagers, are deterred from starting to use tobacco;
• Some people continue to use tobacco, but reduce how much they use each day.

As a result, tobacco sales decline; however the revenue generated by the higher taxes on the remaining products sold more than makes up for lower sales. That is why increasing tobacco taxes is a win-win for governments: good for health and good for the bottom line.

Most of the revenue would initially be generated in rich countries, as taxes and prices there are much higher to begin with, but developing countries could still raise substantial revenue.

For example, the Philippines hiked specific excise taxes in 2013, raising the average price per cigarette pack by 48 percent. Sales declined and the number of smokers dropped from 28.3 percent of adults in 2009 to 25.4 percent in 2013, while government revenue from tobacco taxes more than doubled from 702 million dollars in 2012 to 1.5 billion in 2013 .

To be effective, tobacco tax increases must be accompanied by other measures, as FCTC Article 6 guidelines point out. Governments should also:

• Implement the simplest, most efficient tax systems;
• Make regular adjustments so that tobacco products become less affordable over time;
• Tax all tobacco products consistently to avoid substitution;
• Phase out tax-free and duty-free products; and,
• Set long-term policies, which could include a tax target.

Parties to the FCTC are not alone in recognising the potential of tobacco taxation. In their recent paper on financing for sustainable development, Jeffrey Sachs and Guido Schmidt-Traub praise tobacco taxes:

“Consumption taxes on tobacco products have been shown to have a very positive impact on reducing tobacco use and improving health. Higher tobacco taxes are particularly effective at reducing consumption by vulnerable populations, particularly youth. In many countries, tobacco taxation is also an important source of government revenue and is dedicated to tobacco control activities, hospital services and other health prevention or promotion services.”

The authors also refer to a 2011 report that Bill Gates presented to a meeting of G20 leaders.

In the executive summary Gates wrote: “Among the revenue proposals I have examined, tobacco taxes are especially attractive because they encourage smokers to quit and discourage people from starting to smoke, as well as generate significant revenues. It’s a win-win for global health.”

Gates continued: “Tobacco taxes are already ubiquitous. Ninety percent of countries have some form of them. And they work. In Thailand, as cigarette taxes rose from 1994 to 2007, revenues doubled even though the number of smokers went down significantly.”

The Sustainable Development Goals provide the roadmap for creating a healthier, more equitable and prosperous world, and as such are extremely ambitious. Considerable resources will be needed for these goals to be realised in the next 15 years.

Already endorsed by a large majority of the world’s governments, and with a clear road map for implementation, tobacco taxation should be highlighted in the Addis Ababa Declaration as an effective domestic tool for financing sustainable development.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Opinion: Finance Like a Cancer Growshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-finance-like-a-cancer-grows/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-finance-like-a-cancer-grows http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-finance-like-a-cancer-grows/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 07:18:16 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140797 By Roberto Savio
ROME, May 26 2015 (IPS)

It is astonishing that every week we see action being taken in various part of the world against the financial sector, without any noticeable reaction of public opinion.

It is astonishing because at the same time we are experiencing a very serious crisis, with high unemployment, precarious jobs and an unprecedented growth of inequality, which can all be attributed, largely, to speculative finance.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

This all began in 2008 with the mortgage crisis and the bursting of the derivatives bubble in the United States, followed by the bursting of the sovereign bonds bubble in Europe.

It is calculated that we will need to wait until at least 2020 to be able to go back to the levels of 2008 – so we are talking of a lost decade.

To bail out the banks, the world has collectively spent around 4 trillion dollars of taxpayers’ money. Just to make the point, Spain has dedicated more than its annual budget on education and health to bail out the banking sector … and the saga continues.

Last week, five major banks agreed to pay 5.6 billion to the U.S. authorities because of their manipulations in the currency market. The banks are household names: the American JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, the British Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland, and the Swiss UBS.“To bail out the banks, the world has collectively spent around 4 trillion dollars of taxpayers’ money”

In the case of UBS, the U.S. Department of Justice took the unusual step of tearing up a non-prosecution agreement it had reached earlier, saying that it had taken that step because of the bank’s repeated offences. “UBS has a ‘rap sheet’ that cannot be ignored,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Leslie Caldwell.

This is a significant departure from the Justice Department’s guidelines issued in 2008, according to which collateral consequences have to be taken into account when indicting financial institutions.

“The collateral consequences consideration is designed to address the risk that a particular criminal charge might inflict disproportionate harm to shareholders, pension holders and employees who are not even alleged to be culpable or to have profited potentially from wrongdoing,” said Mark Filip, the Justice Department official who wrote the 2008 memo.

Referring to the case of accounting giant Arthur Andersen, which certified as valid the accounts of the Enron energy company that went into bankruptcy for faking its budget, Filip said that “Arthur Andersen was ultimately never convicted of anything, but the mere act of indicting it destroyed one of the cornerstones of the Midwest’s economy.”

This was in fact a declaration of impunity, which did not escape the managers of the financial system, under the telling title of “Too Big to Fail”.

Two weeks ago, a judge from the Federal District Court of Manhattan, Denise L. Cote, condemned two major banks – the Japanese Nomura Holdings and the British Royal Bank of Scotland – for misleading two mortgage public institutions, Fannie Mae [Federal National Mortgage Association] and Freddie Mac [Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation], by selling them mortgage bonds which contained countless errors and misrepresentations.

“The magnitude of falsity, conservatively measured, is enormous,” she wrote in her scathing decision.

Nomura Holdings and the Royal Bank of Scotland were just two of 18 banks that had been accused of manipulating the housing market. The other 16 settled out of court to pay nearly 18 billion dollars in penalties and avoid having their misdeeds aired in public.

Nomura Holdings and Royal Bank of Scotland refused any settlement and instead went to court against the U.S. government, arguing that it was the housing crash which caused their mortgage bonds to collapse. Judge Cote, however, wrote that it was precisely the banks’ criminal behaviour which had exacerbated the collapse in the mortgage market.

It is worth noting that, until now, the cumulative fines inflicted by the U.S. government on just five major banks since 2008 amount to a quarter of a trillion dollars. No one has yet gone to jail – fines have been paid and the question closed.

Now the question: is all this due to the misconduct of a few greedy managers or is it due to the new “ethics” of the financial sector?

By the way, let us not forget that it was revealed recently that 25 hedge fund managers took close to 14 billion dollars only last year and that the highest paid manager took for himself the unthinkable amount of 1.3 billion dollars, equal to the combined average salaries of 200,000 U.S. professionals.

Well, just a week ago, the respected University of Notre Dame was reported as having published a startling report, based on a survey of more than 1,200 hedge fund professionals, investment bankers, traders, portfolio managers from the United States and the United Kingdom, in which about one-third of those earning more than 500,000 dollars a year said that they “have witnessed or have first-hand knowledge of wrongdoing in their workplace.”

The report went on to say that “nearly one in five respondents feel financial services professionals must sometimes engage in unethical or illegal activity to be successful in the current financial environment” and in any case,  nearly half of the high income professionals consider authorities to be ”ineffective in detecting, investigating and prosecuting securities violations.”

A quarter of respondents stated that if they saw that there was no chance of being arrested for insider trading to earn a guaranteed 10 million dollars, they would do so.

And nearly one-third “believe compensation structures or bonus plans in place at their companies could incentivise employees to compromise ethics or violate the law.”  It should also be noted that the majority were worried their employer “would likely to retaliate if they reported wrongdoing in the workplace.” So, the bonus that goes to those in the financial sector every year practically amounts to a bribe for silence on misconduct.

At the same time, we have learned that in Guatemala the Governor of the Central Bank has been arrested for embezzling 10 million dollars. Of course, everything is a question of scale…but in sociology there is a mechanism called “demonstration effect”.

The example of Wall Street and the City will increasingly seep down once a new “ethic” is in place. It will propagate if it is not stopped … and this is not happening.

A final note. In the same week (how many things have happened in such a short space of time), the Federal Trade Commission of Columbia accused four respected cancer charities of misusing donations worth millions of dollars.

One of them, the Cancer Fund of America, declared that it spent 100 percent of proceeds on hospice care, transporting patients to chemotherapy sessions and buying medication for children. The Federal Trade Commission found in fact that less than three percent of donations was spent on cancer patients.

The “new ethic” is in reality a cancer, and it is metastasising rapidly. (END/COLUMNIST SERVICE)

Edited by Phil Harris   

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service. 

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Pineapple Industry Leaves Costa Rican Communities High and Dryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/pineapple-industry-leaves-costa-rican-communities-high-and-dry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pineapple-industry-leaves-costa-rican-communities-high-and-dry http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/pineapple-industry-leaves-costa-rican-communities-high-and-dry/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 22:47:12 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140802 An employee of Costa Rica’s water and sanitation utility, AyA, fills the containers of local residents in Milano de Siquirres, who depend on water from tanker trucks because the local tap water has been polluted since August 2007. Credit: Courtesy Semanario Universidad

An employee of Costa Rica’s water and sanitation utility, AyA, fills the containers of local residents in Milano de Siquirres, who depend on water from tanker trucks because the local tap water has been polluted since August 2007. Credit: Courtesy Semanario Universidad

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSE, May 25 2015 (IPS)

Twelve years after finding the first traces of pesticides used by the pineapple industry, in the rural water supply, around 7,000 people from four communities in Costa Rica’s Caribbean region are still unable to consume their tap water.

The communities of Milano, El Cairo, La Francia and Luisiana are located in the municipality of Siquirres, 100 km northeast of the capital, San José, in an agricultural region where transnational corporations grow pineapples on a large scale.

For years the four towns have depended on tanker trucks that bring in clean drinking water.

“It’s hard,” the head of the Milano community water board, Xinia Briceño, told IPS. “And while the truck used to come every day, now it comes every other day. And when it breaks down, or there’s an emergency in some other place, or it’s a holiday, people go without drinking water for up to four days.”

Briceño, the president of the community association that runs the rural water system in Milano which serves some 1,000 families, is frustrated with the delay in resolving the situation. “As of next August we will have been dependent on the tanker truck for eight years.”

Since Aug. 22, 2007, these rural communities have only had access to water that is trucked in. They can’t use the water from the El Cairo aquifer because it was contaminated with the pesticide bromacil, used on pineapple plantations in Siquirres, a rural municipality of 60,000 people in the Caribbean coastal province of Limón.

“Chemicals continue to show up in the water,” Briceño said. “During dry periods the degree of contamination goes down. But when it rains again the chemicals are reactivated.”

The failure of the public institutions to guarantee a clean water supply to the residents of these four communities reflects the complications faced by Costa Rica’s state apparatus to enforce citizen rights in areas where transnational companies have been operating for decades.

The technical evidence points to pineapple plantations near the El Cairo aquifer as responsible for the pollution, especially the La Babilonia plantation owned by the Corporación de Desarrollo Agrícola del Monte SA, a subsidiary of the U.S.-based Fresh Del Monte.

But it is public institutions that have had to cover the cost of access to clean water by the local communities.

As a temporary solution, the public water and sewage utility AyA decided in 2007 to provide the communities with water from tanker trucks. Today, the local residents bring containers three times a week to stock up on clean water.

In nearly eight years, AyA has spent over three million dollars distributing water to the four communities, according to official figures. Briceño said a system to bring in water from another nearby aquifer could have been built with those funds.

“The idea is to build a water system to bring in water from a new source, in San Bosco de Guácimo. But that means piping it in from 11.7 km away,” Briceño explained.

The first evidence of the pollution was discovered in 2003, when the National University’s Regional Institute for Studies on Toxic Substances found traces of pesticides in the local water supply. Studies carried out in 2007 and subsequent years found that the water was unfit for human consumption.

The Supreme Court’s constitutional chamber ruled that the Health Ministry, AyA and several other public institutions should resolve the problem.

But the state has not managed to obtain compensation from pineapple producers for the environmental damage, as it has failed to carry out an assessment of the harm caused, and lawsuits filed in the environmental administrative court since 2010 are still underway.

“That is one of the delays we have had, because part of the process of bringing a complaint before the environmental administrative court is an economic appraisal of the environmental damages,” Lidia Umaña, the vice president of the court, told IPS. “Not all of the different authorities have the capability to conduct appraisals.”

The judge said that without an appraisal it is impossible to determine whether the companies must pay damages or not, and that “in this case like in any other a group of experts must be appointed to appraise the damages.”

After years of waiting for a solution, the case has gone beyond the borders of this Central American country, reaching the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). On Mar. 20 Briceño and other representatives of the affected communities, and delegates of the Environmental Law and Natural Resources Centre (CEDARENA), asked the IACHR to intervene.

“The IACHR is currently preparing a report on the human right to water and they told us they would include this case,” said Soledad Castro, with CEDARENA’s integrated water management programme, which is supporting the communities in their complaint before the Washington-based regional human rights body.

In remarks to IPS, Castro complained about the state’s inertia in solving the problem. In her view, “only AyA has made an effort, bringing in water trucks at an extremely high cost. Although it hasn’t been sufficient, at least AyA did something. The rest have been conspicuously absent.”

The case has also drawn the attention of other international bodies and organisations, like the Water Integrity Network (WIN), which criticised the state’s failure to protect the rights of local residents and the slow, non-transparent reaction by the authorities to the pollution of the water.

“(The state) has lacked accountability and transparency in its laboratory tests, the information given to the community, and compliance with rules and regulations,” says the 2014 WIN report “Integrity and the Human Right to Water in Central America”.

According to the Chamber of Pineapple Producers and Exporters (CANAPEP), which represents the industry in Costa Rica, pineapples were grown on 42,000 hectares of land in Costa Rica in 2012 and exports of the fruit brought in 780 million dollars. The United States imported 48 percent of the total, and the rest went to the European market.

Worried about the growth of pineapple production and the possible impact on local communities, the municipalities of Guácimo and Pococí declared a moratorium on an expansion of the industry. But a 2013 court ruling overthrew the ban, after it was challenged by CANAPEP.

In 2014, the annual state of the nation report stated that pineapple production stood out because of the large number of conflicts, and noted that it had mentioned the same problem in earlier reports.

IPS received no response to its request for comment from Corporación Del Monte corporate relations director Luis Enrique Gómez with regard to the water problem.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Q&A: Papua New Guinea Reckons With Unmet Development Goalshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/qa-papua-new-guinea-reckons-with-unmet-development-goals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-papua-new-guinea-reckons-with-unmet-development-goals http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/qa-papua-new-guinea-reckons-with-unmet-development-goals/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 20:35:44 +0000 Neena Bhandari http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140799 An estimated 36 percent of Papua New Guinea’s eight million people are currently living on less than 1.25 dollars a day. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

An estimated 36 percent of Papua New Guinea’s eight million people are currently living on less than 1.25 dollars a day. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

By Neena Bhandari
SYDNEY, May 25 2015 (IPS)

As Papua New Guinea celebrates 40 years of independence, 2015 marks a defining year for the largest Pacific Island nation, set to record 15 percent GDP growth this year.

However, unless the government tightens up its policies, the country will likely fail to achieve any of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) despite making significant progress in the past few years.

"We believe that if we continue to invest in the programmes that we have today, we will achieve [the] results that the international community has laid down for everybody." -- Peter O’Neill, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea
“Even with 14 years of successive double digit growth, the challenge for PNG is to translate high levels of resource revenue into well-being for all citizens. The latest estimate of the population is now over eight million and approximately 36 percent of the people are living on less than 1.25 dollars a day,” United Nations Resident Coordinator in Papua New Guinea Roy Trivedy told IPS.

Mineral resources, including copper, gold, oil, nickel, cobalt and liquid natural gas, constitute 70 percent of all PNG exports; and mine and oil production revenues since independence have amounted to 60 billion dollars, according to the Human Development Report 2013.

Still, PNG currently ranks 156th out of 187 countries in the United Nations’ Human Development Index (HDI).

U.N. agencies have worked across different sectors to support PNG in the development of education and health, poverty reduction, and assistance with disaster risk reduction and social protection. Many of the reforms implemented by the current government over the past three years are beginning to take root.

For example, the Tuition Fee Free (TFF) education policy, benefitting students at the elementary and secondary level, is gaining acceptance throughout the country, with two million children currently enrolled in schools.

The government is also investing in higher education and vocational and tertiary education. But the country faces the challenges of tackling high student-to-teacher ratios, building and refurbishing educational infrastructure, improving quality of primary education services and scaling up the provision of secondary and tertiary education.

The government has also committed to free primary health care for all citizens, but U.N. agencies working in PNG say more needs to be done to reduce the infant mortality rate from the current 75 deaths per 1,000 live births; reduce the number of under-five children dying of preventable diseases; and reduce the maternal mortality rate, which has remained at 733 deaths per 100,000 live births over the past decade.

In addition, early childhood health is a major issue, with 48 percent of children aged five or younger suffering from malnutrition.

Infrastructure development will also be crucial to realising the benefits of the country’s mineral, energy, agricultural and tourism assets. The government is spending considerable resources to modernise and better equip the police, judiciary and corrective services critical for tackling inequality and discrimination, especially against women.

PNG will have an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to uplifting the lives of its people as the international community moves into a new phase of its development agenda: the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Papua New Guinea is the co-facilitator with Denmark of the Global Summit on SDGs scheduled to take place later this year.

Following a decade-and-a-half of development guided by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the new global blueprint for poverty eradication is expected to be centred on sustainability, including combating climate change, protecting the environment, preserving biodiversity and conserving oceans, seas and marine resources: issues that are highly relevant for Pacific Island countries threatened by rising sea levels.

While the 22 Pacific island countries and territories contribute just 0.03 percent to global emissions, their collective population of 10 million people will likely suffer some of the worst impacts of climate change.

In addition to loss of human life as a result of natural disasters, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates that climate change could cost the region over 12 percent of its annual gross domestic product (GDP) by the turn of the century.

Against this backdrop, IPS correspondent Neena Bhandari sat down with Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, to discuss the U.N.’s role in PNG’s development agenda. Excerpts from the interview follow.

Q: Has the United Nations contributed to Papua New Guinea’s economic development?

A: We have many United Nations organisations in Papua New Guinea and I would like to thank them for their contribution to the country’s development agenda. We are very happy with the work that they are doing, especially UNDP [the United Nations Development Programme], which is engaged with our department of planning [Department of National Planning and Monitoring] in setting up various programmes all around the country, including Bougainville.

Q: It seems PNG is not ‘on track’ to meet any of the Millennium Development Goals, scoring either ‘off track’ or ‘mixed’ in the latest results surveys. What is being done to fix the problem?

A: In fact, we have made significant progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals. Two or three years ago, we would have completely missed the MDG targets. But right now on issues related to infant mortality and literacy, the progress is much better because of the education and health programmes that we are rolling out. These programmes are contributing significantly to meeting the MDG targets.

Q: What are your aspirations for the Sustainable Development Goals? What strategies would you adopt to achieve the SDGs?

A: We think that our policies today are starting to yield the positive outcomes that we want: to make sure our literacy rates are beyond 80 to 90 percent; our infant mortality rates drop down to levels that are comparable to our neighbouring countries; and our life expectancy increases. We believe that if we continue to invest in the programmes that we have today, we will achieve those results that the international community has laid down for everybody.

Q: The island nation has been the focus of Chinese investment and Australian aid. The Australia-PNG bilateral aid programme is worth approximately 577 million dollars in the current financial year. Which has been more beneficial for the country’s development?

A: Both are beneficial. The Chinese investment is not dissimilar to many of the other investments they make around the region. They make similar investments in Australia, similar investments in Indonesia and all throughout the world. But I think in terms of support in social programmes, the more beneficial investment is through the aid programme that the Australian Government continues to provide.

Now they are aligning their programmes to our priorities, which has never happened before. The aid programme is now looking towards the education problems that we have, the health, good governance and the law and order problems that we have. Those are the programmes that our government is regularly focusing on and the aid programme is partnering in achieving the outcomes that we want.

Q: In Papua New Guinea, there have been positive steps toward integrating West Papuan refugees and also lifting reservations to the 1951 Refugee Convention. What measures are being taken to rehabilitate ‘climate refugees’, for example, people residing on Carteret Islands, who are in danger of being submerged due to the rise in sea levels?

A: Climate change is global and it is not something that is unique to PNG, but we are trying to resettle many of those refugees on the mainland. Most of them have families and we are trying to get them integrated into communities that they are comfortable with. As in the case of West Papuan refugees down at Western Province, many of them are already in PNG for many, many years and we are taking steps so they can become citizens and have access to all the services that the government provides for its citizens.

Q: Will climate change be a major problem for PNG and other countries in the Pacific?

A: Yes, we are facing similar problems like some of the smaller Pacific Island countries. We have thousands of low-lying islands and as the sea level rises, these people will have to continue to move. The first step for developed countries like Australia and the United States should be to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol and then go with the rest of the international community. Climate change is a global issue where we all need to work together in reducing emissions and lowering the global warming challenge that we face.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Accusations of ‘Apartheid’ Cause Israelis to Backpedalhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/accusations-of-apartheid-cause-israelis-to-backpedal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=accusations-of-apartheid-cause-israelis-to-backpedal http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/accusations-of-apartheid-cause-israelis-to-backpedal/#comments Sun, 24 May 2015 16:24:49 +0000 Mel Frykberg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140792 Azzum Atme checkpoint border crossing from the West Bank into Israel, where hundreds of Palestinian labourers cross into Israel each day using Israeli buses. These labourers already face long delays at the checkpoint and if they are banned from Israeli buses their trips will take even longer. Credit: Mel Frykberg/IPS

Azzum Atme checkpoint border crossing from the West Bank into Israel, where hundreds of Palestinian labourers cross into Israel each day using Israeli buses. These labourers already face long delays at the checkpoint and if they are banned from Israeli buses their trips will take even longer. Credit: Mel Frykberg/IPS

By Mel Frykberg
RAMALLAH, West Bank, May 24 2015 (IPS)

A  decision by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) to segregate buses in the occupied West Bank has backfired after causing an uproar in Israel’s Knesset, or parliament, and political damage on the international stage.

This came as Israel faces mounting international criticism over its land expropriation and settlement building in the West Bank, and other forms of discrimination levelled against Palestinians.

Israel’s new extreme right-wing government is also being attacked on the domestic front with liberal Israelis, and Israeli NGOs involved in human rights, accusing the government of damaging Israel’s image and values.“The EU is Israel’s biggest trading partner and the threat of economic sanctions on Israel is a language the Israeli government understands far more than empty threats from the Americans who never followed any criticism of the Israeli government with any action” – Prof Samir Awad, political scientist at Birzeit University

Israeli settlers in the West Bank have been waging a campaign to prohibit Palestinians, particularly labourers who work in Israel, from using their buses in the occupied West Bank for over a year, saying that they represented a security threat, refused to give up their seats for Israelis and expressed sexual interest in Israeli women.

Last week, approval was given for buses to be segregated but after the backlash the plan was quickly scrapped.

However, Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon quickly denied that segregation or racism had anything to do with the issue and that the decision to ban Palestinians from Israeli buses had only been based on “security” needs.

Neither has Ya’alon given up on the plan. He intends to instruct the IDF to come up with a new plan to cover all 13 crossing points from the West Bank into Israel.

This development came simultaneously as European Union foreign policy head Federica Mogherini paid a 24-hour visit May 20-21 to Jerusalem and Ramallah in an effort to push the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward, stating that Europe wanted to play a more prominent role in the process.

But behind Mogherini’s visit was growing approval within the European Union for more pressure to be exerted on Israel to stop expropriating land from the Palestinians to build more illegal Israeli settlements and enlarge current ones.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry was on the defensive following its perception of bias from the European Union.

“The Israeli government will not be pressured by the European Union into making any concessions with the Palestinians in regards to the peace process,” said a spokesman from Israel’s Foreign Ministry – who insisted on remaining anonymous due to “ongoing problems at the ministry”.

“If the EU exerts one-sided pressure on Israel, without putting any pressure on the Palestinians, the situation will backfire because it will allow the Palestinians to avoid direct negotiations with us at the negotiating table,” the spokesman told IPS.

“Any future peace negotiations will have to involve face to face talks between the Palestinians and us. We will accept nothing less.”

Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, quoting a mediaeval biblical scholar, instructed all Israeli diplomats not to apologise for Israel’s occupation, stating that “all of the land (meaning East Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories) belonged to Israel.

As Israel finds itself painted into a corner politically, Palestinian and Israeli analysts have been debating whether there would be any European pressure on Israel and whether that pressure would have any effect.

Political scientist Prof Samir Awad from Birzeit University, near Ramallah, believes that the European Union will be able to successfully pressure the Israeli government, despite its extremism.

“The EU is Israel’s biggest trading partner and the threat of economic sanctions on Israel is a language the Israeli government understands far more than empty threats from the Americans who never followed any criticism of the Israeli government with any action,” Awad told IPS.

“EU pressure on Israel will also be buoyed by the fact that a number of EU countries have officially recognised a Palestinian state while others have recognised a state in principle and are critical of Israel’s continued occupation and land expropriation in the West Bank,” added Awad.

However, political analyst Benedetta Berti, a research fellow at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, is not convinced that the European Union will succeed in pushing Israel to any negotiating table.

“If we look at their record so far there has been a lot of rhetoric but not much actual action. So far, 16 out of the 28 EU ministers have told Mogherini to go ahead with labelling settlement goods exported to Europe,” Berti told IPS.

“It hasn’t happened yet as they have to get 20 of the 28 EU ministers on board for that and due to the divisions in the EU over Israel I’m not sure that it will happen in the near future,” explained Berti.

Meanwhile, an Israeli rights group has accused the Israeli authorities of being indifferent to attacks on Palestinians by Israeli settlers and security forces.

“Most cases of violent crimes against Palestinians not only go unpunished – but often are completely ignored by the authorities. Even when criminal investigations against soldiers accused of such offences are opened, they almost always fail,” said Yesh Din, a volunteer organisation working to defend the human rights of Palestinian civilians under Israeli occupation.

The groups said that approximately 94 percent of criminal investigations launched by the IDF against soldiers suspected of criminal violent activity against Palestinians, and their property, are closed without any indictments. In the rare cases that indictments are served, conviction leads to very light sentencing.

“Moreover, Palestinians who attempt to file complaints about crimes committed against them face staggering obstacles in their way. The complete absence of military police stations open to the Palestinian public in the West Bank, for example, makes it literally impossible for Palestinians to file complaints directly with the military police,” stated Yesh Din.

Edited by Phil Harris    

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Failure of Review Conference Brings World Close to Nuclear Cataclysm, Warn Activistshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/failure-of-review-conference-brings-world-close-to-nuclear-cataclysm-warn-activists/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=failure-of-review-conference-brings-world-close-to-nuclear-cataclysm-warn-activists http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/failure-of-review-conference-brings-world-close-to-nuclear-cataclysm-warn-activists/#comments Sat, 23 May 2015 20:55:31 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140789 United States Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) on April 27. The United States, along with the UK, and Canada, rejected the draft agreement. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

United States Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) on April 27. The United States, along with the UK, and Canada, rejected the draft agreement. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, May 23 2015 (IPS)

After nearly four weeks of negotiations, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference ended in a predictable outcome: a text overwhelmingly reflecting the views and interests of the nuclear-armed states and some of their nuclear-dependent allies.

“The process to develop the draft Review Conference outcome document was anti-democratic and nontransparent,” Ray Acheson, director, Reaching Critical Will, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), told IPS.“This Review Conference has demonstrated beyond any doubt that continuing to rely on the nuclear-armed states or their nuclear-dependent allies for leadership or action is futile." -- Ray Acheson

She said it contained no meaningful progress on nuclear disarmament and even rolled back some previous commitments.

But, according to several diplomats, there was one country that emerged victorious: Israel, the only nuclear-armed Middle Eastern nation, which has never fully supported a long outstanding proposal for an international conference for a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

As the Review Conference dragged towards midnight Friday, there were three countries – the United States, UK, and Canada (whose current government has been described as “more pro-Israel than Israel itself”) – that said they cannot accept the draft agreement, contained in the Final Document, on convening of the proposed conference by March 1, 2016.

As Acheson put it: “It is perhaps ironic, then, that three of these states prevented the adoption of this outcome document on behalf of Israel, a country with nuclear weapons, that is not even party to the NPT.”

The Review Conference president’s claim that the NPT belongs to all its states parties has never rung more hollow, she added.

Joseph Gerson, disarmament coordinator at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) told IPS the United States was primarily responsible, as in the 2005 review conference, for the failure of this year’s critically important NPT Review Conference.

“The United States and Israel, that is, even if Israel is one of the very few nations that has yet to sign onto the NPT,” he pointed out.

Rather than blame Israel, he said, the U.S., Britain and Canada are blaming the victim, charging that Egypt wrecked the conference with its demands that the Review Conference’s final declaration reiterate the call for creation of a Middle East Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone.

But, the tail was once again wagging the dog, said Gerson, who is also the AFSC’s director of Peace and Economic Security Programme.

He said that Reuters news agency reported on Thursday, the day prior to the conclusion of the NPT Review Conference, that the United States sent “a senior U.S. official” to Israel “to discuss the possibility of a compromise” on the draft text of the Review Conference’s final document.

“Israeli apparently refused, and (U.S. President) Barack Obama’s ostensible commitments to a nuclear weapons-free world melted in the face of Israeli intransigence,” said Gerson.

John Burroughs, executive director of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, told IPS the problem with NPT Review Conference commitments on disarmament made over the last 20 years is not so much that they have not been strong enough. Rather the problem is that they have not been implemented by the NPT nuclear weapon states.

Coming into the 2015 Review Conference, he said, many non-nuclear weapon states were focused on mechanisms and processes to ensure implementation.

In this vein, the draft, but not adopted Final Document, recommended that the General Assembly establish an open-ended working group to “identify and elaborate” effective disarmament measures, including legal agreements for the achievement and maintenance of a nuclear weapons free world.

Regardless of the lack of an NPT outcome, this initiative can and should be pushed at the next General Assembly session on disarmament and international security, this coming fall, said Burroughs, who is also executive director of the U.N. Office of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA).

Acheson told IPS that 107 states— the majority of the world’s countries (and of NPT states parties)—have endorsed a Humanitarian Pledge, committing to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.

The outcome from the 2015 NPT Review Conference is the Humanitarian Pledge, she added.

The states endorsing the Pledge now and after this Conference must use it as the basis for a new process to develop a legally-binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons.

“This process should begin without delay, even without the participation of the nuclear-armed states. The 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has already been identified as the appropriate milestone for this process to commence.”

Acheson also said a treaty banning nuclear weapons remains the most feasible course of action for states committed to disarmament.

“This Review Conference has demonstrated beyond any doubt that continuing to rely on the nuclear-armed states or their nuclear-dependent allies for leadership or action is futile,” she said.

This context requires determined action to stigmatise, prohibit, and eliminate nuclear weapons.

“Those who reject nuclear weapons must have the courage of their convictions to move ahead without the nuclear-armed states, to take back ground from the violent few who purport to run the world, and build a new reality of human security and global justice,” Acheson declared.

Gerson told IPS the greater tragedy is that the failure of the Review Conference further undermines the credibility of the NPT, increasing the dangers of nuclear weapons proliferation and doing nothing to stanch new nuclear arms races as the nuclear powers “modernize” their nuclear arsenals and delivery systems for the 21st century continues apace.

He said the failure of the Review Conference increases the dangers of nuclear catastrophe and the likelihood of nuclear winter.

The U.S. veto illustrates the central importance of breaking the silos of single issue popular movements if the people’s power needed to move governments – especially the United States – is to be built.

Had there been more unity between the U.S. nuclear disarmament movement and forces pressing for a just Israeli-Palestinian peace in recent decades, the outcome of the Review Conference could have been different, noted Gerson.

“If we are to prevail, nuclear disarmament movements must make common cause with movements for peace, justice and environmental sustainability.”

Despite commitments made in 1995, when the NPT was indefinitely extended and in subsequent Review Conferences, and reiterated in the 2000 and 2010 Review Conference final documents to work for a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, Obama was unwilling to say “No” to Israel and “Yes” to an important step to reducing the dangers of nuclear war, said Gerson.

“As we have been reminded by the Conferences on the Human Consequences of Nuclear War held in Norway, Mexico and Austria, between the nuclear threats made by all of the nuclear powers and their histories of nuclear weapons accidents and miscalculations, that we are alive today is more a function of luck than of policy decisions.”

The failure of Review Conference is thus much more than a lost opportunity, it brings us closer to nuclear cataclysms, he declared.

Burroughs told IPS debate in the Review Conference revealed deep divisions over whether the nuclear weapon states have met their commitments to de-alert, reduce, and eliminate their arsenals and whether modernisation of nuclear arsenals is compatible with achieving disarmament.

The nuclear weapon states stonewalled on these matters.

If the nuclear weapons states displayed a business as usual attitude, the approach of non-nuclear weapon states was characterised by a sense of urgency, illustrated by the fact that by the end of the Conference over 100 states had signed the “Humanitarian Pledge” put forward by Austria.

It commits signatories to efforts to “stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons in light of their unacceptable humanitarian consequences”.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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When Kenyan Children’s Lives Hang on a Driphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/when-kenyan-childrens-lives-hang-on-a-drip/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=when-kenyan-childrens-lives-hang-on-a-drip http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/when-kenyan-childrens-lives-hang-on-a-drip/#comments Sat, 23 May 2015 17:06:44 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140785 Prof Grace Irimu shows IPS a drip feed bag and a copy of Kenya’s ‘Basic Paediatric Protocols’ as she explains the importance of intravenous treatment in saving the lives of young children affected by acute watery diarrhoea. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

Prof Grace Irimu shows IPS a drip feed bag and a copy of Kenya’s ‘Basic Paediatric Protocols’ as she explains the importance of intravenous treatment in saving the lives of young children affected by acute watery diarrhoea. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, May 23 2015 (IPS)

Acute watery diarrhoea is a major killer of young children but misunderstanding over the benefits of fluid treatment is preventing many Kenyan parents from resorting to this life-saving technique and threatening to reverse the strides that the country has made in child health.

The 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, released in April this year, reports that the country’s under-five mortality rate fell to 52 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2014, down from the 74 deaths in 2008-09, but still far from the 32 per 1,000 live births targeted under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).“Parents must … understand that rapid fluid treatment is life-saving for children diagnosed with shock or poor blood circulation due to diarrhoea” – Prof Grace Irimu, Associate Professor of Paediatrics, University of Nairobi

The primary treatment for acute watery diarrhoea is rehydration, administered intravenously in the most severe cases of very young children suffering from shock after losing excessively high quantities of body fluids. A fluid bolus – or rapid liquid dose – delivered directly through an intravenous drip allows a much faster delivery than oral rehydration.

However, notes nurse Esther Mayaka at the Jamii Clinic in Mathare, Nairobi, “parents of children brought to hospital with acute watery diarrhoea are refusing to have them put on [drip] fluid treatment and this is a major concern because diarrhoea is a leading killer among children and giving fluids is still the main solution.”

She told IPS that the ongoing rains and floods in many parts of the country “have created a comeback for diseases like cholera whose most telling sign is watery diarrhoea which needs to be managed with fluids.”

In February this year, Kenya’s Director of Medical Services, Dr Nicholas Muraguri, issued a cholera outbreak alert following an increase in cases of acute watery diarrhoea in several counties, including Homa Bay, Migori and Nairobi.

According to Prof Grace Irimu, Associate Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Nairobi, the reluctance to resort to drip fluid treatment has arisen due to misunderstanding generated by a Fluid Expansion As Supportive Therapy (FEAST) study in 2011 to establish whether the bolus technique was the best practice to use among children diagnosed with shock.

The FEAST study, which was conducted among children in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, found that fluid boluses increased 48-hour mortality in critically-ill children with poor blood circulation or shock in these resource-limited settings in Africa, but Irimu told IPS that the study excluded diarrhoea and only studied illnesses associated with fever, such malaria and sepsis.

“Parents must therefore understand that rapid fluid treatment is life-saving for children diagnosed with shock or poor blood circulation due to diarrhoea,” she said.

The Kenya Paediatric Association is also trying to set the record straight and, in a statement shared with IPS, the association reiterated that “diarrhoea complicated by severe dehydration is one of the biggest killers of children globally.”

According to the paediatrics association, the FEAST study excluded children with diarrhoea and dehydration because “the value of giving fluids in this group is well known. Giving appropriate fluid therapy is essential.”

Prof Irimu told IPS that the FEAST study had led to a revision of the ‘Basic Paediatric Protocols’, Kenya’s national guidelines for paediatric care, and clauses that address the treatment of diarrhoea were also revised.

Previously, a child diagnosed with shock as a result of diarrhoea would be given fluids in three cycles, every 15 minutes depending on the response. Now, the child receives the fluids in two cycles and if there is no response, health providers are advised to proceed to slower fluid administration where the child is given the amount that the body needs, depending on the level of dehydration.

Meanwhile, the country continues to make strides in dealing with HIV/AIDS – another critical health issue covered by the MDGs – among children. Studies show that the number of children with HIV aged between 18 months and 14 years fell from 184,000 in 2007 to 104,000 in 2012, according to the most recent Kenya Aids Indicator Survey.

However, Prof Joseph Karanja, a reproductive health and HIV/AIDs expert in Nairobi, says that the country can still do better because “through available antiretroviral drugs as a preventive measure among HIV positive mothers, HIV transmission to the infant can be reduced to as low as one percent.”

Dr Pauline Samia, a paediatric neurologist and a board member of the Kenya Paediatric Association, says that there is also a commitment to address conditions that challenge the management of HIV among children such as epilepsy.

“Though research in this area is limited, an estimated 6.7 percent of children with HIV also have epilepsy, with at least 50 percent of children with HIV having central nervous system problems such as delayed development, behavioural challenges and convulsions,” she observes.

Regarding progress in other MDGs, some progress has been made in reducing the prevalence of underweight children less than five years of age, one of the goals set for eradicating extreme hunger and poverty.

The 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey reports that not only has childhood malnutrition declined significantly, from 35 percent in 2008 to the current 26 percent, but the prevalence of underweight children also decreased from 16 percent in 2008 to 11 percent in 2014.

On the front of improving maternal health, the survey says that while maternal mortality remains high at 488 deaths in every 100,000 live births, in the past five years more than three in five births (61 percent) took place in healthcare facilities, a marked improvement compared with the 43 percent in 2008.

Edited by Phil Harris   

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