Inter Press ServiceCivil Society – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 19 Sep 2018 14:09:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Crisis Drives Nicaragua to an Economic and Social Precipicehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/crisis-drives-nicaragua-economic-social-precipice/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=crisis-drives-nicaragua-economic-social-precipice http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/crisis-drives-nicaragua-economic-social-precipice/#respond Mon, 17 Sep 2018 18:07:02 +0000 Jose Adan Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157649 Five months after the outbreak of mass protests in Nicaragua, in addition to the more than 300 deaths, the crisis has had visible consequences in terms of increased poverty and migration, as well as the international isolation of the government and a wave of repression that continues unabated. Álvaro Leiva, director of the non-governmental Nicaraguan […]

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Preservation of the Klamath River – a Life or Death Matter for the Yurok Peoplehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/preservation-klamath-river-life-death-matter-yurok-people/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=preservation-klamath-river-life-death-matter-yurok-people http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/preservation-klamath-river-life-death-matter-yurok-people/#respond Thu, 13 Sep 2018 16:48:29 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157602 Fishermen are scarce in the Klamath River delta, unlike other fishing season, because climate change has driven up water temperatures which kills off the salmon, the flagship species of this region in northern California. The increase in temperatures favours the proliferation of lethal fish diseases and the absence of fish has devastating effects on the […]

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Yurok lawyer Amy Cordalis (L) explains the impacts of climate change on the Klamath River, such as the drop in the number of salmon, a key species in the traditions and economy of this Native American tribe in the western U.S. state of California. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Yurok lawyer Amy Cordalis (L) explains the impacts of climate change on the Klamath River, such as the drop in the number of salmon, a key species in the traditions and economy of this Native American tribe in the western U.S. state of California. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
KLAMATH, California, USA , Sep 13 2018 (IPS)

Fishermen are scarce in the Klamath River delta, unlike other fishing season, because climate change has driven up water temperatures which kills off the salmon, the flagship species of this region in northern California.

The increase in temperatures favours the proliferation of lethal fish diseases and the absence of fish has devastating effects on the Yurok, the largest group of Native Americans in the state of California, who live in the Klamath River basin.

“The river level is dropping at a time when it shouldn’t. The water warms up in summer and causes diseases in the fish. This changes the rhythm of the community and has social effects,” lawyer Amy Cordalis, a member of the tribe, told IPS during a tour of the watershed.

Cordalis stressed that the community of Klamath, in Del Norte county in northwest California, depends on fishing, which is a fundamental part of their traditions, culture and diet.

The Yurok, a tribe which currently has about 6,000 members, use the river for subsistence, economic, legal, political, religious and commercial purposes.

This tribe, one of more than 560 surviving tribes in the United States, owns and manages 48,526 hectares of land, of which its reserve, established in 1855, covers less than half: 22,743 hectares.

Conserving the forest is vital to the regulation of the temperature and water cycle of the river and to moisture along the Pacific coast.

The Yurok – which means “downriver people” – recall with terror the year 2002, when the water level dropped and at least 50,000 salmon ended up dead from disease, the highest fish mortality in the United States.

The Yurok are working to conserve and restore the Klamath River basin, to which they are spiritually and economically linked. Part of the restoration involves placing logs in the river, such as these ones that have been prepared on its banks, to channel the water and retain sediment and thus recreate the habitat needed by salmon, the species that is key to the Yurok culture. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Yurok are working to conserve and restore the Klamath River basin, to which they are spiritually and economically connected. Part of the restoration involves placing logs in the river, such as these ones that have been prepared on its banks, to channel the water and retain sediment and thus recreate the habitat needed by salmon, the species that is key to the Yurok culture. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

And in 2015 no snow fell, which affects the flow of water that feeds the river and is fundamental for the fishery because in March of each year the salmon fry come down from the mountain, Cordalis said. This species needs cold water to breed.

The federal government granted the Yurok a fishing quota of 14,500 salmon for 2018, which is low and excludes commercial catch, but is much higher than the quota granted in 2017 – only 650 – due to the crisis of the river flow that significantly reduced the number of salmon.

The migration of fish downriver has also decreased in recent years due to sedimentation of the basins caused by large-scale timber extraction, road construction, loss of lake wood and loss of diversity in the habitat and fishery production potential.

As a result, the number of chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris) and Pacific lamprey (Lampetra tridentata) have dropped in the Klamath River, while Coho or silver salmon (O. kisutch) are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The Klamath River in California, the natural and spiritual sustenance of the Yurok people, is facing threats due to climate change, such as reduced flow and increased temperatures, which kill salmon, a species that requires cold water for breeding. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Klamath River in California, the natural and spiritual sustenance of the Yurok people, is facing threats due to climate change, such as reduced flow and increased temperatures, which kill salmon, a species that requires cold water for breeding. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A reflection of this crisis, in Cordalis’ words, is the ban on commercial fishing for the third consecutive year, with only subsistence fishing allowed.

Faced with this, the Yurok have undertaken efforts for the conservation of the ecosystem and the recovery of damaged areas to encourage the arrival of the salmon.

In 2006, they began placing wood structures in the Terwer Creek watershed as dikes to channel water flow and control sediment.

“We had to convince the lumber company that owned the land, as well as the state and federal authorities. But when they saw that it worked, they didn’t raise any objections. What we are doing is geomorphology, we are planting gardens,” Rocco Fiori, the engineering geologist who is in charge of the restoration, from Fiori Geo Sciences, a consulting firm specialising in this type of work, told IPS.

Tree trunks are placed in the river bed, giving rise to the growth of new trees. They last about 15 years, as they are broken down and begin to rot as a result of contact with the moisture and wind.

But they generate more trees, giving rise to a small ecosystem. They also facilitate the emergence of vegetation on the river ford, explained Fiori, whose consulting firm is working with the Yurok on the restoration.

Salmon is basic to the diet of the Yurok people, who live in northern California. But the catch has fallen drastically due to a lower water flow in the Klamath River and the increase in water temperature. In the picture, a member of the Yurok tribe seasons fish for dinner on the riverbank. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Salmon is basic to the diet of the Yurok people, who live in northern California. But the catch has fallen drastically due to a lower water flow in the Klamath River and the increase in water temperature. In the picture, a member of the Yurok tribe seasons fish for dinner on the riverbank. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Starting in the fall, this strip is flooded every year, which favours the abundance of organic matter for the salmon to feed on, allowing them to grow and thrive in the new habitat.

In addition, four of the six dams along the Klamath River and its six tributaries, built after 1918 to generate electricity, will be dismantled.

The objective is to restore land that was flooded by the dams and to apply measures to mitigate any damage caused by the demolition of the dams, as required by law.

The Copco 1 and 2, Iron Gate and JC Boyle dams will be demolished in January 2021, at a cost of 397 million dollars. The owner of the dams, the PacifiCorp company, will cover at least 200 million of that cost, and the rest will come from the state government.

“The removal of the dams is vital. It’s a key solution for the survival of salmon,” biologist Michael Belchik, of the Yurok Tribe Fisheries Department, who has worked with the tribe for 23 years, told IPS.

The four reservoirs hold between five million and 20 million cubic metres of sediment, and their removal will provide 600 km of suitable habitat for salmon.

It is estimated that salmon production will increase by 80 percent, with benefits for business, recreational fishing and food security for the Yurok. In addition, the dismantling of dams will mitigate the toxic blue-green algae that proliferate in the reservoirs.

Water conservation projects exemplify the mixture of ancestral knowledge and modern science.

For Cordalis, salmon is irreplaceable. “Our job is not to let (a tragedy) happen again. The tribe does what it can to defend itself from problems and draw attention to the issue. We continue to fight for water and the right decisions. Our goal is to restore the river and get the fish to come back,” the lawyer said.

The Yurok shared their achievements and the challenges they face with indigenous delegates from Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Mexico and Panama in the run-up to the Global Climate Action Summit, convened by the government of California to celebrate in advance the third anniversary of the Paris Agreement, reached in Paris in 2015. The meeting will take place on Sept. 13-14 in San Francisco, CA.

This article was produced with support from the Climate and Land Use Alliance .

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Culture of Peace Embedded in Every Word on the UN Charterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/culture-peace-embedded-every-word-un-charter/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=culture-peace-embedded-every-word-un-charter http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/culture-peace-embedded-every-word-un-charter/#respond Wed, 05 Sep 2018 18:44:06 +0000 Miroslav http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157477 Miroslav Lajčák, President of the current 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, in his address to the Forum on a Culture of Peace

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Miroslav Lajčák, President of the current 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, in his address to the Forum on a Culture of Peace

By Miroslav Lajčák
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 5 2018 (IPS)

As we open this Forum, I will make three main points. First, I want to ask: what does a culture of peace actually mean?

And, frankly it might be different for every person in this room. But I will share some elements, which have stuck with me.

Miroslav Lajčák

The first is time. Peace takes a lot of time.

It cannot be installed. It cannot be erected,

It must be built up – block after block, layer after layer. And this must be done, not by the hands of internationals– but by the people on the ground; the people who were there – in their countries, and in their villages – when peace was not.

Cultures do not come about in a day or a week. And neither does peace. A second element is simplicity. “The culture of peace”.

This is a very simple phrase. It can be easily translated into different languages. And it can be understood – even without a degree in philosophy, or years of experience at the United Nations.

Because we all have some idea of culture.

It is around us, every day. It’s in what we do…where we go…how we speak. And if peace is not a part of these everyday habits – then we simply do not have a culture of peace.

And, thirdly, another element is hope. Let’s be frank: a culture of peace is not, yet, a reality.

Conflicts rage on, across the world. International terrorism poses as grave a threat as ever. And political and religious intolerance is rising.

But we have chosen not to accept this, as our fate. In fact, through this resolution – and this Forum – we are saying no.

We are recommitting to the very ideals of the United Nations Charter. We are showing that it is in our power, to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. Not in some places in the world – but in all.

And that is a powerful message of hope. This brings me to my second point – on the United Nations Charter.

The document doesn’t specifically mention a “culture of peace”. But I believe it is embedded in every word.

And I think we are closer now – than we have ever been – to an international system, which can support and promote a culture of peace.

In the past, our tools and mechanisms were designed to react to conflict. They jumped into action when there was an outbreak in violence, or when a peace treaty was signed.

Now we are opening our eyes. We are asking ourselves the question: what can we do, proactively, to build peace, from the ground up, and to make sure it won’t go anywhere, in the future?

So, we have moved from reactive to proactive; from response to prevention; from concentrating on the effects of conflict to exploring the accelerators of peace.

And central to that has been a renewed focus on conflict prevention and peacebuilding – which are all part of a larger cycle of Sustaining Peace.

Not just in theory. But also, in practice. And here’s the thing: We are doing this. Now.

We are reforming the United Nations’ peace and security pillar.

We are investing more in mediation and peacebuilding capacities.

We are reviewing the way our peacekeeping operations work on the ground.

And we are looking at how our efforts for Sustainable Development and human rights have a direct impact on prospects for peace.

Last April, we all met in this hall. We listened to leaders, policy makers and activists give their take on this new approach to peace. And what we heard was very exciting.

Commitments to preventive diplomacy. Calls for a “quantum leap” in peacebuilding finance. Discussions on coherence and partnerships. And success stories from the ground.

So, it is happening. In this hall. In offices nearby. And in UN country teams and peace operations all over the world.

We are moving our international system towards a culture of peace.

But, as my third point, I want to highlight that, to get there, we need to widen our approach.

We cannot achieve a culture of peace from a hall like this. We need to take action on the ground. And we need new approaches. In some cases, that means a complete re-set.

For example, students all over the world are studying peace theory in university. But maybe we need to start much sooner. Maybe young children should not, only, be learning lessons in maths and history – but also in humanity and peace.

Also, we are seeing some exciting initiatives, which bring all three pillars of the United Nations together. For example, the UN’s Peace and Development Advisers – who are deployed in the field. Now, we need to scale these best practices up – and bring all areas of the United Nations’ work together, for a cultural shift.

And we must remember: culture includes– not just some – but everyone.

So, gender equality is crucial. Every time a woman is denied her voice, her rights, or her place in society – we are taking a step away from a culture of peace. Also, if young people continue to be excluded from our decisions and processes, we won’t get very far.

So, we need everyone involved. From heads of states and top United Nations officials, to the people who work, for the United Nations, academic institutions or NGOs on the ground.

The late Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, delivered a Nobel Lecture, in 2001. During it, he said, “Peace must be made real and tangible in the daily existence of every individual in need”.

That is a simple message. But it is an important one. Peace should not be a theory. It should not be a principle, or an aim, or an outcome. It should not have a budget or a timeline.

Instead, peace should be something that we can touch, see, feel and experience – on a daily basis. It should be in the air around us or the ground we walk on. It should, in essence, be a culture.

And one that is here to stay.

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Excerpt:

Miroslav Lajčák, President of the current 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, in his address to the Forum on a Culture of Peace

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Equality and Territory: the Common Struggle of Indigenous Women in the Andeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/equality-territory-common-struggle-indigenous-women-andes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=equality-territory-common-struggle-indigenous-women-andes http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/equality-territory-common-struggle-indigenous-women-andes/#respond Tue, 04 Sep 2018 18:57:59 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157456 This article is published ahead of the International Day of Indigenous Women, celebrated September 5, which marks the execution of indigenous guerrilla leader Bartolina Sisa.

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Excerpt:

This article is published ahead of the International Day of Indigenous Women, celebrated September 5, which marks the execution of indigenous guerrilla leader Bartolina Sisa.

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Land, Water and Education, Priorities for Chile’s Mapuche Peoplehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/land-water-education-priorities-chiles-mapuche-people/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=land-water-education-priorities-chiles-mapuche-people http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/land-water-education-priorities-chiles-mapuche-people/#respond Thu, 30 Aug 2018 23:16:26 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157417 The right to land and water, as well as to multicultural education, are the top priority demands of Mapuche leaders working with their communities in the Araucanía region and in Santiago, Chile’s capital. “We, the entire Cheuquepán Colipe family, are originally from communities in Lautaro (649 km south of Santiago). We’re here today because our […]

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Amid Chronic Violence, Millions of Afghans Face Risks of Drought Related Displacementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/amid-chronic-violence-millions-afghans-face-risks-drought-related-displacement/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=amid-chronic-violence-millions-afghans-face-risks-drought-related-displacement http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/amid-chronic-violence-millions-afghans-face-risks-drought-related-displacement/#respond Thu, 30 Aug 2018 16:07:12 +0000 Enayatullah Azad http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157410 Enayatullah Azad is Media, Information & Advocacy Coordinator, Norwegian Refugee Council

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Drought-affected IDP children from Badghis in front of their makeshift shelter in Kahdestan area or Injil district. Credit: NRC/Enayatullah Azad.

By Enayatullah Azad
HERAT, Afghanistan, Aug 30 2018 (IPS)

Amid a precarious security situation in Afghanistan, the worst drought in recent history, that hit two out of three provinces in Afghanistan in July, has destabilized the lives of tens of thousands of civilians, some of whom have already been displaced.

The United Nations has predicted that over two million people are expected to become severely food insecure in the coming period.

The West Region of conflict-stricken Afghanistan has been hardest hit by the drought, and over 60,000 people have been displaced to Herat and Badghis provinces, as a result.

Families that fled to Herat are living in dire conditions in makeshift shelters, where they are exposed to the scorching sun and summer temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius. Many families are subsisting on a single meal a day. Many get by on just bread and water.

Herat has become the closest refuge for about 60,000 people, who have been displaced from their homes due to the drought. Conflict has also prompted many to flee their homes to the relative safety of province.

Over 1700 civilians were killed in Afghanistan during the first half of 2018, according to UNAMA. It is the highest recorded number, compared to the same periods for the past decade. The combination of drought and conflict has made tens of thousands of families destitute. They live with few long term prospects or means of regaining stability.

Among the most vulnerable are women and children. Many of the children show visible signs of malnutrition and illness, including skin diseases and eye infections due to dust and the hot weather.

Ayesha Halima is one of thousands of such children, who fled her home for Herat.  Leaning against the wall of a distribution center, she patiently awaits her next meal, as he mother moves through the growing crowd to get their rationed supplies.

 

Halima at the NRC’s cash for food distribution center in Herat.
Credit: NRC/Enayatullah Azad

 

The lack of sufficient nutrition is visible in the pallid faces of children like Soraya Hawa Gul and FatimaPari Gul, who have become neighbors in Herat. They bake bread together in a clay oven in the open air. The mothers make about ten loaves of bread a day, which they wash down with boiled water or tea.

“We cook together because we share a bag of flour,” said Hawa Gul. “Neither of us could afford a bag of flour alone. We have spent all the money we had and have taken many loans from relatives.”

Given such meagre resources, the unconditional cash grants from ECHO and NRC have become life lines for tens of thousands of the impoverished households. Despite the rapidly deployed assistance, drinking water, food and medical supplies are falling short.

Over 1700 civilians were killed in Afghanistan during the first half of 2018, according to UNAMA. It is the highest recorded number, compared to the same periods for the past decade. The combination of drought and conflict has made tens of thousands of families destitute. They live with few long term prospects or means of regaining stability.

The blazing temperatures are testing the endurance of those who are in the IDP settlements. Many people are suffering from dehydration, with children and older IDPs particularly susceptible. With few water resources around, drinking water is a prized commodity in the settlements.

“We can’t get enough water to drink or to clean ourselves and our clothes,” displaced Afghans in Herat told staff of the Norwegian Refugee Council.  “There hasn’t been any change to our life situation. We fled our homes because there was no water and it is the same here. At least we a had shelter back home in Badghis.”

With illnesses such as diarrhea, skin diseases and eye infections on the rise, many children are in need of comprehensive medical care. One-year-old Ahmad Mohammed has diarrhea, and a skin and eye infection. He lives in a makeshift shelter with his family after they were forced to leave their home in Badghis city/region/province. “It’s been 70 nights since we arrived. My children and my wife are all sick, and I don’t have the money to buy them enough food or medicine,” Mohammed’s father Ziauddin told NRC.

Shelter is another pressing issue, with families residing in makeshift shelters for the time being. While protection from the scorching sun and the high summer temperatures are the present concern, staying warm and winterisation of homes will become a need, if they remain displaced into the winter months.

But, despite the challenges, women like 57 year old Khanim Gul, who have been displaced several times, show remarkable resilience. Gul was forced to leave her family behind in Badghis. “This isn’t the first year we are suffering from drought. Last year we had almost nothing on the table. This is the fifth tent that I am setting up – the heavy wind keeps tearing it apart,” she said.

Amid the struggles of daily survival, protection has been scant, with women and girls facing heightened risks of harassment and gender-based violence. In the absence of regular schooling and safe spaces where they can grow, learn and play, children are more prone to child labour and child marriage.

Amid scarce resources and lack of livelihood opportunities, including daily labour, many of the displaced men in Herat, try to travel to Iran in search of work.

With regular wages a far fetched notion for most of the displaced populations, Karim is counting his blessings these days. With loans from family members, he has set up a vegetable stall and sell onions and potatoes to the rest of the displaced community near his tent in Herat.

 

Karim selling onions and potatoes near his tent in Kahdestan. Credit: : NRC/Enayatullah Azad.

 

For thousands of families displaced from Herat the few items they carried on their backs are the only remnants of their homes. For many, this is not the first instance of leaving their homes and belongings because of drought.

While news of peace talks and bombings in Afghanistan make the headlines, the IDP communities suffering chronic, long term displacement feel “forgotten” by their government and the international community. They are in desperate need of long term assistance.

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Enayatullah Azad is Media, Information & Advocacy Coordinator, Norwegian Refugee Council

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Annan Victim of One of the Greatest Fake News Concoctions in Historyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/annan-victim-one-greatest-fake-news-concoctions-history/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=annan-victim-one-greatest-fake-news-concoctions-history http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/annan-victim-one-greatest-fake-news-concoctions-history/#respond Mon, 27 Aug 2018 12:25:47 +0000 Ian Williams http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157349 Ian Williams is a former President of the UN Correspondents’ Association (UNCA) and author of UNtold: The Real Story of the United Nations in Peace and War

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Secretary-General Kofi Annan (centre) addresses a Security Council Meeting on Iraq. 07 June 2004. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

Secretary-General Kofi Annan (centre) addresses a Security Council Meeting on Iraq. 07 June 2004. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

By Ian Williams
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 27 2018 (IPS)

Looking at the deserved outpouring of eulogies over Kofi Annan I could not help remembering the advice of the old Latin saying, “Say nothing about the dead unless it’s good.”

But one can’t help wishing that there had been more support of Kofi Annan when he was alive, not least when the Murdoch media Faux News fabricators persecuted him with the spurious Oil For Food scandal.

It was one of the greatest Fake News concoctions in history, almost up there with Iraqi WMDs, perhaps unsurprisingly since many of the sources for both were the same based on alleged UN corruption in the program that delivered food to Iraqi civilians in the face of US insistence on maintaining sanctions against the Iraqi regime.

They knew what they were doing: it was not just an individual they were slandering. Kofi Annan epitomized several facets of the role of a UN Secretary General, but none better than being an inspiring public face for the organization whose manifested dignity and integrity helped mitigate the sad reality of a body often hamstrung by the self-seeking sordid squabbles of its member states.

The attack was both an attempt to punish him for his temerity in saying that the Iraq war was illegal, and to challenge the prestige of the UN and the whole concept of international order.

The attack was both an attempt to punish him for his temerity in saying that the Iraq war was illegal, and to challenge the prestige of the UN and the whole concept of international order.

The onslaught was all the heavier because they sought to demolish the reputation of someone who was the archetypal nice guy, who would have made a good electoral candidate. He remembered families and people, greeted everyone of all ranks affably and kept his cool.

The only time I saw him lose his temper was when he reprimanded the juvenile behavior one of the Murdoch press corps who was baiting him about trivia associated with the Oil For Food scandal. Some of the correspondents were shocked that when this animal was attacked he fought back. Others welcomed the well-merited comeuppance.

His original election had come about against the background of the Balkan Wars and it must be remembered that it was the result of an American veto against the reappointment of Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who suffered from a bipartisan alliance of Madeleine Albright and Republican Senator Jesse Helms, who were both incensed by the Secretary General’s refusal to bow to Washington.

Of course, that made Kofi Annan the American candidate, subject to some suspicion from other nations, and indeed his ideas of world governance and policy were not too far from the stated principles of the Clinton administration. However, as he was well aware, that just because an administration loudly declared lofty ideals did not necessarily mean it would implement them in practice, and was guaranteed to take umbrage if anyone pointed out the shortfall.

Boutros-Ghali was also the subject of posthumous eulogies from many who stayed silent when he was under attack, since he confronted the same quandary as Annan: how to cope with a US that wanted to treat the UN as, not just an instrument of foreign policy, but as a foil in domestic politics.

The White House wanted to make reassuring liberal noises about stopping atrocities to one wing of American politics, while promising the isolationist wing that it would trim spending on the UN and would not risk American lives to implement policies that the US supported.

At the time of Rwanda, that entailed a Presidential Directive from Clinton that was in essence more isolationist than anything most of the Republicans could dream up: that the US would veto any peacekeeping operation that did not directly benefit US foreign policy objective, which did not at the time seem to include the prevention of genocide, as untold thousands of Bosniaks and Rwandans discovered.

It was at first unsure whether Kofi Annan’s years of service in the UN were an asset or a disadvantage, but it became clear how useful they were, since he knew just how the organization worked and was all too aware of the competing pressures on UN staff, not least the political pressures.

And among those pressures was the major one: how to accommodate the US, which was essential for the effective functioning of the organization, while preventing the organization from becoming a mere instrument of US policies often opposed by most of the members.

He was no mob orator. He was not cut out for the bully pulpit or the soapbox. When he was first elected, his advisors pushed him into being coached for public speaking but gave up and people realized that his quiet authority was in some ways more effective than soaring rhetoric and inspired but content-free demagoguery. People had to strain to listen to him – and they did, because what he had to say was worth listening to.

His statements were carefully weighed  before delivery and designedly non-provocative. They aspired to higher things, but they were definitive and authoritative, and usually soundly based both in ethics and his own pragmatic sense of what was possible. He was an accomplished tightrope walker, even he was wobbling by the end, since while most of the member states recognized the competing imperatives, American administrations, of all complexions, have a notorious lack of empathy for other agendas beyond the re-election of the President.

People sometimes say that he was not outspoken enough, not loud enough, but that was actually a strength. When he spoke, it was not just a trite soundbite, he said what had to be said even it was sometimes unpopular.

When he came back from negotiating with Saddam Hussein and said it was a testament to the efficacy of diplomacy, not enough people listened to his corollary– when backed with the threat of force.

His other breakthrough was teamwork. He had risen through the UN ranks without acquiring the pompous self-importance of many promoted above their capabilities and assembled an articulate and confident team who could push out the envelope on events and say what needed to be said, without implicating him directly.

One of his landmark changes to UN culture was to open up a degree of transparency: Before only designated spokespeople were allowed to talk to the media but he mandated staff to respond to journalists’ enquiries as long as they did not purport to represent the organization’s views.

That posture of dignity allowed him to steer the landmark Responsibility to Protect resolution through the sixtieth anniversary summit and it is still a landmark even if many of those who did not have the political courage to oppose him and it at the Summit have done so much to frustrate it since. It allowed him to rally support for an ambitious world development agenda backed by a wide spectrum of disparate constituencies.

All idols have feet of clay, but for some the mud goes much higher than others. No one is perfect, high office demands compromises for practical achievements to win allies and majorities. But in office, on development goals, poverty, human rights, gender equality, Rwanda, Cyprus and many other issues, he advanced the UN agenda even as he rewrote it.

After leaving the UN he continued to do so, with the Elders and his own foundation. He was no mere bureaucrat, he was not after the big desk and the title, he wanted to contribute to the world and thought the SG’s office was the best place to do so.

His legacy  will survives for sometime, but one must wonder how he would have coped with the present President who, unlike Clinton, is unable to betray his principles, since he does not seem to have any.

But it is perhaps not too late for the present Secretary General to study and emulate Kofi’s tradition of quietly but prominently presenting himself on behalf of the organization, and the team work that made it possible.

Ian Williams is also a senior analyst who has written for newspapers and magazines around the world, including the Australian, The Independent, New York Observer, The Financial Times and The Guardian.

The post Annan Victim of One of the Greatest Fake News Concoctions in History appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Ian Williams is a former President of the UN Correspondents’ Association (UNCA) and author of UNtold: The Real Story of the United Nations in Peace and War

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When Being ‘Offensive’ or ‘Morally Improper’ Online Carries an Indeterminate Jail Sentence in East Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/offensive-morally-improper-online-carries-indeterminate-jail-sentence-east-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=offensive-morally-improper-online-carries-indeterminate-jail-sentence-east-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/offensive-morally-improper-online-carries-indeterminate-jail-sentence-east-africa/#respond Fri, 24 Aug 2018 09:38:43 +0000 Erick Kabendera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157334 JamiiForums was Tanzania’s largest whistleblowing online platform, with one million visitors each day. But now some 90 percent of staff has been retrenched and the owners are considering shutting down their offices since the June implementation of the country’s online content communication law. Across this East African nation, social commentators and celebrities have shut down […]

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The enforcement of the online content regulations has scared people from stating their opinions online in Tanzania. Credit: Erick Kabendera/IPS

By Erick Kabendera
DAR ES SALAAM, Aug 24 2018 (IPS)

JamiiForums was Tanzania’s largest whistleblowing online platform, with one million visitors each day. But now some 90 percent of staff has been retrenched and the owners are considering shutting down their offices since the June implementation of the country’s online content communication law.

Across this East African nation, social commentators and celebrities have shut down their blogs as many cannot afford the hundreds of dollars required in licence fees to register them. And internet cafes may start closing down too as the new law requires them to install expensive security cameras.

A once-famous blogger in Dar es Salaam tells IPS he was forced to close down his blog because he couldn’t afford paying USD 900 in licence fees to register it in compliance with the new regulation.

A minimum jail sentence of 12 months

In June many bloggers and content providers were contacted by the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) and asked to immediately shut down their services and apply for a license within four days.

It was the beginning of the enforcement of the country’s Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations 2017. Civil society and digital rights activists have condemned the regulations as draconian.

This is what the law states:

  • All blogs, online forums, content hosts and content producers must register online and pay licence fees of up to USD 900;
  • Internet cafes must install surveillance cameras to monitor people online;
  • Material deemed “offensive, morally improper” or that “causes annoyance,” is prohibited and a minimum fine of USD2,230 or 12 months in jail as a minimum sentence is recommended for anyone found guilty;
  • Social media comments are even subject to the new regulations.

The regulation, however, doesn’t provide a maximum jail term, meaning a magistrate could send an offender to prison for an indeterminate period of time.

Terrified of saying something wrong online

The source, who wished to remain anonymous, tells IPS that other bloggers he met in recent weeks who have paid the licence fees and registered with the TCRA have complained that they are registering a low number of visitors to their blogs. In addition, visitors have stopped leaving comments as they are afraid of being arrested and taken to court.

“The ordinary people are scared to make comments on blog posts. They are scared because a single post could either land a blogger or their followers in the hands of authorities,” Maxence Melo, one of the founders of JamiiForums, tells IPS. He adds that authorities are focused on implementing the law but have not educated bloggers about what is deemed “offensive, morally improper” or “causes annoyance”.

In addition, people can be charged for not having passwords on their computers, laptops and smartphones.

A senior government attorney tells IPS on the condition of anonymity, because he wasn’t authorised to speak on the matter, that this act will be used against people who post defamatory content or hate porn online but claim that a third party had access to their mobile phone or devices and posted the content without their consent.

Since the June implementation of the act, the impact has been far-reaching across the country.

The owner of a famous internet café in Tanzania’s commercial capital says he has at least 50 customers a day but he wasn’t aware of the new requirement for internet café operators to install CCTV cameras on their premises.

He tells IPS that one hour of computer use costs 35US cents, which is not enough to sustain his business. So he supplements this with a stationary business in the cafe.

“Installing CCTV cameras would cost about USD500, which is a lot for a small business like mine. So if the authorities come and ask me to do it, I will have to shut down the business,” he tells IPS, requesting to remain anonymous.

A challenge to Tanzania’s freedom of expression

These regulations together with other laws aimed at curtailing freedom of expression and press freedom are one of the reasons for Tanzania’s poor performance in the latest Freedom Index rankings. The country ranks 93 out of 180 countries across the globe.

There is also the Cyber Crime Act, which can be used to arrest dissenting journalists and citizens and the Statistics Act, which limits the publication of data to the government’s Bureau of Statistics. Both acts were passed before the 2015 elections and activists are worried that worse is yet to come as the country prepares for the 2019 local governments elections and the 2020 general elections.

Rugemeleza Nshala, a prominent Tanzanian lawyer, tells IPS that freedom of expression is facing the biggest challenge in recent times here.

“We have reached a point where former Ugandan president Idi Amin’s famous quote when he said ‘there is freedom of speech, but I cannot guarantee freedom after speech’ is becoming relevant in Tanzania.

“Newspapers are shutdown unconstitutionally, and citizens criticising the president are arrested and magistrates, who want to please the president, jail suspects without hesitation,” Nshala tells IPS.

Last year alone, three newspapers were suspended:

  • In June 2017, the Tanzania Information Services banned a weekly Swahili newspaper Raia Mwema for 90 days after it had published a story claiming that president John Magufuli would fail in his job as president;
  • In September 2017, another weekly newspaper, MwanaHalisi, was suspended for 24 months;
  • In June 2017, the Mawio newspaper was also banned for 24 months.

Nshala says that enforcement of the online content regulations has scared people from giving their opinion openly according to Article 18 of the Constitution of Tanzania, which grants citizens freedom of expression and opinion without interference.

And it seems that for now the online content laws have succeed in squashing the voice of JamiiForums.

Melo says that the impact of the country’s new online content law, together with three cases JamiiForums is facing in court—which has resulted in them appearing 122 time in court over the last two years—has made them retrench 64 employees. They have only eight now, and are considering closing down their physical offices.

In the past JamiiForums has been threatened and forced to share user data with the regulator or the police. In one incident, the TCRA forced them to reveal the identity of users who had leaked details of mass corruption in the country’s biggest port and the case has been pending since 2016.

That case, together with two other lawsuits that are pending against JamiiForums, made Melo cautious when the TCRA wrote requiring blogs to shut down before applying for a licence. Melo and his team decided to voluntarily shut down their website for 21 days and registered within four days. They have since had an opportunity to sit down with the regulator to express their concerns about the new law.

“We were concerned with sections of the law, which gives content providers only 12 hours to remove content deemed inappropriate from online. In one case, the regulator had submitted a letter to us at 5 pm asking us to take down content failing to do so could result in us ending up in court. The law doesn’t give us a room to consult with the source of information and your lawyers before removing the content,” Melo tells IPS.

Maria Sarungi, director of the social media citizen movement Tsehai, the Change Tanzania, tells IPS that prior to the enforcement of the regulations, the ability to freely post content online had liberated the media industry.

“Some online TV [platforms] such as Millard Ayo started off as bloggers and have grown into full-fledged media houses because of the [former] liberal policies for online content,” Sarungi says.

Uganda just as repressive

However, Tanzania isn’t alone in establishing such repressive legislation against freedom of expression. Its neighbour Uganda introduced a daily fee of USD0.5 to anyone accessing social media after its president Yoweri Museveni had suggested the introduction of the law to curb online gossiping.

However, activists and lawyers have challenged the law in court. Uganda’s Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda said in parliament on Jul. 11 that the government was in the process of reviewing the tax, which is commonly referred to as the “gossip tax”.

Rosebell Kagumire, a Ugandan blogger, says despite many young urban Ugandans using virtual private networks to avoid their location being detected and to bypass the tax, recent statistics show that Facebook usage went down by 75 percent in the first weeks.

She further says that apart from limiting access to information and freedom of expression, the tax has prevented young unemployed Ugandans from getting online in search of employment. In addition, small enterprises that have their base on social media have declined.

“Besides limiting access to information and expression, this tax is economically punishing the poor. Recent pressure against the legislation has seen the government come up with amendments but the fees (including the mobile money transfer tax) are anti-freedom of expression and hinder digital inclusion,” Kagumire tells IPS.

In Tanzania, for Nshala, it is not all doom and gloom.

He says the constitution gives final say to citizens about how they want the government to be governed and therefore citizens have to stand firm to protect the country’s democracy. He finally says political leaders must understand that they are servants of people and have to accept criticisms.

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The Fight for the Right to Abortion Spreads in Latin America Despite Politicianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/fight-right-abortion-spreads-latin-america-despite-politicians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fight-right-abortion-spreads-latin-america-despite-politicians http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/fight-right-abortion-spreads-latin-america-despite-politicians/#comments Thu, 23 Aug 2018 22:41:33 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157331 The Argentine Senate’s rejection of a bill to legalise abortion did not stop a Latin American movement, which is on the streets and is expanding in an increasingly coordinated manner among women’s organisations in the region with the most restrictive laws and policies against pregnant women’s right to choose. Approved in Argentina by the Chamber […]

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Q&A: A New Leader with a Vision to Redefine Human Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/qa-new-leader-vision-redefine-human-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-new-leader-vision-redefine-human-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/qa-new-leader-vision-redefine-human-rights/#respond Tue, 21 Aug 2018 20:42:57 +0000 IPS Correspondents http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157299 The human rights movement must be bigger, bolder, and more inclusive if we are to tackle today’s challenges, said Amnesty International’s first South African Secretary General. Laying out his ambitious goals for the organisation and the global human rights movement as a whole is Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s newest Secretary General. “In my first message […]

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The worst drought in 40 years has forced thousands in Sri Lanka to abandon their livelihoods and seek work in cities. Amnesty International says that they will be taking on climate change as a human rights issue. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By IPS Correspondents
JOHANNESBURG/UNITED NATIONS, Aug 21 2018 (IPS)

The human rights movement must be bigger, bolder, and more inclusive if we are to tackle today’s challenges, said Amnesty International’s first South African Secretary General.

Laying out his ambitious goals for the organisation and the global human rights movement as a whole is Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s newest Secretary General.

“In my first message as Secretary General, I want to make clear that Amnesty International is now opening its arms wider than ever before to build a genuinely global community that stretches into all four corners of the world, especially in the global south,” Naidoo said as he took up his position.

“I want us to build a human rights movement that is more inclusive. We need to redefine what it means to be a human rights champion in 2018. An activist can come from all walks of life,” he continued.

Hailing from South Africa, Naidoo got his start in social justice while protesting apartheid in his home country and has since worked on issues of education, inequality, and climate change.

“Our world is facing complex problems that can only be tackled if we break away from old ideas that human rights are about some forms of injustice that people face, but not others. The patterns of oppression that we’re living through are interconnected,” said Naidoo.

IPS spoke to Naidoo about the importance of intersectionality, climate change, and his vision for one of the biggest human rights organisations in such divisive times.

Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s newest Secretary General, says climate change is a human rights issue that the organisation will now also focus on. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

IPS: Why is it so important for intersections and the coming together of human rights organisations, and how do you envision this happening?

Naidoo: Well firstly, I think people would be being somewhat delusional if they think individual organisations are going to deliver results. Part of whether Amnesty is able to be successful is that we depend upon the quality of the relationships and alliances that we build with organisations working on the ground.

The good thing is that because of Amnesty’s moving-to-the-ground strategy, which was to move more capacity from London to the different regions, means now we’ve got on-the-ground capacity so those partnerships can happen more easier.

But more than that, it is about the intersection of the agendas.

Say you are taking up the issue of gender equality, you can’t take up the issue of gender equality without understanding that economic exclusion of women is much greater so it brings in economic rights as well as gender rights.

So part of our success will depend on how good we are at making common cause with issues where they are intersecting.

Part of the problems in the past is that people only wanted to form an alliance if they agreed on everything, and that’s not what alliances are about and not what coalitions are about.

An example I use is when I was the chair of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty which IPS was part of. One of the big tensions there was how do you, in that broad movement keep the religious folks and the women’s movement together? The women’s movement wanted very explicit commitment by the Global Call to Action Against Poverty that we are committed to reproductive rights. And then the religious folks said if you put that there, then we are leaving the coalition.

So what we did was put them in the same room, and said come up with a solution. And at the end, they came up with language that said we support reproductive health. So it was less than what the feminist movement wanted, but it was more than what the religious movement wanted but they found a way to actually live with that.

Because on everything else—on women’s employment, on stopping violence against women and all of that—they had no disagreement.

Let’s be honest the problem is so many fault lines and divisions that are emerging on religious ground, on race, class, migration and so on and unless we can create safer and more spaces for dialogue to talk about differences, and how do we manage difference, we will end up with more and more conflicts.

IPS: What does that mean for the Global South? You said that Amnesty is now on the ground in many countries. What does that mean for these regions and these people to see Amnesty International more on the ground?

Naidoo: What I hope it means is that Amnesty’s being on the ground means that it is more sensitive to on the ground knowledge, taking its lead from local people and being more humble in how it analyses and understands its own role.

For people on the ground, hopefully it means it gives them a great sense of confidence that a well-known organisation that has a long track record, has won the Nobel Peace Prize and all of that, is an ally that will strengthen their struggles.

And sadly, you know, I’ve seen it happen a thousand times, many of our leaders on the continent: if a local NGO says I want to meet with you about about A,B,C, they will say no. If some international organisation that is a big brand says they want to meet, they will get the meeting.

So part of what it hopefully means is we will help amplify the voices of the people that we partner with.

IPS: IPS has been covering climate change for decades. Could you tell us why climate change is a human rights issue to Amnesty?

Naidoo: Let’s put it in the words of Sharan Burrow, the first woman to lead the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). She and I were having a meeting with former Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, and we were waiting for him and so we swapped each other’s notes around. She was doing the climate change pitch and I did the labor and decent worker pitch. And you could see Ban Ki-moon looking at his [notes]—is this the Greenpeace person or is the labour person?

And [Burrow] said to him, “You know Mr. Secretary General, you must wonder why me as a trade unionist, where I supposed to fight for decent work and better working conditions, am so passionate about climate change?”

And she said, “it is because as a mother, as a human being, and as a worker leader, I recognise there are no jobs on a dead planet. And so if there are no jobs on a dead planet, there are no human beings on a dead planet. If there are no human beings on a dead planet, then there are no human rights on a dead planet.”

So I mean, there is no more important human right than the right to life, right?

And that is why I always say, our struggle is not to save the planet. The planet does not need saving. Because the end result is that if we continue on the path that we are, we warm the planet to a point where we become extinct. The planet will still be here. And in fact once we become extinct as a species, the forests will recover, the oceans will replenish themselves.

So the struggle we are engaged in is whether humanity can fashion a new way to mutually co-exist with nature in an interdependent relationship for centuries and centuries to come.

And that is why the human rights movement has to take climate change seriously.

*Interview has been edited for clarity and length

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Annan Denounced Iraqi Invasion as “Illegal” & Criticized Military Leaders Addressing UNhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/annan-denounced-iraqi-invasion-as-illegal-criticized-military-leaders-addressing-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=annan-denounced-iraqi-invasion-as-illegal-criticized-military-leaders-addressing-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/annan-denounced-iraqi-invasion-as-illegal-criticized-military-leaders-addressing-un/#respond Mon, 20 Aug 2018 10:17:43 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157266 The Secretary-General of the United Nations, who is  a creature of member states, rarely challenges or defies his creators. But Kofi Annan, who died last week at the age of 80, did both. Surprisingly, he lived to tell the tale– but paid an unfairly heavy price after being hounded by the United States. When the […]

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Kofi Annan. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Kofi Annan. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 20 2018 (IPS)

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, who is  a creature of member states, rarely challenges or defies his creators. But Kofi Annan, who died last week at the age of 80, did both. Surprisingly, he lived to tell the tale– but paid an unfairly heavy price after being hounded by the United States.

When the US invaded Iraq in March 2003, he described the invasion as “illegal” because it did not have the blessings of the 15-member UN Security Council (UNSC), the only institution in the world body with the power to declare war and peace.

But the administration of President George W. Bush went after him for challenging its decision to unilaterally declare war against Iraq: an attack by one member state against another for no legally-justifiable reason.

The weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), reportedly in Iraq’s military arsenal, which was one of the primary reasons for the invasion, were never found.

Subsequently, Annan came under heavy fire for misperceived lapses in the implementation of the “Oil-for-Food” programme which was aimed at alleviating the sufferings of millions of Iraqis weighed down by UN sanctions.

Ian Williams, author of UNtold: The Real Story of the United Nations in Peace and War, told IPS: “While I am heartened by the outpouring of appreciation for Kofi Annan, I can’t help but notice the contrast with the sound of silence when the Rupert Murdoch press and its followers had his back to the wall with the spurious Oil-for-Food crisis they had manufactured.”

All too many stood back and stayed silent as Annan spent long months under constant sniper fire, he recounted.

While few now remember the Oil for Food crisis, said Williams, it was billed at the time as the “greatest financial scandal” in history.

He said the so-called crisis “was a savage assault on Kofi’s greatest asset– and his perceptible integrity took a severe personal toll, as people who should have known better kept their silence.”

“It was in fact one of the greatest “fake news” concoctions in history, almost up there with Iraqi WMDs. That was no coincidence since many of the sources for both were the same,” said Williams, a senior analyst who has written for newspapers and magazines around the world, including the Australian, The Independent, New York Observer, The Financial Times and The Guardian.

“While I am heartened by the outpouring of appreciation for Kofi Annan, I can’t help but notice the contrast with the sound of silence when the Rupert Murdoch press and its followers had his back to the wall with the spurious Oil-for-Food crisis they had manufactured.”
Annan also virtually challenged the General Assembly which continued to offer its podium to political leaders who had come to power by undemocratic means or via military coups.

In 2004, when the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor of the present African Union (AU), barred coup leaders from participating in African summits, Annan singled it out as a future model to punish military dictators worldwide.

Annan went one step further and said he was hopeful that one day the UN General Assembly, the highest policy making body in the Organization, would follow in the footsteps of the OAU and bar leaders of military governments from addressing the General Assembly.

Annan’s proposal was a historic first. But it never came to pass in an institution where member states, not the Secretary-General, rule the roost.

The outspoken Annan, a national of Ghana, also said that “billions of dollars of public funds continue to be stashed away by some African leaders — even while roads are crumbling, health systems are failing, school children have neither books nor desks nor teachers, and phones do not work.”

He also lashed out at African leaders who overthrow democratic regimes to grab power by military means.

Jayantha Dhanapala, who served under Annan as Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, told IPS that Annan was “my friend and my Secretary-General”.

He was without doubt the “best Secretary-General the UN was privileged to have, after Dag Hammarskjold,” and steered the global body into the 21st century, with a vision and dedication sadly unmatched by the global leaders of the day, said Dhanapala.

“Kofi was dedicated to the cause of disarmament and re-established the Department for Disarmament Affairs in 1998 appointing me as its head, as part of his UN reforms. It was an honour to serve in his Senior Management Team for five eventful years and implement his policies for the reform of the UN.  His legacy will endure and be an inspiration,” he declared.

“I had known Kofi before he became Secretary-General. He remained unassuming, dignified and sincere in his commitment to peace,” said Dhanapala, a former Sri Lankan envoy to the United States.

Asked about Annan’s criticism of the American invasion of Iraq, he said “the USA went after him for saying that, and harassed him”.

Annan’s public declaration of the illegality of the US invasion provoked negative reactions both from the White House and from U.S. politicians.

White House Spokeswoman Claire Buchan said U.S. officials disagreed with Annan. “We previously made clear that coalition forces had authority [to invade Iraq] under several UN resolutions.”

“If Kofi had his way, [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein would still be in power,” said Senator John Cornyn, a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.

Williams told IPS that Annan was a person of integrity, and recognized his own failings, as in the Balkans and Rwanda, and tried to do something about them, commissioning reports that implicated him.

“With his experience in the UN machinery, he could have put the blame elsewhere but he accepted his share and that gave him the standing to represent the UN.”

People sometimes say that he was not outspoken enough, not loud enough, but that was actually a strength. When Annan spoke, said Williams, it was not just a trite soundbite because “he said what had to be said even it was sometimes unpopular.”

When Annan came back from negotiating with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and said it was a testament to the efficacy of diplomacy, not enough people listened to his corollary – when backed with the threat of force.

That posture of dignity, noted Williams, allowed him to steer the landmark Responsibility to Protect (R2P) resolution through the sixtieth anniversary summit and it is still a landmark even if many of those who did not have the political courage to oppose it at the summit have done so much to frustrate it since.

“Annan was no mere bureaucrat and he was not after the big desk and the title. He wanted to contribute to the world and thought the secretary-general’s office was the best place to do so. No one is perfect, high office demands compromises for practical achievements to win allies and majorities.”

But in office, on development goals, poverty, human rights, gender equality and many other issues, he advanced the UN agenda even as he re-wrote it. After office, Annan continued to do so, with the Elders and his own Foundation, said Williams.

James Paul, who served as executive director of the New York-based Global Policy Forum and monitored the United Nations for over 19 years, told IPS there are many stories about Kofi that deserve attention.

The most important may be about how he told a reporter that the Iraq War was contrary to the UN Charter, and not long afterwards sent a letter to US President George W Bush calling on the United States not to attack Fallujah.

This was before the 2004 US elections and Bush was livid. Soon thereafter Washington claimed to have uncovered a huge “financial scandal” at the UN.  Kofi was threatened by the US and was nearly forced out of office, said Paul.

He was summoned to a meeting at a private apartment in New York and forced eventually to agree to a wholesale change in his top staff in the fall of 2004 (which was detailed in a New York Times article).

After losing his key lieutenants and being humiliated, his wings were clipped. And throughout his tenure, his policies were never up to his charisma. He cut the budget to please Senator Jesse Helms.

He was the first secretary-general to promote a UN relationship with multinational companies (the Global Compact) and he gave backing to the aggressive US-UK program of “humanitarian intervention,” said Paul, author of “Of Foxes & Chickens: Oligarchy and Global Power in the UN Security Council”

When Annan completed his 10-year tenure as secretary-general, he left behind a mixed political legacy: his acknowledged successes in promoting peace, development, gender empowerment and human rights, and his self-admitted failures in reining in a sprawling U.N. bureaucracy facing charges of mismanagement.

 Annan, who served as the seventh secretary-general, from January 1997 to December 2006, shared the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize with the United Nations.

At his farewell press conference in mid-December, Annan specifically zeroed in on the multi-billion-dollar oil-for-food programme, which he said was “exploited to undermine the organization.”

“But I think when historians look at the records, they will draw the conclusion that yes, there was mismanagement; (and) there may have been several U.N. staff members who were engaged” in unethical behaviour.

“But the scandal, if any, was in the capitals, and with the 2,200 companies that made a deal with (Iraqi President) Saddam (Hussein) behind our backs,” he added.

The “capitals” he blamed were primarily the political capitals of the 15 member states of the Security Council — and specifically the five permanent members, namely the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia (P-5), under whose watchful eyes the notorious oil-for-food kickbacks took place.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

 

 

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An Appreciation – Kofi Annan: A Great Man of Peace & Multilateralism has Left Ushttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/appreciation-kofi-annan-great-man-peace-multilateralism-left-us/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=appreciation-kofi-annan-great-man-peace-multilateralism-left-us http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/appreciation-kofi-annan-great-man-peace-multilateralism-left-us/#respond Mon, 20 Aug 2018 08:18:01 +0000 Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157264 I woke up on Saturday morning with the heart-breaking news that our dear Kofi is no more. The peoples of the world are unequivocal in expressing their feelings of the love, respect and recognition that they have for his qualities of head and heart. Knowing him for more than four decades, my calling him “Saint […]

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Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcoming in his office Ambassador Chowdhury on first day at work as Under-Secretary-General March 2002

Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcoming in his office Ambassador Chowdhury on first day at work as Under-Secretary-General March 2002

By Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 20 2018 (IPS)

I woke up on Saturday morning with the heart-breaking news that our dear Kofi is no more. The peoples of the world are unequivocal in expressing their feelings of the love, respect and recognition that they have for his qualities of head and heart.

Knowing him for more than four decades, my calling him “Saint Kofi” because of what he stood for, started at the beginning of the new millennium.

I recall with pride that the African Group decided to pick my Presidency of the Security Council in June 2001 to present a rather-early proposal for Kofi’s second term.

As the Security Council President, I introduced the resolution for his re-election to the General Assembly on 29 June 2001 which it did that very day with thunderous acclamation.

No Secretary-General both in the past and in the future, I believe, would know this most complex organization as thoroughly and as intimately as him. He was superbly knowledgeable in every aspect of UN’s work.
Kofi’s knowledge of the UN as the world’s biggest and most important multilateral body has been unparalleled. Starting at the entry level and reaching its topmost position accorded him a unique insight and understanding.

No Secretary-General both in the past and in the future, I believe, would know this most complex organization as thoroughly and as intimately as him. He was superbly knowledgeable in every aspect of UN’s work.

As the Chairman of Fifth Committee dealing with his UN reforms and restructuring in his first year as Secretary-General, I had experienced that time and again in the most enlightening way.

I recall Kofi’s invaluable advice as the Director of the UN Budget office when I was Vice Chair of the Committee on Programme and Coordination (CPC) in the early 1980s.

It was a distinct honor for me to serve in his team beginning in 2002 as the first Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the new office for the most vulnerable countries of the world, for whom he was himself a genuine and persistent advocate.

Personally, it was a pleasure for me to have received Kofi’s support, encouragement and advice for my initiatives in piloting in the General Assembly the UN Declaration and Programme of Action on the Culture of Peace in 1998-99 and in achieving the political breakthrough for UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women’s equality of participation in 2000, both taking place during his first term.

His personal connection with his staff, particularly those at the functional levels, was full of compassion and collegiality. He knew hundreds by their first names.

This following quote by Kofi underscoring the need for the culture of peace has been cited by me often: “Over the years we have come to realize that it is not enough to send peacekeeping forces to separate warring parties. It is not enough to engage in peace-building efforts after societies have been ravaged by conflict. It is not enough to conduct preventive diplomacy. All of this is essential work, but we want enduring results. We need, in short, the culture of peace.”

On 8 April this year, I sent him “our warmest greetings and heart-felt felicitations on the occasion of your super milestone eightieth birthday.”   I added “Our world has been immensely blessed with your leadership of the United Nations and the humanity continues to be blessed with your wisdom and engagement in making our planet a better place to live. We are so proud of you!”

I will miss Kofi tremendously.

*Anwarul K. Chowdhury was Ambassador of Bangladesh (1996-2001), President of the Security Council (March 2000 & June 2001), Chairman of the UN General Assembly’s Fifth Committee (1997-98), and Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the UN (2002-2007)

 

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Use of Water for Electricity Generation Triggers Outcry in Mexicohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/outcry-use-water-electricity-generation-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=outcry-use-water-electricity-generation-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/outcry-use-water-electricity-generation-mexico/#respond Sat, 18 Aug 2018 01:46:35 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157253 One of the fears of the people of the Sierra Huasteca mountains in the state of San Luis Potosi in northeast Mexico is the construction of combined cycle power plants, which would threaten the availability of water. “We have heard rumours about the installation of two more plants, but we have no information. They operate […]

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Non-governmental organisations in Mexico are promoting a citizen water law to guarantee the human right to water. In the picture, social activists take part in a national workshop on watersheds on Aug. 11-12 in Tlalmanalco, a city in the south-central part of the country. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Non-governmental organisations in Mexico are promoting a citizen water law to guarantee the human right to water. In the picture, social activists take part in a national workshop on watersheds on Aug. 11-12 in Tlalmanalco, a city in the south-central part of the country. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
TLAMANALCO, Mexico, Aug 18 2018 (IPS)

One of the fears of the people of the Sierra Huasteca mountains in the state of San Luis Potosi in northeast Mexico is the construction of combined cycle power plants, which would threaten the availability of water.

“We have heard rumours about the installation of two more plants, but we have no information. They operate with very obscure mechanisms,” said Esther Peña, an advisor to the non-governmental Coordinator of Peasant and Indigenous Organisations of Huasteca Potosina, which was founded in 1994 and which brings together 12 organisations of indigenous people and small farmers in six municipalities.

Peña told IPS that the Tamazunchale combined cycle plant, which has been operating since 2007 with a capacity of 1,187 megawatts (MW), is polluting the environment and damaging coffee and citrus plantations, as well as cattle ranching.

The Spanish company Iberdrola, which owns the plant, plans to build two additional plants, Tamazunchale I and II, with a total capacity of 1,187 MW, which are still in the design phase.

The expansion of these natural gas-fired thermal power plants, whose waste gases are reused to produce more energy from steam, is a concern for defenders of water and enemies of fossil fuels because of the social and environmental impacts.

The threats identified by these groups also include the extraction of unconventional hydrocarbons from shale and the use of water by mining companies, soft drink and brewery plants, and other industries.

They were all discussed this month by experts and community leaders in Tlamanalco, a city in the state of Mexico, in the south-central part of the country

During the National Workshop of Promoters of Water and Basin Councils, 121 representatives from 51 Mexican organisations analysed how to redress the impact of these activities on access to water, as well as how to promote solutions that put water management in the hands of citizens.

The emphasis of this vision is on community management of water, the human right to water access, the care of water and water quality, as laid out in the proposed General Water Law, drafted since 2014 by civil society organisations, academics, local communities and indigenous peoples.

The organisations elected representatives from 28 basin councils, who will carry out the local work of disseminating the citizens’ initiative and mobilising support.

From this perspective, the link between water and energy becomes relevant, above and beyond the construction and modernisation of hydroelectric power plants and amidst the impacts of climate change caused by the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.

“Today, the vision of using water to produce energy, such as in hydropower plants, combined cycle power plants and natural gas, has taken hold. Water is being misused,” said Óscar Monroy, president of the non-governmental Amecameca and La Compañía River Basin Commission.

 For two days, representatives of 51 Mexican non-governmental organisations debated measures to defend water at a meeting in the city of Tlalmanalco, in the state of Mexico, in the centre-south of the country. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS


For two days, representatives of 51 Mexican non-governmental organisations debated measures to defend water at a meeting in the city of Tlalmanalco, in the state of Mexico, in the centre-south of the country. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The activist told IPS that “the problem is getting worse, because the current law considers water a commodity. The government subsidises water for the big polluters.”

Monroy was one of the participants in the meeting in Tlalmanalco – which means “place of flat land” in the Nahuatl language – a city of 47,000 people about 50 km southeast of Mexico City.

Encouraged by the importation of natural gas from the United States, the state-owned Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) and private companies are working on the assembly of combined cycle power plants, favoured by the opening of the energy sector to private capital in 2014.

The 2017 report “Neoliberal threat to common goods: national outlook for electricity megaprojects,” prepared by the non-governmental company Geocomunes, indicates that the CFE currently operates at least 27 thermoelectric, combined cycle and turbo-gas power plants, while there are at least 22 others in private hands.

Another 16 plants of this type are currently in the project stage and the CFE is building at least six additional plants that will come into operation in the coming years, according to data from the state agency.

In the second electricity auction, in September 2016, the Mexican government awarded a CFE combined cycle project in the northern state of Sonora and another private project along the border with the United States, in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, while in the 2017 electricity auction, two other private facilities were awarded.

By 2017, the autonomous public Energy Regulatory Commission had granted 645 permits for fossil fuel power generation – including combined cycle thermoelectric plants – equivalent to half of the authorised total.

In the first quarter of 2018, combined cycle plants, whose consumption of water for driving steam turbines is unknown, contributed 30,920 MW of the national total of 75,570 MW.

A future water crisis

Several studies predict a water crisis in Mexico by 2040, especially from the centre to the north of the country.

Of the 653 national aquifers, 105 are overexploited. Data from Oxfam Mexico indicate that almost 10 million people, out of the 130 million who live in this country, lack water in their homes, so that using water for generating energy conflicts with these needs.

The last straw for critics was the decision by the government of conservative Enrique Peña Nieto in June to lift the ban on water in 10 of the country’s watersheds to encourage its use for electricity generation, manufacturing, mining, brewing and other industrial uses, which would leave some 51 billion litres of water under concession for 50 years.

In response, communities of indigenous peoples and non-governmental organisations filed 36 applications for a writ of amparo – an action brought to enforce constitutional rights – against the decision: 12 were accepted by the courts, 12 were rejected and 12 are still pending.

In Tamaulipas, “we face the threat of energy projects,” such as hydraulic fracturing, said Ricardo Cruz, a member of that state’s Association of Environmental Lawyers.

This technique, also known as “fracking,” releases large volumes of oil or gas from deep rock by injecting massive amounts of water and chemical additives that pollute the air and water, according to environmentalists.

“We are very alarmed, because it could have a negative impact on health, agriculture and livestock farming,” Cruz told IPS.

For those who attended the workshop, the solution lies in the approval of the citizen-initiated bill on water. To comply with the constitutional reform of 2012 that guarantees the human right of appeal, the government was supposed to endorse new legislation in 2013, a deadline it failed to meet.

Therefore, its promoters will present the initiative next September, when the next Congress, elected in July, begins its session.

“The solution to the megaprojects is the citizen law, because it stipulates that water cannot be used for these megaprojects,” said Peña, in whose region people complain that the state-owned Petróleos Mexicanos oil giant intends to exploit gas with fracking, at the expense of people in at least 12 municipalities.

The 2016 report “Territorialisation of energy reform: control of energy exploitation, transport and energy transformation in northeastern Mexico,” by Geocomunes, says the construction of combined cycle plants “weakens the traditional main activity, agriculture,” in San Luis Potosi.

The organisation dedicated to mapping social conflicts also says that state “is consolidating its position as an energy-producing region for the central industrial areas of the country.”

The citizens’ initiative promotes the elimination of the state-owned National Water Commission and its replacement by a National Water Council made up of Regional Basin Councils.

In addition, it creates the Office for the Defence of Water, which has the power to punish anyone who wastes or pollutes water, or uses the resource for agricultural and environmental activities.

“A balance is needed for there to be water for all. Other types of projects are possible, with citizen organisations,” Monroy said.

Cruz concurred with Monroy, saying that “it is important to prioritise and water is not for profit. The goal must be to protect the human right” to water, he said.

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Take Charge of Your Food: Your Health is Your Businesshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/take-charge-of-your-food-your-health-is-your-business/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=take-charge-of-your-food-your-health-is-your-business http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/take-charge-of-your-food-your-health-is-your-business/#respond Fri, 17 Aug 2018 10:22:03 +0000 Sunita Narain http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157235 Sunita Narain is Director-General of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) & Editor of Down to Earth magazine in New Delhi

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Credit: IPS

By Sunita Narain
NEW DELHI, Aug 17 2018 (IPS)

The minimum we expect from the government is to differentiate between right and wrong. But when it comes to regulating our food, it’s like asking for too much. Our latest investigation vouches for this. The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE)’s pollution monitoring laboratory tested 65 samples of processed food for presence of genetically modified (GM) ingredients.

The results are both bad and somewhat good. Of the food samples tested, some 32 per cent were positive for GM markers. That’s bad. What’s even worse is that we found GM in infant food, which is sold by US pharma firm, Abbott Laboratories, for toddlers with ailments; in one case it was for lactose intolerant infants and the other hypoallergenic—for minimising possibility of allergic reaction.

Sunita Narain. Credit: Center for Science and Education

Sunita Narain. Credit: Center for Science and Education

In both cases, there was no warning label on GM ingredients. One of the health concerns of GM food is that it could lead to allergic reactions. In 2008 (updated in 2012), the Indian Council of Medical Research issued guidelines for determining safety of such food, as it cautioned that “there is a possibility of introducing unintended changes, along with intended changes which may in turn have an impact on the nutritional status or health of the consumer”.

This is why Australia, Brazil, the European Union and others regulate GM in food. People are concerned about the possible toxicity of eating this food. They want to err on the side of caution. Governments ensure they have the right to choose.

The partial good news is that majority of the food that tested GM positive was imported. India is still more or less GM-free. The one food that did test positive is cottonseed edible oil. This is because Bt-cotton is the only GM crop that has been allowed for cultivation in India.

This should worry us. First, no permission has ever been given for the use of GM cottonseed oil for human consumption. Second, cottonseed oil is also mixed in other edible oils, particularly in vanaspati.

Under whose watch is GM food being imported? The law is clear on this. The Environment Protection Act strictly prohibits import, export, transport, manufacture, process, use or sale of any genetically engineered organisms except with the approval of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.

In fact, they will say, there is no GM food in India. But that’s the hypocrisy of our regulators–make a law, but then don’t enforce it. On paper it exists; we are told, don’t worry. But worry we must.

The 2006 Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA) reiterates this and puts the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in charge of regulating use. The Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules 2011 mandate that GM must be declared on the food package and the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act 1992 says that GM food cannot be imported without the permission of GEAC. The importer is liable to be prosecuted under the Act for violation.

Laws are not the problem, but the regulatory agencies are. Till 2016, GEAC was in charge–the FSSAI said it did not have the capacity to regulate this food. Now the ball is back in FSSAI’s court. They will all tell you that no permission has been given to import GM food.

In fact, they will say, there is no GM food in India. But that’s the hypocrisy of our regulators–make a law, but then don’t enforce it. On paper it exists; we are told, don’t worry. But worry we must.

So, everything we found is illegal with respect to GM ingredients. The law is clear about this. Our regulators are clueless. So, worry. Get angry. It’s your food. It’s about your health.

What next? In 2018, FSSAI has issued a draft notification on labelling, which includes genetically modified food. It says that any food that has total GM ingredients 5 per cent or more should be labelled and that this GM ingredient shall be the top three ingredients in terms of percentage in the product.

But there is no way that government can quantify the percentage of GM ingredients in the food—this next level of tests is prohibitively expensive. We barely have the facilities. So, it is a clean chit to companies to “self-declare”. They can say what they want. And get away.

The same FSSAI has issued another notification (not draft anymore) on organic food. In this case, it says that it will have to be mandatorily “certified” that it does not contain residues of insecticides. So, what is good needs to be certified that it is safe.

What is bad, gets a clean bill of health. Am I wrong in asking: whose interests are being protected? So, take charge of your food. Your health is your business.

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Sunita Narain is Director-General of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) & Editor of Down to Earth magazine in New Delhi

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Scientists Warn of the Imminent Depletion of Groundwater in Chile’s Atacama Deserthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/scientists-warn-imminent-depletion-groundwater-chiles-atacama-desert/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=scientists-warn-imminent-depletion-groundwater-chiles-atacama-desert http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/scientists-warn-imminent-depletion-groundwater-chiles-atacama-desert/#comments Tue, 14 Aug 2018 03:54:03 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157200 Eighteen national science prize-winners in Chile have called for a halt to the over-extraction of water in the four regions over which the Atacama Desert spreads in the north of the country, a problem that threatens the future of 1.5 million people. In their Tarapacá Manifest, which takes its name from one of the affected […]

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Students from the rural school of El Llanito de Punitaqui, in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, show the vegetables from the garden they irrigate with harvested rainwater. Credit: Courtesy of the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation

Students from the rural school of El Llanito de Punitaqui, in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, show the vegetables from the garden they irrigate with harvested rainwater. Credit: Courtesy of the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation

By Orlando Milesi
OVALLE, Chile, Aug 14 2018 (IPS)

Eighteen national science prize-winners in Chile have called for a halt to the over-extraction of water in the four regions over which the Atacama Desert spreads in the north of the country, a problem that threatens the future of 1.5 million people.

In their Tarapacá Manifest, which takes its name from one of the affected regions, the scientists call for water in the area to be treated as a non-renewable resource because mining companies, agriculture and large cities consume underground reservoirs of water that date back more than 10,000 years and are not replenished with equal speed.

According to the experts, the current rate of water extraction for mining, agriculture, industry and cities “is not sustainable.”

Chile is the world’s leading exporter of copper and of fruit and vegetables, two water-intensive sectors."In the manifest we have proposed the possibility of improving our technology in the use of water harvested from fog. We also propose implementing a water recovery policy. For example, increasing the greywater system. It is not an expensive solution, but it requires a State policy.” -- Claudio Latorre

In the small rural school of El Llanito de Punitaqui, 400 km north of Santiago, teacher Marleny Rodríguez and her only four students installed gutters to collect rainwater in a 320-litre pond to irrigate a vegetable garden.

“The children are happy. They tell me that we were losing a vital resource that we had at hand and were not using. They replicated what they learned at school at home,” Rodríguez told IPS.

The two girls and two boys, between the ages of six and 10, including three siblings, attend the tiny school in an area of ancestral lands of the Atacama indigenous people.

“We have a year-round cycle. What we harvest we cook in the cooking workshop where we make healthy recipes. Then we eat them at school,” said the teacher of the school in Punitaqui, near Ovalle, the capital of the Coquimbo region, on the southern border of the desert.

“The children help to sow, clean the garden, harvest, and water the crops. We have a scientific workshop to harvest the greywater with which we irrigate a composter of organic waste and other materials such as leaves, branches and guano, used as fertiliser” she said.

Calogero Santoro, an archaeologist and promoter of the Tarapacá Manifest, which was delivered to the government of President Sebastián Piñera on Jun. 29, believes that citizens and large companies do not have the same awareness as these children about water scarcity.

“Private companies do not see this as a necessity, because they do not have any problem. On the contrary, the whole Chilean system is designed to make businesses operate as smoothly as possible, but the problem is just around the corner. It is the Chilean government that invests in scientific and technological research,” he told IPS.

The scientists’ manifest calls for raising awareness about the serious problem of the lack of water, in-depth research into the issue, and investment in technologies that offer new solutions rather than only aggravating the exploitation of groundwater.

“The first step is to generate cultural change. As awareness grows, other technological development processes are developed, new technologies are created and these are adapted to production processes,” explained Santoro, of the government’s Research Centre of Man in the Desert.

“Unfortunately, the private sector in this country does not invest in this kind of things,” he said.

The Atacama Desert is the driest desert on earth. It covers 105,000 sq km, distributed along six regions of northern Chile and covering the cities of Arica, Iquique (the capital of Tarapacá), Antofagasta and Calama.

 Students from the rural school of El Llanito de Punitaqui, in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, show the vegetables from the garden they irrigate with harvested rainwater. Credit: Courtesy of the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation


Students from the rural school of El Llanito de Punitaqui, in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, show the vegetables from the garden they irrigate with harvested rainwater. Credit: Courtesy of the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation

It is home to 9.5 percent of the population of this long, narrow South American country of 17.5 million people.

In a normal year, only between 1.6 to 2.5 mm of water fall on the regions of the so-called Norte Grande, which covers the Atacama Desert, and so far in 2018 the deficit is 100 percent in some of the cities and 50 percent in others, according to Chile’s Meteorological Agency.

Hugo Romero, winner of the national geography prize, and a professor at the University of Chile and president of the Chilean Society of Geographic Sciences, told IPS that “groundwater is today the most important source of water for both mining and urban development in the northern regions.”

That means the problem is very complex, he said, because “there is some evidence that much of the groundwater is the product of recharge probably thousands of years ago, and therefore is fossil water, which is non-renewable.

As an example, Romero cited damage already caused in the desert area, “such as those that have occurred with the drying up of Lagunillas, and of the Huasco and the Coposa Salt Flats, adding up to an enormous amount of ecological effects.”

They also affect, he said, “the presence of communities in these places, given this close relationship between the availability of water resources and the ancestral occupation of the territories.”

“All of this is creating an extraordinarily complex system with respect to which there is a sensation that the country has not taken due note and decisions are often taken only with economic benefits in mind, which are otherwise concentrated in large companies,” he added.

Romero also warned that the level of research “has been minimal and, unfortunately, many of the academic resources that should be devoted to providing society and social actors with all the elements to reach decisions are committed to consulting firms that, in turn, are contracted by large companies.”

Claudio Latorre, an academic at the Catholic University of Chile and an associate researcher at the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity, believes that “there is not just one single culprit” for the serious situation.

“It is simply the general economic activity of the country that is causing this problem. The more activity, the more the country grows and the more resources are required, and the more industrial activity, the more work. But urban needs are also increasing and that also puts pressure on water resources,” he said.

“In the manifest we have proposed the possibility of improving our technology in the use of water harvested from fog. We also propose implementing a water recovery policy. For example, increasing the greywater system. It is not an expensive solution, but it requires a State policy,” he explained.

According to Calogero, “in addition to cultural changes, there have to be technological changes to make better use of water. We cite the case of Israel where it is our understanding that water is recycled up to seven times before it is disposed of. Here, it is recycled once, if at all.”

Latorre stressed that “we are already experiencing the consequences of climate change and over-exploitation of water resources that lead to an unthinkable situation…but in the Norte Grande area we still have time to take concrete actions that can save cities in 20 or 30 years’ time.”

He called for improved access to scientific information “so that we can be on time to make important decisions that take a long time to implement.”

According to Romero, there is also “an atmosphere of uncertainty that has often led to decisions that have subsequently led to environmental damage” as in the case of many salt flats, bofedales (high Andean wetlands) and some lagoons and lakes.

“There is no transparent public knowledge available to society as needed, given the critical nature of the system,” he said.

In his opinion, “on the contrary, the greatest and best information is of a reserved nature or forms part of industrial secrecy, which gives rise to much speculation, ambiguity and different interpretations by users or communities affected by the extraction of water.”

Romero also warned that “there is not only very significant ecological damage, but also a steady rural exodus to the cities, as the people leave the area.”

There are Quechua, Aymara, Koyas and Atacama communities – the native peoples of northern Chile – in the cities of Arica, Iquique, Alto Hospicio and Antofagasta as a result of their migration from their Andes highlands territories, he said.

That’s why only four students are now attending the rural school in El Llanito de Punitaqui, the teacher said.

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Campaigns Promote Women’s Participation in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/campaigns-promote-womens-participation-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=campaigns-promote-womens-participation-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/campaigns-promote-womens-participation-latin-america/#respond Fri, 10 Aug 2018 22:04:43 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157184 An alternative network in Brazil promotes women’s participation in elected offices with media support. This campaign, like others in Latin America, seeks to reverse a political landscape where, despite being a majority of the population, women hold an average of just 29.8 percent of legislative posts. It is the first meeting in Rio de Janeiro, […]

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Sousa, a Solar Power Capital in an Increasingly Arid Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sousa-solar-power-capital-increasingly-arid-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sousa-solar-power-capital-increasingly-arid-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sousa-solar-power-capital-increasingly-arid-brazil/#respond Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:55:23 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157146 Sousa, a municipality of 70,000 people in the west of Paraíba, the state in Brazil most threatened by desertification, has become the country’s capital of solar energy, with a Catholic church, various businesses, households and even a cemetery generating solar power. “We were paying about 4,000 reais (1,070 dollars) a month for electricity and that […]

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Catholic priest Paulo Diniz started the Solar Parish project in Sousa, with the support of the solar energy movement in the state of Paraiba, in northeastern Brazil. This saves the costs of conventional electricity and provides more resources for social projects, as well as being an example of the use of clean energy, as promoted by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si ‘On care for our common home’. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Catholic priest Paulo Diniz started the Solar Parish project in Sousa, with the support of the solar energy movement in the state of Paraiba, in northeastern Brazil. This saves the costs of conventional electricity and provides more resources for social projects, as well as being an example of the use of clean energy, as promoted by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si ‘On care for our common home’. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
SOUSA, Brazil, Aug 9 2018 (IPS)

Sousa, a municipality of 70,000 people in the west of Paraíba, the state in Brazil most threatened by desertification, has become the country’s capital of solar energy, with a Catholic church, various businesses, households and even a cemetery generating solar power.

“We were paying about 4,000 reais (1,070 dollars) a month for electricity and that cost fell to about 300 reais (80 dollars),” Catholic priest Paulo Diniz Ferreira, in charge of the Sant’Ana Parish of Sousa, now nicknamed “Solar Parish,” told IPS. The parish’s solar energy generating system was formally inaugurated on Jul. 6, but had been in operation since April.

The 142 photovoltaic panels installed on the roof of the Parish Centre, which includes offices, auditoriums and an indoor sports arena, also generate energy for the church, which is currently undergoing expansion work, for a chapel and for the living quarters.

The installed maximum capacity is 46.1 kW and its monthly generation is estimated at around 6,700 kWh.

“It is more than an energy issue, it is a question of being in tune with Laudato Si,” the priest explained, referring to Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, published in May 2015, and the church’s duty to be a “reference point and witness.”

With the new resources, the parish will be able to enhance evangelisation work and pastoral care for children, the elderly and prisoners, he said.

Their example is expected to inspire the other 60 parishes that make up the diocese based in the neighbouring city of Cajazeiras, says César Nóbrega, coordinator of the Semi-Arid Renewable Energy Committee (CERSA), which promotes the use of solar energy and other alternative sources in and around Sousa, a large municipality with an 80 percent urban population.

The first solar-powered school in Paraíba was inaugurated on the same day, Jul. 6.

Local farming couple Marlene and Genival Lopes dos Santos stand next to solar panels that are part of community-shared generation, which reduces their electricity bill and those of their urban partners, who live in the cities of Sousa and João Pessoa, capital of the state of Paraiba, 400 km away, in Brazil's Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Local farming couple Marlene and Genival Lopes dos Santos stand next to solar panels that are part of community-shared generation, which reduces their electricity bill and those of their urban partners, who live in the cities of Sousa and João Pessoa, capital of the state of Paraiba, 400 km away, in Brazil’s Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Twelve solar panels will save 350 to 400 kWh per month for the Dione Diniz primary and secondary school, in a rural district of Sousa, São Gonçalo, Brazil, which is the area with the highest level of solar radiation in Brazil and the second in the world, Nóbrega told IPS.

The aim is also to “disseminate information and promote discussions with teachers, students and the local community about the solar potential in mitigating climate change,” he said.

“We included it in the school’s Pedagogical Intervention Project, which chooses a theme for each two-month period, with renewable energy as its flagship,” said Clemilson Lacerda, the school’s science teacher.

“We don’t yet know how much we will save on the electricity bill, which reached 1,700 reais (450 dollars) in June, but we will invest the savings in improving the school, in teaching materials and in food for the students,” school vice principal Analucia Casimiro told IPS.

From the small rooftop terrace of the Vó Ita Hotel you can see the solar energy boom in Sousa. The rooftop of the hotel itself is covered with photovoltaic panels, as well as two large rooftops below, of a gas station and a steakhouse.

Nearby there are industrial warehouses, houses, stores, pharmacies, car dealerships and supermarkets which are also using the new source of energy, as well as companies that consume a lot of energy, such as cold storage warehouses and ice-cream parlours.

“I reduced my energy costs to zero,” young entrepreneur Paulo Gadelha, a partner in a company that has a poultry slaughterhouse, farm, dairy products factory and store, told IPS. It generates its own electricity with 60 solar panels placed over the truck parking lot at its slaughterhouse.

“In 2014, when we founded CERSA, there was not a single solar energy system in Sousa; today we have more than 100 installed,” said Nóbrega, the head of the organisation, which brings together public and private institutions, researchers and collaborators, with the mission of making “solar power the main source of energy” in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast.

School vice principal Analucia Casimiro (C) and science teacher Clemilson Lacerda (R) pose for a picture with solar power expert Cesar Nóbrega (left) in the yard of the Dione Diniz School, the first public elementary school to have solar energy in Paraíba, the Brazilian state most threatened by desertification. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

School vice principal Analucia Casimiro (C) and science teacher Clemilson Lacerda (R) pose for a picture with solar power expert Cesar Nóbrega (left) in the yard of the Dione Diniz School, the first public elementary school to have solar energy in Paraíba, the Brazilian state most threatened by desertification. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

This activism, rooted in the fight against climate change that tends to aggravate local drought, succeeded in mobilising many stakeholders from universities, civil society and the public sector in seminars, forums and courses.

“CERSA was not born to install generation systems, but to debate,” raise awareness and encourage public policies, Nóbrega said.

But in practice it also acts as a disseminator of solar plants on two fronts: corporate and social.

It stimulated the creation in 2015 of Ative Energy, the largest installer of photovoltaic systems in Sousa and executor of the Solar Parish project, conceived by CERSA. Today there are five solar power companies in the city.

“By November 2017 we had installed 40 systems; now there are 196. We used to employ only five workers, now there are 30: we grew sixfold in six months,” said Frank Araujo, owner of Ative, whose operations spread over 26 cities in five states of the Brazilian Northeast.

In Brazil, solar generation represents only 0.8 percent of current installed capacity, but it is the fastest growing source of energy. According to the National Electric Energy Agency (ANEEL), the sector’s regulatory body, it accounts for 8.26 percent of the energy in new construction projects.

Danilo Gadelha, one of the leading members of Sousa’s business community, is a co-owner of Ative and also its main client. He hired the company to install solar power plants in the companies of his conglomerate Vó Ita, comprising distributors of food and cooking gas, a vegetable oil factory, a hotel, a construction company, a gas station and a cemetery.

Entrepreneur Paulo Gadelha uses his cell-phone under the solar panel rooftop covering part of the truck park area at his poultry slaughterhouse. Thanks to solar energy, Gadelha reduced electricity costs to zero in the slaughterhouse, a dairy plant, a store and his family's home in the Brazilian municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of the country. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Entrepreneur Paulo Gadelha uses his cell-phone under the solar panel rooftop covering part of the truck park area at his poultry slaughterhouse. Thanks to solar energy, Gadelha reduced electricity costs to zero in the slaughterhouse, a dairy plant, a store and his family’s home in the Brazilian municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of the country. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“I started trying solar energy as a user,” before offering it as an installer and “going from a large-scale energy consumer to an entrepreneur,” he told IPS. The company’s energy costs are close to 23,500 dollars a month.

Ative Energy has a major competitive advantage. As it has a great amount of capital, it finances the solar plants it installs at the lowest interest rates on the market.

This is what it did with the Parish of Sousa, which is paying off the financing in monthly installments lower than the amount saved in the electricity bill. “We will repay everything in three and a half years,” said the parish priest, because little more than a third of the project was paid for in cash with donations.

Since the equipment has a 25-year life span, the church will have free energy for more than 20 years.

The solar energy units in companies and large houses are important for the CERSA campaign as a demonstration of solar power’s viability and economic and environmental benefits, acknowledged Nóbrega.

But the campaign also succeeded in attracting the interest of funds and institutions that support social projects.

Thus, in 2016, the Solar Semi-Arid Project was born, made up of CERSA, Caritas Brazil – the social body of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference – and the Forum on Climate Change and Justice, with financial support from Misereor, the development aid body of the German Catholic Church.

This allowed the Dione Diniz School to obtain its solar plant, financed part of the Solar Parish system, and distributed water pumping devices and biodigesters in rural communities, as well as making it possible to offer training courses for “solar electricians” in Sousa and nearby municipalities.

In addition to providing cheap and clean energy, decentralised photovoltaic generation is an economic alternative for Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast which is at risk of becoming completely arid due to climate change, warned Nóbrega.

In the state of Paraíba – where Sousa is located – 93.7 percent of the territory is in the process of desertification, according to the Programme to Combat Desertification and Mitigate the Effects of Drought in that northeastern Brazilian state.

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Winds of Change on Kenya’s Northern Bordershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/winds-change-kenyas-northern-borders/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=winds-change-kenyas-northern-borders http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/winds-change-kenyas-northern-borders/#respond Mon, 06 Aug 2018 15:09:48 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157082 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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At the Global Peace Leadership Conference in Uganda, President Museveni flanked by high level leaders from Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, Inter-Governmental Authority for Development(IGAD). Credit: State House 03 August 2018

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 6 2018 (IPS)

Previously characterised by belligerence, based on competition for resources, the border regions of Eastern Africa can sense the blissful wind of peace approaching.

It is not a wind being blown by strict military enforcement of borders, but rather by the opening up of them, and empowerment of former warring neighbours to find collective coping mechanisms for environmental and economic shocks which have previously driven them to battle.

The charm of soft power as an alternative to aggression and inter-tribal warfare was a key highlight at the 6th annual Global Peace Leadership Conference held in Kampala, and whose theme was Moral and Innovative Leadership: New Models for Sustainable Peace and Development.

In the region, the new paradigm is being inspired by successes of the Kenya-Ethiopia Cross Border Programme, which was launched in December 2015 by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and the former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia. In a joint article by Ambassador Amina Mohamed, the former Foreign Minister of Kenya and Dr Tedros Adhnom, the former Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, said, “peace and development initiative offers hope of resolving conflicts in border areas of Kenya and Ethiopia”.

The initiative, driven by the need to foster peace and sustainable development in the cross-border area of Marsabit County, Kenya, and the Borana/Dawa Zones, Ethiopia, is supported by IGAD, the European Union and Japan and implemented by the United Nations family in Kenya and Ethiopia together with local authorities on both sides.

“The programme we are launching today is transformative in its ambition…our task is to end the conflict, make certain that Kenyans and Ethiopians along the border have the same opportunities as those of other citizens in the two countries,” remarked Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta during the launch of the programme.

That programme was ignited by the United Nations, under the leadership of the former Resident Coordinator, Ms Nardos Bekele-Thomas. The current Country Team has given it momentum, and it has morphed into what is now recognized as a global best practice.

In an independent assessment, the United Nations University Centre for Policy Research hailed Kenya’s multidimensional cross-border programme for “simultaneously addressing violent extremism, human trafficking, economic development, local governance and inter-communal peace with mutually reinforcing objectives and means”.

The initiative slots in well with the vision of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his report on Peace-building and Sustaining Peace, which observed that UN agencies must “rally stakeholders to action within the entire peace continuum – from prevention, conflict resolution and peacekeeping to peacebuilding and sustainable long-term development”.

The programme has now inspired a similar initiative in what is known as the Karamoja Cluster, also a conflict-prone border region shared by four countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda.

Map of the Karamoja area

On 26 July 2018, ministers from the four countries held consultations in Uganda, where they signed a communique on cooperation for the development of cross-border areas in the Cluster.

It was signed by Uganda’s State Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Hon Musa Ecweru, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and ASAL Areas Hon. Eugene Wamalwa, Ethiopia’s Minister for Livestock and Fisheries Prof Fekadu Beyene and South Sudan’s Minister for Environment and Forestry Hon. Josephine Napwon.

“The conflicts in South Sudan, Congo and Somalia are causing proliferation of arms into Kenya and Uganda, and this is curtailing the development in the area. What we are doing now will give a more lasting solution,” said Uganda’s Minister for Karamoja Affairs Hon. John Byabagambi.

Kenya’s Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said that “peace will not prevail in the absence of basics such as water and food, and in the case of pastoralists, pasture for their herds“.

The Governments of Kenya and Uganda supported by their respective UN Resident Coordinators are developing a concept note that will put in place concrete modalities of cooperation by the affected countries. The mission is to develop the Karamoja Cluster as a single socio-economic zone, with joint policies and programs that will build resilience to overcome resources and erode current fault-lines–critical if this region is to realise SDGs.

The long term vision is that prevention strategies will be driven by private investment as a sustainable pathway to countering inequity and promoting inclusivity for the region’s peripheral communities.

There are already some good vibes coming from the region; last April 2018, leaders from South Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda joined their counterparts from Kenya in the fourth edition of the Turkana Cultural Festival in Lodwar, Kenya.

In place of belligerence, the speeches harped on forging of trade relationships and unifying the region’s populations. Clearly, falling back into the safety of tribal enclaves is now recognised as an outdated sophism.

Slowly but surely, a light of peace is piercing through the Pearl of Africa, and it is sure to cause a rainbow of friendship between communities in the region.

The UN Country Teams in the region have the persistency of purpose, the determination to continue as the ‘sinews of peace’, so that neighbour shall not be forced by socio-economic circumstance to rise against neighbour.

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Laws and Threats Undermine Freedom of Expression in Hondurashttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/laws-threats-curtail-freedom-expression-honduras/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=laws-threats-curtail-freedom-expression-honduras http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/laws-threats-curtail-freedom-expression-honduras/#respond Sat, 04 Aug 2018 00:26:49 +0000 Thelma Mejia http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157053 A series of laws that came into force in the last five years and the petition for amparo by 35 journalists and 22 social communicators against the government’s “Secrecy Law” give an idea of the atmosphere in Honduras with regard to freedom of expression. The international organisation Reporters Without Borders (RWB) gives an account of […]

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The Sun Powers a Women’s Bakery in Brazil’s Semi-arid Northeasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sun-powers-womens-bakery-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sun-powers-womens-bakery-brazils-semi-arid-northeast http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sun-powers-womens-bakery-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/#respond Thu, 02 Aug 2018 01:40:08 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157012 “The sun which used to torment us now blesses us,” said one of the 19 women who run the Community Bakery of Varzea Comprida dos Oliveiras, a settlement in the rural area of Pombal, a municipality of the state of Paraiba, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. “Without solar energy our bakery would be closed, we would […]

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