Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 26 Jul 2016 21:44:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Climate Migrants Lead Mass Migration to India’s Citieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/climate-migrants-lead-mass-migration-to-indias-cities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-migrants-lead-mass-migration-to-indias-cities http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/climate-migrants-lead-mass-migration-to-indias-cities/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 21:20:44 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146243 Migrants arrive daily at New Delhi railway stations from across India fleeing floods and a debilitating drought. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Migrants arrive daily at New Delhi railway stations from across India fleeing floods and a debilitating drought. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Jul 26 2016 (IPS)

Deepa Kumari, a 36-year-old farmer from Pithoragarh district in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, lives in a one-room tenement in south Delhi’s Mongolpuri slum with her three children. Fleeing devastating floods which killed her husband last year, the widow landed up in the national capital city last week after selling off her farm and two cows at cut-rate prices.

“I was tired of putting back life’s pieces again and again after massive floods in the region each year,” a disenchanted Kumari told IPS. “Many of my relatives have shifted to Delhi and are now living and working here. Reorganising life won’t be easy with three young kids and no husband to support me, but I’m determined not to go back.”Of Uttarakhand's 16,793 villages, 1,053 have no inhabitants and another 405 have less than 10 residents.

As flash floods and incessant rain engulf Uttarakhand year after year, with casualties running into thousands this year, burying hundreds under the debris of collapsing houses and wrecking property worth millions, many people like Kumari are abandoning their hilly homes to seek succour in the plains.

The problem, as acknowledged by Uttaranchal Chief Minister Harish Rawat recently, is acute. “Instances of landslips caused by heavy rains are increasing day by day. It is an issue that is of great concern,” he said.

Displacement for populations due to erratic and extreme weather, a fallout of climate change, has become a scary reality for millions of people across swathes of India. Flooding in Jammu and Kashmir last year, in Uttarakhand in 2013 and in Assam in 2012 displaced 1.5 million people.

Cyclone Phailin, which swamped the coastal Indian state of Orissa in October 2013, triggered large-scale migration of fishing communities. Researchers in the eastern Indian state of Assam and in Bangladesh have estimated that around a million people have been rendered homeless due to erosion in the Brahmaputra river basin over the last three decades.

With no homes to call their own, migrants displaced by flooding and drought live in unhygienic shanties upon arriving in Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

With no homes to call their own, migrants displaced by flooding and drought live in unhygienic shanties upon arriving in Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Daunting challenges

Research done by Michael Werz at the Center for American Progress forecasts that South Asia will continue to be hard hit by climate change, leading to significant migration away from drought-impacted regions and disruptions caused by severe weather. Higher temperatures, rising sea levels, more intense and frequent cyclonic activity in the Bay of Bengal, coupled with high population density levels will also create challenges for governments.

Experts say challenges for India will be particularly daunting as it is the seventh largest country in the world with a diversity of landscapes and regions, each with its own needs to adapt to and tackle the impacts of climate change.

Several regions across India are already witnessing large-scale migration to cities. Drought-impacted Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh are seeing a wave of migration as crops fail. Many people have been forced to leave their parched fields for India’s cities in search of work. Drought has affected about a quarter of India’s 1.3 billion people, according to a submission to the Supreme Court by the central government in April.

Rural people have especially been forced to “migrate en masse”, according to a recent paper published by a group of NGOs. Evidence of mass migration is obvious in villages that are emptying out. In Uttaranchal, nine per cent of its villages are virtually uninhabited. As per Census 2011, of Uttarakhand’s 16,793 villages, 1,053 have no inhabitants and another 405 have less than 10 residents. The number of such phantom villages has surged particularly after the earthquake and flash floods of 2013.

The intersection of climate change, migration and governance will present new challenges for India, says Dr. Ranjana Kumari, director of the Center for Policy Research, a New Delhi-based think tank which does rehabilitation work in many flood- and drought-affected Indian states. “Both rural and urban areas need help dealing with climate change. Emerging urban areas which are witnessing inward migration, and where most of the urban population growth is taking place, are coming under severe strain.”

Tardy rescue and rehabilitation

Apparently, the Indian government is still struggling to come to terms with climate change-induced calamities. Rescue and rehabilitation has been tardy in Uttaranchal this year too with no long-term measures in place to minimise damage to life and property. In April, a group of more than 150 leading economists, activists, and academics wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling the government’s response “listless, lacking in both urgency and compassion”.

The government has also come under fire for allocating a meagre 52.8 million dollars for climate change adaptation over the next two financial years, a sum which environmental experts say is woefully inadequate given the size of the country and the challenges it faces.

Experts say climate migration hasn’t been high on India’s policy agenda due to more pressing challenges like poverty alleviation, population growth, and urbanisation. However, Shashank Shekhar, an assistant professor from the Department of Geology at the University of Delhi, asserts that given the current protracted agrarian and weather-related crises across the country, a cohesive reconstruction and rehabilitation policy for migrants becomes imperative. “Without it, we’re staring at a large-scale humanitarian crisis,” predicts the academician.

According to Kumari, climate change-related migration is not only disorienting entire families but also altering social dynamics. “Our studies indicate that it’s mostly men who migrate from the villages to towns or cities for livelihoods, leaving women behind to grapple with not only households, but also kids, the elderly, farms and the cattle. This brings in not only livelihood challenges but also socio-cultural ones.”

Geetika Singh of the Centre for Science and Environment, who has travelled extensively in the drought-stricken southern states of Maharashtra as well as Bundelhkand district in northern Uttar Pradesh, says the situation is dire.

“We’ve seen tiny packets of water in polythene bags being sold for Rs 10 across Bundelkhand,” Singh said. “People are deserting their homes, livestock and fields and fleeing towards towns and cities. This migration is also putting a severe strain on the urban population intensifying the crunch for precious resources like water and land.”

A study titled “Drinking Water Salinity and Maternal Health in Coastal Bangladesh: Implications of Climate Change” 2011 has highlighted the perils of drinking water from natural sources in coastal Bangladesh. The water, which has been contaminated by saltwater intrusion from rising sea levels, cyclone and storm surges, is creating hypertension, maternal health and pregnancy issues among the populace.

Singh, who travelled extensively in Bangladesh’s Sunderbans region says health issues like urinary infections among women due to lack of sanitation are pretty common. “High salinity of water is also causing conception problems among women,” she says.

Until the problem is addressed on a war footing, factoring in the needs of all stakeholders, hapless people like Deepa will continue to be uprooted from their beloved homes and forced to inhabit alien lands.

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Forests and Crops Make Friendly Neighbors in Costa Ricahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/forests-and-crops-grow-hand-by-hand-in-costa-rica/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=forests-and-crops-grow-hand-by-hand-in-costa-rica http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/forests-and-crops-grow-hand-by-hand-in-costa-rica/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 18:55:58 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146239 Tapantí National Park lies east from the capital San José covering more than 50.000 hectares of forest, which in turn provides valuable watershed protection. Picture: Diego Arguedas Ortiz / IPS

Tapantí National Park lies east from the capital San José covering more than 50.000 hectares of forest, which in turn provides valuable watershed protection. Picture: Diego Arguedas Ortiz / IPS

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSE, Jul 26 2016 (IPS)

While Latin America keeps expanding its agricultural frontier by converting large areas of forest, one country, Costa Rica, has taken a different path and is now a role model for a peaceful coexistence between food production and sustainable forestry.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) flagship publication The State of the World’s Forests revealed that commercial agriculture was responsible for 70 percent of forest conversion in Latin America between 2000 and 2010.

“What FAO mentions about the rest of Latin America, clearing forests for agriculture or livestock, happened in Costa Rica during the 1970s and 1980s,” Jorge Mario Rodríguez, the director of Costa Rica’s National Fund for Forestry Finance (Fonafifo), told IPS.“Agricultural development doesn’t necessarily require the expansion of croplands; rather, it demands the coexistence with the forest and the intensification of production by improving national farmers’ productivity and competitiveness" -- Octavio Ramírez.

At its worst moment, during the 1980s, Costa Rica’s forest cover was limited to 21 to 25 percent of its land area. Now, forests account for 53 percent of the country’s 51,000 square kilometers, with almost five million inhabitants.

The country has managed to hold and even push back the advance of the agricultural frontier while strengthening its food security, according to FAO, which says that Costa Rica’s malnutrition rate is under 5 percent, something the organisation accounts as “zero hunger”.

“Here’s a learned lesson: there’s no need to chop down forests to produce more crops,” FAO Costa Rica director Octavio Ramírez told IPS.

Despite the increase in forest cover, FAO states the average value of food production per person increased by 26 percent in the period 1990–1992 to 2011–2013.

FAO attributes this change “to structural changes in the economy and the priority given to forest conservation and sustainable management” which were seized upon by Costa Rican authorities in a specific context.

“It has to do with the livestock crisis during the 1980s but also the priority given by Costa Rica to forest management,” said Ramírez, born in Nicaragua but Costa Rican by naturalisation.

In The State of the World’s Forests report, launched on July 18, FAO explains that Costa Rican forests were regarded as “land banks” that could be converted as necessary to meet agricultural needs.

“To keep the forest intact was looked upon as a synonym of laziness and unwillingness to work,” Ramírez explained.

But there were two key elements during the 1980s that led to better forest protection, the environmental economist Juan Robalino told IPS.

José Alberto Chacón weeds between bean plants on his small farm in Pacayas, on the slopes of the Irazú volcano, in Costa Rica. The terraces help control water run-off that would otherwise cause soil erosion. Picture: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

José Alberto Chacón weeds between bean plants on his small farm in Pacayas, on the slopes of the Irazú volcano, in Costa Rica. The terraces help control water run-off that would otherwise cause soil erosion. Picture: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

Meat prices plummeted while eco-tourism became a leading economic activity in the country, explained the specialist from Universidad de Costa Rica and the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center.

“This paved the way for very interesting policy-making, like the creation of the Payments for Environmental Services (PES) program,” said Robalino, one of the top experts in Costa Rican forest cover.

FAO states that a big part of Costa Rica’s success comes from PES, a financial incentive that acknowledges those ecosystem services resulting from forest conservation and management, reforestation, natural regeneration and agroforestry systems.

The program, established in 1997 and ran by Fonafifo, has a simple logic at its core: the Costa Rican state pays landowners who protect forest cover as they provide an ecosystem service.

From its launch until 2015, a total of 318 million dollars were invested in forest-related PES projects.  64 percent of the funding came from fossil fuel tax, 22 percent from World Bank credits and the remainder from other sources.

After studying PES impacts for years, Robalino explains the challenge for 2016 is to look for landowners with less incentives to protect their forests and bring them on board with the financial argument.

“The goal is to always look for those who’ll change their behavior because of the program,” Robalino stated.

Because of budget limitations, the program must decide which properties to work with, as applications exceed its capacity fivefold, according to Fonafifo director Rodríguez.

Priorities for PES funding include ecosystem services like watershed protection, carbon capture, scenic beauty and biodiversity conservation.

“Costa Rica learned that forests are worth more for their environmental services than because of their timber,” Rodríguez pointed out.

Fonafifo is now looking for new partnerships with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock to launch a new program focused on small landowners who require more technical support, a road also favoured by FAO.

“Agricultural development doesn’t necessarily require the expansion of croplands; rather, it demands the coexistence with the forest and the intensification of production by improving national farmers’ productivity and competitiveness,” said Ramírez, FAO’s local representative.

Both FAO and local experts interviewed by IPS agreed that PES seized upon a national and international crossroads to launch a program that despite its success, is not the only cause for Costa Rica’s recovery.

“Costa Rica’s success cannot be exclusively attributed to PES since other policies, like the creation of the National Protected Areas System and its education system, also played a major role,” Rodríguez explained.

Beyond this program, the country has a longstanding environmental tradition: close to a quarter of its territory is under some type of protection, the forestry law bans forest conversion, and sports hunting, open-air metallic mining and oil exploitation are all illegal.

The country’s Constitution declares citizens’ right to a healthy environment in its article 50.

“I remember my school teacher telling us students that we had to protect the forest,” Robalino recalled.

However, Costa Rica’s forest recovery didn’t reach all ecosystems in the country and left mangroves behind. Their area has diminished in the past decades.

According to the country’s 2014 report to the Convention on Biological Diversity, mangrove coverage fell from 64.452 hectares in 1979 to 37.420 hectares in 2013, a 42 percent loss.

This ecosystem is particularly vulnerable to large monoculture plantations on the Pacific coast, where the local Environmental Administrative Tribunal denounced the disappearance of 400 hectares between 2010 and 2014, due to human-induced fire, logging and invasion.

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How Did We Arrive at This Chaos?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/how-did-we-arrive-at-this-chaos/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-did-we-arrive-at-this-chaos http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/how-did-we-arrive-at-this-chaos/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 13:28:11 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146233 Roberto Savio is founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News. ]]>

Roberto Savio is founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jul 26 2016 (IPS)

A Chinese curse is “May you live in interesting times”. That meant that too many events would disrupt the essential elements of harmony, on which the Chinese pantheon is based.

We certainly live in very interesting times where every day dramatic events pile on us, from terrorism to coup d’etat, from climate disaster to the decline of institutions and ever increasing social turmoil. It would be important, even if very difficult, to look in a nutshell why we are in this situation now – “lack of harmony” . So here goes a dramatically compressed explanation.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Let us start from a little known fact. After the Second World War, there was a general consensus on the need to avoid the repetition of its horrors. The United Nations served as the meeting place for all countries, and the Cold War created as a reaction, an association of the newly independent countries, the Non Aligned countries, which acted as a buffer between the East and West camps. More, the North South divide become the most important aspect of international relations. So much so that in 1973, the United Nations General Assembly adopted unanimously a resolution on a New International Economic Order (NIEO).The world agreed to establish a plan of action to reduce inequalities, foster global growth and make of cooperation and international law the basis for a world in harmony and peace.

After the adoption of the NIEO, the international community started to work in that direction and after a preparatory meeting in Paris in 1979, a summit of the most important heads of state was convened in Cancun, Mexico in 1981, to adopt a comprehensive plan of action. Among the 22 heads of state, came Ronald Reagan, who was elected a few weeks before, and this is where he found Margaret Thatcher who was elected in 1979. The two proceeded to cancel the NIEO and the idea of international cooperation. Countries would do policy according to their national interests, and did not bow to any abstract principle. The United Nations started its decline as the meeting place on governance.

The place for decisions became the G7, until then a technical body, and other organizations, which would defend the national interests of the powerful countries.

At the same time, three other events did help Reagan and Thatcher to change the direction of history.

One was the creation of the Washington’s consensus, elaborated in 1989 by the American Treasure, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, which imposed as policy that the market was the only real engine of societies. States were an obstacle, and they should shrink as much as possible (Reagan also considered abolishing the Ministry of Education). The impact of the Washington Consensus on the ‘Third World’ was a very painful one. Structural adjustments severely cut the fragile public system.

The second was the fall of the Berlin Wall, also in 1989, which brought an end to ideologies, and obliged adoption of neoliberal globalization, which turned out to be an even more strict ideology. The main points of neo-liberal globalization included: the rule of the market (liberating “free” enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government); cutting public expenditure for social services (and reducing the social safety net); deregulation (reducing government regulation of everything that could diminish profits); privatization (selling state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors); eliminating the concept of “the public good” or “community”and replacing it with “individual responsibility (pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves – then blame them, if they fail, as “lazy”).

The third was the progressive elimination of rules of the financial sector, started by Reagan and completed by Bill Clinton in 1999. Deposit banks were able to use the depositor’s money for speculation. Finance, that was considered to be the lubricant of economy, went on its own way, embarking on very risky operations, not any longer linked to the real economy. Now we have for every dollar of production for goods and services, 40 dollars of financial transactions.

Nobody defends any longer the Washington Consensus, and the neoliberal globalization. It is clear to all that while at macro level, globalization increased trade, finance and global growth, at microeconomic level it has been a disaster. The proponents of neoliberal globalization claimed that the growth would reach everyone in the planet. Instead, growth has been concentrating more and more in fewer and fewer hands. Six years ago, 388 individuals owned the same wealth as that of 3.6 billion people. In 2014, the number of the super wealthy come down to 80 individuals. In 2015, this number came down to 62 individuals. The IMF and the World Bank have been asking to reinforce the state as the indispensible regulator, reversing their policy. But the genie is out of the bottle. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe has lost 18 million of its middle class citizens and the US 24 million. On the other hand, there are now 1,830 billionaires with a net capital of 6.4 trillion dollars. In the UK, the level of inequality in 2025 is expected to be the same at the time of Queen Victoria in 1850 at the time of the birth of capitalism.

The new world created by Reagan is based on greed. Some historians claim that greed and fear are the two main engines of history; and values and priorities change in a society of greed.

Let us come to our days. We have again a new group of three horses of Apocalypse. The damages of the previous 20 years (1981-2001), are compounded by those of the continuing twenty years (2001-2021) and we are not through yet .

The first, was that in 2008 the banking system of the US went berserk for absurd speculations on mortgages. That crisis moved to Europe in 2009, caused by the falling value of the state’s title, like the Greek ones. Let us recall that to save the banking system, countries have spent close to 4 trillion dollars. An enormous amount, if we consider that banks still have toxic titles for 800 billion dollars. Meanwhile the banks have paid 220 billion dollars in fines for illegal activities. No banker has been incriminated. Europe is not yet back to its pre-crisis level of life. Meanwhile, many jobs have disappeared because of delocalization to the cheapest place of production, and jobs with substandard salaries have increased, together with precarious ones.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), today a worker makes in real terms 16% less than before the crisis. This has affected especially young people, with a European average of 10.5% of youth unemployment. Yet, the only stimulus for growth is for the banking system, into which the European Central Bank‚ is injecting 80 billion of dollars per month. This would have solved easily the youth’s unemployment.

Economists speak now of a “New Economy”, where unemployment is structural. From 1950 to 1973, world’s growth was over 5% per year. It came down to about 3% during 1973 and 2007 (OPEP’s blockade of petrol price in 1973 marked the shift.). Since 2007 we are not able to reach 1%. We have to add the growing unemployment that the technological development is causing. Factories need a fraction of the workers they had before. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (robotizing), will bring robot production, now at 12%, to 40% in 2025. Some mainstream economists, like Larry Summers, (the establishment voice) say that we are in a period of stagnation that will last for many years. Fear for the future has become a reality, fueled by terrorism and unemployment, with many dreaming that is possible to go back to the better yesterday. This is what populist leaders, from Donald Trump to Le Pen, are riding. A consequence of the crisis was that in several European countries populist parties, engaged in a nationalist call, riding xenophobia and nationalism have emerged, 47 at the last count. Several of them are already in coalitions that govern, or directly, like in Hungary, Poland, Slovakia. Now watch the next Austrian elections.

The second horse of Apocalypse has been the result of the interventions made in Iraq by US, and then Libya and Syria by Europe (with a particular role by former French president Nicolas Sarkozy).

As a result, in 2012 Europe started to receive massive immigration, for which there was no preparation. Suddenly, people were afraid of the human tide coming, and its impact in workplace, culture, religion, etc. That become a major factor for fear.

And then the third horse was the creation of ISIS in Syria, in 2013, one of the gifts of the invasion in Iraq. Let us not forget the global crisis started in 2008, and since then populism and nationalism were on the rise. But ISIS spectacular media impact and the radicalization of many young Europeans from Arab descent, usually from the margin of societies and laws, accentuated Fear, and was a gift for the populist, now able to use xenophobia for mobilizing disaffected and insecure citizens. The decline of European institutions has brought several countries (after Brexit), to call for a deep revision of the European project. Hungary is going for a referendum on 2 of October. Would you accept an immigrant quota imposed by the EU, against the will of the Hungarian parliament? The same day there will be the re-run of Austrian elections, that the extreme right wing lost for 36,000 votes. Then the Netherlands, France and Germany will follow, with an expected increase of the extreme right wing parties. At the same time, Poland and Slovakia also want to have a referendum about the EU. It could well be that at the end of 2017, European institutions will be deeply wounded.

The real problem is that since the failed Cancun Summit in 1981, countries have lost the ability to think together. India, Japan, China, and many other are going through a tide of nationalism. In Cancun, all participants, from Francois Mitterrand to Indira Gandhi, from Julius Nyerere to Pierre Trudeau shared a set of common values.: social justice, solidarity, the respect of international law, and the conviction that strong societies were the basis for democracy (except of course for Reagan and Thatcher). She famously declared: there is no such thing as a society, there are only individuals). They shared many books. They considered peace and development as the paradigm for governance. All this has been swept away. Politicians, left without ideologies, subordinated to finance, have turned mainly to an administrative debate, on singles issues, without a framework, where left or right have become difficult to discern. We are clearly in a period of Greed and Fear.

Time is not helping. In 1900 Europe had 24% of the world population. At the end of this century, Europe will be 4%. Nigeria will be more populous than the US. Africa, now at 1 billion, will be 2 billion by 2050, and 3 billion by 2100. It is time now to engage all together to discuss how to face the coming world. We took 25 years to reach an agreement on climate, maybe it is too late. On migration and employment, two and a half decades is an eternity. But this must be a global agreement, not just a kneejerk reflex by Chancellor Angela Merkel in total solitude, without even consulting French President Francois Hollande. But this kind of agenda is politically unimaginable. How to discuss these issues with Le Pen, Donald Trump, the other emerging populists and the nationalist tide that runs in the world?

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400 Million People Live with Hepatitis But They Do Not Knowhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/400-million-people-live-with-hepatitis-but-they-do-not-know/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=400-million-people-live-with-hepatitis-but-they-do-not-know http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/400-million-people-live-with-hepatitis-but-they-do-not-know/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 11:15:11 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146231 Peru is carrying out a strategy to eliminate mother-to-child-transmission of hepatitis B. The most important preventative intervention is the universal vaccination, which can prevent infection in 95 per cent of cases. Photo credit: PAHO

Peru is carrying out a strategy to eliminate mother-to-child-transmission of hepatitis B. The most important preventative intervention is the universal vaccination, which can prevent infection in 95 per cent of cases. Photo credit: PAHO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jul 26 2016 (IPS)

With some 400 million people around the world infected with hepatitis B or C, mostly without being aware, the United Nations top health agency encourages countries to boost testing and access to services and medicines for people in need to combat the ‘ignored perils’ of this disease.

A staggering 95 per cent of people infected with hepatitis B or C do not know they are infected, often living without symptoms for many years, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warns. And over 90% of people with hepatitis C can be completely cured within 3–6 months.

“The world has ignored hepatitis at its peril,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO’s director general, ahead of the World Hepatitis Day, which is observed annually on 28 July.

“It is time to mobilise a global response to hepatitis on the scale similar to that generated to fight other communicable diseases like HIV AIDS and tuberculosis,” she said.

The number grows by 6 to 10 millions a year, WHO reported, while announcing plans to release new testing guidelines for both hepatitis B and C.

With this, among other actions, the Geneva-based World Health Organisation attempts “to encourage testing and reach the 95 per cent of people who are not aware they are infected with the disease.”

The theme of this year’s World Hepatitis Day is Know Hepatitis; Act Now.

What is Hepatitis? Credit: WHO

What is Hepatitis? Credit: WHO

Together with its partner, Social Entrepreneurship for Sexual Health, WHO on July 25 said it recently launched #HepTestContest, a global contest to show how the testing guidelines could translate into real action on the ground.

“We needed examples of innovations and best practices to help guide and inspire others,” said Philippa Easterbrook from the WHO Global Hepatitis Programme, who co-led the project.

The contest received 64 contributions from 27 countries, WHO said.

Five finalists were selected by a panel of experts including representatives from WHO, the World Hepatitis Alliance and Médecins sans Frontières, who reviewed the testing models for innovation, effectiveness, and plans for sustainability.

In addition to national testing campaigns, approaches included testing in prisons, testing in the workplace and hospital emergency rooms, integrated HIV-hepatitis testing, as well as the use of internet, social media, and electronic medical records to flag higher-risk patients for testing in primary care.

Are you at risk? Credit: WHO

Are you at risk? Credit: WHO

“From prisons in Australia, use of an internet-based risk self-assessment tool in the Netherlands, community testing camps for drug users in India, to testing in primary care in Mongolia we learned some great lessons about how to build awareness of this hidden disease, improve testing rates and link those infected to treatment and care,” Philippa Easterbrook added.

An important feature of the approach was the strong community involvement and support as well as strategic partnerships to leverage reductions in the price of treatments, WHO said.

“Bringing together pharmaceutical companies, government, research organisations and communities to help negotiate price reductions make hepatitis treatments more affordable,” said Easterbrook.

“The contest demonstrated a range of possibilities. It showed that if we can develop acceptable testing approaches to suit different contexts and cultures, then we can increase effective hepatitis testing in more countries and communities,” she added.

In May of this year, the World Health Assembly – WHO’s decision-making body – called for treating eight million people for hepatitis B or C by 2020, to reduce new viral hepatitis infections by 90 per cent, and to decrease the number of deaths by 65 per cent in 2030, as compared with 2016. These targets are part of the first ever Global Health Sector Strategy on viral hepatitis.

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Fertilizer Access Grows Farmers, Food and Financehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fertilizer-access-grows-farmers-food-and-finance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fertilizer-access-grows-farmers-food-and-finance http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fertilizer-access-grows-farmers-food-and-finance/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 11:07:24 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146220 Smallholder farmers prosper if they have access to knowledge and use of inputs such as fertilizers and credit. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Smallholder farmers prosper if they have access to knowledge and use of inputs such as fertilizers and credit. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
LOUIS TRICHARDT, South Africa, Jul 26 2016 (IPS)

Brightly coloured cans, bags of fertilizer and packets containing all types of seeds catch the eye upon entering Nancy Khorommbi’s agro dealer shop tucked at the corner of a roadside service station.

But her seeds and fertilizers have not exactly been flying off the shelves since Khorommbi opened the fledging shop six years ago. Her customers: smallholder farmers in the laid back town of Sibasa, 72 kilometers northeast of Louis Trichardt in Limpopo, one of South Africa’s provinces hard hit by drought this year. The reason for the slow business is that smallholder farmers cannot access, let alone effectively use plant-nourishing fertilizers to improve their low productivity.

“Some of the farmers who walk into my shop have never heard about fertilizers and those who have, do not know how to use them effectively,” Khorommbi told IPS said on the sidelines of a training workshop organised by the International Fertilizer Association (IFA)-supported African Fertilizer Volunteers Program (AFVP) to teach smallholders farmers and agro dealers like her about fertilizers in Limpopo.

Khorommbi, describing information as power, says fledging agro-dealer businesses are a critical link in the food production chain. Agro-dealers, who work at the village level, better understand and are more accessible to smallholder farmers, who in many cases rely on the often poorly resourced government extension service for information on improving productivity.

“Smallholder farmers can make the change in food security through better production, one of whose key elements is fertilizer,” said Khrorommbi, one of more than 100 agro-dealers in the Vhembe District of Limpopo.

An assistant checks stock in Nancy Khorommbi’s agro dealer shop in Vhembe District, Limpopo, South Africa. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

An assistant checks stock in Nancy Khorommbi’s agro dealer shop in Vhembe District, Limpopo, South Africa. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Growing knowledge, growing farmers

Noting the knowledge gap on fertilizers, the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP), supported by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and private sector partners, launched Agribusiness Support to the Limpopo Province (ASLP) in 2015 which has trained over 100 agro-dealers in the Province.

The project promotes the development of the agro dealer hub model, where established commercial agro dealers service smaller agro dealers and agents in the rural areas, who in turn better serve smallholder farmers by putting agricultural inputs within easy reach and at reasonable cost. The AFVP aims to attract the private sector in South Africa – a net fertilizer importer – to developing the SMEs sector in the fertilizer value chain focusing on smallholder farmers and agro dealers.

Smallholder farmers hold the key to feeding Africa, including South Africa, but their productivity is stymied by poor access to inputs and even effective markets for their produce, an issue the FAO believes private and public sector partnerships can solve.

AFAP and a private company, Kynoch Fertilizer, have embarked on an entrepreneurship development program for smallholder farmers and agro dealers in the Limpopo province, one of the country’s bread baskets, in an effort to help close the ‘yield gap’ among smallholder farmers.  Smallholder farmers and agro dealers have been trained on fertilisers, soils, plant nutrients, safe storage of fertilizers, environmental safety and business management skills.

“By using more fertilisers correctly, South Africa’s smallholder farmers can grow more and nutritious food, achieve household food security, create jobs, increase incomes and boost rural development,” AFAP’s Vice-President, Prof. Richard Mkandawire, told IPS. “To grow and support SMEs in Africa is the pathway if we are to reduce hunger and poverty. The future of South Africa is about growing those rural enterprises that will support smallholder farmers and employment creation.’

In 2006, African Heads of State and Government signed the Abuja Declaration at a Fertilizer Summit in Nigeria committing to increase the use of fertilizer in Africa from the then-average 8kg per hectare to 50kg per hectare by 2015 to boost productivity. Ten years later, only a few countries have attained this goal.

Mkandawire said research has established that for every kilogram of nutrients smallholder farmers apply to their soils, they can realize up to 30kg in additional products.

Research has shown that smallholder farmers in South Africa in general do not apply optimum levels of fertilizers owing to high cost, poor access and low awareness about the benefits of providing nutrition for the soil.

Fertilizer Registrar and Director in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests (DAFF) in Limpopo Province Jonathan Mudzunga says smallholder farmers have structural difficulties in getting much needed fertilizers, a critical input in raising crop yields and providing business and employment creation opportunities for agro dealers.

“Commercial farmers are successful because they have access to inputs such as fertilizers and knowledge and it does not mean smallholder farmers are having challenges because they do not know how to farm but the biggest issue is knowledge and access to affordable inputs,” Mudzunga said.

Agriculturalist at Kynoch, Schalk Grobbelaar, says smallholder agricultural production in Limpopo is hampered by, amongst other things, low use of productivity-enhancing inputs such as fertilizers, seeds and crop protection products; animal feeds and veterinary medicines for livestock.

“Fertilizer increase yields. We fertilize what crops will take away and we put back into the soil but farmers lack knowledge on the balancing fertilizers according to what crops need,” said Grobbelaar.

Agriculture support is food business

The South African government is promoting SME development and growth of smallholder farmers who are key to tackling food insecurity at household level.

Despite their high contribution to economic growth and job creation, SME’s are challenged by among other factors, funding and access to finance, according to the 2015/16 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report. Lack of finance is a major reason for SMEs – which contribute 45 percent to South Africa’s GDP- leaving a business in addition to the poor management skills which are a result of lack of adequate training and education.

While the country produces more than enough food for all, many South Africans do not access the right amount and type of food, says a 2014 report by the Southern Africa Food Lab, an organisation promoting food security in the region.

“Poor South Africans are not able to spend money on a diverse diet. Instead the only option to facilitate satiety and alleviate hunger is to feed family members large portions of maize meal porridge that do not address nutritional needs,” according to Laura Pereira, author of the Food Lab report.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates, bemoaning underinvestment in Africa’s agriculture, said innovation from farm to market was one solution to turning the sector – employing half of the continent’s population – into a thriving business.

“African farmers need better tools to avoid disasters and grow a surplus – things like seeds that can tolerate droughts, floods, pests, and disease, affordable fertilizer that includes the right mix of nutrients to replenish the soil,” Gates said when he presented the 14th Nelson Mandela Lecture in Pretoria, South Africa last week.

Gates said farmers need to be connected to markets where they can buy inputs, sell their surplus and earn a profit and for them to reinvest in into the farm. That in turn provides on and off the farm employment opportunities and supports a range of local agribusinesses.

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Social Media a Curse and a Blessing in Munich Shootinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/social-media-a-curse-and-a-blessing-in-munich-shooting/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=social-media-a-curse-and-a-blessing-in-munich-shooting http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/social-media-a-curse-and-a-blessing-in-munich-shooting/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 16:39:42 +0000 Editor Manila Times http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146213 By Editor, The Manila Times, Philippines
MUNICH, Germany, Jul 25 2016 (Manila Times)

Social networks were both a curse and a blessing in the deadly shopping mall shooting in Munich, as police sometimes found themselves chasing fictitious leads and false alarms.

The 18-year-old gunman, a German-Iranian named David Ali Sonboly, also used the internet to plan and carry out his crime, in which he killed nine people and wounded 16 others.

Nevertheless, the social networks provided a valuable source of information and solidarity for the city’s frightened population during the long lockdown while the incident was going on.

As soon as the terrifying events started to unfold late on Friday afternoon, Munich’s police were quick to take to Twitter to try to keep the public informed about the confusing and fast-evolving situation.

“We’re working as fast as we can to apprehend the attackers,” they tweeted in German, English and French. “The suspects are still on the run. Please avoid public places. #munich #gunfire”. “Unconfirmed reports of more violence and possible #gunfire in the city center. Situation is unclear. Please avoid public areas.”

False alarms
But as social network users began to tweet and re-tweet their own experiences and versions of events, it rapidly became difficult for the police to retain an overview and in some cases differentiate between fact and fiction.

At one point, for example, there was a flurry of reports of another shooting in the city center, on the pedestrianized square called the Stachus not far from the main station.

But those reports turned out to be false.

Another headache for police were eyewitness accounts, photos and videos that were rapidly being uploaded onto the web.

Police were concerned that the attackers—at that point, they erroneously believed there might have been more than one—could track where officers were being deployed and in what numbers, thereby making them easier to evade.

In the end, the police desperately tweeted: “Please don’t take fotos or video of police action in order to avoid any helpful information for the suspects.”

Police chief Hubertus Andrae told ZDF public television late Saturday that the speed and volume of information, which needed to be verified was “challenging.”

The official Twitter account proved useful in keeping the public informed about the latest confirmed facts, such as the number of victims or the time and place of the next press conference.

But police themselves inadvertently helped fan some of the speculation by tweeting, for example, that the theory of a possible terrorist act was being looked at.

At one point, police felt compelled to publish a plea, “Please restrain any speculations—that would help us a lot!”

Lured via the internet
“Nowadays, in the age of social networks, it is no longer the police who have control over the quantity and timing of the release of information, but everyone,” said Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere.

“There are sometimes advantages in that, as can be seen in the number of investigations that have been brought to a successful conclusion thanks to photos and videos taken by private individuals,” he told a news conference.

In the United States, for example, the investigation into the Boston Marathon attacks in 2013 was able to progress quickly as a result of such information.

“But it’s clear that rumors can spread rapidly and that isn’t always conducive to an accurate evaluation of the situation,” the minister said.

He praised the “fair” and “comprehensive” way in which police had communicated the recent attacks in Europe.

According to the interior ministry, the Munich gunman may have hacked a Facebook account to lure some of the victims to the McDonald’s fast-food outlet where the shooting began by offering them special discounts.

“I will give you whatever you want, for not a lot of money,” the online invite read, according to German media reports.

AFP

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Modern-day Slavery in Oman? Domestic Workers in Perilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/modern-day-slavery-in-oman-domestic-workers-in-peril/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=modern-day-slavery-in-oman-domestic-workers-in-peril http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/modern-day-slavery-in-oman-domestic-workers-in-peril/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 14:45:13 +0000 Dominique Von Rohr http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146210 Domestic migrant workers from South and South-East Asia are now considered  Oman's "modern-day slaves". Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

Domestic migrant workers from South and South-East Asia are now considered Oman's "modern-day slaves". Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

By Dominique Von Rohr
ROME, Jul 25 2016 (IPS)

In order to escape poverty and support their families back home, thousands of domestic workers from South and South-East Asia migrate to Oman with the promise of stable employment in local households.

Once they arrive in Oman, new employers often seize their passports so that they cannot depart when they want, ultimately, denying them their freedom of movement.

They are made subject to excessive working hours, sleep deprivation and starvation. Many suffer from verbal or sexual abuse.

All too often, the money they work so hard for is denied to them. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, a great number of female migrant domestic workers fall prey to such abusive employment, and become Oman’s modern-day slaves.

The country’s visa sponsorship system, known as kafala, as well as the absence of labour law protections for domestic workers make migrant workers highly vulnerable to exploitation.

The kafala creates an “unbreakable” tie between the migrant worker and their employer, which means that the migrant worker’s visa is directly conditioned by the employer.

This prohibits migrant workers from switching jobs, even if they face abuse at their workplace. At least 130’000 migrant domestic workers are affected by the kafala system.

Families in Oman acquire their services through recruitment companies, employing them to take care of their children, cook meals, and clean their homes.

The recruitment companies typically ask for a fee to be paid for the mediation, and several migrant workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that their employers demanded they pay them back the recruitment fee in order to be released from their service.

Employers can force domestic workers to work without rest, pay, or food, knowing they can be punished if they escape, while the employers rarely face penalties for abuse”, Rothna Begum, a Middle East women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, confirms.

A report from Human Rights Watch also stated that women who decide to escape their abusive employment often face legal penalties.

Asma K., a domestic worker from Bangladesh, told Human Rights Watch that she was not only “sold” to a man, her passport had also been taken away from her, and she was forced to work 21 hours a day tending to the needs of 15 people.

Asma was both sexually and verbally abused, denied of her right to a fair wage in addition to being deprived of food. Many other female domestic workers share Asma K.’s story.

Once a migrant worker has escaped an abusive employer, very few options remain. If the women go back to the agencies that recruited them, the agents often beat them and forcefully place them into new families.

The Omani police offers little help, usually dismisses the domestic workers’ claim, and returns them to the family they came from, where in several cases, the workers are assaulted by their employers, Human Rights Watch says.

Some women risk getting reported as “absconded”, an offense which can lead to their deportation or even a criminal complaint against them.

While several Omani lawyers confirm that they have no confidence in Oman’s labour dispute settlement procedure or courts for redress for domestic workers, some embassy officials dissuade domestic workers from even fighting for their case, due to the lengthy process and the high probability of facing defeat.

This process eventually leads to workers returning to their home countries without pay, with the dream of providing for their families shattered and no hope for justice.

In order to protect its nationals from abusive employment, Indonesia has banned migration to Oman, as well as other countries with a similar history of migrant labour abuse.

However, such bans often have an opposite effect, leaving those most desperate for work vulnerable to traffickers or forced labour as they try to sidestep their own country’s restrictions.

Human Rights Watch states that several countries do not protect their nationals against abusive employment, nor do they provide help to those who fall victim to trafficking, abuse and mistreatment living abroad.

In 2012, Oman promised the United Nations Human Rights Council to look for alternatives to the kafala system, however, Human Rights Watch states that no concrete proposal has since been made, and up until now, Oman’s labour law does not protect domestic workers.

In April 2016, a Ministry of Manpower official stated in the Times of Oman that Oman is considering protecting domestic workers under its labour law, however, when requested for information on possible law reforms or other measures to protect domestic workers, the Omani government remained silent.

Human Rights Watch states that Oman was further criticized by the United States government for not demonstrating increased efforts to address human trafficking.

In 2015, there were only five prosecutions on sex trafficking, with no prosecutions on forced labour at all.

In order to provide protection for domestic workers, Human Rights Watch urges Oman to revise the kafala system, and advises it to cooperate with the countries of origin to help prevent exploitation.

Instead of punishing migrant domestic workers for escaping their appalling conditions, they should be granted justice by means of fair prosecutions against those who manipulated, scorned and abused them.

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Enemy Imageshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/enemy-images/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=enemy-images http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/enemy-images/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 13:55:15 +0000 Michael Krepon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146206 By Michael Krepon
Jul 25 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Members of Congress have embarrassed themselves, this time by a joint subcommittee hearing on whether Pakistan is a friend or foe. Framing a congressional hearing in this binary way reflects the sad state of political discourse on Capitol Hill, where complex issues are boiled down to ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. Members of Congress dress themselves in righteous indignation and confuse leadership with generating headlines.

579527735___The United States, like Pakistan, is prisoner to a repetitive news cycle loop filled with hot air, loose talk and the constant drip of poisonous insinuation. The demise of civic culture continues apace. Echo chambers are not conducive to learning. Capitol Hill has devolved into competing echo chambers.

Without learning, we repeat mistakes. This is true on a personal level and on a national level. Some in the US repeat the mistake of insisting that other countries are implacable enemies, disregarding common interests. Taking refuge in this default position has cost America dearly. To repeat it again with Pakistan would be an act of pure folly. India reliably repeats its painful mistakes in Indian Kashmir. Pakistan has its own costly repetitive behaviours.

The US has been insensitive in its dealings with Pakistan.

Pakistan’s national security interests are defined mostly by men in uniform who jealously defend this prerogative from civilian prime ministers and the foreign ministry. Pakistan’s prime minister — a man not known for his attention to detail and zealous work habits — has made these circumstances worse by not having a foreign minister.

Some within Pakistan argue for a greater sense of urgency and energy on the civilian side to reverse the drift in Pakistan’s relations with the US and its neighbours. More energy would be welcome, but it will come to naught unless Pakistan sheds talking points that have long ago lost their persuasiveness. The ‘trust deficit’ argument has no weight when the reasons for the deficit are papered over. The promise that violent extremist groups that have ruined Pakistan’s reputation will be tackled in due course has worn thin because it has been repeated for so long.

The US has been heavy-handed and insensitive in its dealings with Pakistan. It’s easy for the US embassy to lose touch when it operates behind walls and razor wire. Members of Congress have short memories. They forget that Pakistan played a central role in the US diplomatic opening to China and in expelling Soviet troops from Afghanistan.

Bilateral ties will always be complicated. The US and Pakistan are on the same side of some issues but not others. Pakistan would like a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan, but it wants to retain influence there. Pakistan is concerned about violent extremist groups that carry out explosions in India, but not enough to clamp down on them. These straddles have left Pakistan on a tightrope without the means to engineer outcomes in Afghanistan or to ramp up economic growth, which depends on normal ties with neighbours.

Washington’s mix of carrots and sticks hasn’t helped Pakistan down from its tightrope, and now US incentives are diminishing. If Pakistan changes course, more help will come, but the relationship is no longer transactional. Pakistan will do what it thinks it must.

Perceptions of Pakistan are now deeply grooved. They won’t change unless Islamabad is able to take steps that clarify new thinking towards India and Afghanistan. Mikhail Gorbachev called this strategy one of destroying the ‘enemy image’. Gorbachev destroyed the Soviet Union’s enemy image in the US, but the Soviet economy was also destroyed because it was incapable of reform. Pakistan can change its enemy image and grow its economy by improving ties with neighbours. In doing so, Pakistan can maintain decent relations with the United States as it improves ties with China. Islama¬bad achieved this significant feat in the past; it can do so again.

On Capitol Hill, it would be helpful if serious legislators convened serious hearings on how best to stabilise and improve US-Pakistan relations. The easy way for legislators to weigh in is to get on soapboxes — an old American colloquialism recalling a time when men with megaphones gained elevation on street corners. Television is the new soapbox. Denunciations make cheap headlines while making hard problems worse. Congressional hearings where learning takes place have become rare on Capitol Hill. Pakistan deserves better treatment, but the same policies will produce the same results.

US-Pakistan relations are worth salvaging. Both countries have been through hard times together, and have accomplished much together. Pakistan has a long list of grievances towards the US. The US has a long list of grievances towards Pakistan. Grievances don’t solve problems; they make problems worse.

This relationship can no longer rest on the resupply of US troops in Afghanistan, or on Pakistan’s role as a selective bulwark against violent extremist groups. A new relationship has to be forged; otherwise, enemy images will only harden.

The writer is the co-founder of the Stimson Centre.
Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2016

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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A Case of Failing Democracy or Fading Geo-politicshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/a-case-of-failing-democracy-or-fading-geo-politics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-case-of-failing-democracy-or-fading-geo-politics http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/a-case-of-failing-democracy-or-fading-geo-politics/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 13:35:05 +0000 Adil Khan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146203 By M. Adil Khan
Jul 25 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The ‘coup’ of July 15 in Turkey failed within hours of its start, and given that it enlisted very limited support within the army itself, some called it not a coup but a ‘mutiny’.

oped_1_afp__In recent times, there have been many reports, mainly in the West, of unhappiness with Erdogan’s Islamism and authoritarian style of governing, but no one thought that this would translate into a coup. After all, it was not that long ago when the world cheered “The Rise of Turkey”. Under Erdogan’s leadership and with a mix of liberal democracy and neoliberal economic policy, Turkey marched ahead economically. Turkey looked like the poster boy of the Muslim world – modern, progressing and yet Muslim.

However, while the economy was growing, Islamist nationalism also surged unnoticed in the beginning. Islamist nationalism was hailed as Islam’s democratic answer to ‘terrorism’ that in recent times has become the scourge of most Muslim majority nations.

But all of a sudden, the scene changed and the tone became very different – to some, Turkey is now a “failed model” and this is because Erdogan “changed the Constitution for his own benefit and restarted his wicked conflict with the Kurds” (Independent, July 16, 2016) , and yet others argue that “the successful liberalisation in Turkey during the last three decades itself paved the way for Islam’s later authoritarian and conservative incarnations” (The Fall of the Turkish Model: How the Arab Uprisings Brought Down Islamic Liberalism, Cihan Tugal).

So which one of these views is correct?

It is not easy to answer that, but one thing is clear: the way millions poured into the streets at the call of Erdogan to repel the ‘mutiny’, the answer is not the disapproval of Erdogan by his people as their leader nor does it seem to be his governance style, not at this stage at least. Notwithstanding, the fact that there has been a ‘mutiny’ (not coup) indicates that not everything is hunky dory in Turkey these days.

Since its inception as a ‘modern’ state in 1923 under Kemal Ataturk, a post-colonial invention of the West which was built on the ashes of the defeated, humiliated and dismantled Ottoman monarchy, Turkey has rotated between booms and busts, democracy and coups, secularism and Islamism, and this largely depended on the not-so-apparent changing mood of its benefactors. It is no surprise that any effort by Turkey – regardless of whether this is done through a democratic or an authoritarian polity – that pursues nationalistic aspirations at the cost of the hegemon’s agenda in the region is to invite trouble. Like many previous coups, the July 15, 2016 ‘mutiny ‘is no exception and thus, needed to be seen in this context.

Indeed, this ‘mutiny’ is nothing but a culmination of several policy clashes that manifested themselves through Turkey’s resurgent sovereign Islamist nationalist identity that challenged the diktats of geopolitics at different levels, and on many occasions has put Erdogan at odds with the West’s idea of ‘modern’ Tukey – a secularised, de-cultured, de-Islamised ‘lackey’.

In the context of these complex and conflated dynamics, it is difficult to say which of the factors, Erdogan’s authoritarianism or the West’s diminishing control over Turkey, has prompted the mutiny but the picture that emerges – and given that millions poured on the street at the call of Erdogan to foil the mutiny – is that the West’s script that the mutiny has been caused by deficits of democracy is anything but true. The answer lies somewhere else.

Erdogan blames his nemesis, the US based self-exiled cleric Gulen for the mutiny and accordingly, asked the US government to extradite him to face trial in Turkey. In response, the Obama administration asked for evidence of Gulen’s involvement in the mutiny.

Erdogan’s woes started with a number of policy shifts, some good and some terrible, that he initiated lately. Firstly, his move to severe diplomatic ties with Israel in 2013, in the aftermath of the latter’s attack on a Turkish Gaza peace ship, a principled decision, earned him the wrath of a powerful and dangerous foe that many believe to be behind the numerous political and economic unrests that have been plaguing Turkey lately. Secondly, his clash with Russia was unnecessary and proved costly. Most importantly, his government’s alleged patronisation of ISIS has proved to be a grave mistake, and Erdogan has been paying for it since. Thirdly, encouraged by NATO and inspired by his reported personal hatred, Erdogan’s dogged determination to evict Assad in Syria cost Turkey dearly.

However, it is his recent reversals of some of these policies, especially cementing of relationships with Russia and peace overtures to Syria, that have put him at extreme odds with the Zionist/NATO conglomerate, Turkey’s post-colonial ‘nurturer’. Indeed, a delayed and somewhat less-than-strong disapproval of the coup by the NATO is instructive and has prompted speculations that they might have expected a different outcome.

Nevertheless, Erdogan be warned, his adversaries have noted one thing quite clearly that more than the support or non-participation of the loyal faction of his army, it is the people who have foiled the mutiny. They are his main strength and therefore, to ensure that the next coup or ‘revolution’ does not fail, many believe that is quite possible that the hegemon’s nexus will make sure to weaken Erdogan’s support base, the people, by alienating them through the engineering of a false economic crisis (remember Iran’s Mosaddek, Chilli’s Allende!).

Therefore, for Erdogan, the journey ahead is fraught and as he has found out already, a stricter form of authoritarianism and purging of critics is not the solution. The people are his answer and thus the way forward is not to shrink that base but expand it by engaging people to build a Turkey that is economically progressive, politically inclusive and spiritually nourishing.

The writer is a former senior policy manager of the United Nations.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Uganda Ill-Equipped for Growing Cancer Burdenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/uganda-ill-equipped-for-growing-cancer-burden/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uganda-ill-equipped-for-growing-cancer-burden http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/uganda-ill-equipped-for-growing-cancer-burden/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 13:34:15 +0000 Amy Fallon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146200 Jovia, who died on Apr. 29, 2016, suffered from both HIV/AIDS and cervical cancer, a deadly combination affecting thousands of women in Uganda. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

Jovia, who died on Apr. 29, 2016, suffered from both HIV/AIDS and cervical cancer, a deadly combination affecting thousands of women in Uganda. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

By Amy Fallon
KAMPALA, Uganda, Jul 25 2016 (IPS)

Lying on a dirty bed in a crowded, squalid hostel in Kampala, emaciated Jovia, 29, managed a weak smile as a doctor delivered her a small green bottle containing a liquid.

“I’m so happy they’ve brought the morphine,” the mother told IPS, just about the only words she could get out during what would be the last weeks of her life. “It controls my pain and makes my life more bearable.”“As long as radiotherapy is not available in Uganda many more patients will die.” -- Dr. Anne Merriman

Jovia was suffering from both HIV/AIDS and cervical cancer, a deadly combination affecting thousands of women in Uganda. While the east African country had huge success in the battle against the HIV virus in the 1990s, cervical and other cancers are the new health crises gripping the developing nation. One in 500 Ugandans suffers from cancer. But only five per cent of patients will get any form of treatment, facing an often tortuous death.

Thanks to Hospice Africa Uganda (HAU), founded 23 years ago by the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, British-born Dr. Anne Merriman, patients like Jovia are given not only affordable pain-controlling oral liquid morphine, but comfort, hope and dignity in their last days.

At 81, Dr. Merriman is credited with introducing palliative care to Africa. HAU has cared for a total of 27,000 seriously ill and dying people since 1993, the vast majority with the morphine made at its Kampala headquarters for just two dollars a bottle, with government funding.

In Uganda, cancer is usually diagnosed quite late, due to poor screening and lack of health services. According to the country’s Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI), 80 per cent of sufferers die because of late diagnosis.

For patients like Jovia, who passed away peacefully on Apr. 29, leaving a daughter, 14, radiotherapy can cure or extend life when treated in early stages.

A tray of morphine for Jovia. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

A tray of morphine at Hospice Africa Uganda. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

But in early April, Uganda’s only radiotherapy machine broke beyond repair. It was used by about 30,000 cancer patients annually. Since then, thousands in need of radiotherapy to cure their cancer, or extend their lives, have been left without vital treatment.

The Ugandan government had purchased a new machine, worth a reported 500,000 dollars, three years ago, but it could not be delivered as special bunkers needed to house the machine had to be built.

Facing an uproar from within Uganda at the lack of radiotherapy services, the government promised a new bunker would be built within six months. Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, offered free treatment for 400 Ugandan cancer patients. The plan was that they would be sent there by the Ugandan government through the UCI.

But more than three months later there is still huge confusion and contradictory reports and statements about the delivery of this promise, and controversy over the delay in getting desperate patients. Despite repeated requests for clarification the UCI nor Uganda’s ministry of health are able to state exactly how many patients – if indeed any – have yet been sent to Kenya for treatment.

Christine Namulindwa, UCI’s public relations officer, pointed out patients going to Nairobi have to go through an “evaluation”, and be approved by a board.

“So far we’ve submitted 15 names to the ministry of health and more are yet to be submitted,” she said last month. The pledge for free treatment from Aga Khan did not cover the cost of transporting patients and upkeep while in Nairobi, she said.

She said there were “patients who are still waiting” and referred IPS to the health ministry for further questions.

On July 1, Professor Anthony Mbonye, Acting Director General of Health services, told IPS via email the ministry of health had “received a budget for supporting patients to Aga Khan and will provide transport and funds for maintenance”.

A lawyer had “cleared a memorandum of understanding between Aga Khan and UCI,” he said.

“The radiotherapy machine was bought, but the bunker is yet to be rehabilitated. In two months’ time the machine will be installed and services will resume.”

Stories in East African papers in early July reported that the “long wait” was “over” for patients, after Aga Khan signed an MOU with UCI, allowing 400 out of 17,000 patients to “receive treatment”. But they did not give a date for when they would go to Kenya.

Another report said only tumour patients with chances of survival, but including those suffering breast and cervical cancer, would be transported to Kenya using government vans. It said accommodation and other support services were being organised by Uganda’s High Commission in Nairobi, and 20 patients have been approved to go. But again it gave no specific date for their transportation.

Two of seven patients have been treated at Aga Khan not through the UCI and the Ugandan government, but through a partnership with HAU and Road to Care, a programme developed by Canadian doctor Joda Kuk. He set up scheme in 2011 after he witnessed women with cervical cancer in rural areas of Uganda needing desperate assistance to get to Kampala for radiotherapy.

Mary Birungi and Mary Gahoire, a mother of three, both from western Uganda, returned home the week of July 21 after travelling to Kenya by road, being housed by Road to Care and completing radiotherapy treatment there. They are now back with their families.

Two more patients are in the middle of treatment this week and and two more will travel to Kenya. The seventh patient is due to go there in the first week of August.

Dr. Anne Merriman pleaded with the Ugandan government to do all in its power to complete the building of the new bunkers so the new radiotherapy machine can be commissioned as soon as possible.

“We are so happy that under Road to Care seven of our patients will be treated in Kenya, but this is just a drop in the ocean,” she said. “The need is huge. There has been so much confusion since the machine broke down, causing huge stress to patients and families. “

“As long as radiotherapy is not available in Uganda many more patients will die.”

On July 23, Professor Mbyonye told IPS that “some” patients have gone to Kenya and had already come back through the agreement between the health ministry and Aga Khan, but couldn’t give more details.

For many though, it’s too late.

Vesta Kefeza, 49, a mother of seven, has advanced cervical cancer. Lying on a mattress on the ground of her one-room home in Namugongo slum, Kampala, she is immobile, as her leg has ballooned due to a complication from the cancer.

She has been on HAU’s programme since 2011 and is administered morphine by their nurses. Uganda became the first country in the world to allow nurses to prescribe the drug in 2004. The hospice team also provides food and spiritual support.

In June, thanks to a donation from Ireland, Kefeza received a wheelchair, allowing her to get out into the fresh air and go to church.

“Until then I lay in bed all day,” she said. “I thank God for my blessings. I am lucky to have HAU caring for me.”

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Biswal’s Dreams Just Pretentious Prattlehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/biswals-dreams-just-pretentious-prattle/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biswals-dreams-just-pretentious-prattle http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/biswals-dreams-just-pretentious-prattle/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 13:14:15 +0000 Editor Sunday Times http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146199 By Editor, Sunday Times, Sri Lanka
Jul 25 2016 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

So Nisha Biswal, the US State Department’s point person on Sri Lanka, says that Sri Lanka could be another Singapore.

That will be the day. If after six visits to the country in 20 months she has still not grasped the basics of Sri Lanka’s socio-political culture and mores, the lack of respect for law and order and the rule of law infused by political interference and intimidation, she could hardly be a messenger of hope and good sense.

Nisha Biswal told a group of Sri Lankan business leaders that Lee Kuan Yew wanted to model his country on Ceylon and now it is time for Sri Lanka to be turned into a Singapore

Nisha Biswal told a group of Sri Lankan business leaders that Lee Kuan Yew wanted to model his country on Ceylon and now it is time for Sri Lanka to be turned into a Singapore

Perhaps she has become accustomed to the obsequiousness of foreign minister Samaraweera for things western and his habit of clinging on to the hands of every foreign visitor seemingly as a token of eternal friendship but actually in case they make a break for a quick getaway as some suspect.

The other day media carried a picture of our over-zealous foreign minister holding on to the hand of the visiting Chinese foreign minister leaving the latter looking rather perplexed. The Chinese reaction was not surprising given that the pro-western UNP leadership turned its back on Beijing shortly after the “good governance” coalition came to office possibly because China provided financial help to the Rajapaksa government when our so-called western friends would not do so and even refused to provide weaponry to fight an insurgency.

But now that the pro-western UNP finds itself in a financial mess it has no qualms about kowtowing and publicly displaying a willingness to accept its financial help with open arms and empty money bags.

An occasional peck on both cheeks might be considered by some in our diplomatic fraternity as a sign of undying friendship and gratitude. But in the world of diplomacy such over-familiarity especially in public might not always win friends and influence nations.

Speaking to a group of Sri Lankan business leaders during her recent visit, Nisha Biswal said that Singapore’s one time prime minister Lee Kuan Yew had wanted to model his country on Ceylon at the time. But now it is time for Sri Lanka to be turned into a Singapore.

Does Biswal believe that Sri Lankans are gullible or is this an insidious move to make this strategically-located nation an integral cog in Washington’s pivot to Asia policy intended to stymie China’s economic and military advance westward in the Indian Ocean?

If Biswal was even faintly aware of the bedrock on which the nascent Southeast Asian city-state was built she would not be proposing that we turn ourselves into a soulless nation however economically advanced and rich it has turned out to be.

I do not know whether Biswal has met Lee Kuan Yew when he was leading his newly independent state and talked to him. I have when I was working in Hong Kong and Mr. Lee visited the then British colony for a major conference.

So meticulous was the Singaporean he was able to tell me what I had called him in some of my writings – a dictator, an autocrat and a politician who did not tolerate dissent.

He did not entirely disagree but he carefully adduced reasons why he had to act the way he did, to craft a policy framework for a majority Chinese population sandwiched between two huge Malay-dominated nations. He said even Singapore’s language policy was determined by this geopolitical consideration.

Mr. Lee said that when Singapore was heading for independence Ceylon was the model on which he hoped to build the emergent state. Ceylon had a high rate of literacy, an educated people with a good educational system, an efficient civil service, a well-functioning judiciary and a performing economy.

But all these important qualities that made the Ceylonese nation were dissipated and destroyed by over-bearing and obtrusive politics. In later years when his people asked him for democratic rights and political freedoms he asked them whether they wanted to be another Sri Lanka involved in ethnic conflict.

Those who know the real Singapore story – I nearly went to work there when the editor of a new newspaper scheduled for launch invited me to join – how Ceylon born J.B. Jeyaretnam, the only opposition MP was treated (or mistreated) after he entered parliament after several attempts, how several journalists suffered including a friend of mine on the Business Times, Kenneth James, for ‘offences’ that most journalists would have considered normal professional duties.

Space does not permit an elaboration of the restrictions Singapore places on its citizens including the use of laws that a public gathering of five persons or more requires a police permit and charges of contempt of court, criminal and civil defamation and sedition are used to rein in government critics.

Human Rights Watch in its World Report 2015 states that the “Singapore’s government limits political and civil rights—especially freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association—using overly broad legal provisions on security, public order, morality, and racial and religious harmony.”

Admittedly some advances have been made – however meager – in the way of democratic freedoms. But the Singapore that Biswal and others speak of glowingly was not build on democratic foundations and the rights and freedoms associated with a free society.

So is Biswal then asking Sri Lanka to dismantle the constitutional and other rights guaranteed to its people, the democratic political system that took root even before independence in 1948 and the free press that politicians unfailingly promise the country?

I dare say Sri Lanka can well do without the corrosive and corrupt politics practiced today by many equally corrupt and abrasive politicians. If a nuclear destruction of the existing political system was possible that would certainly be for the betterment of the country.

Is Biswal able to provide such purifying political cleansing that is surely needed if Sri Lanka is to become another Singapore? Despite the democratic deficit that marks Singapore’s years of independence, it was able to achieve an enviable economic record because there were certain prerequisites that its leaders laid down.

Singapore was founded on meritocracy where only the best entered public service and other institutions and followed professional careers. Equally corruption was stamped on wherever it appeared and the guilty were shown no mercy.

Respect for law and order was inculcated in the populace and those who violated the law paid for it. That was the social order that produce Singapore’s economic miracle and a people who called themselves Singaporeans rather than by their ethnicity.

Moreover the city-state has had a political leadership that placed the country before self and was truly committed to building a prosperous society where the majority of its people were able to lead a comfortable life.

The reverse is surely true of Sri Lanka. Why talk of meritocracy when some of those who occupy official positions probably do not know what it means, where relatives, friends and acolytes are handpicked and planted in jobs for which the public pays. The qualified are deposited in the closest dust bin because they do not belong to the correct party, have not paid pooja to the presiding almighty and have sought to expose corruption and abuse or to indulge in it.

How could we build a meritocracy which is what Singapore has done, if a fundamental principle on which Sri Lankan politics is founded is nepotism and clannishness which this government promised to eliminate but practices with the same vigour as its predecessor?

The promises that the current government made to introduce “good governance” have been shattered long before the first year of this National Unity Government has ended. A classic recent example is the admission in parliament by the Higher Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella that he recruited 45 persons as consultants to the Southern Transport Development Project of the Road Development Authority at Rs.65,000 a month. If the highest qualification most of them have is the “O” level or some even lower how are they qualified to be consultants and consulted on what?

Lakshman Kiriella, who is increasing becoming an embarrassment to the UNP, admitted they were given these jobs because they helped in bringing his party into power. Whoever consults these unqualified consultants should seek psychiatric assistance.

It was not long ago that he wrote letters to two university authorities seeking to influence the appointment of persons known to him.

Just a few days ago I saw an article in which the writer says that the High Post Committee had advertised in newspaper calling for public comments on three persons whose names were listed for particular appointments.

It seemed that these three persons, one of whom is the President’s brother, was already functioning in those posts and have been doing so for some time. If the story is true then somebody should remind this committee of the bolting horses and the stable door.

So this is the country that Biswal wants to turn into another prosperous Singapore. Either she knows little of what she is talking about or is deliberately trying to sell these ideas to drag Sri Lanka into a tighter embrace with Washington so we will loosen our ties with China.

If this is the kind of rubbish that visiting diplomats oozing with spurious bon homie, lecture us about we could well do without it.

Before she comes here next and the Foreign Minister rushes to offer another handshake she should rid herself of the mental sloth that characterizes her advice.

This story was originally published by The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

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Rights of Indigenous Peoples ‘Critical’ to Combat Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/rights-of-indigenous-peoples-critical-to-combat-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rights-of-indigenous-peoples-critical-to-combat-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/rights-of-indigenous-peoples-critical-to-combat-climate-change/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 11:50:23 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146196 Maasai pastoralists, who participate in a farmer field school, are selling animals at a local market in Narok, Kenya. Indigenous peoples have a key role to play in addressing climate change. Credit: FAO

Maasai pastoralists, who participate in a farmer field school, are selling animals at a local market in Narok, Kenya. Indigenous peoples have a key role to play in addressing climate change. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jul 25 2016 (IPS)

No longer it is about restoring the legitimate rights of over 370 indigenous peoples spread across 70 countries worldwide, many of them living in dire situation, but now about their central, critical role in combating climate change.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has relentlessly emphasized this new reality.

“Very few countries have so far made a clear commitment to a requirement in the Paris Climate Change Agreement that countries undertaking climate change activities should ensure the rights of indigenous peoples,” she says, while reminding of “the large number of violent deaths of people protecting their forests and rights to land in 2015 – the deadliest year for environmental defenders on record.”

“It’s a dire situation in terms of respect for the rights of indigenous peoples,” she told the participants in the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Committee on Forestry (COFO) which met in the Italian capital on July 18-22.

“Indigenous peoples across the world experience the consequences of historical colonisation and invasion of their territories, and face discrimination because of their distinct cultures, identities and ways of life,” according to UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

On this, FAO stated that “Governments must do much more to provide the enabling conditions required for indigenous peoples, local communities, smallholders and their organisations to restore degraded landscapes and achieve climate change mitigation and adaptation in practice.”

Specifically, René Castro Salazar, FAO’s Assistant-Director General warned that the issue of indigenous rights to land and territories was ‘critical’ for the success of climate change initiatives.

“Unless we help indigenous peoples achieve secure land tenure and better governance, it will be very hard to achieve long-term solutions,” Castro Salazar said. “We are lagging behind, and we need to do more.”

Vast Carbon Stocks

A third of global forests are under some form of management by families, smallholders, local communities and indigenous peoples, and represent some of the most important carbon stocks in the world, FAO reported during the meeting. Government-recognised community forests alone hold an estimated 37.7 billion tonnes of carbon stock.

Agro-forestry farmers are tending to the crops in Kigoma, Tanzania. Forests are an integral part of the national agriculture policy with the aim of protecting arable land from erosion and increasing agricultural production. Credit: FAO

Agro-forestry farmers are tending to the crops in Kigoma, Tanzania. Forests are an integral part of the national agriculture policy with the aim of protecting arable land from erosion and increasing agricultural production. Credit: FAO

“Family smallholders, local communities and indigenous peoples have a key role to play in preserving these carbon stocks by reducing deforestation, managing forests sustainably and restoring tree cover as part of productive rural economies, particularly when they belong to strong producer organisations,” according to the UN agency.

In addition, an estimated 1.5 billion hectares of land hold potential for smallholder farmers to combine agriculture with trees.

“But failure to find the best way to engage with local stakeholders and align their interests with forest conservation can significantly compromise the chances of achieving carbon sequestration and mitigation targets.”

Greater Ownership

In an outcome statement issued at the close of the Rome meeting, participants urged governments to provide the enabling conditions required for local communities, indigenous peoples and local producers, “to manage larger territories, from securing and enforcing tenure rights to creating favourable business incentives and offering technical, financial and business extension services.”

They also called on global financing mechanisms, government programmes and private investors to direct investment and support towards local communities, indigenous peoples, smallholders and producer organisations.

Finally, they called for climate change initiatives “to shift towards giving greater ownership to local communities, indigenous peoples, smallholders and producer organisations and engaging them in participatory and qualitative assessment of the forest cover and trees on farms they manage.”

Livelihoods of Millions of People, Precarious

On the occasion of the Rome meeting, FAO issued a new study that helps to fill a significant knowledge gap on the presence and extent of forests and trees in the world’s drylands, where the food security and livelihoods of millions of people, already precarious, are increasingly being threatened by climate change.

The study’s preliminary findings show that trees are present with hugely varying densities on almost one-third of the world’s 6.1 billion hectares of drylands, which cover an area more than twice the size of Africa. Almost 18 per cent of this area contains forests.

An estimated 2 billion people, 90 per cent of whom are in developing countries, live in drylands. Recent studies have indicated the need to restore these areas to cope with the effects of drought, desertification and land degradation.

In particular, water availability in drylands is expected to decline further due to changes in climate and land use, the new study warns.

“Poor people living in remote rural areas will be most vulnerable to food shortages, which combined with violence and social upheaval, are already leading to forced migration in dryland regions in Africa and western Asia.”

Until now, there has been little statistically based knowledge on dryland trees –particularly those growing outside forests– despite their vital importance to humans and the environment, according to the study.

The leaves and fruit of trees are sources of food for people and fodder for animals; their wood provides fuel for cooking and heating and can be a source of income for poor households; trees protect soils, crops and animals from the sun and winds, while forests are often rich in biodiversity.

Drylands are divided into four aridity zones (see map): the dry sub-humid zone, is the least arid of the four zones and consists mostly of the Sudanian savanna, forests and grasslands in South America, the steppes of eastern Europe and southern Siberia, and the Canadian prairie.

Most dryland forests occur in this zone, as do some large irrigated, intensively farmed areas along perennial rivers; at the other extreme, the hyper-arid zone is the driest zone and it is dominated by desert – the Sahara alone accounting for 45 per cent, and the Arabian desert forming another large component.

Factbox

At a glance: some preliminary findings of the FAO Global Drylands Assessment:
• The global drylands contain 1.11 billion hectares of forest land, which is 27 per cent of the global forest area, estimated at approximately 4 billion hectares.

• Two-thirds of the drylands forest area can be defined as being dense, meaning it has closed canopies (i.e. a canopy cover greater than 40 per cent).

• The second most common land use in drylands is grassland (31 per cent), followed by forest (18 per cent) and cropland (14 per cent). The category other lands constitutes 34 per cent of the global drylands area.

• The least-arid zones have the most forest. The proportion of forest land is 51 per cent in the dry subhumid zone, 41 per cent in the semiarid zone, 7 per cent in the arid zone and 0.5 per cent in the hyperarid zone. The average crown cover density is ten times higher in the dry subhumid zone than in the hyperarid zone.

• Trees outside forests are present on 1.9 billion hectares of drylands (31 per cent of the global drylands area), if all land with more than 0 per cent crown cover is included. Thirty per cent of croplands and grasslands have at least some crown cover, as do 60 per cent of lands classified as settlements.

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​Indian Climate Activist Ponders the ‘Unthinkable’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/%e2%80%8bindian-climate-activist-ponders-the-unthinkable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=%25e2%2580%258bindian-climate-activist-ponders-the-unthinkable http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/%e2%80%8bindian-climate-activist-ponders-the-unthinkable/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 02:46:05 +0000 Dan Bloom http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146191 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/%e2%80%8bindian-climate-activist-ponders-the-unthinkable/feed/ 0 El Salvador Faces Dilemma over the Prosecution of War Criminalshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/el-salvador-faces-dilemma-over-the-prosecution-of-war-criminals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=el-salvador-faces-dilemma-over-the-prosecution-of-war-criminals http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/el-salvador-faces-dilemma-over-the-prosecution-of-war-criminals/#comments Sat, 23 Jul 2016 20:12:45 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146188 Residents of La Hacienda, in the central department of La Paz in El Salvador, are holding pictures of the four American nuns murdered in 1980 by members of the National Guard, as they attend the commemorations held to mark 35 years of the crime, in December 2015, at the site where it was perpetrated. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Residents of La Hacienda, in the central department of La Paz in El Salvador, are holding pictures of the four American nuns murdered in 1980 by members of the National Guard, as they attend the commemorations held to mark 35 years of the crime, in December 2015, at the site where it was perpetrated. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
SAN SALVADOR, Jul 23 2016 (IPS)

The ruling of the highest court to repeal the amnesty law places El Salvador in the dilemma of deciding whether the country should prosecute those who committed serious violations to human rights during the civil war.

It also evidences that, more than two decades after the end of the conflict in 1992, reconciliation is proving elusive in this Central American country with 6.3 million inhabitants.

At the heart of the matter is the pressing need to bring justice to the victims of war crimes while, on the other hand, it implies a huge as well as difficult task, since it will entail opening cases that are more than two decades old, involving evidence that has been tampered or lost, if at all available, and witnesses who have already died.“We do not want them to be jailed for a long period of time, we want perpetrators to tell us why they killed them, given that they knew they were civilians...And we want them to apologize, we want someone to be held accountable for these deaths”-- Engracia Echeverría.

Those who oppose opening such cases highlight the precarious condition of the judiciary, which has important inadequacies and is cluttered with a plethora of unsentenced cases.

“I believe Salvadorans as a whole, the population and the political forces are not in favour of this (initiating prosecution), they have turned the page”, pointed out left-wing analyst Salvador Samayoa, one of the signatory parties of the Peace Agreements that put an end to 12 years of civil war.

The 12 years of conflict left a toll of 70,000 casualties and more than 8,000 people missing.

Samayoa added that right now El Salvador has too many problems and should not waste its energy on problems pertaining to the past.

For human rights organizations, finding the truth, serving justice and providing redress prevail over the present circumstances and needs.

“Human rights violators can no longer hide behind the amnesty law, so they should be investigated once and for all”, said Miguel Montenegro, director of the El Salvador Commission of Human Rights, a non-governmental organization, told IPS.

The Supreme Court of Justice, in what is deemed to be a historical ruling, on 13 July ruled that the General Amnesty Act for the Consolidation of, passed in 1993, is unconstitutional, thus opening the door to prosecuting those accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during the conflict.

In its ruling, the Court considered that Articles 2 and 144 of said amnesty law are unconstitutional on the grounds that they violate the rights of the victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity to resort to justice and seek redress.

It further ruled that said crimes are not subject to the statute of limitations and can be tried regardless of the date on which they were perpetrated.

“We have been waiting for this for many years; without this ruling no justice could have been done”, told IPS activist Engracia Echeverría, from the Madeleine Lagadec Center for the Promotion of Defence of Human Rights.

This organization is named after the French nun who was raped and murdered by government troops in April 1989, when they attacked a hospital belonging to the guerrilla group Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN).

The activist stressed that, even though it is true that a lot of information relevant to the cases has been lost, some data can still be obtained by the investigators in the District Attorney’s General Office in charge of criminal prosecution, in case some people wish to instigate an investigation.

The law has been strongly criticized by human rights organizations within and outside the country, since its enactment in March 1993.

Its critics have claimed that it promoted impunity by protecting Army and guerrilla members who committed human rights crimes during the conflict.

However, its advocates have been both retired and active Army members, as well as right-wing politicians and businessmen in the country, since it precisely prevented justice being served to these officers –who are seen as responsible for frustrating the victory of the FMLN.

“All the crimes committed were motivated by an attack by the guerrilla”, claimed retired general Humberto Corado, former Defence Minister between 1993 and 1995.

The now repealed act was passed only five days after the Truth Commission, mandated by the United Nations to investigate human rights abuses during the civil war, had published its report with 32 specific cases, 20 of which were perpetrated by the Army and 12 by insurgents.

Among those cases were the murders of archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero in March 1980; four American nuns in December of the same year, and hundreds of peasants who were shot in several massacres, like those which took place in El Mozote in December 1981 and in Sumpul in May 1980.

Also, six Jesuit priests and a woman and her daughter were murdered in November 1989, a case already being investigated by a Spanish court.

The Truth Commission has also pointed to some FMLN commanders, holding them accountable for the death of several mayors who were targeted for being considered part of the government’s counter-insurgent strategy.

Some of those insurgents are now government officials, as is the case with director of Civil Protection Jorge Meléndez.

Before taking office in 2009, the FMLN, now turned into a political party, strongly criticized the amnesty law and advocated in favour of its repeal, on the grounds that it promoted impunity.

But, after winning the presidential elections that year with Mauricio Funes, it changed its stance and no longer favoured the repeal of the law. Since 2014, the country has been governed by former FMLN commander Salvador Sánchez Cerén.

In fact, the governing party has deemed the repeal as “reckless”, with the President stating on July 15 that Court magistrates “were not considering the effects it could have on the already fragile coexistence” and urging to take the ruling “with responsibility and maturity while taking into account the best interests of the country”.

After the law was ruled unconstitutional, the media were saturated with opinions and analyses on the subject, most of them pointing out the risk of the country being destabilized and on the verge of chaos due to the countless number of lawsuits that could pile up in the courts dealing with war cases.

“To those people who fiercely claim that magistrates have turned the country into a hell we must respond that hell is what the victims and their families have gone –and continue to go- through”, reads the release written on July 15 by the officials of the José Simeón Cañas Central American University, where the murdered Jesuits lived and worked in 1989.

Furthermore, the release states that most of the victims demand to be listened to, in order to find out the truth and be able to put a face on those they need to forgive.

In fact, at the heart of the debate lies the idea of restorative justice as a mechanism to find out the truth and heal the victims’ wounds, without necessarily implying taking perpetrators to jail.

“We do not want them to be jailed for a long period of time, we want perpetrators to tell us why they killed them, given that they knew they were civilians”, stressed Echeverría.

“And we want them to apologize, we want someone to be held accountable for these deaths”, she added.

In the case of Montenegro, himself a victim of illegal arrest and tortures in 1986, he said that it is necessary to investigate those who committed war crimes in order to find out the truth but, even more importantly, as a way for the country to find the most suitable mechanisms to forgive and provide redress”.

However, general Corado said that restorative justice was “hypocritical, its only aim being to seek revenge”.

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Beyond Rhetoric: UN Member States Start Work on Global Goalshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/beyond-rhetoric-un-member-states-start-work-on-global-goals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=beyond-rhetoric-un-member-states-start-work-on-global-goals http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/beyond-rhetoric-un-member-states-start-work-on-global-goals/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 17:05:23 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146182 Ministerial Segment of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Goals. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

Ministerial Segment of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Goals. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 22 2016 (IPS)

UN member states “are going beyond rhetoric and earnestly working to achieve real progress” towards the Sustainable Goals, the members of the Group of 77 and China said in a ministerial statement delivered here on 18 July.

The statement was delivered by Ambassador Virachai Plasai, Chair of the Group Of 77 (G77) and China during the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) which took place at UN Headquarters in New York from 18 to 20 July.

During the forum, the 134 members of the G77 and China reaffirmed the importance of not only achieving the Sustainable Development Goals but also the driving principle of leaving no one behind.

“We must identify the “how” in reaching out to those furthest behind,” said Plasai who is also Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to the UN.

“To make this real, we cannot simply reaffirm all the principles recognised in the (2030) Agenda, including the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, but must earnestly implement them in all our endeavours,” Plasai added.

The UN’s 193 member states unanimously adopted the 2030 Development Agenda, including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, in September 2015. The goals reflect the importance of the three aspects of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental, and countries will work towards achieving them by the year 2030.

However more still needs to be done to ensure that developing countries have access to the resources they need to meet the goals, said Plasai.

“We reiterate that enhancing support to developing countries is fundamental, including through provision of development financial resources, transfer of technology, enhanced international support and targeted capacity-building, and promoting a rules-based and non-discriminatory multilateral trading system,” he said.

“To make this real, we cannot simply reaffirm all the principles recognised in the (2030) Agenda... but must earnestly implement them in all our endeavours." -- Ambassador Virachai Plasai

“We urge the international community and relevant stakeholders to make real progress in these issues, including through the G20 Summit in China which will focus on developing action plans to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.”

At a separate meeting during the High Level Political Forum the G77 and China noted some of the specific gaps that remain in financing for development.

During that meeting the G77 and China expressed concern that rich countries are failing to meet their commitments to deliver Official Development Assistance (ODA) – the official term for aid – to developing countries.

“We note with concern that efforts and genuine will to address these issues are still lagging behind as reflected in this year’s outcome document of the Financing for Development forum which failed to address (gaps in ODA),” said Chulamanee Chartsuwan, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative Of The Kingdom of Thailand to the UN, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.

Speaking during the forum on July 19, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscored the importance of the High Level Political Forum, “as the global central platform for follow-up and review of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Ban presented the results of the first Sustainable Development Goals report released by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs on July 20. The report used “data currently available to highlight the most significant gaps and challenges” in achieving the 2030 Agenda, said Ban.

“The latest data show that about one person in eight still lives in extreme poverty,” he said.

“Nearly 800 million people suffer from hunger.”

“The births of nearly a quarter of children under 5 have not been recorded.”

“1.1 billion people are living without electricity, and water scarcity affects more than 2 billion.”

Leaving No One Behind

Ban also noted that the importance of collecting data about the groups within countries that are more likely to be “left behind”, such as peoples with disabilities or indigenous peoples.

Collecting separate data about how these groups fare is considered one way for governments to help achieve Sustainable Development Goal 10 which aims to decrease inequality within countries.

However SDG 10 also aims to address inequalities between countries, an important objective for the G77, as the main organisation bringing together developing countries at the UN the G77 wants to make sure that countries in special circumstances are not left behind.

Countries in special circumstances include “in particular African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and Small Island Developing States, as well as countries in conflict and post-conflict situations,” said Chartsuwan.

However while the world’s poorest and most fragile countries have specific challenges, many middle income countries also have challenges too, the G77 statement noted.

Climate Change Agreement Needs Implementation

Developing countries, and particularly countries with special circumstances, are among those that are most adversely affected by climate change, and therefore wish to see speedy adoption and implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement alongside the 2030 Agenda.

Ban told the forum that he will host a special event during the UN General Assembly at 8am on September 21 for countries to deposit their instruments of ratification.

“We have 178 countries who have signed this Paris Agreement, and 19 countries have deposited their instrument of ratification.”

“As you are well aware, we need the 55 countries to ratify, and 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions accounted.”

“These 19 countries all accounted is less than 1 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.”

“So we need to do much more,” he said.

The G77 Newswire is published with the support of the G77 Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF) in partnership with Inter Press Service (IPS).

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We Must Talk: Not Just Ph and China but Us and China, Toohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/we-must-talk-not-just-ph-and-china-but-us-and-china-too/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=we-must-talk-not-just-ph-and-china-but-us-and-china-too http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/we-must-talk-not-just-ph-and-china-but-us-and-china-too/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 16:27:28 +0000 Francisco Tatad http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146185 By Francisco S. Tatad
Jul 22 2016 (Manila Times)

Let us do this chronologically.

Days before the release on July 12 of the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, at The Hague, on the Philippine maritime dispute with China, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay, Jr. announced he was willing to sit down with Beijing for bilateral talks on the possible joint exploration of mineral and marine resources of the disputed maritime areas in the South China (West Philippine) Sea.

Francisco S. Tatad

Francisco S. Tatad

This was a pointed departure from the previous position of the Aquino government, which had insisted on a purely multilateral approach to the dispute, invoking international law under UNCLOS—the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. President Rodrigo DU30 did not correct or rebuke Yasay for his statement, so one assumed it had his full authority.

This apparently alarmed the US government, which had openly supported Aquino’s position and chided Beijing for its refusal to agree to arbitration and to recognize the jurisdiction of the arbitral body. On the eve of the release of the ruling, which everyone expected to be favorable to the Philippines, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter telephoned Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to talk about the impending verdict and its implications to the security of the region.

Kristie Kenney’s role

Hours before our “victory,” US State Department Counselor Kristie Kenney, a former ambassador to the Philippines, met with Yasay at the Department of Foreign Affairs “to call on the parties to respect the ruling.” This was completely ironic because the Philippine government was the only party to the arbitration, and could not have been expected to “disrespect” a ruling in its favor. If at all, the Philippines should be the one asking China to respect the ruling and the US to help persuade Beijing.

In reality, Kenney’s call was a rebuke to the newly initiated foreign secretary for his gratuitous statement on bilateral negotiations, which caught Washington totally by surprise. Nothing was reported from the Kenney-Yasay conversation, but when the ruling from The Hague came and profuse and euphoric reactions greeted it from the US, Japan, Australia and the European allies as well as from all sorts of netizens, Yasay had to welcome it in measured tones, calling for “sobriety” at the same time.

Albert del Rosario recycled

Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, who had been quoted as saying the Philippines would be a frontline state in containing China’s rise, and had engaged Beijing in steaming rhetoric on the South China Sea issue when he was still in office, was recycled out of wherever he was enjoying his retirement for publicity purposes, to speak actively about the ruling and receive the applause of the public who had yet to see our victory at the The Hague was completely psychic.

Yasay’s next opportunity to be heard came at the 11th Asia-Europe Summit Meeting, in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, on July 15 – 16, where on behalf of DU30, who was unable to attend, he called upon China to bind itself to the process it had rejected from the very start. He was somehow overshadowed in the press by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who pressed the point against China far more strongly than he did, prompting the Chinese government to point out that Japan was not a party to the issue at hand.

ASEM unmoved, FVR mooted

In its post-conference statement, ASEM refused to be drawn into the Philippines-China controversy, limiting itself to a general statement to the peaceful settlement of territorial disputes. Apparently, Yasay had some conversation with the Chinese delegation at the margins of the conference, but nothing came out of it in the press. Yasay’s performance provoked rumors of his early departure, prompting the President to issue a statement dismissing such possibility.

At the same time DU3O announced he was going to name former President Fidel V. Ramos as his special envoy to start talks with the Xi Jinping government. This was promptly welcomed by Beijing, and Ramos himself indicated genuine interest in it. But the latest word from Yasay is that there won’t be any talks with China, unless the latter agrees to discuss the PCA ruling, which it does not recognize.

Talks torpedoed?
This tends to show that some powerful actor has succeeded in torpedoing the rapprochement project, and that we should expect belligerent rhetoric and tension, which we were trying to arrest, to ratchet up. This means that the new DFA management never understood why bilateral talks were needed, in the face of a ruling that tends to create a worse crisis than the one it was seeking to ease.

To this observer the merit of bilateral talks was never in doubt. But the talks have to be without any preconditions. We just won the arbitral ruling, true; but no power on earth could compel China to recognize it. So why would China want to have talks with us that begin with a discussion of what it does not want to recognize? And what benefit do we hope to gain from it?

On the other hand, if we sit down to discuss ways and means of working together for peace and economic development without touching a gaping wound that’s still so fresh, China would most probably appreciate our generosity and try to match it to the fullest. This is the Asian way, unfamiliar to the West. Eventually, after we have been bonded by the strongest economic, social, cultural and human ties, we could perhaps begin to talk of the most difficult territorial problems between us.

A Korean tale
The story of a young Korean I had met on one of my earlier trips to Seoul seems most apt. He said he had a Japanese classmate with whom he fought on the first day they met—over the issue of Japan’s colonization of Korea from 1910 to 1945. The Japanese militarists had killed his parents, and he wanted to take it out on the young Japanese. He broke his nose, although he himself did not go unscathed. Despite this incident, he took pains to befriend his perceived nemesis.

They became such good friends that whenever any of his other friends would begin to talk of what the Japanese did to Korea in the past, he would immediately change the subject, and his Japanese friend would be profuse in his thanks. One day his friend asked about his dead parents, and if he could visit their graves to pay his respects. From then on, it became so easy for them to discuss their dark past.

GMA tried joint exploration
DU30 and Yasay were not the first ones to mention the possibility of joint exploration of marine and mineral resources in the South China (West Philippine) Sea. In 2004, during the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration, the Philippines and China already agreed to conduct joint exploration for oil and gas in the disputed waters. In March 2005, Vietnam became the third party to the Joint Maritime Seismic Undertaking (JMSU).

This, however, fell apart because of maritime incidents between China and Vietnam, and certain controversies involving China’s big business contracts in the Philippines. There was also a move to question the constitutionality of the JMSU before the Supreme Court. Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who has taken the lead in discussing the Philippine claim as against China’s so-called “nine-dash line” in various forums, maintains that any joint exploration with China as an equal partner would violate the Constitution, which permits foreigners not more than 40 percent equity in the exploitation of the country’s natural resources.

Marine Peace Park
But Carpio is willing to adopt the idea of Dr. John McManus, professor of Marine Biology and Fisheries at the University of Miami, that the disputed areas be converted into a Marine Peace Park for the benefit of all. This is not much different from a previous proposal in this column that the area be declared a common heritage of mankind, free from any kind of military weapons, particularly nuclear, or the political control of any nation, but for the benefit of all. This sounds like an idea whose time has come, although rather utopian; but I fear it would be immediately shot down by the military powers who see the South China Sea not only as the great waterway through which passes $5 trillion of the world’s annual trade but also as an irreplaceable playground for the world’s most powerful aircraft carriers, warships and submarines.

Without any means to compel China to comply with a ruling that invalidates its so-called “nine-dash line,” there is obvious need for the Philippines and China to talk and avoid inflammatory rhetoric and counterproductive political or military initiatives. As I have said a few times before, we have no need of war with China, nor can we afford it. Given our limited resources, how do we feed 1.3 billion Chinese, if they survive such a war, and should we win it?

US and China must talk
But since the real conflict is the geopolitical rivalry between the world’s lone superpower and Asia’s rising regional power, there is even more urgent need for them to sit down and discuss the terms upon which we are to build a new world order. The basic conflict is civilizational, and must be resolved as such.

As the British author and journalist Simon Winchester puts it in his book Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World’s Superpowers, the Eastern civilization on the West side of the Pacific and the Western civilization on the East side of the Pacific have finally met to turn the Pacific into the inland sea of tomorrow, where the Mediterranean was the inland sea of the ancient world, and the Atlantic the inland sea of today. America has dominated the Pacific for the past 60 years, but its declining economic and political power has rendered it insecure about China’s phenomenal economic, political and military rise.

Search for equivalence, avoiding the ‘Thucydides Trap’

America needs to see, Winchester writes, that China is not interested in replacing or challenging the US as a world power. It does not intend to colonize, enslave or dominate any country or people like the Western powers, but simply wants to “enjoy equivalence.” This mistaken fear of China, left unchecked, could lead to what has been called the “Thucydides Trap,” in which a rising power causes fear in an established power which inevitably escalates toward war. We learn this from the History of the Peloponnesian War, which happened when after Athens and Sparta defeated Persia, Sparta’s growing fear of Athens led the two former allies to destroy each other.

In a major 2015 article in The Atlantic, Prof. Graham Allison of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government asked whether the US and China are headed for war because of the Thucydides Trap. A few years before that, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a speech before the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on March 3, 2012, warned the US against falling into such a trap.

Chinese President Xi Jinping himself has said, “We all need to work together to avoid the ‘Thucydides Trap’—destructive tensions between an emerging power and established powers… Our aim is to foster a new model of major country relations.”

Indeed this can be avoided, not by demonizing the rising power or trying to prevent its rise, but by peaceful and constructive engagement, which begins to happen when the contending parties sit down without any preconditions to talk.

fstatad@gmail.com

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Why we Failedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/why-we-failed/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-we-failed http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/why-we-failed/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 16:13:56 +0000 Zubeida Mustafa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146184 By Zubeida Mustafa
Jul 22 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Qandeel Baloch’s horrific murder in the name of ‘honour’ is testimony to the failure of the women’s movement to overturn patriarchy in Pakistan. Against the backdrop of the spate of anti-women violence, comes a report by Dr Rubina Saigol written for the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a German foundation. Titled Feminism and the Women’s Movement in Pakistan: Actors, Debates and Strategies, this excellent document should provide much food for thought.

57912e07d04f6__The author, an eminent sociologist, touches the heart of the issue — especially in cases like Qandeel’s — when she points out that there are “silences” (neglected subjects) that surround questions of family and sexuality, the mainstay of patriarchy and women’s subjugation. These have generally not been addressed by the women’s movement and she recommends that they should be.

But that is not all. More than these silences, the author points out, feminists have failed to devise a successful strategy to empower women and create public spaces for them. That accounts for their inability to make a profound impact.

Feminists here never tried to be inclusive.

Dr Saigol observes that today there is “a deafening disquieting quiet in the women’s movement”. She quotes a number of well-known feminists who contend that Pakistan lacks an autonomous vigorous movement, notwithstanding the vocal female protests against the oppression of women.

She substantiates her argument by pointing to the absence of a “common collective vision of a better world, agreed upon strategies to create such a world, and shared understandings of the world in which we live and work”.

One would agree with the writer who traces the history of the women’s struggle in Pakistan to show how it evolved in response to internal politics and external events along with the globalisation that began in the post-cold war age.

But to formulate a unified stance has not been possible given the many serious constraints that exist, many of which are deeply rooted in our socio-cultural values, such as a general trend towards glorification of patriarchy that is reinforced by religion, the adversarial relationship between feminists and the state, and the depoliticisation of the women’s struggle. The impression conveyed is that the feminist movement has been a victim of circumstances — be they the induction of donor-driven NGOs or extremist religious ideologues in the country.

However, the women’s ‘movement’ in Pakistan has always been bifurcated by great schisms. At no stage was a common platform created where women of all views could gather on a minimal common agenda. The fact is that feminists of all shades never tried to be inclusive. Hence no group had the numerical strength to assert a claim to supremacy. WAF had the greatest potential for leadership due to its financial and political autonomy. Yet it never brought in its fold non-professional disadvantaged women who constitute the bulk of Pakistan’s female population. It focused on them only in nuanced consciousness-raising and, to its credit, condemned strongly individual cases of abuse of underprivileged women.

This activism didn’t go very far although it pushed the women’s issue on the national agenda. Some laws were changed but never implemented. The lives of the majority of women didn’t change. Though they support large families, as Qandeel did, they have to bow before patriarchy. They have no time to be mobilised to learn about their rights which they know would never be actualised.

However, the same women are willing to respond to a call which offers them services that to an extent facilitate them in fulfilling some of their basic needs. That is why various development NGOs working in the education and (reproductive) health sectors — even the donor-funded but honest ones — have been able to achieve more than the feminists in creating awareness of women’s rights.

Many of them have taken the indirect, but more effective, route to empower women and instil in them a vision of a better future. They understand the importance of female participation to create awareness in them. The next generation of women definitely show the promise of being more skilful in negotiating their way through rough patriarchal waters.

Had the advocacy groups tried to link up with the services groups they would have reinforced each others’ work. I remember the iconic development worker, Perween Rahman, lamenting the inability of the women’s movement to mobilise huge numbers to protest against injustices inflicted on women. She recognised the fact that women’s development was possible only if their rights were given full recognition. “But we are so busy attending to the basic needs of men and women that we have no time and resources to do advocacy. If the women’s rights movement were to join hands with us, we would definitely support them as that is what we also want.”

What needs to be recognised is that human development is an integrated and holistic process. To be effective, rights activists must address all areas and classes of human development simultaneously.

www.zubeidamustafa.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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The Americans Should Have Their Own Chilcothttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-americans-should-have-their-own-chilcot/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-americans-should-have-their-own-chilcot http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-americans-should-have-their-own-chilcot/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 15:59:48 +0000 Mohammad Badrul Ahsan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146181 By Mohammad Badrul Ahsan
Jul 22 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Ever since the Chilcot Inquiry vilified former Prime Minister Tony Blair on July 6 for taking the United Kingdom to war in Iraq, the world is waiting for the other shoe to drop. If Blair deliberately exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, the report assessed he had done it at the behest of his American ally George W. Bush. That gives sufficient ground for the Americans to have their own Chilcot. Blair had bought the distribution rights on this of the Atlantic for the biggest lot of hogwash Bush sold to the entire world.

op_1_Bush and Blair remind one of America’s most notorious criminal couple, Bonnie and Clyde. In the movie made on their life in 1967, Bonnie Parker tells Clyde Barrow after he rebuffs her romantic advances, “Your advertising is just dandy… folks would never guess you don’t have a thing to sell.” We don’t know if the former British premier ever had the pride of an embarrassed Bonnie to tell his friend Bush before, during or after the Iraq invasion that he didn’t have a thing to sell when he lied about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction.

The world knows that George Bush lied. It knows he fabricated that story to invade Iraq for more reasons than overthrowing its ruler. And, it doesn’t seem to be an honest mistake or an error in judgment because Bush has never apologised, accepted responsibility or shown remorse for his decisions. Meanwhile, the global chain reaction he set off has already killed thousands of men, women and children, and continues to convulse the world.

UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond said after the Chilcot report was released that the US blunder in Iraq led to the rise of IS. He criticised the US decision to dismantle the Iraqi army, when 400,000 unemployed soldiers, many of them Saddam loyalists, were let loose to graze on the fields of anger and vengeance.

In fact, it’s not clear till today what has been accomplished by trashing a country to topple its dictator. It has been more than nine years since Saddam was hanged on an Eid day, but Iraq is bloodier, ever more violent and ever more confused. Pakistan is paranoid, Afghanistan is antsy, Syria is seething, Yemen is yelping, Turkey is terrorised, and European cities are reeling under terrorist attacks. Even a previously quiet country like Bangladesh has to look over its shoulder. IS has also turned its wrath on Indonesia, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

An American Chilcot inquiry should look into what goat George Bush had in this fight. Did he want to seek vengeance for the plot Saddam once had allegedly hatched to assassinate his father? Did he have a crusade mission to invade a vulnerable country and throw a monkey wrench into the Muslim world? Did he go after Iraq’s oil? What did he actually want?

That Bush didn’t go for the WMDs is clear already because he knew he couldn’t find what wasn’t there. He also didn’t go there to fight terrorism because Saddam hasn’t been linked to terror groups, which carried out the 9/11 attacks. He also didn’t go to liberate Iraq, which is squirming under the oppressive burden of foreign invasion.

The United States needs a Chilcot-like investigation to answer these questions. It may take seven years or so, but better late than never. The Americans don’t need to carry the burden of one man’s guilt on their conscience. They, like the British people, have the right to know why their former leader had lied to take their country to a wasteful war.

It will be nice if the American inquiry summons Tony Blair as a witness. The investigators should have him sit together with George Bush at the same table and observe how they defend each other. Then both men should be provided with calculators to work out this simple math. Problem: Saddam was executed for the murder of 148 Iraqi Shi’ites. Solution: How many times should a devious duo be hanged for their misguided or mischievous policies that have killed nearly a million in Iraq, thousands in Syria and many more in other countries as collateral damage?

If the United States sincerely wishes to help other countries in their fight against terrorism, it must go back to the original sin and exonerate itself. It must explain to a disgusted world how an architect of anarchy could trigger turmoil worldwide and then enjoy the perks of a retired president without having so much as a rap on the knuckles!

Injecting air bubbles into the bloodstream can lead to brain damage or even death. An American inquiry needs to investigate how George Bush’s “hot air” has created a similar medical condition across the world. Those left brain-damaged are ruthlessly killing, while others are helplessly dying in vain. Shame!

The writer is Editor of the weekly First News and an opinion writer for The Daily Star.
Email: badrul151@yahoo.com.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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G77 & IPS Launch Monthly Electronic Newsletterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/g77-ips-launch-monthly-electronic-newsletter/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=g77-ips-launch-monthly-electronic-newsletter http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/g77-ips-launch-monthly-electronic-newsletter/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 14:21:07 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146207 77 Developing Countries Prepare a Declaration for the Conference on Trade and Development in  June 1964. Credit: UN Photo/SZ

77 Developing Countries Prepare a Declaration for the Conference on Trade and Development in June 1964. Credit: UN Photo/SZ

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 22 2016 (IPS/G77)

The Group of 77 (G77) has sustained a longstanding symbiotic relationship with Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency linked together by a single political commitment: promoting the interests of developing countries.

Perhaps by accident or by design, both were born around the same time back in 1964, along with the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and celebrated their 50th anniversaries in 2014.

Beginning with the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992, IPS covered virtually every major UN conference of the 1990s – and often, with the publication of daily conference newspapers under its flagship: Terra Viva.

Some of the lead stories in Terra Viva during the Earth Summit was the tough stance taken by the G77 in negotiating Agenda 21, the environmental plan of action for the 21st century which was eventually adopted by the conference.

The two-week long negotiations between the G77 and Western industrial nations were best exemplified in an IPS banner headline, attributed to a G77 official, which read: “We will strike with an iron fist in a velvet glove.”

The primary objective of Terra Viva was to provide a voice – and a platform – to the 134-member of G77, which remains the largest single coalition of developing nations comprising over 2/3ds of the UN membership.

Farhana Haque Rahman

Farhana Haque Rahman

Following the Earth Summit, IPS published daily conference newspapers at the Human Rights Conference in Vienna in 1993; the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994; the World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen in 1995; the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, also in 1995; and the UN Conference on Human Settlements in Istanbul in 1996.

“We plan to strengthen our relationship with the G77 and will continue to work closely with members of the Group while intensifying our coverage of the socio-economic issues on the UN agenda – as we have done over the last 52 years,” -- Farhana Haque Rahman, IPS Director-General

IPS coverage also included two South Summits sponsored by the G77, the first in Havana in April 2000 and the second in Doha in June 2005.

Additionally, IPS published a daily electronic newsletter during the G77’s 40th anniversary ministerial meeting in Sao Paolo, Brazil in 2004.

Farhana Haque Rahman, IPS Director-General, reiterated her news agency’s role as a strong advocate for developing countries while keeping critical issues such as poverty eradication, food and nutrition security, sustainability, gender equality, women’s empowerment, climate, nuclear disarmament, remittances and migration on top of the IPS agenda.

“To ensure that the world is free from the scourges of hunger and is a safe place for future generations, IPS will continue to offer news analyses and human stories on the day-to-day realities faced by people in developing countries.”

“We plan to strengthen our relationship with the G77 and will continue to work closely with members of the Group while intensifying our coverage of the socio-economic issues on the UN agenda – as we have done over the last 52 years,” she declared.

The Executive Secretary of the G77 Mourad Ahmia points out that for five decades IPS has, in its own way, contributed to the promotion of the global development agenda of the developing world.

“The integral role played by the Group of 77 in economic diplomacy and projecting the development interests of the global South is a testimony to its continued relevance in the ongoing global development dialogue,” he said.

“IPS’s priceless contribution in that endeavor translates into promoting a new platform for global governance through critical information and communication,” he declared.

Today, the G-77 remains the only viable and operational mechanism in multilateral economic diplomacy within the U.N system. And its growing membership – from the original 77 to the current 134 — is proof of its enduring strength.

Pointing out the support provided by IPS to “bring the voice of the poor to the forefront,” the 2006 Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus said: “I commend IPS for reaching areas and people that mostly remain unreached.”

Roberto Savio, one of the founders of IPS, said the news agency was created on a platform of values, to make information more democratic and participatory, and to give the voice to those who did not have one, largely from the developing world.

In 2008, IPS was presented with a ‘Leadership Award’ for its role in promoting stronger ties among developing nations and media outlets.

“We consider ourselves privileged to accept this award – and we also view this as a recognition of the work we have been doing to highlight South-South cooperation in the field of communications during the last 45 years,” said then IPS Director-General Mario Lubetkin.

“As a news agency of the global South, IPS follows the U.N. development agenda very closely,” he added.

The award was presented at that time by the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation hosted by the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP), which has honoured individuals and institutions for their role in fostering South-South solidarity and cooperation among developing nations.

Meanwhile, with support from the Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund (PGTF), IPS collaborated with the G77 to publish the first ever G-77 newsletter in 1988-1991: “The Journal of the Group of 77.”

Subsequently, IPS and the G77 continued to publish the Journal in 1993-1994 and 1995-2007.

The project was resumed this year– again with the support of the PGTF– this time, for an electronic monthly newsletter, THE G77 NEWSWIRE, keeping pace with the advance in digital technology.

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There is No Honour in Killinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/there-is-no-honour-in-killing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=there-is-no-honour-in-killing http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/there-is-no-honour-in-killing/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 14:06:00 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146178 By Rose Delaney
ROME, Jul 22 2016 (IPS)

“Honour” is a paradoxical word. Initially, it draws to mind characteristics of integrity and dignity combined with an all-knowing air of greatness.

However, tradition has conditioned many men into the association of being “honourable” with an assertion of superiority over their female counterparts.

The recent honour killing of Pakistani social media star, Qandeel  Baloch, has triggered global outrage and spread the message that there is no "honour" in the practice of  ruthless murder.

The recent honour killing of Pakistani social media star, Qandeel Baloch, has triggered global outrage and spread the message that there is no “honour” in the practice of ruthless murder. Photo: Twitter

“Honour” also seems to entail the adoption of a “strong” masculine image one must project onto the public sphere, and a means of justifying acts of repressive control.

Historically speaking, the world over, women have been indoctrinated into the belief that their sexuality is somehow dangerous, a shameful secret that must be kept hidden for fear of “indecent exposure”.

Qandeel Baloch, a Pakistani social media star, who came from a society with a deep-rooted fear of female sexuality, attempted to break free from the status quo.

However, did Qandeel’s rebellious actions in the face of male-perpetrated oppression trigger any radical social change? In other words, did her suggestive Facebook photos do no more than make her another product of the “meat market”? Or did her “honour-death” raise the global awareness so desperately needed by women from her region?

Ultimately, did Qandeel’s definition of “sexual liberation” only result in the dishonouring of her family, and her eventual murder?

In the aftermath of Qandeel Baloch’s death by suffocation, the cold-blooded murderer was revealed as no less than her own flesh and blood brother. Upon his arrest, he stated that “he had no regrets” as his sister’s behaviour was “intolerable”.

Somewhere along the line, his societal upbringing ingrained within him the ideology that he not only had the power to control and suppress women but also condemn and punish them for their “indecent” actions too.

While Qandeel took her final breath of life, her brother’s outburst of violent frenzy was somehow self-justified. Deep down, his subconscious drove him to take a woman’s life in the name of dignity and “honour”.

He is one of many young men across the world, especially in South-Asia, who view murder as a reasonable resolution to “de-shaming” the family name from the stain of “dishonour”.

What’s more puzzling in the Qandeel Baloch case is the contradiction surrounding her parents outrage towards her murderous brother’s actions.

Qandeel’s father, Muhammad Azeem, recently expressed his disgust by stating that his son should be “shot on sight”.

Ironically, Qandeel’s father considers the further perpetration of violence as the only solution to his daughter’s murder.

In this sense, has Qandeel’s murder only deepened the vicious circle of vengeance surrounding honour-based violence? Or, will her parents public shaming of their son’s brutality act as a catalyst for change in Pakistan?

Pakistani journalist and activist, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy emphasized the fact that honour killings are an ongoing epidemic. “It appears it is very easy to kill a woman in this country and you can walk off scot-free”.

Legitimized by the perpetrators as a fundamental duty to follow a timeless “code of honour”, familial killings are commonplace in many, particularly rural, regions of Pakistan.

Whilst Qandeel Baloch’s murder exploded across global media outlets and her killer was relentlessly castigated, for another Pakistani woman like Samia, with no fame or fan base behind her, the path to justice was a predestined failure.

Samia ran away from her abusive husband and filed for divorce. When her family met with a lawyer to finalize the documents, a stranger was lurking nearby.

This man later revealed to be a hit man hired by her husband, pulled out a gun and shot a bullet into Samia’s head before she could fully legalize the separation and regain her freedom.

The police refused to prosecute the murderer as they justified the horrific incident as an “honourable” killing.

Both Qandeel and Samia’s narratives represent the thousands of women who have been ruthlessly murdered in the name of an “honour” that appears to be nothing more than a form of bloodthirsty misogyny.

We now must pose the question as to whether the international media pickup of Qandeel’s honour killing will shine a light on the atrocities happening on a daily basis to conventional women like Samia who, most likely, have limited access to social media networks and fear voicing their concerns will only lead to grave consequences.

In the aftermath of Qandeel’s merciless killing, will society place more of an importance on the need to condemn the perpetrators of honour-based violence? Only time will tell.

As of yet, the international organization Honour-Based Violence Awareness network estimates roughly 1,000 women a year are killed in honour killings in Pakistan.

The practice of “honour killing” is no contemporary trend, it dates back to earlier times when Arab settlers occupied a region a known as Baluchistan in Pakistan.

The Arab settlers had patriarchal traditions such as live burials of newly born daughters which is still practiced even today in many parts of the world.

The settlers also enforced the belief that a woman should have no say when it came to the matter of her virginity.

In their view, her sexuality belonged to the family. Undoubtedly, The importance placed on virginity and purity during this time still dominates the ideology of many countries in South Asia.

The very definition of masculinity, particularly in rural villages of the region, also contributes to violence against women. In certain communities, violence is closely linked to honour and the assertion of masculine status.

The resistance to give into western ideals of gender equality also contributes to the persistence of patriarchy in the South Asia region. Many are reluctant to abandon traditional customary practices such as honour killings.

Unfortunately, the future appears grim for the thousands of women subjected to honour-based acts of violence.

South Asian women’s lack of empowerment and economic independence will be of no help in their strive for the eradication of gender-based atrocities.

As long as women remain financially dependent in a male-dominated economy, they will continue to suffer from the violence and misogyny that traditional societies justify as a “code of honour”.

In light of ongoing honour-based violence and murder, Qandeel Baloch’s refusal to conform to repressive societal norms should inspire suppressed women across the world to practice their right to the freedom of speech.

It’s time to redefine the definition of “honour” and rise in the face of violence. Now, we must put the practice of patriarchal “codes of honour” to a halt, and demand the universal right to justice and equality.

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