Inter Press ServiceInter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 17 Jan 2019 20:09:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 Bloomberg sees PH as Asia’s turnaround story in 2019http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/bloomberg-sees-ph-asias-turnaround-story-2019/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bloomberg-sees-ph-asias-turnaround-story-2019 http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/bloomberg-sees-ph-asias-turnaround-story-2019/#respond Thu, 17 Jan 2019 16:51:59 +0000 Yen Makabenta http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159695 The new year as a season of possibility is looking better and better for the Philippines. Better than the SWS surveys that said that most Filipinos are looking at 2019 with optimism, and that more Filipinos rate themselves as poor, is Bloomberg’s upbeat report on the Philippine economy. The news agency and broadcast network projects […]

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By Yen Makabenta
Jan 17 2019 (Manila Times)

The new year as a season of possibility is looking better and better for the Philippines.

Better than the SWS surveys that said that most Filipinos are looking at 2019 with optimism, and that more Filipinos rate themselves as poor, is Bloomberg’s upbeat report on the Philippine economy.

Yen Makabenta

The news agency and broadcast network projects that the Philippines will stage a comeback this year, and become “Asia’s turnaround story.” The story reads:

“After last year’s inflation shock, a 5 percent slump in the currency and a widening current-account deficit, pressure is starting to ease. Consumer-price growth slowed last month, the peso and stocks are rebounding, and the current account is set to remain manageable.

Economic growth is expected to exceed 6 percent and reserve buffers are among the strongest in global emerging markets, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

‘We’ve seen the worst in 2018,’ said Jonathan Ravelas, chief market strategist at BDO Unibank Inc. in Manila. ‘We are cautiously optimistic because we know we’re not there anymore.’

Investors will dive back into PH
“The benchmark Philippine stock index has risen more than 7 percent this year, the biggest gainer in Asia. The peso is up 0.6 percent to 52.3 per dollar, after being one of hardest hit by an emerging-market rout in 2018.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. forecasts the peso will strengthen to 50 per dollar over the next 12 months, according to a note on Monday. The tightening in financial conditions last year should slow domestic demand and import growth, helping support the current account, it said.

‘There’s more room for the peso to rebound, with sufficient reserve buffers and quite solid fundamentals,’ said Koji Fukaya, chief executive officer at FPG Securities Co. in Tokyo.

The Philippines has the advantage of having low foreign debt obligations. External debt payments due this year and total non-resident deposits over one year are estimated at 25 percent of foreign reserves for 2019, the lowest among 19 emerging markets tracked by Bloomberg, according to Moody’s forecasts.

Remittances from Filipinos living abroad are a key pillar of support for the economy and the currency, amounting to 10 percent of gross domestic product. Those inflows probably rose 8 percent in November from a year ago as more people sent money home for the holidays, according to a Bloomberg survey ahead of data due Tuesday.

As economic fundamentals firm up, they should offset risks including a prolonged US-China trade war and an uptick in world oil prices, which hampered the economy last year.

‘The waters are no longer murky. Investors are ready to dive back into the Philippines,’ Ravelas said.”

Andaya the newsmaker
Another new year development of note is the mutation of House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. from congressional investigator of anomalies into a bigtime maker of news. He competes with President Duterte’s ability to grab media attention with insults and jokes. He also exceeds fake news specialists in generating frontpage news because he uses his position in Congress and deals with live public issues.

This week, it was impossible to avoid reading about Andaya in the front pages of newspapers and listening to him in the broadcast programs of TV networks.

Evidently, as a follow-up to his noisy tiff with Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, wherein he accused Diokno of channeling billions of pesos worth of public funds to his alleged in-laws in Sorsogon, Andaya has persisted in conducting a House inquiry into his allegations.

Diokno refutes Andaya charges
But Diokno has forcefully answered Andaya with a detailed refutation of the charges, that was published by the Manila Times in its issue of January 10.

In summary, the budget secretary declared that:
1. He does not facilitate the awarding of projects to a favored contractor because as budget secretary, he does not deal with contractors and does not meddle with project implementation.

2. He did not manipulate the budget to ensure the inclusion of projects in favored districts, particularly flood control structures under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

The DBM is only in charge of setting the aggregate budget ceiling and individual budget ceilings for agencies during budget preparation.

3. The DBM is not involved in the allocation of DPWH projects by region, province or district during budget preparation. DBM only evaluates the targets, by program, based on their budget utilization rate in previous years.

4. Budgeting was opaque and transactional during Andaya’s term as budget secretary. Budget implementation was micro-managed.

5. By contrast, today’s budget system under Duterte and Diokno is rules- based. There is less discretion in budget releases during budget implementation because the DBM has adopted the GAA as allotment order (GAARD) policy since 2017; the GAA has served as the official fund release document for regular programs in the budget.

The DBM has made important steps to institute an open, accountable and rules-based budgeting system.

It has been rigorous in publishing budget information. It is for this reason that we are ranked first in Asia and 19th in the world for budget transparency.

Where will Andaya go now, given this reply? Who will listen to him?

Andaya’s new headlines
Andaya is undaunted, however. He persists in making news with startling claims by creating new headlines.

Consider:
1. On January 14, he filed a petition for mandamus with the Supreme Court to compel Diokno to release funds under the fourth tranche of adjustments under the Salary Standardization Law (SSL).

Diokno replied that the DBM must wait for the passage of a new national budget by Congress because it is the legal basis for implementing the fourth tranche.

2. Andaya claimed that the DBM failed to include the Bangsamoro law plebiscite in the 2019 budget.

DBM retorted that the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) plebiscite has adequate funding and will push through as planned. There are enough funds for the government to push through with the BOL plebiscite this month.

3. The Sandiganbayan on Tuesday rebuffed Andaya’s motion to dismiss 97 cases of graft and malversation of the P900-million proceeds of the Malampaya Fund against him.

Instead, the Sandiganbayan stood firm on its decision to refuse to dismiss a total of 194 criminal cases filed against Andaya, Janet Lim Napoles — the alleged Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam queen — and several others.

They will be arraigned on Friday.

Presiding Justice and Division Chairman Amparo Cabotaje-Tang penned the resolution with the concurrence of Associate Justices Bernelito Fernandez and Lorifel Pahimna.

The Sandiganbayan found strength in the cases related to the alleged irregular diversion of funds from the Malampaya natural gas project to the relief and rehabilitation efforts in areas affected by typhoons “Ondoy” and “Pepeng” in 2009.

Andaya, who was the budget secretary of the Arroyo government at the time, allegedly released the funds through the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

In his motion for reconsideration, Andaya contended that the graft and malversation cases against him lacked pertinent details.

The anti-graft court insisted that the elements of graft and malversation were aptly alleged in the information filed by the Office of the Ombudsman.

“A plain reading will show that the acts and/or omissions complained of are alleged in plain, ordinary and concise language. In fact, the specific participation of all the accused in the alleged Malampaya Fund scam is outlined in detail in each of the information in these cases,” the court said.

Newsmaker in victory and defeat
However these new issues pan out, Andaya has ensured for himself a place in the news.

Media attention will turn now toward these issues:
1. Will the Supreme Court throw out his petition to compel the release of the salary hikes?

2. Will Andaya retain his post as House majority leader? This is unlikely since he is running for a local government post in the May elections.

3. Will Andaya be convicted for his liability in the Malampaya fund fraud?

In victory or defeat, the media will have room in the news for Andaya.

yenmakabenta@yahoo.com

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Syria’s Kurds: The new frontline in confronting Iran and Turkeyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/syrias-kurds-new-frontline-confronting-iran-turkey/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=syrias-kurds-new-frontline-confronting-iran-turkey http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/syrias-kurds-new-frontline-confronting-iran-turkey/#respond Thu, 17 Jan 2019 16:37:57 +0000 James M. Dorsey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159693 US President Donald J Trump’s threat to devastate Turkey’s economy if Turkish troops attack Syrian Kurds allied with the United States in the wake of the announced withdrawal of American forces potentially serves his broader goal of letting regional forces fight for common goals like countering Iranian influence in Syria. Mr Trump’s threat coupled with […]

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Fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) line up during military exercises at a training facility in the northeastern Syrian Kurdish town of Derik, June 1, 2017. Photo: AFP

By James M. Dorsey
Jan 17 2019 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

US President Donald J Trump’s threat to devastate Turkey’s economy if Turkish troops attack Syrian Kurds allied with the United States in the wake of the announced withdrawal of American forces potentially serves his broader goal of letting regional forces fight for common goals like countering Iranian influence in Syria.

Mr Trump’s threat coupled with a call on Turkey to create a 26-kilometre buffer zone to protect Turkey from a perceived Kurdish threat was designed to pre-empt a Turkish strike against the People’s Protection Units (YPG) that Ankara asserts is part of the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), a Turkish group that has waged a low-intensity war in predominantly Kurdish south-eastern Turkey for more than three decades.

Like Turkey, the United States and Europe have designated the PKK as a terrorist organisation.

Turkey has been marshalling forces for an attack on the YPG since Mr Trump’s announced withdrawal of US forces. It would be the third offensive against Syrian Kurds in recent years.

In a sign of strained relations with Saudi Arabia, Turkish media with close ties to the government have been reporting long before the October 2 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul that Saudi Arabia is funding the YPG. There is no independent confirmation of the Turkish allegations.

Yeni Safak reported in 2017, days after the Gulf crisis erupted pitting a Saudi-UAE-Egyptian alliance against Qatar, which is supported by Turkey, that US, Saudi, Emirati and Egyptian officials had met with the PKK as well as the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Turkey says is the Syrian political wing of the PKK, to discuss the future of Syrian oil once the Islamic State had been defeated.

Turkey’s semi-official Anadolu Agency reported last May that Saudi and YPG officials had met to discuss cooperation. Saudi Arabia promised to pay Kurdish fighters that joined an Arab-backed force USD 200 a month, Anadolu said. Saudi Arabia allegedly sent aid to the YPG on trucks that travelled through Iraq to enter Syria.

In August last year, Saudi Arabia announced that it had transferred USD 100 million to the United States that was earmarked for agriculture, education, roadworks, rubble removal and water service in areas of north-eastern Syria that are controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces of which the YPG is a significant part.

Saudi Arabia said the payment, announced on the day that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in the kingdom, was intended to fund stabilisation of areas liberated from control by the Islamic State.

Turkish media, however, insisted that the funds would flow to the YPG.

“The delivery of $100 million is considered as the latest move by Saudi Arabia in support of the partnership between the U.S. and YPG. Using the fight against Daesh as a pretext, the U.S. has been cooperating with the YPG in Syria and providing arms support to the group. After Daesh was cleared from the region with the help of the U.S., the YPG tightened its grip on Syrian soil taking advantage of the power vacuum in the war-torn country,” Daily Sabah said referring to the Islamic State by one of its Arabic acronyms.

Saudi Arabia has refrained from including the YPG and the PKK on its extensive list of terrorist organisations even though then foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir described in 2017 the Turkish organisation as a “terror group.”

Mr Trump’s threat this week and his earlier vow to stand by the Kurds despite the troop withdrawal give Saudi Arabia and other Arab states such as the United Arab Emirates and Egypt political cover to support the Kurds as a force against Iran’s presence in Syria.

It also allows the kingdom and the UAE to attempt to thwart Turkish attempts to increase its regional influence. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt have insisted that Turkey must withdraw its troops from Qatar as one of the conditions for the lifting of the 18-month-old diplomatic and economic boycott of the Gulf state.

The UAE, determined to squash any expression of political Islam, has long led the autocratic Arab charge against Turkey because of its opposition to the 2013 military coup in Egypt that toppled Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brother and the country’s first and only democratically elected president, Turkey’s close relations with Iran and Turkish support for Qatar and Islamist forces in Libya.

Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt support General Khalifa Haftar, who commands anti-Islamist forces in eastern Libya while Turkey, Qatar and Sudan support the Islamists.

Libyan and Saudi media reported that authorities had repeatedly intercepted Turkish arms shipments destined for Islamists, including one this month and another last month. Turkey has denied the allegations.

“Simply put, as Qatar has become the go-to financier of the Muslim Brotherhood and its more radical offshoot groups around the globe, Turkey has become their armourer,” said Turkish scholar Michael Rubin.

Ironically, the fact that various Arab states, including the UAE and Bahrain, recently reopened their embassies in Damascus with tacit Saudi approval after having supported forces aligned against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for much of the civil war, like Mr Trump’s threat to devastate the Turkish economy, makes Gulf support for the Kurds more feasible.

Seemingly left in the cold by the US president’s announced withdrawal of American forces, the YPG has sought to forge relations with the Assad regime. In response, Syria has massed troops near the town of Manbij, expected to be the flashpoint of a Turkish offensive.

Commenting on last year’s two-month-long Turkish campaign that removed Kurdish forces from the Syrian town of Afrin and Turkish efforts since to stabilise the region, Gulf scholar Giorgio Cafiero noted that “for the UAE, Afrin represents a frontline in the struggle against Turkish expansionism with respect to the Arab world.”

The same could be said from a Saudi and UAE perspective for Manbij not only with regard to Turkey but also Iran’s presence in Syria. Frontlines and tactics may be shifting, US and Gulf geopolitical goals have not.

Dr James M Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and co-host of the New Books in Middle Eastern Studies podcast. He is the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, and a book with the same title, among several others.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Struggles That Make the Land Proudhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/struggles-make-land-proud/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=struggles-make-land-proud http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/struggles-make-land-proud/#respond Thu, 17 Jan 2019 15:50:35 +0000 Vijay Prashad http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159687 From the desk of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research

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By Vijay Prashad
INDIA, Jan 17 2019 (Tricontinental)

Over two days – 8 and 9 January – over 160 million workers went on strike in India. This has been one of the largest general strikes in the world. The workers, exhausted by almost three decades of neo-liberal policies and by the attack on the rights of workers, came onto the streets to make their case for better livelihood and workplace democracy. Blockades on train tracks and on national highways closed down sections of the country. In Bengaluru, Information Technology (IT) workers joined the strike, while in Himachal Pradesh – see the picture above from the town of Hamirpur – workers gathered to demand an end to precarious employment in government service. Workers from a broad range of sectors, from industrial workers to health care workers, joined the strike. There has been no response from the government. Please read my report on the strike.

My report is written from Kerala, where almost the entire workforce went on strike. This strike comes after the powerful Woman’s Wall that was built on 1 January to defend Kerala’s renaissance traditions. For a fuller sense of that struggle that brought five and a half million women to form a Wall along Kerala, see my report. The title for this newsletter comes from a well-known poem by the radical poet Vayalar Ramavarma (1928-1975). When workers struggle, Vayalar wrote, ‘isn’t it something to make the land proud’?

This two-day strike comes as workers around the world greeted 2019 with a wave of demonstrations – from the ‘month of anger’ launched in Morocco by trade unions to the protests in Sudan over rising prices, from the potential strikes of teachers in Los Angeles (USA) to the potential general strike in Nigeria over wages. An International Trade Union Confederation report from last year showed that ‘More countries are excluding workers from labour laws’ – 65% of countries, at last count, excluding migrant workers and public sector employees and others from the rights afforded to them. There is every indication that the attack on workers’ rights and workplace democracy will continue despite the unrest amongst workers.

Brinda Karat, a leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), reflects – in our January Dossier – on the record of the current far right government in India (the BJP) and on the challenges before the Left to produce an alternative agenda to put before the people in the April 2019 General Election. Karat offers a sharp assessment of the attacks on women and the denigration of the project of women’s emancipation in India:

Over the past several decades, women have entered public spaces to work and to live. They have established their talents, their skills, and their capacities in numerous spheres. There has been a backlash against this increased assertion. The backlash is shaped by extreme misogyny – or a strong feeling in sections of our society that women have a specific place and anyone who crosses the boundary is liable to be punished. These cultural walls behind which women and girls are expected to live (with some exceptions for certain classes), are stronger than the high walls of a prison. When a woman is raped, she is blamed for entering public space, for being a free citizen, for the clothes she wears, for the person she speaks to, for the place and time where she was. It is the woman who is held responsible for the crime. That is the character of the misogyny.

Karat’s interview goes into depth about the difficult situation under the government of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. For example, she makes the following points:

    1. Because of India’s government policies, agrarian distress is acute: An average of 12,000 farmers committed suicide every year of this government’s rule. Unemployment is at its highest.
    2. India stands out for its increased inequalities in this period of Modi’s rule. Just 1% of the population holds 68% of all household wealth, an almost twenty-point increase in the last five years. On the other hand, according to the government’s socio-economic survey, over 90% of India’s people have an income of less than 10,000 rupees a year (US $143).

It is not axiomatic that high inequality and social distress lead to a progressive politics. In such a context, it is as likely that the culture of working-class solidarity erodes, and social violence grows, producing the seedbed of neo-fascist politics. To that end, Karat makes the case that the Left in India – but also elsewhere – needs to engage with the rigidities of our culture.

Cultures promoted by capitalism and the market promote and glorify individualism and promote individualistic solutions. All these add to the depoliticization of a whole generation of young people. This is certainly a challenge: how to find the most effective ways of taking our message to the youth. Then again in India class exploitation is intensified through the caste system and vice versa. To build resistance struggles against the caste system and caste oppression and to link such struggles with the fight against capitalism in terms of struggles and goals is also a challenge. Trade unions and other class organisations certainly have to be more assertive and attentive to these aspects.

The Left, Karat suggests, needs to enter fully into the struggle over how to define the terms of a culture. Questions of dignity as well as discrimination are fundamental to the development of a progressive politics. No emancipatory movement can turn its back on any form of social hierarchy. The democratic impulse must work its way into the most rigid of cultural forms.

The photographs in the dossier come from Rahul, an independent journalist based in Anantapur (Andhra Pradesh), whose work can be seen at the People’s Archive of Rural India.

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Excerpt:

From the desk of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research

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We Are Sorry For The Inconvenience, But This Is A Revolution.http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/sorry-inconvenience-revolution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sorry-inconvenience-revolution http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/sorry-inconvenience-revolution/#respond Thu, 17 Jan 2019 15:22:41 +0000 Vijay Prashad http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159683 From the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research

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Kerala, 2019. Photo: Sivaprasad Parinhattummuri

By Vijay Prashad
KERALA, India, Jan 17 2019 (Tricontinental)

On 1 January, 5.5 million women formed a 620-kilometre wall across the length of the Indian state of Kerala (population 35 million). This was not like Donald Trump’s wall across the US-Mexico border, a wall of inhumanity and toxicity. The wall of these women was a wall for freedom, a wall against traditions whose purpose is to humiliate.

The immediate reason for the women’s wall was a fight over entry for women into the Sabrimala temple in southern Kerala. On 28 September 2018, the Supreme Court of India ruled that women must be allowed to enter the temple since the selective ban on women was not an ‘essential part’ of Hinduism but instead was a form of ‘religious patriarchy’.

The Left Democratic Front government in Kerala embraced the judgment and fought off a challenge on the streets from the right-wing reactionary groups – including the ruling party in India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In October, the Chief Minister of Kerala – Pinarayi Vijayan, a leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) – gave an important speech in defence of the breaking of customs. If a tradition is a shackle, it must be broken. Vijayan gave the call for this wall to be built by women on 1 January. People from across the state responded with enthusiasm. A hundred public meetings were held in the last months of 2018 to galvanise support; 175 progressive organisations joined the campaign. At 4pm, the women stood firm. They took an oath to fight for women’s emancipation and to conserve the values of Kerala’s renaissance traditions.

K. K. Shailaja, Kerala’s health minister and a leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), stood at the head of the wall in Kasaragod in Kerala’s north. The wall ended in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala’s capital, where the last person in the chain was the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Politburo leader Brinda Karat.

The photograph above was taken by Sivaprasad Parinhattummuri. The central figure in the picture is Athira, a leader in Kerala’s left. She is currently the Malappuram District Committee member of the Democratic Youth Federation of India. She was a former Kerala State Committee member of the Student Federation of India. Athira had been imprisoned for her participation in a student struggle at Calicut University. She holds her six-month-old daughter Duliya Malhar.

Emboldened by the Wall, two women – Bindu Ammini (a lawyer who teaches at Kannur University) and Kanakadurga (who works for the Kerala Civil Supplies Corporation) – walked into the Sabrimala temple. History is on their side.

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Excerpt:

From the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research

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Wasting & Dining: the New Water Dilemmahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/wasting-dining-new-water-dilemma/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wasting-dining-new-water-dilemma http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/wasting-dining-new-water-dilemma/#respond Thu, 17 Jan 2019 11:12:02 +0000 Jan Lundqvist http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159653 Professor Jan Lundqvist is Senior Advisor at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI)

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By Jan Lundqvist
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Jan 17 2019 (IPS)

Concerns about the supply side of food systems are shifting from insufficient production and supply, to issues likely to affect food production in the medium and long term, such as water risks, global warming and environmental consequences.

To produce an average diet in rich communities, water budgets are typically estimated to be around 5 tons per capita per day. Even lean diets can hardly be produced with less than a ton of water per person and day.

The range in water budgets for diets of body builders and other big eaters, to vegetarian diets as well as between social groups and individuals is huge.

Based on available crude assumptions of how much water is required to produce the vegetarian and animal components in an average food basket, estimates can be calculated about the human imprints on water and other resources.

Compared to the situation some fifty years ago, the water budget to cater for contemporary food preferences, has increased by about a ton per person and day.

Professor Jan Lundqvist

The difference is due to an amazing increase in average food production/supply and a higher share of animal-based foods in the preferred diets.

Average food supply, i.e. what is available on the market, has increased by about 30 per cent per capita over a fifty-year period, from the beginning of the 1960s to 2011, parallel with a global population increase from about 3 to 7. 5 billion.

Never before have so many been exposed to such an abundance in food supply, from all parts of the world, at all time.

While the poor still have to spend half, or much more than that, of their minute income, a growing number of people may access food which is readily available. The price tag and the display in stores signal the illusion that food is cheaper and cheaper and easier and easier to produce and in turn that it is OK to throw away part of it.

Equally true, but much more disturbing: never before have the losses and waste of food been so large and never before has the triple malnutrition (with obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases) been at the level reported today.

With an abundance in production and lavishness in supply, it is but logical that overeating and the throwing away of food, even food that is fit to eat, is increasing.

Combining figures on losses, waste and overeating, suggests that roughly half of the food produced in the world is misused and that the intended benefits are forgone while negative externalities have increased. It is true and well that the unit cost of food production has been reduced, but there is no such a thing as a free lunch: all food produced has required water, energy, land, investments and generated greenhouse gases and other downstream negative consequences.

Let us be clear that water scarcity is both absolute (e.g. seasonal and in arid areas) and relative; it is more sensible to recognize the implications of demographic trends and lavish spending than blaming water for being scarce.

Food systems and changing habits can make or break the dictum of a water wise world. The world, the poor as well as the rich, needs more nutritious food and efficient and fair distribution, rather than more energy dense food.

Farmers must be given economic and other incentives and support to contribute to a transformation where more nutrition is produced per drop. It is not only farmers that are key players in the required transformation.

With more and more money in our pockets, consumers are drivers in food systems and they are both victims and culprits in the triple malnutrition. Policies are required to align the supply and demand sides with due recognition of water, nutrition and other realities.

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Excerpt:

Professor Jan Lundqvist is Senior Advisor at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI)

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Experience With Irregular Migration is the Best Teacherhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/experience-irregular-migration-best-teacher/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=experience-irregular-migration-best-teacher http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/experience-irregular-migration-best-teacher/#respond Thu, 17 Jan 2019 10:41:04 +0000 Sam Olukoya http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159675 The International Organization For Migration (IOM) has taken its campaign against irregular migration to schools in Nigeria. The school campaigns are meant to educate children who are among victims of human traffickers. After being recruited, victims of traffickers are made to embark on dangerous irregular journeys through the desert and by sea in an attempt […]

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Students of the Itohan Girls Secondary School in Benin City, Nigeria sing during their morning assembly. Courtesy: Sam Olukoya

By Sam Olukoya
BENIN CITY, Nigeria, Jan 17 2019 (IPS)

The International Organization For Migration (IOM) has taken its campaign against irregular migration to schools in Nigeria. The school campaigns are meant to educate children who are among victims of human traffickers. After being recruited, victims of traffickers are made to embark on dangerous irregular journeys through the desert and by sea in an attempt to reach Europe. Many children die in the course of these journeys while many others are enslaved. Some young girls end up in the sex trade.

Students of the Itohan Girls Secondary School in Benin City, Nigeria sing during their morning assembly. The students have been joined by a team from the IOM and a group of young Nigerians who returned home after their failed attempt to migrate to Europe. With young girls at great risk of being targeted by traffickers who need them for the sex trade, Marshall Patsanza of the IOM says a girls’ school like this is an ideal place for the organization to carry out its campaign.

 

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Survey on UN Sexual Abuse Shifts Focus on Virtual Fugitives from Justicehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/survey-un-sexual-abuse-shifts-focus-virtual-fugitives-justice/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=survey-un-sexual-abuse-shifts-focus-virtual-fugitives-justice http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/survey-un-sexual-abuse-shifts-focus-virtual-fugitives-justice/#respond Thu, 17 Jan 2019 10:36:51 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159677 A survey of sexual harassment at the United Nations has uncomfortably shifted the focus to some of the senior UN officials who have either escaped censure – or punishment– despite a rash of charges against them, including abuse and misconduct. Paula Donovan, a women’s rights activist and co-Director of AIDS-Free World and Code Blue Campaign, […]

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By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 17 2019 (IPS)

A survey of sexual harassment at the United Nations has uncomfortably shifted the focus to some of the senior UN officials who have either escaped censure – or punishment– despite a rash of charges against them, including abuse and misconduct.

Paula Donovan, a women’s rights activist and co-Director of AIDS-Free World and Code Blue Campaign, told IPS it is interesting that the wires (Reuters, AFP), in citing the fact that Michel Sidibé, the executive director of UNAIDS, will step down in June, appear to be implying that the UN, and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in particular, have held senior staff accountable.

But the reality, she pointed out, is that the Secretary-General has never uttered a word about Sidibé, even after a six-month inquiry by an Independent Expert Panel reported last month that he “created a patriarchal culture tolerating harassment and abuse of authority” at UNAIDS and recommended his removal.

“Radio silence from the Secretary-General, who allowed Sidibé to decide when and whether he’d leave — and then let him return to the workplace, uncensured, to continue his documented behavior,” said Donovan, a former UN Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa.

The panel called for his dismissal. But Guterres has not suspended Sidibé, asked for his resignation, nor made any comment, according to Donovan.

The survey, which was carried out by the consulting firm Deloite Touche Tomhatsu, hired by the UN, said that 10,032 UN employees had reported that they had suffered harassment. They were among the 30,364 of the UN system’s total global workforce of 105,000 who responded to the survey.

The survey, released January 15, found that 12 percent of the harassers were senior leaders in the UN.

Donovan said that in April 2018, Guterres announced that he was initiating a new investigation, through UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), into sexual assault and harassment charges lodged against the former Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS, Luiz Loures. Nothing has been announced since about this “new investigation.”

She said the Secretary-General has also never commented on any of the recent public reports of sexual misconduct in several other UN organizations —including the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) while the Secretary-General’s senior-level Task Force is headed by Jan Beagle, who was promoted to Under-Secretary-General by Guterres while she herself was under investigation for workplace harassment at UNAIDS.

Meanwhile, the UN’s heavily-hyped “zero tolerance” policy on sexual abuse was reduced to mockery with the abrupt resignation in mid-December of the head of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) who faced charges of sexual harassment and was the subject of an inquiry by the OIOS.

The resignation of the ICSC chairman, Under-Secretary-General (USG) Kingston Rhodes, who held one of the highest ranking jobs in the UN system, followed the release of the OIOS report to the ICSC. But the contents of the report are still under wraps since neither the OIOS nor ICSC have announced plans to go public with the results of the months-long investigations.

The official stance was that neither the UN nor the Secretary-General could intervene because the ICSC and its staff are the creation of the General Assembly.

Senior UN Official Resigns Undermining Sexual Abuse Charges

Asked to respond to the survey, which found that 12 percent of the harassers were senior leaders in the UN, Peter A. Gallo, a former investigator at the Investigations Division of OIOS, told IPS the whole thing is an exercise in the usual UN hypocrisy.

He said there is nothing materially wrong with the regulations (ST/SGB/2008/5) but the problem is in the enforcement:

– most staff members are (understandably) unwilling to report sexual harassment, and
– the “investigations” are carried out by the deaf, dumb, blind and stupid, and they do not want to find misconduct, because that would reflect badly on the Organization, he added.

“The result is that the UN is quite happy because they can claim that the low level of reporting is a sign of there being no problem, and the even lower rate of investigations actually substantiating the complaint reinforces this image of there not being a problem,” he noted.

In cases of “sexual exploitation and abuse” there is an obligation on the UN to report the numbers to the General Assembly (GA) every year. (They manipulate those numbers, but never mind.)

In the case of sexual harassment however, Under ST/SGB/2008/5 section 6 – the staff member is told to send a copy of the complaint to the ASG/OHRM (assistant secretary-general for human resources) for “monitoring” purposes, “but I do not believe they ever report the number of complaints publicly to the GA, said Gallo, an Attorney and director of the non-governmental organization ”Hear Their Cries”.

Antonia Kirkland, Legal Equality Global Lead at Equality Now, a non-governmental organization advocating women’s rights, told IPS that the survey points out, proactive measures to prevent sexual harassment, as well as the way the UN responds when staff members report allegations, are good indicators that a zero tolerance policy is in place and actually being effectively implemented.

But she pointed out that “proactive measures to prevent and respond to sexual harassment should be undertaken with regard to all who work with UN staff members regardless of their position, including appointees of the General Assembly, on the pay roll of the United Nations.”

Meanwhile, when the proposed survey was announced, Donovan wrote a letter to the Secretary-General expressing concerns about the validity of the UN’s Safe Space survey data.

In it, she informed Guterres that staff had alerted the UN that it was possible for anyone to take the survey, and to take it as many times as they wished, so long as they used a unique device each time. Some concerned staff had succeeded in doing that.

Guterres’ office sent a one-line email acknowledging receipt, “and we heard nothing more — which at a minimum, seems to fall short of “civility”, but also demonstrates the seriousness with which this Secretary-General undertakes efforts to solve this longstanding crisis.”

“We are left with the indisputable fact that the design of the system-wide Safe Space survey does not prevent external parties from responding and does not protect against multiple entries from respondents with malign motives. Whether or not the survey has been compromised enough times by enough people to render it statistically invalid is uncertain. The risk that data has been manipulate significantly seems high enough to invalidate this survey,” the letter said.

Ian Richards, President, of the 60,000-strong Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations (CCISUA), told IPS that a survey, conducted in December by the CCISUA on harassment, sexual harassment, discrimination and abuse of authority, differed from the current UN survey, in that it covers all forms of prohibited conduct.

“We believe that focusing on sexual harassment, the tip of the iceberg in terms of prohibited conduct at the UN, avoids discussion of other types of abuse of power and prevents accountability at senior levels,” he added.

The key findings of the CCISUA survey were:

    • Sexual harassment, while abhorrent, constitutes only 16 percent of all forms of harassment and abuse of authority.
    • The results show a worrying trend in terms of complaints not investigated. Where an investigation was conducted, a significant proportion of staff was kept waiting more than six months to get the results. Most who complained were not kept informed of progress on the investigation.
    • Twenty percent of staff felt they were retaliated against for reporting misconduct.

“While the UN’s actions are very much focused on sexual harassment, which is important, this shouldn’t divert energies away from addressing the UN’s broader problem with abuse of authority,” declared Richards.

He also said: ” We feel the Deloitte survey missed an important opportunity’

”By restricting itself to sexual harassment, abhorrent in itself, it neatly avoided topics such as discrimination, bullying and abuse of power that would have raised serious questions about how our organisations are managed and run”.

This, Richards said, would also address the biggest finding, that staff continue, perhaps rightfully, to fear retaliation for reporting such behaviours and are far from satisfied with how complaints are treated.

“These are fundamental to the problems of international organizations, which operate something of a legal vacuum.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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A New Spectre is Haunting Europehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/new-spectre-haunting-europe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-spectre-haunting-europe http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/new-spectre-haunting-europe/#respond Thu, 17 Jan 2019 10:16:26 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159673 Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jan 17 2019 (IPS)

After Theresa May’s defeat in the British parliament it is clear that a new spectre is haunting Europe. It is no longer the spectre of communism, which opens Marx’s Manifesto of 1848; it is the spectre of the failure of neoliberal globalisation, which reigned uncontested following the fall of the Berlin Wall, until the financial crisis of 2009.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

In 2008, governments spent the astounding amount of 62 trillion dollars to save the financial system, and close to that amount in 2009 (see Britannica Book of the Year, 2017), According to a US Federal Reserve study, it cost each American 70,000 dollars.

Belatedly, economic institutions left macroeconomics, which were until then used to assess GNP growth and started to look at how growth was being redistributed. And the IMF and the World Bank, (also because of the prodding of civil society studies, foremost those of Oxfam), concluded that there was a huge problem in the rise of inequality.

Of course, if the 117 trillion dollars had gone to people, that money would have led to a jump in spending, an increase in manufacturing, services, schools, hospitals, research, etc. But people were totally absent from the priorities of the system.

Under the Matteo Renzi government in Italy, 20 billion dollars went to save four banks, while in the same year total subsidies for Italian youth could be calculated at best at 1 billion dollars.

Then after the crisis of 2008-9, all went haywire. In every country of Europe (except for Spain, which has now caught up), a populist right-wing party came to life, and the traditional political system started to crumble.

The new parties appealed to the losers of globalisation: workers whose factories has been delocalised for the cheapest possible place to maximise gains; small shop owners displaced by the arrival of supermarkets; those made redundant by new technologies, by Internet like secretaries; retired people whose pensions were frozen to reduce the national deficit (in the last 20 years public debts have doubled worldwide). A new divide built up, between those who rode the wave of globalisation and those who were its victim.

Obviously, the political system felt that it was accountable to the winners, and budgets were stacked in their favour. Priority went to towns, where over 63% of citizens now live. The losers were more concentrated in the rural world, where few investments were made in infrastructure. On the contrary, in the name of efficiency, many services were cut, railway stations closed, along with hospitals, schools and banks.

In order to reach work, people often had to go several kilometres from home by car. A modest increase in the cost of petrol fuelled the rebellion of the ‘yellow jackets’. It did not help that out of the 40 billion that the French government obtains from taxes on energy, less than one-quarter went back into transportation infrastructure and services.

Universities, hospital and other services in towns suffered much less, were points of excellence, public transportation was available, and a new divide arose between those in towns and those from the rural world, those with studies and education and those who were far away and atomised in the interior.

A new divide had come about, and people voted out the traditional party system, which ignored them. This device brought Trump to power and led to the victory of Brexit in the United Kingdom. This divide is wiping the traditional parties, and bringing back nationalism, xenophobia and populism. It is not bringing back the ideological right wing, but a gut right and left with little ideology …

All this should be obvious.

Now, for the first time, the system is turning its attention to the losers, but is too late. The left is paying the dramatic illusion of Tony Blair who, considering globalisation inevitable, decided that it would be possible to ride its wave. So, the left lost any contact with the victims, and kept the fight on human rights as its main identity and difference with the right.

That was good for towns, where gays and LGBTs, minorities (and majorities like women), could congregate, but it was hardly a priority for those of the interior.

Meanwhile, finance continued to grow, become a world by itself, no longer linked to industry and service, but to financial speculation. Politics became subservient. Governments lowered taxes on the who stashed the unbelievable amount of 62 trillion dollars in tax havens, according to the Tax Justice Network. The estimated yearly flow is 600 billion dollars, double the cost of the Millennium Goals of the United Nations.

And the Panama Papers, which revealed just a small number of the owners of accounts, identified at least 140 important politicians among them from 64 countries: the prime minister of Iceland (who was obliged to resign), Mauricio Macri of Argentina, President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine, a bunch of close associates of Vladimir Putin, David Cameron’s father, the prime minister of Georgia, and so on.

No wonder that politicians have lost their shine, and are now considered corrupt, or useless, or both.

In the current economic order, Emmanuel Macron acted rationally by lowering the tax on the rich people to attract investments. But he totally ignored that for those French who have difficulty in reaching the end of the month, this was proof that they were being totally ignored. And sociologists agree that the real ‘Spring’ of the yellow jackets was their search for dignity.

Ironically, British parties, and especially the Conservative and Labour parties, should be thankful to the debate on Brexit. It is clear that the United Kingdom is committing suicide, in economic and strategic terms. With a ‘hard’ Brexit, without any agreement with the European Union, it could lose at least seven percent of its GDP.

But the divide which makes Brexit win with all towns, the City, the economic and financial sector, academics, intellectuals and all institutions has confirmed the fear of those of the interior. Belonging to the European Union was profitable for the elites, and not for them. Scotland voted against, because it has now a different agenda from England. And this divide is not going to change with a new referendum.

That the cradle of parliamentarian democracy, Westminster, is not able to reach a compromise is telling proof that the debate is not political but a clash of mythologies, like the idea of returning to the former British Empire. It is like Donald Trump’s idea of reopening coal mines. We look at a mythical past as our future. This is what led to the explosion of Vox in Spain, by those who believe that under Franco life was easier and cheaper, that there was no corruption, woman stayed in their place, and Spain was a united country, without separatists in Catalonia and the Basque Country. It is what Jair Bolsonari in Brazil is exploiting, presenting the military dictatorship at a time when violence was limited. Our future is the past …

So this divide – once in one way or another the United Kingdom solves its Brexit dilemma – will pass into normal politics, and will bring about a dramatic decline, like elsewhere, of the two main traditional parties. Unless, meanwhile, populist, xenophobe and nationalist parties take over government and show that they do not have the answer to the problems they have rightly identified.

In that sense, the Italian experience could be of significant help … look how the government has performed with the European Union.

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Excerpt:

Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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Climate Change Threatens Mexico’s Atlantic Coasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/climate-change-threatens-mexicos-atlantic-coast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-threatens-mexicos-atlantic-coast http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/climate-change-threatens-mexicos-atlantic-coast/#respond Thu, 17 Jan 2019 08:52:40 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159669 “I couldn’t plant my cornfield in May, because it rained too early. I lost everything,” lamented Marcos Canté, an indigenous farmer, as he recounted the ravages that climate change is wreaking on this municipality on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. The phenomenon, caused by human activities related especially to the burning of fossil fuels, has altered the […]

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Ecosystems such as the Síijil Noh Há (where water is born, in the Mayan tongue) lagoon, in Felipe Carrillo Puerto on the Yucatán peninsula, are suffering the impacts of climate change in one of the most vulnerable of Mexico's municipalities to the phenomenon. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Ecosystems such as the Síijil Noh Há (where water is born, in the Mayan tongue) lagoon, in Felipe Carrillo Puerto on the Yucatán peninsula, are suffering the impacts of climate change in one of the most vulnerable of Mexico's municipalities to the phenomenon. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
FELIPE CARRILLO PUERTO, Mexico, Jan 17 2019 (IPS)

“I couldn’t plant my cornfield in May, because it rained too early. I lost everything,” lamented Marcos Canté, an indigenous farmer, as he recounted the ravages that climate change is wreaking on this municipality on Mexico’s Caribbean coast.

The phenomenon, caused by human activities related especially to the burning of fossil fuels, has altered the ancestral indigenous practices based on the rainy and dry seasons for the “milpa” – the collective cultivation of corn, pumpkin, beans and chili peppers, the staple crops from central Mexico to northern Nicaragua.

It has also modified the traditional “slash and burn” technique used to prepare the land for planting.

Canté, a representative of the Xyaat ecotourism cooperative, told IPS that “climate change affects a lot, the climate is changing too much. It’s no longer possible to live off of agriculture.” As he talks, he prepares for the new planting season, hoping that the sky will weep and water the furrows.

The farmer lives in the Señor eijido in the municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto (FCP) in the southeastern state of Quintana Roo. Señor is home to about 450 “ejidatarios” or members of the ejido, a traditional Aztec system of collectively worked lands that can be sold.

This state and its neighbors Campeche and Yucatán comprise the Yucatán peninsula and are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, as are the states of Tamaulipas, Veracruz and Tabasco, on the Gulf of Mexico which, along with the Caribbean Sea, make up Mexico’s Atlantic coast.

These consequences include rising temperatures, more intense and frequent hurricanes and storms, rising sea levels due to the melting of the Arctic Ocean, droughts and loss of biodiversity.

The Yucatan peninsula has a population of 4.5 million people, in a country of 129 million with a total of 151,515 square kilometers and a Caribbean coastline of 1,766 square kilometers.

In addition, this peninsular region suffers the highest rate of deforestation in the country, and government subsidies have failed to change that, according to the report “Forest subsidies without direction,” released in December by the non-governmental Mexican Civil Council for Sustainable Agriculture.

The peninsula is home to the largest remaining tropical rainforest outside of the Amazon, and is a key area in the conservation of natural wealth in Mexico, which ranks 12th among the most megadiverse countries on the planet.

María Eugenia Yam, another indigenous resident of FCP, a municipality of 81,000 inhabitants, concurred with Canté in pointing out to IPS with concern that “the rains are no longer those of the past and it is no longer possible to live off of the milpa.”

Yam, an employee of the Síijil Noh Há (where water sprouts, in the Mayan tongue) cooperative, owned by the Felipe Carrillo Puerto ejido, in the municipality of the same name, lamented that agricultural production is declining, to the detriment of the peasant farmers in the area who also grow cassava and produce honey.

A trail in the Síijil Noh Há (where the water is born, in the Mayan tongue) community reserve in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, in the southeastern state of Quintana Roo, part of the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico. The conservation of the jungle is a climate change adaptation measure, because it contributes to maintaining steady temperatures and curbing the onslaught of hurricanes. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A trail in the Síijil Noh Há (where the water is born, in the Mayan tongue) community reserve in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, in the southeastern state of Quintana Roo, part of the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico. The conservation of the jungle is a climate change adaptation measure, because it contributes to maintaining steady temperatures and curbing the onslaught of hurricanes. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The three states of the peninsula produce a low level of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). The biggest polluter is Campeche, producing 14.5 million tons of GHGs, responsible for global warming. It is followed by Yucatán (10.9 million) and Quintana Roo (3.48 million), according to the latest measurements carried out by the state governments.

In 2016, Mexico emitted 446.7 million net tons of GHG into the atmosphere, according to the state-run National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change (INECC).

Within the peninsula, the state of Yucatan has 17 municipalities vulnerable to climate change, Campeche, 10, and Quintana Roo, three, including FCP. In total, 480 Mexican municipalities are especially vulnerable to the phenomenon, out of the 2,457 into which the country is divided, according to an INECC report.

In Campeche, the State Climate Change Action Programme 2030 predicts a temperature increase of between 2.5 and four degrees Celsius between 1961 and 2099, with impacts on communities, economic activities and natural wealth.

Also, the 2012 study “Impacts of the increase in mean sea level in the coastal area of the state of Campeche, Mexico”, prepared by the World Bank and the state government, warns that vulnerability to the rising sea level affects 440,000 people, more than half of the local population.

“Climate change will increase flooding and coastal erosion in the future” and the probability of extreme storm surges on the coasts will increase, according to the study, which predicts a rise in water level between 0.1 to 0.5 meters in 2030 and from 0.34 to one meter in 2100.

In Quintana Roo, annual rainfall will become more and more irregular. The rainy season will be shortened by five to 10 percent in 2020, while it will range from a 10 percent increase to a 20 percent drop in 2080. In addition, the temperature will rise between 0.8 and 1.2 degrees Celsius in 2020 and between 1.5 and 2.5 degrees Celsius in 2080.

The state of Yucatan faces a similar scenario, with the average annual temperature rising between 0.5 and 0.8 degrees for the period 2010-2039. Annual rainfall will alternate drops of up to nearly 15 percent and rises of one percent in that period.

Although the three states have instruments to combat the phenomenon, such as climate change laws -with the exception of Campeche-, special programmes and even a regional plan, the situation varies widely at a local level, as many municipalities lack such measures.

The Climate Change Strategy for the Yucatan Peninsula, drawn up by the three state governments, aims for the development of a regional adaptation strategy, the implementation of the regional programme to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and the creation of a climate fund.

The plan seeks to reduce emissions from this region by 20 percent by 2018 and 40 percent by 2030, based on 2005 levels.

The region launched the Yucatan Peninsula Climate Fund in September 2017, but it is just beginning to operate.

So far, the scrutiny of the implemented actions has been a complex task.

The “Strategic Evaluation of the Subnational Progress of the National Climate Change Policy,” published by INECC in November, which investigated three municipalities on the peninsula, concluded that state and municipal authorities report multiple adaptation actions, but without clarifying how vulnerability is addressed.

For this reason, it considers the creation and promotion of capacities to face climate change to be an “urgent need”.

“We have to make everything more sustainable, but it’s a local effort. If those who govern and make decisions had more awareness, we would be able to do it,” said Canté.

Yan proposed reforesting, reducing garbage generation, conserving biodiversity and educating children about the importance of environmental care. “Maintaining the forest is a good adaptation measure. But the municipalities should have climate programmes and appoint officials who know” about the issue, he suggested.

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Decemberistan reduxhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/decemberistan-redux/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=decemberistan-redux http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/decemberistan-redux/#respond Wed, 16 Jan 2019 16:18:51 +0000 Rafia Zakaria http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159689 It is what happens in Karachi every December and extends sometimes to January or February but hardly ever to March. The sweltering heat abates, blossoms emerge in flowerbeds, the air is dry and cool, and the wedding venues are lit up like amusement parks (which they also are in a sense). Expatriates arrive with their […]

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By Rafia Zakaria
Jan 16 2019 (Dawn, Pakistan)

It is what happens in Karachi every December and extends sometimes to January or February but hardly ever to March. The sweltering heat abates, blossoms emerge in flowerbeds, the air is dry and cool, and the wedding venues are lit up like amusement parks (which they also are in a sense).

Rafia Zakaria

Rafia Zakaria

Expatriates arrive with their dollars in pockets and suitcases empty to fill with clothes so expensive and so specifically made for them that the designers just state the price in dollars. If you are young and present, your phone likely lights up with all the requests from frenetic brides and grooms (or their cousins or sisters) to attend dance practices for the many choreographed numbers that every middle-class wedding must now put forth.

I did not coin the term and it isn’t exactly new. It is the creation of author Adnan Malik, who in 2015 wrote evocatively about the strange phenomenon that takes place in Karachi every winter. He described it thus: “A fleeting psychological and physical condition brought on by seasonal displacement when a false sense of mass euphoria and well-being affects the population of urban Pakistan” and is considered as causing the mass influx of expatriate Pakistanis, the nice weather, the many weddings, etc.

Having endured the slow slog of nine months of summer, the sun moves a bit further away, allowing everyone to clean up and get made up.

Like so many other people, Malik himself was afflicted just as most Karachi dwellers are, having endured the slow slog of nine months of summer, the load-shedding and the water outages, the heat-related exhaustion and anger all lifting suddenly and inexplicably as the sun moved a bit further away, allowing everyone to clean up and get made up, trussed in finery to show the world and their relatives that they had survived another year, could still fit into the sari blouses or the bridal joras of the last Decemberistan.

An essential fixture in the end-of-year euphoria is of course weddings. Over the years, and at least in Karachi, they have become not just nuptials of two people, two families, two friend groups, etc but also a function of a sort of pop-up all-ages nightclub.

Like most other things in Pakistani society, the roles are scripted but also evolving. The young -people realise that the functions and the many dance practices and pair-ups that come with them are really a mass speed-dating event. New partners can be found or discarded or considered; Decemberistan does not last forever and so its opportunities must be partaken of with gusto.

The dancing, now absorbed into the script of the shaadi, exerts its own pressures. Friends, the best of them being in demand for several weddings simultaneously, must be rounded up, choreographed and offered up before guests as examples of the couple’s popularity and coolness.

In many weddings, brides and grooms have also entered the fray; dance duets featuring them have become a sort of predicted performance of their ability to move in tandem, proof of sorts of their ability to be good husbands and wives.

Not all Decemberistan parties are of the marital sort. One inventive host threw a bash mocking the Ambani wedding on the other side of the world. The inherent hilarity of the event was not only the satire of copying the gaudy debauchery of Indian others but also that the satirisers were those who are unlikely to note obliviousness of a similar sort among their own.

It was okay, of course; Decemberistan permits and even requires such buzzworthy events, and it would be cruelty to limit opportunities to show off only to those getting married or trying to get married. There are other sorts of flirtations enabled by Decemberistan — and the celebrations, if you have the chance to attend one of the parties, are proof of that.

Where there are consumers, there are those facilitating their consumption. This year, many designers came up with specific Decemberistan collections. One of them even provided delivery options (around the world, no less) along with an impressive cache of clothes for ‘any Decemberistan event’. Make-up and beauty parlours, waxing ladies and hair mavens, are all booked up long before the actual December arrives. If one were looking to set up any of these businesses, December¬istan is the time to do it. The demand is such that the discernment falters, even disappears.

A word, too, about the arriving expatriates, perhaps the hungriest of the Decemberistan breed, wanting to be seen attending so many events that the workaday mediocrity of the rest of their lives lived abroad are forgotten.

Often, a white friend or two tags along, eager to consume the “verve and colour” of the South Asian wedding, never quite understanding the function of the whole thing or of their own presence, but always good for the Instagram likes and Facebook shares of the event. Attending a wedding at home seems a mainstay for most expatriates, passing judgement on the events and the way things were and the way things are, almost an edict of their expatriate faith.

There are, of course, those unfortunate souls that cannot partake of the ebullience of Decemberistan, those who have jobs that require them to be there early and bosses who have no sympathy for the midnight dinners that come with the month, those who have to work the events themselves and those who for ethical (yeah, they exist) reasons find the excess and gluttony, the untempered braggadocio and the lustful exhibitionism that comes with partaking, against their principles.

Perhaps this last group, small and near invisible as it may be, can devise an alternate Decemberistan, a Decemberistan Lite that can be composed only of enjoyment of the weather and nature, the chill in the air and the flowers underfoot, a relative- and dance practice-free Decemberistan that can reform and revive the Karachiites who suffer all year long.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.
rafia.zakaria@gmail.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Acts of Terror Will Not Undermine Our Resolvehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/acts-terror-will-not-undermine-resolve/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=acts-terror-will-not-undermine-resolve http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/acts-terror-will-not-undermine-resolve/#comments Wed, 16 Jan 2019 14:29:49 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159666 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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President Kenyatta addresses the Nation on 16 Jan 2019. “I also commend the civilians who looked after one another. For every act of evil that led to injury yesterday, there were a dozen acts of compassion, overflowing patriotism and individual courage,” Credit: KBC

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 16 2019 (IPS)

On 15 January 2019, terror struck Nairobi’s 14 Riverside Drive.

Kenya is in mourning following a senseless act on innocent and defenseless civilians by individuals preoccupied with contemptible and misplaced ideology; who hope to intimidate others through violent acts of terror. Like in their other past attempts, they have failed, and Kenya remains unbowed.

As President Kenyatta has noted in his address; “We will allow no one to derail or frustrate our progress….We have prevailed and shall always prevail over evil. Let us now go to work without fear and continue with our work of building our nation.”

Our thoughts are with all the affected and families who are experiencing the most inconsolable pain and trauma of this heinous act. The UN Country Team in Kenya stands in solidarity with the families who are suffering the most inconsolable pain and will live for a long time with the trauma of this terrible attack.

As the intelligence and security apparatus continue with investigations, our message to Kenyans remains that, we cannot give in to fear or the temptation to define the attack as a war between races or religions. That has always been the narrative that the perpetrators of terror would wish to spread.

Fortunately, they have always been on the losing side of history. The attack on 14 Riverside Drive should not deter Kenya’s resolve, but should further strengthen the country’s determination to overcome adversity and challenges that threaten its social fabric.

We applaud the work of Kenya’s security emergency rescue services and first responders, who mobilised in remarkable timeliness, demonstrated exceptional professionalism and heroism, thereby keeping the number of fatalities to a minimum. We also commend Kenyans for their heroic acts and solidarity for one another during this time.

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in his message “has strongly condemned the terrorist attack in Nairobi and extends his condolences to the families of the victims and wishes those injured a swift recovery. The Secretary-General expresses his solidarity with the people and Government of Kenya(GoK)”.

Terrorism remains a global threat and presents a challenging test for intelligence and law enforcement agencies worldwide. No country is immune. Kenya has done remarkably well in preventing numerous other attacks.

The reality is that a multitude of stresses impact vulnerable populations around the world, leaving many disproportionately susceptible to extremist ideologies — driven by factors such as surging youth unemployment — which terror groups take advantage as a considerable reservoir for recruits. There is a need for concerted efforts to weaken the terror groups’ narrative and win the battle of ideas.

The UN remains steadfast in its support to Kenya’s development agenda, including commendable initiatives by the government based on a long view of the prevention of violent extremism in line with the UN Development Assistance Framework.

Together we can pursue smart, sustainable strategies that augment security with what the UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner describes as the triple nexus, “Achieving the 2030 Agenda and ensuring no one is left behind requires a pro-active, evidence-based and holistic approach to risk, resilience and prevention across humanitarian, development and peace effort.” This approach will be a long-term antidote to terrorism and the key to preventing violent extremism.

Already our partnership is underway with several local initiatives that are bearing fruit. Previously characterized by belligerence based on competition for resources, the border regions of Eastern Africa are slowly changing the narrative, replacing aggression with dialogue and socio-economic transformation.

A stand-out initiative is the Kenya-Ethiopia Cross Border Programme, launched in December 2015 by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and the former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia. This initiative is supported by IGAD, the European Union and Japan and implemented by the United Nations family in Kenya and Ethiopia together with local authorities on both sides.

Such initiatives represent determination and hope. They are a declaration that the soul of those on the right side of humanity can never be destroyed or prevented from living freely by terrorists.

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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A Salty Dilemmahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/a-salty-dilemma/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-salty-dilemma http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/a-salty-dilemma/#comments Wed, 16 Jan 2019 11:57:16 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159655 As the threat of water scarcity increasingly grows, many have turned to the Earth’s plentiful oceans for a solution. However, this has created a new risk threatening public and environmental health: brine. In a new study, the United Nations University’s Institute for Water, Environment, and Health (UNU-INWEH) assessed the state of desalination around the world […]

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A desalination plant. Across 177 countries, there are now 16,000 desalination plants, many of which are concentrated in the Middle East and North Africa where water scarcity is already a reality.As desalination plants continue to pop up, so does a hypersaline, chemical by-product known as brine. Credit: RoPlant

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 16 2019 (IPS)

As the threat of water scarcity increasingly grows, many have turned to the Earth’s plentiful oceans for a solution. However, this has created a new risk threatening public and environmental health: brine.

In a new study, the United Nations University’s Institute for Water, Environment, and Health (UNU-INWEH) assessed the state of desalination around the world as countries increasingly convert sea water into freshwater for its citizens.

“There is an increasing level of water scarcity across the globe, but there are hot spots of water scarcity like those in the Middle East and parts of Africa. They really need an additional supply of water that they can use to meet the requirements of their population,” one of the report’s authors Manzoor Qadir told IPS.

Across 177 countries, there are now 16,000 desalination plants, many of which are concentrated in the Middle East and North Africa where water scarcity is already a reality.

As desalination plants continue to pop up, so does a hypersaline, chemical by-product known as brine.

In fact, for every litre of freshwater a plant produces, 1.5 litres of brine is produced, a figure that is 50 percent more than previously estimated.

Globally, desalination plants produce enough brine in one year to cover all of Florida in one foot of the waste.

“Historically what we used to see was the equal volumes of brine versus desalinated water—that is not true…there is more brine produced than desalinated water. It really needs efficient management,” Qadir said.

Countries are increasingly turning to the oceans as a solution to water scarcity. Pictured here is Sri Lanka’s southern coast near Hikkaduwa town. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The study, which is the first to quantify brine production across the world, found that just four countries are responsible for 55 percent of global brine: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Qatar.

Almost 80 percent of brine is produced in plants near the ocean and are often discharged back into the ocean, posing major risks to ocean life and marine ecosystems.

According to the UNU-INWEH report, untreated brine increases both the temperature and salt concentration of sea water. Together, these conditions decreases the water’s oxygen levels, impacting sea organisms and the food chain.

The desalination process also uses toxic chemicals such as copper and chlorine, polluting oceans when released.

As desalination plants are predicted to increase in number, the assessment highlighted the need for improved brine management strategies to avoid further and future environmental damage.

The report’s authors pointed to the various economic opportunities to use brine including in the irrigation of salt tolerant crops,  electricity generation, and even aquaculture.

“Using saline drainage water offers potential commercial, social and environmental gains.  Reject brine has been used for aquaculture, with increases in fish biomass of 300 percent achieved,” Qadir said.

“”There is a need to translate such research and convert an environmental problem into an economic opportunity,” he added.

But first and foremost, countries need to minimise the volume of brine produced including the adoption of more efficient modern technologies, Qadir noted.

“[Middle Eastern countries] especially need to take concrete action just to make sure that there is an environmentally feasible management of brine,” he told IPS, while also acknowledging the importance of desalination.

UNU-INWEH found that eight countries including the Maldives, Singapore, Antigua and Barbuda and Qatar can meet all their water needs through desalination. And it is predicted that more and more countries will rely on such plants for their water needs.

“We need to raise the importance of global water scarcity and the key contributions of desalinated water, but at the same time we should not just ignore the other part of desalinated technology which is brine production,” Qadir concluded.

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Why We Should Care about Vulnerable Coastal Communitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/care-vulnerable-coastal-communities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=care-vulnerable-coastal-communities http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/care-vulnerable-coastal-communities/#respond Wed, 16 Jan 2019 11:47:24 +0000 Nigel Brett http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159661 Nigel Brett is Director of the Asia and Pacific Division at the International Fund for Agricultural Development

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Meity Masipuang is a member of an enterprise group in Papusungan village, Lembeh island, Indonesia. Their women’s group purchases fish to smoke and resell. They are participants of the IFAD-funded Coastal Community Development project in Indonesia. Credit: IFAD/Roger Arnold

By Nigel Brett
ROME, Jan 16 2019 (IPS)

According to UN statistics, approximately 40 per cent of the world’s population lives within 100 kilometers of the coast, and overall the world’s coastal population is increasing faster than the total global population. At the same time, global warming is causing sea levels to rise and increasing extreme weather incidents on coastlines.

The impacts are well publicized and alarming. But what we may not realize is that the people who are the most vulnerable to climate change are often the poorest. It is essential that we act upon what we know in order to mitigate the effects of climate change and build resilience in the poorest communities. In all of our development work, we cannot regard climate change and the plight of vulnerable coastal communities as a niche issue.

A large portion of the world’s poor people live in Asia and the Pacific: 347 million people in the region live on less than US$1.90 a day, almost half of the 736 million people living in extreme poverty worldwide. Rising sea level exposes large areas of Asia and the Pacific to potential floods, coastline damage and increased salinity of agricultural lands. Climate change and environmental degradation (including in small island developing states, or SIDS) is harming the poor rural population’s ability to produce food and income, which calls for urgent action to help people safeguard their assets and fragile resources, while also diversifying their income base.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) works with people in vulnerable coastal communities across the world to build resilience and institute sustainable agricultural practices so that vulnerable people can make a living while also preserving the environment and the resources that are the foundation of their way of life.

Nigel Brett Credit: IFAD/Flavio Ianniello

Some livelihood practices are not sustainable and can exacerbate climatic vulnerability. For example, unsustainable fishing destroys corals and depletes fish stocks, and the cutting down of mangroves for firewood results in coastal land that cannot resist flooding, cyclones and coastal erosion. Since 66 per cent of the fish that is eaten worldwide is caught by small-scale fishers, it is in everybody’s best interest to help them to improve their ability to make a living while protecting the environment.

In over 180 villages in Indonesia, the IFAD-supported Coastal Community Development Project introduced aquaculture and supported initiatives to make fishing and processing techniques more efficient and sustainable. By providing rudimentary refrigeration techniques such as ice coolers, and by forming and training women’s groups to process some of the fish into fish paste and dried fish snacks, fishermen were able to fish less because they did not have to factor in the amount of fish wasted by lack of refrigeration or low market demand. These measures also had a substantial impact on food security and actually reduced acute child malnutrition in the areas by half. And through community-based coastal resource management groups, marine resources have been maintained or improved.

In the Asia and the Pacific region overall, vulnerable communities are a prominent focus of our investment portfolio. Just under one third of our current $2.7 billion portfolio in the region is invested in improving the lives of 15,360,000 poor rural people living within five kilometers of the coastline.

One thing we’ve learned is that there is no such thing as a one-size fits all approach in working with vulnerable coastal communities. Context matters. Bangladesh suffers from overcrowding on its limited land, while the Pacific Islands suffer from not only extreme weather but a remote and dwindling population. In Tonga the rural population is declining due to migration and a lack of incentives for youth to remain. It is also classified as the second most at-risk country in the world in terms of its exposure and susceptibility to natural hazards and the effects of climate change. Development approaches need to be different.

Up to 80 million people live in flood-prone or drought-prone areas in Bangladesh, and thousands of vulnerable families eke out a living on river islands known as chars. The Char Development and Settlement Project has developed roads that remain intact even after they have been repeatedly submerged in water. It has also helped communities (especially women) to develop small businesses that can withstand floods, such as raising ducks. But, one of the most important aspects of the project’s work is land titling—which is particularly important for women. With land as collateral, women can access credit and acquire labour-saving machinery, including small irrigation pumps and rice threshers, and build small storage sheds to protect harvested rice from rain and floods.

In Tonga, we are helping communities to develop high-value crops that can be exported in order to boost the rural export market. The project is also planting tree species that can protect the coastline from tornados and cyclones. The project is working with communities to identify where improved infrastructure is needed (such as weather-resistant roads and waterfronts), and get them directly involved in investing in and supervising construction and maintenance.

After 40 years of working with poor rural people around the world, IFAD has learned that no one can hope to face these challenges alone. In a rapidly changing world we need to work together to channel support where it is most needed. Rural transformation can increase production and incomes, reduce hunger, and at the same time protect natural resources. With the right support, vulnerable coastal communities can play a part in securing a sustainable future.

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Excerpt:

Nigel Brett is Director of the Asia and Pacific Division at the International Fund for Agricultural Development

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Bangladesh starts its journey towards climate resiliencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/bangladesh-starts-journey-towards-climate-resilience/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bangladesh-starts-journey-towards-climate-resilience http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/bangladesh-starts-journey-towards-climate-resilience/#respond Wed, 16 Jan 2019 11:37:07 +0000 Saleemul Huq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159681 At the beginning of January 2019 Bangladesh started to take the required steps to become a climate resilient country by 2030 by achieving transformational adaptation to climate change impacts. While there are many strands to fulfil this important strategy, one of the first is to generate, disseminate and use good quality scientific knowledge so that […]

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By Saleemul Huq
Jan 16 2019 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

At the beginning of January 2019 Bangladesh started to take the required steps to become a climate resilient country by 2030 by achieving transformational adaptation to climate change impacts.

While there are many strands to fulfil this important strategy, one of the first is to generate, disseminate and use good quality scientific knowledge so that the process is a rigorous learning-by-doing one.

Thus the recently completed fifth annual Gobeshona Conference at the Independent University, Bangladesh, with several hundred researchers and scientists from over fifty universities and research institutes, participating over three days with nearly a hundred scientific papers presented in over twenty different thematic sessions, has got us off to a good start.

The fourth and final day consisted of a science-policy-dialogue with senior policymakers with whom the scientists shared some of the latest research findings and also received advice on what kinds of research would help the decision-makers in future. The annual Gobeshona Conference has thus become a major means of assessing the state of our scientific knowledge as well as setting future research agendas.

The first major cross-cutting issue was to emphasise the need to invest in our youth in order to make them not just ready for employment but to turn them into problem solvers. We had a group of university students selected from universities in Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan participating in the conference who then stayed an extra day to develop their own workplan going forward. This workplan goes well beyond simply raising awareness about the climate change problems and focuses on how to solve some aspect of the problem by each of the youth in their own respective settings. This network of university students will be both Bangladesh-wide as well as students in universities which are part of the Least Developed Countries Universities Consortium on Climate Change (LUCCC).

It is important to note that transformation will take place over the next decade and today’s youth will be the leaders of tomorrow. Another important point to note is that coming up with solutions for tackling climate change in Bangladesh will also be applicable in other countries which means we can export our knowledge in future.

The second major cross-cutting theme was on gender, but going well beyond simply focusing on the vulnerability of women and girls to the adverse impacts of climate change. Here the emphasis will be on empowerment of women to become agents of change in tackling and solving climate change impacts in different settings. This also related to the first point of empowerment of youth but with an emphasis on girls over boys.

The current generation of women in Bangladesh have already demonstrated their ability to contribute to the economy of the country, such as in the garment industries. The next generation will have to move from employment as labour to using their minds to become problem solvers and not just employees.

The third major cross-cutting issue that came up time and again in different thematic sessions, including urban, coastal and migration sessions, was the need to anticipate and ensure that future migration due to climate change is done in a planned and enabled manner and not under distressed conditions. The challenge here is to make the current problem of environmental migration due to distress conditions into a possible adaptation to future climate change by investing in education and empowering the youth, primarily girls, in the low-lying coastal parts of the country and at the same time investing in setting up climate resilient migrant friendly cities and towns around the country so that the future climate migrants don’t all end up in Dhaka.

The fourth and final point to make is that the three cross-cutting issues described above are not separate but intertwined together and while funding will be a key requirement, an even more important requirement and investment will be in knowledge and education of the right kind. It is only by enabling the country to institute effective means of learning from practice that we can continuously improve our actions in order to achieve transformational adaptation outcomes.

In this context the Annual Gobeshona Conference will continue to play a key role in taking stock of our progress each January and building on what is successful and dropping what is not. Also from January 2020 onwards the event will become a truly global event where we will invite the rest of the world to come and learn from Bangladesh how to go about achieving transformational adaptation at national scale.

Saleemul Huq is Director, International Centre for Climate Change and Development, Independent University, Bangladesh. Email: Saleem.icccad@iub.edu.bd

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Honduran Crisis Produces New Caravanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/honduran-crisis-produces-new-caravan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=honduran-crisis-produces-new-caravan http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/honduran-crisis-produces-new-caravan/#respond Wed, 16 Jan 2019 10:34:52 +0000 Jan Egeland http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159650 Jan Egeland, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), visited Honduras in December 2018.

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The first caravan of Central American migrants reached the town of Matías Romero in Oaxaca state on November 1, 2018. The Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs estimates that 4,000 people spent the night there. Credit: IOM / Rafael Rodríguez

By Jan Egeland
OSLO, Norway, Jan 16 2019 (IPS)

A new caravan heading towards Mexico and the United States was reportedly set to leave San Pedro Sula in Honduras on 15 January. The large number of people expected to leave Central America is a true testimony to the desperate situation for children, women and men in this poor and violence affected region.

Instead of talking about a crisis at the US-Mexican border, North Americans must wake up and address the real humanitarian crisis in Central America. The long walk north will be extremely dangerous and exhausting for the thousands of families from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala that will join the caravans planned in 2019.

Obstacles on the way are likely to increase, as there is fatigue and frustration from communities who supported migrants during last year’s exodus. There is rising xenophobia in both the United States (US) and Mexico and increasingly tough border regulations in every country on the way.

Border controls, guards or walls will never stop people who are hunted by gang violence and flee for fear for their lives. Youth who have lost all hope for a better future in Central America will try repeatedly to reach a better life in the US, Canada or Mexico.

To tackle the current crisis, the more affluent American nations need to understand their own neighborhood and invest much more in bringing hope, security and good governance for people who currently see no other option than to flee.

Having spoken to many desperate Honduran families who have been or will be on the caravans, I am convinced that the current policies from the US through Mexico and Central America will only deepen the crisis, the desperation and the exodus. Investment in education, livelihoods and violence prevention are better alternatives to detention and deportation back to places where there is only misery and violence.

Hondurans who have managed to reach Mexico during previous journeys have told NRC staff that they were held in shelters, forced to sign deportation papers and deported without a fair hearing of their asylum claims. In spite of the hardships and the dangers many are still planning on leaving again even though they know of the slim chances of reaching the US.

“Dying here or dying there, it doesn’t make much difference. At least there I have a small chance to see that my life improves,” said one person who is planning to leave again for the north with the caravan.

If a gang is extorting you, if you are a witness to a crime or if your neighborhood is taken over by organized crime you may have no other option than to flee. People will only stay if they are protected from violence, lawlessness and crime and provided with education and livelihood opportunities.

Thousands of people remain stranded and blocked on the border between Mexico and the US where processing is extremely slow. The US and Mexico recently signed the agreement ‘Remain in Mexico’ in which the US will be able to send people back to Mexico while they go through the refugee status determination process.

This process can take years due to a backlog in the system. The agreement comes on top of President Trump’s attempts to build a wall, migrant children dying in US custody and last summer’s family separations crisis. 75,279 people were deported from Mexico and the US in 2018, according to a Honduran centre for migration: Observatorio Consular y Migratorio de Honduras (CONMIGHO).

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Excerpt:

Jan Egeland, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), visited Honduras in December 2018.

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Bridging the Infrastructure Financing Gap in the Asia Pacific Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/bridging-infrastructure-financing-gap-asia-pacific-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bridging-infrastructure-financing-gap-asia-pacific-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/bridging-infrastructure-financing-gap-asia-pacific-region/#respond Tue, 15 Jan 2019 15:33:03 +0000 Tientip Subhanij and Daniel W. Lin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159647 Tientip Subhanij is Chief, Financing for Development, Macroeconomic Policy and Financing for Development Division, ESCAP & Daniel W. Lin is Consultant, Macroeconomic Policy and Financing for Development Division, ESCAP

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Credit: Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

By Tientip Subhanij and Daniel W. Lin
BANGKOK, Thailand, Jan 15 2019 (IPS)

Infrastructure development is undoubtedly critical for a country’s long-term economic growth and competitiveness as it impacts economic activities by increasing productivity, facilitating trade, and promoting innovation.

Across the Asia Pacific region, however, economic growth as well as broader development goals are hindered by a shortage of roads, mass rapid transit systems, telecommunications, power plants, water and sanitation and other basic infrastructure.

The Asian Development Bank estimates that the average infrastructure requirement for a representative group of 24 developing countries in the region for 2016 to 2020 is 8.2 per cent of the GDP when China is excluded.

However, their current investments average only 3.2 per cent of GDP, leaving the financing gap as large as 5 per cent of GDP. Notably, of the 3.2 per cent of GDP currently invested in infrastructure on average, only 1 per cent of GDP comes from the private sector.

Adding to this challenge, private sector participation in infrastructure investment in emerging markets dropped by 37 percent between 2015 and 2016 globally, reaching the lowest level in 10 years.

Understanding the decline in private investment and how countries can encourage more private sector participation will, therefore, be important in achieving sustainable infrastructure development in the region.

The most recent successful example of engaging private sector financing is from Thailand, where the government has launched a new way to raise private capital through Thailand Future Fund (TFF). Traded on the Stock Exchange of Thailand, the TFF is a 44.7 billion Baht infrastructure mutual fund that aims at raising capital from institutional and private retail investors for the country’s infrastructure development.

The fund invests in value-enhancing state agencies’ infrastructure assets and projects to create long-term distribution growth potential, including expressways, railways, electricity generation and distribution, airports, and deep seaports.

An IPO was made from October 12 to 19 with prices set at 10 Baht each. Since then, major local institutional investors have shown great interest in TFF.

The TTF has the advantage of reducing the government’s burden on public finance by providing fund raising alternative. This is expected to accelerate the Thai government investment in infrastructure projects, which can be injected into TFF in the future, thus, providing institutional and retail investors the opportunity to invest in high performing and stable income infrastructure projects.

The Fund also promotes the development of Thailand’s capital markets by facilitating private sector investment in infrastructure development, which is considered a low risk long-term investment, allowing greater diversification for private investors.

The mobilization of private resources, including through public-private partnerships (PPP) has indeed been attracting strong interest from governments in Asia and the Pacific.

Recognizing this potential, the Regional Road Map for Implementing the 2030 Agenda, endorsed by ESCAP member States in May 2017, highlights the need to undertake research, analysis and consensus-building initiatives to enhance regional knowledge of infrastructure financing, including PPP.

Subsequently, in December 2017 the Committee on Macroeconomic Policy, Poverty Reduction and Financing for Development, requested the ESCAP secretariat to consider developing a network on PPP and infrastructure financing to provide a regular platform where member States can exchange their experiences, disseminate knowledge, engage private sector and build consensus regarding good practices on infrastructure financing.

To this end, ESCAP took the initiative to serve member States’ needs and successfully organized the first meeting of PPP and infrastructure financing network with support from the China Public Private Partnerships Center at the City of Guiyang, Guizhou Province, China on 12 and 13 September 2018.

This was the first regional event, among many more to come, that leverages on the fact that countries in the region are increasingly accumulating experience in engaging private sector for their infrastructure investment.

It gathered the heads of PPP units, infrastructure specialists and capital market experts from 22 countries in the region to enhance knowledge and capacity of PPP units on the effective use of PPP mechanisms as well as other infrastructure financing strategies to support the pursuit of sustainable infrastructure development.

Given that the Asia-Pacific region’s infrastructure investment requirement is immense and public resources are limited, it is important to carefully design financing strategies to fill the existing gaps and meet future infrastructure demand.

As highlighted by the recent Thai example, this can be supported by mobilizing more resources from institutional investors by further deepening capital markets in the regions as well as increasing the availability of investable assets.

Moving forward, member States in Asia and the Pacific would greatly benefit from sharing established good practices with other countries and engaging the private sector in addressing their infrastructure financing challenges, with ESCAP playing an enabling role in such endeavours.

The post Bridging the Infrastructure Financing Gap in the Asia Pacific Region appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Tientip Subhanij is Chief, Financing for Development, Macroeconomic Policy and Financing for Development Division, ESCAP & Daniel W. Lin is Consultant, Macroeconomic Policy and Financing for Development Division, ESCAP

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Climate Change-Induced Salinity Affecting Soil Across Coastal Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/climate-change-induced-salinity-affecting-soil-across-coastal-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-induced-salinity-affecting-soil-across-coastal-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/climate-change-induced-salinity-affecting-soil-across-coastal-bangladesh/#respond Tue, 15 Jan 2019 10:43:27 +0000 Reaz Haider http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159637 This report is produced by UNB United News of Bangladesh and IPS Inter Press Service.

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In Satkhira, Bangladesh as salinity has spread to freshwater sources, a private water seller fills his 20-litre cans with public water supply to sell in islands. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Reaz Haider
DHAKA, Bangladesh, Jan 15 2019 (UNB and IPS)

As a country with a large coastline, the adverse impacts of saltwater intrusion are significant in Bangladesh. Salinity mainly affects land and water in the coastal areas.

With the consequence of climate change, it gradually extends towards inland water and soil. This scenario of gradual salinity intrusion into the coastal areas of Bangladesh is very threatening to the primary production system, coastal biodiversity and human health, said researchers in Bangladesh.

The total amount of salinity affected land in Bangladesh was 83.3 million hectares in 1973, which had been increased up to 102 million hectares in 2000 and the amount has risen to 105.6 million hectares in 2009 and continuing to increase, according to the country’s Soil Resources Development Institute (SRDI).

In the last 35 years, salinity increased around 26 percent in the country, spreading into non-coastal areas as well.

“Salinity which is rising in the coastal areas of Bagerhat, a southwestern district, is casting a huge impact on the environment. Production of various crops has declined due to excessive salinity in soil,” Advocate Mohiuddin Sheikh, president of Rampal-Mongla Embankment Implementation Committee, told UNB.

Once huge coconut and betel trees were there in the area, but has decreased dramatically, he said adding, “The production of sessional vegetables has also declined. Since the late 80s, the effects of salinity in Rampal and Mongla areas have been hampering the local ecology.”

The locals, however, blame unplanned shrimp cultivation as the main cause of salinity, said the Mohiuddin adding, “Due to decrease in sweet water and fall in saline water flow from the ocean, the salinity has increased in the region.”

Studies conducted by the World Bank, Institute of Water Modelling and World Fish, Bangladesh between 2012 and 2016 have quantified the effects of increasing salinity in river waters in coastal Bangladesh, including the areas in and around the Sundarbans – the world’s largest mangrove forest that straddles the coast of Bangladesh and India.

The broad categories of climate change effects that hit the coastal areas of Bangladesh are changes in temperature and rainfall pattern, sea-level rise, change in frequency and intensity of cyclones, storm surge, changes in river and soil salinity.

More alarmingly, researchers from the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research Bangladesh (icddr,b) have noticed an unexpectedly high rate of miscarriage in a small village of Chakaria, near Cox’s Bazaar, on the east coast of Bangladesh.

As they investigated further, scientists reached the conclusion that climate change might to be blamed.

Khulna region member of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) MA Savur Rana, a resident of Singarbunia village in Rampal upazila, said, “Once farmers used to harvest Aman (a paddy season) paddy in vast croplands of their areas. But, due to excess salinity, Aman paddy has become extinct.”

This has caused a huge impact on the lifestyle of the local people, he mentioned.

Between 2012 and 2017, the icddr,b scientists registered 12,867 pregnancies in the area they have been monitoring for last 30 years. They followed the pregnant women through until the end of the pregnancy and found that women in the coastal plains, living within 20km of the coastline and 7m above sea level were 1.3 times more likely to miscarry than women who live inland.

This difference, the scientists believe, is to do with the amount of salt in the water the women drink — the increase of which is caused by climate change.

Another recent study conducted by the World Bank indicates that climate change will cause significant changes in river salinity in the southwest coastal region during the dry season (October to May) by 2050, will likely lead to shortages of drinking and irrigation water and cause changes in aquatic ecosystems.

Changes in river salinity and the availability of freshwater will affect the productivity of fisheries. It will adversely affect the wild habitats of freshwater fish and giant prawn. In addition, the salinity increase may induce a shift in the Sundarbans mangrove forest from Sundari (the single most dominant and important species, with the highest market value) to Gewa and Guran.

Estimates from the research indicate that Bagerhat, Barguna, Barisal, Bhola, Khulna, Jhalakati, Pirojpur, and Satkhira districts will be affected most adversely.

This study also identifies soil salinisation in coastal Bangladesh as a major risk from climate change. In the coming decades, soil salinity will significantly increase in many areas of Barisal, Chittogram and Khulna districts. It projects a median increase of 26 percent in salinity by 2050, with increases over 55 percent in the most affected areas.

Due to the rise in soil salinity, Chittagong and Khulna districts are likely to witness the highest within-district additional migration, estimated between 15,000 and 30,000 migrants per year, said another study titled “Coastal Climate Change, Soil Salinity, and Human Migration in Bangladesh”, jointly conducted in 2018 by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Ohio State University.

“These two districts also contain the second and third largest cities in the country. Districts without large cities like Bagerhat, Bhola and Feni will generally expect smaller within-district flows, between 5,000 and 15,000, but larger out-of-district flows, particularly to districts with large cities,” said Ohio State University’s Joyce Chen, the co-authored of the study.

Meanwhile, after two weeks of bruising negotiations, officials from almost 200 countries on December 15 agreed on universal, transparent rules that will govern efforts to cut emissions and curb global warming.

The deal agreed upon at UN climate talks in Poland enables countries to put into action the principles in the 2015 Paris climate accord.

But to the frustration of environmental activists and some countries who were urging more ambitious climate goals, negotiators delayed decisions on two key issues until next year in an effort to get a deal on them.

The talks in Poland took place against a backdrop of growing concern among scientists that global warming on Earth is proceeding faster than governments are responding to it.

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Excerpt:

This report is produced by UNB United News of Bangladesh and IPS Inter Press Service.

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Building Mongolia’s Green Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/building-mongolias-green-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-mongolias-green-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/building-mongolias-green-future/#respond Tue, 15 Jan 2019 08:59:05 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage and IPS Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159633 A country that has contributed least to global climate change now has to cope with and adapt to the very real effects they are faced with.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the Paris Agreement should be the light forward.

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

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

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

The post Building Mongolia’s Green Future appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

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

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Journalism in Nicaragua Under Siegehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/159604/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=159604 http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/159604/#respond Tue, 15 Jan 2019 08:31:06 +0000 Jose Adan Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159604 Eight months of social and political crisis in Nicaragua have hit the exercise of independent journalism in the country, with 712 cases of violations of the free exercise of journalism, one murdered reporter, two in prison and dozens fleeing into exile, in addition to several media outlets assaulted by the security forces. A report by […]

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Presentation of the Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Prize for Excellence in Journalism by the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation on Jan. 9 in Managua, where a report was also launched on the harsh repression of journalism in 2018. Pedro Joaquín Chamorro (1924-1978) gave birth to a journalistic dynasty in Nicaragua. Credit: José Adán Silva/IPS

Presentation of the Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Prize for Excellence in Journalism by the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation on Jan. 9 in Managua, where a report was also launched on the harsh repression of journalism in 2018. Pedro Joaquín Chamorro (1924-1978) gave birth to a journalistic dynasty in Nicaragua. Credit: José Adán Silva/IPS

By José Adán Silva
MANAGUA, Jan 15 2019 (IPS)

Eight months of social and political crisis in Nicaragua have hit the exercise of independent journalism in the country, with 712 cases of violations of the free exercise of journalism, one murdered reporter, two in prison and dozens fleeing into exile, in addition to several media outlets assaulted by the security forces.

A report by the non-governmental Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, called “2018 Year of Repression against Press Freedom in Nicaragua”, published on Jan. 9, states that between April and December there were 712 violations of press freedom and the exercise of journalism.

Guillermo Medrano, author of the report, told IPS that the study reflects that journalism has become a high-risk profession in Nicaragua, “to the extent that journalism has been officially criminalised by charging two journalists who criticised the government with terrorism.”

Medrano refers to journalists Lucía Pineda and Miguel Mora, press director and owner of the television news channel 100% News, respectively.

They were arrested on Dec. 21 at the station’s headquarters and later charged with “provocation” and “conspiracy to commit terrorist acts”.

Before they were arrested and were incomunicados for several days, sympathisers of Daniel Ortega’s government filed a report against Pineda, Mora and other journalists from the channel at the Public Prosecutor’s Office, accusing them of “promoting hatred” because of their critical editorial line.

Their families and lawyers have not been able to see the journalists, who are to be tried later this month. The TV station was shut down, its signal taken off the air and its accounts and assets seized by the authorities.

The arrests of the two journalists triggered protests by international human rights and press freedom groups.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a statement backed by 300 leading journalists from around the world condemning the arrests and demanding their prompt release.

The document also includes a strong condemnation of the Nicaraguan government for the assault and seizure of the newsrooms of the Confidencial magazine, the Niú website and the television programmes Esta Semana and Esta Noche.

The magazine and TV programmes belong to journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro and the Dec. 14 seizure marked the beginning of Ortega’s last, radical offensive against independent journalism.

Apart from the criminalisation of the two journalists, the report details that a reporter was killed in April, at least 54 have been exiled because of threats and political persecution, and 93 were beaten and injured.

In addition, 102 media outlets and journalists were censored, 21 suffered judicial harassment or investigative processes and 171 have faced different forms of intimidation.

A policeman guards the closed building of the Confidencial magazine and other digital and television media owned by Carlos Fernando Chamorro, which was seized by the Nicaraguan police on Dec. 14. Credit: Jader Flores/IPS

A policeman guards the closed building of the Confidencial magazine and other digital and television media owned by Carlos Fernando Chamorro, which was seized by the Nicaraguan police on Dec. 14. Credit: Jader Flores/IPS

“It’s a situation we haven’t seen since the years of the Somoza (dictatorship), not even during the contra war against the United States. It’s terrifying,” writer Gioconda Belli, president of the Nicaraguan chapter of PEN-International, told IPS.

According to the writer, the regime of Ortega, a former Sandinistaguerrilla, “has surpassed the horrors of the dictatorships of the past that Latin America remembers” by targeting peasant farmers, students, feminists, religious sectors and, finally, journalists and the media.

“He has committed the atrocity of accusing journalism of terrorism; he has kidnapped and prosecuted two journalists, Miguel Mora and Lucía Pineda, as criminals; he has assaulted newsrooms and confiscated private media outlets, such as the Confidential,” she denounced.

In addition, “now he wants to strangle La Prensa by denying it paper,” Belli warned.

The newspapers with the largest circulation in Nicaragua, La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario, both opposition papers, have reported that their paper reserves will be exhausted in a few months and that the customs authorities are blocking imports of raw material.

A small newspaper, Q´hubo, published by ND Medios, closed down in December due to a lack of paper.

The building where the Confidencial magazine operated was taken over by the National Police, after the legislature eliminated the legal status of several non-governmental organisations.

The government links the media to the Centro de Investigaciones de la Comunicación, one of the nongovernmental organisations whose legal status was repealed along with eight others on charges of “fomenting terrorism.”

However, Chamorro stated that both the office building and the censored media outlets belong to the company Invermedia and Promedia and have no relation whatsoever with the NGO that was shut down.

Carlos Fernando Chamorro (C), among a group of fellow journalists, filed a complaint with the Attorney General's Office of the Republic of Nicaragua on Dec. 19 regarding the seizure of Confidencial and other media facilities and equipment by police officers five days earlier. Credit: Jader Flores/IPS

Carlos Fernando Chamorro (C), in the middle of a group of fellow journalists, filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic of Nicaragua on Dec. 19 regarding the seizure of Confidencial and other media facilities and equipment by the police five days earlier. Credit: Jader Flores/IPS

The raid and the confiscation of their equipment and facilities were, he denounced, “a direct attack against journalism and private enterprise.”

Arlen Cerda, editor-in-chief of Confidencial, who was granted precautionary protection measures by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), said the publication is the victim of an “unprecedented” escalation of repression against modern-day Nicaraguan journalism, while he said its journalists planned to continue reporting, “even with their fingernails.”

“In the raid, the equipment, files and databases were taken away, we didn’t have a roof over our heads in order to work,” he said. “But also from the beginning we have maintained the firm conviction that we will not be silenced, and that we will do everything possible to continue to provide quality material to our public.”

In crisis since April

Ortega, 74, ruled the country between 1985 and 1990 as leader of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), which defeated dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979. After the triumph of the Sandinista revolution, he was also a member of the government junta.

The current crisis in this Central American country of 6.4 million people began in April 2018, triggered by a controversial social security reform that was later withdrawn, revealing broad discontent with the government.

The protests, led by university students, lasted until July, and according to the IACHR, 325 people were killed during the unrest, mainly at the hands of police and irregular forces organised by the government.

The government puts the number of casualties at 199, and blames “terrorist groups attempting to mount a coup d’état.”

Voices in exile

Luis Galeano, director of the program Café con Voz, which was broadcast on the 100% Noticias channel, left the country in December after the government issued an arrest warrant against him for “fomenting terrorism.”

“The accusations are absurd, they seek to silence critical voices, but they won’t succeed, because we as journalists are going to continue reporting from anywhere, from exile, from prison, from social networks, from clandestinity, from everywhere,” he told IPS from Miami.

Journalist Jeniffer Ortiz, director of the digital platform Nicaragua Investiga, told IPS that she left the country because of direct threats against her for her journalistic work.

“I have been away from Nicaragua for a couple of months. I left because of the constant threats and sieges of our house. They were also sending us messages through the social networks,” she said from San José, Costa Rica.

She said that due to the increasing repression, many of her sources stopped talking to her media outlet which, added to the economic crisis and threats, forced her to continue her work from outside Nicaragua.

“We are now in exile aware that our colleagues there are finding it increasingly difficult to do their work because of threats. The sources are afraid, and from here we can continue our work and contribute to the daily flow of information that people are asking for,” she told IPS.

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Gloom Ahead of World Economic Stormhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/gloom-ahead-world-economic-storm/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gloom-ahead-world-economic-storm http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/gloom-ahead-world-economic-storm/#respond Tue, 15 Jan 2019 07:50:43 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159629 In light of the uncertainty caused by the US-China trade war, the IMF expects the US economic growth to slow from a three-year high of 2.9 per cent in 2018 to 2.5 per cent in 2019, while China’s expansion has already slowed in recent years, albeit from much higher levels. Trump stimulus dissipates US President […]

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By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY & KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 15 2019 (IPS)

In light of the uncertainty caused by the US-China trade war, the IMF expects the US economic growth to slow from a three-year high of 2.9 per cent in 2018 to 2.5 per cent in 2019, while China’s expansion has already slowed in recent years, albeit from much higher levels.

Trump stimulus dissipates
US President Trump and the previous GOP-controlled US Congress claimed to be breathing new life into the US economy with generous tax cuts. The US economy is now overheating, with inflation rising above target, causing the Federal Reserve to continue raising the federal funds rate to dampen demand.

Anis Chowdhury

As most families hardly gained from the tax changes, US purchases of houses and consumer durables continued to decline through 2018. Instead of investing in expanding productive capacity, US companies spent much of their tax savings on a $1.1 trillion stock buy-back spree in 2018.

Hence, the positive impacts of tax cuts were not only modest, but are also diminishing. Nearly half of 226 US chief financial officers recently surveyed believe that the US will go into recession by the end of 2019, with 82 per cent believing that it will have begun by the end of 2020. Wall Street’s biggest banks, JP Morgan and Bank of America, are also preparing for a slowdown in 2019.

As if to confirm their concerns, both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 had their worst ever December performance since 1931, when stocks were battered after the Great Crash.

European recession
Meanwhile, the European Central Bank is expecting sluggish 1.7 per cent regional growth in 2019. Europe is close to recession with the collapse of industrial output in Germany, France, UK and Italy.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Germany’s industrial output fell by 1.9 per cent month-on-month in November 2018, and was in negative territory in 5 of the 6 months before December. Its GDP fell by 0.2 per cent in the 3rd quarter of 2018. France’s industrial production fell 1.3 per cent in November 2018, reversing a 1.3 per cent growth recovery in October from a 1.7 per cent decline in September. Italy, Europe’s third largest economy, recorded negative growth in the 3rd quarter of 2018 as GDP fell by 0.1 per cent in July-September 2018 with weaker domestic demand.

As the UK remains mired in its Brexit mess, GDP growth was dragged down to 0.3 per cent in the three months to November with the biggest industrial output contraction since 2012. 2018 final quarter growth is expected to be 0.1 per cent, i.e., negligible.

Not preparing for the inevitable?
David Lipton, the first deputy managing director of the IMF, warned in early January 2019, “The next recession is somewhere over the horizon, and we are less prepared to deal with that than we should be . . . [and] less prepared than in the last [crisis in 2008].”

Although the IMF had projected 3.7 per cent global economic growth for 2019 in October 2018, Lipton’s statement suggests that the IMF is likely to revise its 2019 growth forecast downward.

There have also been growing concerns over the continued efficacy of unconventional monetary policy since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis (GFC). Undoubtedly, countries now have less fiscal space than in 2009, and overall borrowing, including public debt has risen since.

Reaping what you sow
The policy blunders since the GFC have only made things much worse. The ideologically driven case for fiscal consolidation did not boost investor confidence for a robust recovery, as promised.

Despite acknowledging false claims cited to justify fiscal consolidation, including the IMF’s admission that its early advice was based on faulty calculations, there was no recommended change in policy course.

Instead, all responsibility for recovery was put on the monetary authorities who resorted to unconventional policies, especially ‘quantitative easing’ (QE). However, the global economic recovery since then has remained tepid and easily reversible.

Additional liquidity, made available by QE, has largely been used to buy financial assets and for speculation, amplifying the financial vulnerability of emerging market economies, which have experienced increased volatility.

Governments also failed to take advantage of historically low, even negative real interest rates to borrow and invest to boost productive capacity in the longer term.

By mainly benefiting financial asset holders, QE has exacerbated wealth concentration. Meanwhile, cuts in public services and social spending have worsened social polarization, as tax cuts for the rich have failed to generate promised additional investments and jobs growth.

The failure to achieve a robust recovery has not only worsened the debt situation, but also made lives harder for ordinary people. Growing polarization has also worsened resentments, eroding trust, undermining solidarity and progressive alternatives.

Ethno-populist jingoism undermines cooperation
But lack of preparedness can hardly be due to ignorance as there have been many such predictions recently, certainly more than in 2007-2008, before the GFC.

The cooperation that enabled co-ordinated actions to prevent the Great Recession from becoming a depression has not only waned, but major countries are now at loggerheads, preventing collective action.

National political environments are also more hostile. In Europe, the rise of ethno-populist nationalism is making it harder to pursue EU-level policies and to act together to prevent and mitigate the next financial crisis and downturn.

The “new sovereigntists” and false prophets of American exceptionalism are undermining multilateral cooperation when needed most. Thus, a recession in 2019 may well elevate geo-political tensions, exacerbating the negative feedback loop for a ‘perfect storm’.

Anis Chowdhury, Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University and the University of New South Wales (Australia), held senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok.
Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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