Inter Press ServiceConferences – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 21 Jul 2018 00:49:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 A UN Parliament Gains Support in an Age of Divisive Political Leadershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/un-parliament-gains-support-age-divisive-political-leaders/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-parliament-gains-support-age-divisive-political-leaders http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/un-parliament-gains-support-age-divisive-political-leaders/#respond Thu, 12 Jul 2018 14:20:53 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156670 A long standing proposal for the creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) is slowly gathering momentum. The 751-member European Parliament (EP) in Strasbourg has called on the European Union (EU) to extend its support for the establishment of the proposed new body — specifically with a resolution before the upcoming 73rd session of the […]

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By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 12 2018 (IPS)

A long standing proposal for the creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) is slowly gathering momentum.

The 751-member European Parliament (EP) in Strasbourg has called on the European Union (EU) to extend its support for the establishment of the proposed new body — specifically with a resolution before the upcoming 73rd session of the 193-member UN General Assembly (UNGA), which begins in mid-September.

The UN General Assembly. Credit: UN photo

The EP has also called for an equally ambitious “UN Reform Summit” in 2020 — a meeting of world leaders–to boost another long-pending proposal for the restructuring of the United Nations, including significant changes in the composition and functioning of the 15-member UN Security Council (UNSC).

The proposed reform of the UNSC has been under negotiations for over 20 years now — with no tangible success.

A resolution adopted in Strasbourg last week states that a “United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) within the United Nations system” should serve “to increase the democratic character, the democratic accountability and the transparency of global governance and to allow for better citizen participation in the activities of the UN.”

Andreas Bummel, executive director of the non-governmental organization (NGO) Democracy without Borders, welcomed the resolution of the EU Parliament as an “important initiative”.

“Multilateralism and democracy are under attack worldwide. A democratization and strengthening of the UN must be part of the countermeasures,” he said.

Asked if the proposed parliament will conflict with the UNGA, he told IPS: “No. The UNPA is conceived of as an additional and complementary body. In fact, we propose that it should be set up by the UNGA as part of the UNGA’s revitalization according to Article 22 of the UN Charter.”

Bummel also said the international campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly, which is being coordinated by his NGO, is supported by over 1,500 members of parliament from more than 100 countries as well as numerous scientists, former UN officials and personalities.

Explaining further, he said: “Please note that the European Parliament’s support is not the same as such of the EU” (which comprises 28 member states representing over 510 million people in Europe).

The European Parliament calls on the EU’s governments to support. In previous years, he said, Malta and Italy showed an interest and more recently Ireland.

Outside Europe, the Pan-African Parliament and the Latin-American Parliament have endorsed the proposal, Bummel added.

The proposal is also being backed by several international NGOs.

Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programme Officer at the Johannesburg-based CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society organizations, told IPS: “We support the call for a UN Parliamentary Assembly. We had argued in our 2014 State of Civil Society Report on ‘reimagining global governance’ that there’s a currently a double democratic deficit that manifests itself at the international level”.

In many parts of the world, he warned, “inclusive democracy is being subverted at the national level by authoritarian regimes and divisive political leaders”.

He pointed out that these very entities then get to make decisions on behalf of their people at the UN where already people’s access and ability to input in decision making is limited.

In any case, a UN Parliamentary Assembly will be an opportunity for people to directly interface with international decision making which increasingly impacts their lives at the local level, he added.

Jens Martens, executive director of the Global Policy Forum based in Bonn/New York, told IPS that in times of rising nationalism and authoritarianism, all efforts to strengthen the UN and democratic multilateralism are highly welcome.

The proposed UN Parliamentary Assembly can be an important element within a UN reform package if it complements the necessary strengthening of civil society participation in the UN.

However, he noted, this kind of governance reforms remain symbolic window dressing as long as the UN does not receive the necessary financial resources to fulfil its mandate and is strengthened in key areas of global policy, including tax cooperation and the regulation of transnational corporations.

Martens said Global Policy Forum supports the call for a “2020 UN Reform Summit”. The 75th anniversary of the UN provides a new opportunity for strengthening and renewal of the institutional framework for sustainable development in the UN.

Meanwhile, a recently-published book by Jo Leinen MEP and Bummel titled “A World Parliament: Governance and Democracy in the 21st Century” features the history, relevance and implementation of the world parliament proposal arguing that a UNPA would be the first step.

The European Parliament and its members have been vocal about their strong support for the proposal.

Jo Leinen MEP (Germany), was quoted as saying, : “The UN urgently needs more openness and a stronger democratic foundation. The European Parliament therefore calls for the establishment of a Parliamentary Assembly within the United Nations system. The European Union and its Member States should now play an active role in the implementation of this innovation.”

According to Eugen Freund MEP (Austria): “The reform of the United Nations has accompanied me for much of my life. I first encountered it when I was at the UN in New York in 1978, forty years ago. Unfortunately, not much has changed since. The General assembly has more members now, but it is still a body of unelected diplomats.”

Therefore, he argued, the idea of eventually complementing them with elected parliamentarians is a very appealing one.

“They would certainly be closer to the populace and thus would have to regularly answer their constituency. Whether that would also streamline the decision making processes remains to be seen.”

Daniel Jositsch MP (Switzerland) said: “The escalating crisis in international cooperation shows that new ways must be found to combat global problems. It is therefore very positive that the European Parliament is calling on the European states to speak out in favour of the creation of a UN Parliament. It is important that they will not simply pay lip service to this goal, but that concrete implementation measures are being taken.”

There has also been support from outside Europe.

Ivone Soares MP (Mozambique and member of the Pan-African Parliament) said: “With resolutions passed by the European Parliament, the Pan-African Parliament and the Latin-American Parliament, the time has come for progressive governments in these three major world regions to consider the creation of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly.”

And, according to Fernando Iglesias MP (Argentina), “From the many initiatives in favor of a more peaceful, fair and democratic world the creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly is the decisive one. The recent support given by the European Parliament to this proposal shows that the members of the most important supranational parliamentary body are ready to work for its creation.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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A Gender-Specific Approach To Counter-Terrorismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/gender-specific-approach-counter-terrorism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-specific-approach-counter-terrorism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/gender-specific-approach-counter-terrorism/#respond Thu, 12 Jul 2018 08:55:22 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156663 Understanding the different way that terrorists target women and how to prevent their recruitment could play a significant role in counter-terrorism efforts, and is gaining increased recognition among the international community. “Any prevention programme should be fully mindful about its gender implications, and should be tailored toward understanding men and women’s grievances being exploited by […]

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Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb took credit for bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Algiers in December 2007, an act that claimed the lives of 17 U.N. personnel. The international community is increasingly recognising the importance of integrating a gender perspective into the global counter-terrorism efforts. Credit: UN Photo / Evan Schneider

By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 12 2018 (IPS)

Understanding the different way that terrorists target women and how to prevent their recruitment could play a significant role in counter-terrorism efforts, and is gaining increased recognition among the international community.

“Any prevention programme should be fully mindful about its gender implications, and should be tailored toward understanding men and women’s grievances being exploited by recruiters,” Mattias Sundholm, communications adviser to the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, told IPS.

Hundreds of members of civil society and representatives of member states met at the United Nations Headquarters in New York at the end of June for the first High-Level Conference on Counter-Terrorism. During the two-day conference, the role of gender in counter-terrorism strategies was discussed in length. 

A senior European Union official shared with IPS that “the international community is increasingly recognising the importance of integrating a gender perspective into the global counter-terrorism efforts.”

“Gender inequality and corruption, combined with the lack of information, no access to education and lack of understanding of what’s happening on the battlefield seem to play a role in the recruitment of women fighters,” the official said.

Despite the military setback of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in many Middle Eastern countries, countering its influence in the media and public opinion, along with Al-Qaeda’s power and Boko Haram’s attacks, remains a top priority for the U.N.

Last year, the General Assembly decided to implement the U.N. Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and created the Office of Counter-Terrorism, while the establishment of a Global Network of Counter-terrorism coordinators was discussed. The theme of this year’s meeting was “Strengthening international cooperation to combat the evolving threat of terrorism,” with the goal of creating partnerships and finding practical solutions.

Different approaches to recruiting men and women

The way terrorists target men and women is different as they promise them particular rewards they find appealing.

“Extremist armed groups shrewdly exploit gender just as they exploit any other potential recruitment tool. For women, they may dangle the promise of adventure, travel, romance, commitment to a cause, and the possibility of being part of an extended family yet far from the yoke of immediate relatives. For men, the pitches are often more macho, complete with the promise of glory and multiple wives,” Letta Tayler, senior researcher on terrorism at Human Right’s Watch (HRW), told IPS.

Megan Manion, policy analyst with U.N. Women, explained men are often recruited as fighters with a promise that fighters get wives as a reward.  “Extremist groups also offer a salary for services of the fighters.”

But on the other hand, Manion explained, women are promised different things.

“Women join extremist groups together with or to follow their husbands or boyfriends. Women also join violent extremist groups to get the opportunities they will not have in their own communities due to inequalities,” she said.

If terrorism strategies include gender-specific narratives, so should prevention plans.

“Women have a particularly influential role in families and can play an important role in preventing young people from radicalising,” the senior EU official said.

Thus, prevention strategies must raise to the level of terrorist strategies in terms of their nuances. “When extremist groups understand gender inequalities and the impact and power they hold, but we, those who are preventing violent extremism do not, there is a significant issue around identifying and responding to human rights violations, as well as serious security implications and risks,” Manion said.

When asked how prevention strategies should then be framed to be effective, Tayler firmly responded that any successful prevention strategy had to provide the same sense of belonging and thrill that groups like ISIL offered.

“That can only work if states stop marginalising communities and individuals who are vulnerable to recruitment,” Tayler said.

One of the ways to implement gender-specific strategies could be through the strengthening the role of women in law enforcement and policing both in terms of numbers but also on all hierarchical levels, the EU source said.

He argued in favour of reaching out to all communities, especially the de-radicalised ones.

“There is an important role for women religious leaders and local interfaith dialogue to build an environment which is less conducive to violent extremism,” he said.

Some civil organisations, such as the non-profit International Centre for Religion and Diplomacy, are already including religious actors in their counter-terrorism strategies.

Moreover, Sundholm, from the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, added that youth, and in particular girls, “should also be empowered to lead and participate in the design and implementation of prevention programmes.”

Tayler explained that at HRW gender was taken into account when the issue required it. For example, ISIL rapes or the sexual enslavement of Yezidi women require the counter-terrorism strategy to be very gender-specific. Another case would be Nigeria, where “women who managed to escape Boko Haram are reportedly being raped by Nigerian security forces who claim to be their rescuers.” 

What should member states do?

Most experts and policy makers say that counter-terrorism should be the responsibility of U.N. member states, as they control borders and pass laws, which can either give privilege to or marginalise groups. Member states should also take the lead in including a gender perspective into their policies.

“Gender-mainstreaming should be integrated in the work and programmes of both Member States and the U.N.,” the EU source said.

Manion believes that member states hold the key to prevention.

“Repressive laws and lack of security, rule of law or good governance are powerful drivers for radicalisation for women and men,

“They must make sure that the laws they pass to respond to terrorist threats do not impose unreasonable burdens on women, including women civil society organisations who are often working on the front lines to identify and prevent radicalisation and re-integrate returnees,” she added.

However, Tayler warned that while gender should be a critical focus of counter-terrorism efforts, “neither the U.N. nor national governments should assume that being gender-sensitive is a panacea.”

“Ticking off the “gender” box alone is not an effective counterterrorism strategy. Authorities need to address the myriad root causes of terrorism,” she said.   

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Age Appropriate Sexuality Education for Youth Key to National Progresshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/age-appropriate-sexuality-education-youth-key-national-progress/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=age-appropriate-sexuality-education-youth-key-national-progress http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/age-appropriate-sexuality-education-youth-key-national-progress/#respond Wed, 11 Jul 2018 05:52:36 +0000 Josephine Kibaru and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156636 Fifty years ago at the International Conference on Human Rights, family planning was affirmed to be a human right. It is therefore apt that the theme for this year’s World Population Day is a loud reminder of this fundamental right. It is a right that communities especially in Africa have for long held from its […]

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A community health volunteer informs community members about various methods of family planning. Photo Credit: UNFPA Kenya

By Dr. Josephine Kibaru-Mbae and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 11 2018 (IPS)

Fifty years ago at the International Conference on Human Rights, family planning was affirmed to be a human right. It is therefore apt that the theme for this year’s World Population Day is a loud reminder of this fundamental right.

It is a right that communities especially in Africa have for long held from its youth, with parents shying off from the subject and policymakers largely equivocal. The result is that the continent has the highest numbers of teenagers joining the ranks of parenthood through unintended pregnancies.

The statistics are disquieting: as per the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS 2014), one in every five adolescent girls has either had a live birth, or is pregnant with her first child. Among the 19-year olds, this doubles to two out of ten. In a recent study, six out of ten girls surveyed in two Nairobi slums reported having had an unintended pregnancy.

Among sexually active unmarried adolescents, only about half use any form of contraceptives, yet only one in three women and one in four men, per the same study, knew the correct timing regarding when a woman is likely to get pregnant.

The World Population Day should awaken us all to the critical role of those in authority in ensuring children grow up not only in an atmosphere of love and understanding, but also that they live to their full potential.

Young mothers are four times more likely than those over 20, to die in pregnancy or childbirth, according to the World Health Organization. If they live, they are more likely to drop out of school and to be poor than if they didn’t get pregnant. And their children are more prone to have behavioral problems as adolescents, which means they are also more likely to stay poor. This cycle of poverty has to be stopped.

Unfortunately, ideological and cultural fault lines appear every time discussions about teaching the youth about taking responsibility for their sexual and reproductive health.

As debates continue, the toll is unrelenting, with complications in pregnancy and childbirth being the leading cause of death among adolescent girls in developing countries. The rate of new HIV infections among adolescents is rising, from 29% in 2013 to 51% in 2015.

The traditional role of families and communities as primary sources of reproductive health information and support has dissipated, replaced by peers and social media. Though the National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy of 2015 aims to address young people’s health and well-being, help realise gender equality and reduce inequalities, much remains to be done to implement the good intentions of the policy.

Yet evidence from many countries has shown that structured, age appropriate sexuality education provides a platform for providing information about sexuality and relationships, based on evidence and facts, in a manner that is positive, that builds their skills.

Scientific evidence shows that when young people are empowered with correct information they are less likely to engage in early or in unprotected sex. This is attributable to the fact that they can undertake risk analysis and make informed decisions.

The ultimate goal for Kenya’s population programmes should be anchored on the demographic dividend paradigm. In short, in which areas should we invest our resources so that we can achieve the rapid fertility decline that can change the age structure to one dominated by working-age adults?

Countries such as the Asian Tigers, that have achieved rapid economic growth have strong family planning programmes that help women to avoid unplanned pregnancies and have the smaller families. Family planning is a key tool for reducing poverty since it frees up women to work and leads to smaller families, allowing parents to devote more resources to each child’s health and education.

First, we must make the obvious investments in reproductive health information and services for all who need them. The other key enablers for the demographic dividend window of opportunity include quality education to match economic opportunities, investing in the creation of new jobs in growing economic sectors and good governance

Second, education, especially for girls, increases the average age at marriage and lowers family size preferences. However, it must also be education that aims to promote the supply of a large and highly educated labour force, which can be easily integrated into economic sectors.

Third, Kenya must therefore identify the skills that are specific to the country’s strongest growing economic sectors, such as agriculture and manufacturing.

Finally, combining sound health and education policies with an economic and governance environment that favours capital accumulation and investment will move Kenya closer towards experiencing the economic spur of the demographic dividend.

As the country takes strides towards the achievement of Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development Goals targets, all stakeholders including the United Nations, the government of Kenya, faith based communities, parents and others should all work together to empower adolescents and young people for positive health outcomes.

Young people are the backbone of this country and we owe them the best investment for the future through a multi-sectoral approach. Failure to do that means any national transformative agenda, including the SDGs and the Big Four, will be difficult to achieve.

Josephine Kibaru-Mbae
(@NCPDKenya) is the Director-General, National Council for Population and Development, Govt of Kenya. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya.

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Peace “Only Way Forward” For Yemenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/peace-way-forward-yemen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=peace-way-forward-yemen http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/peace-way-forward-yemen/#respond Wed, 04 Jul 2018 08:12:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156531 Tackling the relentless conflict in Yemen has never been more urgent as it has pushed the Middle Eastern nation “deep into the abyss.” However, much can be learned from recent and ongoing initiatives. While a recent humanitarian conference on Yemen attempted to address the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis, Norwegian Refugee Council Europe’s Director Edouard […]

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Peace “Only Way Forward” For Yemen - A young boy runs with his tyre past buildings damaged by airstrikes in Saada Old Town. UNICEF says health facilities in the country have been cut by more than half, thousands of schools have been destroyed, and over 2,000 children have been killed. Credit: Giles Clarke/OCHA

A young boy runs with his tyre past buildings damaged by airstrikes in Saada Old Town. UNICEF says health facilities in the country have been cut by more than half, thousands of schools have been destroyed, and over 2,000 children have been killed. Credit: Giles Clarke/OCHA

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

Tackling the relentless conflict in Yemen has never been more urgent as it has pushed the Middle Eastern nation “deep into the abyss.” However, much can be learned from recent and ongoing initiatives.

While a recent humanitarian conference on Yemen attempted to address the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis, Norwegian Refugee Council Europe’s Director Edouard Rodier told IPS that it was a “failed opportunity.”

“We didn’t have the right people because those who are in a position to make political decisions, the kind of decisions that we need, were not there,” he said.

The conference was co-chaired by Saudi Arabia, one of the parties to the Yemeni conflict, and France, who has long backed the Saudi-led coalition, raising concerns over the event’s credibility.

“We all know that the main problem is man-made and if you really need to find a solution, you need the two parties around the table…we cannot expect from a conference that is only representing one party to the conflict that is supported by allies or countries that have interest on the one-side of the conflict to reach a significant political gain,” Rodier told IPS.

An Escalation of Violence

Since violence broke out three years ago, 22 million Yemenis are now dependent on aid and over eight million are believed to be on the verge of starvation.Health facilities have been cut by more than half, thousands of schools have been destroyed, and over 2,000 children have been killed, according to UNICEF.

After a four-day visit, United Nations Children Agency’s (UNICEF) Executive Director Henrietta Fore observed what was left of children in the war-ravaged country.

“I saw what three years of intense war after decades of underdevelopment and chronic global indifference can do to children: taken out of school, forced to fight, married off, hungry, dying from preventable diseases,” she said.

Approximately 11 million children — more than the population of Switzerland — are currently in need of food, treatment, education, water and sanitation.

Health facilities have been cut by more than half, thousands of schools have been destroyed, and over 2,000 children have been killed, according to UNICEF.

“These are only numbers we have been able to verify. The actual figures could be even higher. There is no justification for this carnage,” Fore said.

Violence has only escalated in the past month after a Saudi-led offensive in Hodeidah, which has already displaced 43,000, left three million at risk of famine and cholera, and provoked an international outcry.

Fore said that basic commodities such as cooking gas has dwindled, electricity is largely unavailable, and water shortages are severe in most of the western port city.

Prior to the war, Hodeidah’s seaport was responsible for delivering 70 percent of Yemen’s imports including fuel, food, and humanitarian aid.

“In Hodeida, as in the rest of the country, the need for peace has never been more urgent,” Fore said.

“Parties to the conflict and those who have influence over them should rally behind diplomatic efforts to prevent a further worsening of the situation across the country and to resume peace negotiations,” she added.

However, the struggle for control over Hodeidah forced Paris’ humanitarian conference to downgrade from a ministerial-level event to a technical meeting, preventing any political discussion on the crisis.

“It became a very technical meeting with different workshops to discuss things that really then would have needed the presence of people who have a knowledge of what is happening on the ground. It is good to have workshops and technical discussions with the right people at the table,” Rodier said.

But who are the right people?

A New Hope?

Many are now looking to new U.N. Envoy to Yemen’s Martin Griffiths whose recent efforts have sparked some hope for a possible ceasefire and peace deal.

“The U.N. Special Envoy is in the best position to lead this process. He should receive all the backing from all the countries that are presenting good will and that want to see progress,” Rodier told IPS.

Griffiths has been meeting with both parties to the conflict who have agreed to temporarily halt the assault on Hodeidah and have expressed a willingness to return to the negotiating table after two years of failed attempts.

While control over the port city was a point of contention that led to the failure of previous talks, Griffiths said that the Houthi rebels offered the U.N. a lead role in managing the port — a proposal that both parties accepted and a move that could help restart negotiations and prevent further attacks.

He expressed hope that an upcoming U.N. Security Council meeting will result in a proposal to be presented to the Yemenis.

However, political commitment and international support is sorely needed in order for such an initiative to be successful.

For the past three years, the Security Council has been largely silent on the crisis in Yemen and the U.N. continues to be lenient on Saudi Arabia’s gross violations of human rights.

The U.N.’s recent Children and Armed Conflict report noted that the Saudi-led coalition was responsible for more than half of child deaths and injuries in Yemen in 2017. The report also accused both Houthis and the Saudi coalition of recruiting almost 1,000 child soldiers — some as young as 11 years old.

However, the Secretary-General failed to include the coalition in his report’s list of shame.

Instead, the coalition was put on a special list for countries that put in place “measures to improve child protection” despite a U.N. expert panel having found that that any action taken by Saudi Arabia to minimise child casualties has been “largely ineffective.”

Rodier urged for the international community to maintain a sense of urgency over Yemen.

“We need to have another kind of conference with the ambition to have political gains that is U.N.-led and it has to happen soon,” he told IPS.

“We need some kind of mediation…there will be no military solution to the humanitarian crisis today in Yemen. It has to be a political solution,” Rodier added.

Fore echoed similar sentiments, highlighting the need for a political solution to the conflict.

“We all need to give peace a chance. It is the only way forward,” she said.

It is now up to the international community to step up to the plate to prevent further suffering and violations. If not, peace will continue to remain elusive with repercussions that will last generations.

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Unprecedented Human Migration Cries Out for a Global Responsehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/unprecedented-human-migration-cries-global-response/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unprecedented-human-migration-cries-global-response http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/unprecedented-human-migration-cries-global-response/#respond Mon, 25 Jun 2018 22:41:05 +0000 Gustavo Capdevila http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156398 The world is “basically at odds with itself,” International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Director General William Swing said Monday, June 25, describing the critical state of human migration between countries and continents. “I have to say that we are not only living in turbulent and troubled times; I have never known a world such as […]

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General view of the plenary session of the World Conference on “Religions, Creeds and Value Systems: Joining Forces to Enhance Equal Citizenship Rights”, held June 25 in Geneva, with the participation of the director general of the IOM, William Swing, as a special guest. Courtesy of the GCHRAGD

General view of the plenary session of the World Conference on “Religions, Creeds and Value Systems: Joining Forces to Enhance Equal Citizenship Rights”, held June 25 in Geneva, with the participation of the director general of the IOM, William Swing, as a special guest. Courtesy of the GCHRAGD

By Gustavo Capdevila
GENEVA, Jun 25 2018 (IPS)

The world is “basically at odds with itself,” International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Director General William Swing said Monday, June 25, describing the critical state of human migration between countries and continents.

“I have to say that we are not only living in turbulent and troubled times; I have never known a world such as the one we have today,” said the veteran U.S. diplomat who this year ends his second five-year term at the helm of the IOM.

Swing was addressing the first World Conference on “Religions, Creeds and Value Systems: Joining Forces to Enhance Equal Citizenship Rights”, organised by the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue (GCHRAGD), which brought together academics and religious and political leaders on June 25 in Geneva."We have, in addition to that, more people on the move than at any other time in recorded history, owing to the demographic oddity that the world’s population quadrupled in the last century." -- William Swing

Swing’s warnings come at a time when the European Union is trying, so far in vain, to come up with a common policy with regard to the arrival of thousands of immigrants each week, and when U.S. President Donald Trump is not abandoning his government’s policy of separating immigrant children – more than 2,000 so far – from their undocumented parents – a procedure widely described not only as “cruel” but as “torture”.

“I’m not aware of any significant negotiations or political processes underway right now, and with all of this, we have a countercyclical reaction by the world community — basically, fear of the other, anti-migrant and anti-refugee sentiment, that not only is putting human life at stake but denying us the contributions these migrants make,” Swing said.

“So my first point is: I believe that we are in the middle of a perfect storm. We have a dozen conflicts from the western bulge of Africa to the Himalayas, with absolutely no hope in the short and medium term of resolving any of these,” he added.

The IOM head also said: “We have, in addition to that, more people on the move than at any other time in recorded history, owing to the demographic oddity that the world’s population quadrupled in the last century.”

“Unfortunately, while most of this is occurring regularly, orderly and safely, we have at least 65 million people who have been forced to move,” Swing stressed.

Furthermore, he said, “We have the impact of violations of international humanitarian law on all sides, a serious decline of international law of tort…and an absence of any leadership on the major issues.”

The GCHRAGD, where Swing was speaking, is an institution under the patronage of Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan.

Bin Talal gave the opening speech at the global conference, in which some 50 religious leaders from the world’s different religions and faiths, as well as international experts on migration, participated.

International Organisation for Migration Director General William Swing speaks at the  World Conference on “Religions, Creeds and Value Systems: Joining Forces to Enhance Equal Citizenship Rights”, held June 25 in Geneva. Credit:  GCHRAGD

International Organisation for Migration Director General William Swing speaks at the World Conference on “Religions, Creeds and Value Systems: Joining Forces to Enhance Equal Citizenship Rights”, held June 25 in Geneva. Credit: GCHRAGD

The prince said that “Together we can share the responsibility of challenging conventional thinking about the underlying causes of loss of human dignity, marginalisation and oppression.”

The conference, held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, was a contribution to the celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and approved a global 10-point strategic plan to achieve its aim of promoting equal citizenship rights.

The document unveiled by Idriss Jazairy, executive director of the GCHRAGD and co-host of the conference, who stressed that it would be presented to different U.N. bodies.

The veteran Algerian diplomat said that one of the points in the declaration was “To preserve the diverse ethnic, cultural and religious heritages of transit and host countries, while, at the same time, offering opportunities for integration to arriving refugees and migrants.”

Jazairy added that the aim of the initiative, as stated in the document, “is to promote mutual contributions and respective resilience, thus avoiding forced assimilation of migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons, in line with the proviso set forth in Sustainable Development Goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

The IOM director general applauded the incorporation of this proposal in the conference’s strategic plan.

“It seems that (the document) underlines the importance of respecting diversity and promoting the contributions that migrants and refugees have generally made,” Swing told IPS.

“And I’m very pleased to see that it deals with the question of integration, which is at the heart of the issue. And very often people get there and they’re not properly integrated. So I think that’s important,” he emphasised.

During the conference, Swing criticised those who ignore the contributions to society made by immigrants.

He noted, for example, that a study by the IOM and the McKinsey Global Institute “determined that although only 3.5 percent of the world’s population are migrants, they are producing nine percent of global wealth measured in GDP terms, which is four percent more than if they had stayed at home.”

“So, if we’re in a storm, we need to find the high ground. We do this by following the teaching of all faiths, that men, women and children are all children of God and members of the universal family,” Swing told the religious leaders drawn together by the GCHRAGD.

“If we are to prevent future storms, we obviously have to make some changes. We have three challenges, in my view. Number one, is the challenge of changing the public narrative, which, right now, is toxic. We’ve become used to building walls rather than bridges….Until we can change that narrative, people will continue to be abused and have their rights disrespected,” he said.

The second challenge, he added, is the challenge of demography. With a rapidly declining population, the global north “is in need of skills and persons to do the jobs. At the same time, we have a rapidly expanding largely unemployed youthful population in the global south — the median age in Africa is 25, while in Europe it is 50.”

“That has to be addressed through programmes of public education and public information,” Swing recommended.

Lastly, “we have to learn to address the challenge of inexorably growing ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic diversity,” he said.

“…I would simply leave you with the message that movement of people, human mobility, is not an issue to be resolved, it is a human reality, as old as humankind, that has to be managed,” he concluded.

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Conference on Religions and Human Rights at UNOG: World Declaration on the Advancement of Equal Citizenship Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/conference-religions-human-rights-unog-world-declaration-advancement-equal-citizenship-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=conference-religions-human-rights-unog-world-declaration-advancement-equal-citizenship-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/conference-religions-human-rights-unog-world-declaration-advancement-equal-citizenship-rights/#respond Mon, 25 Jun 2018 11:25:09 +0000 Geneva Centre http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156387 25 June 2018, Room XVI, United Nations Geneva Switzerland

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25 June 2018, Room XVI, United Nations Geneva Switzerland

By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, Jun 25 2018 (Geneva Centre)

The Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue in collaboration with the International Catholic Migration Commission, the World Council of Churches, the World Council of Religious Leaders, Bridges to Common Ground and the European Centre for Peace and Development is organizing the first World Conference “Religions, Creeds and Value Systems: Joining Forces to Enhance Equal Citizenship Rights.”

The World Conference will be held on 25 June 2018 at the United Nations Office in Geneva Switzerland, under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. It will be addressed by more than 35 world-renowned religious, political and lay leaders from the major regions of the world.

The world is witnessing a steep rise in xenophobia, racism and intolerance resorting to the distortion and abuse of religions and faith for violence, exclusion and discrimination. This is undermining national unity in many countries, as well as global cooperation. A universally shared understanding and recognition of the concept of equal citizenship rights, its protection and implementation, is a requirement to overcome the manifold challenges which is the World Conference ambition, through consensual adoption of a global follow up action and strategic plan and its coordination across regions and within all nations.

Pursuant to the 2030 UN Agenda on Sustainable Development to promote peace, mutual respect and understanding across cultures and generations, the objective of this conference is three-fold:

Firstly, to harness the collective energy and convergence of religions, creeds and value-systems celebrating diversity and multiculturalism, the basis for the affirmation of equal citizenship rights
Secondly, to bring out and broaden the space of commonalities between the said religions, creeds and value systems as a basis to give recognition to all social components of society irrespective of their origin, faith, status, gender or disability
Thirdly, to recognize a set of shared core inalienable principles providing new foundations for joint action by people of all religions, beliefs and value systems to advance equal citizenship rights of all peoples, in full alignment with the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights signed by all states.

The outcome Declaration of the World Conference – with a Ten-point Global Strategic Plan and Follow Up Actions – will be offered as a milestone in the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, an organization with special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, is a think tank dedicated to the promotion of human rights through cross-cultural, religious and civilizational dialogue between the Global North and Global South, and through training of the upcoming generations of stakeholders in the Arab region. Its aim is to act as a platform for dialogue between a variety of stakeholders involved in the promotion and protection of human rights.Avec son statut consultatif special auprès du Conseil économique et social des Nations Unies,

CONTACTS MEDIA:

Dr. Astrid Stuckelberger Senior expert on inter-religious affairs
Email: astrid.stuckelberger@gmail.com
Phone number: +41 (0) 76 616 14 41
Blerim Mustafa
Junior project and communications officer Email: bmustafa@gchragd.org
Phone number: +41 (0) 22 748 27 95

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Excerpt:

25 June 2018, Room XVI, United Nations Geneva Switzerland

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President of Central African Republic Expresses Interest in Forthcoming Geneva Conference on Religions and Equal Citizenship Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/president-central-african-republic-expresses-interest-forthcoming-geneva-conference-religions-equal-citizenship-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=president-central-african-republic-expresses-interest-forthcoming-geneva-conference-religions-equal-citizenship-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/president-central-african-republic-expresses-interest-forthcoming-geneva-conference-religions-equal-citizenship-rights/#respond Fri, 08 Jun 2018 17:59:14 +0000 Geneva Centre http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156125 On 7 June, the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre Ambassador Idriss Jazairy was given an audience in Geneva by the President of the Central African Republic H.E. Faustin-Archange Touadéra – in the presence of the Permanent Representative to UN Geneva HE Ambassador Leopold Ismael Samba. The President expressed his support for the initiative to […]

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President of the Central African Republic H.E. Faustin-Archange Touadéra and Executive Director of the Geneva Centre Ambassador Idriss Jazairy

By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, Jun 8 2018 (Geneva Centre)

On 7 June, the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre Ambassador Idriss Jazairy was given an audience in Geneva by the President of the Central African Republic H.E. Faustin-Archange Touadéra – in the presence of the Permanent Representative to UN Geneva HE Ambassador Leopold Ismael Samba. The President expressed his support for the initiative to organize the World Conference on “Religions, Creeds and Value Systems: Joining Forces to Enhance Equal Citizenship Rights” to be held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on 25 June 2018 under the patronage of HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

The President indicated that the approach of the conference was consonant with the policy of reconciliation promoted in Central African Republic and could contribute to enhancing inter-religious harmony and reconciliation in the Central African Republic as in other parts of the world.

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Growing Influence of Authoritarian States at UN a Threat to NGOshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/growing-influence-authoritarian-statesat-un-threat-ngos/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=growing-influence-authoritarian-statesat-un-threat-ngos http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/growing-influence-authoritarian-statesat-un-threat-ngos/#comments Mon, 04 Jun 2018 16:05:41 +0000 Ulrich Delius http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156048 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) are an important partner of the United Nations to implement the UN Charter and to strengthen its values. But in times when authoritarian regimes are increasing their influence in the United Nations, especially human rights groups are coming under pressure in the world organization. Some authoritarian regimes recently started waging a war […]

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A demonstration outside the UN in Geneva by the Society for Threatened Peoples.

By Ulrich Delius
GOTTINGEN, Germany, Jun 4 2018 (IPS)

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) are an important partner of the United Nations to implement the UN Charter and to strengthen its values. But in times when authoritarian regimes are increasing their influence in the United Nations, especially human rights groups are coming under pressure in the world organization.

Some authoritarian regimes recently started waging a war on human rights at the UN. They started lobbying to cut funding for human rights monitors of the UNor for senior posts in the world organization dedicated to human rights work. They didn’t stop in deliberately cutting human rights programs.

Nowadays they are using their membership of the NGO Committee of the UN to keep some NGO’s, particularly human rights groups, out of the world organization, or to put them under fire.

The NGO Committee’s antipathy towards independent NGO’s may not be a surprise, because many of its member states are well known for their desperate human rights record.
Sudan, Turkey, Mauritania, Burundi, Pakistan, Russia and China, to cite only a few of these problematic member states, are not famous for their respect of human rights.

Some of these states, like Sudan and China, are members of the Committee since more than 20 years. Others, like Russia, have been on the Committee since decades.

The new world order brings many changes to the UN. The influence of authoritarian states in the world organization continues to grow. Non-governmental organizations must not be silenced just because they draw attention to serious human rights violations.

They only are doing their job in researching and documenting human rights violations around the world. Society for Threatened Peoples is one of hundreds of NGO’s having a consultative status at the United Nations.

Since we got the status 25 years ago, we have been committed to support persecuted ethnic and religious minorities, nationalities and indigenous peoples at the UN. If voices like ours are no longer heard, the UN loses its credibility.

In the last 25 years, some authoritarian states have tried to put pressure on our human rights group to ignore human rights violations. But the intimidations have been increasing in recent time.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrovhas labelled us a “terrorist organization” because we have called for an end of genocidal wars in Chechnya and have urged more protection for the civilian population.

Nowadays China has increased its pressure on our association. Only a few hours before the start of this year’s session of the NGO Committee, the Peoples’ Republic officially has called on the Committee not only to suspend the consultative status of our organization for a limited time but permanently to withdraw the NGO status of our human rights organization because of an alleged violation of UN rules.

After protests by democratic states, China finally withdrew its application during the UN’s May 2018 session of the NGO committee in New York.

China had considered the accreditation of our long-time Uighur member Dolkun Isa at a UN conference in April 2018 as a violation of UN rules and called the human rights activist from Munich a “terrorist.”

This view was opposed in the NGO Committee. Dolkun Isa is a German citizen and one of the most important voices of the Uighurs who face serious human rights violations. Such voices must not be silenced.

As governments worldwide shrink the space of civil society, it’s vital that the UN remain a forum of exchange of views between the civil society and governments and a platform to advocate for human rights.

The civil society is a key element in solving global problems. It should not be excluded from the international dialogue on conflict resolution, the protection of the civilian population in armed conflicts and the respect of human rights and dignity.

We are calling for an international discussion on the growing influence of authoritarian states at the UN. NGOs need more support from democratic states so that it continues to be possible to address human rights violations openly at the UN.

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Protests, Strikes, Solidarity – France Revisits May ‘68http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/protests-strikes-solidarity-france-revisits-may-68/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=protests-strikes-solidarity-france-revisits-may-68 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/protests-strikes-solidarity-france-revisits-may-68/#respond Sat, 05 May 2018 11:44:19 +0000 A. D. McKenzie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155633 “It’s good to be in Paris on a sunny May day and see many universities occupied … and the strikes against neo-liberalism,” declared British Pakistani writer and activist Tariq Ali at an event in the Paris suburb of Nanterre on May 3. “That’s very pleasing.” Ali and the American civil rights icon Angela Davis were […]

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Nanterre conference poster. Credit: SAES

By A. D. McKenzie
NANTERRE, France, May 5 2018 (IPS)

“It’s good to be in Paris on a sunny May day and see many universities occupied … and the strikes against neo-liberalism,” declared British Pakistani writer and activist Tariq Ali at an event in the Paris suburb of Nanterre on May 3. “That’s very pleasing.”

Ali and the American civil rights icon Angela Davis were the speakers at the free public event, “Solidarité et Alliances”, to commemorate 50 years since the massive May 1968 civil unrest, which paralysed the French economy through nation-wide strikes and demonstrations.

As they spoke at a packed theatre, students were blocking buildings at nearby Paris Nanterre University, hence Ali’s comments. Similar action has been taking place at universities in Paris and other cities such as Toulouse and Rennes.

Echoing 1968, France is currently gripped by a series of strikes involving railway employees and other workers, while students are demonstrating against the government’s higher-education reforms that would make admittance to public universities more selective.

American civil rights icon Dr. Angela Davis. Credit: A.D. McKenzie

The students say the changes are contrary to the French tradition of offering all high school graduates a place at public universities and would adversely affect poorer students, who are already underrepresented on campuses. The government’s stance is that reform is necessary to deal with a high drop-out rate and overcrowded institutions.

Rail workers, meanwhile, object to the restructuring of the national railway company, the SNCF. On Labour Day, May 1, street marches in Paris erupted in violence, with masked far-Left “anarchist” agitators burning vehicles and smashing shop windows.

The widespread protests coincide with several conferences and cultural programmes that are reflecting on themes of revolution in remembrance of “May ‘68”.

Davis, for instance, will be back in France next month as the keynote speaker at a conference at Paris Nanterre University titled “Revolution(s)”. The organizers – La Société des Anglicistes de l’Enseignement Supérieur (SAES) – are hoping the campus will by then be accessible to the 400 expected participants.

“Nanterre as a town doesn’t have much of a historical aspect; it’s not like Paris or Bordeaux. The one thing we have here is the university and the ’68 protests,” said Bernard Cros, the main organizer of the meeting and a lecturer in British and Commonwealth studies.

The 1968 student demonstrations actually started at Nanterre, when students occupied an administrative building to protest class discrimination and other societal issues. Subsequent confrontations with the university administration and law enforcement agents led to additional universities and the public joining the protests, and, at the height of the May ’68 movement, more than 10 million workers were on strike in France.

Fifty years later, the current protests at Nanterre began when a group of students occupied a classroom in April to voice disapproval of the government’s reforms. The situation escalated when the university’s president called in the police to remove them, and officers in riot gear descended on the university. That in turn caused others to join the protest in solidarity.

Since then, students have shut down the campus. Visitors can see iron barricades in front of doorways, along with graffiti such as “Make Nanterre great again”, a paraphrasing of the slogan used by Donald Trump during his presidential campaign, and that used by French President Emmanuel Macron to show his support for climate action (“Make our planet great again”).

The conference with Davis may not make the university “great again” but her presence in France generates huge interest among students, faculty and the public.

Cros said that Davis’s name was the “first that came to mind” when Nanterre was chosen as the 2018 site of the annual congress of the SAES – an academic association for those researching and teaching English language, literatures and culture. The university awarded Davis an honorary doctorate in 2014, so she is “already linked” to the institution, he added.

“What is not revolutionary about Angela Davis is what you have to ask,” Cros said in an interview. “Where would the world be without people like her? She put her own safety on the line. It raises questions about what it means to be politically committed. Whether you agree with all her views or not, this is something that attracts support.”

Doorways barricaded at Paris Nanterre University. Credit: A.D. McKenzie

Indeed some 900 people filled the Nanterre-Amandiers Theatre at the May 3 event where Davis and Ali spoke (the event is separate from the coming university conference). As the activists walked onto the stage, there was deafening applause and several young people leapt to their feet with shouts of appreciation.

“I’m not a person who tends to be inspired by nostalgia, but sometimes I find myself wanting that closeness (from 1968) again,” said Davis, in response to a question from one of the evening’s moderators about whether the “historical memory of ‘68” could help the world to imagine a better future.

“I don’t know if you know my story, but I needed some solidarity myself … I take solidarity very seriously,” she said. “If it wasn’t for this, I wouldn’t be here this evening.”

Davis was a member of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s, and active in the civil rights movement before and after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King in April 1968. Later, in 1970, guns she had bought were used by a high-school student when he took over a courtroom to demand the freeing of black prisoners including his brother, and left the building with hostages, including the judge.

In a subsequent shootout with police, the perpetrator, two defendants he had freed and the judge were killed, and Davis was arrested following a huge manhunt, and charged with “aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder” of the judge, although she had not been in the courtroom.

She declared her innocence, and sympathisers in the United States and other countries, including France, mobilised to demand her freedom. After being incarcerated for 16 months, she was released on bail and eventually acquitted of the charges in 1972.

During the theatre discussion, Davis described the civil rights struggles in which she had participated, highlighting the gender battles in particular, and pointing out that the U.S. civil rights movement was “very much informed” by what was happening around the world at the time.

For Tariq Ali, the ’68 movement was a time of international solidarity. In contrast, “there is very little solidarity with the Arab countries” at present, he said.

Speaking of conflicts in the Middle East, Ali said: “All these wars create refugees … then you give the refugees a kick in the backside and say ‘we don’t want you’.”

He said that citizens should demand of countries that if they start a war they should “take 100,000” refugees.

Many in the audience reacted with applause to these words. (In another university near Paris -at Saint Denis – migrants have occupied a building for several months, largely with the support of students who’re also demonstrating).

Outside the theatre, the “revolutionary” fervor is continuing. General strikes are expected to last throughout May and June, and the Nanterre students have voted to continue the protests until May 7 for now.

“The university is a very mixed population, and some support the demonstrations while others don’t,” Cros told IPS. “But nearly everyone understands the reasons for the protests. If you tell students: ‘we’re not spending money on you’, what is the message you’re sending them?”

With more than 2 million students in higher education, France ranks 19th among 26 developed countries for the quality of the sector, according to statistics from the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and other observers note that funding for public universities is decreasing. (The government has promised increased financing).

Meanwhile, some students just want to get on with their lives. One third-year student said that while he understood the motivations of his protesting peers, his concern was to take his exams and finish his programme.

“I’ve been preparing for a long time,” he said. “For me personally, all this is tough.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @mckenzie_ale

 

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FAO Releases Alarming Report on Soil Pollutionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/fao-releases-alarming-report-soil-pollution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fao-releases-alarming-report-soil-pollution http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/fao-releases-alarming-report-soil-pollution/#respond Fri, 04 May 2018 13:09:04 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155621 Soil pollution is posing a serious threat to our environment, to our sources of food and ultimately to our health. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warns that there is still a lack of awareness about the scale and severity of this threat.  FAO released a report titled “Soil Pollution: A […]

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Soil pollution poses a serious threat to our environment, to our sources of food and to our health, says new report by FAO

Untreated urban waste is amongst those human activities that contaminate our soils. Credit: Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

By Maged Srour
ROME, May 4 2018 (IPS)

Soil pollution is posing a serious threat to our environment, to our sources of food and ultimately to our health. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warns that there is still a lack of awareness about the scale and severity of this threat. 

FAO released a report titled “Soil Pollution: A Hidden Reality” at the start of a global symposium which has been taking place 2-4 May, 2018 at FAO headquarters, participated by experts and policymakers to discuss the threat of soil pollution in order to build an effective framework for a cohesive international response.

 

Background: What is soil pollution?

“Soil pollution refers to the presence of a chemical or substance out of place and/or present at a higher than normal concentration that has adverse effects on any non-targeted organism. Soil pollution often cannot be directly assessed or visually perceived, making it a hidden danger” states the FAO report. As a “hidden danger” right below our feet, soil pollution turns out to be underestimated affecting everyone – humans and animals.

The FAO report warns that this dangerous phenomenon should be of concern worldwide. Its consequences are not limited to the degrading of our soils: ultimately, it also poisons the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Soil pollution significantly reduces food security, not only by reducing crop yields due to toxic levels of contaminants, but also by causing crops produced from polluted soils unsafe for consumptions both for animals and humans


The FAO report warns that this dangerous phenomenon should be of concern worldwide. Its consequences are not limited to the degrading of our soils: ultimately, it also poisons the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Soil pollution significantly reduces food security, not only by reducing crop yields due to toxic levels of contaminants, but also by causing crops produced from polluted soils unsafe for consumptions both for animals and humans.

The Global Symposium on Soil Pollution (GSOP18), aims to be a step to build a common platform to discuss the latest data on the status, trends and actions on soil pollution and its threatening consequences on human health, food safety and the environment.

The report prepared by FAO shows how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are deeply linked with the issue of addressing soil pollution. SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 3 (Good Wealth and Well-Being), SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and SDG 15 (Life on Land) have all targets which have direct refernceto soil resources, particularly soil pollution and degradation in relation to food security.

Furthermore, the widespread consensus that was achieved on the Declaration on soil pollution during the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-3, December 2017) is an obvious sign of global determination to tackle pollution and its causes, which mainly originate from human activities. Unsustainable farming practices, industrial activities and mining, untreated urban waste and other non-environmental friendly practices are amongst the main causes of soil pollution, highlights FAO’s report.

 

Facts and figures to note

The FAO report is an updated benchmark of scientific research on soil pollution and it can be a critical tool to identify and plug global information gaps and therefore advance a cohesive international response to soil pollution.

According to findings of the report, the current situation is of high concern. For example, the amount of chemicals produced by the European chemical industry in 2015 was 319 million tonnes. Of that, 117 million tonnes were deemed hazardous to the environment.

Global production of municipal solid waste was around 1.3 billion tonnes per year in 2012 and it is expected to rise to 2.2 billion tonnes annually by 2025. Some developing countries have notably increased their use of pesticides over the last decade. Rwanda and Ethiopia by over six times, Bangladesh by four times and Sudan by ten times.

The report also highlights that “the total number of contaminated sites is estimated at 80,000 across Australia; in China, the Chinese Environmental Protection Ministry, estimated that 16 per cent of all Chinese soils and 19 per cent of its agricultural soils are categorized as polluted”.

“In the European Economic Area and cooperating countries in the West Balkans” adding, “there are approximately 3 million potentially polluted sites”. While in the United States of America (USA) there are “more than 1,300 polluted or contaminated sites”. These facts are stunning and the international community needs to turn its urgent attention to preserve the state of our soils and to remediate polluted soils into concrete action.

The report also warns that studies which have been conducted, have largely been limited to developed economies because of the inadequacy of available information in developing countries and because of the differences in registering polluted sites across geographic regions.

This means that there are clearly massive information gaps regarding the nature and extent of soil pollution. Despite that, the limited information available, is enough for deep concern, the report adds.

 

A growing concern

“The more we learn, the more we know we need cleaner dirt,” said FAO’s Director of Communication, Enrique Yeves, confirming the urgency of the UN agency to address the issue of soil pollution as soon as possible.

Concern and awareness over soil pollution are increasing worldwide. The report highlights the positive increase in research conducted on soil pollution around the world and fortunately, determination is turning into action at international and national levels.

Soil pollution was at the centre of discussion during the Fifth Global Soil Partnership (GSP) Plenary Assembly (GSP, 2017) and not long ago, the UNE3 adopted a resolution calling for accelerated actions and collaboration to address and manage soil pollution. “This consensus” highlights FAO’s report, “achieved by more than 170 countries, is a clear sign of the global relevance of pollution and of the willingness of these countries to develop concrete solutions to address pollution problems”.

FAO’s World Soil Charter recommends that “national governments implement regulations on soil pollution and limit the accumulation of contaminants beyond established levels in order to guarantee human health and wellbeing. Governments are also urged to facilitate remediation of contaminated soils”.

“It is also essential to limit pollution from agricultural sources by the global implementation of sustainable soil management practices”. These recommendations need to be adequately addressed both at international and national levels, in line with the 2030 agenda.

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Argentina Aims for a Delicate Climate Balance in the G20http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/argentina-aims-delicate-climate-balance-g20/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=argentina-aims-delicate-climate-balance-g20 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/argentina-aims-delicate-climate-balance-g20/#respond Fri, 20 Apr 2018 00:10:12 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155356 As president this year of the Group of 20 (G20) developed and emerging nations, Argentina has now formally begun the task of trying to rebuild a consensus around climate change. It will be an uphill climb, since the position taken by the United States in 2017 led to a noisy failure in the group with […]

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The Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of Argentina, Rabbi Sergio Bergman, speaks during the opening of the Group of 20 (G20) Sustainability Working Group in Buenos Aires. Argentina, which chairs the Group this year, has the difficult task of seeking consensus on this thorny issue. Credit: Ministry of Environment of Argentina

The Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of Argentina, Rabbi Sergio Bergman, speaks during the opening of the Group of 20 (G20) Sustainability Working Group in Buenos Aires. Argentina, which chairs the Group this year, has the difficult task of seeking consensus on this thorny issue. Credit: Ministry of Environment of Argentina

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Apr 20 2018 (IPS)

As president this year of the Group of 20 (G20) developed and emerging nations, Argentina has now formally begun the task of trying to rebuild a consensus around climate change. It will be an uphill climb, since the position taken by the United States in 2017 led to a noisy failure in the group with regard to the issue.

The G20 Sustainability Working Group (CSWG) held its first meeting of the year on Apr. 17-18 in Buenos Aires, in the middle of a balancing act.

Argentine officials hope a full consensus will be reached, in order to avoid a repeat of what happened in 2017 in Germany, when the final document crudely exposed the differences between the U.S. standpoint and the views of the other 19 members, with respect to climate change.

“Since the United States does not recognise the Climate Action Plan agreed in Hamburg (where the last G20 summit was held), we did not formally table it. But what we are doing is addressing the contents of that plan,” Carlos Gentile, chair of the G20 Sustainability Working Group, told IPS.

“Today the United States is participating and we are confident that this time a consensus will be reached for the G20 document by the end of this year,” added Gentile, who is Argentina’s secretary of climate change and sustainable development.

The official stressed, as a step forward for the countries of Latin America and other emerging economies, the fact that the main theme of the Working Group this year is adaptation to climate change and extreme climate events, with a focus on development of resilient infrastructure and job creation.

“We know that mitigation is more important for the developed countries, which is why it is a victory that they accepted our focus on adaptation,” said Gentile.

The Working Group commissioned four documents that will be discussed at the end of August at the second and last meeting of the year, which will be held in Puerto Iguazú, on the triple border between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.

Two of the papers will be on adaptation to climate change and will be produced by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and UN Environment.

The other two will be about long-term strategies, prepared by the World Resources Institute, an international research organisation, and how to align funding with the national contributions established in the Paris Agreement on climate change, by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

One of the highlights of the two days in Buenos Aires was that the countries that have already finalised documents on their long-term strategies (LTS) shared their experiences. Among these countries are Germany, Canada, the United States, Great Britain, Mexico and France.

The LTS are voluntary plans that nations have been invited to present, by the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, about their vision of how it is possible to transform their productive and energy mix by 2050 and beyond.

While the national contributions included in the Paris Agreement, established at COP 21 in December 2015, are included in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and are to be reviewed every five years, the LTS look much further.

“Each of the countries designed their LTS in their own way. Some countries said they used it as a way to send a signal to the private sector about what kinds of technologies are foreseen for the climate transition and others spoke about job creation,” said Lucas Black, climate change specialist for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The UNDP collaborates with the Global Resources Institute in its document on the LTS and it also plays a role in the agenda of issues related to the development of the G20, as an external guest.

What does not seem clear is where such ambitious transformation plans towards 2050 will find the resources needed to turn them into reality.

In this respect, Black acknowledged to a small group of journalists that for emerging economies it is particularly difficult to find the funds necessary for carrying out in-depth changes.

“The private sector, particularly in infrastructure, really needs long-term certainty. That is a crucial part of its decision to invest,” said the international official, who arrived from New York for the meeting.

For her part, María Eugenia Di Paola, coordinator of the UNDP Environment Programme in Argentina, said the financing for the transition must come from “a public-private partnership” and that “the incorporation of adaptation to climate change in the G20 agenda is mainly of interest to developing countries.”

This year’s G20 Leaders’ Summit will take place Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Buenos Aires and will bring together the world’s most powerful heads of state and government for the first time in South America.

By that time, which will mark the end of the presidency of Argentina, this country hopes to reach a consensus on climate change, an issue that was first addressed in the official G20 declaration in 2008.

Black believes it is possible.

“Obviously, the G20 countries have different views. During the German presidency there was no consensus on all points. But all G20 members have a strong interest in the issues discussed this week: adaptation to climate change and infrastructure, long-term strategies and the need to align financing with national contributions,” he said.

The Working Group meeting in Buenos Aires was opened by two ministers of the government of President Mauricio Macri: Environment Minister Sergio Bergman and Energy and Mining Minister Juan José Aranguren.

Before joining the government, Aranguren was for years CEO of the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell in Argentina.

Argentina launched a programme to build sources of generation of renewable energy, which is almost non-existent in the country’s electricity mix but drives the most important projects in other areas of the energy sector.

Thus, for example, it was announced that in May Aranguren will travel to Houston, the capital of the U.S. oil industry, in search of investors to boost the development of Vaca Muerta, a gigantic reservoir of unconventional fossil fuels in the south of the country.

The minister has also been questioned by environmental sectors for his support for the construction of a gigantic dam in Patagonia and the installation of two new nuclear power plants.

“Latin America has a series of opportunities to build a more sustainable energy system, to improve infrastructure and to provide safe access to energy for the entire population,” Aranguren said in his opening speech at the Working Group meeting.

Bergman, meanwhile, said that “we have all the resources to address the challenge of climate change to transform reality and open the door to a secure and stable future for all.”

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Latin America Faces Uphill Energy Transitionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/latin-america-faces-uphill-energy-transition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-faces-uphill-energy-transition http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/latin-america-faces-uphill-energy-transition/#respond Thu, 19 Apr 2018 22:54:03 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155353 Latin America is facing challenges in energy efficiency, transportation and power generation to move towards a low carbon economy and thus accelerate that transition, which is essential to cut emissions in order to reduce global warming before it reaches a critical level. The region has made progress in the production of renewable energy, especially from […]

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New Platform Will Support Youth Projects on Water and Climatehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/new-platform-will-support-youth-projects-water-climate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-platform-will-support-youth-projects-water-climate http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/new-platform-will-support-youth-projects-water-climate/#respond Fri, 23 Mar 2018 22:53:41 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155014 Young people around the globe with good ideas on how to deal with water and climate challenges now have a platform to show their projects to the world and attract funding and other contributions to realise their dreams. The Youth for Water and Climate (#YWC) digital platform was formally launched during the 8th World Water […]

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People participate in the launch of the Youth for Water and Climate (#YWC) digital platform during the World Water Forum in Brasilia. The initiative is promoted by the Global Water Partnership and other organisations, to connect young people from around the world dedicated to social and environmental projects that promote water security and climate change solutions. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

People participate in the launch of the Youth for Water and Climate (#YWC) digital platform during the World Water Forum in Brasilia. The initiative is promoted by the Global Water Partnership and other organisations, to connect young people from around the world dedicated to social and environmental projects that promote water security and climate change solutions. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
BRASILIA, Mar 23 2018 (IPS)

Young people around the globe with good ideas on how to deal with water and climate challenges now have a platform to show their projects to the world and attract funding and other contributions to realise their dreams.

The Youth for Water and Climate (#YWC) digital platform was formally launched during the 8th World Water Forum, held Mar. 18-23 in Brasilia with the participation of a dozen country leaders.

The aim is to connect creative young people keen on helping to solve major environmental problems, in their communities or in wider areas, with potential funders and technical allies.

The idea is to promote “love at first sight” between these young people and potential supporters, that is, to accelerate the pairing between the two parties, according to a game that illustrates the idea of digital marketing of projects, the promoters of the initiative explained.

Marly Julajuj Coj, a 19-year-old indigenous woman from Guatemala, participated along with other young people from several continents in launching the platform, promoted by the Global Water Partnership (GWP) and other partners of the initiative, on Thursday Mar. 22 at Switzerland’s country pavilion at the 8th World Water Forum.

Representatives from donor agencies in Europe and Africa were also at the event, to explain the support they offer and what kind of projects they are interested in. For example, they give priority to ones that involve gender issues, said the representative of Switzerland’s development aid agency.

The young Guatemalan woman’s project seeks to build “rainwater harvesting systems, tanks made of recycled and new materials, to provide clean water for 20 families, those in greatest need in a community of 80 families,” she told IPS.

“The local rivers are polluted, we have to find alternative sources of drinking water,” said the young high school graduate who learned English with a missionary from the U.S. This is her second trip outside of Guatemala; earlier she received training in public speaking in Belgium.

Economist Mukta Akter, executive secretary of GWP Bangladesh, together with Pierre-Marie Grondin, of the French Water Solidarity Programme (pS-Eau), which will finance water and climate projects for young people around the world. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Economist Mukta Akter, executive secretary of GWP Bangladesh, together with Pierre-Marie Grondin, of the French Water Solidarity Programme (pS-Eau), which will finance water and climate projects for young people around the world. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

“#YWC is a very useful tool, it helps to make my project known and to seek financing,” she said.

The platform is supported by a consortium of nine organisations from various regions and is operated by a Secretariat comprising the GWP, the International Secretariat for Water and AgroParisTech.

It is open to anyone who wants to submit a project or offer support. A committee evaluates the quality of the projects and gives a stamp of approval, after which they are published in order to attract funders and technical assistance.

This process enables the young social entrepreneurs to improve their projects, share tools and meet requirements, while ensuring results for donors.

On the platform people and organisations are free to choose their preferences and interests.

The advice, training and connection with supporters offered to young people is a fundamental part of #YWC, said Vilma Chanta from El Salvador, focal point in her country of GWP Central America, and a researcher in territorial development with El Salvador’s National Development Foundation.

“Young people are an important part of change in the world, they are committed, that is why it is important to train youth leaders, to help them perhaps to formulate a theory of change that every project must have, that helps to identify where to focus their efforts,” Chanta told IPS.

Vilma Chanta, a researcher in territorial development for the non-governmental National Development Foundation of El Salvador, and focal point in that country of GWP Central America, worries about the pollution and deterioration of the Lempa river, key to the generation of energy and water consumption in the Central American nation. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Vilma Chanta, a researcher in territorial development for the non-governmental National Development Foundation of El Salvador, and focal point in that country of GWP Central America, worries about the pollution and deterioration of the Lempa river, key to the generation of energy and water consumption in the Central American nation. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

With regard to water problems in El Salvador, she mentioned the Lempa River, shared with Honduras and Guatemala, countries for which the river “is not as important as it is to us as a source of energy and water,” she said.

A drought in 2017 left cities without water for three weeks, although the worst effects occurred in rural areas where “there is water but no access to it,” she said.

“It is a limiting factor for women and girls who spend a large part of their days getting water for their households,” one of the vital gender issues in territorial development, said the young Salvadoran.

On the other side of the world, the young economist Mukta Akter, executive secretary of GWP Bangladesh, also tries to promote rainwater harvesting and training for women, but with an emphasis on income generation and the creation of companies to achieve economic growth.

“Water is a basic resource, indispensable for everything, even to obtain an income,” she told IPS. “In Bangladesh, water shortages prevent poor girls from going to school,” and guaranteeing access to water is essential to women’s education and financial future, she added.

“#YWC connects very diverse people, and is an opportunity for exchanging ideas and sharing know-how, which is important in my country,” she said.

Marly Julajuj Coj, a young indigenous woman from Guatemala, who at the age of 19 was one of the participants in the launch of the Youth Platform for Water and Climate in Brasilia, as leader of a project that seeks to ensure drinking water for her community of 80 families by harvesting rainwater. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Marly Julajuj Coj, a young indigenous woman from Guatemala, who at the age of 19 was one of the participants in the launch of the Youth Platform for Water and Climate in Brasilia, as leader of a project that seeks to ensure drinking water for her community of 80 families by harvesting rainwater. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Jelena Krstajic, president of the Youth Water Community, based in Slovenia and active in central and eastern Europe, sees #YWC primarily as a tool to seek financial support.

It is important “because we are all volunteers,” she told IPS in reference to the professionals who participate in the organisation.

A project in her community is the clean-up of the Ishmi river, in Albania, where there is an accumulation of plastic waste. Another project is to encourage the “voice of young people in the selection of policies” so that they can participate in decisions on social inclusion in Eastern Europe.

Young people will be decisive in the face of water and climate challenges, “they have energy and are more sensitive to the issues” and will be able to do more if they are connected internationally, said Pierre-Marie Grondin, director of the Water Solidarity Programme, a network of French organisations that finance projects in the developing South, especially Africa.

“#YWC is a good idea, it disseminates new ideas, promoting dialogue and coordination,” he told IPS, speaking as a donor.

The digital platform and the decision to support young people’s capacity for innovation are the result of ties forged among several national and international organisations since the December 2015 climate summit in Paris.

At the summit – the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), which gave rise to the Paris Agreement – the youth-led White Paper on Water and Climate, based on interviews in 20 countries from all continents, was presented.

During the World Water Forum, there were several initiatives aimed at young activists in water issues. One was the Stockholm Junior Water Prize, sponsored by Sweden, which chose a Brazilian project to attend the Water Week in Stockholm, in August of this year.

Meanwhile, participants in the Brazilian National Youth Parliament for Water presented their studies and projects at the Citizen Village, venue of the Alternative World Water Forum (FAMA), a parallel event.

The World Water Forum, organised by the World Water Council and the Brazilian government, drew 10,500 delegates from 172 countries, according to the organisers. They took part in 300 thematic sessions, and an Expo that was visited, according to their estimates, by more than 85,000 people.

FAMA focused on environmental education and attracted some 3,000 people from 34 countries, mostly students, plus tens of thousands of visitors who visited the fair.

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Working Together Is Key to Meeting Water Targets by 2030http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/working-together-key-meeting-water-targets-2030/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=working-together-key-meeting-water-targets-2030 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/working-together-key-meeting-water-targets-2030/#respond Thu, 22 Mar 2018 21:44:52 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154996 Mutual collaboration and coordination among the various stakeholders are tools to accelerate the actions necessary to meet the 6th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in the 2030 Agenda, which states the need to ensure access to clean water and sanitation for all. The Global Water Partnership (GWP), an international network created in 1996 to promote integrated […]

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A crowd, mainly of students, has filled the Citizen Village, the building where the new generations are educated in environmental and water issues, with cinema, facilities, toys and talks, every day during the 8th World Water Forum, held Mar. 18-23 in Brasilia. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

A crowd, mainly of students, has filled the Citizen Village, the building where the new generations are educated in environmental and water issues, with cinema, facilities, toys and talks, every day during the 8th World Water Forum, held Mar. 18-23 in Brasilia. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
BRASILIA, Mar 22 2018 (IPS)

Mutual collaboration and coordination among the various stakeholders are tools to accelerate the actions necessary to meet the 6th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in the 2030 Agenda, which states the need to ensure access to clean water and sanitation for all.

The Global Water Partnership (GWP), an international network created in 1996 to promote integrated water resources management (IWRM), calls for working and thinking together as a key to fulfilling SDG number 6, of the 17 goals that make up the Agenda, agreed in 2015 by the world’s governments within the framework of the United Nations.

To this end, on Mar. 20 it launched the campaign “Act on SDG 6” in Brasilia, during an event emphasising the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships to promote water security, in the context of the Eighth World Water Forum, hosted by Brasilia Mar. 18-23.

“To integrate the different sectors and organisations at the national and regional levels, to implement solutions and improve water indicators” is what we are seeking in order to advance towards the targets, said Joshua Newton, senior GWP network officer in charge of coordinating the work of SDG 6 and global water political processes, governance and stakeholder engagement.

“We facilitate, through partnerships, the search for funds for projects, connecting governmental actors, international organisations, and leaders,” he told IPS.

The campaign is close to concluding an initial phase of monitoring indicators to identify “where we are” in relation to SDG 6, Newton explained.

The second phase, which “is about to begin” is to “design responses, how to act to meet the goals,” followed by the third, the implementation phase, which requires financing: “the most difficult part,” he said.

Nor is it easy to drum up political will, integrate human beings and sectors with different interests, reconcile different uses of water, such as for agriculture, energy and human consumption, but “we try to bring people together to address water problems,” he added.

Another difficulty arises from the diversity of conditions: “IWRM is not present in all countries and water governance varies greatly between countries, and these are things that we seek to harmonise,” concluded Newton, an expert in international relations who has been dedicated to water issues since 1995, when he was living in Argentina.

For the GWP, the 5th of the six specific targets included in SDG 6 is of particular importance, as it states the need to “implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate,” by 2030, coinciding with the mission of the network, which has more than 3,000 members worldwide.

Gladys Villarreal, in charge of the care of water basins in Panama’s Environment Ministry, believes that water unites people despite their diversity and helps them to understand each other. She believes it will not be difficult for Panama to meet the 6th Sustainable Development Goal, which seeks to make access to clean water and sanitation universal by 2030. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Gladys Villarreal, in charge of the care of water basins in Panama’s Environment Ministry, believes that water unites people despite their diversity and helps them to understand each other. She believes it will not be difficult for Panama to meet the 6th Sustainable Development Goal, which seeks to make access to clean water and sanitation universal by 2030. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

The GWP is made up of governmental and intergovernmental institutions, international, non-governmental and academic organisations, companies and public service providers.

“I do not think it is difficult to reach SDG 6 in my country, we have already collected a great deal of information about our water and we started to implement IWRM in surface and underground sources,” said Gladys Villarreal, director of Hydrographic Basins at Panama’s Environment Ministry, at the launch of the GWP campaign.

In addition, “we have a 2015-2050 Water Security Plan,” with five strategic goals to guarantee water for domestic use, sanitation, healthy basins, with monitored water quality, all of which are sustainability targets, she told IPS.

But there is much to be done, she admitted. Of the 51 basins in Panama, there are organised water committees in only 14, and groundwater resources have hardly been studied. However, Villarreal pointed out that Panama has a Water Law, in force since 1965, and in the process of being updated.

Guatemala, on the other hand, does not have a specific law and has been facing water conflicts since 2016, between local communities, the government and private companies.

But “the tension is decreasing” and solutions are moving forward with technical committees oriented by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and the creation of committees in micro-basins, said Álvaro Aceituno, head of the Department of Water Resources and Watersheds.

There are 38 basins in Guatemala, with numerous sub-basins and micro-basins. For the latter, community-based monitoring has begun, with complaints filed in the Ministry, in the attempt to ensure quality water for the communities, he told IPS.

The country also has a Basin Authority in the existing 38 basins, which works together with the micro-basins committees, establishing a monitoring system in the headwaters. The National Forestry Institute also works to prevent deforestation, requiring permits for logging, and protecting endemic plant species.

Chilean Aldo Palacios, who chairs GWP South America, takes part in the launch of the "Act on SDG 6" campaign by the World Water Partnership (GWP) in Brasilia, in the context of the eighth World Water Forum. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Chilean Aldo Palacios, who chairs GWP South America, takes part in the launch of the “Act on SDG 6” campaign by the World Water Partnership (GWP) in Brasilia, in the context of the eighth World Water Forum. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

“In Guatemala, indigenous culture has considerable weight. In indigenous areas, forests are protected and we know that taking care of them means caring for water,” which favours agriculture, said Aceituno.

In this respect, he noted that there are communities where indigenous pressure benefits the water and the environment, but added that they also generate problems because their communities are independent “and follow their own laws.”

Villarreal and Aceituno consider the campaign beneficial for promoting actions to fulfill SDG 6. “Some countries, including Panama, seek to stand out,” and obtain incentives and support to achieve the goals, said Villarreal.

In South America, Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Peru are the countries that have shown the greatest progress with regard to SDG 6, said Aldo Palacios, president of GWP South America.

However, there are still major challenges. “There are cities where the drainage systems stopped working four or five decades ago, leading to heavy floods. In Chile, the loss of drinking water is close to 48 percent. We must accelerate management mechanisms, there are ideas but the answers are slow in coming,” he told IPS.

Climate change aggravated everything, with extreme weather events, such as more intense, longer droughts, excessive rainfall in short periods, and water-borne diseases.

“Many are entrenched, irreversible problems, against which reactions or attempts to adapt have fallen short. That is why we propose changing the mindset in our countries and adopting a resilience approach,” said Palacios.

That means ongoing, rather than isolated actions, with a medium to long-term – and preventive if possible – focus, with the aim of recovering or maintaining good living conditions.

As an example, he cited the actions taken by Germany and the Netherlands against the rising ocean level, which coastal cities around the world must undertake before they are flooded due to global warming and the melting of the polar ice caps.

He anticipated that resilience, at the core of IWRM, is a concept that goes beyond risk management, insofar as the risks are permanent. That, as well as the decentralisation of approaches, are ideas that the region intends to take to the GWP, as part of a reflection process.

“We are the region with the most rivers and the greatest water reserves, which is a distinctive factor to enhance, through shared leadership,” Palacios concluded.

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Crowd-Sourced Data and a Mobile Phone Application Are Making Cities Safer for Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/crowd-sourced-data-mobile-phone-application-making-cities-safer-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=crowd-sourced-data-mobile-phone-application-making-cities-safer-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/crowd-sourced-data-mobile-phone-application-making-cities-safer-women/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 14:41:37 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154417 When Shiba Kurian alighted from Chennai’s city train, the evening office-returning crowd was thick and jostling. Having booked a ride-hail cab she walked out to the entrance. Instead of the cab for which she had to wait an hour, ribald comments and derisive laughter came her way from a group of roadside Romeos. Kurian a […]

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Geneva Centre ED Jazairy meets Grand Imam of Al-Azharhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/geneva-centre-ed-jazairy-meets-grand-imam-al-azhar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=geneva-centre-ed-jazairy-meets-grand-imam-al-azhar http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/geneva-centre-ed-jazairy-meets-grand-imam-al-azhar/#respond Wed, 14 Feb 2018 15:18:24 +0000 Geneva Centre http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154325 In the wake of the Al-Azhar sponsored international conference on the situation in Jerusalem held from 17 to 18 January 2018 in Cairo, the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue (“the Geneva Centre”) Ambassador Idriss Jazairy was received in a private audience by the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar […]

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By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, Feb 14 2018 (Geneva Centre)

In the wake of the Al-Azhar sponsored international conference on the situation in Jerusalem held from 17 to 18 January 2018 in Cairo, the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue (“the Geneva Centre”) Ambassador Idriss Jazairy was received in a private audience by the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar His Eminence Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb.

During the meeting, Jazairy informed the Grand Imam regarding the Geneva Centre’s forthcoming World Conference entitled “Religions, Creeds and/or Other Value Systems: Joining Forces to Enhance Equal Citizenship Rights”.

The objective of the World Conference will be to harness the collective energy of religions, creeds and value systems in the pursuit of equal citizenship rights and to chart a forward-looking discussion to identify the required solutions to address the marginalization of disadvantaged and vulnerable social groups.

This major international conference will be held in Geneva on 25 June 2018 under the patronage of Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan and in collaboration with the World Council of Churches, the International Catholic Migration Commission and Bridges to Common Ground.

On behalf of the Sponsoring Committee of the World Conference, Jazairy extended an invitation to the Grand Imam to be the guest of honour and to share this initiative for joint action in support of international solidarity and justice. In response, the Grand Imam welcomed this initiative which is very much in harmony with the conference on “Freedom and Citizenship: Diversity and Integration” organized by Al-Azhar and the Council of Arab Elders from 28 February to 1 March 2017.

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Equal citizenship rights is another name for peace: Idriss Jazairy, Geneva Human Rights Centrehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/equal-citizenship-rights-another-name-peace-idriss-jazairy-geneva-human-rights-centre/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=equal-citizenship-rights-another-name-peace-idriss-jazairy-geneva-human-rights-centre http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/equal-citizenship-rights-another-name-peace-idriss-jazairy-geneva-human-rights-centre/#respond Fri, 09 Feb 2018 17:48:55 +0000 Geneva Centre http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154251 During a panel intervention at the 3rdannual dialogue in commemoration of the 2018 World Interfaith Harmony Week held on 9 February at the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG)- organized by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the Permanent Mission of Jordan to UN Geneva on 9 February at the United […]

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By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, Feb 9 2018 (Geneva Centre)

During a panel intervention at the 3rdannual dialogue in commemoration of the 2018 World Interfaith Harmony Week held on 9 February at the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG)- organized by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the Permanent Mission of Jordan to UN Geneva on 9 February at the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), Idriss Jazairy, Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue appealed to decision-makers and religious leaders to “find appropriate ways to denounce and bring an end to practices that hinder equal citizenship rights in their societies.”

Jazairy said the proliferation of political crises and conflicts in the Arab region and the West alike affect all religious groups through deepening animosities which could “beget intolerance or even hatred.” He warned against the ‘instrumentalization‘ of violence and the unscrupulous misuse of religion as a pretext for exclusion, discrimination and violence.

“The conclusion we can draw is that violent extremism targets people indiscriminately regardless of religious affiliation or beliefs. No one is immune from the vicious and heinous ideologies of violent extremist groups regardless of geographical location. Populism itself can metastasise into exclusion and violence. It is for these reasons that joint action is needed – more than ever – to address the root-causes of intolerance,” stated Jazairy.

The best way to achieve peace and address intolerance is to “harness the power of all religions, creeds and value-systems to promote and enhance equal citizenship rights. In other words, equal citizenship rights is another name for peace” added Jazairy.

Ambassador Jazairy praised the initiative of King Abdullah II of Jordan to spread messages of interfaith harmony through UN General Assembly Resolution No. 65.5 to celebrate an Interfaith Harmony Week at the beginning of February every year.

Inspired by this initiative, Jazairy announced that the Geneva Centre will organize a World Conference on the theme of “Religions, Creeds and/or Other Value Systems: Joining Forces to Enhance Equal Citizenship Rights” at UNOG in June 2018. The Geneva Centre’s Executive Director said the World Conference and the World Interfaith Harmony Week are key building blocks to “lay the foundation for social cohesion and the promotion of inclusive societies.”

These initiatives will give greater substance and “prominence to identifying an all-encompassing model of citizenship rights that responds to citizens’ aspiration to a sense of belonging which will foster their unity in diversity” Jazairy emphasized.

“Let us join forces to counter discrimination and address the root-causes of intolerance worldwide. Where there is a will, there is a way,” concluded Jazairy.

The debate gathered several high-level speakers from around the world including the Permanent Representatives to UN Geneva – Ambassador Saja Majali of Jordan, Sri Lankan Ambassador Ravinatha P. Aryasinha, Ambassador Kok Jwee Foo of Singapore, Azerbaijan Ambassador Vaqif Sadiqov, the Deputy Permanent Observer of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Aissata Kane and the Permanent Observers of the Holy See Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic and Ambassador Marie-Thérèse Pictet-Althann of the Sovereign Order of Malta .

Speakers included President of the American University Institute for Public Policy and former Ambassador of Ecuador to UN Geneva Ambassador Luis Gallegos and the Director of the United Nations Library at Geneva Francesco Pisano. The discussion panel was moderated by the Programme Director of UNITAR Alex Mejia.

In addition to the joint co-sponsorship of UNITAR and the Permanent Mission of Jordan, the debate was supported by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the United Nations Christian Association and the Permanent Observer Missions of the Holy See and the Sovereign Order of Malta.

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Strengthening the Integrity and Transparency of Elections in the Age of Social Mediahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/strengthening-integrity-transparency-elections-age-social-media/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=strengthening-integrity-transparency-elections-age-social-media http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/strengthening-integrity-transparency-elections-age-social-media/#respond Mon, 05 Feb 2018 16:48:31 +0000 UNESCO http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154194 UNESCO and the Global Network Initiative (GNI)* are co-hosting a symposium that will examine ways to maximize the benefits of digital technology in enhancing the transparency and integrity of elections, on 8 February at UNESCO’s Headquarters (10 am to 1 pm, Room XI). New technologies are affecting politics and elections in particular. Political parties and […]

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By UNESCO
PARIS, Feb 5 2018 (UNESCO)

UNESCO and the Global Network Initiative (GNI)* are co-hosting a symposium that will examine ways to maximize the benefits of digital technology in enhancing the transparency and integrity of elections, on 8 February at UNESCO’s Headquarters (10 am to 1 pm, Room XI).

New technologies are affecting politics and elections in particular. Political parties and candidates use social media to reach out to constituents, mobilize supporters and raise funds, while voters use them to get involved in campaigns, and engage politicians and each other about election-related issues. Such multidirectional activity can strengthen the integrity and transparency of electoral processes and enriches democracy. It can also lend itself to misuse, or abuse, in ways that may affect election results and undermine confidence in the integrity of democratic processes.

The symposium will bring together representatives of civil society, electoral agencies, ICT companies, UN agencies engaged in electoral assistance, along with journalists, and academics, to examine existing initiatives and explore new means to reduce the risk of abuse and foster multi-stakeholder cooperation.

Getachew Engida, Deputy Director-General of UNESCO, will open the event alongside Judith Lichtenberg, Executive Director of GNI, and Simon Pierre Nanitelamio, Deputy Director of the Electoral Assistance Division of the United Nations Department of Political Affairs.

The event will feature two panels, one on “Network availability, security and integrity around elections” the other on “Enhancing the quality of information around elections.” Notable participants will include senior managers from Google, Microsoft, Orange, as well as a Deputy Head of Division for Democracy and Electoral Observation of the European Commission, the President of France’s broadcasting regulatory authority, the Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel, a Deputy Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the Chairperson of Ghana’s National Media Commission.

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For more information : https://en.unesco.org/integrity-of-elections/programme

Media contact: UNESCO Media Services, Roni Amelan, r.amelan@unesco.org

Media Accreditation : Djibril Kebe, UNESCO Media Services, d.kebe@unesco.org

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*GNI is a multi-stakeholder organization of information and communication technology companies, civil society organizations, academics, and socially responsible investors, working collaboratively to promote and protect freedom of expression and privacy on the Internet.

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Tackling Inequality – The Myth that Davos Can Change the Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/myth-davos-can-change-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=myth-davos-can-change-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/myth-davos-can-change-world/#comments Mon, 29 Jan 2018 18:00:58 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154041 When the World Economic Forum (WEF) concluded in Davos, Switzerland last week, the outcome of the annual talk-fest was seemingly predictable—plenty of unrestrained platitudes but, surprisingly, less of the American populist, protectionist rhetoric. The presence of President Donald Trump was a political side-show as he proudly declared that America was “open for business”— even as […]

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For years now, Davos has listed inequality as a major concern, and yet has also noted that it keeps increasing. (Don’t these leaders have any influence?)

US President Donald Trump at the Davos Forum

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 29 2018 (IPS)

When the World Economic Forum (WEF) concluded in Davos, Switzerland last week, the outcome of the annual talk-fest was seemingly predictable—plenty of unrestrained platitudes but, surprisingly, less of the American populist, protectionist rhetoric.

The presence of President Donald Trump was a political side-show as he proudly declared that America was “open for business”— even as standup comedian Jimmy Kimmel wisecracked: “And who better to make that declaration than a man who declared bankruptcy six different times” (when he was a self-declared “billionaire” businessman before he ran for the US presidency.)

Trump, who has increasingly opted for bilateralism over multilateralism — while pulling out of the 11-member Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and threatening to do the same with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada– appeared more restrained before the world’s business elites, even though he arrived in Davos immediately after he slapped tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines.

But then appearances, as they say, can be frighteningly deceptive.

Implicitly taking a shot at Trump, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the Davos Forum that “forces of protectionism are raising their heads against globalization.” Their intention is not only to avoid globalisation but also reverse its natural flow, he warned.

Ben Phillips, Launch Director at the Nairobi-based Fight Inequality Alliance, told IPS: “Davos is over. This is not merely to say that the private helicopters have taken their charges back to private airstrips for their onward journey home. This year, 2018, was the nail in the coffin for the idea that Davos could change the world.”

He described the Davos Forum as a “speed-dating club for plutocrats and politicians”. But the idea that it will be a force for a more equal society is dead, he added.

Last week, WEF boss Klaus Schwab embraced Trump, complaining that Trump’s “strong leadership” had suffered “misconceptions and biased interpretations”.

Schwab, went further, praising Trump’s rushed and irresponsible tax giveaway to billionaires that is cutting services, increasing debt and widening inequality: “On behalf of the business leaders here in this room, let me particularly congratulate you for the historic tax reform package passed last month, greatly reducing the tax burden of US companies”.

According to the New York Times, some in the audience booed at Schwab’s remarks praising Trump.

Davos is now Trump-Davos: the racism and cruelty of Trump is forgiven, said Phillips.

“And Trump became Davos-Trump: his claimed revolt against globalization is now exposed as merely an attack on poor migrants and not a challenge to the global elite. Goldman Sachs – once the target of Trump’s rhetoric but now the source of his key cabinet picks, was clear. They “really like what he’s done for the economy”, Phillips added.

Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director, Greenpeace International, told IPS she saw no evidence that the corporate or government leaders in Davos really understood the urgent need to provide justice for the people or the planet.

“While they speak of inclusive growth and climate action, they fail to investigate or challenge their own role in propping up and benefitting from the underlying system that has created the fractured world we live in,” she added.

However, she said, she was inspired by many of the young global shapers, particularly women, whom she met, leading the way with big ideas and collective leadership.

Morgan pointed out that climate risk and climate action were more present in discussions at Davos this year, but not at the speed or scale required when measured against the scale of the challenge we face.

“Climate disruption is the new norm, which means a transformation of our energy and land-use systems is the only way forward,” she noted.

Phillips told IPS it has not just the embrace of Trump, however, that has ended the myth of Davos as an equalizing force. It is the consistent failure of Davos to deliver.

“For years now, Davos has listed inequality as a major concern, and yet has also noted that it keeps increasing. (Don’t these leaders have any influence?)”, he asked.

As the world’s foremost expert on inequality trends, former World Bank economist Branko Milanovic, concluded last week, Davos has “produced 0 results” in lessening inequality – while the economy has been further adjusted by inequality-exacerbating policies that have returned us to the “early 19thcentury”.

For students of history, noted Phillips, this should all be unsurprising: never, at any time or place, have great strides been made in tackling the concentration of power and wealth by a few by literally concentrating together those powerful and wealthy few.


"All major equalizing change has involved a process of those outside the elite gathering together, building confidence and strength, and pushing for a fairer share. Greater equality has never been freely given, it has always been won through collective struggle."

Ben Phillips, Fight Inequality Alliance

Indeed, all major equalizing change has involved a process of those outside the elite gathering together, building confidence and strength, and pushing for a fairer share.

Greater equality has never been freely given, it has always been won through collective struggle, declared Phillips.

Even the usually-restrained United Nations expressed concern over Trump’s call for countries to pursue their own self-interest – in this age of globalisation and multilateralism.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the outspoken Zeid Raad al-Hussein, declared: “It’s the script of the 20th century. He urged all countries to pursue their own interest, almost without reference to the fact that if you do all of that, if each country is narrowly pursuing its agenda, it will clash with the agendas of others and we will take the world back to 1913 once again.”

Striking a different perspective to Davos, Phillips said “happily, last week was a week when that process of people organizing together for change also took a step forward. But not on the Davos mountain, but on very different mountains.”

As the media summarized it “Forget Davos – Dandora is the key to tackling inequality.”

Dandora in Nairobi is a slum situated on top of a garbage mountain, and it was there, not at the World Economic Forum, that NGOs, social movements and trade unions who have come together in the global Fight Inequality Alliance centred their organizing.

Dandora played host to an Usawa Festival (“Equality Festival”) pulled together by Kenya’s greatest hiphop star Juliani along with grassroots groups working to build up strength from the ground up.

Across the world, similar festivals and rallies brought people together to demand change and build their power. Attendees at Davos complained of being trapped in fog, stuck in ditches, and almost buried by heavy snow.

At the Dandora garbage mountain, in contrast, the sun shone, the participants sang in joyful defiance and people took the initiative for change into their own hands, said Phillips.

“We are the people we’ve been waiting for!” they shouted.

It will take time, they said, but from the garbage mountain top they felt, in an echo of Dr King and of the captives who ran from the Pharaoh, that they could see the promised land, declared Phillips.

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Biodiversity and Food Security: the Dual Focus of the World Potato Congresshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/biodiversity-food-security-focus-world-potato-congress/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biodiversity-food-security-focus-world-potato-congress http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/biodiversity-food-security-focus-world-potato-congress/#respond Thu, 25 Jan 2018 00:36:44 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153999 Potatoes were first taken out of Peru, where they originated, 458 years ago to feed the world. Half a millennium later, potatoes have spread throughout the planet but there are challenges to preserve the crop’s biodiversity as a source of food security, as well as the rights of the peasants who sustain this legacy for […]

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Two farmers pick potatoes in Pampas, 3,276 meters above sea level, in the Andean region of Huancavelica, in central Peru, during a visit by specialists who accompanied IPS to the area that is home to the largest variety of native potatoes in the country. From Peru, potatoes spread throughout the entire world. Credit: Mariela Pereira / IPS

Two farmers pick potatoes in Pampas, 3,276 meters above sea level, in the Andean region of Huancavelica, in central Peru, during a visit by specialists who accompanied IPS to the area that is home to the largest variety of native potatoes in the country. From Peru, potatoes spread throughout the entire world. Credit: Mariela Pereira / IPS

By Mariela Jara
LIMA, Jan 25 2018 (IPS)

Potatoes were first taken out of Peru, where they originated, 458 years ago to feed the world. Half a millennium later, potatoes have spread throughout the planet but there are challenges to preserve the crop’s biodiversity as a source of food security, as well as the rights of the peasants who sustain this legacy for humanity.

The hosting of the 10th World Potato Congress between May 27 and 31, in the ancient city of Cuzco, the centre of what was the Inca empire in the south of the Peruvian Andes, is a recognition of Peru as the main supplier of the potatoes, since it has the largest amount of germplasm in the world, and great commercial potential.

“Peru has 3,500 potato varieties of the 5,000 existing in the world. Culturally potatoes are a way of life, a feeling, a mystique. From the point of view of commercial production, hosting the congress is an opportunity to show the world new products such as flours, flakes, liqueurs and fresh potatoes,” engineer Jesus Caldas, director of management of the National Institute of Agricultural Innovation (INIA), which leads the Organising Committee of the world congress, told IPS.“The designation of Peru as host of the congress is important; the scientific community involved in the global innovation of potato production will return to the source of its origin and diversity, which is key for food security." -- Gonzalo Tejada

Held for the first time in 1993, this technical-scientific congress is held every three years, and for the first time will be hosted by a Latin American country.

Under the theme “Returning to the origin for a better future” and promoted by the World Potato Congress (WPC), the tenth edition will reflect onbiodiversity, food security and business.

“The designation of Peru as host of the congress is important; the scientific community involved in the global innovation of potato production will return to the source of its origin and diversity, which is key for food security,” Gonzalo Tejada, national coordinator of Projects of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), a member of the Organising Committee of the congress, told IPS.

The potato was domesticated about 8,000 years ago in the Peruvian highlands, in the region of El Puno, shared with Bolivia. After the arrival of the Spanish to this part of the continent at the end of the 16th century, they introduced the plant to their country, and from there it spread throughout Europe, becoming a staple food product.

The non-governmental Lima-based International Potato Centre (CIP) indicates that the tuber, which has significant nutritional properties, is today the third most important crop on the planet after rice and wheat, and that more than one billion people who eat potatoes on a regular basis consume an estimated annual production of 374 million tons.

The CIP reports that the total cultivated area of potatoes exceeds 19 million hectares in 156 countries. “The biggest consumption is by industries that use potatoes for frying, in starch or in liqueurs like vodka, which involves production by large transnational companies,” said FAO’s Tejada.

Jesús Caldas, director of Management of the National Institute of Agricultural Innovation (INIA), the Peruvian state entity that leads the Organising Committee of the 10th World Potato Congress, is photographed in his office next to the promotional posters for the event that will take place in the city of Cuzco in May. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

Jesús Caldas, director of Management of the National Institute of Agricultural Innovation (INIA), the Peruvian state entity that leads the Organising Committee of the 10th World Potato Congress, is photographed in his office next to the promotional posters for the event that will take place in the city of Cuzco in May. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

In most countries, he explained, production is concentrated in extensive agriculture carried out by large companies. This is not the case of Peru and its Andean neighbors Bolivia and Ecuador, where ancestral practices have been kept alive, making it possible to conserve the native species that constitute the basis of the crop’s biodiversity.

But these crops face the impacts of climate change, lack of technology and narrow profit margins, among other problems.

Josefina Baca, a 42-year-old farmer, plants potatoes more than 3,100 meters above sea level in Huaro, a town 43 km from the city of Cuzco. She says the heat is more intense than in the past, and is worried by how variable the rainy season is now.

“I am always coming to my farm and I work with devotion, but the climate changes are spoiling the crops: if the frost falls prematurely it ruins everything. Or sometimes there is no rain and we lose the crops. I farm organically, without chemicals, but we need support to protect our seeds, our biodiversity,” she told IPS.

 A farmer picks potatoes on community land in the high Andean region of Huancavelica, the area of Peru with the most native varieties of potatoes. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS


A farmer picks potatoes on community land in the high Andean region of Huancavelica, the area of Peru with the most native varieties of potatoes. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

Moisés Quispe, executive director of the National Association of Agroecological Producers (ANPE), which represents 12,000 native potato growers, especially in the centre and south of the Andes range, told IPS that climate change is a serious threat to rural people.

Quispe, who is a farmer and guardian of seeds in his area, explained that they are at a disadvantage in the neoliberal market because due to the lack of political will there is no promotion of small-scale agricultural development that produces the native potato in all its wide variety.

“From one hectare, you can obtain 60 tons of conventional potatoes, but only 15 at the most of native potatoes, because they are grown with no tillage, just manual labour, without machines, because the wild terrain where these potatoes grow do not allow it,” he explained.

He added that the production system entails crop rotation, natural soil fertilisation, clean water irrigation, permanent pest and disease control and seed selection.

“This demands more labour, it raises the costs of small-scale production by potato growers, but we do not get a fair price,” he said.

Native potatoes, which draw three times the price of the most commercial and conventional varieties, are species of diverse textures, shapes and colours that are produced in high areas and adapted since time immemorial to climatic adversity. They have been conserved based on the ancestral knowledge of indigenous peasant families and without using chemical elements.

ANPE’s Quispe stresses that Peru as a country of conservation of plant genetic resources which has helped to prevent hunger in different parts of the world, but regrets the lack of recognition of the rights of the small farmers who make it possible to conserve the native potatoes year after year, for generations.

He demanded a differentiated public policy that promotes in situ conservation based on the integration of local knowledge. “The law says that all seeds must be certified but we do not agree, the peasants have the potato as their father, brother, great-grandfather have inherited it, they cannot try to monopolise the seeds because they are a common good,” he argued.

Currently the country leads the production of potatoes in Latin America with 4.6 million tons per year, while per capita consumption is 85 kg a year. But greater volume is required to take on the commercial challenges.

INIA’s Caldas recognises the need to adopt public policies to increase potato productivity, and calls for greater resources for research, promotion of agriculture and seed certification.

In his view, the fact that of the 320,000 hectares of potatoes grown in the country, only 0.4 percent of the seeds used are certified is a disadvantage that contributes to low crop yields.

Miguel Ordinola stands in front of the Lima headquarters of the International Potato Centre, a non-governmental scientific body that is part of the Organising Committee of the World Potato Congress, which will be hosted in the Peruvian city of Cuzco in May. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

Miguel Ordinola stands in front of the Lima headquarters of the International Potato Centre, a non-governmental scientific body that is part of the Organising Committee of the World Potato Congress, which will be hosted in the Peruvian city of Cuzco in May. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

He also cited factors such as the lack of irrigation infrastructure, dependence on rainfall and limited knowledge about fertilisation. “There is ancestral knowledge but there is a lack of technical support,” the official said.

Miguel Ordinola, representative of the CIP in the Organising Committee of the Congress, said the meeting will offer opportunities to present global advances in research that will benefit small farmers.

“Studies have been carried out by the CIP together with American and European universities on how we are adapting to the conditions brought on by climate change. One of the hypotheses to be proved is that native varieties are being planted at higher altitudes, that with the increase in temperatures farmers are seeking higher altitudes,” where temperatures are lower, he told IPS.

During the 10th Congress, the progress made in scientific research will be seen in the field, in the Potato Park and in the visit to the Andenes Station, the only one in the world that researches Inca and pre-Inca “andenes” or platforms – step-like terraces dug into the slope of a hillside for agricultural purposes.

Ordinola said Peru and its Andean neighbours have great commercial potential to develop, to which this world congress will contribute.

“Peru got to be host because it is a centre of biodiversity for the world, which means many of the problems facing potato crops can find a solution through research in the Peruvian and regional context,” he said.

The world meeting will gather some 1,000 people from the scientific, academic, business and peasant farming communities. Of the participants, 60 percent will come from Latin American countries.

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