Inter Press ServiceCivil Society – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 22 Sep 2017 16:36:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 Indigenous Land Conflicts Finally Garner Attentionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/indigenous-land-conflicts-finally-garner-attention/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-land-conflicts-finally-garner-attention http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/indigenous-land-conflicts-finally-garner-attention/#respond Fri, 22 Sep 2017 16:36:36 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152204 The territorial claims of hundreds of indigenous communities, which extend throughout most of Argentina’s vast geography, burst onto the public agenda of a country built by and for descendants of European colonisers and immigrants, accustomed to looking at native people as outsiders. It all started with the disappearance of Santiago Maldonado, a 28-year-old artisan who […]

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Mexico’s Disaster Response System Severely Stretched by Quakehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/mexicos-disaster-response-system-severely-stretched-quake/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexicos-disaster-response-system-severely-stretched-quake http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/mexicos-disaster-response-system-severely-stretched-quake/#comments Wed, 20 Sep 2017 23:51:32 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152172 Central Mexico faced Wednesday the challenge of putting itself back together after the powerful 7.1-magnitude quake that devastated the capital and the neighbouring states of Mexico, Morelos and Puebla the day before. In Mexico City the air smells of dust, destruction, death, panic and hope, brought by the quake, whose epicenter was in Morelos, 120 […]

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The Sept. 19, 2017 earthquake toppled nearly 50 buildings in Mexico City, and left many uninhabitable. Fire fighters carry out an inspection the day after in an apartment building that is still standing but will have to be demolished, in a neighbourhood in the centre of Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Sept. 19, 2017 earthquake toppled nearly 50 buildings in Mexico City, and left many uninhabitable. Fire fighters carry out an inspection the day after in an apartment building that is still standing but will have to be demolished, in a neighbourhood in the centre of Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Sep 20 2017 (IPS)

Central Mexico faced Wednesday the challenge of putting itself back together after the powerful 7.1-magnitude quake that devastated the capital and the neighbouring states of Mexico, Morelos and Puebla the day before.

In Mexico City the air smells of dust, destruction, death, panic and hope, brought by the quake, whose epicenter was in Morelos, 120 km to the south of the capital. So far the official death toll is 230, with hundreds of people injured and 44 collapsed buildings in Mexico City.

“Everything is cracked, everything’s about to fall down. Now I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Verónica, who lived in a new building on the verge of collapse on the south side of the capital, told IPS with tears in her eyes.

The mother of three, who preferred not to give her last name, was living alone for the last two years. She managed to salvage a few important things, like documents, jewelry and a TV set. She is now staying with one of her daughters in another part of greater Mexico City, which has a population of nearly 22 million people.

In Mexico City, the municipalities of Benito Juárez and Cuauhtémoc – two of the 16 “delegations” into which the city is divided and which together are home to nearly one million people – were hit hardest, along with parts of the states of Morelos and Puebla.
The capital is built on a dried-up ancient lakebed, which makes it more susceptible to earthquake damage.

On Tuesday, the interior ministry declared a state of disaster in the capital and 150 municipalities in Guerrero, Morelos and Puebla that were affected by the quake, to free up funds from the National Fund for Natural Disasters (FONDEN).

Berenice Rivera works as a seamstress, and she and her co-workers were evacuated from the building as soon as the first tremors were felt. “I ran to pick my kids up at school and went home to check if everything was ok,” the mother of two told IPS.

Given the structural damage to a tall nearby building, Rivera does not believe she can continue to live in the housing complex where she lives along with some 80 neighbours. “We’re going to pull things out and see where we can move to, what else can we do?” she sighed.

Construction workers were among the first to get involved in the effort to rescue survivors, leaving the buildings where they were working and using their hands to remove rubble to find people who might be trapped underneath. It was the start of a wave of citizen solidarity and support that continues to grow along the streets and avenues of the city.

A rescue worker attempts to secure the perimeter of a building toppled by the Sept. 19, 2017 earthquake, to keep former residents from trying to get inside – something that has happened in many buildings knocked down or badly damaged by the quake in Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Gody/IPS

A rescue worker attempts to secure the perimeter of a building toppled by the Sept. 19, 2017 earthquake, to keep former residents from trying to get inside – something that has happened in many buildings knocked down or badly damaged by the quake in Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Gody/IPS

Just like after the 8.0-magnitude quake that left 25,000 people dead in Mexico City – according to unofficial figures – on Sept. 19, 1985, people mobilised en masse to remove rubble in the search for survivors, in a brave and often disorganised show of solidarity.

Although basic public services have been restored, economic, commercial and educational activities have come to a halt. The work is focused on finding survivors under the rubble, assessing the damage to buildings, and depending on the result, demolishing them and relocating the residents while planning the reconstruction effort.

But more buildings are at risk of collapse because of the damage suffered. In addition, the quake – which happened on the 32nd anniversary of the worst quake in the history of Mexico, during a drill on how to deal with a disaster of this kind – will have environmental and health effects.

“The situation is very difficult,” Mexican-American Juan Cota, who has been living in the capital since 2011 and works in the financial sector, told IPS. “There are damaged buildings that could collapse.”

Cota was in a café on the south-central side of the city when the quake began. His apartment survived, but some of his neighbours were not so lucky.

The Mexico City government has opened at least 41 shelters for survivors throughout the capital.

Mexico’s foreign minister, Luis Videgaray, tweeted that the United Nations would head the rescue and aid efforts.

According to its model for estimating earthquake damage, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) predicted up to 1,000 fatalities and economic losses between 100 million and one billion dollars.

The USGS stated that “Extensive damage is probable and the disaster is likely widespread. Estimated economic losses are less than 1% of GDP of Mexico. Past events with this alert level have required a national or international level response.”

The quake has further stretched the country’s disaster response system, already overwhelmed by the 8.1-magnitude quake that hit on Sept. 7, with an epicenter off the coast of the southern state of Chiapas, and which also affected the state of Oaxaca and Mexico City.

Over two million people were affected by that quake, including some 90 people who were killed, according to government statistics.

In August, the World Bank Group issued its largest ever catastrophe bond to Mexico.

The bonds are divided into three categories of insurance: Atlantic Ocean hurricanes, Pacific Ocean hurricanes and earthquakes, providing Mexico with financial protection of up to 360 million dollars against losses.

Similar bonds were issued in 2006, 2009 and 2012.

Each year, this Latin American country dedicates some 1.5 billion dollars to the reconstruction of public infrastructure and social housing affected by natural disasters. Between 2014 and 2015, FONDEN disbursed 137 million dollars to address the damage caused by hurricanes, heavy rains and flooding.

The earthquake has fanned the flames of the debate about the construction standards in force in Mexico City, which were upgraded after the 1985 tragedy. “They say they’re stricter, but look at that building. It’s new and it’s about to come down,” said Verónica.

Cota believes the standards are not always enforced, mainly because of corruption. “They ignore them…they have to be revised and enforced, because the earth will continue to shake and there will be more damage,” he said.

Tuesday’s earthquake occurred near the area where the Cocos Plate, off Mexico’s Pacific coast, is pushing underneath the North American Plate – a phenomenon that points to further quakes.

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A Trump Doctrine of Hypocrisyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/trump-doctrine-hypocrisy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-doctrine-hypocrisy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/trump-doctrine-hypocrisy/#respond Wed, 20 Sep 2017 19:38:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152169 In his first address on the global stage of the General Assembly, United States’ President Donald Trump touted an “America First” approach at the very institution that is meant to inspire collaboration between nations. During his 45-minute speech, President Trump praised national sovereignty, referencing the concept a whopping 21 times. “Our government’s first duty is […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 20 2017 (IPS)

In his first address on the global stage of the General Assembly, United States’ President Donald Trump touted an “America First” approach at the very institution that is meant to inspire collaboration between nations.

Donald J. Trump. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

During his 45-minute speech, President Trump praised national sovereignty, referencing the concept a whopping 21 times.

“Our government’s first duty is to its people, to our citizens — to serve their needs, to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights, and to defend their values,” he told world leaders.

“As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first.”

But in a global world that relies on each other on issues such as economic growth and environmental protection, can a “me first” approach work?

Peace Action’s Senior Director of Policy and Political Affairs Paul Kawika Martin says no.

“To say one country first over the other certainly is not going to deal with these issues,” he told IPS.

Though the President highlighted the need to work together to confront those who threaten the world with “chaos, turmoil, and terror,” his actions seem to imply otherwise.

Starting with withdrawing from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement to tackle global emissions to threatening funding cuts to not only the UN but also to its own State Department which handles diplomacy and foreign assistance, the U.S. seems to be far from working together with the international community.

As Trump received applause upon speaking of the benefits of the U.S.’ programs in advancing global health and women’s empowerment, he has also sought to eliminate such programs including the gender equality development assistance account ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues and has already withdrawn all funds to the UN’s Population Fund.

“Talk is cheap when you don’t fund the efforts you tout,” said Oxfam America’s President Abby Maxman.

“Mr. Trump continues on a path that will cost America its global influence and leadership,” she continued.

Martin echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating: “We talk about working together but we don’t seem to do the things that you need to do to work together, which is making sure you have the right diplomacy, supporting the UN, and supporting other international fora.”

He particularly pointed the U.S.’ refusal to participate and sign the new nuclear ban treaty.

Adopted in July, the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons is now open for signature and will enter into force 90 days after 50 countries have ratified it.

Brazilian President Michel Temer was the first to sign the treaty.

However, the world’s nine nuclear-armed states including the U.S. boycotted the negotiations and announced they do not ever intend to become party to the document.

Instead, President Trump used his address to lambast both North Korea and Iran for their alleged pursuits of nuclear weapons and make war-inciting claims.

“We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump said.

“It is time for North Korea to realize that the denuclearization is its only acceptable future.”

Martin noted that no country would act kindly to threats of annihilation.

Such threats have instead only served to increase tensions.

Since Trump threatened “fire and fury” on 8 August, North Korea has conducted four nuclear tests.

The President continued to say that the Iran Deal is the “worst” and most “one-sided” agreements, threatening to withdraw from it.

As nuclear tensions continue escalate, Trump’s threats of war and unwillingness to cooperate gives security to none, particularly not Americans.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein criticized the President for his remarks and noted the hypocrisy in using the UN stage of peace and global cooperation to threaten war.

“He missed an opportunity to present any positive actions the U.N. could take with respect to North Korea…By suggesting he would revisit and possibly cancel the Iran nuclear agreement, he greatly escalated the danger we face from both Iran and North Korea,” she said.

“He aims to unify the world through tactics of intimidation, but in reality he only further isolates the United States.”

Martin highlighted the importance of diplomacy rather than intimidation.

“Diplomacy is the hardest thing. It is harder to get together at a table and work on a deal but that’s what needs to be done.”

President Trump did express his support for the UN and its work, citing former President Harry Truman who helped build the UN and made the U.S. the first nation to join the organization.

He referred to Truman’s Marshall Plan which helped restore post-World War II Europe, but still went on to urge nations to “embrace their sovereignty.”

However, it was Truman that spoke of a “security for all” approach during a conference which established the UN Charter in 1945.

He urged delegates to use this “instrument for peace and security” but warned nations against using “selfishly,” stating: “If any nation would keep security for itself, it must be ready and willing to share security with all. This is the price which each nation will have to pay for world peace.”

“Out of this conflict have come powerful military nations, now fully trained and equipped for war. But they have no right to dominate the world. It is rather the duty of these powerful nations to assume the responsibility for leadership toward a world of peace.

That is why we have here resolved that power and strength shall be used not to wage war, but to keep the world at peace, and free from the fear of war.”

Truman’s collective action approach helped prevent another devastating world war.

However, President Trump’s non-cooperation and combative words signal a darker future in global affairs.

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Small Farmers in Brazil’s Amazon Region Seek Sustainabilityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/small-farmers-brazils-amazon-region-seek-sustainability/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=small-farmers-brazils-amazon-region-seek-sustainability http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/small-farmers-brazils-amazon-region-seek-sustainability/#respond Tue, 19 Sep 2017 23:00:28 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152139 The deforestation caused by the expansion of livestock farming and soy monoculture appears unstoppable in the Amazon rainforest in the west-central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. But small-scale farmers are trying to reverse that trend. Alison Oliveira is a product of the invasion by a wave of farmers from the south, lured by vast, cheap […]

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After living in the city for 10 years, Oliveira and Marcely Federicci da Silva, a young married couple, decided to return to work on their farm with a sustainable agriculture project, nearby Alta Floresta, in the so-called Portal of the Amazon, in the west-central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

After living in the city for 10 years, Oliveira and Marcely Federicci da Silva, a young married couple, decided to return to work on their farm with a sustainable agriculture project, nearby Alta Floresta, in the so-called Portal of the Amazon, in the west-central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
ALTA FLORESTA, Brazil, Sep 19 2017 (IPS)

The deforestation caused by the expansion of livestock farming and soy monoculture appears unstoppable in the Amazon rainforest in the west-central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. But small-scale farmers are trying to reverse that trend.

Alison Oliveira is a product of the invasion by a wave of farmers from the south, lured by vast, cheap land in the Amazon region when the 1964-1985 military dictatorship aggressively promoted the occupation of the rainforest.

“I was born here in 1984, but my grandfather came from Paraná (a southern state) and bought about 16 hectares here, which are currently divided between three families: my father’s, my brother’s and mine,” Oliveira told IPS while milking his cows in a barn that is small but mechanised.

“Milk is our main source of income; today we have 14 cows, 10 of which are giving milk,” he explained. “I also make cheese the way my grandfather taught me, and I sell it to hotels and restaurants, for twice the price of the milk.”

But what distinguishes his farm, 17 km from Alta Floresta, a city of about 50,000 people in northern Mato Grosso, is its mode of production, which involves an agroforestry system that combines crops and trees, irrigated pastureland, an organic garden and free-range egg-laying chickens.

Because of its sustainable agriculture system, the farm is used as a model in an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) programme, and is visited by students and other interested people.

“We want more: a biodigester, solar power and rural tourism, when we have the money to make the investments,” said Oliveira’s wife, 34-year-old Marcely Federicci da Silva.

The couple discovered their vocation for sustainable farming after living for 10 years in Sinop, which with its 135,000 people is the most populated city in northern Mato Grosso, and which owes its prosperity to soy crops for export.

“Raising two small children in the city is harder,” she said, also attributing their return to the countryside to Olhos de Agua, a project promoted by the municipal government of Alta Floresta to reforest and restore the headwaters of rivers on small rural properties.

 Alison Oliveira, surrounded by the organic crops that he and his wife grow on their small-scale farm outside the city of Alta Floresta, on the southern edge of Brazil’s Amazon region. Sustainable family farming, supported by several organisations, acts as a barrier against deforestation and soy monoculture. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS


Alison Oliveira, surrounded by the organic crops that he and his wife grow on their small-scale farm outside the city of Alta Floresta, on the southern edge of Brazil’s Amazon region. Sustainable family farming, supported by several organisations, acts as a barrier against deforestation and soy monoculture. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The financial viability of the farm owes a great deal to the support received from the non-governmental Ouro Verde Institute (IOV), which in addition to providing technical assistance, created a mechanism for on-line sales, creating links between farmers and consumers, Oliveira pointed out.

The Solidarity-Based Marketing System (Siscos), launched in 2008, is“an on-line market that allows direct interaction between 30 farmers and over 500 registered customers, zootechnician Cirio Custodio da Silva, marketing consultant for the IOV, explained to IPS.

Customers place weekly orders, the system chooses suppliers and picks up the products to be delivered to the buyers in a shop on Wednesdays.

Besides, Siscos supports sales in street markets, and the school feeding programme, which by law in Brazil buys at least 30 per cent of its food products from family farmers, and the women textile workers’ network, who make handcrafted textiles.

The IOV, founded in 1999 in Alta Floresta to drive social participation in sustainable development, especially in agriculture, has promoted since 2010 a network of native seeds, to encourage reforestation and crop diversification.

Alison Oliveira milks one of his cows, which feed on a pasture with nocturnal irrigation, which cuts power costs by 60 per cent. Together with an organic garden and an agroforestry system, it makes their farm an example of sustainability which attracts many visitors. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Alison Oliveira milks one of his cows, which feed on a pasture with nocturnal irrigation, which cuts power costs by 60 per cent. Together with an organic garden and an agroforestry system, it makes their farm an example of sustainability which attracts many visitors. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Seed collectors organised in a 115-member cooperative, with 12 seed banks, 200 selected tree species, and mainly oilseeds for agriculture, represent an activity that is also a source of income, said agronomist Anderson Lopes, head of that area at the IOV.

Initially, the interest of the farmers was limited to having access to agricultural seeds, but later it also extended to
seeds of native tree species, for the restoration of forests, springs and headwaters, and degraded land, he said.

Silva and Lopes have similar backgrounds. Their farming families, from the south, ventured to the so-called Portal of the Amazon, a region that covers 16 municipalities in northern Mato Grosso, where the rainforest begins.

It is a territory with a rural economy, where one-third of the 258,000 inhabitants still live in the countryside, according to the 2010 national census.

It is a transition zone between the area with the largest soybean and maize production in Brazil, in north-central Mato Grosso, and the Amazon region with its dense, sparsely populated jungle.

This is reflected in 14 indigenous territories established in the area and in the number of family farmers – over 20,000 – in contrast with the prevalence of large soybean plantations that are advancing from the south.

The road that connects Sinop – a kind of capital of the empire of soy – with Alta Floresta, 320 km to the north, runs through land that gradually becomes less flat and favourable for mechanised monoculture, with more and more forests and fewer vast agricultural fields.

Pedro Kingfuku, owner of four supermarkets, stands among fruit and vegetables that come from Paraná, 2,000 km south of Paranaita, a municipality with a population of 11,000 people. Local family farming has a great capacity for expansion to cater to the large market in the north of the state of Mato Grosso, in west-central Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Pedro Kingfuku, owner of four supermarkets, stands among fruit and vegetables that come from Paraná, 2,000 km south of Paranaita, a municipality with a population of 11,000 people. Local family farming has a great capacity for expansion to cater to the large market in the north of the state of Mato Grosso, in west-central Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

That tendency is accentuated towards Paranaita, a municipality with a population of 11,000 people, 54 km west of Alta Floresta, which announces the last frontier of livestock farming and soy monoculture, at least through that south-north highway across Mato Grosso, the national leader in the production of soy.

Movements in favour of sustainability, such as the one supported by IOV, and the important presence of family farmers, are joining forces to help curb the invasion of the Amazon region by soy monoculture which dominated north-central Mato Grosso, creating a post-harvest desert-like landscape.

Another non-governmental organisation, the Center of Life Institute (ICV), also active in Alta Floresta and surrounding areas, has a Sustainable Livestock Initiative, with reforestation and restoration of degraded pastures.

The “colonisation” process of the Portal of the Amazon was similar to that of the rest of Mato Grosso. People from the south came with dreams of working in agriculture, after previous waves of loggers and “garimpeiros” – informal miners of gold and precious stones – activities that still continue but have become less prevalent.

“Many of those who obtained land harvested the timber and then returned south,” because planting crops was torture, without roads, marketing or financial support, recalled Daniel Schlindewein, another migrant from Paraná who settled in Sinop in 1997.

Agriculture failed with coffee, rice and other traditional crops that were initially tried, until soy monoculture spread among the small farms, rented from the large producers.

But family farming has survived in the Portal of the Amazon.

“If the town of São Pedro didn’t exist, I would have to close the store in Paranaíta,“ Pedro Kingfuku, the owner of a chain of four supermarkets in the area, told IPS. He opened the stores in 2013 betting that the construction of the Teles Pires Hydropower Plant nearby would generate 5,000 new customers.

“But not even a tenth of what was expected came,“ he lamented.

The 785 farming families who settled in São Pedro, near Paranaíta, saved the local supermarket because they mainly buy there, said Kingfuku, the son of Japanese immigrants who also came from Paraná.

“Among the settlers, the ones who earn the most are the dairy farmers, like my father who has 16 hectares of land,” said Mauricio Dionisio, a young man who works in the supermarket.

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Islamic Organization Promotes Cultural Rapprochement Between US & Muslim Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/islamic-organization-promotes-cultural-rapprochement-us-muslim-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=islamic-organization-promotes-cultural-rapprochement-us-muslim-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/islamic-organization-promotes-cultural-rapprochement-us-muslim-world/#respond Mon, 18 Sep 2017 11:44:28 +0000 Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152117 Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen is Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

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Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen. Credit: OIC

By Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen
NEW YORK, Sep 18 2017 (IPS)

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), by virtue of its position of being the second largest international organization outside the UN system with 57 member countries comprising one fifth of the world population and covering Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, is indeed an important actor in dealing with rapprochement between cultures, in particular rapprochement between the Muslim World and its international partners like the USA.

Rapprochement between cultures through dialogue among civilizations and diverse faiths as an agenda item was pioneered by the OIC at the international level as early as 1998.

The OIC believes in dialogue and communication in order to foster mutual respect and understanding. Its focus continues to be one of outreach and engagement with the international stakeholders like the USA to form a meaningful and functional partnership to work together in engendering a culture of peaceful coexistence and upholding human dignity.

Communication makes people more connected and raises awareness among them on the implications of hatred and discrimination based on their faith, culture and religion. Based on these premises, the OIC has established a separate full-fledged Department of Dialogue and Outreach in its General Secretariat. The main objective of this Department is to reach out to different cultures with an aim to reduce misunderstanding and cultural gap between them and the Muslim World.

With this in mind, the Department has established a close relationship of collaboration and cooperation with the King Abdullah International Center for Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), an Intergovernmental setup established at the initiative of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia along with Austria and Spain to highlight the efficacy of cultural rapprochement as an effective tool to reduce conflict through building bridges between cultures.

We all want to live in dignity, in peace, in security, to raise our children, to protect our families. Muslims are not exception to that. Islam like any other religion advocate for the same values of humanity, mercy, solidarity, peace.

To this end, contemporary challenges like xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, discrimination, and hatred must be tackled through inclusive dialogue and tolerance. For this, uniting our efforts is what the world needs today.

Much has been achieved in this regard, nevertheless, as the challenges around us continue to grow and expand, much more is yet to be done. We believe that there is more to unite us than to divide. As such, in order to focus on the factors that bring us together, cultural rapprochement through communication, dialogue and inclusiveness needs to be nurtured and demonstrated in our everyday life.

Meanwhile, an OIC press release says the Organization will hold several meetings on the sidelines of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York starting Monday, 18 September 2017.

The foreign ministers of the OIC Member States are expected to hold a coordination meeting to discuss the issues of interest to the OIC that are on the agenda of the current session of the UNGA.

Also, the Special Ministerial Committee on Palestine will hold a meeting to discuss the developments regarding the Palestinian issue, and the Secretary General Dr. Yousef Al Othaimeen will chair an international high-level meeting to support the Palestinian refugees.

There will also be a ministerial meeting of the Contact Group on the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar, who are being subjected to persecution, displacement and ethnic cleansing in Myanmar for years. The situation has exacerbated in the past weeks, which caused more than 300,000 of the Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh.

Other contact group meetings will also be held on Somalia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Yemen, Jammu and Kashmir, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and on the aggression of Armenia on Azerbaijan to discuss the situations and developments in these countries and regions.

In addition, the second meeting of the Contact Group on Muslims in Europe will be held, which aims to promote understanding and respect between Muslims living in the West and their communities and protecting their rights in light of heightened Islamophobia across Europe.

The recent terrorist attacks combined with the current economic crisis and high unemployment rates have increasingly strained relations between immigrant Muslim communities and the larger societies in which they live, a situation that has been used by the far right groups to exacerbate tensions.

The OIC Secretary General is expected to have bilateral meetings with a number of presidents, foreign ministers and high officials from the member states and non-member states during the UNGA to discuss issues of mutual interest.

Furthermore, Al-Othaimeen and his accompanying delegation of senior officials will participate in the opening of the UNGA session and several meetings and activities that are to be held on its sidelines on important regional and international issues.

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Secretary-General Talks Myanmar, Trump Ahead of General Assemblyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/secretary-general-talks-myanmar-trump-ahead-general-assembly/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=secretary-general-talks-myanmar-trump-ahead-general-assembly http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/secretary-general-talks-myanmar-trump-ahead-general-assembly/#respond Thu, 14 Sep 2017 06:47:38 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152070 In an environment full of major threats, countries must work together towards peace and stability, the Secretary-General said ahead of the General Assembly. As the UN gears up for the 72nd Session of the General Assembly, when leaders from around the world will convene, the Secretary-General pointed to pressing issues and actions to be discussed […]

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Secretary-General António Guterres addresses a press conference ahead of the 72nd session of the General Assembly, which begins on 19 September. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 14 2017 (IPS)

In an environment full of major threats, countries must work together towards peace and stability, the Secretary-General said ahead of the General Assembly.

As the UN gears up for the 72nd Session of the General Assembly, when leaders from around the world will convene, the Secretary-General pointed to pressing issues and actions to be discussed over the course of the week.

“Global leaders will gather here next week at a time where our world faces major threats—from nuclear peril to global terrorism, from inequality to cyber crime,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said of his first General Assembly session since assuming office in January 2017.

“No country can meet these tests alone. But if we work together, we can chart a safer, more stable course, and that is why the General Assembly meeting is so important,” he continued.

Among the most pressing issues that is expected to be discussed during the annual meeting is the humanitarian crisis and escalation of violence in Myanmar, which Guterres described as “catastrophic” and “unacceptable.”

“I call on the Myanmar authorities to suspend military action, end the violence, uphold the rule of law, and recognize the right of return of all those who had to leave the country,” Guterres said, recommending that Rohingya Muslims be granted citizenship or at least a legal status that allows them to leave a productive life.

Sparked after the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked a security post on August 25, Myanmar’s military has launched “clearance operations” which has left a path of destruction in its wake.

Security forces have reportedly systematically targeted Rohingya communities, including by burning their homes and indiscriminately shooting at villagers.

Over 370,000 Rohingya Muslims have since fled into neighboring Bangladesh, a figure that tripled in just one week.

In response to the violent outbreak, the High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said that the treatment of Rohingya Muslims seems to be a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

When asked if he agrees that the Rohingya population is facing ethnic cleansing, Guterres stated: “When one-third of the Rohingya population have to flee a country, can you find a better word to describe it?”

However, he stopped short of describing the atrocities as genocide, instead calling it a “dramatic tragedy.”

“The question here is not to establish a dialogue on the different kinds of technical words…people are dying and suffering at horrible numbers and we need to stop it. That is my main concern.”

Amid mounting criticism over her response to the latest iteration of the crisis, Nobel Peace laureate and Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi recently cancelled her trip to the UN meeting this year.

In her address to the General Assembly in 2016, Suu Kyi said that her government did not fear international scrutiny over its treatment of the Rohingya population.

“We are committed to a sustainable solution that will lead to peace, stability and development for all communities within the State,” she said.

Myanmar is reportedly sending its Second Vice President Henry Van Thio in Suu Kyi’s place.

The Security Council (UNSC) has also faced criticism for its silence and lack of action on the situation in Myanmar.

The group last met behind closed doors at the end of August but issued no formal statement or proposal to end the crisis.

The Secretary-General wrote a letter to the 15-member council asking it to “undertake concerted efforts to prevent further escalation of the crisis.”

During a press conference, Guterres highlighted his personal commitment to the issue, stating: “This is a matter that I feel very deeply in my heart…the suffering of the people is something I feel very strongly about.”

UNSC held another closed-door meeting on Wednesday which many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are saying is insufficient and are urging for a public meeting.

“[UNSC] needs to take control of the issue and show that they are really concerned about it,” said Human Rights Watch’s UN Director Louis Charbonneau at a press conference on the Myanmar crisis.

“The Security Council is supposed to be the guardian of international peace and security. This is an international peace and security crisis. It is a nightmare—people are dying, there is destruction, there is no excuse for them to keep sitting on their hands,” he continued.

In an effort to advance the UN’s work on peace and security, Guterres also announced a new High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation.

The 18-member group, which includes personalities such as President of Chile Michelle Bachelet and President of the International Crisis Group Jean-Marie Guéhenno, will advise the Secretary-General on mediation efforts and challenges.

Guterres also said that he aims to discuss the Myanmar crisis along with other challenges such as climate change with the United States’ President Donald Trump who is due to attend and speak at the general debate on 19 September.

Since taking office, President Trump has butted heads with the UN, threatening to significantly cut funds to UN programs and even eliminating all funds to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) after citing concerns that the agency conducts “coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization” in China.

Earlier this year, Trump also announced the U.S.’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, a landmark commitment made by 195 countries to address and combat climate change.

In response to such challenges, Guterres highlighted the efforts being made to make the U.S.-UN relationship a constructive one and hopes that it will be a message that the President will also convey in his address.

“It is my deep belief that to preserve the American interests is to engage positively in global affairs and to engage positively in support to multilateral organizations like the UN,” Guterres said.

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Towards a Resource Efficient and Pollution Free Asia-Pacifichttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/towards-resource-efficient-pollution-free-asia-pacific/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=towards-resource-efficient-pollution-free-asia-pacific http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/towards-resource-efficient-pollution-free-asia-pacific/#respond Mon, 04 Sep 2017 10:31:46 +0000 Shamshad Akhtar and Erik Solheim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151906 Shamshad Akhtar, is Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
Erik Solheim, is Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

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Shamshad Akhtar, is Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
Erik Solheim, is Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

By Shamshad Akhtar and Erik Solheim
BANGKOK, Thailand, Sep 4 2017 (IPS)

Senior government officials from across Asia and the Pacific will meet in Bangkok this week for the first-ever Asia-Pacific Ministerial Summit on the Environment. The high-level meeting is co-convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) and UN Environment and is a unique opportunity for the region’s environment leaders to discuss how they can work together towards a resource efficient and pollution-free Asia-Pacific.

Shamshad Akhtar

At the core of the meeting is the question: how can we use our resources more efficiently to continue to grow our economies in a manner that does not tax our natural environment or generate pollution affecting public health and ecosystem health. There is certainly much room for improvement to make in this area.

Resources such as fossil fuels, biomass, metals and minerals are essential to build economies. However, the region’s resource efficiency has regressed in recent years. Asia is unfortunately the least resource efficient region in the world. In 2015, we used one third more materials to produce each unit of GDP than in 1990. Developing countries use five times as many resources per dollar of GDP in comparison to rest of the world and10 times more than industrialized countries in the region. This inefficiency of resource use results into wastage and pollution further affecting the natural resources and public health which are the basic elements for ensuring sustainable economic growth.

As the speed and scale of economic growth continues to accelerate across the region, pollution has become a critical area for action. While the challenge of pollution is a global one, the impacts are overwhelmingly felt in developing countries. About 95 per cent of adults and children who are impacted by pollution-related illnesses live in low and middle-income countries. Asia and the Pacific produces more chemicals and waste than any other region in the world and accounts for the bulk – 25 out of 30 – of cities with highest levels of PM 2.5, the tiny atmospheric particulate matter that can cause respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and cancer. More than 80 per cent of our rivers are heavily polluted while five of the top land-based ocean plastic sources are from countries in our region. Estimates put the cost of marine pollution to regional economies at a staggering US$1.3 billion.

Erik Solheim

If left unattended, these trends threaten to up end hard-won economic gains and hamper human development. But while these challenges appear intractable, the region has tremendous strengths and opportunities to draw from. Many countries hold solid track records of successful economic transformation. The capacity for promoting environmental sustainability as an integral pillar of sustainable development must now be developed across all countries in the region

There are some profound changes underway in Asia and the Pacific. The region is experiencing the largest rural to urban migration in history. Developing these new urban areas with resource-efficient buildings, waste water and solid waste management systems can do much to advance this agenda. Advancing the “sharing economy” might mean we have better utilization of assets such as vehicles, houses or other assets, greatly reducing material inputs and pollution. The widespread move to renewable energy should rein in fossil fuel use. And advances in recycling, materials technology, 3D printing and manufacturing could also support greater resource circularity.

Moving to green technologies and eco innovation offer economic and employment opportunities. Renewable energy provided jobs for 9.8 million people worldwide in 2016. Waste can be converted into economic opportunities, including jobs. In Cebu City– the second-largest city in the Philippines, concerted Solid Waste Management has borne fruit: waste has been reduced by 30 per cent in 2012; treatment of organic waste in neigbourhoods has led to lower transportation costs and longer use period in landfills. The poor have largely benefited from hundreds of jobs that have been created.

At the policy level, it is vital that resource efficiency and pollution prevention targets are integrated into national development agendas, and targeted legal and regulatory measures to enforce resource efficiency standards should be established. For example, the Government of China has instituted a national system of legislation, rules and regulations that led to the adoption of a compulsory national cleaner production audit system that has been in place for more than 10 years. The direct economic benefits from this system is estimated to be more than $3 billion annually.

Further, we need an urgent reform of financial instruments. Too little capital is supporting the transition to green and resource efficient economy – major portion of current investments is still in high-carbon and resource-intensive, polluting economies. Polluter pay principle and environmental externalities are not yet fully integrated into pricing mechanisms and investment models. The availability of innovative financing mechanisms and integrated evaluation methods are important for upscaling and replicating resource-efficient practices. For example, the large-scale promotion of biogas plants in Viet Nam was made possible by harnessing global climate finance funds. Several countries in the region area are already emerging as leaders in the development of comprehensive, systemic approaches that embed sustainable finance at the heart of financial market development, such as Indonesia and Sri Lanka, and we should draw from the positive lessons learned from these experiences.

Resource efficiency and pollution prevention must be recognized as an important target for action by science, technological and innovation systems. This is important for the ongoing development of technology, and for scaling up technologies. Research shows that developing countries could cut their annual energy demand by more than half, from 3.4 percent to 1.4 percent, over the next 12 years. This would leave energy consumption some 22 percent lower than it would otherwise have been – an abatement equivalent to the entire energy consumption in China today.

We need to move to a more resource efficient and pollution free growth path that supports and promotes healthy environments. The cost of inaction for managing resources efficiently and preventing pollution is too high and a threat to economies, livelihoods and health across the region.

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Partnerships Key to Implementing 2030 Development Agendahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/partnerships-key-implementing-2030-development-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=partnerships-key-implementing-2030-development-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/partnerships-key-implementing-2030-development-agenda/#respond Thu, 24 Aug 2017 11:02:26 +0000 Cary Yan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151781 Cary Yan is President of the World Organization of Governance & Competitiveness, an international organization for development cooperation, in consultative status with the UN’s Economic & Social Council

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2030 Agenda - Girls going to school in rural Bihar, India. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Girls going to school in rural Bihar, India. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Cary Yan
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 24 2017 (IPS)

The UN’s 2030 Agenda highlights the strong commitment to ending poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including by eradicating extreme poverty by 2030. It also emphasizes the determination to end hunger and to achieve food security as a matter of priority and to end all forms of malnutrition.

Fifteen years of implementing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) led to unprecedented progress in human development. Globally, the poverty target was achieved five years ahead of schedule. Over 700 million of the poorest were lifted from abject poverty and hunger, though progress in reducing hunger has been slower.

Strong economic growth in some large economies, in particular in China, contributed importantly to reaching the poverty goal, but in many parts of the world growth has been insufficiently rapid and insufficiently inclusive. Great progress was made in achieving universal primary education, for boys and girls. Child mortality was greatly reduced. Significant progress was made in reaching gender equality and women’s empowerment, as well as in combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases.

Yet, much more remains to be done to end the scourge of extreme poverty, illiteracy, hunger and malnutrition, pandemics, gender inequality and conflict. The latest data contained in the report of the Secretary-General “Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals” (E/2016/75) shows that about 1.6 billion people still live in multidimensional poverty and nearly 793 million people suffer from hunger and 155 million children are stunted.

Maternal mortality and non-communicable diseases (responsible for nearly 70 per cent of deaths) are declining too slowly. Over 1 billion people are living without electricity, 663 million people lack access to clean water, 2.4 billion do not have adequate sanitation and more than half of the world’s population still remains offline.

Nearly 70 per cent of the world’s poor depend on natural resources for all or part of their livelihoods and many are suffering the consequences of depletion of natural capital and low prices on raw materials. The degradation of the productive assets of the poor, exacerbated by lack of access to modern infrastructure and digital economy, creates a poverty trap that reinforces the loop of further degradation and worsening poverty.

Poverty, nationally defined, exists in all countries. While its extreme manifestations are in low income countries, developed countries also need to address problems of poverty and malnutrition. Reducing by half the number of poor people as nationally defined (target 1.2) and ending all forms of malnutrition (target 2.2) will require developed and developing countries to take focused actions, including addressing the structural causes of poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

The emerging consensus in the international community today is that eradication of extreme poverty and hunger is possible in our lifetimes. Moreover, future prosperity will require that economic growth will no longer degrade the environment, and will be inclusive by ensuring the participation of vulnerable and marginalized groups in public life, production and decision making, especially by providing women and men with the same access to productive resources.

Evidence from the past decades shows that economic growth is necessary but not sufficient, to accelerate the reduction in poverty and hunger which also requires strong political commitment, an innovative, purposeful and coherent approach to policy making across sectors and shareholders, dedicated resources and accountability
Social protection has proven to be a powerful tool to reduce poverty, food insecurity, and malnutrition, and empower people. It can also contribute to the achievement of various sustainable development outcomes, including in such areas as health, education, gender equality, reducing inequalities and inclusive growth.

With the overarching aspiration of getting people and planet closer together and leave no one behind, the 2030 Agenda is a unique opportunity to inspire global action for development worldwide, through inclusive innovation and multi-stakeholder partnerships.

Inclusion is at the core of the 2030 Agenda. According to the 2016 Global Sustainable Development Report, the pledge to leave no one behind relates closely to three important dimensions of the 2030 Agenda: poverty, inclusiveness and inequality.  Inclusiveness speaks to the notion of empowerment and the principle of non-discrimination. It is reflected in the vision of a “just, equitable, tolerant, open and socially inclusive world in which the needs of the most vulnerable are met” and “a world in which every country enjoys sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and decent work for all” (paragraphs 8 and 9 of the 2030 Agenda).

Making the inclusive world envisioned in the 2030 Agenda a reality will require innovation in policy-making and implementation. It will require rethinking economic development strategies and the manner, in which economic, social and environmental policies are conceived and delivered.

Evidence from the past decades shows that economic growth is necessary but not sufficient, to accelerate the reduction in poverty and hunger which also requires strong political commitment, an innovative, purposeful and coherent approach to policy making across sectors and shareholders, dedicated resources and accountability. This requires new policies, coordination mechanisms, approaches and business models above all a new mindset of all global actors.

There is general recognition within the international community that neither actor on the international development arena – Governments, the private sector or civil society – can fully solve the root causes of poverty alone. Each actor is only one part of the complex ‘fabric’ which constitutes the sustainable development process. Therefore, for the whole ‘fabric’ to hold together all actors must learn to partner or collaborate more effectively with each other.

The private sector continues to play an increasingly important role in creating future opportunities in the daily lives of the poor in developed and developing countries. Today, private businesses are operating on a massive scale and deepening their presence and reach within developing markets which have long been the traditional areas of focus of Governments, international aid agencies and civil society.

As companies intensify their focus upon identifying new commercial opportunities in these low-income markets, there are increasing opportunities for cooperation and overlap between Governments, civil society and the private sector interests to work productively as allies.

This convergence between the three sectors suggest that even though the private sector’s principal role is wealth creation, Governments and civil society can work together with business to make markets better for the benefit of the poor and alleviate poverty, thus providing a primary route to long-term development and leading to a more prosperous life for communities currently living in poverty.

Businesses engage in partnerships with Governments and civil society in order to more effectively achieve their philanthropic, social investment, commercial initiative or core business goals. An increasing number of businesses set Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainability (economic, social and ecological) strategies and goals. At the local level, field operations of these businesses apply these strategies to their market context. They frequently engage Governments and civil society in various partnership models.

 

Partnerships Key to Implementing 2030 Agenda

Depending on the level of engagement of partners and local market contexts, these partnership models may range from ‘sponsorships’ (providing cash, products, in-kind gifts or pro bono work), to ‘marketing’ (using company’s core business infrastructure or personnel), to ‘capacity building’ (know how or technology sharing), ‘brokering’ (facilitating local partnerships and large scale initiatives, and matching product donations), to ‘advocacy’ (issue driven partnerships and campaigns) and to creating new business opportunities or innovative solutions to sustainable development challenges.

Over the last two decades, partnerships have increasingly become an integral part of the work of many United Nations organizations.  These partnerships have not only complemented the Organization’s efforts to achieve its objectives but also contributed to its renewal by introducing new methods of work. This is one of the ways that the UN has responded to the challenges of globalization and growing influence of stakeholders in various fields of UN’s work.

The partnerships range from interagency collaboration to partnerships between the United Nations and non-State actors, including businesses, foundations and other private-sector organizations, and are playing an increasingly important role.

However, within Governments, civil society and the United Nations, partnering with the private sector is still in its early stages. Although there are some successes in partnering, most activities are currently of limited scope and are opportunistic rather than strategic. Most actors are not currently leveraging their size and global reach to take full advantage of the immense private sector opportunities.

In order to achieve a partnering orientation, we need to make significant changes in our policies, strategies and organizations as well as in individuals in terms of how to think about achieving and  delivering world actors’ missions. Partnering orientation should become part of the vision of every actor in the international development arena.

Such an orientation would require the world’s actors at all levels to embrace an ‘outward-facing’ mindset.  Mutual respect between partners, transparency and trust, mutual benefit, results oriented approach, responsibility and mutual accountability as well as complementarity in empowering communities, focusing on the greater well-being of the most needy and tackling the causes of poverty and hunger will be essential.

Innovative social business models substituting private gain by social welfare as the motive force of the economy and based on partnerships of governments, the private sector and civil society, are already prevalent in many capitalist economies. They are similar to non-profit organizations and crossing from “traditional” non-profit areas such as education, healthcare and cultural services to sectors of the economy engaged in trade and production of material commodities and commercial services. These enterprises also earn profits but these profits do not represent private gains on the part of the entrepreneurs. The motivation of the entrepreneurs is social welfare and their own private material gain.

Under the “Immortal Digital Ecosystem” (IDE), future 500,000 life cubes – a hybrid of community centers and charities – to be established by WOGC around the world will provide vital services to the poor and marginalized populations. They will also bring together partners from Governments, the private sector and civil society.

The main thrust of the life cubes will be providing social protection and inclusion for the most disadvantaged groups in the community, while providing its customers with highest quality ecologically safe products and commodities, and protecting the environment. The IDE project thus delivers on economic, social and environmental dimensions of the poverty and hunger-related SDGs.

To accelerate the achievement of the SDGs, Governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector must join forces to ensure a sustainable future for all. The 2030 Agenda is relevant to all countries and all peoples, belongs to everyone, and its success will depend on the active implication and engagement of all actors and on reaching the furthest behind first, including through innovative social business models.

Meanwhile, focusing on the implementation of SDGs, the Permanent Mission of Zambia to the United Nations, in collaboration with WOGC, will host a High-level Global Meeting on “The Road to the Future of Sustainable Development: Moving from Commitments to Results through Inclusive Innovation” on Friday, August 25 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

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Internet Shutdowns in Africa Stifling Press Freedomhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/internet-shutdowns-in-africa-stifling-press-freedom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=internet-shutdowns-in-africa-stifling-press-freedom http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/internet-shutdowns-in-africa-stifling-press-freedom/#respond Mon, 21 Aug 2017 15:56:10 +0000 Jonathan Rozen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151755 Jonathan Rozen is a Researcher with the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Africa Program*

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Internet shutdowns are on the rise. In 2016, the #KeepItOn campaign documented 56 shutdowns worldwide, including in six African nations. This is up from 15 documented shutdowns in 2015, according to the same data.

By Jonathan Rozen
NEW YORK, Aug 21 2017 (IPS)

The internet for journalism is now like the air you breathe,” said Befeqadu Hailu, an Ethiopian journalist and a member of the Zone 9 blogger collective who was arrested in April 2014 and charged with terrorism. “Without the internet, modern journalism means nothing.” Yet, the internet is something that journalists in multiple African countries are often forced to do without.

Between 30 May and 8 June, the Ethiopian government shut down the country’s internet service for the third time in the last year. These shutdowns have occurred in the context of an ongoing crackdown on the press by authorities, who are currently keeping nine of the 17 journalists recorded on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) 2016 prison census behind bars.

Since the state-run Ethio Telecom holds monopolistic control over both internet and telephone service, the government has the ability to effectively sever its population’s communications on a whim.

“We’ve been through extraordinarily difficult times [during] the ten days of [the] shutdown,” Tsedale Lemma, editor-in-chief of the Addis Standard, told CPJ over WhatsApp.

There was a complete digital blackout during the first few days after which broadband became available, said Hulu. But since broadband is largely only available for businesses and organisations, many journalists continued to face major challenges. The frequent clampdown on internet access prevents them from securely communicating with sources or publishing on time.

After the third day of the shutdown, Lemma ran between hotels to find internet access. “This is insecure as you are using the business centres there, which is not a secure connection,” Lemma said.

 

Congo-Brazzaville

On 25 June 2017, Congo-Brazzaville’s internet connection was restored after a 15-day shutdown that was reportedly caused by a mysterious fishing boat that damaged the country’s submarine cables.

While journalists and analysts inside and outside of Congo-Brazzaville speculated over the truthfulness of a boat’s involvement, private mobile companies were able to provide some satellite connection. Nevertheless, journalists remained hampered.

“As long as the internet is not stable, many field, remote reporters or correspondents are facing big problems to send their stories, their work,” a Congo-Brazzaville-based journalist told CPJ on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

Internet shutdowns are on the rise. In 2016, the #KeepItOn campaign documented 56 shutdowns worldwide, including in six African nations. This is up from 15 documented shutdowns in 2015
While online media distributors are effectively blocked from their platforms during internet shutdowns, print and broadcast journalists’ investigative capacities also suffer greatly.

 

Cameroon

For 93 days between January through April 2017, the Cameroonian government with cooperation from private mobile operators cut off internet access in the two western, Anglophone regions of the country.

The government also imposed a suffocating culture of fear through a campaign of arrests and detentions, according to a forthcoming CPJ report on Cameroon’s use of anti-state legislation against journalists. Attacks on the press increased dramatically. At least eight journalists were arrested in connection with their journalism (six of them remain in detention in Yaoundé).

Without the internet, reporting on people’s daily realities became extremely difficult. The media environment in Cameroon was choked. Fear of reprisal, coupled with the internet shutdown, restricted communication between online and offline regions. Coverage of ongoing abuses was stifled.

“Content [was] sent to the [media] station through road,” a Cameroonian broadcast journalist based in the English-speaking regions who requested to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal told CPJ. “We could therefore not relay timely news items from other areas because we had to wait for them two [to] three days after.”

With such limited information, speculation reigned supreme, the journalist said.

 

Secure communications

As governments improve their surveillance tactics, journalists are forced to use a small number of internet-based communication platforms in pursuit of private conversation.

“You pick up your phone to make that call, and you know your phone is tapped, you know there is someone on the other end listening,” Lemma told CPJ. “People don’t [even] feel safe meeting in person.”

“It’s no more a secret that many journalists are actually [wiretapped],” a Congolese journalist told CPJ over WhatsApp on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “Also, internet is very important for the journalists’ work, since some social media [helps] to bypass [wiretapping] or line monitoring when they need to check or get or publish some facts.”

This perspective is supported by a 2011 report, which highlights how “the November 2009 law on electronic communications and the 2010 decree on identification of [telecommunications] subscribers show that the [Congolese] state has seemingly unlimited power to invade the privacy of its citizens in the interest of security … It seems that the state can access personal data under any pretext without the consent of the individual concerned, who can do nothing to stop it from happening.”

When journalists are too afraid to speak on regular telecommunication lines for fear that their government will intercept the communication and arrive at their door, encrypted internet-based tools like WhatsApp or Signal offer a practical method of communication and information dissemination.

In his 2015 piece titled Surveillance forces journalists to think and act like spies“, CPJ’s staff technologist Tom Lowenthal explains how important encryption technology is for journalists to connect with sources and write important stories. Without secure communication tools, journalists’ ability to communicate privately with sources becomes limited and self-censorship flourishes.

“Internet shutdowns are particularly censorious in areas where fear of reprisal for critical journalism reigns, and unfortunately, this fear exists in many of the African countries that have experienced internet shutdowns,” said CPJ’s emergencies director María Salazar-Ferro. “Journalists should never feel that their work is putting them or those they communicate with in danger.”

 

Resisting shutdowns

Internet shutdowns are on the rise. In 2016, the #KeepItOn campaign documented 56 shutdowns worldwide, including in six African nations. This is up from 15 documented shutdowns in 2015, according to the same data.

Many of these shutdowns occur during elections and other moments of political tension, when access to information is critical for the public to make informed decisions.

In response, internet freedom advocates have mobilised to compel governments and telecommunications companies to resist shutting off internet access.

In March 2017, the Freedom Online Coalition, which is composed of 30 national governments working to advance internet freedom, expressed deep concern over the “growing trend of intentional state-sponsored disruptions”. They also offered a list of five good practices for governments to avoid shutdowns and seize the economic and social growth brought by the internet.

In Ethiopia, for example, a 30-day shutdown cost the government upwards of US$8.5 million, while a separate 15-day shutdown in the Republic of the Congo cost over US$72 million, according to a 2016 Brookings Institute report.

On 10 April 2017, a creative advocacy proposal was put to the African Network Information Centre (AFRINIC), the body that allocates Africa’s IP addresses, which are identifiers for computers and other devices that connect to the internet. The proposal called for the denial of new IP addresses for one year to countries that order their internet to be shut down.

Though media reports indicate that the proposal was denied as a result of intense opposition from African governments, AFRINIC subsequently issued a statement calling for African governments to “renounce the use of internet shutdowns as a policy tool”.

Internet advocates are also targeting telecommunications companies and internet service providers in an effort to get them to resist government calls for shutdowns.

On 15 February 2017, nearly a month into Cameroon’s internet shutdown, CPJ was among 27 signatories on a letter to three Cameroon telecommunication companies’ CEOs, requesting “support in restoring internet access”.

A month later, United Nations Special Rapporteur on free expression David Kay’s report to the UN Human Rights Council highlighted the responsibility of private “provider” companies to “ensure that they do not cause, contribute or become complicit in human rights abuses” involved in shutdowns.

“Being able to survive as a journalist in this age without access to the internet – the idea itself is very daunting,” Lemma told CPJ. “But beyond the idea, it’s everything from losing your security [to] not being able to communicate the way you want.”

Respect for press freedom means letting it breathe by enabling journalists to conduct their work. Without internet access journalists cannot publish online, nor can they conduct thorough investigations or talk securely with their sources. To have a free press, African governments need to #KeepItOn.

This article originally appeared on Africa Portal

 

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A Hostage to Parliament, Temer Sacrifices Indigenous Rights to Save Himselfhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/hostage-parliament-temer-sacrifices-indigenous-rights-save/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hostage-parliament-temer-sacrifices-indigenous-rights-save http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/hostage-parliament-temer-sacrifices-indigenous-rights-save/#respond Mon, 07 Aug 2017 22:19:48 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151600 This article is part of special IPS coverage for the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, celebrated on August 9

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Guaraní Indians Hamilton Lopes and his daughter stand in front of their shack where their family lives precariously on lands which have not yet been demarcated and where they face a threat of expulsion, along the border between Brazil and Paraguay. In this area, large landowners have taken their lands, causing the greatest number of murders and suicides of indigenous people. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Guaraní Indians Hamilton Lopes and his daughter stand in front of their shack where their family lives precariously on lands which have not yet been demarcated and where they face a threat of expulsion, along the border between Brazil and Paraguay. In this area, large landowners have taken their lands, causing the greatest number of murders and suicides of indigenous people. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 7 2017 (IPS)

Brazilians now have new reasons to yearn for and at the same time fear the parliamentary system of government. It facilitates quick solutions to political crises such as the one that is currently affecting the country, but it also further empowers reactionary forces and has led to backsliding on gains such as indigenous rights.

In a country with a presidential system of government, the “semi-parliamentarism” which many people, including President Michel Temer, identify in the current administration, is working against indigenous people and other sectors that have little say in parliament.

“The national Congress forms part of a conservative system, a ‘democracy’ which never took indigenous representation into account,” lamented Marcos Terena, coordinator of the World Indigenous Nations Games, also known as the Indigenous Olympics, and a veteran activist of the Terena people, who live in west-central Brazil.

Native people are suffering an offensive against their rights, which has intensified since Temer took office.

Temer, who went from vice-president to president in May 2016 after the impeachment and removal of Dilma Rousseff, who was elected in 2014 and accused of fiscal fraud, totally depends on mainly conservative parliamentary groups.

This dependence started with how he rose to power, because a two-thirds majority in both houses was required to remove Rousseff. But it has been heightened since May 17, when the scandal broke out that made Temer the country’s first sitting head of state to be formally charged with a crime.

A conversation recorded by Joseley Batista, owner of JBS, the world’s largest meat processing company, was the basis for a formal accusation of corruption against Temer by the federal prosecution office.

On Aug. 2, the lower house of Congress rejected a corruption charge against Temer for alleged bribe-taking, which saved him from a possible Supreme Court trial might have removed him from office. But the federal prosecution office is preparing new charges of obstruction of justice and activity in a criminal organization, drawing out the parliamentary and judicial battle for the current presidency, which ends on Jan. 1, 2019.

To ensure the backing of the ruralist parliamentary group, which according to their website has 214 representatives and 24 senators – 40 per cent of parliament – Temer is granting its members a number of benefits and the approval of legal measures, to the detriment of native peoples, the environment and fiscal austerity.

Headed by large landowners, cattle ranchers and producers of grains for export markets, this bloc sees indigenous lands, whose demarcation is ensured by the 1988 constitution, as an obstacle to the expansion of agriculture.

According to the last census, there were 896,917 indigenous people in Brazil in 2010, or 0.47 per cent of the population of 190.7 million at the time. But they occupy more than 13 per cent of the national territory, which the powerful ruralist caucus considers excessive.

A constitutional amendment that would submit the demarcation of indigenous lands to approval by Congress is one of the ruralist bloc’s proposals, which would likely prevent the creation of new protected areas to ensure the physical and cultural survival of native peoples.

Submitted in the year 2000, the initiative has been shelved until now. “I think that even the ruralists themselves recognise that the conditions for it to be passed do not exist,” said Marcio Santilli, founder of the Socio-environmental Institute (ISA), the non-governmental organisation that has the largest database on indigenous people in the country.

Lucimario Apolonio Lima, a chief of the Xocó indigenous people, is struggling to find new livelihoods for his people, after a dam cut off their traditional activities of agriculture and fishing, which depended on the waters of the São Francisco River, in Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Lucimario Apolonio Lima, a chief of the Xocó indigenous people, is struggling to find new livelihoods for his people, after a dam cut off their traditional activities of agriculture and fishing, which depended on the waters of the São Francisco River, in Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A constitutional amendment requires approval by a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament, which has become more difficult to obtain with a governing coalition weakened by accusations of corruption, not only against Temer, but also against his chief ministers and parliamentary leaders.

“The biggest threat, more than a risk, is the time frame, a concept with which they want to limit the entire public administration,” on the indigenous issue, Santilli told IPS.

This time frame is October 1988, when the constitution was approved. The rights of indigenous peoples were to be limited to the area occupied at that time, according to an interpretation by the Supreme Court, when it ruled in 2009 on the demarcation of the Raposa Sierra do Sol indigenous reserve, in the state of Roraima, in the far north of Brazil.

The ruralist caucus wants this to be the general criteria followed. Up to now what have been demarcated are “lands traditionally occupied” by indigenous people, as stated in the constitution. Anthropological studies are carried out identify the territory to be demarcated, in a process carried out by the National Indigenous Foundation (Funai), which answers to the executive branch.

The Attorney General’s office, which advises the executive branch, pronounced itself in favour of the validity of the time framework, “extending the threat” to prevent new demarcations, said Santilli, who presided Funai in the 1990s.

According to data from ISA, Brazil has 480 indigenous lands already approved, but there are still 72 declared and 44 identified which are still pending demarcation, in addition to other 108 in process of identification, the initial phase of the process.

There is a huge lag, because the constitution established that all the areas were to be demarcated within a five-year period – in other words, by 1993.

A time frame makes no sense in “a country that was 100 per cent indigenous” when, in 1500, “the native people encountered the unknown world of the ‘coloniser’ which caused the extermination of thousands of natives and their communities, generating a national debt which cannot be subject to a moratorium,” Terena told IPS.

Indigenous activist Marcos Terena is seen surrounded by people from the Terena people during a meeting in Campo Grande, the capital of the western Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul. Credito: Mario Osava/IPS

Indigenous activist Marcos Terena is seen surrounded by people from the Terena people during a meeting in Campo Grande, the capital of the western Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul. Credito: Mario Osava/IPS

Besides, the offensive against indigenous rights and lands has brought violent conflicts. From 2003 to 2015, 891 indigenous people were murdered in Brazil, an annual average of 68, according to the latest report by the Catholic Indigenous Missionary Council. The violence has intensified in recent years, with 137 murders in 2014 and 138 in 2015.

The current context encourages “anti-indigenous groups to promote proposals that range from changes to the sacred national constitution to attempts to block a budget capable of addressing indigenous demands,” Terena asserted.

Another ruralist threat is to close down Funai, the government body which implements indigenous policies and has suffered constant budget cuts that curtail its functions, such as the anthropological studies and the defence of demarcated territories.

The loosening of measures against mining and the construction of roads, hydroelectric plants and power transmission lines on indigenous lands are other means of pressure exercised by the ruralists and by companies that seek to “break down or weaken” indigenous peoples’ exclusive rights to use their lands, said Santilli.

“There is an ‘anything goes’ mentality, against an absurd backdrop of weakness of the president, accused of corruption and with only five per cent approval in opinion polls,” who is incapable of defending the diluted rights of the minorities and the environment against the private interests of legislators, he lamented.

The ruralist caucus reflects a distortions in parliamentary representation. Landowners make up a small sector of the population with disproportionate political power, in contrast to the millions of small-scale farmers, who are practically absent in Congress.

The economical clout of the former and the electoral rules, which assign a larger proportion of legislators to small states in Brazil’s hinterland with rural economies than to the most urbanised states, go a long way to explaining the power of the conservatives, said Santilli.

Weakened, Temer is distributing “prizes, incentives, public posts and advantages, paying the price for being saved, but when the money is finished, there will be an exodus,” predicted Antonio Queiroz, head of the Inter-Union Department of Parliamentary Advisory, which supplements the legislative work in Brasilia.

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Mauritanians Go to Polls for Controversial Referendum Votehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/mauritanians-go-polls-controversial-referendum-vote/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mauritanians-go-polls-controversial-referendum-vote http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/mauritanians-go-polls-controversial-referendum-vote/#respond Mon, 07 Aug 2017 07:12:20 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151582 While voters in Venezuela overwhelmingly rejected President Nicolás Maduro’s plan to amend the constitution recently, similar tensions and a clash between protesters and state authorities appears to be brewing across the Atlantic in the West African nation of Mauritania. The United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) has sounded alarm about the apparent suppression of dissent, […]

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By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 7 2017 (IPS)

While voters in Venezuela overwhelmingly rejected President Nicolás Maduro’s plan to amend the constitution recently, similar tensions and a clash between protesters and state authorities appears to be brewing across the Atlantic in the West African nation of Mauritania.

04 March 2016 – Nouakchott, Mauritania
Secretary-General (right) meets with representatives of civil society in Nouakchott, Mauritania, during his visit to the country.

The United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) has sounded alarm about the apparent suppression of dissent, and the excessive use of force by authorities to quash protests ahead of the controversial vote.

“We have witnessed protest leaders with broken arms and bruised faces after they were beaten up by police during demonstrations. We are concerned that as tensions and protests escalate, the authorities may resort to further use of such excessive force. We call on all sides to refrain from the use of violence and to take measures to de-escalate the situation,” Ravina Shamdasani, a human rights officer at OHCHR, told IPS.

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, the president of Mauritania, responded to a failed proposal to amend the constitution by raising the stakes to a referendum vote, scheduled for August 5th.

The proposal, which seeks to abolish Majilis al-Shuyukh, or the upper house of the parliament, was approved by the Jamiya Al Wataniya, the lower house. The bill collapsed in the upper house earlier in March this year as 33 senators out of a total of 56 rejected it.

The bill, now up for a referendum vote, also proposes changes to the country’s flag by adding a red stripe to the top and bottom to pay homage to the martyrs who fought for the country’s successful independence from France in 1960.

Since July 21, as protests escalated, the government has refused air time on TV to dissenters, and has made arrests.

The UN urged the government to conduct elections peacefully, and in compliance with an international order to hold transparent elections.

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Latin America Discusses How to Make Environmental Rights a Realityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/latin-america-discusses-make-environmental-rights-reality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-discusses-make-environmental-rights-reality http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/latin-america-discusses-make-environmental-rights-reality/#respond Fri, 04 Aug 2017 01:35:07 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151563 The final declaration of the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 stated that “Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens.” However, this rarely happens in Latin America and the Caribbean. That was acknowledged by most countries in the region, which 25 years later are drafting a supranational […]

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Delegates from 24 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean pose next to Argentine authorities, after the opening of the seventh meeting of the negotiating committee on a regional agreement that will enable access to information, participation and justice in environmental matters, held in Buenos Aires. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Delegates from 24 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean pose next to Argentine authorities, after the opening of the seventh meeting of the negotiating committee on a regional agreement that will enable access to information, participation and justice in environmental matters, held in Buenos Aires. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Aug 4 2017 (IPS)

The final declaration of the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 stated that “Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens.” However, this rarely happens in Latin America and the Caribbean.

That was acknowledged by most countries in the region, which 25 years later are drafting a supranational legal instrument with the aim of making public access to information and to environmental justice a reality for people in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Delegates from 24 countries are taking part Jul. 31 to Aug. 4 in the Seventh Meeting of the Negotiating Committee of the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, known as Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.“Social conflicts over environmental issues resulted in 200 deaths last year around the world, 60 per cent of which were documented in Latin America. The most violent region has been the Amazon rainforst, where 16 people died for defending their land.” -- Danielle Andrade

This week’s meeting in Buenos Aires, organised by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the government of Argentina, is to be the second-to-last debate on Principle 10, and is being held behind closed doors.

The final document is to be approved in November or December in an as-yet undetermined city.

But there is still a long way to go.

At the current meeting it has become clear that the debate on how far public participation should go has not come to a conclusion, although the ECLAC-sponsored negotiations began in November 2014.

The main sticking point is whether or not the document will be binding on signatory states.

If an agreement is reached for a binding document, it would set minimum standards for the participating countries to guarantee public participation in environmental matters.

If the decision is that it should be non-binding, it could merely become yet another declaration of principles that changes nothing.

The UN special rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, John Knox of the United States, said “the instrument should be binding, even though that would make it harder to reach a consensus.”

“If it isn’t binding, the impression will be that instead of taking a step forward, we took a step back,” he said.

Knox was a special guest speaker during the opening of the meeting, which was held at Argentina’s Foreign Ministry, with the presence of three Argentine cabinet ministers and Costa Rica’s deputy minister of environment, Patricia Madrigal.

The Costa Rican official took part on behalf of the Negotiating Committee board, which is presided by her country and Chile, and is also composed of Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

In the same vein as Knox, the Argentine expert on environmental law, Daniel Sabsay, a speaker at a special session on the implementation of the future agreement, said he was “worried by the prospect that the text will just end up as another grand declaration, without any actual results.”

Rights of indigenous peoples and communities

The draft of the Regional Agreement makes several references to indigenous peoples and establishes that it will acknowledge the right to consultation, and prior, free and informed consent, which has been recognised in most national legislations, and in the International Labour Organisation Convention 169, which regulates the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples.

It also stipulates that information must be delivered in indigenous languages, and that native people must receive special assistance to access information, since they are identified as a vulnerable group.

In addition, it establishes that, in every project with an environmental impact, the State has the obligation to identify the directly affected communities and promote their informed participation in the decision-making processes.

“The drafts that have been released until now set out no concrete instruments which countries are required to enforce and which would empower civil society. If it is not binding, it will not be useful,” he told IPS.

The debate is taking place against a backdrop of escalating disputes over land and natural resources, around the world and in this region in particular.

“Social conflicts over environmental issues resulted in 200 deaths last year around the world, 60 per cent of which were documented in Latin America. The most violent region has been the Amazon rainforst, where 16 people died for defending their land,” said Danielle Andrade of Jamaica, chosen as a civil society representative in the negotiations.

This situation shows the failure of governments to address the concerns of local communities in the face of extractive or land use projects that affect them.

Principle 10 of the Río Declaration establishes that States must facilitate and promote social participation in debates on environmental issues, making information widely available and guaranteeing access to legal and administrative proceedings.

The consensus is that Latin America in general has sufficient regulations in this respect. In fact, Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie said that “since 1992, 20 countries in the region have incorporated in their constitutions the right to a healthy and sustainable environment.”

The issue, it seems, is how to put into practice those rights which are only on paper.

“Nearly every country has environmental laws, but they have problems enforcing them. That is why we believe the creation of a committee for implementation of the treaty is crucial, to which people in the region could turn with their environmental conflicts, and which should include public participation, and should have powers to intervene,” Andrés Nápoli of Argentina, another civil society representative in the negotiations, told IPS.

The agreement that is being negotiated is inspired by the so-called Aarhus Convention, approved in 1998 in that city in Denmark, within the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). The Convention was especially useful for Eastern Europe countries, which had abandoned Communism a few years before, and had few environmental regulations.

“The countries of Latin America have been developing environmental laws since the 1990s, and recently some English-speaking Caribbean nations have being doing so,” said Carlos de Miguel, head of ECLAC’s Policies for Sustainable Development Unit.

“For that reason, the aim is enhancing the capacities of countries to ensure the rights established in the existing laws. Some countries have not been able to implement their environmental legislation, not because they don’t want to, but due to a lack of training and of financial resources,” he told IPS.

De Miguel said “we expect an ambitious agreement, that includes the creation of the institutions that will enforce it. We hope it will be signed not only by the 24 countries that are negotiating, but by all 33 countries in the region.”

The countries taking part in the discussions include all of the nations of South America except for Venezuela, Guyana and Surinam, and all of the countries of Central America with the exception of Nicaragua, while Caribbean island nations like Barbados and Cuba are absent.

Among the articles that are under discussion in Buenos Aires are article 6, which defines the scope of the right to information; 7 and 8, on the participation of citizens in decision-making processes; and 9, which regulates access to justice.

The last meeting will discuss the articles that define the institutions created by the treaty and whether or not to create an enforcement committee that, according to the majority, will define its effectiveness.

“It is essential to establish mechanisms to ensure that participation is real and ensure the most vulnerable populations have access to information, because official bodies and NGOs on their own cannot mobilise participation,” said Leila Devia, head of the Basel Convention Regional Centre for South America, at the special session on implementation.

That convention, which has 186 member States, deals with the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.

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Gender Equality? It’s Still a Man’s Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/gender-equality-still-mans-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-equality-still-mans-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/gender-equality-still-mans-world/#respond Thu, 03 Aug 2017 17:57:38 +0000 Anna Shen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151558 Anna Shen is an international consultant for the United Nations, an entrepreneur, and advisor to startups around the world.

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Gender inequality is the greatest moral and social issue of our time — and the world’s most critical economic challenge.

Globally, women are grossly underrepresented in scientific research and development (R&D). Laboratory-assistant-analyzing. Credit: Bigstock

By Anna Shen
SAN FRANCISCO, California, Aug 3 2017 (IPS)

Gender inequality is the greatest moral and social issue of our time — and the world’s most critical economic challenge. If half of the global population cannot fulfill their human potential, the world’s economic growth will falter.

Gender inequality is the greatest moral & social issue of our time, it’s up to all of us - men and women - to change the rules

Anna Shen

We are being robbed as we speak: if women fully participated in formal economic activity, it would add $12 trillion to the world’s coffers, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.

Drill down to specific industries – the tech sector – and globally, women face the most profound imbalances. At risk are the immense contributions to innovation that women around the world could make — if simply given the chance.

We are now in what The World Economic Forum calls the “4th Industrial Revolution,” an era built on technology that fuses digital, physical and biological worlds. It is imperative that women contribute to the planet’s sweeping transformation.

Imagine if women participated fully and their intellects, talents, and skills were fully used. Think of the products developed, technologies created, companies funded, and discoveries found. What answers would women find for the world’s most pressing problems?

Keep in mind women’s inventions to date: Marie Curie, winner of two Nobel Prizes, who discovered radioactivity, radium and polonium; Grace Hopper, who designed Harvard’s Mark I computer; and
Ann Tsukamoto, who isolated stem cells, a promising discovery that could lead to a cure for cancer.

Sadly, the numbers speak for themselves.

Globally, women are grossly underrepresented in scientific research and development (R&D). Catalyst, a global nonprofit that works to accelerate women’s workplace inclusion, reports that worldwide, females account for less than 29 percent of those employed in R&D. In America, which prides itself as possessing the worlds’ most advanced tech companies, women hold less than 25 percent of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

When women actually do work in the tech sector, retention is an issue; negative work experiences and a lack of support spur women to depart at alarming rates. Almost one-third of women in science, technology and engineering in the U.S. intend to leave their jobs within a year; it is worse in other parts of the world, as women in Brazil (22 percent) and India (20 percent) plan to quit during the same time period.

If one narrowly looks at the business case for gender, the argument is undeniable. Put simply, women boost the bottom line and add invaluable perspectives. According to a Morgan Stanley report that polled 108 tech firms, companies with a highly gender-diverse workforce grew 5.4 percent more revenue-wise per year.

Board representation matters too. Companies in every sector, not just tech, perform 5 percent better when they have just one woman on the board, according to Credit Suisse, which examined 3,000 companies. The Peterson Institute for International Economics noted that out of 22,000 firms surveyed globally in tech and other, 60 percent had no female board members. Norway, Latvia, Slovenia, and Bulgaria had only 20 percent female representation in board members and senior executives.

In developing countries, gender parity could enable greater self-sufficiency. Consider the recent visit of Google CEO Sundar Pichai to Nigeria and the promise that the company will train 10 million Nigerians in the next five years, ushering them into the digital economy, a lofty goal that would open more Africans to the global marketplace. What if half – five million — of the newly trained tech workers were women?

Dr. Unoma Okorafor, founder of the Nigerian-based foundation Working to Advance African Women (WAAW), is working across eight countries to increase the pipeline of females in tech. She believes that fostering gender parity is critical to poverty alleviation and Africa’s rapid development. “Technology can empower women who are currently working in agriculture or at home. Many entrepreneurs are women, however, they are excluded from the formal system,” she said.

Could a burgeoning tech sector wean these countries off foreign aid? If countries could train workers to think for themselves, Africa could change the narrative from aid to trade. “We could empower Africans to innovate for themselves,” said Okorafor, adding that this is part of the goal of attracting women to careers in STEM.

The problem is in training and retaining women leaders globally, but discrimination exists in the funding mechanism – venture capital (VC) — used to birth companies. In California’s Silicon Valley, where many of the world’s largest tech companies launched – Uber, Airbnb, Google, Facebook – women face obstacles in VC; in fact, women-led companies comprised less than 5 percent of all VC deals in 2016. Only 7 percent of partners at the leading 100 VC firms are women.

This summer’s avalanche of sexual harassment scandals at Uber and several prominent American venture capital firms have made global front-page news.

Unfortunately, for women in other countries, the story is also the same. In late July, the board of Kenyan software company Ushahidi fired Daudi Were, executive director, after an investigation of sexual harassment by a former employee. She published details online, recounting the disturbing impact of his actions. Eleven other women experienced similar incidents.

Access to capital is unmistakably powerful. Trish Costello, founder of Portfolia, a crowdfunding website that aims to create a new class of women investors, said that, “The goal is to design spaces that work for women in terms of investment vehicles. Men say that there are no female VCs and that is why there is a leaky pipeline, but that is not true.”

Ruchira Shukla, regional lead for South Asia for the venture capital arm of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), gave hopeful news: “The number of women entrepreneurs in the tech space is rising. These women will serve as role models,” adding that she is heartened by the women entrepreneurs she is seeing, especially as the IFC invested in a fund for female founders.

Recent discussions to raise women up are encouraging. Is it lip service? Across the tech industry, it is still a man’s world. It’s up to all of us – men and women – to change the rules. Innovation and the world’s future are at stake.

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Climate Change Brings Migration from the Dry Corridor to Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/climate-change-brings-migration-dry-corridor-nicaraguas-caribbean-coast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-brings-migration-dry-corridor-nicaraguas-caribbean-coast http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/climate-change-brings-migration-dry-corridor-nicaraguas-caribbean-coast/#respond Tue, 01 Aug 2017 07:20:34 +0000 Jose Adan Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151516 If the impact of drought and poverty in the municipalities of the so-called Dry Corridor in Nicaragua continues pushing the agricultural frontier towards the Caribbean coast, by the year 2050 this area will have lost all its forests and nature reserves, experts predict. Denis Meléndez, facilitator of the National Board for Risk Management, told IPS […]

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Peasant farmers on a farm in the town of Sébaco, in the northern Nicaraguan department of Matagalpa, part of the Dry Corridor of Central America, where this year rains have been generous, after years of drought. Credit: Wilmer López/IPS

Peasant farmers on a farm in the town of Sébaco, in the northern Nicaraguan department of Matagalpa, part of the Dry Corridor of Central America, where this year rains have been generous, after years of drought. Credit: Wilmer López/IPS

By José Adán Silva
MATAGALPA, Nicaragua, Aug 1 2017 (IPS)

If the impact of drought and poverty in the municipalities of the so-called Dry Corridor in Nicaragua continues pushing the agricultural frontier towards the Caribbean coast, by the year 2050 this area will have lost all its forests and nature reserves, experts predict.

Denis Meléndez, facilitator of the National Board for Risk Management, told IPS that annually between 70,000 and 75,000 hectares of forests are lost in Nicaragua’s northern region and along the Caribbean coast, according to research carried out by this non-governmental organisation that monitors the government’s environmental record.

This phenomenon, he explained, occurs mainly due to the impact of climate change in the Dry Corridor, a vast area that comprises 37 municipalities in central and northern Nicaragua, which begins in the west, at the border with Honduras, and ends in the departments of Matagalpa and Jinotega, bordering the eastern North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region (RACCN).“They are peasant farmers who are unaware that most of the land in the Caribbean is most suitable for forestry,and they cut the trees, burn the grasslands, plant crops and breed livestock, destroying the ecosystem.” -- Denis Meléndez

The Dry Corridor in Central America is an arid strip of lowlands that runs along the Pacific coast through Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

In this Central American eco-region, which is home to 10.5 million people, according to data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the cyclical droughts have been aggravated by climate change and the gradual devastation of natural resources by the local populations.

In Nicaragua, it encompasses areas near the RACCN, a territory of over 33,000 square kilometres, with a population mostly belonging to the indigenous Miskito people, and which has the biggest forest reserve in Nicaragua and Central America: Bosawas.

From these generally dry territories, said Meléndez, there has been an invasion of farmers to the RACCN – many of them mestizos or people of mixed-race heritage, who the native inhabitants pejoratively refer to as “colonists“ – fleeing the rigours of climate change, who have settled in indigenous areas in this Caribbean region.

“They are peasant farmers who are unaware that most of the land in the Caribbean is most suitable for forestry,and they cut the trees, burn the grasslands, plant crops and breed livestock, destroying the ecosystem,“ Meléndez complained.

He said that if the loss of forests continues at the current pace, by 2050 the Dry Corridor will reach all the way to the Caribbean coast.

IPS visited several rural towns in the northern department of Matagalpa, where four of the 37 municipalities of the Corridor are located: San Isidro, Terrabona, Ciudad Darío and Sébaco.

In Sébaco, the rains have been generous since the rainy season started in May, which made the farmers forget the hardships of the past years.

There is green everywhere, and enthusiasm in the agricultural areas, which between 2013 and early 2016 suffered loss after loss in their crops due to the drought.

“The weather has been nice this year, it had been a long time since we enjoyed this rainwater which is a blessing from God,” 67-year-old Arístides Silva told IPS.

Silva and other farmers in Sébaco and neighbouring localities do not like to talk about the displacement towards other communities near the Caribbean coast, “to avoid conflicts.“

A good winter or rainy season this year in the tropical areas in northern Nicaragua curbed migration towards the neighbouring Northern Caribbean Region by farmers who use the slash-and-burn method, devastating to the forests. Credit: Wilmer López/IPS

A good winter or rainy season this year in the tropical areas in northern Nicaragua curbed migration towards the neighbouring Northern Caribbean Region by farmers who use the slash-and-burn method, devastating to the forests. Credit: Wilmer López/IPS

“I know two or three families who have gone to the coast to work, but because the landowners want them because we know how to make the land produce. We don’t go there to invade other people’s land,“ said Agenor Sánchez, who grows vegetables in Sébaco, on land leased from a relative.

But like Meléndez, human rights, social and environmental organisations emphasise the magnitude of the displacement of people from the Dry Corridor to Caribbean coastal areas since 2005.

Ecologist Jaime Incer Barquero, a former environment minister, told IPS that this is not a new problem. “For 40 years I have been warning about the ecological disaster of the Dry Corridor and the Caribbean, but the authorities haven’t paid attention to me,“ he complained.

The scientist pointed out that the shifting of the agricultural frontier from the Dry Corridor to the Caribbean forest and its coastal ecosystems threatens the sources of water that supply over 300,000 indigenous people in the area, because when the trees in the forest are cut, water is not absorbed by the soil, leading to runoff and landslides.

“There are thousands of ‘colonists’ devastating the biosphere reserve in Bosawas, which is the last big lung in Central America, and it is endangered,”

Abdel García, climate change officer at the non-governmental Humboldt Centre, told IPS that during the nearly four years of drought that affected the country, the risk of environmental devastation extended beyond the Dry Corridor towards the Caribbean.

He believes the expansion of the Dry Corridor farming practices towards the Caribbean region is a serious problem, since the soil along the coast is less productive and cannot withstand the traditional crops grown in the Corridor.

While the soils of the Corridor stay fertile for up to 20 years, in the Caribbean the soil, which is more suited to forestry, is sometimes fertile for just two or three years.

That drives farmers to encroach on the forest in order to keep planting, using their traditional slash-and-burn method.

According to García, the expansion of the Corridor would impact on the Caribbean coastal ecosystems and put pressure on protected areas, such as Bosawas.

The environmentalist said the Caribbean region is already facing environmental problems similar to those in the Corridor, such as changes in rainfall regimes, an increase in winds, and the penetration of sea water in coastal areas that used to be covered by dense pine forests or mangroves that have been cut down over the last 10 years.

The climate monitoring carried out by the Humboldt Centre, one of the most reputable institutions and the most proactive in overseeing and defending the environment in the country, found that the average rainfall in the Corridor fell from 1,000 to 1,400 millimetres per square metre to half that in 2015.

The migration of farmers from the Corridor, where about 500,000 people live, towards the Caribbean is also having on impact on human rights, since the Caribbean regions are by law state-protected territories, and the encroachment by outsiders has led to abuse and violence between indigenous people and ‘colonists’.

María Luisa Acosta, head of the Legal Aid Centre for Indigenous Peoples, has denounced this violence before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

In her view, the growing number of outsiders moving into the Caribbean region is part of a business involving major interests, promoted and supported by government agencies to exploit the natural resources in the indigenous lands along the Caribbean with impunity.

For its part, the government officially denies that there is conflict generated by the influx of outsiders in the RACCN, but is taking measures to reinforce food security in the Dry Corridor, in an attempt to curb migration towards the Caribbean.

Of Nicaragua’s population of 6.2 million people, 29.6 per cent live in poverty and 8.3 per cent in extreme poverty, according to the World Bank’s latest update, from April.

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Central America Fights Climate Change with Minimal Foreign Aidhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/central-america-fights-climate-change-minimal-foreign-aid/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=central-america-fights-climate-change-minimal-foreign-aid http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/central-america-fights-climate-change-minimal-foreign-aid/#respond Mon, 31 Jul 2017 07:05:54 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151490 Despite the fact that Central America is one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change, it has half-empty coffers when it comes to funding efforts against the phenomenon, in part because it receives mere crumbs in foreign aid to face the impacts of the rise in temperatures. According to a study released in June, […]

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Will Governments Support Access to Information Driving Development?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/will-governments-support-access-information-driving-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-governments-support-access-information-driving-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/will-governments-support-access-information-driving-development/#respond Thu, 27 Jul 2017 17:24:20 +0000 Gerald Leitner http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151459 Gerald Leitner, is Secretary-General of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)

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Gerald Leitner, is Secretary-General of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)

By Gerald Leitner
THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Jul 27 2017 (IPS)

In an Information Society, access, and the ability to apply and re-use information is at the heart of individual fulfilment and social participation. Long before the idea of an Information Society came into use, libraries connected people to this, connecting them with literature and learning, and allowing them to improve their lives, and those of their families and communities.

Access to information and the ability to apply and re-use it is at the heart of individual fulfilment and social participation

Gerald Leitner. Credit: IFLA

The Development and Access to Information (DA2I) report 2017, produced by IFLA in partnership with the Technology and Social Change Group at the University of Washington, makes the case for investment by governments, and other stakeholders, in delivering access as a driver of progress.

The spread of the Internet, and the content it holds, creates unique possibilities to offer access to information. Yet there are barriers standing in the way to realising this potential. These present us with two scenarios.

In the first, rates of physical connectivity to the Internet remain low in remote or poorer areas, allowing a digital divide to become a development divide. A lack of relevant content, and the ability to read and use it, prevents others from seeing the value in connectivity.

Information poverty robs people of opportunities to keep their families healthy, update farming practices to respond to climate change, or find jobs. And rather than full information and evidence, decisions on civic, economic and social life are taken based on misinformation and superstition.

In the second, people learn to get the best out of the Internet, knowing how to keep themselves and their families safe online. They can find the information they need, at the right time and in the right format, and apply it to changing real world problems.

They also develop the skills necessary to create their own content, further enriching available information resources. New markets are created, new communities formed, and innovation, creativity and civic participation thrives.

DA2I 2017 argues that four factors make the difference: physical connectivity, social context, individual and community skills, and the legal and policy framework. Based on indicators from established, recognised sources, the report offers a first look at how regions and countries are doing in each of these four areas, and how performance on these is linked to other characteristics, such as poverty or gender inequality.

It finds that while there is progress in some areas, such as numbers with Internet connections, big gaps in terms of skills and uses remain, and the gender digital divide is even widening.

It also provides evidence of the contribution access makes to achieving four of the focus Sustainable Development Goals at this year’s UN High Level Political Forum, which took place on 10-19 July – agriculture, health, gender equality and innovation.

Most of all, it underlines how essential libraries are to development. When they benefit from the resources and legal frameworks they need, they can bring their unique potential to bear – as trusted, community institutions, connected both to the global Information society and alert to local needs and interests, with staff dedicated to providing meaningful access to information.

IFLA itself has made the most of its unique position as the global voice of libraries, working with representatives of 73 countries to promote the Sustainable Development Goals, and the role that libraries can play in their realisation.

We have been overwhelmed by the response so far, but this is just the start of an ongoing process – the next stop is a global meeting in early 2018. We look forward to returning with a new DA2I report next year, with updated statistics, and even more examples of how libraries are making a difference, from the local to the global level, to achieving the UN’s 2030 Agenda.

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Migrant Contributions to Development: Creating a “New Positive Narrative”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/migrant-contributions-development-creating-new-positive-narrative/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrant-contributions-development-creating-new-positive-narrative http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/migrant-contributions-development-creating-new-positive-narrative/#respond Wed, 26 Jul 2017 14:42:44 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151437 Despite the “undeniable” benefits of migration, barriers including public misconceptions continue to hinder positive development outcomes, participants said during a series of thematic consultations here on safe, orderly, and regular migration. At a time where divisive rhetoric on migration can be seen around the world, member State representatives, UN agencies, and civil society gathered at […]

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Though the benefits of migration outweigh the costs, public perception is often the opposite and negatively impacts migration policy.

Pakistani migrant workers build a skyscraper in Dubai. Credit: S. Irfan Ahmed/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 26 2017 (IPS)

Despite the “undeniable” benefits of migration, barriers including public misconceptions continue to hinder positive development outcomes, participants said during a series of thematic consultations here on safe, orderly, and regular migration.

At a time where divisive rhetoric on migration can be seen around the world, member State representatives, UN agencies, and civil society gathered at the UN for a two-day meeting to discuss migrants’ contributions to sustainable development as well as the challenges in harnessing such contributions.

In her opening remarks, Special Representative for International Migration Louise Arbour noted that though the benefits of migration outweigh the costs, public perception is often the opposite and negatively impacts migration policy.

“This must be reversed so that policy is evidence-based and not perception-driven. Policies responding to false perceptions reinforce the apparent validity of these erroneous stereotypes and make recourse to proper policies that much harder,” she added.

Among such evidence is the 575 billion dollars in global remittances transferred by international migrants to their families, almost 430 billion of which went to developing countries.

These essential lifelines, which are are three times larger than official development assistance (ODA) and more stable than other forms of private capital flows, have contributed to progress on key aspects of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in migrants’ countries of origin, including poverty reduction, food security, and healthy families.

Benefits can also be seen in the countries where migrants reside as 85 percent of migrant workers’ earnings remain in the countries of destination.

Migrants also tend to fill labour market gaps at all skill levels in countries of destination, advancing economic growth, job creation, and service delivery.

Participants noted that this contributes to a “triple win” scenario for the country of origin, country of destination, and the migrants themselves.

“When migrants succeed, societies do too,” said Assistant Foreign Minister for Multilateral Affairs and International Security of Egypt and one of the sessions’ moderators, Hisham Badr.

Contributions of migrants to development in origin and destination countries go beyond financial remittances and include transfers of skills and knowledge and entrepreneurship.

Despite representing 13 percent of the overall population in the United States, immigrants made up over 20 percent of entrepreneurs, building businesses from popular search engines to environmentally-friendly cars.

In fact, 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies in 2016 had at least one founder who immigrated to the U.S. or was the child of immigrants. According to the New American Economy, those firms alone employed almost 20 million globally and generated more than 5 trillion dollars in revenue.

This diaspora is also often “bridge-builders,” maintaining strong links to their countries of origin.

However, participants noted that inadequate policies stand in the way of positive development outcomes.

“The crucial issue is not that migration and development are linked, but how they can be leveraged to create positive development outcomes,” Badr told delegates.

Arbour noted that that cost of sending and receiving remittances remains excessively high. Currently, the global average cost of transactions is over 7 percent, significantly greater than the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) target of 3 percent.

The lack of access to financial services also poses a major obstacle as it prevents the investment of remittances into productive activities and sustainable development in remittance recipients’ communities.

Arbour stressed the need to boost financial inclusion, calling it “low hanging fruit.”

Participants particularly highlighted the importance of integrating migration into development planning, including the need to engage with the diaspora to create more effective migration and development policies.

Numerous UN member States have already launched initiatives to include the diaspora, including Jamaica, which hosts a biennial conference to motivate greater involvement in the country’s socio-economic development.

During the consultations, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) launched a similar platform for diaspora communities to contribute to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration (GCM), the UN’s first intergovernmentally negotiated and comprehensive agreement on international migration, which is expected to be adopted in 2018.

“Diaspora communities have emerged as key influencers in global development practices,” said iDiaspora Forum moderator Martin Russell.

“The iDiaspora Forum is a platform designed to initiate ideas, learn lessons, and share best practices. Diaspora engagement is a booming industry,” he added.

In the final panel of the meeting, which aims to gather input and recommendations to feed into the GCM, Overseas Development Institute’s (ODI) Managing Director Marta Foresti pointed to the compact as a unique opportunity that the international community cannot afford to miss.

“With the global compact, we can create a new positive narrative,” she concluded.

Organized by the president of the General Assembly and co-facilitators including the Permanent Missions of Mexico and Switzerland, the informal session is the fourth in a series of six to take place this year.

The last two consultations will take place in Vienna from 4-5 September and Geneva from 12-13 October on the issues of smuggling of migrants and irregular migrants, respectively.

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The Unnoticed Demise of Democracyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/unnoticed-demise-democracy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unnoticed-demise-democracy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/unnoticed-demise-democracy/#comments Mon, 24 Jul 2017 20:57:34 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151416 Politicians are so busy fighting for their jobs, they hardly seem to notice that they risk going out of business. Democracy is on the wane, yet the problem is nowhere in Parliaments. Common to all is a progressive loss of vision, of long term planning and solutions, with politics used just for power. In English, […]

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By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jul 24 2017 (IPS)

Politicians are so busy fighting for their jobs, they hardly seem to notice that they risk going out of business. Democracy is on the wane, yet the problem is nowhere in Parliaments. Common to all is a progressive loss of vision, of long term planning and solutions, with politics used just for power.

Democracy is on the wane, yet the problem is nowhere to be seen in Parliaments.  Common to all is a progressive loss of long term plannin

Roberto Savio

In English, there are two terms: politics, which is term for the machinery, and policy, that is the vision. In Latin languages, there is only one, politics, and that is now becoming the adequate term also for English-speaking countries, from May’s UK to Trump’s US.

In a few years, we have seen an astonishing flourishing of authoritarian governments. Turkey’s Erdogan may be the best example. He was elected in 2002, and hailed as proof that you could be a Muslim and also a champion of democracy. At the end of the decade, he started to take a more fundamentalist and authoritarian approach, until in 2013 there was the famous crackdown on thousands of protesters, protecting a Park in Istanbul intended to be razed for a supermarket.

Since then, the tendency to use power has accelerated. In 2014, Erdogan was accused, along with his son, of corruption (three sons of cabinet ministers were also arrested). He blamed it on the Gulenist Movement, a spiritual movement led by an earlier ally, Fethullah Gulen, who now lives in the US. And when in 2016 some military factions attempted a coup against him, he used the coup as a reason to get rid of Gulenist and other dissidents. It has put 60,000 people in jail, and he has dismissed from public employment a staggering 100,000 people.

What is reminiscent of Stalin and Hitler’s practices is how those 100,000 have been treated. They have been banned from private employment, and their passports as well the ones of their families have been revoked. When asked how they will survive, the government’s reaction was to scoff that even eating roots would be “too good” for them.

We’re talking of hundreds of judges, tens of thousands of teachers, university professors, who have been dismissed without any hearing and without any formal imputation. Europe’s reaction? Empty declarations, and since then Erdogan has become more authoritarian.

He has built a Presidential Palace of 1,150 rooms, larger than the White House and the Kremlin, where there is a three-room office dedicated to taste his food to avoid poisoning. The palace cost between 500 million euro (the government’s declaration), and 1 billion dollars (opposition’ estimates).

It could be said in Europe’s defence that Turkey is not a member of the European Union, and his actions have made it extremely unlikely that membership in the EU is possible. But Poland and Hungary not only are members of the EU, but also the main beneficiaries of his economic support. Poland joined the EU in 2004, has received more than 100 billion dollars in various subsidies: double the Marshall Plan in current dollars, the largest transfer of money ever done in modern history.

Yet the government has embarked in a firm path to dismantle democratic institutions (the last, the judicial system), and even the sleepy EU has been obliged to warn that it could take away the right of Poland to vote, to the total indifference of the government. Yet nobody has formally proposed to cut the subsidies, which are now in the budget from 2014 to 2020 another 60 billion dollars – half of what the world spends for development aid for nearly 150 countries.

Hungry is run since 2010 by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who campaigns for “an illiberal democracy”, and, like Poland’s PM Szydlo, has refused to accept any immigrants, in spite of EU subsidies. Hungary, despite its small population (less than 10 million, versus Poland’s 38 million) is the third largest recipient of EU’s subsidies, or 450 dollars per person.

One third of the world population lives on less than that. In addition, the European Investment Bank gives a net subsidy of 1 billion euro, and Hungary received 2.4 billion euro from the balance of Payment Assistance Program. The two countries have formed with Slovakia and Czechia, the Visegrad group, which is in a permanent campaign against the EU and its decisions. Needless to say, subsidies to Slovakia and Czechia largely surpass their contributions.

Are Erdogan, Orban, Szydlo and dictators? On the contrary, they are democratically elected, like Duterte in the Philippines, Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Maduro in Venezuela and other 30 authoritarian presidents in the world. But in Europe this is new. And it is also new to see an American President, Donald Trump, present an agenda of isolationism and international confrontation, who was also regularly elected.

A poll at the end of his first semester revealed that his voters would re-elect him again, with the Republican support going down only from 98% to 96%. Nationwide, his popularity has declined to 36%. If elections were held today, he would likely get a second term.

Which brings us to wonder why we still consider elections equivalent to democracy? Because this is how the people can express themselves. But people certainly do not like corruption, which in polls anywhere is considered the most prominent problem of modern governments.

However, unless it reaches a totally systematic level, like in Brazil, studies don’t show a strong correlation between corruption and electoral punishment. Corruption, in politics, has been used by populists, who has promised to get rid of it to the electorate: exactly what Trump did in his campaign, while now his conflict of interest and lack of transparency with his private interests have no precedent in the White House.

That brings us to the next question. If ideologies are gone, and politics have become mainly a question of administrative efficiency and personalities, what is the link between a candidate and his voters, and whose support persists despite everything, like those who voted for Erdogan, Trump, Orban and Szydlo?

Perhaps it is time that we start to look to politics with a new approach. What did we learn from the last few years’ elections?

That people are aligning themselves under a new paradigm, which is not political in the sense we have used until now: it is called IDENTITY. Voters now elect those with whom they identify, and support them because in fact they defend their identity, no matter what. They do not listen to contradictory information, which they dismiss as “fake news.” Let us see on what this identity issue is based: the new four divides.

There is first a new divide: cities against rural areas, small towns, villages, hamlets. In Brexit, people in urban areas voted to stay in Europe. The same goes for those who voted against Erdogan, who is unpopular in Istanbul, but very popular in the rural areas. In the US, those who vote d for Trump were largely from the poor states. The same has happened with Orban and Szydlo. None would be in power if the vote was restricted to the capital and the major towns.

There is a second new divide: young and older voters. Brexit would not have happened if all young people cared to vote. Same with Erdogan, Trump, Orban and Szydlo. The problem is that young people have in serious percentages stopped to be active in politics because they feel left out, and look to parties as self-maintaining machines, ridden with corruption and inefficiency.

Of course, this plays in favour of those who are already in the system, which perpetuates itself, without the generational lift for change. Italy found 20 billion dollars to save four small banks while the total subsidies for young people are 2 billion euro. No wonder they feel left out.

There is the third divide, which is also new, ideologies of the past were basically more inclusive, even if of course the class system played a significant role. The third divide is between those who have finished at least high school, and those who did not. This is going to increase dramatically in the next two decades, when the robotization of industry and services will reach at least 40% of the production.

Tens of millions of people will be left out, and they will be those with less education, unable to fit in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Elites look with disdain at the choices of electors who are considered ignorant and provincial, while the latter in turn consider the elite winners who reap whatever they can, and marginalize them.

Finally, there is a fourth divide, which is very important for the values of peace and cooperation as a basis for a world governance. It is the divide between those who see the return to nationalism as the solution to their problems (and therefore hate immigrants), and those who believe that their country, in an increasing competing world, can be better if it integrates in international or regional organizations.

Two extremely simplified examples: Europe and the US. There was a survey done by the EU among the nine million Erasmus, or the students who with a scholarship from that exchange program went to make lives in other countries. They have had more than 100,000 children by marrying somebody met abroad: the real Europeans.

In the poll, they were at 92% asking for more Europe, not less Europe. And in the US, the classic Trump voters, as white (a demographic group in decline: at every election 2% less of white vote), who did not get beyond secondary education, who do not read newspapers or books, coming from the poorer states. People who lost their jobs, often after closure of factories or mines, strongly believe that they are victims of globalization, which created social and economic injustice.

This is a consequence of the fact that during two decades, only macroeconomic indexes have been used, like the GNP. Social indicators were largely shunned. How the growth that GNP indicated was divided was not a concern for the IMF, World Bank, the EU and most politicians, who blindly believed that market was the only engine for growth and would solve social problems: only now have they tried to brakes on, too late. The world has seen an unprecedented explosion of inequality, which is helping nationalism and xenophobia to become a central part of the political debate.

Nationalism is not confined to Trump, Erdogan, Orban and Szydlo, and to Brexit. China, India, Japan, the Philippines, Israel, Egypt, Russia, and other countries are now run by nationalist and authoritarian governments. This bring us to a very simple conclusion. Either the transition to an unknown new political system, that will certainly replace the present unsustainable system, will be based on the values of social justice, cooperation and peace (probably updating the present international organizations), or it is difficult to see how we will avoid conflicts, wars and bloodshed.

Why is man the only animal who does not learn from previous experience?

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Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast Pools Efforts Against Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/costa-ricas-caribbean-coast-pools-efforts-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=costa-ricas-caribbean-coast-pools-efforts-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/costa-ricas-caribbean-coast-pools-efforts-climate-change/#comments Mon, 24 Jul 2017 03:18:10 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151406 Jonathan Barrantes walks between the rows of shoots, naming one by one each species in the tree nursery that he manages, in the south of Costa Rica’s Caribbean coastal region. There are fruit trees, ceibas that will take decades to grow to full size. and timber species for forestry plantations. The tree nursery run by […]

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Lawmakers in Europe Want the UN to Debate a Parliamentary Assembly. When Will Governments Follow?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/lawmakers-europe-want-un-debate-parliamentary-assembly-will-governments-follow/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lawmakers-europe-want-un-debate-parliamentary-assembly-will-governments-follow http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/lawmakers-europe-want-un-debate-parliamentary-assembly-will-governments-follow/#respond Thu, 20 Jul 2017 16:35:06 +0000 Andreas Bummel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151380 Andreas Bummel is Director of Democracy Without Borders and Coordinator of the Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly

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Andreas Bummel is Director of Democracy Without Borders and Coordinator of the Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly

By Andreas Bummel
BERLIN, Jul 20 2017 (IPS)

Earlier this month, the European Parliament adopted its annual recommendations on the European Union’s policy at the upcoming session of the United Nations General Assembly that begins in September.

Cedit: UN Photo

The document pointed out that the EU “should play a proactive part in building a United Nations that can contribute effectively to global solutions, peace and security, human rights, development, democracy and a rule-of-law-based international order.”

Among other things, the European Parliament called on EU governments to foster a debate “on the topic of establishing a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly with a view to increasing the democratic profile and internal democratic process of the organisation and to allow world civil society to be directly associated in the decision-making process.”

For more than twenty years the European Parliament has been pushing for a UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA). Six years ago it called on EU governments to promote its establishment.

The Council’s working group on the UN had a brief internal discussion at the time and concluded that the creation of a UNPA would imply a modification of the UN’s Charter which was considered unrealistic. It was also said that it would be a paradox for the UN to establish a UNPA since there are member states that do not have a democratically elected parliament. Finally, the point was made that a UNPA would entail high costs that the UN and governments would be unable to bear.

The Council did not engage with the parliament or anyone else pertaining these and other arguments. Its consideration of the issue was superficial. Ironically, it is easier for the UN to create a UNPA than to add just one single seat to the UN Security Council. Other than the Council seemed to believe, while the latter indeed requires an amendment of the Charter, the former clearly does not.

A UNPA can be created according to Article 22 which allows the General Assembly to establish subsidiary bodies as it deems necessary to fulfill its work. A UNPA could be seen as part of the assembly’s “revitalization”, a topic that has been pursued for long but did not yield much results so far.

Each year, Freedom House in Washington D.C. publishes its assessment of democracy in the world and today nearly two thirds of UN member states are considered to be “electoral democracies”. The foundation warns, however, that democracy is increasingly under threat by populist and nationalistic forces as well as authoritarian powers.

Proponents of a UNPA keep pointing out that giving parliamentarians a voice at the UN would help strengthening democracy especially in countries where it is still weak and under pressure. Opposition politicians certainly would benefit from a seat in a UNPA and the international exposure that would go along with it.

After all, it has been a key argument that if the UN’s promotion of democracy is to be credible, the world organization itself needs to democratize as well. The establishment of a UNPA could also be understood as a response to Sustainable Development Goal 16. SDG 16 targets include the development of “effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels” and ensuring “responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.” Why should the UN, of all things, be excluded from this?

A UN parliamentary body could be a useful complement to the High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development in order to review the implementation of the SDGs.

At the beginning, a UNPA need not be a monumental investment. It depends on the specifics. So far, neither the Council of the EU or anyone else has come up with a thorough calculation. How can you argue that the costs would be too high if you never calculated them in the first place?

Under US President Donald Trump multilateralism and UN funding are under threat. This should be a wake-up call. To a large degree, a UNPA would be educational. It would bring the UN closer to lawmakers in the capitals and could help strengthen budgetary support of UN member states. In the long run, strengthening the UN’s democratic profile could turn out to be a good investment.

When she was an Italian deputy, the EU’s High Representative on Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, endorsed a UNPA and last year she confirmed that she still believes that it “could be a very useful tool.”

For a long time, EU governments have been ignoring the European Parliament’s endorsement of a UNPA. Will it be different this time?

Although a debate on this topic is not unrealistic, it is premature to expect that there will be a formal push in the upcoming session of the UN General Assembly. Most UN member states, including those from the EU, never looked into the concept of a UNPA in a serious way and will have to do their homework first.

Support like it was expressed by Malta’s foreign minister George Vella, who was succeeded last month, or by the cabinet of Italy’s foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni, who is now Italy’s Prime Minister, was the exception.

In May an informal meeting in New York hosted by the Canadian UN mission in collaboration with the international Campaign for a UNPA brought together representatives of 12 governments for a briefing on the proposal. This was a sign of growing interest.

More such informal meetings seem to be the most likely way forward for the time being. In the process, several EU governments – and other UN member states – may declare their support in one way or another which eventually could bring it on the EU’s and the UN’s agenda.

In particular, it will be interesting to see what position the new French government under President Emmanuel Macron will take.

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