Inter Press ServiceInter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 21 Oct 2017 19:09:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 Austrian Elections: The Crisis of Europe Continueshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/austrian-elections-crisis-europe-continues/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=austrian-elections-crisis-europe-continues http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/austrian-elections-crisis-europe-continues/#respond Sat, 21 Oct 2017 19:06:32 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152640 Roberto Savio is co-founder of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and its President Emeritus. He is also publisher of OtherNews.

The post Austrian Elections: The Crisis of Europe Continues appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Roberto Savio is co-founder of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and its President Emeritus. He is also publisher of OtherNews.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Oct 21 2017 (IPS)

The Austrian elections show clearly that media have given up on contextualising events. To do that, calls for a warning about Europe’s future, as a vehicle of European values is required. Europe has been weakened by all the recent elections, with the notable exception of France. Common to all, France included, were some clear trends, that we will hastily, and therefore maybe imperfectly, examine.

Roberto Savio

The decline of the traditional parties.

In every election, since the financial crisis of 2009, the parties we have known to run their country since the end of the Second World War, are on the wane ( or practically disappearing, like in the last French elections). In Austria, the far right Freedom Party of Austria (FPO) secured 26 per cent of the vote, just a few votes behind the Social Democrats who took 26.9 per cent of the votes. The social democrats have been in power practically since the end of the war. And the other traditional party, the conservative Austrian People’s Party (OVP), won the elections with 31.5 per cent. Together the two parties used to have more than 85% of the votes. In the Dutch elections held in March, Geert Wilder’s far-right Party for Freedom PVV, came second after the ruling People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy VVD, at the expense of all other parties. And in September in Germany, the far right anti immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) enjoyed historical success, becoming the third party while the two traditional parties, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union of Germany CDU and the social democrat Social Democratic Party of Germany SPD, suffered the worst results in more than a half a century. According to polls, next year Italian elections will see a populist movement, with the 5 Stars taking over the government.

Austria is the best example to understand how European national politics have changed. It is important to note that no right wing party was really visible in Europe, (except Le Pen in France), before the financial crisis of 2009. That crisis brought insecurity and fear and in the same year the Austrian far right, under the charismatic leadership of Jorg Haider, got the same percentage of votes as of today. And the conservative Prime minister of the time, Wolfgang Schlussel broke a taboo by bringing the Freedom Party into the government. Everybody in Europe reacted with horror, practically isolating Austria. And the FPO, lost all its lustre in the government, going down to 5%, and with the death of Haider even further down. There Are no gasps of horror now in Europe over any far right wing parties getting in to govern.

What has fuelled the decline of the traditional parties

The traditional parties were facing already a loss of participation and trust by the electors at the end of the last century but in 2009 Europe imported the financial crisis which racked the US in 2006. And, 2009 saw hardship and unemployment all over Europe. And that year Greece became the battleground of two visions in Europe. The Southern countries wanted to push out of the crisis with investments and social relief, while the bloc of Northern countries, led by Germany, saw austerity as the only response. Germany wanted to export it’s experience: they were doing well thanks to an internal austerity reform started by Schroeder in 2003, and they did not want to take on other reforms at any cost.

Greece was just 4% of the European economy and could have been rescued without problems. But the German line won and today Greece has lost 25% of its properties; pensions went down by 17%, and there is a massive unemployment. Austerity was the response to the crisis for all of Europe and that aggravated fear and insecurity.

It is also important to remember that until the invasions of Libya, Iraq and Syria, in which Europe played a key role (2011- 2014), there were few immigrants and this was not a problem. In 2010, immigrants numbered 215.000, in a region of 400 millions. But during the invasions, a very fragile balance between Shite and Sunni, the two main religious branches of Islam, collapsed. Civil war, and the creation of ISIS in 2015 pushed many to try to reach Europe to escape the civil wars. So, in 2015 more than 1.2 million refugees, the majority coming from countries in conflict, arrived in Europe, which was not prepared for such a massive influx. And, if we study the elections before then, we can see that the far right parties were not as relevant as they are now.

Therefore it should be clear that austerity and immigration have been the two main factors for the rise of the right wing. Statistics and data show that clearly. Statistics also show that immigrants, of course with exceptions, (that media and populism inflates), basically want to integrate, accept any kind of work, and are law abiding and pay their contributions, which is obviously in their interest. Of course the level of instruction plays a crucial role. But the Syrians who come here were basically middle class. And of course it is an inconvenient truth that if Europe did not intervene in the name of democracy, the situation would be different. NATO estimates that more than 30 billion dollars have been spent on the war in Syria. There are now six million refugees, and 400.00 dead.

And Assad is still there. Of course, democracy has a different value in countries which are closed and rich in petrol. If we were serious about democracy, there are so many African countries which need intervention. Book Haram has killed seven times more people than ISIS; and Mugabe is considering running for re-election after dominating Zimbabwe for nearly four decades. But you will never hear much on those issues in the present political debate.

How the far right is changing Europe

Nigel Farage is the populist who led a far right party, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) which fought for leaving Europe. UKIP received the greatest number of votes (27.49%) of any British party in the 2014 European Parliament election and gained 11 extra Member of the European Parliament MEPs for a total of 24.[55] The party won seats in every region of Great Britain, including its first in Scotland.[56] It was the first time in over a century that a party other than Labour or Conservatives won the mosti votes in a UK-wide election.

But Farage lost the elections held just before Brexit, in June 2016. His declaration to the media was: Infact, I am the real winner, because my agenda against Europe now is the basis for politics in all the traditional parties. Brexit did follow.

And this is what is happening now everywhere. The Austrian elections did not see only the FPO rise. They also saw the conservative OVP taking immigration, security, borders and others part of the far right agenda of the populist agenda in the electoral campaign. A full 58% of the voters went for the far right or the right, with the social Democrats also moving more to the center. The new Dutch governement took a turn to the right, by reducing taxes on the rich people, and to companies. The same turn to the right can be expected by the new coalition led by Merkel, with the liberals aiming to take over the ministry of Finance. Its leader, Christian Lindner, is a nationlist and has several times declared his aversion to Europe. In that seense, he will be worse than the inflexible Schauble, who just wanted to Germanize Europe, but was a convinced European. And it is interesting that the main vote for the far righ party AfD came from East Germany, where immigrants are few. But in spite of investing the staggering amount of 1.3 trillions Euro in the development of East Germany, important differences in employment and revenues with West Germany remain. No wonder that the President of South Korea has warned President Trump to avoid any conflict. They have decided a longtime ago, looking at the German reunification that they would not have the resources required by annexing with success, North Korea.The rocketman, as Trump calls Kim, after the decertification of Iran, can claim that the only way to be sure that US will not intervene, is to show that he has a nuclear intercontinental ability, because US does not respect treaties.

Those considerations done, a pattern is clear everywhere. The agenda of the right wing has been incorporated in the traditional parties; they bring in the governing coalition, like Norway did , or they try to isolate them , as did Sweden. This does not change the fact that everybody is moving to the right. Austria will now tilt to the Visegrad group, formed by Poland , Hungary, Czech and Slovakia, which are clearly challenging Europe and looking to Putin as a political model ( all the right wing does).

The only active European voice is Macron, who clearly is not a progressist guy either. The real progressist, Corbyn, is ambigous about Europe, because the Labour Party has a lot of eurosceptic.

The new German government has already made clear that many of it’s proposals for a stronger Europe are not on the agenda, and austerity remains the way. Unless a strong growth comes soon (and the IMF doubts that), social problems will increase. Nationalism never helped peace, development and cooperation. Probably , we need some populist movement to be in the government to show that they have no real answers to the problems. The victory of 5 stars in Italy will probably do that. But this was the theory also for Egypt. Let the Muslim Brotherhood take the government , and it will be a failure. Pity that the General El Sisi did not let this happen. Our hope is that we do not get any El Sisis in Europe.

If only young people went back to vote, this would change the situation in Europe…this is the real historical loss of the left in Europe.

The post Austrian Elections: The Crisis of Europe Continues appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/austrian-elections-crisis-europe-continues/feed/ 0
Cycles of Wealth in Brazil’s Amazon: Gold, Lumber, Cattle and Now, Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/cycles-wealth-brazils-amazon-gold-lumber-cattle-now-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cycles-wealth-brazils-amazon-gold-lumber-cattle-now-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/cycles-wealth-brazils-amazon-gold-lumber-cattle-now-energy/#respond Sat, 21 Oct 2017 07:50:23 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152630 The burning down of the local forest, on Jun. 29, 1979, was the first step towards the creation of the city of Paranaita, in a municipality that is now trying to shed its reputation as a major deforester of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest and has named itself “the energy capital.” Two large hydropower plants, one of […]

The post Cycles of Wealth in Brazil’s Amazon: Gold, Lumber, Cattle and Now, Energy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Aerial view of the TelesPires Hydropower Plant, which has been operating since 2015.With an installed capacity of 1,820 MW, it is the biggest plant on the TelesPires River, which runs across the west-central state of MatoGrosso. Built in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, the reservoir is only 160 sq km in size and only displaced one family. Credit: Courtesy of CHTP

Aerial view of the TelesPires Hydropower Plant, which has been operating since 2015.With an installed capacity of 1,820 MW, it is the biggest plant on the TelesPires River, which runs across the west-central state of MatoGrosso. Built in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, the reservoir is only 160 sq km in size and only displaced one family. Credit: Courtesy of CHTP

By Mario Osava
PARANAITA, Brazil, Oct 21 2017 (IPS)

The burning down of the local forest, on Jun. 29, 1979, was the first step towards the creation of the city of Paranaita, in a municipality that is now trying to shed its reputation as a major deforester of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest and has named itself “the energy capital.”

Two large hydropower plants, one of which is still being built, have changed life in Paranaita. But its future is not yet clearly defined between the rainforest, cattle-breeding and soy and maize monoculture that have advanced from the south, deforesting the west-central state of MatoGrosso, which is the southeastern gateway to the Amazon jungle region.

Construction of the plants has brought investment, new housing and hotels and has given a new boost to the local economy in the city, which now has large supermarkets. “My hotel only had six apartments; now it has 12 complete apartments and a more attractive facade,”Francisco Karasiaki Júnior said brightly, during a tour of the area by IPS.

The Teles Pires dam, 85 km northwest of Paranaita, employed 5,719 workers at the height of construction, in July 2014.

The dam began to be built in August 2011 and was completed in late 2014, when work had already begun on the São Manoel – the former name of the Teles Pires river – dam, which is smaller and located farther away from the city, 125 km downstream.

São Manoel suffered delays when construction was temporarily halted by court order and when the company building it came close to bankruptcy as a result of corruption scandals, which led to massive lay-offs in late 2016.

“I lost money, many of the people who stayed here didn’t pay their bills,” complained Ster Seravali Petrofeza, 68, the owner of the Petros Hotel and of a large store that sells machinery and appliances for production, construction and households in a building on the main street of the city that she saw grow up from nothing.

“The era of the ‘garimpo’ brought me my best business,” she said, recalling the boom in informal gold mining that brought Paranaitaprosperity during the 1980s and the early 1990s.

The sales of dredges, motors and other equipment purchased by miners ensured the success of the business she ran with her late husband, who “used to spend all his time on the road, looking for products, assembling dredges and delivering them to the ‘garimpeiros’ (informal gold-miners) on the river, working round the clock,” she said.

Pedro Correa, director of the environment in the Paranaita city government, looks at a photo of the city surrounded by forests, on his computer screen. Originally from the southern state of São Paulo, he worked for a few months on the construction of the Teles Pires hydropower dam and decided to stay in this town because he likes the quality of life. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Pedro Correa, director of the environment in the Paranaita city government, looks at a photo of the city surrounded by forests, on his computer screen. Originally from the southern state of São Paulo, he worked for a few months on the construction of the Teles Pires hydropower dam and decided to stay in this town because he likes the quality of life. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“The ‘garimpo’ led to the emergence of 11 hotels in the city, between 1982 and 1989,” and put an end to frustrated attempts to grow tomatoes, coffee, cacao and tropical fruit like the guaraná, said Karasiaki, another pioneer who has lived 37 of his 53 years in Paranaíta and inherited the hotel built by his father.

“Our employees would disappear; they would go and ‘garimpar’ (mine for gold),” he said.

But the mining industry declined in the 1990s. The crisis was overcome by the intensification of the extraction of timber and the mushrooming of sawmills in the city. “We started selling chainsaws like hotcakes, about 12 a day,” said Petrofeza.

That era ended in turn the following decade, as a result of increasingly strict environmental controls.

The construction of hydropower dams gave the city new life, reviving the local market, “but they didn’t leave us anything permanent,” lamented the businesswoman, who was widowed in 1991.

“Agriculture isour hope,” said Petrofeza, whose two adult children produce soy and maize.

Paranaita exemplifies the “boom and collapse” cycles that affect an economy based on the exploitation of natural resources in Brazil’s rainforest, said economist João Andrade, coordinator of Socioenvironmental Networks at the non-governmental Centre of Life Institute (ICV), which operates in the north of the state of MatoGrosso.

Mining, rubber, timber, livestock and monoculture – all environmentally unsustainable activities – have succeeded each other in different areas, some of which have now been affected by the construction of hydropower plants.

The hotel and construction materials store owned by Ster Seravali Petrofeza in the city of Paranaita, in the west-central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. The business and its owner have experienced the economic cycles of boom and collapse in this city, which now aims to become the capital of hydroelectricity. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The hotel and construction materials store owned by Ster Seravali Petrofeza in the city of Paranaita, in the west-central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. The business and its owner have experienced the economic cycles of boom and collapse in this city, which now aims to become the capital of hydroelectricity. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The plants do not change the model of occupation and domination of the Amazon, but could kick off a new cycle, by providing more accessible energy to the mining industry and facilitating the expansion of export agriculture with new roads, Andrade fears.

Paranaíta, a city of just under 11,000 people in 2010, according to the latest census, declared a state of emergency in November 2013, due to the collapse in public services, because the population had expanded by two-thirds in the first few years of construction of the TelesPires plant, according to the city government.

Rents, the prices of goods and services, crime rates, and demand for health and education suddenly shot up, said biologist Paulo Correa, director of Environmental Projects and Licensing in the city government and a former employee of the Teles Pires dam, who decided to stay in Paranaita.

Contagious diseases like malaria and sexually transmitted infections also increased when the construction work was at its peak in the affected municipalities, said Carina Sernaglia Gomes,analyst of municipal environmental management at ICV.

The number of rapes rose more than threefold in the city of Alta Floresta, an important regional hub of50,000 people, with an airport and institutions of higher learning. The total climbed from 11 cases in 2011 to 36 in 2015, according to police records, Gomes pointed out.

In Paranaita, homicides and other violent crimes rose from 20 to 70 cases in that period.

One of the new avenues in Paranaita, whose population rose 70 percent between 2010 and 2014, which threatened to bring about a collapse in public services, during the nearby construction of two hydroelectric dams on the Teles Pires river, at the gateway to Brazil’s Amazon jungle region. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

One of the new avenues in Paranaita, whose population rose 70 percent between 2010 and 2014, which threatened to bring about a collapse in public services, during the nearby construction of two hydroelectric dams on the Teles Pires river, at the gateway to Brazil’s Amazon jungle region. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

These negative visions contrast with the enormous social and environmental investments made by the companies, especially the TelesPires Hydroelectric Company (CHTP). But nearly always in this kind of project, the compensation and mitigating measures arrive too late, after the worst impacts of the works have already been felt.

Paving the 55-km road to Paranaitaconnected the once-isolated city with the rest of the world. “It wasn’t an obligation, but we understood what the local populace was longing for and we did it,” said CHTP environment director Marcos Azevedo Duarte.

A road trip between the two towns was cut from three hours to just over half an hour, making it possible for the young people of Paranaitato study at the universities in Alta Floresta.

The training of 2,800 local workerswas “a legacy of knowledge,” said Duarte. Local labour power represented 20 percent of the company’s total at the height of construction.

The company returned outside workers to their homes after the work was done, to ease the demographic pressure on Paranaíta, the most heavily affected town due to its proximity and small population, he said.

Besides the 44 projects aimed at compensating for the damage in the affected municipalities, CHTP has attempted to boost local development.

Along with the city government and ICV, it has fomented improvements in production and administration in the rural settlement of São Pedro, population 5,000, located 40 km fromParanaita, and still dependent on food shipped in from southern Brazil.

Ensuring land titles to family farmers is a priority, said Duarte.

Getting Paranaitaoff the Environment Ministry’s black list of municipalities guilty of the worst deforestation in the Amazon is a goal of the city government that has the support of CHTP. Reducing the deforested area and legalising rural properties in a national land registry are the requirements for achieving that.

With respect to indigenous people, who the company compensated with 20 specific programmes, mainly the donation of vehicles, boats, fuel and community centres, Duarte acknowledged a major failing: the flooding of a site sacred to the Munduruku people, the “seven falls”.

“There is no way to compensate for a sacred site,” and the company feels the obligation to address proposals like building a centre for memory and culture for local indigenous communities and handing over the funeral urns found in the excavation during the construction of the plant, he said.

The post Cycles of Wealth in Brazil’s Amazon: Gold, Lumber, Cattle and Now, Energy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/cycles-wealth-brazils-amazon-gold-lumber-cattle-now-energy/feed/ 0
Global Interfaith LGBTIQ Leaders Convene at UN for Expert-level Dialoguehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/global-interfaith-lgbtiq-leaders-convene-un-expert-level-dialogue/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-interfaith-lgbtiq-leaders-convene-un-expert-level-dialogue http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/global-interfaith-lgbtiq-leaders-convene-un-expert-level-dialogue/#respond Fri, 20 Oct 2017 21:43:14 +0000 Patricia Ackerman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152638 Rev. Patricia Ackerman is an Episcopal Priest in the Diocese of New York, and the New York UN Representative for the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.

The post Global Interfaith LGBTIQ Leaders Convene at UN for Expert-level Dialogue appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Rev. Patricia Ackerman is an Episcopal Priest in the Diocese of New York, and the New York UN Representative for the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.

By Rev. Patricia Ackerman
NEW YORK, Oct 20 2017 (IPS)

On September 29, 2017, Yvette Abrahams, an indigenous religious leader from Cape Town, South Africa who served as the country’s Commissioner For Gender Equality for five years, gasped when she learned that South Africa had just voted in favor of United Nations Human Rights Council resolution condemning the death penalty for those found guilty of committing consensual same-sex sexual acts. She could not believe that the United States had not.

Rev. Patricia Ackerman

Just the month before, waves of concern arose in her as she read the text of the Nashville Statement, an anti-LGBTIQ document authored by the conservative Christian Right in the US, with the aim of equipping pastors with a consolidated justification for excluding LGBTIQ people in both spiritual and civic life.

Abrahams herself has lived through the effects of US based anti-LGBTIQ efforts that are are exported to Africa, leading to deaths, rapes, and beatings. Working against anti-LGBTIQ violence in South Africa and across the continent has been her life’s work, so Abrahams immediately noted that many of the Nashville Statement signers had also funded anti-gay legislation across Africa.

This is why she plans to travel to the UN Headquarters in New York on October 26th for the Ethics of Reciprocity dialogue, to begin a meaningful and healing conversation with her religious opponents.

Abrahams is joined by LGBTIQ faith leaders around the world – including supporters of the Nashville Statement – for the first expert-level international discussion by interfaith LGBTIQ religious leaders at the UN about how to work together to end abuses, violence, beatings, and murders of LGBTIQ people, often because of religiously sanctioned beliefs.

Yvette Abrahams knows that this dialogue can save lives. She was a key player during End Hate Campaign in the South African West Cape, working to highlight hate violence against LBGTIQ people.

“As late as 2008 there were no monitoring mechanisms or reporting systems for such crimes, and political leaders did not even recognize this as a problem”. She recalls a conversation she had with a Ugandan activist:

“We realized we were both dealing with criminalization, and then police abuse, which made reporting almost impossible. In Uganda, the arrests of LBT/Kuchu people weren’t always recorded because the police were using sexuality to extort money instead of pressing charges – making it difficult to track police abuse.

She explained to me how if you’re arrested in Uganda, the police lock you up and intimidate you, and because they steal your money, they won’t report the arrest. This violence has been made invisible.

Abrahams is joined by an LGBTIQ Baptist minister from Uganda named Brian Byamukama, a Baptist minister from Uganda, who has seen first-hand how the efforts of the Christian Right at the UN have rippled out to his community. In Uganda, same-sex acts are punishable by death.

Abrahams and Byamukama recount the story of a Ugandan lesbian woman who was raped: “So many people – church people and members of my own family – told me that this was God’s way of punishing me for being a lesbian. Because I was unwilling to ‘change’, they said, God was using this method to teach me a very hard lesson…I was hurt in two ways; firstly I was dealing with the pain and humiliation of the rape, and secondly I suffered because of my people’s judgement.”

Both leaders say that rape as an ‘instrument of God’ is common in South Africa and Uganda. A number of conservative, moderate, and progressive religious organizations such as C-Fam, The Salvation Army, The Lutheran Church, numerous Catholic religious orders in consultation with the UN including Sisters of Mercy, Franciscans, Augustinians, and Big Ocean Women, many other are attending.

Noticeably absent from the consultation will be the Office of the Holy See at the UN, the Vatican. Father Roger Landry, Attaché, has stated he “doubts they will attend.” About their participation in the UN event, Byamukama said: “This is where we stand together or fall apart. We cannot afford to waste energy fighting each other. The UN is the closest thing we have to a world government. It is where conversations about love and justice should happen on a planetary scale.”

Religious leaders participating at the Ethics of Reciprocity dialogue hail from Uganda, Malawi, Tajikistan, Hong Kong, Australia, Samoa, South Africa, Ghana, and Brazil. This is the first time LGBTIQ faith leaders will be formally addressing communities at the UN, where international leaders will hear these stories from Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Indigenous, and Buddhist faith traditions.

There was also the US’s recent affirmative vote in the UN resolution on a ban on the death penalty for homosexuality as a renewed call for religious leaders to commit to end to criminalization and violence of LGBTIQ people. “The death penalty for consensual same-sex acts currently exists in 13 countries, but the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is clear that all of us are born free and equal. It’s time for faith leaders to come together where we agree, which is to treat others the way we would like to be treated – free from violence. The golden rule of do unto others is something we can all agree on.”

The post Global Interfaith LGBTIQ Leaders Convene at UN for Expert-level Dialogue appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/global-interfaith-lgbtiq-leaders-convene-un-expert-level-dialogue/feed/ 0
Good Men Should Not be Quiet Spectators in Sexual Assaultshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/good-men-not-quiet-spectators-sexual-assaults/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=good-men-not-quiet-spectators-sexual-assaults http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/good-men-not-quiet-spectators-sexual-assaults/#respond Fri, 20 Oct 2017 14:34:52 +0000 Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152628 Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women

The post Good Men Should Not be Quiet Spectators in Sexual Assaults appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women

By Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 20 2017 (IPS)

The pain and anger of more than a million people who tweeted #MeToo in the last week have crowded social media with personal stories of sexual harassment or assault.

This virtual march of solidarity marks both the urgency of finding a shared voice and the hidden scale of assault that did not previously have a register. When women are almost invisible, when they are not really seen, it seems that people do not have to care what happens to them.

Protesters gather outside the Lahore Press Club in the capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province on July 12, 2016 to demand justice for victims of sexual violence. Credit: IPS

This online outcry is important because it is giving voice to acts that are public, but that are silenced and neutralized by convention. It is a cruel privilege to be able to harass a girl or a woman with impunity, but in so many cases this is the norm.

What we are seeing currently, as women build and reinforce each other’s accounts, and as men join in to acknowledge their role, is a validation of the rightness of speaking out. We are seeing also the strength in numbers that comes from accumulated individual experiences that are characteristically undeclared.

As the crowd builds of those telling their story, we see a picture of real life begin to emerge. A critical mass is growing that proves how much goes wrong when people can act with impunity in a culture of silence.

The online wave joins the other mass movements collectively expressing women’s activism: the Latin American ‘ni una menos’ marches to protest violence against women and particularly against the least privileged; the women’s marches that took place across the world earlier this year in support of women’s rights and other freedoms; and the marches in Poland and Ireland against abortion bans.

The blanket of silence has also shielded perpetrators of assaults on LGBTI communities and others who are more vulnerable for reasons of ethnicity, poverty, or age. These women are the ones most affected, least visible and have the most to gain from the collective strength of voices building peer pressure and culture change.

After all, it was Tarana Burke, a New York community organizer serving young women of colour who originated ‘me too’, and her friend Alyssa Milano who picked it up and became the catalyst for the billions who have now been reached by its message.

The full and free participation of women in society, in politics, and in the workplace is essential for women’s voices to be heard and for their rights to be respected. The more women there are who take on senior representation roles across public and private sectors, the more opportunities there are for change in the culture of invisibility and impunity, where more powerful men are able to prey on women. Sexual and all other forms of harassment at work, home and outside the home are not acceptable and must not be ignored.

Casual indifference, and people saying “it’s nothing” have to stop. The number of men who have joined this campaign is promising but far from being enough (30 per cent in one report). It has already been too long that permissive blindness is the norm.

This is about both women and men changing their response to acts of sexual aggression and acting in solidarity to make it visible and unacceptable. Good men should not be quiet spectators.

We need to have all women empowered to speak, their rights and bodies respected, and behaviours established and entrenched as normal that let no one off the hook. No more impunity.

We salute the thousands of women who have been fighting against all violations of women’s and girls’ rights and call for renewed investment in the fight to end all violence against women.

The post Good Men Should Not be Quiet Spectators in Sexual Assaults appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/good-men-not-quiet-spectators-sexual-assaults/feed/ 0
World Campaign to Clean Torrents of Plastic Dumped in the Oceanshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/world-campaign-clean-torrents-plastic-dumped-oceans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-campaign-clean-torrents-plastic-dumped-oceans http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/world-campaign-clean-torrents-plastic-dumped-oceans/#respond Fri, 20 Oct 2017 13:39:18 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152613 With 30 countries from Kenya to Indonesia and from Canada to Brazil now involved in the world campaign to beat pollution by countering the torrents of plastic trash that are degrading oceans and endangering the life they sustain, the UN has strengthened its massive efforts to clean up the seas, which are the Earth’s main […]

The post World Campaign to Clean Torrents of Plastic Dumped in the Oceans appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

"Oceans: our allies against climate change. How marine ecosystems help preserve our world." Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 20 2017 (IPS)

With 30 countries from Kenya to Indonesia and from Canada to Brazil now involved in the world campaign to beat pollution by countering the torrents of plastic trash that are degrading oceans and endangering the life they sustain, the UN has strengthened its massive efforts to clean up the seas, which are the Earth’s main buffer against climate change.

The 30 countries – all members of UN Environment Programme (UNEP)’s #CleanSeas campaign – account for about 40 per cent of the world’s coastlines–they are drawing up laws, establishing marine reserves, banning plastic bags and gathering up the waste choking their beaches and reefs.

Five ways the oceans help fight climate change and its effects:


1. Trapping carbon: Mangroves, coral reefs, salt marshes and sea-grasses make up just 1 per cent of the ocean’s seabed, but they contain between 50-70 per cent of the carbon stored in the oceans.
- Like forests, marine ecosystems take greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and trap them, some of it for thousands of years. As such, these ecosystems are known as “blue carbon sinks.”

2. Reducing coastal erosion: Overtime, waves carry away sediment from the shore. When this happens more quickly or forcefully, for example because of large storms, it has the potential of causing major damage to homes and coastal infrastructure.
- Sea grasses may look like our grass fields on land, but they are actually flowering plants that live in the salty environments of the sea floor and help hold sediment in place. Salt marshes, mangroves and coral reefs also help in slowing erosion and protecting shorelines.

3. Protecting marine life and biodiversity: Coral reefs occupy less than 0.1 per cent of the world's ocean surface, yet they provide a home for at least 25 per cent of all marine biodiversity. Often popular tourist attractions, coral reefs are the least secret of the ocean’s secret weapons. They draw people in to observe the wealth of marine life that they host.
- However, coral reefs are delicate ecosystems that are increasingly strained by human activity. Careless tourism, water pollution, overfishing, rising temperature and acidity are all damaging these ecosystems, sometimes beyond repair.

4. Forming barriers to storms: Mangroves, salt-tolerant shrubs or small trees that grow in saline water of coastal areas, create barriers to destructive waves and hold sediments in place with their underwater root systems. This protects coastal communities in times of cyclones or other tropical storms.
- In fact, scientists concluded that mangroves could have reduced the damages caused by the 2008 Nargis cyclone in Myanmar, where parts of the coastline had lost up to 50 per cent of its mangrove cover.

5. Slowing down destructive waves: Salt marshes are coastal wetlands that are flooded and drained by salt water brought in by the tides. Salt marshes are well-known for protecting the coast from soil erosion.
- However, they are also an effective defence against storm surges and devastating waves. Salt marshes can reduce wave sizes by up to 20 per cent.
- As the waves move through and around these marshes, the vegetation quells the force of the water and buffers the effects of these waves on coastal communities, FAO reports, adding that once viewed as wastelands, salt marshes can rival tropical rainforests in terms of biologically productive habitats, as they serve as nurseries and refuges for a wide variety of marine life.

SOURCE: FAO’s Guide to the Ocean

The populous nations of East and South-East Asia account for most of the plastic trash entering the global ocean, UNEP reports, adding that in order to address this menace at its source, Indonesia has pledged to reduce its generation of plastic trash by 70 per cent by 2030, while the Philippines plans new laws targeting single-use plastics.

Human Addiction To Plastic Bags

Humanity’s unhealthy addiction to throwaway plastics bags is a particular target, the UN environment agency warns, while informing that countries including Kenya, France, Jordan, Madagascar and the Maldives have committed to banning plastic bags or restricting consumers to re-usable versions for which they have to pay. See: Plastic No More… Also in Kenya

“Legislation to press companies and citizens to change their wasteful habits is often part of broader government strategies to foster responsible production and consumption – a key step in the global shift toward sustainable development.”

According to UNEP, Belgium and Brazil, for instance, are both working on national action plans to curb marine pollution. Costa Rica has embarked on a five-year strategy to improve waste management that includes a push to reduce the use of plastics.

Eight Billion Tonnes of Plastic… A Year

The flow of pollution means detritus such as drink bottles and flip-flops as well as tiny plastic fragments including micro-beads used in cosmetics are concentrating in the oceans and washing up on the most remote shorelines, from deserted Pacific islets to the Arctic Circle, the UN specialised body informs.

“Humans have already dumped billions of tonnes of plastic, and we are adding it to the ocean at a rate of 8 million tonnes a year,” UNEP warns, adding that as well as endangering fish, birds and other creatures who mistake it for food or become entangled in it, plastic waste has also entered the human food chain with health consequences that are not yet fully understood.

It also harms tourist destinations and provides breeding grounds for mosquitoes carrying diseases including dengue and Zika.

The #CleanSeas campaign aims to “turn the tide on plastic” by inspiring action from governments, businesses and individuals on ocean pollution. See also: UN Declares War on Ocean Plastic

Pollution is the theme of the 2017 United Nations Environment Assembly, which is meeting in Nairobi, Kenya from 4 to 6 December.

Forming barriers to storms. Credit: FAO


The Main Buffer against Climate Change

Another UN agency reminds that while it is well known that forests, especially rainforests, are key allies in the fight against climate change as they absorb greenhouse gas emissions, oceans are the earth’s main buffer against it.

In fact, about 25 per cent of the greenhouse gases that we emit actually gets absorbed by the oceans, as does over 90 per cent of the extra heat produced by human-induced climate change, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports.

“However, oceans are also one of the most affected by it.”

According to the Rome-based UN agency, human activities are resulting in acidification and increasing water temperatures that are changing our oceans and the plant and animal life within them.

More Plastic than Fish?

The UN estimates that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 – with over 5 trillion pieces of plastic weighing more than 260,000 tonnes currently floating in the world’s oceans. Meanwhile, harmful fishing subsidies that contribute to overfishing are estimated to be as high as 35 billion dollars.

Coral reefs and coastal environments in tropical regions, including mangroves and salt marshes, are in particular danger, warns the UN food and agriculture agency.

“These ecosystems store much of the carbon, which then remains in the oceans for hundreds of years, and are thus one of our “allies” against climate change.”

However, since the 1940s, over 30 per cent of mangroves, close to 25 per cent of salt marshes and over 30 per cent of sea-grass meadows have been lost.

“Right when we need them the most, we are losing these crucial ecosystems.”


UN #CleanSeas campaign aims to combat marine plastic litter

Did You Know That…

FAO tells some key facts about the oceans:

— The ocean has it all: from microscopic life to the largest animal that has ever lived on earth, from the colourless to the iridescent, from the frozen to the boiling and from the sunlit to the mysterious dark of the deepest parts of the planet.

— The ocean is the largest ecosystem on earth and provides 99 per cent of the living space for life. It is a fascinating, but often little explored place.

— The ocean affects us in many different ways. It provides us with an important source of food and other natural resources. It influences our climate and weather, provides us with space for recreation and gives us inspiration for stories, artwork and music.

— The list of benefits we get from the ocean is almost endless! But we are also affecting the ocean.

— Overfishing is reducing fish populations, threatening the supply of nutritious food and changing marine food webs.

— Our waste is found in massive floating garbage patches and plastics have been found from the arctic to the bottom of the deepest places in the ocean.

— Climate change and its related impacts, such as ocean acidification, are affecting the survival of some marine species.

— Coastal development is destroying and degrading important marine habitats. Even recreation is known to impact marine habitats and species.

— We need a clean and healthy ocean to support our own health and survival, even if we don’t live anywhere near it.

Now you know! It would good to also remember that humankind managed to survive over millions and millions of years… without plastic!

The post World Campaign to Clean Torrents of Plastic Dumped in the Oceans appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/world-campaign-clean-torrents-plastic-dumped-oceans/feed/ 0
UN Migration Chief Ends Visit to Bangladesh as Bleak Picture Emerges of Rohingya Settlementshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/un-migration-chief-ends-visit-bangladesh-bleak-picture-emerges-rohingya-settlements/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-migration-chief-ends-visit-bangladesh-bleak-picture-emerges-rohingya-settlements http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/un-migration-chief-ends-visit-bangladesh-bleak-picture-emerges-rohingya-settlements/#respond Fri, 20 Oct 2017 13:09:07 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152621 Yesterday (19/10) over 6,900 Rohingya refugees who were stranded in dire conditions in no-man’s land at Anjuman Para on Bangladesh’s side of the border, were moved by the Bangladesh military to several makeshift settlements in the Ukhia and Teknaf sub-districts of Cox’s Bazar. Some 800,000 Rohingyas are now living in the settlements, 589,000 of whom […]

The post UN Migration Chief Ends Visit to Bangladesh as Bleak Picture Emerges of Rohingya Settlements appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Soaked to the skin a Rohingya mother tries to protect her child with her drenched scarf, as it pelted down with rain yesterday (19/10). They were among the 6,900 Rohingya refugees who arrived in Cox’s Bazar from no man’s land. Credit: UN Migration Agency/Timothy Wolfer 2017

By International Organization for Migration
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Oct 20 2017 (IOM)

Yesterday (19/10) over 6,900 Rohingya refugees who were stranded in dire conditions in no-man’s land at Anjuman Para on Bangladesh’s side of the border, were moved by the Bangladesh military to several makeshift settlements in the Ukhia and Teknaf sub-districts of Cox’s Bazar. Some 800,000 Rohingyas are now living in the settlements, 589,000 of whom have arrived since August 25th.

Also yesterday, IOM Director General William Lacy Swing concluded a three-day visit to Bangladesh and thanked the government for its continued willingness to open the country’s borders to hundreds of thousands of desperate Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar.

During Ambassador Swing’s meetings with high level officials, the Bangladesh Government reconfirmed its commitment to allow Rohingya seeking protection from violence in Myanmar to continue entering the country. It also confirmed its willingness to consider additional options for the settlement of the new arrivals, including the creation of more manageable, smaller camps to alleviate public health and security concerns.

On Thursday, men, women and children continued to pour into the settlements where IOM and its humanitarian partners are on the ground providing lifesaving assistance. They walked in long lines – exhausted, hungry and muddied after days of walking from villages in Myanmar’s North Rakhine State to Anjuman Para. Men carried tired children and old people in baskets on shoulder poles, together with whatever meagre possessions they had salvaged from their homes. Children carried younger siblings on their backs and women trudged through the mud with infants in their arms under the rain.

The entrances to the Kutupalong refugee camp and makeshift settlement are a surging sea of humanity. Most families have nothing. The lucky ones have managed to bring some clothes, pots and pans, the odd water carrier.

One family arrived with their three daughters, but told IOM staff they had to leave their two sons behind to come later with neighbours. Another family said they had to leave their two young sons with neighbours, as they would not have been able to carry the boys, given the fact that their mother was ill and needed her husband’s help to walk.

Mohammed Hanun said he trekked for 11 days before reaching no man’s land in Anjuman Para. He waited there for three days without any food, before finally reaching Kutupalong yesterday.

These new arrivals bring the total Rohingya population of Cox’s Bazar settlements to around 800,000. IOM’s latest Needs and Population Monitoring Report, published on Wednesday, estimated that over half of the 582,000 new arrivals who were there by mid-week are women and girls. The report identified a total of 28 collective sites and 99 locations in host communities between 30 September – 9 October 2017.

The report noted that of the total population, 33,542 (4 per cent) were registered and living in two UNHCR refugee camps. The remaining 96 per cent (761,116) were living in makeshift settlements, spontaneous sites and host communities.

Based on sampling techniques across the sites, the assessment identified lactating mothers (9.2 per cent) and pregnant woman (4.9 per cent) as the two highest number of vulnerable groups within the population. An estimated 3.6 per cent of the total number of households were female-headed and 2.2 per cent headed by elderly persons.

Lifesaving services delivered by IOM and its partner agencies include clean water and sanitation, shelter, food security, healthcare, education and psychosocial support for the most vulnerable individuals, many of whom are suffering from acute mental trauma or are survivors of sexual violence.

Since late August, IOM has scaled up quickly – shelter has been provided to 379,000 individuals, while 47,000 health consultations have been provided. IOM has contributed 200 staff to assist in a Ministry of Health-led Oral Cholera Vaccine (OCV) campaign that has reached 679,000 people. Some 678,000 litres of water have been distributed, along with over 11,000 dignity kits. IOM staffing has also been boosted with 443 staff and community volunteers in country.

Earlier this month, the UN launched a Joint Response Plan, in order to sustain and enhance the large humanitarian effort already under way. The plan requires USD 434 million to meet the life-saving needs of all Rohingya refugees and their host communities – together an estimated 1.2 million people – for the difficult months to come.

IOM’s funding requirements within this plan amount to USD 120 million. A pledging conference for the crisis organized by IOM, UNOCHA and UNHCR, and co-hosted by the European Union and Kuwait, will take place in Geneva on Monday (23/10). The conference will provide governments from around the world an opportunity to show their solidarity and share the burden and responsibility for the Rohingya refugees.

For more information, please contact:
Cox’s Bazar: Hala Jaber, Tel: +8801733335221, Email: hjaberbent@iom.int
Dhaka: Shirin Akhter, Tel: +8801711187499, Email: sakhter@iom.int

The post UN Migration Chief Ends Visit to Bangladesh as Bleak Picture Emerges of Rohingya Settlements appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/un-migration-chief-ends-visit-bangladesh-bleak-picture-emerges-rohingya-settlements/feed/ 0
Can Index Insurance Make African Farmers Climate-resilient?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/can-index-insurance-make-african-farmers-climate-resilient/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-index-insurance-make-african-farmers-climate-resilient http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/can-index-insurance-make-african-farmers-climate-resilient/#respond Fri, 20 Oct 2017 10:33:27 +0000 Wambi Michael http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152617 Index insurance is being promoted as a solution to protect climate affected smallholder farmers in Africa. This type of micro insurance is slowly gaining ground as a way of compensating farmers for lost crops and livestock due to climate change. A number of African governments have either introduced or are piloting index insurance while some […]

The post Can Index Insurance Make African Farmers Climate-resilient? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Can Index Insurance Make African Farmers Climate-resilient?

Panel discussion on innovating agriculture for climate and food security in Africa, during the Global Green Growth Week conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

By Wambi Michael
ADDIS ABABA, Oct 20 2017 (IPS)

Index insurance is being promoted as a solution to protect climate affected smallholder farmers in Africa. This type of micro insurance is slowly gaining ground as a way of compensating farmers for lost crops and livestock due to climate change.

A number of African governments have either introduced or are piloting index insurance while some are still waiting and watching to see if it will have any tangible impact. Various experts attending the Global Green Growth Week conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia discussed and shared experiences with index insurance as an innovation in agriculture for climate and food security in Africa.

“We have managed to serve over 1.3 million farmers. So we have proved that index insurance is scalable. But the key challenge is financial education for the farmers and the regulatory environment regarding use of technologies like mobile phones to provide the services.”
Dr. Bruce Campbell, Director of the CGIAR Research Program On Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security explained how in the older days of insurance you had to go out and find out if anything is damaged and there would be a payout after everything is damaged “Index insurance is a really neat product because it is based on index. So if the rain drops below a certain amount, the insurance company knows the crop has failed and they will pay the money immediately.”

Campbell said with index insurance, the farmer gets the money immediately and does not have to sell his/her assets in order to survive. It also reduces the transaction costs.

According to Campbell, index insurance, also known as parametric insurance, has been around for close to 17 years and is slowly taking root in Kenya, Zimbabwe and other African countries. With this experience, countries can now share experience about it works and what needs to be improved.

A common example, Campbell told IPS, is of a remote rural farmer who buys seed, uses his mobile phone to take an image of the barcode on the seed pack and sends it to the insurance company to buy insurance. “When the rain fails, they can get the payment back as insurance,” Campbell explained.

It is estimated that sixty farmers in Kenya are registered under the index insurance schemes being rolled out with help of insurance firms partnering with mobile phone operators.

David Muigai, an Actuarial Officer with Sygenta Foundation For Sustainable Agriculture said their experience in East Africa has shown that index insurance offers affordable insurance and has helped farmers to benefit from agriculture.

“We have managed to serve over 1.3 million farmers. So we have proved that index insurance is scalable. But the key challenge is financial education for the farmers and the regulatory environment regarding use of technologies like mobile phones to provide the services.”

Zimbabwe’s mobile network, Econet Wireless, is providing services offering climate-based insurance to farmers via SMS and voicebased messages. “They also ensure that you shouldn’t just sell insurance. It should be bundled with other things like agricultural advisories and funeral policies,” explained Dr. Campbell, also resident in Zimbabwe.

Uganda is among the African countries that have just introduced an index insurance scheme run on a public private partnership basis between insurance firms, the insurance regulatory authority and the Central Bank of Uganda, which holds the money.

The Government of Uganda allocated a USD2 million budget this financial year to provide a 50% premium subsidy to smallholder farmers. Under the same scheme, large-scale farmers are given 30% premium subsidy.

“By so doing we think we are going to increase production and productivity of the farmers. The farmers are going to get bankable and we are reducing the risk of the financial institutions to the farmers. They are coming out to lend money to the farmers because they know that their money is secure,” said Musa Lukwago, a Senior Economist with Uganda’s Ministry of Finance.

Lukwago said the elite are being attracted to livestock and crop farming because they know they are covered under the index insurance scheme. He gave the example of a retired civil servant who invested his employment gratuity in growing passion fruit. “There was drought and the farmer lost the entire crop. He was found dead the following day. We believe he would still be alive if he had insurance,” Lukwago narrated.

But the reviews on index insurance remain mixed.

According to Lukwago, there is need for a lot of farmer sensitization. “You must convince the farmers that it works. They must see the benefits. If there is a season hit by drought and the insurance companies are not paying, expect a decline the next season”.

Based on Uganda’s experience, Lukwago added that index insurance requires a lot of meteorological data. “You need to put up weather stations to measure climatic changes, you must domesticate the products. Some of the concepts from Western Can Index Insurance Make African Farmers Climate-resilient? world may not work in our local situations.”

Muigai said challenges remain in persuading insurance regulators and Central Banks in East Africa to accept text messages as evidence of insurance purchases. Kennedy Tesfam, from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre in Addis Ababa is of the view that while index insurance has been in Africa for quite a while it is not taking off.

Tesfalidet Hagos, Managing Director at Ethiopia’s Luna Exports Slaughterhouse Plc said his organization has tried index insurance in the vegetable sector and hopes that it can work in livestock production.

“The most important thing we are trying to achieve is to increase the income of the farmers. If we can ensure better productivity of the farmers, they will have better income and therefore take insurance. We want to begin from the root cause. And I believe the root cause of everything in Africa is poverty” Hagos said.

The post Can Index Insurance Make African Farmers Climate-resilient? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/can-index-insurance-make-african-farmers-climate-resilient/feed/ 0
Mexican Immigrants Help Sustain Two Economies – and Are Discardedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/mexican-immigrants-help-sustain-two-economies-discarded/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexican-immigrants-help-sustain-two-economies-discarded http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/mexican-immigrants-help-sustain-two-economies-discarded/#comments Thu, 19 Oct 2017 22:34:05 +0000 Daniela Pastrana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152606 They work for years to bolster the economies of two countries. For one, the United States, they provide labour and taxes; for the other, Mexico, they send remittances that support tens of thousands of families and communities. Then they are deported, and neither government takes into account their special needs. “These are the inconsistencies of […]

The post Mexican Immigrants Help Sustain Two Economies – and Are Discarded appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
The post Mexican Immigrants Help Sustain Two Economies – and Are Discarded appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/mexican-immigrants-help-sustain-two-economies-discarded/feed/ 11
Global Campaign to Smoke Out Tobacco Firms from UN Bodyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/global-campaign-smoke-tobacco-firms-un-body/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-campaign-smoke-tobacco-firms-un-body http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/global-campaign-smoke-tobacco-firms-un-body/#respond Thu, 19 Oct 2017 19:44:24 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152603 The world’s tobacco companies – which have been widely ostracized in the UN system – may be ousted from one of their last fortified strongholds in the United Nations: the International Labour Organization (ILO). A letter signed by nearly 200 public health organizations and labour rights groups worldwide is calling on the Governing Body of […]

The post Global Campaign to Smoke Out Tobacco Firms from UN Body appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

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

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 19 2017 (IPS)

The world’s tobacco companies – which have been widely ostracized in the UN system – may be ousted from one of their last fortified strongholds in the United Nations: the International Labour Organization (ILO).

A letter signed by nearly 200 public health organizations and labour rights groups worldwide is calling on the Governing Body of the Geneva-based UN agency to expel tobacco companies from its subsidiary membership.

“Tobacco companies victimize farmers and other workers through practices including unfair pricing strategies, abusive contracts and child labour. They have no place in a UN agency concerned with fair labour practices and human rights,” says the coalition.

The Governing Body – which will hold its upcoming 331st sessions beginning October 26 through November 9 —is expected to decide whether to sever tobacco companies from its partnership with ILO.

“If the ILO is to live up to its promise of promoting rights at work, encouraging decent employment opportunities and enhancing social protection, the decision should be an easy one: the Governing Body must prohibit all members of the tobacco industry from participation in the ILO,” says the Washington-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK).

Asked whether the world’s poorer nations — where “big tobacco” still has a heavy presence — are losing the battle in the war against smoking, Mark Hurley, International Director of Tobacco Industry Campaigns at CTFK, told IPS that for tobacco companies, “low- and middle-income countries represent the new frontier for a deadly industry”.

Tobacco companies, he pointed out, are increasingly targeting low- and middle-income countries that often lack the regulations and resources to protect themselves against manipulative industry practices.

“Today, more than 80 percent of the world’s smokers live in low- and middle-income countries and if current trends continue, they will account for 80 percent of the world’s tobacco-related deaths by 2030,” said Hurley.

Any action taken by the ILO against tobacco companies would bring the agency in line with the Geneva-based World Health Organization’s (WHO) international treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Last month, the UN Global Compact in New York also took action to cut ties with tobacco companies, CTFK said.

Asked about the Global Compact, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters last week
companies that are part of the Global Compact have to report on the activities they carry out.
If there are concerns about different transactions by those companies, he pointed out, “that can affect their membership in the Compact as well as the sort of nature of their participation with the Global Compact”.

And so the Global Compact will need to be in dialogue with all the various companies, (including tobacco-related companies), in terms of what they’re doing and in terms of “socially responsible business practices”, he added.
The letter, addressed to members of the Governing Body, says tobacco companies use membership in respected organizations like the ILO to portray themselves as responsible corporate citizens when in fact they are the root cause of a global tobacco epidemic that is projected to kill one billion people worldwide this century.

Tobacco companies continue to aggressively market their deadly products to children and other vulnerable populations around the world, to mislead the public about the health risks of their products and to attack every effort to reduce tobacco use and save lives, the letter added.

“Tobacco companies that spread death and disease across the globe should have no place in a UN agency, or any responsible organization”, the letter adds.

The signatories to the letter include the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, the Voluntary Health Association of India, Action on Smoking and Health and Corporate Accountability International, the African Tobacco Control Alliance, the European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention, the Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance, the Austrian Council on Smoking and Health, the Dutch Alliance for Smoke-Free Society and the French Alliance Against Tobacco, among others.

Hurley told IPS “the good news is we know how to reduce tobacco use”.

The WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) obligates its 181 signatory Parties to implement proven, effective measures in their countries, such as increasing tobacco taxes, placing graphic, picture-based health warnings on tobacco packs, and banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

And countries around the world, including those that are low- and middle-income, are taking bold action to implement these life-saving policies, he added.

This includes Nepal, where graphic health warnings cover 90 percent of tobacco packs – the biggest in the world, Uruguay, where public places are 100 percent free of secondhand smoke and in the Philippines where steadily increasing tobacco taxes contributed to a nearly 20 percent decline in tobacco use in six years.

Other countries must take note of these success stories and move to fully implement the FCTC to protect their own populations from the death and disease of tobacco use, he added.

Hurley also said the WHO already states that the tobacco industry’s interests are in clear conflict with public health goals in its international treaty, the FCTC, as agreed to by the 181 signatory nations.

However, other UN agencies like the ILO continue to work with these companies despite public knowledge that tobacco companies aggressively market their deadly products to children and other vulnerable populations around the world, mislead the public about the health risks of their products and attack every effort to reduce tobacco use and save lives.

“We urge the ILO to join other international organizations and agencies acting to cut ties with tobacco companies,” he declared.

Meanwhile, a report titled “ILO Cooperation with the Tobacco Industry in the Pursuit of the Organization’s Social Mandate”, submitted to the last meeting of the Governing Body in February 2017, provides background information on the ILO’s current activities in the tobacco sector, as well as on the role and responsibilities of the ILO within the broader framework of the WHO’s FCTC, to help the tripartite members of the Governing Body to make an informed policy decision regarding the ILO’s future engagement with the tobacco industry in pursuit of its mandate.

The study said tobacco is produced in 124 countries, and some 60 million people are involved in tobacco growing and leaf processing worldwide.

In pursuit of its mandate, the Office has engaged with member States and social partners, including the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) and its affiliates, globally and in a number of member States, to support the realization of fundamental principles and rights at work in tobacco growing communities.

Globally, reduced smoking rates in some industrialized economies have been generally offset by increased rates in developing and middle-income countries.

Tobacco cultivation is labour intensive, involving field preparation, making nursery beds, transplanting seedlings, continual care as the plants grow, harvesting and curing. As with many agricultural crops, most tasks involved in tobacco growing are hazardous, the report continued.

“Tobacco harvesting presents a unique hazard for children and adults – green tobacco sickness – which is nicotine poisoning caused by dermal contact with green tobacco. Given the need to handle leaves with care to avoid damage, manual harvesting predominates. This holds true despite the growth of the market for e-cigarettes, for which tobacco can be harvested mechanically,” the study noted.

There has been a significant geographical shift in tobacco leaf growing in recent years, with important consequences for employment in the sector.

And there have been substantial drops in employment in tobacco leaf growing between 2000 and 2013 in several countries, including Turkey (from 583,500 in 2000 to 66,500 in 2013), Brazil (from 462,800 in 2002 to 342,200 in 2013) and the United States (from 51,700 in 2002 to 14,100 in 2013). In contrast, increases were seen in Argentina (32,300 in 2000 to 58,400 in 2010), India (62,800 in 2001 to 89,300 in 2013) and Zimbabwe (8,500 in 2000 to 56,900 in 2011).

Characterizing the nature of the workforce, the report said that for many countries “tobacco growing, in contrast to manufacturing, still functions as a safety valve which safeguards livelihoods for millions of people who for the most part belong to vulnerable social groups”.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

The post Global Campaign to Smoke Out Tobacco Firms from UN Body appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/global-campaign-smoke-tobacco-firms-un-body/feed/ 0
Moment of Clarity in Marawi and the War on Terrorismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/moment-clarity-marawi-war-terrorism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=moment-clarity-marawi-war-terrorism http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/moment-clarity-marawi-war-terrorism/#respond Thu, 19 Oct 2017 16:46:24 +0000 Yen Makabenta http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152602 “Wars are always clarifying” is a line that I jotted down from a column in the New York Times that was written two years after the attack on the twin towers on September 11, 2001. The subject was ostensibly “9/11” and the war on terrorism that it set off (Thomas Friedman wrote the line). Today, […]

The post Moment of Clarity in Marawi and the War on Terrorism appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
By Yen Makabenta
Oct 19 2017 (Manila Times)

“Wars are always clarifying” is a line that I jotted down from a column in the New York Times that was written two years after the attack on the twin towers on September 11, 2001. The subject was ostensibly “9/11” and the war on terrorism that it set off (Thomas Friedman wrote the line).

Today, with the news that Marawi has been officially liberated and that terrorist leaders Ismail Hapilon and Omar Khayyam Maute have been pronounced dead, I am trying in my own fashion to decipher what the five-month Marawi conflict has clarified – so that our country and our people can better learn from it, and I can write with more comprehension of events and developments in the South.

Yen Makabenta

Another writer, the former education minister and public intellectual William J. Bennett, contended that Americans discovered a moment of moral clarity in the wake of 9/11—a moment when good was distinguished from evil, truth from falsehood, and when Americans rediscovered themselves as one people.

“9/11” was one challenge for the American people. Marawi was another challenge for the Filipino people and our republic.

Raising the flag of the Islamic State
Marawi City, the premier Muslim city of the Philippines, was attacked by Filipino and foreign Islamic terrorists on Tuesday, May 23.

During the siege, armed men took over vital installations in Marawi City, including schools, hospitals, mosques and commercial establishments. They looted banks and financial offices. They replaced the Philippine flag with a black flag of the Islamic State, in an open declaration of their intent to establish a caliphate in Southeast Asia. It was seen by some analysts as an effort to compensate for battleground losses in Syria and Iraq, where the IS would eventually lose in succession their strongholds in Mosul and Raqa.

The timing of the siege was precise; the terrorists staged their attack when President Duterte was in Russia on a state visit and a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. They hoped to catch the armed forces unprepared, and to throw the country into confusion.

Filipinos answer the challenge

Not unlike the Americans, Filipinos responded to the siege of Marawi with complete resolve to prevail in the confrontation, with no less comprehension of the danger posed by terrorism to the very life of the republic, no less anger at the brazen plot to establish an Islamic State outpost in Mindanao, and no less determination to wage war until the danger was fully overcome.

You can see the clarity with which the peril was assessed from the fact that President Duterte immediately declared martial law in all Mindanao even in the middle of his visit in Russia.

You see the clarity in the speed with which the Armed Forces responded to the crisis. You see the clarity in the assessment by military strategists that the Maute siege was seeking to unite under one IS banner all rebel groups in Mindanao, and work towards creating a separate republic.

You see the clarity in the way martial law in Mindanao was extended until the end of the year to totally end the conflict.

You see the clarity in the way the nation ‘s armed forces methodically and progressively cut down the terrorist forces, and reduced them to a handful of fighters.

You see the clarity in the valor and heroism of Filipino soldiery, as they waded boldly into the arena of war, some even returning, even after being hospitalized for battle wounds.

You see the clarity in the way the AFP’s war strategy never wavered from the objective of defeating or killing all the terrorists.

You see the clarity in the way the AFP used effectively the assistance of allies in the war on terrorism.

Finally, we see the clarity in the way the fighting has been wound down to the point where not a single terrorist will be left standing.

Troops are now hunting for the Malaysian terrorist Mahmud Ahmad who was estimated to be still in the battle zone. One terrorism expert projects that if Mahmud survives he would likely take over the leadership of IS-linked fighters in Mindanao.

Opposition’s moral confusion
“Moments of moral clarity,” wrote Bennett, “are exceedingly rare in life, and they are exceedingly precious. They usually follow upon hours – years – of moral confusion.”

When crisis struck in Marawi, the response of Filipinos was not immediately unified. The opposition sought to confine the fighting only to Marawi City. Local politicians in Mindanao wanted their jurisdictions spared from martial law. Liberal Party politicians and lawyers went to the Supreme Court to challenge the martial law proclamation. Several justices wrote dissenting opinions from the majority opinion sustaining the proclamation.

The Liberal Party, from the first, could not find its way to supporting our troops in the battle for Marawi. The Left kept away from it all. The Catholic Church never made clear its precise view of the conflict, even when church members were caught in the crossfire.

Up to now, there are pockets of Philippine society who continue to differ with the way the AFP and the national leadership have conducted the war on terrorism.

Some voices. like Sen. Risa Hontiveros who has a genius for finding the wrong thing to say, have raised concern about the possible violation of the human rights of the terrorists, including Hapilon and Maute. As in the fight against the communists in 1972, politicians are making political capital from pleading the cause of the enemies of the state. They found space in the media for their press releases.

The toll of the conflict
As the Marawi crisis ended, the toll of the conflict was swiftly tabulated. In all, the official count was: about 847 terrorists (including foreign fighters) killed, along with 163 government troops and 47 civilians. Some 300,000 persons were displaced from their homes and wound up in evacuation centers.

Some 846 firearms were recovered, along with various bombs and improvised explosive devices.

The military remains concerned about possible stragglers among the population. One commander said: “We cannot really say that [the area]is 100 percent cleared because even when they declared the end of World War 2, there were still stragglers.”

But Duterte’s declaration of Marawi’s liberation was issued as a “go signal” for the

start of the city’s rehabilitation, for which P10 billion has been appropriated.

The military has raised an alert against retaliatory attacks from terrorist sympathizers.

The United States has vowed support for the military’s final push in Marawi and the government’s rehabilitation plan.

The rebuilding of Marawi will be a telltale sign of how much Mindanao, the Filipino Muslim community and the nation have learned from the agony of the last five months.

yenmakabenta@yahoo.com

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

The post Moment of Clarity in Marawi and the War on Terrorism appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/moment-clarity-marawi-war-terrorism/feed/ 0
Women in the Newshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/women-in-the-news/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-in-the-news http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/women-in-the-news/#respond Thu, 19 Oct 2017 16:30:51 +0000 I.A. Rehman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152600 Should the state appreciate or even acknowledge the work of Pakistani citizens, especially women, that is recognised abroad? The government’s information paraphernalia often hails Pakistani males’ achievements abroad, particularly in sports. As soon as the Pakistan cricket team managed to win the second ODI against Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi the other day, the Punjab […]

The post Women in the News appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
By I.A. Rehman
Pakistan, Oct 19 2017 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Should the state appreciate or even acknowledge the work of Pakistani citizens, especially women, that is recognised abroad?

The government’s information paraphernalia often hails Pakistani males’ achievements abroad, particularly in sports. As soon as the Pakistan cricket team managed to win the second ODI against Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi the other day, the Punjab chief minister lost no time in issuing his congratulatory message.

I.A. Rehman

In celebrating victories in sports, the state and the people of Pakistan beat all nations by a wide margin. The reception we gave the winners of the ICC Championship Trophy has no parallel in our history. But sportspersons, who win matches or individually score high, are heroes all over the world. And cricket is especially close to our hearts. For the pleasure of staging a game at the Qadhafi Stadium in Lahore, we can close down educational institutions across a good part of the city. This is considered a small price to pay for demonstrating to the world that while terrorists might still be killing careless citizens or off-duty security personnel, the playgrounds are off limits to them. We also give cricket importance in order to hide our fall in hockey and our criminal neglect of football and athletics.

Pakistan’s women have achieved much through their own efforts and often in spite of the state.

No, we are not talking of sports. We are only talking of small things, such as the Anna Politkovskaya award won by Gulalai Ismail and the Emmy award won by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.

The officials’ reasons for denying Gulalai Ismail a word of encouragement may be rooted in the fact that she shared the award with an Indian woman journalist, Gauri Lankesh, who was murdered, apparently for her fight against intolerance. Moreover, Gulalai not only sympathised with Gauri, she also spoke of “our common struggle and courage”. These things upset Pakistan’s patriotic officials. ‘What is this struggle that brings together a Pakistani social activist and an Indian journalist? The story has a security angle that cannot be ignored’, they are likely to say.

They get more worried when they find out that Gulalai Ismail is from Peshawar and runs an NGO and claims to have received threats from extremists for working for women’s rights. Since officials generally share Gen Musharraf’s view — that women make up stories of victimisation to gain publicity — they set about to probe her NGO. Did Gulalai get a no-objection certificate from the deputy commissioner for accepting this award? Has her NGO been cleared by all the security agencies? Does the local police have the particulars of the staff working with Gulalai — down to the chowkidar — their spouses and the schools their children attend? The probe could go on and on.

Likewise, it may not be considered advisable to show indecent haste in greeting Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy for winning an Emmy award which is said to enjoy greater prestige than the Oscar she has won twice. Better than Oscar? That means ‘more dangerous’ in the eyes of officials. She seems to have made collecting awards a regular business. And what has she done this time? The Girl in the River. Oh, that story again. Was she not satisfied that the film was shown at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat and that, when in power, Nawaz Sharif had made all sorts of promises for protecting women against ‘honour’ killing? That should have been enough.

The rejection of Sharmeen’s claim to recognition could run like this. Why should Sharmeen be allowed to defame Pakistan with this concocted story of a village girl who broke the family code of honour by choosing a husband for herself? The shameless girl not only survived her noble-hearted father’s and uncle’s attempt to end her sinful existence but also dragged herself out of the river and had the audacity to have the guardian of the family’s honour put behind bars. Thank heavens, he was not punished as society did not allow the misguided girl to disgrace the whole community.

Further, such incidents occur everywhere and they are not common in Pakistan. Even if they do occur sometimes, it is our internal matter and we don’t allow anyone to tell us to clean up our own house.

The media does not fail to report if Pakistani women win plaudits abroad. But approval of these women’s work is subject to clearance by the powers that be. However, if women of Pakistani origin get elected to the British House of Commons, the media is overjoyed as if these successes are due to something Pakistan or its media has done. The media was also extremely happy when a Muslim lady was elected president of Singapore. As if the ummah deserved the credit.

What the media fails to inform the public is that that these women of Pakistani origin succeed in getting into the political institutions of Britain or the United States because these countries are still faithful to a certain degree to the political ideal of guaranteeing their citizens — regardless of their national, ethnic and religious origins or affiliations — equal opportunity that has been described as the foremost ideal of a progressive society. These women can realise their potential because the system in which they are living facilitates their rise. In Pakistan, equal opportunity is like a distant dream, even for men; women are far, far behind.

The women of Pakistan have achieved much through their own efforts and often in spite of the state. At the present speed, they will take decades before coming close to acquiring the same kind of recognition that the men have. But their journey could be greatly shortened if the state stopped blocking their creative energies in the areas of their choice — even if it cannot learn to honour what Gulalai Ismail or Sharmeen want to do to liberate their fellow women from a feudal legacy.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

The post Women in the News appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/women-in-the-news/feed/ 0
Income Disparity on the Risehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/income-disparity-rise/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=income-disparity-rise http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/income-disparity-rise/#respond Thu, 19 Oct 2017 16:17:03 +0000 Editor Dailystar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152598 Economic growth not reaching the poor

The post Income Disparity on the Rise appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

By Editor, The Daily Star, Bangladesh
DHAKA, Bangladesh, Oct 19 2017 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics unveiled the report “Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) 2016” on October 17. It is the most exhaustive nationwide survey carried out and is usually brought out every five years or so. What it tells us is that the income inequality between the rich and poor has widened with the top 10 percent of the population now having an income share of 38.16 percent, which is 2.32 percent higher than what it was in 2010. Whereas, the bottom 10 percent of the population has half (1.01 pecent) of the income share it had in the year 2010 (2 percent). Indeed, poverty reduction has also slowed down a full 0.5 percent over this period.

Experts have been calling for pro-poor policies that would involve the government making investments to boost growth in the farm sector and to cater to sectors that would generate jobs, which in turn would help growth in all segments of the population. This is important because the manufacturing sector is both capital-intensive and technology-centric; the growth in jobs in the rural sector can only happen if there is growth in agriculture. We simply cannot discount agriculture as it employs 42 percent of the labour force and hence any slowdown here will have ramifications for income disparity.

What HIES 2016 tells us is that there has not been enough research and development in agriculture to bring about more crop diversity. The mere expansion of safety net programmes is not going to be enough, especially where there is confusion about who ought to be the beneficiaries. In other areas, the report has highlighted quality over quantity, particularly education. While health and living conditions of people have generally improved, we require a rethink at policy level about where our growth will come from and how the benefits of that growth can reach the vast multitude of the poor and ultra-poor.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

The post Income Disparity on the Rise appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/income-disparity-rise/feed/ 0
Caught in Conflict without Travel Documentshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/caught-conflict-without-travel-documents/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caught-conflict-without-travel-documents http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/caught-conflict-without-travel-documents/#respond Thu, 19 Oct 2017 15:55:57 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152594 Migrants in Yemen Cross into Saudi Arabia, Hoping to be Deported

The post Caught in Conflict without Travel Documents appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Young migrants sleep on a beach in Djibouti as they wait to cross into Yemen by boat. Credit: Muse Mohammed/UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

By International Organization for Migration
SANA'A, Yemen, Oct 19 2017 (IOM)

In early October, three Ethiopian boys in Yemen told IOM, the UN Migration Agency, “we miss our family and can no longer stay here.”

They had spent seven long months at IOM’s migrant shelter in Aden waiting for a legal way of returning home to Ethiopia. After they spoke these words, the boys left the shelter to attempt the dangerous journey to Saudi Arabia, crossing a country embroiled in armed conflict. Their thinking — deportation will be easier.

Obtaining valid travel documents for irregular migrants in Yemen is an extremely difficult challenge for IOM and is blocking vital humanitarian assistance the migrants desperately need. Hundreds of Ethiopians have asked IOM for help to get home and whether they will get there is unclear.

A few thousand migrants cross into Yemen every month — the majority start their journey in the Horn of Africa and hope to reach the Gulf countries, particularly Saudi Arabia. They soon become stranded in Yemen, often pinned in by conflict zones. They also find themselves at risk of being abducted by smugglers and criminal networks that use extreme violence to extort money from their families.

Having experienced abuse from smugglers or the consequences of war, migrants come to IOM for help to get home. Most of them lack valid travel documents and embassies have suspended consular services since the early days of Yemen’s two-year conflict. This has made it extremely difficult for IOM to assist many of the migrants turning to the Organization, simply wanting to go home and see their families again.

Unaccompanied migrant children, who comprise almost 25 per cent of the migrants assisted by IOM in Yemen, are particularly vulnerable and in need of protection services. While at the shelter, the migrants receive humanitarian assistance and information about personal safety in Yemen. The migrant children often tell IOM about their frustration in being unable to return home quickly. The long wait and seemingly perpetual limbo escalates their disappointment. Irritated and tired of waiting, some decide to take the risk of setting out on their own again, despite the danger and threats to their lives when traveling through Yemen. They leave in the hope that they will be able to cross the Yemeni borders with the Gulf countries, which are highly monitored and controlled.

A young migrant boy on a beach in Djibouti as he waits to cross into Yemen. Credit: Muse Mohammed/UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017


Coordination with the authorities in Yemen, the country of origin and IOM is continuous but the process has been slow due to the conflict.

Ultimately, migrants like the three Ethiopian boys resort to dangerous options, such as trying to Saudi Arabia to be caught and deported, which is, in their point of view, a “faster way” to return home.

The US Department of State and the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs fund IOM’s 2017 migrant voluntary humanitarian return efforts from Yemen.

The post Caught in Conflict without Travel Documents appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/caught-conflict-without-travel-documents/feed/ 0
The Future for Financing Africa’s Renewable Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/future-financing-africas-renewable-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=future-financing-africas-renewable-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/future-financing-africas-renewable-energy/#respond Thu, 19 Oct 2017 14:30:25 +0000 Wambi Michael http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152591 Wambi Michael interviews Henning Wuester, Director Knowledge, Policy and Finance Centre, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

The post The Future for Financing Africa’s Renewable Energy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Henning Wuester in conversation with Wisdom AhiatakuTogobo, Director Renewable and Alternate Energy, Ghana

Henning Wuester in conversation with Wisdom AhiatakuTogobo, Director Renewable and Alternate Energy, Ghana

By Wambi Michael
ADDIS ABABA, Oct 19 2017 (IPS)

Lack of energy access presents a formidable challenge to Africa and lack of access to financing has been singled out as the biggest reason why over 620 million people living on the continent are stuck in energy poverty.The issue of inadequate financing, especially for renewable energy sources, was among the pressing concerns as leaders, scientists and policy leader met at the Global Green Growth Week conference in Ethiopia.

Governments and their private sector and international development partners say Africa needs to attract financing for renewable energy for it to achieve most of the social development goals –SDGS. But the question is where the financing will come from and when?

Henning Wuester oversees IRENA’s work on knowledge, Policy and Finance, including the production of up-to-date renewable energy data and information and analysis to identify best practice in renewable energy policy and finance.

He spoke with IPS about the potential of renewable energy in unlocking Africa’s green growth potential and why financing is crucial.

IPS: Financing of renewable energy is not penetrating Africa much as it is in Asia. Can you give an overview about what is
happening in Africa in terms attracting financing for renewable energy?

Henning Wuester: I agree that financing is not picking up as much as other countries like for example in Asia where the growth is much more rapid. We are seeing less than USD10 billion investment in renewables in Africa. We need to triple it or increase it to more than USD30 billion to reach the cost effective potential for renewables that Africa has.

IPS: Why are we not seeing that flow in Africa given its vast renewable energy potential and a big population without access
to energy?

We are seeing less than USD10 billion investment in renewables in Africa. We need to triple it or increase it to more than USD30 billion to reach the cost effective potential for renewables that Africa has.
HW: One aspect is that Africa is relying heavily on public finance and of course public finance is limited. And so you can’t scale up using public finance. Budgets are limited and international development finance is limited.

IPS: So what can be done to have the finance flow to Africa’s energy?

HW: What has to happen is a shift in the way public finance is used. Public finance has to be focused on enabling additional finance by mobilising the private investors that are very eager to invest in renewable energy. Then we could scale up more rapidly.

IPS: What is the private sector looking for?

HW: Private sector is looking for markets. I hear from them that they are much interested in Africa. They see great potential, they see a lot of consumers that want to buy energy and they see economic growth in many countries in Africa. What they are not sufficiently comfortable with is the risk profile for investment in renewables in Africa. They are not yet comfortable that
governments are serious about the policy frameworks they are putting in place and that the microeconomic risks are addressed. Currency risk is an issue where you see many currencies depreciating very rapidly in some African countries. That poses a mismatch between the revenue stream from those that buy the energy and investors that often come with hard currency funds.

Overcoming this again requires a more active role of public finance institutions. In some cases public finance institutions are putting in place vehicles that enable public finance to co-finance. They are putting in place some hedging mechanisms to deal with exchange rate risks.

IPS: Is there actually a market for renewable energy in Africa? Some have said the population is big but has no effective
demand.

HW: Yes there is a huge market. We have estimated that you can increase renewable energy by 310 GWh in terms of capacity. Far more than 100 GWh that were are talking about right now. That is by 2030. This is cost effective because renewables [will be] operating competitively against other sources of energy, whether fossil fuel-based or other sources of electricity production. We have private companies that offer business models with very small payments so that consumers can benefit from off grid solar light. Solar home systems are increasingly becoming more attractive. Many of the new offers include more
attractive packages including TV.So it is a complete electricity solution for homes.

IPS: So is there any future for financing of Africa’s renewable energy?

HW: Absolutely. We are taking to investors around the world and they are looking at the African market. They know that this is a market that can be as interesting as Asia if certain conditions fall into place. On the other side we see some African leaders are recognising that they have an opportunity. So they will work towards putting these conditions in place. Then the financing issue will go away. There is enough money. That is not the issue. Money is not at the right place at the moment but it will come.

The post The Future for Financing Africa’s Renewable Energy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/future-financing-africas-renewable-energy/feed/ 0
Zimbabwe’s Diaspora Could Help Revive Ailing Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/zimbabwes-diaspora-help-revive-ailing-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zimbabwes-diaspora-help-revive-ailing-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/zimbabwes-diaspora-help-revive-ailing-economy/#respond Thu, 19 Oct 2017 12:55:15 +0000 Sally Nyakanyanga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152588 At the dawn of the millennium, Sheila Mponda, 60, waved goodbye to her four children, who were leaving Zimbabwe for the United Kingdom in search of greener pastures. Mponda had just lost her husband and had been a housewife all her life. While the parting was bittersweet, since they established new lives abroad, Mponda’s children […]

The post Zimbabwe’s Diaspora Could Help Revive Ailing Economy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Zimbabweans applying for South African work permits in Johannesburg in 2010. Credit: Raymond June/flickr

Zimbabweans applying for South African work permits in Johannesburg in 2010. Credit: Raymond June/flickr

By Sally Nyakanyanga
HARARE, Oct 19 2017 (IPS)

At the dawn of the millennium, Sheila Mponda, 60, waved goodbye to her four children, who were leaving Zimbabwe for the United Kingdom in search of greener pastures. Mponda had just lost her husband and had been a housewife all her life.

While the parting was bittersweet, since they established new lives abroad, Mponda’s children have faithfully sent her money to provide for her needs.“Slowly trust is being built between the government and the diaspora and enquiries from the diaspora associations have been coming in on how they can work together with government in national development.” --IOM Zimbabwe Chief of Mission Lily Sanya

“As a widow, people would expect me to live in abject poverty – with old age, no skills and a late husband.  But my children overseas have been a miracle,” she said.

They all hold down multiple jobs to sustain their families in the United Kingdom as well as back home. “[But] where would they be working [in Zimbabwe] with this current economy?” Mponda told IPS.

Dewa Mavhinga, the Southern Africa Director of Human Rights Watch, explained that family-level remittances from the diaspora are very important as they keep families in Zimbabwe afloat and mean the difference between survival and starvation for many.

“The collapse of the Zimbabwean economy due to poor governance has made it difficult for the government to harness funds from the diaspora and make good use of them for sustainable development,” Mavhinga told IPS.

He stressed the need for the government to restore public trust and confidence in its willingness to protect people’s investments in its effort to lure more funding from the diaspora.

Dr. Prosper Chitambara, an economist at the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ), told IPS that remittances from the diaspora are only mitigating extreme poverty, serving as social protection rather than financing development.

‘The uncertainty in the country is affecting [it] to fully utilize and better harness remittances from the diaspora as no one would want to invest money in an unstable environment,” Dr Chitambara said.

He suggested the need for government to issue diaspora bonds, clarify the issue of dual citizenship and allow member of the diaspora to vote in elections.

“Government should engage people in the diaspora on how they can best work together for the development in the country,” Dr Chitambara added.

Last year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) together with the government of Zimbabwe launched the Zimbabwe National Diaspora Directorate to enhance engagement and participation of the Zimbabwe diaspora on national development.

IOM Zimbabwe Chief of Mission Lily Sanya said, “We encourage the government to get to know its diaspora by mapping their locations, compiling inventories of their skills and experience, and engaging a wide range of the diaspora in listening events to understand what the diaspora is willing to offer and what it expects from the government in turn, as this lays the foundation for good communication and mutual trust-building.”

IOM is currently implementing a project dubbed “Promoting Migration Governance in Zimbabwe”, which seeks to provide capacity to the government to better manage migration issues.

“IOM aims at creating platforms to promote dialogue between government and the Zimbabwean Diaspora for the latter to participate in governance and national development,” Sanya said.

In October 2016, IOM facilitated the initial diaspora engagement meetings for government in the UK, Canada and South Africa.

“Slowly trust is being built between the government and the diaspora and enquiries from the diaspora associations have been coming in on how they can work together with government in national development,” Sanya told IPS.

A skills transfer program has been put in place, where Zimbabwean experts abroad can come back home on short-term assignments to build the capacity and skills of local professionals in the health and education sector.

“IOM has also been assisting irregular Zimbabwean migrants in foreign countries to return home with dignity under IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration programme. They are supported to start small businesses of their choice to help them reintegrate into society,” Sanya said.

In addition, IOM aided the government to formulate its National Diaspora Policy and action plan for the 2017–2022 period.

“Support is being provided to government through the Ministry of Public Service Labour and Social Welfare (MoPSLSW) formulate the National Labour Policy which will ensure protection of the rights of Zimbabwean migrant workers abroad,” Sanya said.

For Zimbabweans in South Africa, the South African government has announced an extension of special permits for nearly 200,000 economic migrants by four years. This only applies to those already in possession of the permits, not new applicants.

“The government of Zimbabwe should make a fresh call for new applicants as there are likely more Zimbabweans undocumented in South Africa than those with special permits. This can help the government of Zimbabwe to document Zimbabweans and to place them in a formal tax role for them to contribute to the South African economy,” Mavhinga of HRW said.

The South African Minister of Home Affairs Hlengiwe Mkhize stressed that the extension was due to the worsening economic situation, but the permits are not a path to permanent residency.  As such Zimbabweans are expected to return home.

According to the Department of Home Affairs, more than one million people have sought asylum in South Africa. The majority of them are Zimbabweans, while others have come from Nigeria, Ethiopia and Mozambique, among other African countries. About 50-150 people are arrested each day as they attempt to renew their permits.

Speaking to the website Refugees Deeply, Gabriel Shumba, the director of the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, said, “We have visited Lindela Repatriation Centre and noted with serious concern that those arrested for deportation include those either attempting to apply for or renewing asylum and refugee status.”

The post Zimbabwe’s Diaspora Could Help Revive Ailing Economy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/zimbabwes-diaspora-help-revive-ailing-economy/feed/ 0
FAO, WFP reaffirm their commitment to working for Zero Hunger in the Middle Easthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/fao-wfp-reaffirm-commitment-working-zero-hunger-middle-east/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fao-wfp-reaffirm-commitment-working-zero-hunger-middle-east http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/fao-wfp-reaffirm-commitment-working-zero-hunger-middle-east/#respond Thu, 19 Oct 2017 10:15:26 +0000 WAM http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152586 The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have signed a partnership agreement to solidify joint efforts to combat hunger in the Middle East. This accord comes at a time when hunger and undernutrition are on the rise again, affecting more than 30 million people across the region. The […]

The post FAO, WFP reaffirm their commitment to working for Zero Hunger in the Middle East appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
FAO, WFP reaffirm their commitment to working for Zero Hunger in the Middle East

By WAM
CAIRO, Oct 19 2017 (WAM)

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have signed a partnership agreement to solidify joint efforts to combat hunger in the Middle East.

This accord comes at a time when hunger and undernutrition are on the rise again, affecting more than 30 million people across the region. The situation is being made worse by conflict, socio-economic and climatic shocks, affecting production and access to key resources.

Hunger and undernutrition are on the rise again, affecting more than 30 million people across the region. The situation is being made worse by conflict, socio-economic and climatic shocks, affecting production and access to key resources.
Together, FAO and WFP can draw on decades of expertise in the Middle East, working on improving the lives and livelihoods of millions of vulnerable people. For example, through a joint programme in Syria, FAO and WFP have enabled thousands of wheat farmers to restore their livelihoods and grow their own crops.

“This partnership between FAO and WFP is especially important in this area, considering that agriculture contributes almost 40 percent of the region’s jobs and income,” said Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, FAO Assistant Director and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa. “By pooling their expertise and resources, FAO and WFP can help people gain better access to secure food sources, improve their agricultural practices, and be better equipped to cope with conflict and crisis.”

The partnership underlines the agencies’ commitment to working together with UN member states towards the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030: this seeks to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.

“FAO and WFP have always worked hand in hand, but the rapid decline in food security over the last decade in the region requires a renewed and stronger commitment to work together to save lives and support the livelihoods of affected people across the region,” said Carlo Scaramella, WFP Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and Eastern Europe. “This partnership will target key areas such as food systems, nutrition, social protection and resilience, and help countries become more resilient to continuing crisis caused by a combination of conflict, economic shocks and changing weather patterns brought on by global warming.”

WAM/Tariq alfaham

The post FAO, WFP reaffirm their commitment to working for Zero Hunger in the Middle East appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/fao-wfp-reaffirm-commitment-working-zero-hunger-middle-east/feed/ 0
One of the World’s Most Dangerous PIaces For Aid Workershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/one-worlds-dangerous-piaces-aid-workers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=one-worlds-dangerous-piaces-aid-workers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/one-worlds-dangerous-piaces-aid-workers/#respond Thu, 19 Oct 2017 09:14:35 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152583 António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

The post One of the World’s Most Dangerous PIaces For Aid Workers appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

By António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 19 2017 (IPS)

I will travel to the Central African Republic early next week to spend United Nations Day with a peacekeeping operation in order to pay tribute to peacekeepers across the world.

Peacekeeping operations are among the international community’s most effective tools for meeting the challenges of global peace and security. Peacekeepers show tremendous courage in volatile environments and great dedication in helping countries rise from the depths of armed conflict.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo

I thank the uniformed and civilian personnel for their contributions and the troop contributing countries for their commitment and generosity. This service too often claims the lives of those who serve. Since the beginning of the year, 67 peacekeepers have died in the line of duty. We honour their sacrifice.

In the Central African Republic, 12 peacekeepers have been killed from hostile acts this year alone. It is important to remember that five years ago, the Central African Republic was experiencing mass atrocities, and United Nations peacekeepers helped avert the worst.

Today, the situation remains very troubling. My visit also aims to draw attention to a fragile situation that is often far from the media spotlight. Across the country, communal tensions are growing. Violence is spreading. And the humanitarian situation is deteriorating.

Since the beginning of this year, the number of internally displaced persons has almost doubled, reaching 600,000. The number of refugees in neighbouring countries has surpassed 500,000. About one out of four people in the Central African Republic have been forced from their homes since the beginning of the crisis.

Despite these rising needs, humanitarian personnel and aid workers are being targeted and access restricted. This year alone, 12 humanitarians have been killed in the Central African Republic, making it one of the world’s most dangerous places for aid workers to serve.

Meanwhile, our appeals for emergency aid are only 30 per cent funded. My upcoming visit will be an opportunity to engage with the Government and others in order to ease suffering, halt the current backsliding, and strengthen international support for peace.

I also aim to give impetus to the new United Nations approach to addressing and preventing sexual exploitation and abuse. We know that the good work and the tremendous sacrifice of peacekeepers around the world has been tarnished by the appalling acts of some UN personnel who have harmed the people they were meant to serve.

I am pained that some peacekeepers are alleged to have committed egregious acts of sexual exploitation and abuse against the people of the Central African Republic. During my visit, I will be accompanied by Jane Connors, who I appointed recently to serve as the Organization’s first Victims’ Rights Advocate. We are determined to ensure that the voices of victims are heard – I will myself be ready to meet with victims and their families – in and beyond the Central African Republic. Victims must be at the centre of our response if we want our zero-tolerance policy to be successful.

This is a critical moment for the Central African Republic. Much has been accomplished, including the election of a president and a government, following the inclusive Bangui Forum.

A special criminal court has been established with the help of the United Nations to ensure accountability, and in several aspects there has been progress towards recovery.

We need to do everything we can to preserve these achievements, support the UN peacekeeping operation and sustain peace. I have just asked the Security Council to increase the ceiling of troops in the Central African Republic and also to increase their capacity, their mobility and their ability to address the very dramatic challenges they face.

But there is no military solution to this crisis. We will continue to cooperate with the African Union and strongly support the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation, and I urge all partners to move this process forward, under the leadership of the Government of the Central African Republic, in line with the so-called Libreville Roadmap.

The country has seen enough brutality, enough division, enough conflict. It is time to consolidate the fragile gains and transform them into a sustained investment in peace and stability for the people of the Central African Republic.

The post One of the World’s Most Dangerous PIaces For Aid Workers appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/one-worlds-dangerous-piaces-aid-workers/feed/ 0
An Inequality Beyond Wealth: Gaps in Women’s Healthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/inequality-beyond-wealth-gaps-womens-health/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=inequality-beyond-wealth-gaps-womens-health http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/inequality-beyond-wealth-gaps-womens-health/#respond Wed, 18 Oct 2017 15:54:17 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152578 While many often focus on wealth disparities, economic inequality is often a symptom and cause of other inequalities including women’s access to sexual and reproductive health. In a new report, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) explores the persistent, if not widening, inequalities in sexual and reproductive health around the world, holding back women and girls […]

The post An Inequality Beyond Wealth: Gaps in Women’s Health appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

A mother and her child from West Point, a low-income neighbourhood of Monrovia, Liberia. The 10-worst countries to be a mother in are all in sub-Saharan Africa. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 18 2017 (IPS)

While many often focus on wealth disparities, economic inequality is often a symptom and cause of other inequalities including women’s access to sexual and reproductive health.

In a new report, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) explores the persistent, if not widening, inequalities in sexual and reproductive health around the world, holding back women and girls from a productive and prosperous future.

“It’s not just about money,” Editor of UNFPA’s report Richard Kollodge told IPS.

“Economic inequality reinforces sexual and reproductive health inequality and vice versa,” he continued.

Despite its recognition as a right, access to sexual and reproductive health is far from universally realized and it is the poorest, less educated, and rural women that continue to bear the brunt of such inequalities.

Globally, women and girls in the poorest 20 percent of households have little or no access to contraception and skilled birth attendants, leading to more unintended pregnancies and higher risk of illness or death from pregnancy or child birth.

In the developing world, 43 percent of pregnancies are unplanned and this is more prevalent among rural, poor, and less educated women.

These inequalities are particularly prevalent in West and Central Africa.

In Cameroon, Guinea, Niger, and Nigeria, use of skilled birth care is at less than 20 percent among the poorest women compared to at least 70 percent among the wealthiest.

The lack of power to choose whether, when or how often to become pregnant can limit
girls’ education, delay their entry into the paid labour force, and reduce earnings, trapping women in poverty and marginalization.

“The absence of these services in these women’s lives leads them to be poor or makes them even poorer,” said Kollodge.

A woman with no access to family planning may be unable to join the labor force because she has more children than intended.

In high-fertility developing countries, women’s participation in the labor force remains low, from 20 percent in South Asia to 22 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.

Once in the paid labor force, underlying gender inequalities lead to women earning less than men for the same types of work.

Though the gender wage gap has decreased in recent year, women still earn 77 percent of what men earn globally.

At the current pace, it will take more than 70 years before the gender wage gap is closed.

Further gaps can be seen for women who have children—a “motherhood penalty,” Kollodge said—as well as for women of color and those with less education.

Illiterate people earn up to 42 percent less than their literate counterparts and a majority of the world’s estimated 758 million illiterate adults are women.

This can also be traced to harmful gender norms that keep girls from school, and creates a vicious cycle that keeps women in the bottom rung of the economic ladder and without access to sexual and reproductive health services.

If all girls stayed in and received secondary education, it’s estimated that child marriages would decrease by 64 percent, early births by 59 percent, and births per woman by 42 percent.

Among the countries that have made most progress is Rwanda, which has effectively closed the gap between poor and rich households in access to contraception.

Kollodge told IPS that Rwanda’s achievement shows that a low-income country can advance access to sexual and reproductive health.

“The policies that [countries] adopt really make a difference. There are things you can do, regardless of your GDP, to improve well-being and reduce inequality in sexual and reproductive health and rights,” he said.

Rwanda’s success is partly due to the expanded availability and integration of family planning services in each of the country’s villages and health centers.

But inequality in sexual and reproductive health is not just a developing country issue, Kollodge noted.

The United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world.

In Texas, maternal mortality rates jumped from 18.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010 to 35.8 deaths in 2014, the majority of whom were Hispanic and African-American woman.

Meanwhile, the government is working to repeal health coverage which risks returning to a time where many insurance plans considered pregnancy a pre-existing condition, barring women from getting full or any coverage.

Already, the Donald Trump administration has rolled back access to contraception, affecting up to 60 million women.

Elsewhere, the U.S.’ decision to cut funding to UNFPA is affecting the health and lives of thousands of women.

In 2016, the government provided 69 million to UNFPA programs, helping avert almost one million unintended pregnancies and prevent 2,300 maternal deaths.

“Any reduction to UNFPA has a direct impact on women and adolescent girls in developing countries,” said Kollodge.

The report calls to make information and services more available and accessible and recommends a number of actions including increasing access to child care which can help women join the labor force and climb out of poverty.

This will lead to not only better reproductive health outcomes, but also a healthier economy and society as a whole.

“If you eliminate these inequalities in accessing sexual and reproductive health and thus give women control over their own lives, you are going to make a lot of headway in economic inequality,” Kollodge told IPS.

He said that though eliminating inequalities in sexual and reproductive health alone will not be enough, countries will never achieve economic inequality if half of the world’s population lacks access to health services and rights.

“And if you continue to have extreme economic inequality, it drags down whole economies and prohibits countries from rising out of poverty fast enough to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” Kollodge continued, pointing to SDG 1 which aims to end poverty by 2030.

The internationally adopted SDGs also include a goal to reduce inequality within and among countries by accelerating income growth of the poorest 40 percent of the population at a rate higher than the national average.

“If you don’t do that, you are never going to achieve shared prosperity,” Kollodge said.

The post An Inequality Beyond Wealth: Gaps in Women’s Health appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/inequality-beyond-wealth-gaps-womens-health/feed/ 0
US Withdrawal from UNESCO: Abandonment of Principleshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/us-withdrawal-unesco-abandonment-principles/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=us-withdrawal-unesco-abandonment-principles http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/us-withdrawal-unesco-abandonment-principles/#respond Wed, 18 Oct 2017 15:32:52 +0000 Anuradha Mittal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152575 Anuradha Mittal* is the Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, a leading US policy think tank.

The post US Withdrawal from UNESCO: Abandonment of Principles appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Anuradha Mittal* is the Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, a leading US policy think tank.

By Anuradha Mittal
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, Oct 18 2017 (IPS)

A woman shopkeeper is standing on a plastic chair to avoid knee high swirling rainwater mixed with sewage. “I work with a women’s cooperative selling products made by Palestinian women in my shop. The sewage water has gone into the electric wires, so I have no electricity. Everything in the shop is destroyed. The metal door [that was] installed to protect the settlers prevents the water from flowing out into the main drain. . . . This means we suffer every time it rains. They [the settlers] want us to move from here. This is why they make our life hard,” she cries.

UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, France. Credit: UNESCO

The silent rain accompanies wails of those impacted.

This is the Old City of Hebron – the largest city in the West Bank and the only city in the Occupied Palestinian Territory apart from Jerusalem, with illegal settlements inside the city. As the sewage water in the market rises, Palestinian shopkeepers and residents point out the holes in the gate to allow for water to go through. However, cement blocks and sand placed by the settlers have closed the water drainage.

I am reminded of my time in Hebron, with last week’s announcement of US withdrawal from UNESCO, the Paris-based cultural, scientific, and educational organization of the United Nations, accusing it of “anti-Israel bias.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu soon followed, tweeting, “I welcome @realDonaldTrump’s decision … I have instructed the Foreign Ministry to prepare Israel’s withdrawal from Unesco in parallel with the United States.”

Under Obama administration, United States took similar action in 2012 after Palestine was accepted as a member state of UNESCO. A law from the 1990s apparently prohibits U.S. funding for any U.N. agency that recognizes Palestine as a state.

The recent U.S. pull out has to do with UNESCO’s designation of Hebron’s Old City as Palestinian World Heritage site in danger in July 2017. Condemning the decision, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced an annual $1 million cut in membership fees to the United Nations, diverting those funds to a Jewish People’s Heritage Museum in the Kiryat Arba settlement in Hebron.

Israel’s UNESCO ambassador, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, response was to disdainfully take out his mobile phone and share with the UN members, “It’s my plumber in my apartment in Paris. There is a huge problem in my toilet and it is much more important than the decision you just adopted.”

The UNESCO’s decision was a verdict against the occupation. Following the 1994 riots that erupted in Hebron after an American Jewish settler killed 29 Palestinians in a massacre at the Ibrahimi Mosque, Palestinians in the Old City have been living a collective punishment – life in a cage.

Today over 100 physical obstacles, including 18 permanently-staffed checkpoints, 14 partial checkpoints, and various permanent blockades, cut the Old City off from the rest of Hebron. The former lively bustle of Shuhada Street, Hebron’s once main commercial strip and home to the wholesale, gold, and vegetable markets, has drowned behind the green shutters of the boarded up shops, abandoned homes, and empty sidewalks.

In 2015, a third of Palestinian homes in the restricted area (1,105 housing units) were abandoned and an estimated 1,600 businesses closed. Several streets, designated for the exclusive use of settlers, restrict Palestinian traffic and, in some streets, even Palestinian pedestrians are banned.

With innumerable security check points, watchtowers, barricades, soldiers with automatic weapons, revolving gates, deserted streets, and welded shut homes and shops, the Old City of Hebron is a city under siege.

Metal wire mesh and white plastic tarps—littered with garbage and used plastic bottles—form a canopy to prevent Israeli settlers, living in the buildings above, from throwing garbage, dirty dish water, and chemicals down onto Palestinians.

This is everyday life in the Old City of Hebron.

When it comes to Palestine, actions of President Obama and Trump based on a law from over two decades ago, are confusing for the residents of the Old City of Hebron. United States withdraws from the organization it helped establish after World War II to widen access to education and ensure the free flow of ideas, when UNESCO carries out its mandate.

*Anuradha Mittal is also the lead author of “Palestine: For Land & Life” (https://www.oaklandinstitute.org/palestine-for-land-life). And to learn more about Hebron, see “Hebron: City Under Siege” https://www.oaklandinstitute.org/hebron-life-under-siege

The post US Withdrawal from UNESCO: Abandonment of Principles appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/us-withdrawal-unesco-abandonment-principles/feed/ 0
To Eliminate Poverty, Better Understanding Neededhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/eliminate-poverty-better-understanding-needed/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=eliminate-poverty-better-understanding-needed http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/eliminate-poverty-better-understanding-needed/#comments Wed, 18 Oct 2017 15:05:31 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152572 Anis Chowdhury, a former professor of economics at the University of Western Sydney, held senior United Nations positions during 2008–2015 in New York and Bangkok. Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

The post To Eliminate Poverty, Better Understanding Needed appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

The latest Bank data on global poverty suggests that 767 million people, or 10.7% of the world’s population, live in extreme poverty. Credit: IPS

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 2017 (IPS)

As the United Nations’ Second Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008-2017) comes to an end, more self-congratulation is likely. Claims of victory in the war against poverty will be backed by recently released poverty estimates from the World Bank, entrusted by the UN system to monitor poverty.

Mismeasuring poverty
The latest Bank data on global poverty suggests that 767 million people, or 10.7% of the world’s population, live in extreme poverty, compared to some 42% of the world’s population in 1981. Earlier figures suggested that most progress was due to East Asia, especially China.

The Bank’s international poverty line was revised from a dollar a day in 1985 to $1.08 in 1993, $1.25 in 2005, and $1.90 in 2011. Poverty estimates for 2011 are available using both $1.90 and $1.25 per day poverty lines. Global poverty has fallen from 14.5% of the world’s population (or 1,011 million people) using the $1.25 poverty line or 14.2% (or 987 million) with the new $1.90 line! Global poverty has thus declined more using the new yardstick, confounding those who expected a statistical explosion in the number of poor with the 52% increase during 2005-2011!

Echoing an earlier complaint, economics Nobel Laureate Angus Deaton believes that the World Bank has an “institutional bias towards finding more poverty rather than less” to ‘keep itself in business’ leading the fight against global poverty. No wonder the World Bank faces a serious credibility problem when it comes to its poverty role.

The World Bank’s poverty estimation methodology is problematic, as admitted by Martin Ravallion who pioneered its dollar-a-day measure. Doubts remain, even after several adjustments. The Bank’s poverty line appears arbitrary as it has not been consistently anchored to a broadly accepted specification of basic human needs.

Asian progress exaggerated
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) argued that the World Bank’s $1.25 yardstick was not representative of Asia, the continent that has supposedly contributed most to the decline in global poverty according to the Bank. There were only two Asian countries, compared to 13 African countries, in the sample with which the World Bank set its $1.25 benchmark.

The ADB deems other factors more relevant, such as living costs for Asia’s poor, food costs rising faster than the general price level, and vulnerability to natural disasters, climate change, economic crises and other shocks. Its estimated extreme poverty rate for Asia in 2010 thus increased by 28.8 percentage points to 49.5% while the estimated number of poor jumped by 1.02 billion to 1.75 billion people!

It is now widely agreed that poverty is multidimensional while the Bank still uses ‘money-metric’ measures. The UN Development Programme’s Human Development Report (HDR) publishes its Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) considering multiple deprivations across three dimensions – health (nutrition, child mortality), education (years of schooling, school enrolment) and living standards (cooking fuel, toilet, water supply, electricity, flooring, assets).

About 1.5 billion people in the 102 developing countries currently covered experience such acute deprivations. Close to 900 million people are vulnerable to falling into poverty following setbacks due to financial crisis, natural disaster and other factors.

Globalization reduced poverty?

With little convincing evidence, The Economist (30 March 2017) attributed the world’s “great progress in eradicating extreme poverty” to globalization.

In the Globalization and Poverty book, 15 economists considered whether globalization has helped spread wealth, as often claimed. They conclude that the poor benefit from globalization when appropriate complementary policies, such as investments in human resources, infrastructure, credit promotion, technical assistance and supportive institutions, are in place.

Most supposed evidence is indirect, suggesting poverty reduction is mainly due to growth attributed to globalization. But recent globalization has also seen sharply increased inequality and volatility, including more frequent and deeper financial crises.

Other policies associated with globalization and liberalization, such as privatization, financial sector deregulation and pro-cyclical macroeconomic policies, have also harmed the poor. The efficacy of programmes, such as microfinance and governance reforms, in significantly reducing poverty is now very much in doubt.

Rethinking poverty
The United Nations’ Report on the World Social Situation 2010 – Rethinking Poverty, and our accompanying volume, Poor Poverty, affirmed the urgent need to abandon the market fundamentalist thinking, policies and practices of recent decades in favour of more sustainable development- and equity-oriented policies appropriate to national conditions and circumstances. Such new thinking on poverty and its eradication can be summarized as follows:

• Dominant mainstream perspectives have led to poor, ineffectual policy prescriptions.
• Poverty reduction is helped by sustained growth of output and decent jobs.
• Growth helps raise incomes and fiscal resources for social spending.
• Growth needs to be more stable, with consistently counter-cyclical macroeconomic policies and better capacity to deal with exogenous shocks.
• Progressive structural change and inequality reduction are crucial for development.
• Social provisioning accelerates development and poverty reduction.
• Social protection can better mitigate negative shocks, prevent people becoming much poorer, and help generate economic activities and livelihoods.
• A basic social protection floor is affordable in most countries, although poorer countries will progress faster with donor support.

The post To Eliminate Poverty, Better Understanding Needed appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/eliminate-poverty-better-understanding-needed/feed/ 2