Inter Press Service » Civil Society http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sun, 04 Dec 2016 16:08:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.13 Civil Society On Aleppo: UN General Assembly Must Act http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/civil-society-on-aleppo-un-general-assembly-must-act/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-on-aleppo-un-general-assembly-must-act http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/civil-society-on-aleppo-un-general-assembly-must-act/#comments Fri, 02 Dec 2016 22:40:07 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148060 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/civil-society-on-aleppo-un-general-assembly-must-act/feed/ 0 “Dead Men Don’t Vote” in Gambiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/dead-men-dont-vote-in-gambia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dead-men-dont-vote-in-gambia http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/dead-men-dont-vote-in-gambia/#comments Tue, 29 Nov 2016 00:36:22 +0000 David Kode http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147997 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/dead-men-dont-vote-in-gambia/feed/ 0 Violence Against Black Women in Brazil on the Rise, Despite Better Lawshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/violence-against-black-women-in-brazil-on-the-rise-despite-better-laws/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=violence-against-black-women-in-brazil-on-the-rise-despite-better-laws http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/violence-against-black-women-in-brazil-on-the-rise-despite-better-laws/#comments Thu, 24 Nov 2016 21:38:58 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147943 A group of black women take part in Black Awareness Day celebrated on Nov. 20 in the city of São Paulo. Gender-related violence has increased, in particular among women of African descent in Brazil, despite the passage of better laws. Credit: Rovena Rosa/ Agência Brasil

A group of black women take part in Black Awareness Day celebrated on Nov. 20 in the city of São Paulo. Gender-related violence has increased, in particular among women of African descent in Brazil, despite the passage of better laws. Credit: Rovena Rosa/ Agência Brasil

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 24 2016 (IPS)

Four months in hospital and a number of operations saved the life of Maria da Penha Fernandes of Brazil, but the rifle shot left her paraplegic at the age of 37. When she returned home, her husband tried to electrocute her in the bathroom.

It eventually became clear that the author of the first attack, the shot in the back while she was sleeping one night in May 1983, had also been her husband, who claimed four thieves had broken in, tied him up, and shot her.

She left the family home protected by a court order that gave her custody over the couple’s three daughters, and launched, from her wheelchair, a 19-year battle in court to bring him to justice for the two murder attempts.“The Maria da Penha Law stipulates that first you have to file a complaint with the police, in order for it to reach the judicial authorities, and we know that the police don’t protect black women. The obstacle is racism, and if this is not recognised public policies will not be adjusted to meet the needs of black women. We have to face racism, train civil servants, police as well as administrators, to treat us as human beings.” -- Jurema Werneck

After his lawyers managed to overturn two convictions in Brazilian courts, she turned in the 1990s to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which in 2001 held the government of Brazil accountable for judicial tolerance of domestic violence in the case and recommended that it adopt more effective measures to combat violence against women.

Finally in 2002, the attempted murderer was sentenced to 10 years in prison. But he managed to walk free after just two years.

The main accomplishment of Da Penha, a bio-pharmacist in Fortaleza, capital of the northeast Brazilian state of Ceará, was to inspire a law that was named after her, adopted by the national Congress in 2006, against domestic violence.

However, gender-related murders continued to increase in Brazil, though at a slower rate.

From 1980 to 2006 the number of murdered women grew 7.6 per cent annually, while from 2006 to 2013 the rate dropped to 2.6 per cent, according to the Violence Map, produced by Julio Jacobo Waiselfisz, Latin American Social Sciences Institute (Flacso) coordinator of studies on violence in Brazil.

The Maria da Penha law, special police units for women and other instruments “are effective against violence, but the resources are insufficient,” Clair Castilhos Coelho, executive secretary of the National Feminist Network of Health, Sexual and Reproductive Rights, told IPS.

But there is an important reality in this Latin American country of 205 million people: results differ depending on skin colour.

“For black women the situation has worsened,” Dr. Jurema Werneck, one of the coordinators of Criola, an NGO that promotes the rights of black women, told IPS.

In 10 years gender-based murders of black women increased 54.2 per cent, reaching 2,875 in 2013, while murders of white women dropped 9.8 per cent, from 1,747 in 2003 to 1,576 in 2013, according to the Violence Map.

“Racism lies beneath this contrast. Mechanisms to combat violence do not protect the life of everyone in the same way,” said Werneck.

“The Maria da Penha Law stipulates that first you have to file a complaint with the police, in order for it to reach the judicial authorities, and we know that the police don’t protect black women,” she added.

“The obstacle is racism, and if this is not recognised public policies will not be adjusted to meet the needs of black women. We have to face racism, train civil servants, police as well as administrators, to treat us as human beings,” she said.

Demonstrators call for full enforcement of the Maria da Penha Law against domestic violence in Brazil, 10 years after it was passed. One of the signs reads: ”When you remain silent, violence speaks louder.” Credit: Tony Winston/ Agência Brasília

Demonstrators call for full enforcement of the Maria da Penha Law against domestic violence in Brazil, 10 years after it was passed. One of the signs reads: ”When you remain silent, violence speaks louder.” Credit: Tony Winston/ Agência Brasília

A more effective application of the Maria da Penha Law would be to take the complaints directly to the offices of the public prosecutor and the ombudsperson, which would require a larger number of public prosecutors and public defenders rather than more police officers, said Werneck, who pointed out that this is already being done in some neighborhoods in the southern city of São Paulo.

It is also necessary to combat “institutionalised racism”, which permeates many law enforcement bodies, for example, and “to work together with society to value black women,” who have historically been marginalised in Brazil, she said.

Another accomplishment by women was the adoption in March 2015 of a law that establishes stricter sentences for femicide, defined as the murder of a woman due to gender-related motives.

Brazil thus became the 16th country in Latin America to adopt a law against femicide. According to the Violence Map, Brazil ranks 7th in the world with respect to the number of femicides: official figures indicated in 2015 that 15 women a day were the victims of gender-related killings.

However, violence against women includes other forms of aggression that affect the female population in their daily lives.

Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, kicks off 16 days of activism.

In Brazil, murders of men and boys represent 92 per cent of a total that is reaching 60,000 murders a year, a figure that only compares to the numbers seen in war-stricken areas.

But with regard to specific kinds of violence, such as physical, psychological and economic abuse, rape and abandonment, women tend to represent a majority of victims.

In 2014, a total of 147,691 women who had suffered some kind of violence were treated in Brazil’s Unified Health System, two times the number of men. That meant 405 women a day needed medical care because they were victims of violence.

The last National Health Survey, which is carried out by the Ministry of Health and the Brazilian Geography and Statistics Institute every five years, found that 2.4 million women were victims of physical aggression at the hands of someone that they knew, against 1.3 million men.

With regard to rape, the Brazilian Public Security Forum’s Annual Report registered 47,646 cases in Brazil, 6.7 per cent fewer than in the previous year. But the drop, which is based on documented cases, does not reflect a trend because experts believe that at least two-thirds, or up to 90 per cent of cases, go unreported.

”Violence against women may be increasing due to the new stronger role of women, who in the past were submissive in their homes and were used to suffering in silence. But with the old patterns broken, with women achieving rights, working, voting and reporting abuse, the oppressors respond with more violence,” said Castilhos.

There is also an increase in complaints as a result of gains achieved, such as the Maria da Penha and femicide laws and regulations that make reporting cases of abuse obligatory in the public health system, she said.

In her opinion, ”the greatest violence against a woman in the last few years in Brazil was the removal of former president Dilma Rousseff (Jan. 1, 2011 – Aug. 31, 2016), who had committed no proven crime to justify it, by a parliament where the majority of its members are accused of electoral crimes and corruption.”

The political environment generated by the new government headed by Michel Temer, Rousseff’s former vice president, ”paves the way for more violence against women, due to its misogynistic nature,” she said, pointing out that no ministry is headed by a woman and complaining about proposals to reverse previous progress made in empowering women.

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Australian Activists, Dissenters and Whistleblowers Feeling the Heathttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/australian-activists-dissenters-and-whistleblowers-feeling-the-heat/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=australian-activists-dissenters-and-whistleblowers-feeling-the-heat http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/australian-activists-dissenters-and-whistleblowers-feeling-the-heat/#comments Thu, 24 Nov 2016 11:44:38 +0000 Stephen de Tarczynski http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147934 Under national security laws, Australians' telecommunications metadata must be retained by service providers for two years. Credit: Stephen de Tarczynski/IPS

Under national security laws, Australians' telecommunications metadata must be retained by service providers for two years. Credit: Stephen de Tarczynski/IPS

By Stephen de Tarczynski
MELBOURNE, Nov 24 2016 (IPS)

For Australian activist Samantha Castro, it was her association with the non-profit publishing organisation Wikileaks that brought her to the attention of the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

She says she’s been followed, her car has been searched, and that the AFP has filmed and photographed her, along with her children, at protests. She believes that authorities have hacked her email account and computer and are responsible for wiping contacts from her phone.Without public scrutiny, without our eyes, as citizens, on what’s being done in our names, then that’s what authoritarianism looks like." -- Associate Professor Sarah Maddison

“They are putting all this time and effort into psychologically disrupting me in the hope that I will stop doing what I’m doing,” says Castro, an operations coordinator at Friends of the Earth who co-founded the Wikileaks Australian Citizens Alliance in 2010 to support the work of Wikileaks.

Wikileaks works to disseminate official and censored documents and files related to war, spying and corruption. While it has won a range of media freedom awards, its release of sensitive material has raised the ire of governments around the world, including Australia’s.

Castro explains that working with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange – an Australian who remains holed-up in Ecuador’s London embassy, fearing extradition to the United States – resulted in significant attention from authorities.

It was these links with Assange’s organisation which, she believes, led to her house being broken into in 2014. She is adamant that the AFP was behind the break-in.

“The reason for that was information and knowledge from when I was with Wikileaks,” Castro, who did not report the matter to police, told IPS.

She says that although nothing was taken from the house, her keys were lined up on the kitchen table alongside a phone that had been opened up. She took the carefully displayed items to mean that she was being monitored.

“I knew straight away. It was a very clear symbol that they wanted me to know that they knew,” says Castro, adding that she spent “a lot of time” searching her house for bugs.

While the AFP does not comment on ongoing operations, a warrant is required to place a person under surveillance. IPS understands that further court approval is needed to enter a premises to covertly plant a listening device.

“I have felt the wrath of the surveillance state since we founded WACA,” says Castro, whose group changed its name in 2014 to Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance in recognition of a broadening movement.

It is not only activists from non-governmental organisations like WACA who are feeling under pressure. There is a growing sense here that space for the broader civil society to express dissent or call out abuse is being squeezed. Those who speak out risk public vilification, financial loss and jail time.

On his visit to Australia in October, the United Nations special rapporteur, Michel Forst, expressed surprise at the situation. “I was astonished to observe mounting evidence of a range of cumulative measures that have concurrently levied enormous pressure on Australian civil society,” he said.

Among the issues Forst pointed to were the defunding of environmental and indigenous bodies in response to litigation or advocacy work, anti-protest legislation and intensified secrecy laws, “particularly in the areas of immigration and national security.”

Attorney-General George Brandis last year took aim at environmentalists using legal action to further their cause, labelling them “radical green activists” who “engage in vigilante litigation to stop important economic projects.”

The island state of Tasmania has, according to Forst, “prioritized business and government resource interests over the democratic rights of individuals to peacefully protest”. Similarly, legislation passed in March in New South Wales state means that protestors face up to seven years in jail for interfering with mining operations.

Mandatory data retention laws were introduced just over a year ago, purportedly for national security reasons, under which service providers must retain the metadata of Australians’ telecommunications activities for two years.

Twenty-one government agencies can access the data and all can apply for a Journalist Information Warrant in order to identify a reporter’s confidential source.

Paul Murphy, CEO of the Media, Arts and Entertainment Alliance, a journalists’ union, says the profession’s ethics require journalists to protect the identity of their sources.

“Journalists must work smarter to ensure that brave people can tell their stories in confidence and public interest journalism can continue to play its vital role in a healthy, functioning democracy,” he argues.

Those in the higher levels of statutory bodies have not been spared.

Professor Gillian Triggs, President of Australia’s independent Human Rights Commission, has faced ongoing criticism from government ministers since the release in 2015 of her report into the mental and physical health of children in immigration detention.

Then-prime minister Tony Abbott called the report politically motivated and said the commission “should be ashamed of itself”, while Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said that much of the content was “either dated or questionable”.

In October, another cabinet minister urged Triggs “to stay out of politics and stick with human rights”, while Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed on Nov.16 that Triggs’ contract will not be renewed when it expires in mid-2017.

Despite the vitriol, Triggs has continued to fight back, a fact that Professor Brian Martin, a long-time whistleblowing activist, says may well inspire others “who might want to resist.”

But there’s a flipside: “You could say that overt attacks, like on Gillian Triggs, provide a warning to others that they better be careful,” says Martin.

Last year also saw the implementation of the controversial Border Force Act, legislation that Forst describes as “stifling”.

In June, a psychologist with extensive experience in the offshore processing centres on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and Nauru had his contract immediately cancelled after speaking out on the atrocious conditions in the camps.

Although no charges in relation to the Act have been laid, the secrecy provisions of the law allow for a two-year prison term for any immigration and border protection worker who discloses “protected information”, covering all information a worker obtains in the course of their employment.

Some exceptions apply, such in cases of child or sexual abuse, although whistleblowers are responsible for ensuring that any abuse is serious enough to warrant disclosure.

And in what is being seen here as a significant step for transparency into the plight of asylum seekers held indefinitely in the offshore centres, an amendment to the legislation was quietly posted on the website of Australia’s immigration department in mid-October.

The amendment frees doctors and other health professionals, including nurses, psychologists and psychiatrists, from the law’s secrecy provisions.

The government’s concession “is an enormous democratic win,” says Associate Professor Sarah Maddison, co-editor of the 2007 book ‘Silencing Dissent’.

“Without public scrutiny, without our eyes, as citizens, on what’s being done in our names, then that’s what authoritarianism looks like,” she adds.

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Coal Mine Threatens Ecological Paradise in Chile’s Patagonia Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/coal-mine-threatens-ecological-paradise-in-chiles-patagonia-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=coal-mine-threatens-ecological-paradise-in-chiles-patagonia-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/coal-mine-threatens-ecological-paradise-in-chiles-patagonia-region/#comments Tue, 22 Nov 2016 12:50:18 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147877 Humpback whales and dolphins are part of the rich habitat of the Otway gulf, in the Magellan Strait, near the Invierno mine on Riesco Island in the southern Chilean wilderness region of Patagonia. Credit: José Antonio de Pablo/ Riesco Island Alert

Humpback whales and dolphins are part of the rich habitat of the Otway gulf, in the Magellan Strait, near the Invierno mine on Riesco Island in the southern Chilean wilderness region of Patagonia. Credit: José Antonio de Pablo/ Riesco Island Alert

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Nov 22 2016 (IPS)

An open-pit coal mine in the southern island of Riesco, a paradise of biological diversity in Chile’s southern Patagonia wilderness region, is a reflection of the weakness of the country’s environmental laws, which are criticised by local residents, activists, scientists and lawmakers.

Riesco, the country’s fourth-largest island, at the southern tip of South America, and the waters around it, is home to many species, such as the humpback whale, four kinds of dolphins, elephant seals and penguins, 24 species of land mammals and 136 birds.

“I will not leave. But I see the drastic changes,” a worried Gregor Stipicic, one of the island’s 150 inhabitants, told IPS by telephone from Riesco.

Gregor, 36, is the youngest of three Stipicic siblings who own a 750-hectare farm where they raise about 6,000 sheep, which are now threatened by dynamite explosions.

Gregor, a surgeon by profession, has been living on the farm since 2006, when he took charge after the death of his father. His grandfather, a Croatian immigrant, arrived to the island in 1956, drawn by its fertile soils.

Riesco Island is 5,000-sq-km in size and is 3,000 km south of Santiago, in Magallanes, the country’s southernmost province.

The local inhabitants live and work on 30 farms, which mainly raise sheep.

One-third of the island’s territory is within the Alacalufes National Reserve, one of the largest in Chile, covering 2.6 million hectares of wilderness that forms part of the country’s protected areas.

The “mina invierno” or winter mine, the largest open-pit coal mine in the country, belongs to the Riesco Island Mining Company, owned by the Chilean companies Copec and Ultramar, which invested 600 million dollars in the mine, and have four other deposits on the island, so far inactive.

The aim is to exploit, for 12 years, reserves of 73 million tons of sub-bituminous coal, of low calorific value and high heavy metal content. The coal is sold to the Huasco, Tocopilla, Mejillones and Ventanas thermoelectric plants in north and central Chile, and exported to China, India, Brazil and other countries.

The steady decline in international coal prices affected the company’s plans, which temporarily decreased production and cut its payroll.

Lengas (Nothofagus pumilio) and Antarctic Beech (Nothofagus antarctica) seen on Riesco Island, in Chile’s Patagonia wilderness region, which is threatened by coal mining. Credit: Claudio Magallanes Velazco/Riesco Island Alert

Lengas (Nothofagus pumilio) and Antarctic Beech (Nothofagus antarctica) seen on Riesco Island, in Chile’s Patagonia wilderness region, which is threatened by coal mining. Credit: Claudio Magallanes Velazco/Riesco Island Alert

To open the Invierno mine, 400 hectares of native woodland were cut, a lake was dried up, and the functioning of the water in the surrounding area was modified. It currently has three sterile waste dumps, each one 60 mts high.

“Everything is becoming polluted. Some 1,500 hectares of land will be directly affected, including 500 metres of open pit which has already reached 100 of the projected 180 metres in depth,” said Ana Stipicic, spokesperson for the social and ecological movement Riesco Island Alert.

“The last report on pollution we made was on the impact on the Chorrillo Invierno Dos River. Now we learned that the Cañadón and Chorrillo Los Coipos Rivers were also polluted. There are settling ponds to remove matter from wastewater, but they don’t work,” the activist, who is Gregor’s sister, told IPS in Santiago.

She said that the rivers affected a wetland and “along the shore there are enormous pieces of coal. The mining port and the crushers that crush the mineral throw charcoal into the sea. Nobody has studied this.”

Ana Stipicic said particles in the air “fall on the surrounding grazing lands, woods and water bodies where there is rich fauna.” She added that the mining activity “has caused huge movements of wildlife, from woodpeckers to huemul deer and capybara.”

Biologist Juan Capella, from the Yubarta Foundation, complained that the shipping of coal through the Otway gulf, the Gerónimo channel and the Magellan Strait has affected humpback whales and dolphins that live in this area, where the Francisco Coloane Marine Park is located.

“There are reported cases of collisions of cargo ships with whales. The more coal that is transported and the heavier the ship traffic in such a narrow channel, the higher the chances of collisions and deaths of whales. The latest recorded case occurred in March, when a ship ran into a whale and killed it,” he told IPS from Punta Arenas, capital of Magallanes province.

Map of the location of coal mines on Riesco Island at the southern tip of Chile. Credit: Riesco Island Alert

Map of the location of coal mines on Riesco Island at the southern tip of Chile. Credit: Riesco Island Alert

Climate specialist Nicolás Butorovic said that during the Environmental Impact Assessment of the Invierno mine, “we proved that the modelling was wrong with respect to settleable particulate matter. They predicted 60 micrograms per day while the stations measured up to 158.”

The company had stated that it would not use dynamite explosions since they sought sustainable mining. It also claimed that winds in the area averaged 39 kilometres per hour when in fact they can reach up to more than 180 kilometres per hour.

Fernando Dougnac, head of the organisation of environmentalist lawyers FIMA, filed legal action which brought the explosions to a halt.

Dougnac told IPS in Santiago that in his legal presentation he included veterinary records from the year 1998, showing that during breeding season, sheep are highly susceptible to noise, to the point that workers are asked to stay out of the areas where the sheep are mating or raising young.

“We expect the explosions to be stopped during those months. The Invierno mine needs to cut operating costs, so they will insist on making detonations the four times a week that they are allowed,” said Ana Stipicic.

The national director of Greenpeace Chile, Matías Asún, told IPS that the mining company “deceived the population and disregarded the regulations to later be allowed to use dynamite explosions.”

In his opinion “Chile’s environmental authority operates on the basis of economic and commercial criteria. Their official discourse is not the protection of the environment but the protection of investment and the environment.”

He said “it is anachronistic that in a country where renewable energies are experiencing remarkable growth at a global scale and coal is in decline, on top of the many territorial conflicts generated, a subsidy is granted violating de facto environmental regulations and the commitments that the own company made to the community.”

“Riesco Island is not sustainable without cutting costs with environmental impacts,” he stressed.

Independent legislator for Magallanes province Gabriel Boric told IPS that the company presented the coal mining project in a fragmented manner to obtain approval.

“That a project be allowed to be presented by parts, so that its environmental impact cannot be assessed integrally, is one of the main weaknesses of our environmental protection system, which must be remedied by means of reforms,” he said.

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Rural Job Creation Holds the Key to Development and Food-Security Goalshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/rural-job-creation-holds-the-key-to-development-and-food-security-goals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rural-job-creation-holds-the-key-to-development-and-food-security-goals http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/rural-job-creation-holds-the-key-to-development-and-food-security-goals/#comments Fri, 18 Nov 2016 21:45:00 +0000 Nteranya Sanginga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147847 Nteranya Sanginga is the Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.]]> Nteranya Sanginga, Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Courtesy of IITA

Nteranya Sanginga, Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Courtesy of IITA

By Nteranya Sanginga
IBADAN, Nigeria, Nov 18 2016 (IPS)

Harvesting the benefits of core agricultural research, which often bears on improved crop varieties and plant diseases, increasingly depends on the social and economic conditions into which its seeds are sown.

It is a sign of the times that Kanayo F. Nwanze, the president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development who started off as a cassava entomologist when ITTA posted him to Congo in the 1970s, was recently hailed for his efforts to create African billionaires.

That happened when youth from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture’s Agripreneur program gave Nwanze special lapel pins after his guest speech at our golden jubilee celebration kickoff.

Our institute, IITA, has evolved with the times. I trained in microbial ecology, yet while agronomy research –remains very important, it is initiatives like our Youth Agripreneur program that underscore how we are paying more and more attention to the need to boost youth employment, especially in Africa.

Creating decent employment opportunities, especially rural employment opportunities, is the critical challenge of our time in Africa. It is the lynchpin of any possible success in the noble goals of hunger and poverty eradication.

The most obvious reason for that is demographic: Africa’s population is set to roughly double to 2.5 billion by 2050. Many of them, perhaps the majority, have not been born. Income opportunities and healthy affordable food will be in unprecedented demand. Today’s youth play a huge role in making that possible.

While Africa’s cities are expected to grow, even that will depend on decent rural jobs being created. Agriculture is not only called upon to increase food output and productivity, but to create jobs and even bring in the best and brightest.

The prospects are, in theory, quite good. The world is increasingly turning to sustainable agriculture, and research shows that diversified farming systems are more challenging – experientially, cognitively and intellectually – which both cushions the drudgery and spurs innovation to reduce it.

Yet the challenge, as the population projections show, is formidable. Growing by around 300 million every decade means all sectors need a giant and focused developmental push. Perceiving agriculture as the rural sector from which one escapes will backfire.

That’s one of the reasons why entomologist-turned research administrator Dr Nwanze talks about the need to foster opportunities for youth.

The IITA Youth Agripreneur program has ambitious aims. It has expanded quickly around Nigeria and other African countries.

At the same time, IITA is partnering with IFAD and the African Development Bank for the Empowering Novel Agribusiness-Led Employment for Youth in African Agriculture Program, dubbed ENABLE. The goal is to create 8 million agribusiness jobs within five years for youth.

How can IITA’s research contribute?

Take our project on Sustainable Weed Management Technologies for Cassava Systems in Nigeria. As its name suggests, this is very much geared to primary agricultural work. But it is not simply about having more cassava but about having enough extra cassava, and having it consistently, to support the use of this African staple food in flour.

As such it fits into other IFAD projects aimed at boosting the cassava flour value chain in the region. Once the weeds have been sorted out, this initiative is designed to require large gains in food processing capacity.

IITA researchers have managed to bake bread using 40 percent cassava in wheat flour, so the potential for this initiative is very large. Notice that it immediately suggests a role for bakers, confectionary products and others. That means more jobs.

This relates back to Dr. Nwanze’s time as an IITA field researcher, as he was involved in a successful effort to combat and control the cassava mealy bug that saved the continent millions of dollars.

One of the big challenges for scientists today is to make research contribute to growth. Breakthroughs often lead to solutions of food-system problems and thus relieve hunger and food and nutrition insecurity. IITA showed that by developing two new maize hybrids that deliver higher levels of vitamin A and improve child nutrition.

But we can go further, steering these breakthroughs into veritable engines of growth.

To be sure, this requires improvements on many fronts, such as better freight transportation networks. But such investments pay themselves off when they serve a common goal. Africa’s need and duty is to make sure that agriculture is ready to deliver the goods for such a take-off.

All this by the way will not only boost Africa’s agricultural productivity, which is lagging, but will boost the productivity of research itself, leading to higher returns and, one hopes, attractive jobs with higher incomes and better facilities. That’s important for future microbial ecologists and cassava entomologists!

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Trump’s Offensive Against Undocumented Migrants Will Fuel Migration Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/trumps-offensive-against-undocumented-migrants-will-fuel-migration-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trumps-offensive-against-undocumented-migrants-will-fuel-migration-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/trumps-offensive-against-undocumented-migrants-will-fuel-migration-crisis/#comments Thu, 17 Nov 2016 15:37:31 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147824 About a hundred Central American migrants crammed into a large truck were rescued in the Mexican state of Tabasco in October. It is not likely that Donald Trump’s arrival to the White House will dissuade people from setting out on the hazardous journey to the United States. Credit: Courtesy of the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement

About a hundred Central American migrants crammed into a large truck were rescued in the Mexican state of Tabasco in October. It is not likely that Donald Trump’s arrival to the White House will dissuade people from setting out on the hazardous journey to the United States. Credit: Courtesy of the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Nov 17 2016 (IPS)

“Donald Trump will not stop me from getting to the U.S.,” said Juan, a 35-year-old migrant from Nicaragua, referring to the Republican president-elect who will govern that country as of Jan. 20.

Juan, who worked as a street vendor in his country and asked that his last name not be mentioned, told IPS: “I got scared when I heard that Trump had won the election (on November 8). Maybe with Hillary (Clinton) there would have been more job opportunities. But that won’t stop me; it has never been easy to cross, but it is possible.”

Juan set out from Nicaragua on September 13, leaving his wife and son behind, and on the following day crossed the Suchiate River between Guatemala from Mexico, on a raft.

In Mexico, he experienced what thousands of migrants suffer in their odyssey towards the “American dream”. He evaded at least four checkpoints in the south of the country, escaped immigration officers, walked for hours and hours, and was robbed of money, clothes and shoes by three men wearing hoods in El Chagüite, in the southern state of Oaxaca.

After filing a complaint for assault in a local public prosecutor’s office, he has been living since October in the “Hermanos en el Camino” shelter, founded in 2007 by the Catholic Church division of pastoral care for human mobility of the Ixtepec Diocese in Oaxaca, awaiting an official humanitarian visa to cross Mexico.

“I want to get to the United States. What safeguards me is my desire and need to get there. I want to work about three years and then return,” Juan said by phone from the shelter, explaining that he has two friends in the Midwestern U.S. state of Illinois.

The struggles and aspirations of migrants such as Juan clash with Trump’s promise to extend the wall along the border with Mexico, to keep out undocumented migrants.

While they digest the triumph by Trump and his Republican Party, migrant rights organisations and governments in Latin America fear a major migration crisis.

During his campaign, Trump vowed to deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants who live in the United States, about half of whom are of Mexican origin.

And on Sunday Nov. 13 the president-elect said that as soon as he took office he would deport about three million unauthorised immigrants who, he claimed, have a criminal record.

A member of the migrant aid group “Las Patronas” waits for the train known as “The Beast”, that was used by undocumented migrants to cross southern Mexico, to give them water and food. The Mexican government shut down the notorious train in August. Credit: Courtesy of the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement

A member of the migrant aid group “Las Patronas” waits for the train known as “The Beast”, that was used by undocumented migrants to cross southern Mexico, to give them water and food. The Mexican government shut down the notorious train in August. Credit: Courtesy of the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement

“Trump’s policy would aggravate the migratory situation,” said Alberto Donis, who works at Hermanos en el Camino, one of the first Mexican shelters for migrants, which currently houses some 200 undocumented migrants, mainly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

“With Trump, we don’t know what else he will do, but it will be worse than what we have now. After what happened in the elections, people who are not able to cross will stay here. Mexico will be a country of destination. And what does it do? Detain and deport them,” he said, talking to IPS by phone from the shelter.

For the last eight years, the outgoing administration of Democratic President Barack Obama has implemented contradictory migration policies, that have demonstrated the scant influence that sending countries have on U.S. domestic policies.

On the one hand, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which delays deportation for migrants who arrived as children, was adopted in 2012. And a similar benefit was created in 2014: the Deferred Action for (undocumented) Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).

However, DAPA has been suspended since February by a court order and it is taken for granted that Trump will revoke both measures when he takes office.

And on the other hand, the Obama administration set a new record for deportations: Since 2009, more than two million migrants have been deported, mainly to Mexico and Central America.

In 2015 alone, U.S. immigration authorities deported 146,132 Mexicans, which makes an increase of 56 per cent with respect to the previous year, 33,249 Guatemalans (14 per cent less than in 2014), 21,920 Salvadorans (similar to the previous year) and 20,309 Hondurans (nine per cent less).

An estimated 500,000 undocumented migrants from Central America cross Mexico every year in their attempt to reach the 3,185-km border separating Mexico from the United States, according to estimates from organisations that work with migrants.

In the first nine months of this year, Mexico deported 43,200 Guatemalans, 38,925 Hondurans and 22,582 Salvadorans.

Central American mothers in search of their children who went missing on their way to the United States take part in a caravan that set out on Nov. 10 and is set to reach the Mexico-U.S. border on Dec. 2. Credit: Courtesy of the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement

Central American mothers in search of their children who went missing on their way to the United States take part in a caravan that set out on Nov. 10 and is set to reach the Mexico-U.S. border on Dec. 2. Credit: Courtesy of the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement

Activists criticize the Comprehensive Plan for the Southern Border, implemented since August 2014 by the Mexican government with the help of the United States to crack down on undocumented migrants. The plan includes the installation of 12 bases on rivers and three security belts along the Mexico-U.S. border.

But some migrant rights’ organisations have doubts as to whether Trump will actually carry out his threats, due to the social and economic consequences.

“He says so many outrageous things that I cannot imagine what he may do. He is a businessman and I don’t think he will risk losing cheap labour. None of it makes sense, it is nothing more than xenophobia and racism. The United States would face long-term consequences ,” Marta Sánchez, executive director of the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement, told IPS.

The Movement is taking part in the XII caravan of mothers of Central American migrants who have gone missing on their journey to the United States, made up of mothers from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua, which set out on Nov. 10 in Guatemala and reached Mexico Nov. 15.

On Nov. 12 Claudia Ruiz Massieu, Mexico’s secretary of foreign affairs, meet with this country’s ambassador and consuls in the U.S. to design plans for consular protection and assistance for Mexican nationals, with a view to the expected increase in tension.

The governments of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador do not appear to have devised plans to address the xenophobic campaign promises of Trump.

These economies would directly feel the impact of any drop in remittances from migrants abroad, which, in El Salvador for example, represent 17 per cent of GDP.

But the U.S. economy would suffer as well. The American Action Forum, a conservative think tank, estimated that the mass deportation of all undocumented migrants would cause an economic contraction of two per cent and a drop of 381 to 623 billion dollars in private sector output.

Juan just wants to cross the border. “The idea is to better yourself and then return home. People keep going there and they will continue to do so, because in our countries we cannot get by; the shelters are full of people looking for the same thing. If they were to deport me, I would try again,” he said.

For Donis from Hermanos en el Camino, migrant sending countries are not prepared to receive the massive return of their citizens.

“They already don’t have the capacity to sustain the people that are living in the country; it would be even more impossible for them to receive millions of deported migrants. Nor are shelters prepared. What these countries need to do is invest in sources of employment, in the countryside, in infrastructure, invest in their people, in order to curb migration,” said the activist.

During the caravan of mothers of missing migrants, which will end on Dec. 2 in Tapachula, Mexico, on the border with the United States, Sánchez anticipated that they would mention Trump and define their position. ”We will reject those measures and fight against them, this is just beginning,” she said.

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Opposition to Oil Pipeline in U.S. Serves as Example for Indigenous Struggles in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/opposition-to-oil-pipeline-in-u-s-serves-as-example-for-indigenous-struggles-in-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opposition-to-oil-pipeline-in-u-s-serves-as-example-for-indigenous-struggles-in-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/opposition-to-oil-pipeline-in-u-s-serves-as-example-for-indigenous-struggles-in-latin-america/#comments Fri, 11 Nov 2016 16:07:05 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147730 The Standing Rock Sioux tribe is fighting the construction of an oil pipeline across their land in North Dakota. The movement has gained international solidarity and has many things in common with indigenous struggles against megaprojects in Latin America. Credit: Downwindersatrisk.org

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe is fighting the construction of an oil pipeline across their land in North Dakota. The movement has gained international solidarity and has many things in common with indigenous struggles against megaprojects in Latin America. Credit: Downwindersatrisk.org

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Nov 11 2016 (IPS)

Canadian activist Clayton Thomas-Muller crossed the border between his country and the United States to join the Native American movement against the construction of an oil pipeline, which has become a model to follow in struggles by indigenous people against megaprojects, that share many common elements.

“It’s an amazing movement. Its number one factor is the spiritual founding of cosmology. There are indigenous people all around the world that share the cosmology of water. There is a feeling on sacred land. This is the biggest indigenous movement since pre-colonial times,” the delegate for the Indigenous Environmental Network told IPS.

Thomas-Muller, of the Cree people, stressed that the oil pipeline “is one of the major cases of environmental risk in the United States” fought by indigenous people.

“We see many parallels in the local indigenous struggles. When indigenous people arise and call upon the power of their cosmology and their world view and add them up to social movements, they light people up as we’ve never seen,” he told IPS by phone from the Sioux encampment that he joined on Nov. 6.

“This struggle is everywhere, the whole world is with Standing Rock,” he said.

Standing Rock Sioux is the tribe that heads the opposition to the 1,890-km Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in the state of North Dakota, along the Canadian border.

The 3.7 billion dollar pipeline, which is being built by the US company Dakota Access, is to transport 470,000 barrels of crude oil daily from the Bakken shale formation.

The opposition to the pipeline by the Sioux, or Dakota, Indians has brought construction to a halt since September, in a battle that has gained thousands of supporters since April, including people from different Native American tribes, environmental activists and celebrity advocates, not only from the U.S. but from around the world.

Their opposition is based on the damages that they say the pipeline would cause to sacred sites, indigenous land and water bodies. They complain that the government did not negotiate with them access to a territory over which they have complete jurisdiction.

Some 600 flags of indigenous peoples from around the world wave over the camp on the banks of the Missouri River where the movement has been resisting the crackdown that has intensified since October. Of the U.S. population of 325 million, about 2.63 million are indigenous people, belonging to 150 different tribes.

The movement has served as an example for similar battles in Latin America, according to indigenous leaders.

Map of the Sioux territory affected by the oil pipeline in the U.S. state of North Dakota. Credit: Northlandia.com

Map of the Sioux territory affected by the oil pipeline in the U.S. state of North Dakota. Credit: Northlandia.com

In the northern Mexican state of Sonora, the Yaqui people are also fighting a private pipeline threatening their lands.

“We were not asked or informed. We want to be consulted, we want our rights to be respected. We are defending our territory, our environment,” Yaqui activist Plutarco Flores told IPS.

In a consultation held in accordance with their uses and customs in May 2015, the Yaqui people – one of Mexico’s 54 native groups – voted against the gas pipeline that would run across their land. But the government failed to recognise their decision. In response, the Yaqui filed an appeal for legal protection in April, which halted construction.

Of the 850-km pipeline, 90 km run through Yaqui territory – and through people’s backyards. In October, a violent clash between opponents and supporters of the pipeline left one indigenous person dead and 14 injured.

For Flores, the indigenous struggle against megaprojects has become “a paradigm” and protests like the one at Standing Rock “inspire and reassure us because of our shared cultural patterns.”

Also in Mexico, in the northern state of Sinaloa, the Rarámuri native people have since January 2015 halted the construction of a gas pipeline across their lands and the bordering U.S. state of Texas, demanding free prior and informed consultation, as required by law.

Unlike the U.S., Latin American countries are signatories to International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, which protects their rights and makes this kind of consultation obligatory in the case of projects that affect their territories.

But in many cases, according to indigenous leaders consulted by IPS, this right has not been incorporated in national laws, or is simply not complied with, when projects involving oil, mining, hydroelectric or infrastructure activities affect their ancestral lands.

United Nations Special Rapporteur for Indigenous People’s Rights, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, during her visit to Mexico City for an international conference on indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consultation on projects that affect their lands. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

United Nations Special Rapporteur for Indigenous People’s Rights, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, during her visit to Mexico City for an international conference on indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consultation on projects that affect their lands. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Both the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous People’s Rights, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, requested in September that the U.S. government consult the communities affected by the oil pipeline.

“The fact that they’re not being consulted means a violation to their rights. The arrests that have taken place are too a violation of the right of free assembly,” Tauli-Corpuz told IPS Nov. 9, at the end of a visit to Mexico.

During her three days in the country, the special rapporteur participated in a conference on indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consultation, promoted by the the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights and the Inter American Commission on Human Rights.

Tauli-Corpuz also met with representatives of 20 indigenous Mexican communities affected by gas pipelines, hydropower plants, highways and mines. The Mexican government announced that in 2017 it would officially invite the special rapporteur to assess the situation of indigenous people in Mexico.

The U.N. official said a recurring complaint she has heard on her trips to Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, Panama and Peru is the lack of free, prior consultation that is obligatory under Convention 169.

In Costa Rica, the Maleku people, one of the Central American country’s eight indigenous groups, who total 104,000 people, are worried about the expansion of the San Rafael de Guatuso aqueduct, in the north of the country.

“A fake consultation was carried out. Also, the people do not want water meters, because they would have to pay more for water,” Tatiana Mojica, the Maleku people’s legal representative, who is thinking about filing an appeal for legal protection against the project, told IPS during the colloquium.

Since September, Sarayaku indigenous people from Ecuador, Emberá-Wounaan from Panamá, and Tacana from Bolivia have visited the Sioux camp to protest the oil pipeline.

Thomas-Muller said “We have the opportunity to stop it. I’m optimistic that we will be victorious here. These movements are the hammer that will fall over oil infrastructure owned by the banks and big corporations. We want political will to make an appearance,” he said.

A major Nov. 15 protest is being organised to demand that the government refuse a permit for the North Dakota pipeline.

“This struggle will go through all the steps that it has to. We will make sure that the Sonora pipeline is not built,” said Flores.

Meanwhile, Mojica said “we are uniting to fight against megaprojects that affect us. We are making ourselves heard.”

Tauli-Corpuz said “Opposition to pipelines is a common feature of indigenous people. It’s a magnet that attracts solidarity from all over the world.”

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The Mythology of Freedom and Democracyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/the-mythology-of-freedom-and-democracy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-mythology-of-freedom-and-democracy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/the-mythology-of-freedom-and-democracy/#comments Mon, 07 Nov 2016 17:20:00 +0000 Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147671 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/the-mythology-of-freedom-and-democracy/feed/ 0 Latin America to Take the Temperature of Paris Agreement at Climate Summithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/latin-america-to-take-the-temperature-of-paris-agreement-at-climate-summit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-to-take-the-temperature-of-paris-agreement-at-climate-summit http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/latin-america-to-take-the-temperature-of-paris-agreement-at-climate-summit/#comments Sat, 05 Nov 2016 00:34:59 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147641 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/latin-america-to-take-the-temperature-of-paris-agreement-at-climate-summit/feed/ 0 Wonder Woman: Not the Hero the UN Needshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/wonder-woman-not-the-hero-the-un-needs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wonder-woman-not-the-hero-the-un-needs http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/wonder-woman-not-the-hero-the-un-needs/#comments Wed, 02 Nov 2016 17:53:55 +0000 Sanam Naraghi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147604

Sanam Naraghi Anderlini is Co-Founder & Executive Director, International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN)

By Sanam Naraghi Anderlini
WASHINGTON DC, Nov 2 2016 (IPS)

For those of us who ever feel conflicted about the United Nations, the past month has been an exercise in managing absurd cognitive dissonance. First, on October 21 2016, the United Nations announced that the 1940s comic book heroine, Wonder Woman would be its new mascot for promoting the empowerment of women and girls.

Sanam Naraghi Anderlini

Sanam Naraghi Anderlini

The news naturally sent serious women around the world into a collective swirl, and then a reach for their golden lassoes, to capture the attention of an institution that seems perpetually tone deaf on the issue of basic equality and respect for half the world’s population. It also prompted female staff at the UN to protest in silence, through literally turning their backs on the occasion.

Then, on October 25th the UN Security Council held its annual open debate on the groundbreaking ‘Women, peace and security agenda’, now in its 16th year of existence – still full of promise, and yet barely realized. So what’s going on?

The story so far:
In the age of Trumpism, just weeks after women’s rights activists globally were disappointed to learn that a woman was not selected to head the UN, hard on the heels of a year when the outgoing UN Secretary General appointed men to 96% of the senior jobs in the system, some folks at the UN thought having Wonder Woman as the icon for gender equality for the global organization was a good idea. Not so much.

Here are a few reasons why not:
First off, the UN is a post-war institution, dedicated to ending the scourge of war and, by extension, violence. It is an institution founded on diplomacy and the principle of negotiating differences, not vilification and use of force. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, was a product of the World War II propaganda of superheroes that fight ‘evil’, using violence in the name of ‘good’.

Throughout history and geography, whenever women have mobilized around their shared identity as women, to fight for self-determination or against oppression, they have not used violence. Today, from Afghanistan to the DRC, from Syria to Colombia, despite all the risks and violence they face, the most courageous women are leading non-violent struggles. Many are mediating between armed actors, hiding and saving men and boys at risk of being recruited and killed, feeding and caring for kids, the sick and the injured. They use their brains, hearts and imagination not brute force.

This is where resolution 1325 on women, peace and security ‘kicks’ in. In 2000, after a mass global campaign, the UN Security Council acknowledged women’s peace activism and call for the inclusion of women at the tables where power is brokered.

The agenda has expanded over the years, and these days world leaders talk about ‘women at the peace table’ as if it is an obvious fact, even though it is still not the norm. The agenda has also become warped. In some countries – the ‘peace’ part has gotten lost in a haze of talk about women as soldiers.

Elsewhere, people think it is yet another instrument to promote equality in security institutions and in times of war. But if 1325 is limited to an ‘equality agenda’ we end up with women having equal rights and responsibilities as men in the current status quo.
That was never the intent of the original 1325-ers.

We did not fight for women’s equal rights to fight, die and kill alongside men. We fought so that neither women nor men had to live through the horrors of war. We fought so that women peacemakers could have equal space with the militias and politicians at the tables where the future of peace and security in their countries is determined.

We fought to end the wars that exist, and to prevent future wars. 9/11 changed the course of history, but the spirit and vision of 1325 shouldn’t get lost in the fog of perpetual war and hyper militarization.

So the choice of Wonder Woman kicking, punching and lassoing her opponents is downright offensive and simplistic.

Herein lies the irony: just ten days ago, Marvel comics unveiled a new digital comic with Syrian mothers as the story’s heroines. So we are living in an age where institutions dealing in fiction recognize and revere contemporary facts, but institutions dealing in reality are stuck in an imaginary past.

Second, if we need a mythical figure, how about Shehrzad of the 1001 Nights? She used her words, wit and imagination to save the lives of women and turn a despotic king into a compassionate wise ruler. She is recognized across many countries and cultures – still relevant across time, and far more representative of an iconic and emancipated woman than Wonder Woman. Or, as one long-time UN staffer suggested, if its fictional figures, why not Pippi Longstocking? She was strong, creative, and definitely no pin-up girl.

Third, why choose from fictional figures, when we have so very many real historic super heroes? Take the oft-forgotten Bertha Von Suttner. She was a formidable figure in early 20th century Europe. She was a renowned leader of the pacifist movement, and most importantly – the inspiration for the Nobel Peace Prize. Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, was influenced by her thinking and actions. It’s time to revive and revere her memory as much as she deserves.

Others have already commented on the sartorial faux pas of selecting Wonder Woman. But there is a political and security dimension to this choice. Women are already fighting the backlash of conservative forces that believe their struggle for rights or voice in political spaces is a ‘western agenda’ designed to undermine their power structures.

Having a female figure in a low-cut bustier/corset covered in the American flag is just adding ammunition. Don’t get me wrong; I loved the kitsch Lynda Carter TV shows and comic books too. But Wonder Woman is clearly the figment of some 1940s male comic strip illustrator’s imagination.

If the purpose is to demonstrate women’s empowerment, how about reflecting the members of the very real Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL)? They live lives of extraordinary courage, vehemently rejecting weapons and arms and dedicating their lives to promoting rights, peace and pluralism, often in the face of extreme violence.

Here are just a few of the members: Fatima Al-Behadili of Iraq, who is deradicalizing young men and sending them back to school or getting them involved in social service. Visaka Dharmadasa of Sri Lanka who lost her son in the war against the Tamil tigers – but mobilized a group of mothers of missing servicemen to walk, unarmed into the jungle and meet the guerrillas face to face and open a back channel for peace talks. Hamsatu Alamin of Nigeria, who reaches into communities affiliated to Boko Haram and helps to reduce the stigma they experience, and get their kids into schools.

So to the UN Department of Comics (?): please get back to the drawing board or move over and let real women handle the situation.

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The Key Role Women Played in Culture of Peacehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/the-key-role-women-played-in-culture-of-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-key-role-women-played-in-culture-of-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/the-key-role-women-played-in-culture-of-peace/#comments Tue, 01 Nov 2016 16:31:54 +0000 Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147593 Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations, Internationally Recognized Initiator of the UNSCR 1325 as the President of the UN Security Council in March 2000

[On the occasion of the 16th anniversary of unanimous adoption of groundbreaking UNSCR 1325 on 31 October 2000, IPS has the pleasure of publishing the Foreword which Ambassador Chowdhury wrote last year for the book “Openings for Peace – UNSCR 1325, women and security in India”, edited by Asha Hans and Swarna Rajagopalan and published by Sage Publications. The contents remain equally relevant on the 16th anniversary as well.] ]]>

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations, Internationally Recognized Initiator of the UNSCR 1325 as the President of the UN Security Council in March 2000

[On the occasion of the 16th anniversary of unanimous adoption of groundbreaking UNSCR 1325 on 31 October 2000, IPS has the pleasure of publishing the Foreword which Ambassador Chowdhury wrote last year for the book “Openings for Peace – UNSCR 1325, women and security in India”, edited by Asha Hans and Swarna Rajagopalan and published by Sage Publications. The contents remain equally relevant on the 16th anniversary as well.]

By Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 1 2016 (IPS)

In the fifteen years since the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, we have seen a tremendous enthusiasm among civil society at all levels in raising awareness, engaging in advocacy and building capacity for its meaningful implementation. It is my pleasure to write the foreword to this publication which is a meaningful endeavour to move the agenda forward on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the adoption of this groundbreaking resolution.

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury

All of us need to remember that adoption of 1325 has opened a much-awaited door of opportunity for women. To trace back, 15 years ago, on the International Women’s Day in 2000, I had the honor of issuing on behalf of the United Nations Security Council in my capacity as its President a statement that formally brought to global attention the unrecognized, underutilized and undervalued contribution women have always been making towards the prevention of wars, peacebuilding and engaging individuals, communities and societies to live in harmony. All fifteen members of the Security Council recognized in that statement that peace is inextricably linked with equality between women and men, and affirmed the value of full and equal participation of women in all decision-making levels. That is when the seed for Resolution 1325 on women and peace & security was sown. The formal resolution followed this conceptual and political breakthrough on 31 October of the same year giving this issue the long overdue attention and recognition that it deserved.

My own experience particularly during last quarter century has made it clear that the participation of women in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding assures that their experiences, priorities, and solutions contribute to longer-term stability and inclusive governance. I have seen time and again how women – even the humblest and the weakest – have contributed to building the culture of peace in their personal lives, in their families, in their communities and in their nations.

The contribution and involvement of women in the eternal quest for peace is an inherent reality. Women are the real agents of change in refashioning peace structures ensuring greater sustainability.

In choosing the three women laureates for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, the citation referred to 1325 saying that “It underlined the need for women to become participants on an equal footing with men in peace processes and in peace work in general.” The Nobel Committee further asserted that “We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society.”

The main inspiration behind 1325 is not to make war safe for women but to structure the peace in a way that there is no recurrence of war and conflict. Research and case studies consistently suggest that peace agreements and post-conflict rebuilding have a much higher chance of long-term success when women are involved. That is why women need to be at the peace tables, women need to be involved in the decision-making and in the peace-keeping teams to make a real difference in transitioning from the cult of war to the culture of peace.

The driving force behind 1325 is “participation” in which women can contribute to decision-making and ultimately help shape societies where violence in general, more so against women is not the norm. 1325 marked the first time that such a proposition was recognized as an objective of the UN Security Council.

“Women in every part of the world continue to be largely marginalized from the political sphere …” This is unfortunate and unacceptable. Empowering women’s political leadership will have ripple effects on every level of society and consequently on the global condition. When politically empowered, women bring important and different skills and perspectives to the policy making table in comparison to their male counterparts.

When women have been included in peace negotiations, they often have brought the views of women to the discussions by ensuring that peace accords address demands for gender equality, human rights, good governance, rule of law in new constitutional, judicial and electoral structures. We would not have to be worrying about countering extremism if women have equality in decision- making enabling them to take measures which would prevent such extremism. Ensuring equality and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness in international relations is essential to weed out roots of extremism.

I recall Eleanor Roosevelt’s words saying “Too often the great decisions are originated and given shape in bodies made up wholly of men, or so completely dominated by them that whatever of special value women have to offer is shunted aside without expression.” It is a reality that politics, more so security, is a man’s world.

Unfortunately the challenges to women’s rights and their equality not only continue, but those also mutate and reappear, undermining any hard-earned progress – of course in the process, those become more and more complex, complicated and more difficult to overcome.

The ever-increasing militarism and militarization have made the situation even worse. The global patriarchy’s encouragement to the voluminous arms trade has made it easier for extremists of all kinds in obtaining the arms to impose on others their extremist world views. Ending the arms trade and serious steps toward disarmament should be part of the prescription for reducing and eliminating extremism and all militarized violence.

Recognition that women need to be at the peace tables to make a real difference in transitioning from the cult of war to the culture of peace, I believe, made the passage of 1325 an impressive step forward for women’s equality agenda in contemporary security politics. The slogan of the Global Campaign on Women, Peace and Security which we launched in London in June 2014 reiterates “If we are serious about peace, we must take women seriously”. Of course, achieving real gender equality requires “transformative change.” In this conceptual reorientation, the politics of gender relations and restructuring of institutions, rather than simply equality in access to resources and options, should become the priority.

Fifteen years after the adoption of 1325, the governments are still trying to get their acts together on its effective implementation by preparing respective National Action Plan (NAP) as called for by the Security Council. Civil society, on its part, should systematically monitor and evaluate its implementation to hold all sides accountable. Also, countries should work towards the elimination of violence against women and ensure that victims have full access to justice and that there is no impunity for perpetrators. Some countries boast that they do not need a national plan as their countries are not in conflict. To that I say emphatically that no country can claim to be not in conflict where women’s rights are not ensured. Very relevant in this context is the civil society initiative to prepare a people’s action plan as cogently articulated by Betty Reardon in her persuasive contribution in this publication.

In general, National Action Plans should be designed to coordinate and strengthen the implementation of 1325. They should contain a catalogue of measures, clear targets and benchmarks for full and meaningful implementation. The creation of an action plan provides an opportunity to initiate strategic actions, identify priorities and resources, and determine the responsibilities and timeframes. The whole process of developing a plan is also a process of awareness-raising and capacity-building in order to overcome gaps and challenges to the full implementation of 1325.

In real terms, NAP is the engine that would speed up the implementation of Resolution 1325. So far, only 48* out of 193 UN member-states have prepared their plans – what a dismal record after 15 years. There are no better ways to get country level commitment to implement 1325 other than NAPs. I believe very strongly that only NAPs can hold the governments accountable. There has to be an increased and pro-active engagement of the UN secretariat leadership to get a meaningfully bigger number of NAPs – for example, setting a target of 100 NAPs by 2017.

In case of India, for both the government and civil society, preparation of its National Action Plan is particularly important. NGOs should persistently continue to pressure and demand that the government develops the country’s National Action Plan for the implementation of 1325.

At the global level, the UN Secretary-General needs to take the lead in setting up six-monthly inclusive consultative process for 1325 implementation with the civil society organizations at all levels for all relevant UN entities. Also, all relevant NGOs are to be mobilized at country level by the 1325 national coordination body supported by the UN Resident Coordinator.

Again, to recall my message in 2011, I welcomed the focus of Sansristi’s workshop “on the significance of and need for human-centred approach to security. Security can no longer be understood in purely military terms or in terms of state security. Rather, it must encompass economic development, social justice, environmental protection, democratization, disarmament, and respect for human rights and the rule of law. To attain the goals of human security, the most essential element is the protection and empowerment of people. As 1325 deals with peace & security with special attention to the half of the global population, it is crucially important that the human security concept becomes the key to the resolution’s implementation at the national, regional and global levels.”

The existing international policies and practices that make women insecure and deny their equality of participation, basically as a result of its support of the existing militarized inter-state security arrangements, is disappointing. We need to realize that the world is secure when we focus on ensuring human security with a feminist perspective and full and equal participation of women at all decision-making levels, in all spheres of human activity and at all times.

1325 is a “common heritage of humanity” wherein the global objectives of peace, equality and development are reflected in a uniquely historic, universal document of the United Nations. As we look ahead, what is called for is an ever-growing global movement involving more and more women and, of course, men.

This publication is a concrete and determined step towards the objective of contributing meaningfully to the emerging global movement for women’s equality and empowerment. It reflects our common eagerness, energy and enthusiasm to move forward. With wonderfully articulated presentations skillfully authored by experts from various background and experiences and brilliantly put together with accomplished editing by Asha Hans and Swarna Rajagopalan, the book deserves wide-ranging attention and global readership.

* Today the total stands at only 63

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Cities Address a Key Challenge: Infrastructure Needshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/cities-address-a-key-challenge-infrastructure-needs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cities-address-a-key-challenge-infrastructure-needs http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/cities-address-a-key-challenge-infrastructure-needs/#comments Thu, 27 Oct 2016 21:37:44 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147540 One of the concerns about compliance with Habitat III is how to finance the new public works, taking into consideration the considerable investment required. In the image, a photocomposition of European cities in a Habitat III exposition in Quito. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

One of the concerns about compliance with Habitat III is how to finance the new public works, taking into consideration the considerable investment required. In the image, a photocomposition of European cities in a Habitat III exposition in Quito. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
QUITO, Oct 27 2016 (IPS)

“We as mayors have to govern midsize cities as if they were capital cities,” said Héctor Mantilla, city councilor of Floridablanca, the third-largest city in the northern Colombian department of Santander.

He told IPS that “citizens not only demand public services, but also infrastructure; and environmentally and financially sustainable construction works are needed.”

Mantilla, who took office in January, participated in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Housing and Urban Development (Habitat III), held Oct. 17-20 in the capital of Ecuador, which produced the “Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All,” known as the New Urban Agenda (NUA).

At the summit, organised by U.N. Habitat every 20 years, Mantilla talked about infrastructure needs and management.In 2015, 54 percent of the world population lived in urban areas, a rate that will climb to 66 percent by 2050. The Americas will be the most urbanised region in the world, with 87 percent urban population.

Floridablanca, population 300,000, is part of the Bucaramanga metropolitan area, together with two other municipalities. To address people’s demands, the local administration built two highway interchanges and a paragliding park.

The mayor’s experiences and expectations reflect the concerns of governments, particularly local administrations. In fact, one of the NUA’s major challenges is the environmental and financial sustainability of the infrastructure required to meet the commitments made in Quito with regard to housing, transport, public services and digitalisation.

For Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the priorities are mobility, water and sewage, adequate housing, resilience, renewable energy, promotion of digitalisation and the fight against segregation and inequality.

“There is a lack of infrastructure. It is not sufficiently integrated. We have two scenarios: the United States with high car use rates, or the European, with smaller cities, where the use of private cars is discouraged,” she told IPS.

Bárcena said that “a certain kind of infrastructure and planning is required” in order for cities to be “resilient”, a concept touted in recent years by international organisations such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), defined as the capacity of an ecosystem to absorb environmental stress without undergoing fundamental changes.

In 2015, 54 percent of the world population lived in urban areas, a rate that will climb to 66 percent by 2050. The Americas will be the most urbanised region in the world, with 87 percent urban population. The projected proportions are 86 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean; 74 percent in Oceania; 82 percent in Europe; 64 percent in Asia; and 56 percent in Africa.

Mayor Héctor Mantilla (right) spoke at Habitat III about the infrastructure needs in midsize cities, in his case, Floridablanca, in Colombia’s northern department of Santander. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Mayor Héctor Mantilla (right) spoke at Habitat III about the infrastructure needs in midsize cities, in his case, Floridablanca, in Colombia’s northern department of Santander. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The report “Latin America and the Caribbean. Challenges, dilemmas and commitments of a common urban agenda”, released at the Quito summit, observes that, despite the significant expansion in infrastructure in recent decades, the deficit in cities remains one of the main challenges for developing countries in general.

The document, drafted by the Forum of Ministers and High-level Authorities of the Housing and Urban Development Sector in Latin America and the Caribbean (MINURVI), ECLAC and U.N.-Habitat’s Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, points out that Latin America and the Caribbean have an investment rate of two percent of GDP, compared to eight percent of regional GDP in Southeast Asia.

The overall rate of investment in infrastructure “has declined in the last three decades, blaming a reduction in public investment, a marginal increase in private investment and the retraction of multilateral financing.”

In the developing South, large cities face challenges like pollution, exposure to climate change, chaotic growth, traffic congestion, informal employment and inequality.

There have been different attempts to calculate the scale of infrastructure needs. The IDB’s Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initiative estimates a need for 142 billion dollars in priority investments in urban infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance (CCFLA) estimates a global need of 93 trillion dollars in investment in low-carbon climate resilient infrastructure over the next 15 years.

The NUA mentions the word “infrastructure” 33 times, although it outlines no means or goals to develop it.

Money is short

A recurring question is where the funding for infrastructure will come from, given that regions such as Latin America are experiencing an economic downturn, after a decade of growth that made it possible to fight poverty and expand public works.

Andrés Blanco, a Colombian expert on urban development and housing with the IDB, proposes several mechanisms, including “land value capture”: capturing the increases in property values for the state. This refers to a municipality’s ability to benefit from the rise in real estate value generated by infrastructure improvements (access to highways, the paving of roads, public lighting, sewers, etc.) or the implementation of new land-use rules (e.g., from rural to urban).

“The main idea is to use this resource to finance infrastructure. But this has not been done, because there is a cash flow problem. The cost is paid by the government and the communities, but only private property owners benefit,” he told IPS.

In three Brazilian cities, the IDB found that investing one dollar per square metre in drinking water pipes increased the land value by 11 dollars, while three dollars per m2 invested in sewage brought up the value to 8.5 dollars, and 2.58 dollars per m2 invested in paving raised the value by 9.1 dollars. In Quito, the transformation of rural to urban land enhanced the value by 400 percent.

In the Ecuadorean capital, the IDB released the report “Expanding the use of Land Value Capture in Latin America”.

In Floridablanca, the local government recovered 30,000 dollars of a total of 175,000, that the owners of 100 plots of land must pay for having benefited from investment in urban improvements.

“The main challenge facing the New Urban Agenda is how to find funding. We as mayors have to prioritise small-scale projects, but we need major infrastructure in outlying areas,” Mantilla said.

For Bárcena, Habitat III leaves an immense financing task. “Land use could be more profitable. States cannot do it alone. For this reason, there has to be a grand coalition between governments, companies, and organisations to make urban and public space more habitable, and to make cities more connected,” she said.

ECLAC, which is carrying out a study on time use in cities, proposes mechanisms such as: public policies on land value capture, to increase revenue collection and guide the way urban infrastructure is developed; the issue of municipal bonds to raise capital for long-term infrastructure projects; and platforms to draw private investment.

The United Nations Environment Programme’s “Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling”, released in Quito, calls for countries to invest at least 20 percent of their transport budget on infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists, in order to save lives, curb pollution and reduce carbon emissions.

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Social Media Becomes Mugabe’s Nightmarehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/social-media-becomes-mugabes-nightmare/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=social-media-becomes-mugabes-nightmare http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/social-media-becomes-mugabes-nightmare/#comments Tue, 25 Oct 2016 10:18:40 +0000 Dominique Von Rohr http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147501 President Robert Mugabe. Photo courtesy of Al Jazeera English/cc by 2.0

President Robert Mugabe. Photo courtesy of Al Jazeera English/cc by 2.0

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

In a WhatsApp video that went viral in September, a middle-aged Zimbabwean man addresses President Robert Mugabe, telling him that 90 percent of the people in the country are unemployed and do not contribute to the economy because Mugabe cannot provide jobs.

You are assaulting children for expressing their heartfelt disappointment because of your misrule. We are tired of that,“ the man continues, speaking about high-level corruption, injustice and police brutality, and deteriorating social service delivery.

He asks Mugabe: “You wear spectacles, but you can’t see. How many spectacles do you need to see that you are destroying the country?

In a country that reportedly suppresses the traditional media, Zimbabweans have found another way to communicate their frustrations towards the government.

Social media platforms as well as texting services such as WhatsApp have become steadily more popular as means to criticise, but also address Mugabe, who appears to not be easily accessible to ordinary citizens.

The use of social media has especially increased after evangelical pastor Evan Mawarire posted a video earlier this year in April in which he appeared with the national flag around his neck, criticizing the government’s economic strategy.

The video led to the larger social media campaign #ThisFlag in which thousands of Zimbabweans participated, bringing the situation the country into the international spotlight and reaching millions of people on a global level, much to the displeasure of Mugabe.

By using the internet to communicate, Zimbabweans become empowered to relatively safely speak out against the government, and at the same time, state propaganda starts to lose its effectiveness.

The worsening economic situation in Zimbabwe has led to multiple protests against the president and his government. Depending on the source, estimates of Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate range from 4 per cent to 95 per cent, many of the figures not being backed up by reliable data.

Given the precarious state of the economy, unemployment levels however are certainly high.

Economic growth decreased from 3.8 per cent in 2014 to an estimated 1.5 per cent in 2015. Large public expenditures, underperformance of domestic revenues and low export figures have increased the state dept and have had a negative effect on urban development such as housing and transport, as well as social services.

In July, countless Zimbabweans gathered to protest against these issues. Since then, unrest has spread across the whole country.

The Zimbabwean government in return has been accused of blocking social media such as Facebook and WhatsApp to prevent people from gathering to protest.

Zimbabwe, constitutionally a republic, has been under the control of President Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) since the country’s independence in 1980. While the latest presidential and parliamentary elections were held without violence, the process remained neither fair nor credible.

According to Human Rights Watch, Mugabe’s government has been accused of routinely violating human rights. Abduction, arrest, torture and harassment, as well as restrictions on civil liberties such as freedom of expression are daily practices, Human Rights Watch says.

Under Mugabe’s regime, hundreds of civil society activists and members of opposition parties have been arrested for holding meetings or participating in peaceful protests. Newspapers viewed as critical of the government are repressed, journalists silenced, and the ‘Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act’ established, making the practice of journalism without accreditation a criminal offence which can be punished by up to two years in prison.

The Daily News, Zimbabwe’s only independent daily newspaper with a critical view of Mugabe’s government, had to shut down in 2001 after a bomb exploded in its printing plant, and it failed to receive a government licence needed to publish content legally.

Acknowledging the threat social media poses to his government, Mugabe has activated laws that limit the free flow of information and subject private communication to state surveillance.

At the same time, he warns his citizens against abusing social media, threatening that all SIM cards in Zimbabwe are registered in the name of the user, and perpetrators could easily be identified. Any person caught in possession of, generating or passing on what Mugabe calls abusive, threatening or offensive content aimed at creating unrest or inciting violence will be arrested.

Wanting to use social media to his own advantage, Mugabe has called on the youth of his ZANU-PF to promote the ruling party using social media platforms: “Brand Zimbabwe, the image of Zimbabwe, a Zimbabwe that is democratic, hardworking and peaceful.”

The dissemination of regime-critical content through social media, however, appears to be a Pandora’s Box that may prove impossible to close.

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Governments and Social Movements Disagree on Future of Citieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/governments-and-social-movements-disagree-on-future-of-cities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=governments-and-social-movements-disagree-on-future-of-cities http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/governments-and-social-movements-disagree-on-future-of-cities/#comments Fri, 21 Oct 2016 22:12:36 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147475 Activists protest during the Resistance to Habitat III social forum held at the Central University of Ecuador, which hosted the gathering held parallel to Habitat III, bringing together 100 NGOs from 35 countries, to debate on how to create cities for all. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Activists protest during the Resistance to Habitat III social forum held at the Central University of Ecuador, which hosted the gathering held parallel to Habitat III, bringing together 100 NGOs from 35 countries, to debate on how to create cities for all. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
QUITO, Oct 21 2016 (IPS)

The Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development and the alternative forums held by social organisations ended in the Ecuadorean capital with opposing visions regarding the future of cities and the fulfillment of rights in urban areas.

On Thursday Oct. 20, the representatives of 195 countries taking part in the Habitat III conference adopted the Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All, after four days of deliberations.

The basis of the declaration, also known as the New Urban Agenda, is the promotion of sustainable urban development, inclusive prosperity, and spatial development planning.“If you see the New Urban Agenda as building international cooperation, agreed on by the countries and implemented by municipal governments, which did not take part in drawing it up, it’s heading for a crisis, because there will be clashes.” -- Fernando Carrión

In the 23-page declaration, the states commit themselves to fighting poverty, inequality and discrimination; improving urban planning; and building cities with resilience to climate change.

At the same time, academics and social movements laid out their visions of social development of cities in two alternative social forums held parallel to the Oct. 17-20 summit, criticising Habitat III’s approach to urbanisation and questioning how effectively it can be applied.

“If you see the New Urban Agenda as building international cooperation, agreed on by the countries and implemented by municipal governments, which did not take part in drawing it up, it’s heading for a crisis, because there will be clashes,” Fernando Carrión, the Ecuadorean activist who headed the Towards an Alternative Habitat 3 social forum, told IPS.

During this parallel forum, held at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO), some 140 speakers from 32 nations and 40 organisations from around the region discussed urban rights; the dialogue with local governments and social movements; housing and spatial justice, a term similar to the right to the city.

Habitat III, the cities summit organised by U.N.-Habitat, drew around 35,000 delegates of governments, non-governmental organisations, international bodies, universities, and companies, and gave rise to the New Urban Agenda, which is to chart the course of political action aimed at sustainable urban development over the next 20 years.

After the United States and Europe, Latin America is the most urbanised part of the planet, as 80 percent of the region’s total population of 641 million people live in urban areas.

At least 104 million Latin Americans live in slums; worldwide the number of slum dwellers amounts to 2.5 billion, according to U.N.-Habitat.

This phenomenon poses the challenges of land title regularisation and the provision of basic services, while aggravating problems facing cities like pollution, increasing traffic, urban sprawl and inequality.

“We need to rethink how to organise cities. We have to organise and mobilise ourselves. We’re going to assess compliance by national and local governments, which are key, because many things will depend on their compliance,” Alison Brown, a professor at the University of Cardiff in the UK, told IPS.

 Since the first Habitat conference, in Vancouver in 1976, the world has only fulfilled 70 percent of the commitments adopted at the first two summits, while progress has practically stalled since Habitat II in Istanbul in 1996. Credit: HCI


Since the first Habitat conference, in Vancouver in 1976, the world has only fulfilled 70 percent of the commitments adopted at the first two summits, while progress has practically stalled since Habitat II in Istanbul in 1996. Credit: HCI

The Quito Declaration drew criticism on some points. One of the main concerns that arose in the debates was about the “post-Quito” implementation of the commitments assumed by the states and social organisations.

The Habitat III accords “cannot generate the urban reforms that we need, such as integral access to land with services. That can only be achieved through struggle. It is local political participation that makes it possible to press for urban reform,” Isabella Goncalves, an activist with the Brazilian NGO Brigadas Populares, told IPS.

She attended the Oct. 14-20 Resistance to Habitat III social forum, which brought together delegates from about 100 social organisations from 35 nations to address issues such as opposition to evictions, the promotion of social housing, and defending the right to the city.

In its final declaration, the social forum called for strengthening the movements defending the right to land and territory and respect for the universal right to housing, and questioned Habitat III for pushing for urbanisation to the detriment of rural areas and their inhabitants.

The Habitat International Coalition criticised the New Urban Agenda’s “narrow vision”, and lamented that Habitat III had forgotten about protecting people from forced eviction and about the need to fight the shortage of housing and to achieve the right to universal housing.

It also urged countries to “regulate global financial transactions; end or limit opaque speculative financial instruments; steeply tax real-estate speculation; regulate rents; enhance the social tenure, production and financing of housing and habitat; and prevent privatisation of the commons, which is subject to attack under the neoliberal development model.”

Academics and social movements want to avoid a repeat of what happened post-Habitat II, which was held in 1996 in Istanbul, and whose implementation lacked follow-up and evaluation.

For that reason, the organisers of Towards an Alternative Habitat 3 agreed on the creation of an observatory for monitoring the decisions reached, biannual meetings, wide publication of the results of research and follow-up on the progress made by cities.

The Quito Declaration mentions periodic reviews, and urges the U.N. secretary general to assess the progress made and challenges faced in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, in his quadrennial report in 2026.

The decade between the summit in Istanbul and the one held this week in Quito serves as a demonstration of what could happen with the New Urban Agenda.

The Global Urban Futures Project’s Habitat Commitment Index, presented during Habitat III, shows how little has been achieved since 1996.

Between Habitat I, held in 1976 in Vancouver, and Habitat II, the global average score in terms of fulfillment of the commitments assumed was 68.68, according to the Project, a network of academics and activists based at the New School University in New York City, which created the Index based on infrastructure, poverty, employment, sustainability, institutional capacity, and gender indicators.

But since the 1996 conference, the global average only increased by 1.49 points. Latin America and Southeast Asia increased their scores, while North and sub-Saharan Africa showed extremes in both directions, with large increases and decreases in HCI scores.” India made no progress, and China saw a “significant decline” in its score.

With respect to the different dimensions taken into account by the Index, the greatest progress was seen in gender, modest progress was seen in poverty and sustainability, and minimal progress was seen in infrastructure.

“We didn’t manage to get a citizen monitoring mechanism or advisory committee included in the New Urban Agenda,” Luis Bonilla of El Salvador, who is the chief operating officer for TECHO International, told IPS.

“For that reason, we will create a follow-up mechanism. Concrete commitments are needed” within the agenda, he added.

Carrión, a professor at FLACSO and a coordinator of working groups in the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLASCO), said “the attention of many organisations was drawn, and now we will see what can be done from here on out.” For social movements, then, Quito marked the start of a long road ahead.

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Student Struggle in South Africa Gains Momentumhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/student-struggle-in-south-africa-gains-momentum/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=student-struggle-in-south-africa-gains-momentum http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/student-struggle-in-south-africa-gains-momentum/#comments Fri, 21 Oct 2016 17:12:45 +0000 Desmond Latham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147453 Hundreds of #FeesMustFall protesters gather outside the Union Buildings, the seat of government in South Africa, to demand free education on Oct. 20, 2016. Credit: Denvor DeWee/IPS

Hundreds of #FeesMustFall protesters gather outside the Union Buildings, the seat of government in South Africa, to demand free education on Oct. 20, 2016. Credit: Denvor DeWee/IPS

By Desmond Latham
JOHANNESBURG, Oct 21 2016 (IPS)

When #FeesMustFall began to trend on social media platforms in South Africa in October 2015, government shrugged it off as an example of isolated hotheads, while political pundits predicted the student campaign wouldn’t last.

But a year later and the protest movement has gained traction across the country, with all major tertiary institutions partly shut down or barely functioning, and civil society warning that the effect on various sectors of the economy will carry over to 2017.Black South Africans only account for around 25 percent of those studying at universities and the call for transformation underpins the Fees Must Fall movement.

In the latest action, hundreds of students marched to the Union Buildings on Thursday, Oct. 20, and called on government to take their complaints about the high cost of education seriously.

The University of the Witwatersrand student movement began in 2015 when students shut down the campus on the eve of exams after it was announced that fees would increase by 10.5 percent in 2016, citing the weak rand which lost a third of its value against the dollar in 2015 as one of the main reasons.

Since then protestors have taken aim at government as well as their local institutions and have called for action against the ruling African National Congress after its leaders told the country’s parliament this week that education could not be “a free for all”.

Posters emerged of students calling for the ruling party to “Fxxx Off” and the Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande to be fired. Speaking to media on Oct. 14, Nzimande said government could not afford free education demands.

“In South Africa it is the taxpayers who give you money up-front and then say when you are working bring it back in order to assist others,” he said. “Somebody is paying… So we must understand these slogans properly.”

Students have rejected this view and mediation between the students and state by church and other NGO’s has failed so far. South Africa spends 5.4 percent of its 100-billion-dollar budget on education, and earlier in 2016 allocated an additional 1.1 billion for higher education over the next three years, with 400 million specifically aimed at keeping fees for tertiary institutions as low as possible. However, this has failed to address the students’ demands.

Police face off with student protesters near the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa, on October 20, 2016. Credit: Denvor DeWee/IPS

Police face off with student protesters near the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa, on October 20, 2016. Credit: Denvor DeWee/IPS

The call for education to be free comes as South Africa’s economy flounders and its currency, the rand, lost a third of its value against the U.S. dollar. The country’s high youth unemployment rate of over 45 percent has exacerbated the problem, while South Africa remains the most unequal society in the world in terms of the rich/poor divide.

The Wits Student Representative Council warned that its members can no longer afford the tuition fees and early memoranda included the demand for free education, the scrapping of registration fees and for all security forces to vacate the university campus.

But arson has been reported at the University of Johannesburg, Wits University, Cape Town University and a host of other small campus around South Africa. End of year exams have been affected and the University of Cape Town Faculty of Health Sciences has suspended its academic year.

An impasse has now developed, with government saying it can’t allow unruly elements to destroy property and stepping up the number of police patrolling these venues.

Students have long led the struggle for change in the country. The most famous example is the 1976 Soweto uprising against apartheid linked to Afrikaans being used in education. Twenty-two years after democracy, students once again are making themselves heard and are focusing on higher education.

While making up around 80 percent of the population, black South Africans only account for around 25 percent of those studying at universities and the call for transformation underpins the Fees Must Fall movement.

But the protest movement has gained impetus in recent months and government has been largely unable to cope with the increased violence associated with the uprising. South African police officers have also claimed that criminals have infiltrated the protest movement, with a few to cashing in on the chaos.

‘‘It is evident that criminality has taken advantage of young people in the universities under the disguise of the #FeesMustFall initiative,” said police chief Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane on Oct. 6, although he provided no substantive proof to back up this view.

The state has also hardened its attitude toward the students, and succeeded in having former Wits SRC president Mcebo Dlamimi denied bail during a court hearing on Oct. 19 in Johannesburg. He’s charged with malicious damage to property and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm after footage emerged of Dlamini allegedly assaulting a police officer.

He’s also accused of ignoring a previous court order obtained by Wits University to restrain students from disrupting normal activity.

The protest has turned more violent with a security guard battling for his life after being beaten by youths in Cape Town, while in Johannesburg the head of the local Fees Must Fall organisation, Shaeera Kalla, was rushed to hospital on Oct. 20 after being shot numerous times with rubber bullets.

Soon after, Kalla thanked supporters on her Facebook page and vowed: “Even as we sit in hospital beds and others languish in prisons, I take strength from students across the country who are continuing the fight. Onwards and Upwards. Towards the immediate realisation of free, quality and decolonized education now.”

In a statement earlier in the week, the Wits SRC warned that “as the days go on, the brutality against students and repression at our universities continues to increase. Since Friday night, the levels of violence at Wits University have increased. Students, regardless of their involvement in the protest action, are being violated in ways we thought were unimaginable in a post-apartheid South Africa.”

The students have called on members of the public to denounce “the apartheid tactics that are being used, to speak out against the violations and brutality” while reiterating that their call for “free, quality, equal and decolonized education” was a legitimate one.

Civil society leaders, including the Council of Churches, have been mediating between the two sides and continue to try to solve what is now being called an impasse.

An inter-ministerial committee on university fees was set up by government but it initially only included the Higher Education Minister and leaders of the security cluster managed by President Jacob Zuma.

Finally, on Thursday, following the upsurge in violence, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was added to the list, which is regarded as a crucial step in order for the state to approach international donors of the bond market in order to find cash to cover student demands.

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U.N. Urban Summit Gives Rise to a Mixture of Optimism and Criticismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/u-n-urban-summit-gives-rise-to-a-mixture-of-optimism-and-criticism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-n-urban-summit-gives-rise-to-a-mixture-of-optimism-and-criticism http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/u-n-urban-summit-gives-rise-to-a-mixture-of-optimism-and-criticism/#comments Tue, 18 Oct 2016 18:30:44 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147428 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/u-n-urban-summit-gives-rise-to-a-mixture-of-optimism-and-criticism/feed/ 0 Unexpected Eritrean Journalistic Voice Rises in Ethiopiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/unexpected-eritrean-journalistic-voice-rises-in-ethiopia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unexpected-eritrean-journalistic-voice-rises-in-ethiopia http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/unexpected-eritrean-journalistic-voice-rises-in-ethiopia/#comments Thu, 06 Oct 2016 09:33:30 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147251 Eritrean journalist Estifo displaying Tsilal, the magazine he edits, which deals with the risks of migration and difficult reality of being in Europe. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Eritrean journalist Estifo displaying Tsilal, the magazine he edits, which deals with the risks of migration and difficult reality of being in Europe. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By James Jeffrey
ADDIS ABABA, Oct 6 2016 (IPS)

It took Eritrean journalist Estifo* seven years to save up enough money to pay a fixer to get him and his family from the capital, Asmara, to the shared border with Ethiopia. After they crossed the border by foot, they turned themselves in to the Ethiopian authorities and claimed asylum as refugees.

Now Estifo is one of thousands of Eritreans living in Addis Ababa, where he edits a magazine that aims to dissuade other Eritreans in the Ethiopian capital and dotted around the country in refugee camps from attempting to make the risky journey north through Libya and across the Mediterranean toward Europe.“You had no rights as a journalist and it was risky even if you were working for the State TV. If you did something they didn’t like, they would call the police.” -- Beyene, an Eritrean journalist

“The magazine deals with the risks of migration and difficult reality of being in Europe,” says Estifo, the magazine’s editor. “Also once you are in Europe you can’t come back—things change too much. Whereas in Addis there’s more in common, and it’s easier to one day go back to Eritrea.”

Ever since Ethiopia’s late long-term ruler Meles Zenawi established an open-door policy toward refugees, the country’s refugee population has grown to about 700,000, the largest in Africa.

And that open door policy even extends to accepting refugees from a country viewed by Ethiopia as its arch nemesis since a catastrophic two-year war between the two that ended in 2000 but left matters unresolved and mutual antipathy only stronger.

It’s hardly surprising that among those going south over the shared border are journalists. A list compiled in 2015 by the Committee to Protect Journalists of the 10 countries where the press is most restricted ranks Eritrea as the most censored country in the world and Africa’s worst jailer of journalists.

The crackdown on media in Eritrea began in earnest in 2001, reportedly taking advantage of when the world was distracted by the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

“In September they shut down private news channels and most of my colleagues were arrested,” says Estifo, who as a sports writer avoided arrest (a friend had previously advised him to take the position to avoid undue attention).

Still fearing for his safety, however, he joined the military media operating at Sawa, the desert base where Eritrean Defence Forces recruits and national service conscripts are sent for basic military training.

Living conditions were bad, Estifo says, and he was paid only 600 Eritrean nakfa (38 dollars) a month, leaving little after his 500 nakfa rent.

Then in 2007 he managed to get paternity leave with his wife pregnant, and afterwards rather than him returning to Sawa, they went into hiding. For two years Estifo never left his home, he says.

Once he deemed it safe enough, he started to venture out and began selling shoes with the help of his wife, slowly saving money for the escape to the border. Eventually it was time.

“We didn’t sell any of our possessions before we left in case people got suspicious,” he says. “We reached the border around 2 a.m. but we waited until dawn to cross otherwise we might have been shot by patrols.”

Eritrean journalists Estifo and Beyene discussing the contents of their magazine Tsilal, the Tigrayan word for umbrella. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Eritrean journalists Estifo and Beyene discussing the contents of their magazine Tsilal, the Tigrayan word for umbrella. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Beyene is another refugee journalist working with Estifo on the magazine who recalls the arrest of 40 journalists in 2009, accused of leaking news about Eritrea to foreign media.

“You had no rights as a journalist and it was risky even if you were working for the State TV,” Beyene says. “If you did something they didn’t like, they would call the police.”

Arrests sometimes happened as journalists were relaxing in the communal tea room.

“They wanted you to see it so you became afraid,” Estifo says.

Repression of media and its means is all-consuming in Eritrean society. Fearing the spread of an Arab Spring-type uprising, Eritrea scrapped plans in 2011 to provide mobile Internet for its citizens, making it even harder to access independent information.

Internet is available but only through slow dial-up connections, and fewer than 1 percent of the population goes online, according to U.N. International Telecommunication Union figures. Eritrea also has the lowest figure globally of cell phone users, with just 5.6 percent of the population owning one.

“For the young there’s no chance to do your own thing, you can’t do anything for your family, everything pushes you to leave,” says Yonathon, 31, who left Eritrea in 2011 and spent a year in an Ethiopia-based refugee camp before relocation to Addis Ababa. “No one can stand for justice there—before you start they will capture you; such efforts are good for nothing.”

Eritrea’s authoritarian government employs a vast spying and detention network. Yonathon, while clearly not sympathetic to those involved, appreciates the realities: “It’s a matter of survival, to feed their families—the situation forces them to spy.”

Yonathon and 29-year-old Teklu sitting next to him have Eritrean friends who attempted the Mediterranean crossing from Libya. Fortunately, no one they know died. But thousands have.

And a 20-year-old niece of Yonathon died in Libya waiting to make the crossing; he doesn’t know the cause. Teklu has relatives who were kidnapped during their northward overland travels and released after ransoms were paid.

“Of course it has come to my mind,” Yonathon says of trying to make the crossing. “I’ve been here four years: what is my future going to be if I stay here?”

Such frustrations are addressed in the magazine, called Tsilal, the Tigrayan word for umbrella, and chosen because refugees are under the umbrella of another country’s protection, Estifo says.

Its production is funded by the Norwegian Refugee Council, and it comes out once every two months with a circulation of about 3,000 free copies, of which about 600 go to refugee camps. Each of the seven journalists working on the magazine is paid 750 birr (31 dollars) per month.

“The money’s not enough but we have to do it or we won’t be heard,” Estifo says, adding it’s important to illustrate how the reality of living in Europe is often a far cry from the more glamourous version seen on social media by young Eritreans.

The magazine also features more encouraging articles about Eritrean artists and entrepreneurial activities, while it avoids contentious issues such as politics and religion so as not to put itself and the Norwegian Refugee Council in an awkward position. Ethiopia also has its own struggles with press freedom—the same CJR survey of restricted press placed Ethiopia at number four.

“Currently we just cover soft issues but we want to go beyond to those issues we feel are more important,” Estifo says. “But we’re restrained by our funding. If we got other funding we could write independently about more topics.”

Another problem is not having enough resources to enable reporters to visit camps and talk to Eritreans there. The three largest camps—May Aini, Adi Harush and Hitsats refugee camps—are all the way in the northwest of Ethiopia’s Tigray region, close to the borders with Eritrea and Sudan, hundreds of kilometers away from Addis Ababa.

And the magazine has no office, rather it is put together on laptops in cafes with notably Italian-sounding names that have been opened by Eritreans—Eritrea used to be an Italian colony.

“Sometimes I spend the whole day in a café working on the laptop, drinking tea and eating some shiro at lunch,” Yonathon says.

But despite the Tigrayan voices amid cafes with Italian names, Addis Ababa can never replace being back in Eritrea.

“Life is difficult here, you can’t replicate home, and people’s behaviour changes here,” Yonathon says.

Hence the importance of never forgetting about Eritrea’s ongoing troubles and those left behind. Estifo harbours ambitions of one day starting a radio station that could be picked up by those in Eritrea.

“Getting out of Eritrea is one way of demonstrating against the government,” Estifo says. “But while in places like Ethiopia, Eritreans must ask themselves how they can bring about freedom with our own resources.”

*Only first names are used in this article due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter. 

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Murders, Crackdown Create Lingering Climate of Fear in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/murders-crackdown-create-lingering-climate-of-fear-in-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=murders-crackdown-create-lingering-climate-of-fear-in-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/murders-crackdown-create-lingering-climate-of-fear-in-bangladesh/#comments Thu, 29 Sep 2016 13:03:15 +0000 Amy Fallon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147144 Maruf Rosul, a Bangladeshi writer and activist who has received death threats from Islamic militants for his blog posts. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

Maruf Rosul, a Bangladeshi writer and activist who has received death threats from Islamic militants for his blog posts. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

By Amy Fallon
DHAKA, Sep 29 2016 (IPS)

Like the living room of any proud family, the one in Ajoy Roy’s house boasts photos of the eldest son, Avijit.

A large framed portrait which has a powerful presence in the room hangs on the mint-coloured wall as Ajoy, a retired physics professor who at the age of 80 is frail but still very mentally alert, sits in a chair below it, sipping tea.

It is the image of a popular Bangladeshi writer and bio-engineer, tragically murdered for his beliefs along with scores of other atheist writers, bloggers, publishers, gay activists and religious figures by suspected Islamist militants in the predominantly Muslim country over the past few years.

“Avijit wasn’t an activist on the streets, but he used his pen to protest against social injustice, religious fanaticism and propagate the idea of secularism, the main theme of his writing,” Ajoy, wearing a traditional lungi around his waist, told IPS. “It’s a terrible loss. It cannot be compensated for.”

Ajoy Roy, the father of Bangladeshi writer Avijit Roy, who was murdered in 2015. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

Ajoy Roy, the father of Bangladeshi writer Avijit Roy, who was murdered in 2015. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

More than 50 writers, activists and others have been killed in Bangladesh since 2013, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Avijit, 42, a U.S. citizen who lived in America with his wife Rafida Ahmed, was hacked to death after the pair went to the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka for a book festival in February 2015.

There have been many more killings since then.

This July, 23 people, including 17 foreigners, were killed at a bakery in the diplomatic zone of Dhaka, in one of the worst terror attacks ever in Bangladesh.

Five of the involved suspects were killed in a police operation at the eatery, while one survivor was arrested and remanded, and another jailed, the Dhaka Tribune later reported.

The suspected ringleader of the attacks and his two affiliates died in a police raid in August, but the search is still on for a coordinator, the arms suppliers and funders of the attacks.

After the murders of two other activists, LGBT campaigners Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, in April, the government, under international pressure over the spate of killings, arrested about 14,000 people.

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at HRW, said despite no further attacks since the brutal bakery murders, there were “concerns” that the crackdown was leading to “an arbitrary rounding up of usual suspects”.

The drop in incidents meanwhile “suggest that the state could have acted effectively earlier” to prevent the killings, she said.

There was still a “climate of fear” in Bangladesh among writers and members of minority groups, said Ganguly.

“Some have been able to leave the country, but many more, still in Bangladesh, fear that the government will not do enough to protect them,” she said.

Maruf Rosul, 29, a secular writer, photographer, filmmaker and activist who pens for various outlets, including freethinking site Mukto-Mona, set up by Avijit and now being run by his successors, said Islamic extremists in the country had been silenced.

“But the government has not taken the proper action to uproot these evil forces,” Rosul, who said he was on an extremist group’s hit list, but as a “frontier activist” couldn’t go into hiding, told IPS. “I am worried about the future.”

His anxiety was growing ahead of the Durga Puja, the biggest religious festival for south Asia’s Hindu community, which will begin next week, on Oct. 7.

Rosul said “every year” during the festival there were attacks by Islamic extremist groups in Bangladesh, yet officials did nothing but issue “sympathetic statements”.

“As there is no strong law enforcement, we are worried about our Hindu friends,” he told IPS. A Hindu tailor, hacked to death in April, is among those who have been killed in the country.

The sixth edition of Dhaka Literary Festival (DLF) is also due to take place in mid-November. Director Ahsan Akbar told IPS that preparations were in “full-swing”.

“We have had only a couple of cancellations so far, citing security fears, but the encouraging news is our speakers are really looking forward to the event and we expect no more cancellations,” he said.

Given the recent wave of murders though, Akbar said “writers in the country today are unfortunately self-censoring and thinking twice about what they write and publish”.

“Bangladeshi writers outside of the country are deeply sympathetic and doing many things to raise the awareness amongst the international community, such as engaging with PEN International,” he said.

“It is astonishing how we sometimes forget the interconnectivity in of all this: an attack on a writer in Bangladesh is – in a way – an attack on a writer in the West or anywhere else for that matter.”

Olof Blomqvist of Amnesty International told IPS that “the investigations into the targeted killings are ongoing, and there have been arrests made in some of the cases. Genuine justice will of course take time, but it is worrying that the perpetrators have so far only been held to account in one case, the killing of Rajib Haider in 2013.

“The authorities must ensure that those responsible are held to account, but also do more to protect those people at risk,” he said, adding that, “We still get desperate pleas on a weekly basis from people who have received threats and are afraid for their lives if they stay in Bangladesh.”

“Police must create a climate where activists who have been threatened feel safe to approach police and not fear further harassment,” Blomqvist said.

Ganguly also said in order to prevent more attacks, the Bangladeshi authorities needed to deliver a message that they believe in “peaceful free expression”.

“They should not recommend to those at risk that they self-censor to avoid hurting religious sentiment and becoming targets for retribution,” she said.

In 2015, after the killing of writer Niladri Chatterjee Niloy, Bangladesh’s police chief warned bloggers that “hurting religious sentiments is a crime”.

Police killed one of the key suspects involved in Avijit’s murder in June, but two others escaped, they said, and are still at large.

Following his son’s death, Ajoy, who said Avijit had been targeted by extremists in the few weeks before his death, and that he had warned him not to return to Bangladesh, could be forgiven for going into hiding.

But he said he was continuing “my activism” against fundamentalist groups, and had been invited to speak at various institutions.

“I’m not scared,” said Ajoy. “I have lost my son, after that I have nothing to care about.”

Ajoy said he wanted Avijit to be remembered as a “courageous young man who would face any hard situation for democracy, for secularism, for free-thinking”.

It was his wish that “the younger generation follow in his footsteps”.

“I would not discourage these courageous young people to quit blogging, speaking your mind, because Bangladesh is constitutionally a secular, democratic country so we must uphold the constitution,” said Ajoy.

“We have to make the common people understand that this is not an anti-Muslim country, it is liberal,” he said. “Although a large number of Muslims are here, they’re also liberal.”

IPS made several attempts to contact the Bangladeshi police and government for comment, but they did not respond.

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The Right to Development at 30 Yearshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/the-right-to-development-at-30-years/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-right-to-development-at-30-years http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/the-right-to-development-at-30-years/#comments Fri, 23 Sep 2016 22:04:40 +0000 Martin Khor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147076 Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre, based in Geneva]]>

Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre, based in Geneva

By Martin Khor
GENEVA, Sep 23 2016 (IPS)

It’s had a very useful if sometimes controversial past and it will have great relevance for many more years ahead. That’s the sense one has about the Declaration on the Right to Development as it is commemorated 30 years after its adoption by the United Nations General Assembly in 1986.

Three decades ago, the Declaration “broke new ground in the struggle for greater freedom, equality and justice,” remarked the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, at a session of the Human Rights Council on 15 June, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Declaration.

The right to development has had great resonance among people all over the world, especially in developing countries. Even the term itself “the right to development” carries a great sense and weight of meaning and of hope.

In the past three decades it has been invoked numerous times in international negotiations. The right to development is a major component of the Rio Principles endorsed by the 1992 Earth Summit, and most recently it was included in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change of 2015.

It is fitting to recall some of the important elements of this right to development. It is human and people centered. It is an inalienable human right , where every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to and enjoy development in which all rights and freedoms can be fully realized . The human person is the central subject of development and should be the active participant and beneficiary of development.

It gives responsibility to each state to get its act together to take measures to get its people’s right to development fulfilled. But it also places great importance to the international arena, giving a responsibility to all countries to cooperate internationally and especially to assist the developing countries.

The right to development is also practical. The Declaration makes it a duty for governments to work towards the realisation of the right to development. It recognises that there are national and international obstacles to the realisation of this right and calls on all parties to eliminate these obstacles.

It is thus useful to identify some of the present key global issues that have relevance to the right to development, or that constitute obstacles to its realisation, and to take steps to address them.

Firstly is the crisis in the global economy. The economic sluggishness in developed countries has had adverse impact on developing economies, with lower commodity prices and falling export earnings affecting their economic and social development.. Many economies face the havoc of volatility in the inflow and outflow of funds, due to absence of controls over speculative capital, and fluctuations in their currency levels due to the lack of a global mechanism to stabilise currencies.

Several countries are facing or are on the brink of another external debt crisis. There is for them an absence of an international sovereign debt restructuring mechanism, and countries that undertake their own debt workout may well become victims of vulture funds.

All these problems make it difficult for developing countries to maintain their development momentum, and constitute obstacles to realising the right to development.

Second is the challenge of formulating and implementing appropriate development strategies. This includes getting policies right in boosting agricultural production, farmers’ incomes and food security; and climbing the ladder from labour intensive to higher technology industries and overcoming the middle-income trap. There is also the imperative to provide social services such as healthcare, education, water supply, lighting and transport, and developing financial and commercial services.

For many countries, development policy-making has been made more difficult due to premature liberalisation resulting from loan conditionality and trade and investment agreements which severely constrain their policy space. Policies used by other countries when they were developing may no longer be available due to conditionality or international agreements.

Recently, there has been a crisis of legitimacy over investment agreements that contain the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system, which enable foreign investors to take cases against host governments, taking advantage of imbalanced provisions and shortcomings in the arbitration system. The cases taken up not only cost countries a lot in monetary compensation payments but also put a chill on the formulation of policies and regulations. A review of these conditionalities and trade and investmemt agreements, taking account of their effects on the right to development, would be useful.

Thirdly, climate change has become an existential problem for the human race. It is an outstanding example of environmental constraints to development and the right to development.

In 2014 the Assestment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) revealed that the world has to limit its release of Greenhouse Gases to only release another 1,000 billion tonnes if there is to be a reasonable chance of avoiding global warming of 2 degree Celsius, and anything above that level would cause a devastating disaster. Global emissions are running at 50 billion tonnes a year. Within two decades the atmospheric space would be filled up. Therefore there is an imperative to cut global emissions as sharply and quickly as possible.

The Paris Agreement of December 2015 was a success in multilateral deal making. But it is not environmentally ambitious enough, nor did it generate any confidence that the commitment for transfers of finance and technology to developing countries will be met. There is a danger of that the burdens of adjustment will be passed on to the developing and poor countries. How to equitably share the costs of urgent environmental action which should also be economically feasible is the major climate change challenge that will impact seriously on the right to development.

Fourthly is another existential problem — the crisis of anti-microbial resistance and the dangers of a post-antibiotic age. Many diseases are becoming increasingly difficult to treat because bacteria have become more and more resistant to anti-microbials. Some strains of bacteria are now resistant to multiple antibiotics and a few have become pan resistant – resistant to all antibiotics. The WHO Director General has warned that every anitibiotic ever developed is at risk of becoming useless. She added that: “A post-antibiotic era means in effect an end to modern medicine as we know it. Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill.”

Actions are needed to reduce the over-use and wrong use of antibiotics including control over unethical marketing of drugs, control of the use of antibiotics in livestock, to educate the public and discover new antibiotics. The World Health Assembly (WHA) in 2015 adopted a global plan of action to address anti-microbial resistance but the challenge is in the implementation. Developing countries require funds to enforce the measures as well as technology such as microscopes and diagnostic tools; they also need to have access to existing and new antibiotics at affordable prices; and people worldwide need to be protected from anti-microbial resistance if life expectancy is to be maintained.

Finally there are major challenges in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs include very ambitious and idealistic goals and targets, but there are obstacles to fulfilling them.

For example, Goal 3 is “to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” One of the targets is to achieve universal health coverage, that no one should be denied treatment because they cannot afford it. But this will remain an unfulfilled noble aim unless governments address the controversial issue of how to finance public health measures..

The problem is compounded when medicines are priced beyond the reach of the poor and the middle class. The treatment for HIV AIDS became more widespread and affordable only when generics were made available at cheaper prices, for example $60 a patient a year today, compared to the prices of original drugs of $10,000, and millions of lives have been saved.

Some of the new medicines, for example for Hepatitis C and cancers, are unaffordable even in rich countries and thus not provided through their national health service. They will certainly be out of the reach of patients in developing countries unless generic versions are made available through the use of flexibilities in the global patent regime, such as the non-granting of patents and compulsory licenses.

The interconnecting issues of patents, over pricing of original drugs, and the need to make generic drugs more available, are relevant to the implementation of SDGs, universal health coverage, and the realisation of the right to health and the right to development.

The examples above of pressing global problems show there is a long way to go before we make progress on social and economic development, while protecting the environment. The principles and instruments associated with the Right to Development can shine a bright light on the way forward. The Declaration adopted 30 years ago continues to have great relevance, if only we make full use of it.

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