Inter Press ServiceCivil Society – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 21 Jul 2018 00:49:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Even Rocks Harvest Water in Brazil’s Semi-Arid Northeasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/even-rocks-harvest-water-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=even-rocks-harvest-water-brazils-semi-arid-northeast http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/even-rocks-harvest-water-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/#respond Fri, 20 Jul 2018 10:02:00 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156776 Rocks, once a hindrance since they reduced arable land, have become an asset. Pedrina Pereira and João Leite used them to build four ponds to collect rainwater in a farming community in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. On their six-hectare property, the couple store water in three other reservoirs, the “mud trenches”, the name given locally to […]

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Beans are left to dry in the sun on Pedrina Pereira’s small farm. In the background, a tank collects rainwater for drinking and cooking, from the rooftop. It is part of a programme of the organisation Articulation in Brazil’s Semi Arid Region (ASA), which aims to distribute one million rainwater tanks to achieve coexistence with the semi-arid climate which extends across 982,000 sq km in Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Beans are left to dry in the sun on Pedrina Pereira’s small farm. In the background, a tank collects rainwater for drinking and cooking, from the rooftop. It is part of a programme of the organisation Articulation in Brazil’s Semi Arid Region (ASA), which aims to distribute one million rainwater tanks to achieve coexistence with the semi-arid climate which extends across 982,000 sq km in Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
JUAZEIRINHO/BOM JARDIM, Brazil, Jul 20 2018 (IPS)

Rocks, once a hindrance since they reduced arable land, have become an asset. Pedrina Pereira and João Leite used them to build four ponds to collect rainwater in a farming community in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast.

On their six-hectare property, the couple store water in three other reservoirs, the “mud trenches”, the name given locally to pits that are dug deep in the ground to store as much water as possible in the smallest possible area to reduce evaporation.

“We no longer suffer from a shortage of water,” not even during the drought that has lasted the last six years, said Pereira, a 47-year-old peasant farmer, on the family’s small farm in Juazeirinho, a municipality in the Northeast state of Paraíba.

Only at the beginning of this year did they have to resort to water distributed by the army to local settlements, but “only for drinking,” Pereira told IPS proudly during a visit to several communities that use innovative water technologies that are changing the lives of small villages and family farmers in this rugged region.

To irrigate their maize, bean, vegetable crops and fruit trees, the couple had four “stone ponds” and three mud trenches, enough to water their sheep and chickens.

“The water in that pond is even drinkable, it has that whitish colour because of the soil,” but that does not affect its taste or people’s health, said Pereira, pointing to the smallest of the ponds, “which my husband dug out of the rocks with the help of neighbours.”

“There was nothing here when we arrived in 2007, just a small mud pond, which dried up after the rainy season ended,” she said. They bought the property where they built the house and lived without electricity until 2010, when they got electric power and a rainwater tank, which changed their lives.

The One Million Cisterns Programme (P1MC) was underway for a decade. With the programme, the Articulation of the Semi Arid (ASA), a network of 3,000 social organisations, is seeking to achieve universal access to drinking water in the rural areas of the Northeast semi-arid ecoregion, which had eight million inhabitants in the 2010 official census.

Two of the four stone ponds on the farm belonging to Pedrina Pereira and João Leite, built by Leite with the help of neighbours, in a farming community in Juazeirinho. The tanks store rainwater for their livestock and their diversified crops during the frequent droughts in Brazil’s semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Two of the four stone ponds on the farm belonging to Pedrina Pereira and João Leite, built by Leite with the help of neighbours, in a farming community in Juazeirinho. The tanks store rainwater for their livestock and their diversified crops during the frequent droughts in Brazil’s semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The network promoted the construction of 615,597 tanks that collect water from rooftops, for use in drinking and cooking. The tanks hold 16,000 litres of water, considered sufficient for a family of five during the usual eight-month low-water period.

Other initiatives outside ASA helped disseminate rainwater tanks, which mitigated the effects of the drought that affected the semi-arid Northeast between 2012 and 2017.

According to Antonio Barbosa, coordinator of the One Land, Two Waters Programme (P1+2) promoted by ASA since 2007, the rainwater tanks helped to prevent a repeat of the tragedy seen during previous droughts, such as the 1979-1983 drought, which “caused the death of a million people.”

After the initial tank is built, rainwater collection is expanded for the purposes of irrigation and raising livestock, by means of tanks like the ones built in 2013 on the farm belonging to Pereira and her husband since 2013. ASA has distributed 97,508 of these tanks, benefiting 100,828 families.

Other solutions, used for irrigation or water for livestock, include ponds built on large rocks or water pumps used by communities to draw water from deep wells.

Tanks holding up to 52,000 litres of rainwater, collected using the “calçadão” system, where water runs down a sloping concrete terrace or even a road into the tank, are another of the seven “water technologies” for irrigation and animal consumption disseminated by the organisations that make up ASA.

Pedro Custodio da Silva shows his native seed bank at his farm in the municipality of Bom Jardim, in Northeast Brazil, part of a movement driven by the Articulation in Brazil’s Semi Arid Region (ASA), a network of 3,000 social organisations, to promote family farming based on their own seeds adapted to the local climate. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Pedro Custodio da Silva shows his native seed bank at his farm in the municipality of Bom Jardim, in Northeast Brazil, part of a movement driven by the Articulation in Brazil’s Semi Arid Region (ASA), a network of 3,000 social organisations, to promote family farming based on their own seeds adapted to the local climate. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

In the case of Pereira and Leite, this water infrastructure came through the Programme for the Application of Appropriate Technologies for Communities (Patac), an organisation that seeks to strengthen family farming in small agricultural communities in Paraiba.

The tanks and terraces are made with donated material, and the beneficiaries must take part in the construction and receive training in water management, focused on coexistence with the semi-arid climate. Community action and sharing of experiences among farmers is also promoted.

Beans drying in the courtyard, and piled up inside the house, even in the bedroom, show that the Pereira and Leite family, which also includes their son, Salvador – who has inherited his parents’ devotion to farming – managed to get a good harvest after this year’s adequate rainfall.

Maize, sweet potato, watermelon, pumpkin, pepper, tomato, aubergine, other vegetables and medicinal herbs make up the vegetable garden that mother and son manage, within a productive diversification that is a widespread practice among farmers in the semi-arid region.

A pond supplied by a water source revived by reforestation on the 2.5-hectare farm of Pedro Custodio da Silva, who adopted an agroforestry system and applied agro-ecological principles in the production of fruit and vegetables, in the municipality of Bom Jardim, in the semi-arid region of Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A pond supplied by a water source revived by reforestation on the 2.5-hectare farm of Pedro Custodio da Silva, who adopted an agroforestry system and applied agro-ecological principles in the production of fruit and vegetables, in the municipality of Bom Jardim, in the semi-arid region of Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Also contributing to this diversification are eight sheep and a large chicken coop, which are for self-consumption and for sale. “Our family lives off agriculture alone,” said Pereira, who also benefits from the Bolsa Familia programme, a government subsidy for poor families, which in their case amounts to 34 dollars a month.

“I am one of the customers for Pedrina’s ‘cuzcuz’, which is not only tasty but is also made without toxic agricultural chemicals,” said Gloria Araujo, the head of Patac. She was referring to a kind of corn tortilla that is very popular in the Brazilian Northeast, an important source of income for the family.

Living in the community of Sussuarana, home to 180 families, and forming part of the Regional Collective of farmers, trade unions and associations from 11 municipalities from the central part of the state of Paraiba, offers other opportunities.

Pereira has been able to raise chickens thanks to a barbed wire fence that she acquired through the Revolving Solidarity Fund, which provides a loan, in cash or animals, that when it is paid off goes immediately to another person and so on. A wire mesh weaving machine is for collective use in the community.

In Bom Jardim, 180 km from Juazeirinho, in the neighbouring state of Pernambuco, the community of Feijão (which means ‘beans’) stands out for its agroforestry system and fruit production, much of which is sold at agroecological fairs in Recife, the state capital, 100 km away and with a population of 1.6 million.

“I’ve lived here for 25 years, I started reforesting bare land and they called me crazy, but those who criticised me later planted a beautiful forest,” said Pedro Custodio da Silva, owner of 2.5 hectares and technical coordinator of the Association of Agroecological Farmers of Bom Jardim (Agroflor), which provides assistance to the community.

In addition to a diversified fruit tree orchard and vegetable garden, which provide income from the sale of fruit, vegetables and pulp, “without agrochemicals,” a stream that had dried up three decades ago was revived on his property and continued to run in the severe drought of recent years.

It filled a small 60,000-litre pond whose “water level drops in the dry season, but no longer dries up,” he said.

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The Industrialization of Cybercrimehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/the-industrialization-of-cybercrime/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-industrialization-of-cybercrime http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/the-industrialization-of-cybercrime/#respond Wed, 18 Jul 2018 12:17:16 +0000 Tamas Gaidosch http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156762 Tamas Gaidosch, a senior financial sector expert in the IMF’s Monetary and Capital Markets Department, is a cybersecurity professional with more than 20 years’ experience, including probing banking systems to find cyber weaknesses. He formerly led the Information Technology Supervision Department at the Central Bank of Hungary.

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Tamas Gaidosch, a senior financial sector expert in the IMF’s Monetary and Capital Markets Department, is a cybersecurity professional with more than 20 years’ experience, including probing banking systems to find cyber weaknesses. He formerly led the Information Technology Supervision Department at the Central Bank of Hungary.

By Tamas Gaidosch
WASHINGTON DC, Jul 18 2018 (IPS)

Cybercrime is now a mature industry operating on principles much like those of legitimate businesses in pursuit of profit. Combating the proliferation of cybercrime means disrupting a business model that employs easy-to-use tools to generate high profits with low risk.

Long gone are the legendary lone-wolf hackers of the late 1980s, when showing off level 99 computer wizard skills was the main reason to get into other people’s computers.

The shift to profit making, starting in the 1990s, has gradually taken over the hacking scene to create today’s cybercrime industry, with all the attributes of normal businesses, including markets, exchanges, specialist operators, outsourcing service providers, integrated supply chains, and so on.

Several nation-states have used the same technology to develop highly effective cyber weaponry for intelligence gathering, industrial espionage, and disrupting adversaries’ vulnerable infrastructures.

Cybercrime has proliferated even though the supply of highly skilled specialists has not kept pace with the increasing technical sophistication needed to pull off profitable hacks with impunity. Advanced tooling and automation have filled the gap.

Hacking tools have evolved spectacularly over the past two decades. In the 1990s, so-called penetration testing to find vulnerabilities in a computer system was all the rage in the profession.

Most tools available at that time were simple, often custom built, and using them required considerable knowledge in programming, networking protocols, operating system internals, and various other deeply technical subjects. As a result, only a few professionals could find exploitable weaknesses and take advantage of them.

As tools got better and easier to use, less skilled, but motivated, young people—mockingly called “script kiddies”—started to use them with relative success. Today, to launch a phishing operation—that is, the fraudulent practice of sending email that appears to be from a reputable sender to trick people into revealing confidential information—requires only a basic understanding of the concepts, willingness, and some cash. Hacking has become easy to do (see chart).

Cyber risk is notoriously difficult to quantify. Loss data are scarce and unreliable, in part because there is little incentive to report cyber losses, especially if the incident does not make headlines or there is no cyber insurance coverage. The rapidly evolving nature of the threats makes historical data less relevant in predicting future losses.

Scenario-based modeling, working out the costs of a well-defined incident affecting certain economies, produces estimates in the tens or hundreds of billions of dollars. Lloyd’s of London estimates losses of $53.05 billion for a cloud service outage lasting 2½ to 3 days affecting the advanced economies.

An IMF modeling exercise put the base-case average aggregated annual loss at $97 billion, with the worst-case scenario in the range of $250 billion.

Crime in the physical world—with the intent of making money—is generally motivated simply by profit potentially much higher than for legal business, which criminals view as compensation for the high risk.

In the world of cybercrime, similar or even higher profits are possible with much less risk: less chance of being caught and successfully prosecuted and almost no risk of being shot at. Phishing profitability is estimated in the high hundreds or even over a thousand percentage points.

We can only speculate on the profits made possible by intellectual property theft carried out by the most sophisticated cyber threat actors. The basics, however, are similar: effective tooling and an exceptional risk/reward ratio make a compelling case and ultimately explain the sharp increase in and industrialization of cybercrime.

Cybercrime gives rise to systemic risk in several industries. While different industries are affected differently, the most exposed is probably the financial sector. A relatively new threat is posed by destruction-motivated attackers.

When seeking to destabilize the financial system, they look at the most promising targets. Financial market infrastructure is the most vulnerable because of its pivotal role in global financial markets.

Given the financial sector’s dependence on a relatively small set of technical systems, knock-on effects from defaults or delays due to successful attacks can be widespread, with potentially systemic effects.

And given the inherent interconnection of financial sector participants, a successful disruption to the payment, clearing, or settlement systems—or stealing confidential information—would result in widespread spillovers and threaten financial stability.

Fortunately, to date, we have not experienced a cyberattack with systemic consequences. However, policymakers and financial regulators are increasingly wary, given recent incidents that took out ATM networks and attacks against online banking systems, central banks, and payment systems.

The financial sector has been dependent on information technology for decades and has a history of maintaining strong IT control environments mandated by regulation. While the financial sector may be most at risk of cyberattack, such attacks also carry a higher risk for cyber criminals, in part because of greater attention from law enforcement (just like old-fashioned bank robberies).

The financial sector also does a better job of supporting law enforcement—for example, by keeping extensive records that are valuable in forensic investigations. Deeper budgets can often lead to effective cybersecurity solutions. (A recent notable exception is Equifax, whose hack was arguably a consequence of a cyber regulatory regime that was not proportional to its risk.)

The situation is different in health care. Except in the wealthiest nations, the health care sector typically does not have the resources necessary for effective cyber defense. This is evident, for example, in ransomware attacks this year that targeted computer systems at the electronic health record company Allscripts and two regional hospitals in the United States.

Although also heavily regulated and under strict data protection rules, health care has not relied nearly as much on IT as the financial sector has, and consequently has not developed a similar culture of strict IT controls. This too makes the health care sector more susceptible to cyber breaches.

What is most worrisome about this weakness is that, unlike in the financial sector, lives can be lost if, for example, attackers hit computerized life-support systems.

Utilities, especially the power and communication grids, are often cited as the next sectors where large-scale cyberattacks can have severe consequences. In this case, however, the main concern is disruption or infiltration of systems by rival states, either directly or through proxy organizations.

As famously exemplified by the massive 2007 attack against Estonia’s Internet infrastructure—which took down online financial services, media, and government agencies—the more advanced and Internet-based an economy, the more devastating cyberattacks can be. Estonia is among the most digitalized societies in the world.

If critical infrastructure—say, a power grid—or telecommunication and transportation networks are affected, or an attack prevents governments from collecting taxes or providing critical services, major disruptions with systemic economic implications could ensue and potentially pose a public health or security hazard.

In such instances, the aggregate risk to the global economy could exceed the sum of individuals’ risks, because of the global nature of IT networks and platforms, the national nature of response structures, ineffective international cooperation, or even the presence of nation-states among the attackers.

International cooperation in combating and prosecuting cybercrime lags well behind the global nature of the threat. The best way to tackle cybercrime is to attack its business model, which relies on the exceptional risk/reward ratio associated with ineffective prosecution. In this context, the business risk of cybercrime must be raised significantly, but this is possible only with better international cooperation.

Cybercrime operations can span several jurisdictions, which makes them harder to take down and prosecute. Some jurisdictions are slow, ineffective, or simply uncooperative in tackling cybercrime. Stronger cooperation would make tracking down suspects and charging them faster and more effective.

In the financial sector, regulators have developed specific assessment standards, set enforceable expectations and benchmarks, and encouraged information sharing and collaboration among firms and regulators. Bank regulators conduct IT examinations that factor cybersecurity preparedness into stress testing, resolution planning, and safety and soundness supervision.

Some require simulated cyberattacks designed specifically for each firm, drawing on government and private sector intelligence and expertise, to determine resilience against an attack. Companies have also increased investment in cybersecurity and are incorporating cybersecurity preparedness into risk management. In addition, some have sought to transfer some risk via cyber insurance.

The current cybersecurity landscape remains disparate and decentralized, with risks handled mainly as local idiosyncratic problems. There are some cooperation mechanisms, and governments and regulators are stepping up their efforts, but the choice of cybersecurity is largely determined by corporate need—“each to its own.”

This must change to bring about generally enhanced cyber risk resilience. Strong preventive measures are needed both at the regulatory and technology levels and across industries.

Among the most important of these is adherence to minimum cybersecurity standards, enforced in a coordinated way by regulators. Stepped-up cybersecurity awareness training will help defend against the basic technical weaknesses and user errors that are the source of most breaches.

Cyberattacks and cybersecurity breaches seem inevitable, so we also need to focus on how fast we detect breaches, how effectively we respond, and how soon we get operations back on track.

The link to the original article follows: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2018/06/global-cybercrime-industry-and-financial-sector/gaidosch.htm?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

The post The Industrialization of Cybercrime appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Tamas Gaidosch, a senior financial sector expert in the IMF’s Monetary and Capital Markets Department, is a cybersecurity professional with more than 20 years’ experience, including probing banking systems to find cyber weaknesses. He formerly led the Information Technology Supervision Department at the Central Bank of Hungary.

The post The Industrialization of Cybercrime appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Chile Has Medicine Against Desertification, But Does Not Take Ithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/chile-medicine-desertification-not-take/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chile-medicine-desertification-not-take http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/chile-medicine-desertification-not-take/#respond Tue, 17 Jul 2018 22:30:00 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156750 The retention of rainwater which otherwise is lost at sea could be an excellent medicine against the advance of the desert from northern to central Chile, but there is no political will to take the necessary actions, according to experts and representatives of affected communities. “One of the priority actions, especially in the Coquimbo region, […]

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Hundreds of children, many from rural schools in the Coquimbo region, have visited the fog catchers in Cerro Grande as part of an educational programme to raise awareness among future generations about the importance of rational use of water in Chile. Credit: Foundation un Alto en el Desierto

Hundreds of children, many from rural schools in the Coquimbo region, have visited the fog catchers in Cerro Grande as part of an educational programme to raise awareness among future generations about the importance of rational use of water in Chile. Credit: Foundation un Alto en el Desierto

By Orlando Milesi
OVALLE, Chile, Jul 17 2018 (IPS)

The retention of rainwater which otherwise is lost at sea could be an excellent medicine against the advance of the desert from northern to central Chile, but there is no political will to take the necessary actions, according to experts and representatives of affected communities.

“One of the priority actions, especially in the Coquimbo region, is the retention of rainwater. That is key because since we have eroded and degraded soil and we have occasional rains in winter, the soil is not able to retain more than 10 percent of the water that falls,” Daniel Rojas, the head of the Peña Blanca farmers’ association, told IPS.

“The rest ends up in the sea,” added Rojas, the head of the association of 85 small-scale farmers, located 385 km north of Santiago, which has 6,587 hectares, 98 percent of them rainfed, irrigated exclusively by rainfall."If the amount of resources that the state puts into the distribution of water by tanker trucks were to be used to solve the problem, it would be invested only once and not every year, which just boosts a business. Because the distribution of water is a business." -- Daniel Rojas

Rojas considered that “if we had retention works we could use between 50 and 70 percent of that water and restore our groundwater.”

In the region of Coquimbo, where Peña Blanca is located, within the municipality of Ovalle, 90 percent of the land is eroded and degraded.

Between 2000 and 2016, the area planted with fruit trees in Chile grew 50 percent, but in Coquimbo it fell 22.9 percent, from 35,558 to 27,395 hectares.

Water is vital in Chile, an agrifood powerhouse that last year exported 15.751 billion dollars in food and is the world’s leading exporter of various kinds of fruit.

According to Rojas, there is academic, social and even political consensus on a solution that focuses on water retention, “but the necessary resources are not allocated and the necessary laws are not enacted.”

Pedro Castillo, mayor of the municipality of Combarbalá, agreed with Rojas.

“Because of the strong centralism that prevails in our country, desertification won’t be given importance until the desert is knocking on the doors of Santiago,” Castillo, the highest authority in this municipality of small-scale farmers and goat farmers told IPS.

Castillo believes that all the projects “will be only declarations of good intentions if there is no powerful and determined investment by the state of Chile to halt desertification.”

The mayor said that desertification can be combated by investing in water catchment systems, through “works that are not expensive,” such as the construction of infiltration ditches and dams in the gorges.

“With rainwater catchment systems with plastic sheeting, rainwater can be optimised, wells can be recharged and the need for additional water, which is now being delivered to the population with tanker trucks, can be reduced,” he said.

“The cost of these systems does not exceed five million pesos (7,936 dollars) because the works use materials that exist on-site and do not require much engineering. A tanker truck that delivers water costs the state about 40 million pesos (63,492 dollars) each year,” Castillo said.

A tank holds rainwater collected at the Elías Sánchez school in the municipality of Champa, 40 km south of Santiago, which the students decided to use to irrigate a nursery where they grow vegetables next to it. Saving rainwater helps restore the groundwater used to supply the local population. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

A tank holds rainwater collected at the Elías Sánchez school in the municipality of Champa, 40 km south of Santiago, which the students decided to use to irrigate a nursery where they grow vegetables next to it. Saving rainwater helps restore the groundwater used to supply the local population. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

He also proposed curbing desertification through afforestation with native species of lands handed by agricultural communities to the government’s National Forestry Corporation (CONAF).

“Afforestation efforts involve the replanting of native trees tolerant of the scarce rainfall in semi-arid areas, and they generate fodder for local farmers,” he said.

The region of Coquimbo comprises the southern border of the Atacama Desert, the driest desert on earth which has the most intense solar radiation on the planet. Covering 105,000 sq km, it encompasses six northern regions in this long and narrow country that stretches between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

This year Peña Blanca, at the southern tip of the desert, received 150 mm of rainfall, a high figure compared to the average of the last few years.

Rojas said “there are many things to be done, not to halt the advance of desertification completely, but to slow it down.”

The social leader said that in meetings with both academics and politicians there is agreement on what to do, “but that is not reflected when it comes to creating a law or allocating resources to do these works.”

To illustrate, he mentioned a novel project for the retention of rainwater underground, saying the studies and development of the initiative were financed, “but not the works itself.”

“And this way, it’s no use. Ideas must be put into practice through works. This is what is urgently needed: fewer studies and more works,” he said.

Rojas also criticised the fact that the state spends “billions of pesos” on the distribution of water to rural areas through tanker trucks.

“If the amount of resources that the state puts into the distribution of water by tanker trucks were to be used to solve the problem, it would be invested only once and not every year, which just boosts a business. Because the distribution of water is a business,” Rojas said.

Geographer Nicolás Schneider, the driving force behind the non-governmental “Un Alto en el Desierto” (A Stop in the Desert) Foundation, told IPS that in Chile “there is no public policy in terms of tools, concrete policies and the provision of resources” to halt desertification in the country.

“Successful alternatives are isolated experiences that are the product of enthusiasm or group ventures, but not of a state policy to stop this scientifically accredited advance (of the desertification process),” he said.

He mentioned Chilean physicist Carlos Espinosa, who invented the fog catcher, a system whose patent he donated in the 1980s to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and which consists of harvesting water from the fog.

Fog catchers consist of fine mesh nets known as raschel set up on foggy slopes to catch suspended drops of water, which gather and merge, running from small gutters to collection tanks.

These systems, which are becoming more and more sophisticated, have been providing water for human consumption and for irrigation on land generally higher than 600 metres above sea level for decades.

In the Cerro Grande Ecological Reserve, owned by Peña Blanca, the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation installed 24 fog catchers and a fog study centre.

“The average daily water from fog there is six litres per cubic metre of raschel mesh and 35 percent shade. Since they are nine square metres in size, we have a catchment area of 216 metres, which gives us 1,296 litres of water per day,” Schneider said.

He explained that “this water is mainly used for reforestation and ecological restoration, beer making, water for animals and – when there is severe drought – for human consumption.”

“It is also an educational element because thousands of children have visited the fog catchers, so they have been turned into an open-air classroom against desertification,” he said.

He added that there is great potential for fog from Papudo, on the central Chilean coast, to Arica, in the far north of the country, which has not been exploited to the benefit of coastal communities that have problems of access and water quality.

Eduardo Rodríguez, regional director of Conaf in Coquimbo, told IPS that all of the corporation’s programmes are aimed at combating desertification, including one against forest fires, which now have better indicators.

“However, we have problems with afforestation because we do not yet have a policy for providing incentives to increase afforestation, reforestation and replanting in a region that has been degraded for practically a century and a half,” he acknowledged.

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Mission Accomplished: 15 Years of Peacekeeping Success in Liberiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/mission-accomplished-15-years-peacekeeping-success-liberia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mission-accomplished-15-years-peacekeeping-success-liberia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/mission-accomplished-15-years-peacekeeping-success-liberia/#respond Thu, 12 Jul 2018 14:53:50 +0000 Kingsley Ighobor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156673 Kingsley Ighobor, Africa Renewal*

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Liberians wave goodbye to departing Ukrainian peacekeepers. Credit: UN Photo/Gonzalez Farran

By Kingsley Ighobor
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 12 2018 (IPS)

On a bright, sunny day in January this year, Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf turned over power to George Weah, a decorated soccer star, following peaceful and successful elections. This marked Liberia’s first democratic transfer of power in more than 70 years.

In his inaugural address, President Weah was quick to advise his compatriots to “not allow political loyalties to prevent us from collaborating in national interest.” He vowed to tackle inequality because “the absence of equality and unity led us down the path of destroying our own country.”

Weah was referring to the Liberian civil war from 1989 to 2003, which left the country in tatters politically and economically. The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was deployed in 2003 to help restore peace and security in the country.

After nearly 15 years in Liberia, the UN peacekeeping mission ended last March, having disarmed more than 100,000 combatants, secured about 21,000 weapons, enabled about one million refugees and displaced persons to return home and assisted in the holding of three peaceful presidential and legislative elections.

The UN’s secretary-general António Guterres in a statement issued in early April expressed his “respect to the memory of 202 peacekeepers who lost their lives” in Liberia.

“Peace is here to stay and our democracy is maturing. Now we need jobs,” Marwolo Kpadeh, head of the Liberian Youth Network, a leading youth organization, told Africa Renewal.

After the peaceful handover of power, Kpadeh is correct when he says that Liberia’s key challenge is now mostly economic. “Limited employment continues to undermine the welfare of Liberians in both urban and rural areas,” notes the World Bank.

UN’s engagement continues

While President Weah must deal with economic issues, the withdrawal of UNMIL peacekeepers will test the government’s readiness to perform public safety and security duties, writes FrontPageAfrica, a Liberian newspaper.

The UN has allayed concerns, promising to remain engaged even in the absence of a peacekeeping force.

The UN family will remain in the country “with a view to ensuring that the hard-won peace can be sustained and the country and its people will continue to progress and thrive,” Guterres added, in his statement.

The UN Country Team, including its agencies, funds and programmes, such as the UN Development Programme, UNICEF and the World Food Programme, will remain in the country.

A “strengthened Resident Coordinator” will lead the team and help the government achieve targets set in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Amina Mohammed, the UN’s deputy-secretary-general, said in March.

Mohammed, who visited Liberia in late March as the final batch of peacekeepers prepared to leave, praised UNMIL for being “at the forefront of establishing the key foundations for peace in Liberia.”

The UN’s promise of continuing engagement should be welcome news to Liberians, who have been dealing with the ubiquitous peacekeepers over the past 14 years.

How it began

The Liberian civil war began in 1989 when Charles Taylor started a military campaign to overthrow President Samuel Doe.

By 2003, with more than 205,000 people killed, the UN Security Council authorized the establishment of a peacekeeping force consisting of up to 15,000 military personnel and over 1,000 police officers, among others.

UNMIL began operations in October 2003, when about 3,500 troops of the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), who had arrived in Liberia a few months prior, were rehatted as UN peacekeepers. Guterres said that ECOMOG troops laid the foundation ahead of UN peacekeepers’ deployment.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed by President Taylor and leaders of all warring factions and political parties on August 18, 2003 in Accra, Ghana, provided the political cover for UNMIL’s deployment throughout the country.

UNMIL’s first force commander, now-retired Lieutenant General Daniel Opande, described the situation of the country at the time of deployment: “Nothing functioned, the government had collapsed, no security arrangement, the entire country was in turmoil. People were moving from place to place, looking for safety or for food. It was very bad.”

“When I arrived in Liberia, a thick cloud of uncertainty and insecurity hung over the country,” corroborates Patrick Coker, who joined UNMIL as a senior public information officer in October 2003. “There was no electricity, no water, fighters carried weapons around, thousands of internally displaced persons, hopelessness, poverty, anguish—we were on edge.”

UNMIL and its partners, including an interim government headed by Gyude Bryant, attempted but failed to begin disarmament on December 7, 2003. General Opande attributed the botched attempt to UNMIL’s ill-preparedness. There was a misunderstanding over money to be paid the fighters, and when they began firing in the air, the process ended abruptly.

Successful disarmament

Fighters of the rebel faction Liberians United for Reconstruction and Democracy (LURD) tested UNMIL’s resolve on Christmas Day of 2003 when they prevented the peacekeepers from deploying in Tubmanburg, northwest of Monrovia. Two days later, General Opande led heavy reinforcements of troops and weapons back to Tubmanburg. This time the fighters capitulated, even danced—and, bizarrely, set fire to their checkpoint.

“The Liberian people are tired of war. We too are tired,” said LURD’s deputy chief of staff, “General” Oforie Diah.

The mission had learned a lesson and so, when disarmament restarted in April 2004 after a robust communications campaign to educate combatants on the process, there were no serious hitches.

Coker recalls that “dealing with the ex-combatants, who had been in the bushes for more than a decade, was no easy task.” At the slightest provocation, such as a delay in payment of disarmament allowance, they rioted and threatened to torpedo the peace process. During such moments, UNMIL and partners often relied on Liberian women to bring the former fighters under control.

“If there is a group in Liberia that I, Opande, can give the biggest congratulations for bringing peace, it is the women,” says Lieutenant General Opande.

After a successful disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration process and peaceful elections, the mission’s attention shifted to providing security for the country, helping to midwife a new army and police force and extending civil authority throughout the country. As well, UNMIL provided technical and logistical support to various government departments.

Renewed hope

Former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf inherited an economy ruined by war; however, she mobilized foreign and domestic resources to kick-start development, including in the energy and transportation sectors.

In 2010, Liberia secured nearly $5 billion in debt relief from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, African Development Bank and other creditors. That was 90% of the country’s total foreign debt and 15% of its GDP.

As the economy was taking off, the Ebola epidemic hit in late 2014 and caused a negative 1.6% growth rate by 2016. The World Bank now forecasts modest but sustained positive growth after a 2.6% rise last year.

Fourteen years of war, bad leadership and the Ebola epidemic might have derailed Liberia’s socioeconomic development, but Weah’s inauguration—as much as Sirleaf’s 12 years in power—appears to be rekindling hope in the country’s future.

President Weah needs to build on Sirleaf’s successes, writes Benjamin Spatz in the New York Times. “She brought Liberia back from the dead. Now it’s his turn to nurture the country’s fledgling institutions by taking on its coercive, corrupt political culture.”

In sum: “Liberia is an important example of what sustainable peace means in practise,” reflected Mohammed, speaking for the UN.

Kpadeh’s hope of a better country depends on sustained peace. “Development is never possible without peace,” he said. “We should all be proud of UNMIL’s achievement.”

*Africa Renewal is published by the UN’s Department of Public Information.
The link to the original article: https://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/april-2018-july-2018/mission-accomplished-15-years-peacekeeping-success-liberia

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Excerpt:

Kingsley Ighobor, Africa Renewal*

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A UN Parliament Gains Support in an Age of Divisive Political Leadershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/un-parliament-gains-support-age-divisive-political-leaders/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-parliament-gains-support-age-divisive-political-leaders http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/un-parliament-gains-support-age-divisive-political-leaders/#respond Thu, 12 Jul 2018 14:20:53 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156670 A long standing proposal for the creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) is slowly gathering momentum. The 751-member European Parliament (EP) in Strasbourg has called on the European Union (EU) to extend its support for the establishment of the proposed new body — specifically with a resolution before the upcoming 73rd session of the […]

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

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

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

The UN General Assembly. Credit: UN photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The proposal is also being backed by several international NGOs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There has also been support from outside Europe.

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

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

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Different approaches to recruiting men and women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What should member states do?

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

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

Manion believes that member states hold the key to prevention.

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

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

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

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

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Agroecology Beats Land and Water Scarcity in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/agroecology-beats-land-water-scarcity-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=agroecology-beats-land-water-scarcity-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/agroecology-beats-land-water-scarcity-brazil/#respond Thu, 12 Jul 2018 01:26:19 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156656 “Now we live well,” say both Givaldo and Nina dos Santos, after showing visiting farmers their 1.25-hectare farm in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast, which is small but has a great variety of fruit trees, thanks to innovative water and production techniques. Givaldo began his adult life in Rio de Janeiro, in the southeast, where he did […]

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Givaldo dos Santos stands next to a tree loaded with grapefruit in the orchard which he and his wife have planted thanks to the use of techniques that allow them to have plenty of water for irrigation, despite the fact that their small farm is in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Givaldo dos Santos stands next to a tree loaded with grapefruit in the orchard which he and his wife have planted thanks to the use of techniques that allow them to have plenty of water for irrigation, despite the fact that their small farm is in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
ESPERANÇA/CUMARU, Brazil, Jul 12 2018 (IPS)

“Now we live well,” say both Givaldo and Nina dos Santos, after showing visiting farmers their 1.25-hectare farm in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast, which is small but has a great variety of fruit trees, thanks to innovative water and production techniques.

Givaldo began his adult life in Rio de Janeiro, in the southeast, where he did his military service, married and had three children. Then he returned to his homeland, where it was not easy for him to restart his life on a farm in the municipality of Esperança, in the northeastern state of Paraiba, with his new wife, Maria das Graças, whom everyone knows as Nina and with whom he has a 15-year-old daughter.

“I’d leave at four in the morning to fetch water. I would walk 40 minutes with two cans on my shoulders, going up and down hills,” recalled the 48-year-old farmer.

But in 2000, thanks to a rainwater collection tank, he finally managed to get potable water on Caldeirão, his farm, part of which he inherited.

And in 2011 he got water for production, through a “barreiro” or pond dug into the ground. Two years later, a “calçadão” tank was built on a terrace with a slope to channel rainwater, with the capacity to hold 52,000 litres.

“Now we have plenty of water, despite the drought in the last six years,” said 47-year-old Nina. The “barreiro” only dried up once, two years ago, and for a short time, she said.

The water allowed the couple to expand their fruit orchard with orange, grapefruit, mango, acerola (Malpighia emarginata) and hog plum (Spondias mombin L, typical of the northern and northeastern regions of Brazil) trees.

With funding from a government programme to support family farming and from the non-governmental organisation Assessment and Services for Alternative Agricultural Projects (ASPTA), focused on agroecology, the couple purchased a machine to produce fruit pulp and a freezer to store it.

“When the pulp sale takes off, our income will grow,” said Givaldo. “For now we earn more with orange and lemon seedlings, which sell better because they last longer than other fruits.”

Besides storing water in the “barreiro”, they also raise tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), a species of fish, for their own consumption. Meanwhile, in the garden, in addition to fruit trees, they grow vegetables, whose production will increase thanks to a small greenhouse that they have just built, where they will plant tomatoes, cilantro and other vegetables for sale, Nina said with enthusiasm.

Joelma Pereira tells visitors from Central America and Brazil about the many sustainable practices that have improved the production on her family farm, on a terrace with a slope, which now has a roof, that makes it easier to capture rainwater, which is collected in a 52,000-litre tank used for the animals and to irrigate crops in Cumaru, in Brazil's semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Joelma Pereira tells visitors from Central America and Brazil about the many sustainable practices that have improved the production on her family farm, on a terrace with a slope, which now has a roof, that makes it easier to capture rainwater, which is collected in a 52,000-litre tank used for the animals and to irrigate crops in Cumaru, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The productive activities on their small farm are further diversified by an ecological oven, which they use to make cakes and which cuts down on the use of cooking gas while at the same time using very little wood; by the production of fertilizer using manure from calves they raise and sell when they reach the right weight; and by the storage of native seeds.

The boundaries of their farm are marked by fences made of gliricidias (Gliricidia sepium), a tree native to Mexico and Central America, which offers good animal feed. The Dos Santos family hopes that they will serve as a barrier to the agrochemicals used on the corn crops on neighbouring farms.

Some time ago, the couple stopped raising chickens, which were sold at a good price due to their natural diet. “We had 200, but we sold them all, because there are a lot of robberies here. You can lose your life for a chicken,” Givaldo said.

Organic production, diversified and integrated with the efficient utilisation of water, turned this small farm into a showcase for ASPTA, an example of how to coexist with the semi-arid climate in Brazil’s Northeast.

This is why they frequently receive visitors. “Once we were visited by 52 people,” said the husband.

In the last week of June, the couple received 20 visitors from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, mostly farmers, in an exchange promoted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Brazil’s Articulation of the Semi-Arid (ASA), a network of 3,000 social organisations, including ASPTA.

Another farm visited during the exchange, accompanied by IPS, was that of Joelma and Roberto Pereira, in the municipality of Cumaru, in the state of Pernambuco, also in the Northeast. They even built a roof over the sloping terrace that collects rainwater on their property, to hold meetings there.

Givaldo and Nina dos Santos stand next to the small machine used to extract pulp from the fruit they grow, and the freezer where they store the fruit pulp in units ready for sale at their farm in the municipality of Esperança, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Paraiba. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Givaldo and Nina dos Santos stand next to the small machine used to extract pulp from the fruit they grow, and the freezer where they store the fruit pulp in units ready for sale at their farm in the municipality of Esperança, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Paraiba. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Three tanks for drinking water and one for production, a biodigester that generates much more gas than the family consumes, a system for producing liquid biofertiliser, another for composting, a small seedbed, cactus (Nopalea cochinilifera) and other forage plants are squeezed onto just half a hectare.

“We bought this half hectare in 2002 from a guy who raised cattle and left the soil trampled and only two trees. Now everything looks green,” said Joelma, who has three children in their twenties and lives surrounded by relatives, including her father, 65, who was born and still lives in the community, Pedra Branca, part of Cumaru.

The couple later acquired two other farms, of two and four hectares in size, just a few hundred metres away, where they raise cows, sheep, goats and pigs. The production of cheese, butter and other dairy products are, along with honey, their main income-earners.

On the original farm they have an agro-ecological laboratory, where they also have chicken coops and a bathroom with a dry toilet, built on rocks, in order to use human faeces as fertiliser and to “save water”.

“We reuse 60 percent of the water we use in the kitchen and bathroom, which passes through the bio water (filtration system) before it is used for irrigation,” Joelma said, while reciting her almost endless list of sustainable farm practices.

Joelma (in the picture) next to a biodigester, one of 23 donated by Caritas Switzerland to Brazilian farmers. Joelma and Roberto Pereira are family farmers from Cumaru, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. The biodigester uses manure from five cows to produce more than twice the amount of biogas consumed by the family. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Joelma (in the picture) next to a biodigester, one of 23 donated by Caritas Switzerland to Brazilian farmers. Joelma and Roberto Pereira are family farmers from Cumaru, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. The biodigester uses manure from five cows to produce more than twice the amount of biogas consumed by the family. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

It all began many years ago, when her husband became a builder of rainwater collection tanks and she learned about the technologies promoted by the non-governmental Sabiá Agro-ecological Development Centre in the neighbouring municipality of Bom Jardim. Sabiá is the name of a bird and a tree that symbolise biodiversity.

Some tobacco seedlings stand out in a seedbed. “They serve as a natural insecticide, along with other plants with a strong odor,” she said.

“Joelma is an important model because she incorporated the agroforestry system and a set of values into her practices,” Alexandre Bezerra Pires, general coordinator of the Sabiá Centre, told the Central American farmers during the visit to her farm.

“The exchanges with Central America and Africa are a fantastic opportunity to boost cooperation, strengthen ties and help other countries. The idea of coexisting with the Semi-Arid (ASA’s motto) took the Central Americans by surprise,” he said.

The biodigester is the technology of “greatest interest for Guatemala, where they use a lot of firewood,” said Doris Chavarría, a FAO technician in that Central American country. She also noted the practices of making pulp from fruit that are not generally used because they are seasonal and diversifying techniques for preparing corn as interesting to adopt in her country.

“We don’t have enough resources, the government doesn’t help us, the only institution that supports us is FAO,” said Guatemalan farmer Gloria Diaz, after pointing out that Brazilian farmers have the support of various non-governmental organisations.

Mariana García from El Salvador was impressed by the “great diversity of vegetables” that the Brazilians grow and “the fairs 130 km away, an opportunity to sell at better prices, with the cost of transportation cut when several farmers go together.”

She was referring to family farmers in Bom Jardim who sell their produce in Recife, the capital of the state of Pernambuco, with a population of 1.6 million.

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Youth Skills: Have We Addressed the Need?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/youth-skills-addressed-need/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=youth-skills-addressed-need http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/youth-skills-addressed-need/#respond Wed, 11 Jul 2018 10:59:47 +0000 Dr. Palitha Kohona http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156644 Dr. Palitha Kohona is former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka
to the United Nations.

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Working youth, otherwise without educational opportunities and from a wide range of ages, attend classes at a Social Support Center in Marka, east of Amman, Jordan. Credit: ILO/Jared J. Kohler

By Dr. Palitha Kohona
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Jul 11 2018 (IPS)

The World Youth Skills Day is being celebrated around the world on 15 July. This day was established on 18 December 2014 by General Assembly resolution A/RES/69/145 which was initiated by Sri Lanka. Following a lengthy consultation process, at the UN and outside, during which some delegations, including some Europeans expressed reservations, the resolution was eventually adopted unanimously. It received solid support from youth delegations from around the world.

World Youth Skills Day resolution was a landmark UN initiative and had its origins in a visionary statement made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka at the 2013 UNGA. The idea was subsequently championed by the Sri Lankan Minister for Youth Affairs, Dulles Alahapperuma. The Sri Lankan delegation, at the time, worked the corridors tirelessly until the scales were tipped and the adoption of the resolution became certain.

Resolution A/RES/69/145 built upon the World Programme of Action for Youth of 2007, International Youth Day in 1999 and the Colombo Declaration on Youth of 2014, which, for the first time, was adopted with the concurrence of both youth and official delegations. The Colombo Declaration on Youth required youth needs to be mainstreamed in policy making.

With an increasing number of unemployed youth worldwide, the majority of whom are in developing countries, the United Nations was activated to take action to help young people to achieve their intrinsic potential.

The World Youth Skills Day 2018, as did all youth skills days before, aims to encourage the acquisition of marketable skills and training by the young. By acquiring core professional and lifestyle skills, young people will be able to contribute to the development and growth of their own communities.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has identified marketable skills and jobs for youth as a priority. The World Youth Skills Day embodies the values of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with special emphasis on:

SDG 4: Quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities,
SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.an you get involved?

The youth component of the global population is increasing and a new problem of critical magnitude is slowly creeping upon policy makers, especially in developing countries. Many developing countries, consistent with their commitments under the Millennium Development Goals, some with great difficulty, have provided basic literacy and health care to their populations.

Many youth now survive in to old age. But providing meaningful employment to these millions who possess basic literacy has not been successfully addressed. The key challenge today is the paucity of marketable skills among youth. An educated and skilled workforce is also a key factor in attracting investments.

While the situation for all youth remains a challenge, the unfortunate tendency for young women in many developing countries to fall behind even further compared with their male counterparts due to the lack of employable skills and social attitudes has been highlighted frequently. Equipping young women also with employable skills will enhance the economic potential of a country dramatically.

The modern skill sets required to operate in a high tech environment, including in the areas of management, environment conservation, ICT, banking, transport, aviation, etc, are simply not being provided in quantity. The result is a burgeoning, restless and disenchanted generation that could cause social and more serious problems, instead of being an economic asset.

The world today is home to the largest generation of youth in history. 90% of young people live in developing countries. Unemployment affects more than 73 million young people around the world, with the jobless rate exceeding 50 per cent in some developing countries.

Even some developed countries, especially in the south of Europe, have not been able to avoid the youth unemployment crisis. Many are still to recover from the financial crisis and youth have been its major victims.

The world will need to add 600 million new jobs by 2026 to accommodate the flood tide of youth entering the job market. The former UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, said: “Empowering young people through skills development strengthens their capacity to help address the many challenges facing society….”.

These multiple challenges include, inter alia, alleviating poverty, eliminating injustice, conserving the environment and controlling violent conflict.

In order to focus attention on youth issues, the outgoing UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, established the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth and appointed Ahmad Alhendawi of Jordan as his first Envoy on Youth.

Today, Jayathma Wickremanayaka from Sri Lanka is the SG’s Youth Envoy. She cut her teeth in global youth affairs during the Youth Summit held in Sri Lanka in 2014.

The youth of today will be directly confronted by two major challenges. They will be required to generate wealth through employment or entrepreneurship, not only to support themselves but also a rapidly ageing older generation. Employment for the young was not a major issue in developed countries in the past, but today it is. Without income generating employment, the youth demographic will be a burden on itself and a worry for the older generation.

Industrialisation, so clearly emphasised in the SDGs, will require the new generation to be adequately prepared, as the industrialisation process will rely mostly on high tech. Some developed countries, especially the Northern Europeans, have well tested programmes for enhancing the technical skills of youth. Youth are channelled into technical studies at an early age.

There are many lessons that could be learnt from the education and training methods of these countries, especially in the context of North South Cooperation. Some developing countries have also succeeded in harnessing the youth component of their populations for economically productive endeavours. Their experiences could be shared in the context of South-South Cooperation.

The private sector, if necessary in partnership with the state, can play a vital role in disseminating advanced skills to today’s youth.

The importance of youth participation and representation in institutional political processes and policy-making has been highlighted in recent discussions. Youth need to be able to influence policy making.

For far too long policy making for youth had little or no youth input. Sri Lanka was among the first to establish a youth parliament to provide training in political activity for youth.

In certain countries, where youth disenchantment is rife, especially for economic reasons, young people have often been coerced or otherwise channelled to joining extremist elements. But it is a mistake to suggest that economic circumstances alone are the major factor that drives youth in to extremism. The causes of youth extremism need to be addressed as a separate exercise.

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Excerpt:

Dr. Palitha Kohona is former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka
to the United Nations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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From the Soccer Field to the Political Arenahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/soccer-field-political-arena/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=soccer-field-political-arena http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/soccer-field-political-arena/#respond Fri, 06 Jul 2018 12:33:53 +0000 Oliver Philipp http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156582 Oliver Philipp, who studied European and political science in Mainz, Dijon and Oppeln / Poland, has been working for the Department of International Policy Analysis of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES).

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A young Russian soccer fan shows his skills outside the Cathedral of St. Theodore Ushakov near the FIFA Fan Fest in Saransk, Russia

By Oliver Philipp
BERLIN, Jul 6 2018 (IPS)

Was your childhood room not adorned with posters of Gerd Müller or Zinedine Zidane? Were Willy Brandt or Mikhail Gorbachev the idols you looked up to in your youth?

And is the World Cup the worst time of the year for you, and are you already thinking about what remote place to flee to for four weeks to get away from the football frenzy? There’s no need to. We are about to tell you why the World Cup, now in its final stages, could be interesting to you, too.

Football is football and politics is politics. This statement does not always hold true, as demonstrated recently by the debate about the photograph of German national team members Ilkay Gündogan and Mesut Özil posing with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Football just can’t get away from politics. 60 members of the EU Parliament demanded a boycott of the World Cup in Russia in an open letter, and the debate about Putin’s politics will be a constant fixture over the next four weeks. The statements from the German national team were rather predictable. Coach Joachim Löw said that taking part in a World Cup does not equate to ‘associating with a system, regime or ruler’, and no matter where the German national football team plays, it always advocates its values of ‘diversity, openness and tolerance’.

Oliver Philipp

The business manager of the German national team, Oliver Bierhoff, even emphasised that his players were mature and allowed to have an opinion on politics. According to common clichés about footballers, those who are skilled with a ball are not usually skilled with words.

In Germany, you always had to decide at an early age whether you wanted to be famous, enjoy social recognition, have millions in the bank and keep in shape – or go into politics. The examples of Rhenania Würselen 09 defender and former German Chancellor candidate Martin Schulz and striker Gerhard Schröder, former German chancellor, show that football missed out on promising talents because they chose to go into politics.

It looks like it might be a while before the next German top politician with international football experience emerges. Other countries have made some more progress in this regard.

A former World Player of the Year is now head of state in Africa, and in Brazil, the idol of an entire generation has traded in his position on the right wing of the football field for the same position in the political arena. We would like to present four footballers who tried their hand at politics after their active career in football.

A president, an exiled Erdoğan critic and a Brazilian senator

Let’s start with what is perhaps the most prominent example: George Weah. Football fans in Paris and Milan celebrated him for his goals, and FIFA nominated him as the first and, to date, only African World Footballer of the Year in 1995. Weah was celebrated once more in 2017, this time by followers in his home state of Liberia. He won the presidential elections and brought the first peaceful change of government since 1944.

By contrast, the political career of Hakan Şükür could be subsumed under the title ‘From football star to enemy of the state’. Being one of Turkey’s golden generation that unexpectedly won third place at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, he is one of the most well-known and popular Turkish footballers. He took advantage of this popularity at the presidential elections in 2014, when he took a seat on the Turkish parliament as a member of the AKP.

However, he declared in 2016 that he was leaving Erdoğan’s AKP and accused the party of taking hostile steps against the Gülen movement. He was subsequently indicted for insulting the president in an alleged tweet about President Erdoğan and investigated for ‘membership in an armed terrorist organisation’. Şükür has been living in the USA since 2015 and was forced to watch from afar as his membership with Galatasaray Istanbul, the club with which he won eight Turkish championships and even the UEFA Cup, was revoked.

Brazilian football star Ronaldinho has received the title as World Player of the Year twice. There was hardly another footballer who’s dribbling skills we enjoyed watching more than those of the ponytailed Brazilian.

It was therefore not only the world of football that was shocked when headlines such as ‘The World Player of the Year and the fascist’ appeared this year. These headlines emerged in light of Ronaldinho’s announcement that he intended to support Jair Bolsonaro, an open racist and candidate to be reckoned with in the presidential elections in October 2018.

But there are other examples from Brazil. Romario, for example, who was also once nominated as World Player of the Year and won the World Cup, is now a member of the Brazilian Congress as senator for Rio de Janeiro, where he is fighting corruption and advocating for the equality of people with disabilities.

It looks like the World Cup has something to offer even to the biggest football grouches and politics nerds. For who knows what future head of state we will be watching on the field. We hope that all the others who want to let politics be politics during the World Cup will forgive us for writing these lines.

The post From the Soccer Field to the Political Arena appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Oliver Philipp, who studied European and political science in Mainz, Dijon and Oppeln / Poland, has been working for the Department of International Policy Analysis of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES).

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The Voice of Argentina’s Slums, Under Threathttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/voice-argentinas-slums-threat/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=voice-argentinas-slums-threat http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/voice-argentinas-slums-threat/#respond Thu, 05 Jul 2018 02:23:54 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156545 Between the dimly-lit, narrow alleyways of Villa 21, only 30 minutes by bus from the centre of the Argentine capital, more than 50,000 people live in poverty. It was there that La Garganta Poderosa (which means powerful throat), the magazine that gave a voice to the “villeros” or slum-dwellers and whose members today feel threatened, […]

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One of the offices in Buenos Aires of La Poderosa, the social organisation that publishes the magazine La Garganta Poderosa and is involved in a number of activities, ranging from soup kitchens to skills training for adults and workshops for youngsters in the “villas” or slums in the capital and the rest of Argentina. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Jul 5 2018 (IPS)

Between the dimly-lit, narrow alleyways of Villa 21, only 30 minutes by bus from the centre of the Argentine capital, more than 50,000 people live in poverty. It was there that La Garganta Poderosa (which means powerful throat), the magazine that gave a voice to the “villeros” or slum-dwellers and whose members today feel threatened, emerged in 2010.

“’Villeros’ don’t generally reach the media in Argentina. Others see us as people who don’t want to work, or as people who are dangerous. La Garganta Poderosa is the cry that comes from our soul,” says Marcos Basualdo, in one of the organisation’s offices, a narrow shop with a cement floor and unpainted walls, where the only furniture is an old metal cabinet where copies of the magazine are stored.

Basualdo, 28, says that it was after his house was destroyed by a fire in 2015 that he joined La Poderosa, the social organisation that created the magazine, which is made up of 79 neighbourhood assemblies of “villas” or shantytowns across the country.

From that time, Basualdo recalls that “people from different political parties asked me what I needed, but nobody gave me anything.”

“Then the people of La Poderosa brought me clothes, blankets, food, without asking me for anything in return. So I decided to join this self-managed organisation, which helps us help each other and helps us realize that we can,” he tells IPS.

Villa 21, the largest shantytown in Buenos Aires, is on the south side of the city, on the banks of the Riachuelo, a river polluted for at least two centuries, recently described as an “open sewer” by the Environment Ministry, which has failed to comply with a Supreme Court ruling ordering its clean-up.

Small naked cement and brick homes are piled on each other and crowded together along the narrow alleyways in the shantytowns and families have no basic services or privacy.

As you walk through the neighbourhood, you see sights that are inconceivable in other parts of the city, such as police officers carrying semi-automatic weapons at the ready.

Across the country, villas have continued to grow over the last few decades. Official and social organisation surveys show that at least three million of the 44 million people in this South American country live in slums, without access to basic services, which means approximately 10 percent of the urban population.

In this alleyway in Villa 21, a slum in the capital of Argentina, is located the house where nine-year-old Kevin Molina was hit and killed by a stray bullet in a shootout between drug gangs in 2013, and the police refused to intervene, according to reports. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

In this alleyway in Villa 21, a slum in the capital of Argentina, is located the house where nine-year-old Kevin Molina was hit and killed by a stray bullet in a shootout between drug gangs in 2013, and the police refused to intervene, according to reports. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

La Garganta Poderosa, whose editorial board is made up of “all the members of all the assemblies” of the villas, also grew, both in its monthly print edition and in its active participation in social networks and other projects, such as a book, radio programmes, videos and a film.

It has interviewed politicians such as former presidents Dilma Rousseff or Brazil and José “Pepe” Mujica of Uruguay or sports stars like Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona of Argentina, and has established itself as a cultural reference in Argentina, with its characteristic covers generally showing the main subjects of that edition with their mouths wide open as if screaming.

The writing style is more typical of spoken than written communication, using idioms and vocabulary generally heard in the villas, and the magazine’s journalism is internationally recognised and is studied as an example of alternative communication at some local universities.

The work this organisation carries out, as a means of creative and peaceful expression of a community living in a hostile environment, was even highlighted by the U.N. Special Rapporteur against Torture, Nils Melzer, who visited the villa in April.

However, recently, after the magazine denounced abuses and arbitrary detentions by security forces in Villa 21, the government accused it of being an accomplice to drug trafficking.

On Jun. 7, all media outlets were summoned by e-mail to a press conference at the Ministry of National Security, “to unmask the lies told by La Garganta Poderosa.”

 Activists from La Poderosa, on Avenida Iriarte, the main street of Villa 21 in Buenos Aires, on Jun. 1, as they leave for the courthouse to follow a trial against six police officers for alleged brutality against two teenagers from the slum. Credit: Courtesy of La Garganta Poderosa


Activists from La Poderosa, on Avenida Iriarte, the main street of Villa 21 in Buenos Aires, on Jun. 1, as they leave for the courthouse to follow a trial against six police officers for alleged brutality against two teenagers from the slum. Credit: Courtesy of La Garganta Poderosa

The next day, Minister Patricia Bullrich stated that the magazine and the social organisation that supports it are seeking to “free the neighbourhood so that it is not controlled by a state of law but by the illegal state.”

“This is a message that authorises violence against us. The minister showed images of our main leader, Nacho Levy, and since that day he has been receiving threats,” one of La Poderosa’s members told IPS, asking to remain anonymous for security reasons.

A few minutes walk from La Poderosa’s premises is the house where Kevin Molina, a nine-year-old boy, was shot in the head inside his house during a shootout between two drug gangs, in 2013.

“The neighbours called the police, but they didn’t want to get involved and said they would come and get the bodies the next day,” says the La Poderosa’s activist.

In recent weeks, the situation has become more tense.

Minister Bullrich’s accusation was a response to the repercussions from the arrest of La Garganta Poderosa photographer Roque Azcurriare and his brother-in-law. It happened on the night of May 26 and they were only released two days later.

Lucy Mercado and Marcos Basualdo, two members of La Poderosa's social organisation, pose in front of a mural in Villa 21, a slum in Buenos Aires, that pays tribute to Marielle Franco, the Brazilian politician and human rights activist who was murdered in March in Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Lucy Mercado and Marcos Basualdo, two members of La Poderosa’s social organisation, pose in front of a mural in Villa 21, a slum in Buenos Aires, that pays tribute to Marielle Franco, the Brazilian politician and human rights activist who was murdered in March in Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Using his cell-phone, Azcurriare tried to film police officers entering his house, which is located at the end of a short alleyway next to the house of Iván Navarro, a teenager who a few days earlier had testified about police brutality, during a public oral trial.

Navarro said that one night in September 2016, he and his friend Ezequiel were detained without cause in a street in the villa. He said the police beat them, threatened to kill them, stripped them naked, tried to force them to jump into the Riachuelo, and finally ordered them to run for their lives.

In connection with this case, which has been covered and supported by La Poderosa, six police officers are currently being held in pretrial detention awaiting a sentence expected in the next few weeks.

“Ivan Navarro was arrested because he was wearing a nice sports jacket. That’s how things are here in the villa. When someone is wearing brand-name sneakers, the police never think they bought them with their wages, but just assume that they’re stolen,” says Lucy Mercado, a 40-year-old woman born in Ciudad del Este, on the Triple Border between Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina, who has lived in Villa 21 since she was a little girl.

“It’s no coincidence that this is happening now. In April we had filed six complaints of torture by the police. And this very important oral trial. Never in the history of our organisation have we achieved anything like this,” another La Poderosa activist told IPS, who also asked not to be identified.

Azcurriare’s arrest gave more visibility in Argentina to the trial of the six police officers, to the point that on Jun. 1 there was a march from Villa 21 to the courthouse, in which hundreds of members of human rights organisations participated.

“We will no longer stay silent because it is not a question of harassing a charismatic reporter, but of systematically clamping down on all villa-dwellers,” La Garganta Poderosa stated on its social network accounts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Escalation of Violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But who are the right people?

A New Hope?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New & Resurgent Infectious Diseases Can Have Far-reaching Economic Repercussionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/new-resurgent-infectious-diseases-can-far-reaching-economic-repercussions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-resurgent-infectious-diseases-can-far-reaching-economic-repercussions http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/new-resurgent-infectious-diseases-can-far-reaching-economic-repercussions/#respond Tue, 03 Jul 2018 10:55:13 +0000 David E. Bloom and JP Sevilla http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156522 DAVID E. BLOOM is the Clarence James Gamble Professor of Economics and Demography, DANIEL CADARETTE is a research assistant, and JP SEVILLA is a research associate, all at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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DAVID E. BLOOM is the Clarence James Gamble Professor of Economics and Demography, DANIEL CADARETTE is a research assistant, and JP SEVILLA is a research associate, all at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

By David E. Bloom, Daniel Cadarette and JP Sevilla
WASHINGTON DC, Jul 3 2018 (IPS)

Infectious diseases and associated mortality have abated, but they remain a significant threat throughout the world.

We continue to fight both old pathogens, such as the plague, that have troubled humanity for millennia and new pathogens, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), that have mutated or spilled over from animal reservoirs.

Some infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and malaria, are endemic to many areas, imposing substantial but steady burdens. Others, such as influenza, fluctuate in pervasiveness and intensity, wreaking havoc in developing and developed economies alike when an outbreak (a sharp increase in prevalence in a relatively limited area or population), an epidemic (a sharp increase covering a larger area or population), or a pandemic (an epidemic covering multiple countries or continents) occurs.

The health risks of outbreaks and epidemics—and the fear and panic that accompany them—map to various economic risks.

First, and perhaps most obviously, there are the costs to the health system, both public and private, of medical treatment of the infected and of outbreak control. A sizable outbreak can overwhelm the health system, limiting the capacity to deal with routine health issues and compounding the problem.

Beyond shocks to the health sector, epidemics force both the ill and their caretakers to miss work or be less effective at their jobs, driving down and disrupting productivity.

Fear of infection can result in social distancing or closed schools, enterprises, commercial establishments, transportation, and public services—all of which disrupt economic and other socially valuable activity.

Concern over the spread of even a relatively contained outbreak can lead to decreased trade. For example, a ban imposed by the European Union on exports of British beef lasted 10 years following identification of a mad cow disease outbreak in the United Kingdom, despite relatively low transmission to humans.

Travel and tourism to regions affected by outbreaks are also likely to decline. Some long-running epidemics, such as HIV and malaria, deter foreign direct investment as well.

The economic risks of epidemics are not trivial. Victoria Fan, Dean Jamison, and Lawrence Summers recently estimated the expected yearly cost of pandemic influenza at roughly $500 billion (0.6 percent of global income), including both lost income and the intrinsic cost of elevated mortality.

Even when the health impact of an outbreak is relatively limited, its economic consequences can quickly become magnified. Liberia, for example, saw GDP growth decline 8 percentage points from 2013 to 2014 during the recent Ebola outbreak in west Africa, even as the country’s overall death rate fell over the same period.

The consequences of outbreaks and epidemics are not distributed equally throughout the economy. Some sectors may even benefit financially, while others will suffer disproportionately.

Pharmaceutical companies that produce vaccines, antibiotics, or other products needed for outbreak response are potential beneficiaries. Health and life insurance companies are likely to bear heavy costs, at least in the short term, as are livestock producers in the event of an outbreak linked to animals.

Vulnerable populations, particularly the poor, are likely to suffer disproportionately, as they may have less access to health care and lower savings to protect against financial catastrophe.

Economic policymakers are accustomed to managing various forms of risk, such as trade imbalances, exchange rate movements, and changes in market interest rates. There are also risks that are not strictly economic in origin.

Armed conflict represents one such example; natural disasters are another. We can think about the economic disruption caused by outbreaks and epidemics along these same lines. As with other forms of risk, the economic risk of health shocks can be managed with policies that reduce their likelihood and that position countries to respond swiftly when they do occur.

Several factors complicate the management of epidemic risk. Diseases can be transmitted rapidly, both within and across countries, which means that timely responses to initial outbreaks are essential. In addition to being exacerbated by globalization, epidemic potential is elevated by the twin phenomena of climate change and urbanization.

Climate change is expanding the habitats of various common disease vectors, such as the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can spread dengue, chikungunya, Zika, and yellow fever. Urbanization means more humans live in close quarters, amplifying the transmissibility of contagious disease.

In rapidly urbanizing areas, the growth of slums forces more people to live in conditions with substandard sanitation and poor access to clean water, compounding the problem.

Perhaps the greatest challenge is the formidable array of possible causes of epidemics, including pathogens that are currently unknown. In December 2015 the World Health Organization (WHO) published a list of epidemic-potential disease priorities requiring urgent research and development (R&D) attention.

That list has since been updated twice, most recently in February 2018 (see table).

Beyond this list, diseases that are currently endemic in some areas but could spread without proper control represent another category of threat. Tuberculosis, malaria, and dengue are examples, as is HIV.

Pathogens resistant to antimicrobials are increasing in prevalence throughout the world, and widespread pan-drug-resistant superbugs could pose yet another hazard. Rapid transmission of resistant pathogens is unlikely to occur in the same way it may with pandemic threats, but the proliferation of superbugs is making the world an increasingly risky place.

Epidemic risk is complex, but policymakers have tools they can deploy in response. Some tools minimize the likelihood of outbreaks or limit their proliferation. Others attempt to minimize the health impact of outbreaks that cannot be prevented or immediately contained. Still others aim to minimize the economic impact.

Investing in improved sanitation, provisioning of clean water, and better urban infrastructure can reduce the frequency of human contact with pathogenic agents.

Building strong health systems and supporting proper nutrition will help ensure good baseline levels of health, making people less susceptible to infection. Of course, strengthening basic systems, services, and infrastructure becomes easier with economic growth and development; however, policies to protect spending in these areas even when budgets are constrained can help safeguard developing economies from major health shocks that could significantly impinge upon human capital and impede economic growth.

Investment in reliable disease surveillance in both human and animal populations is also critical. Within formal global surveillance systems, it may be beneficial to develop incentives for reporting suspected outbreaks, as countries may reasonably fear the effects of such reporting on trade, tourism, and other economic outcomes.

The SARS epidemic, for instance, might have been better contained if China had reported the initial outbreak to the WHO earlier.

Informal surveillance systems
, such as ProMED and HealthMap, which aggregate information from official surveillance reports, media reports, online discussions and summaries, and eyewitness observations, can also help national health systems and international responders get ahead of the epidemiological curve during the early stages of an outbreak.

Social media offers additional opportunities for early detection of shifts in infectious disease incidence.

Collaborations for monitoring epidemic readiness at the national level, such as the Global Health Security Agenda and the Joint External Evaluation Alliance, provide information national governments can use to bolster their planned outbreak responses.

Additional research into which pathogens are likely to spread and have a big impact would be worthwhile.

Countries should be ready to take initial measures to limit the spread of disease when an outbreak does occur. Historically, ships were quarantined in port during plague epidemics to prevent the spread of the disease to coastal cities. In the case of highly virulent and highly transmissible diseases, quarantines may still be necessary, although they can inspire concerns about human rights.

Likewise, it may be necessary to ration biomedical countermeasures if supplies are limited. Countries should decide in advance if they will prioritize first responders and other key personnel or favor vulnerable groups, such as children and the elderly; different strategies may be appropriate for different diseases.

Technological solutions can help minimize the burden of sizable outbreaks and epidemics. Better and less-costly treatments—including novel antibiotics and antivirals to counter resistant diseases—are sorely needed. New and improved vaccines are perhaps even more important.

There is a significant market failure when it comes to vaccines against individual low-probability pathogens that collectively are likely to cause epidemics. Given the low probability that any single vaccine of this type will be needed, high R&D costs, and delayed returns, pharmaceutical companies hesitate to invest in their development. The profit-seeking interest does not align well with the social interest of minimizing the risk posed by these diseases in the aggregate.

Farsighted international collaboration can overcome this market failure—for example, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which is supported by the governments of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Ethiopia, India, Japan, Germany, and Norway, as well as the European Commission and various nongovernmental funders.

Its goals include advancing candidate vaccines against specific low-probability, high-severity pathogens through proof of concept to enable rapid clinical testing and scale-up in the event of outbreaks of those pathogens.

It also aims to fund development of institutional and technical platforms to speed R&D in response to outbreaks for which there are no vaccines. Similar funding models could support the development of a universal influenza vaccine.

Of course, new vaccines will be less useful if governments do not ensure that at-risk populations have access to them. Assured access could also motivate developing economies to participate actively in the vaccine R&D process.

In 2007 Indonesia withheld samples of the H5N1 influenza virus from the WHO to protest the fact that companies in wealthy countries often use samples freely provided by developing economies to produce vaccines and other countermeasures without returning any profit or other special benefits to the donors.

Beyond funding R&D, international collaboration could boost epidemic preparedness by supporting centralized stockpiling of vaccines and drugs that can be deployed where they are most needed. Such collaboration has obvious advantages over a system in which each country stockpiles its own biomedical countermeasures.

While some countries are more likely to need these countermeasures than others, the global public good of living without fear of pandemics should motivate cooperation and cost sharing.

In addition, wealthy countries at relatively low risk of suffering massive health impacts from most epidemics could suffer disproportionately large economic losses—even from faraway epidemics—given the size of their economies and reliance on foreign trade.

If outbreaks do occur and impose a substantial health burden, there are tools to limit the risk of economic catastrophe. As with natural disasters, insurance can help distribute the economic burden across sectors of the economy and regions.

Prioritizing personnel such as health care workers, members of the military, and public safety employees for distribution of biomedical countermeasures during an outbreak can help protect critical economic resources.

We cannot predict which pathogen will spur the next major epidemic, where that epidemic will originate, or how dire the consequences will be. But as long as humans and infectious pathogens coexist, outbreaks and epidemics are certain to occur and to impose significant costs.

The upside is that we can take proactive steps to manage the risk of epidemics and mitigate their impact. Concerted action now at the local, national, and multinational levels can go a long way toward protecting our collective well-being in the future.

http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2018/06/economic-risks-and-impacts-of-epidemics/bloom.htm?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

Opinions expressed in articles and other materials are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect IMF policy.

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Excerpt:

DAVID E. BLOOM is the Clarence James Gamble Professor of Economics and Demography, DANIEL CADARETTE is a research assistant, and JP SEVILLA is a research associate, all at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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Church and Conflict in South Sudanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/church-conflict-south-sudan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=church-conflict-south-sudan http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/church-conflict-south-sudan/#respond Tue, 03 Jul 2018 08:53:06 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156517 Throughout fifty years of struggles, South Sudan’s different churches have remained one of the country’s few stable institutions, and in their workings toward peace, have displayed a level of inter-religious cooperation rarely seen in the world.  Priests and pastors from numerous denominations brought humanitarian relief to civilians during South Sudan’s long wars for independence — […]

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South Sudanese Christians celebrate Christmas mass at El Fasher church in North Darfur. South Sudan's different churches have remained one of the country's few stable institutions. Credit: UN Photo/Olivier Chassot

By James Jeffrey
JUBA, Jul 3 2018 (IPS)

Throughout fifty years of struggles, South Sudan’s different churches have remained one of the country’s few stable institutions, and in their workings toward peace, have displayed a level of inter-religious cooperation rarely seen in the world. 

Priests and pastors from numerous denominations brought humanitarian relief to civilians during South Sudan’s long wars for independence — often considered a fight for religious freedom for the mostly Christian south — from the hard-line Islamist government to the north in Khartoum, Sudan.

Amid destruction and failed politics, church leaders emerged as the only players left standing with any credibility and national recognition, enabling them to effectively lobby the international community to support the southern cause while also brokering peace between communities torn apart by war and ethnic strife.

However, they have been less able to influence politicians and generals in South Sudan’s latest civil war raging since 2013, which began just two years after gaining independence from Sudan. Last week, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and rebels, led by his former vice president Riek Machar, signed a peace agreement to bring about a ceasefire. But Reuters reported that fighting broke out again on Sunday, killing 18 civilians. “The blood of the tribe has become thicker than the blood of the Christ," Episcopal Bishop Enock Tombe.

“The new outbreak of war caught the Church unprepared,” says John Ashworth, referring to the five-year civil war. Ashworth has worked in South Sudan, including advising its churches, for more than 30 years. “While the Church played a major role in protecting people and mobilising humanitarian support, and in mediating local peace and reconciliation processes, it took quite a while to rebuild the capacity to implement national level initiatives.”

Although Islam has dominated the region for centuries, Christian roots in Sudan and South Sudan go back to the 5th century. Missionaries were active in the 1800s, mainly from the Anglican, Presbyterian, Catholic and Coptic churches.

Though there are conflicting reports about South Sudan’s exact religious composition, Christianity is the dominant religion, with a 2012 Pew Research Centre report estimating that around 60 percent are Christian, 33 percent followers of African traditional religions, six percent Muslim and the rest unaffiliated.

In the face of shared adversity, South Sudan’s Christian churches embraced an ecumenical approach to establish the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC), which spearheaded the churches’ joint efforts that proved heavily influential in the 2005 peace deal that ended Africa’s longest-running civil war.

The SSCC continued its involvement in the process that led to the January 2011 referendum on independence, in which an overwhelming majority of South Sudanese voted to secede and become Africa’s first new country since Eritrea split from Ethiopia in 1993. South Sudan formally gained independence from Sudan on Jul. 9, 2011.

But all those achievements began to unravel in 2013 when government troops began massacring ethnic Nuer in the capital, Juba. Afterwards, the national army, called the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), split along ethnic lines during a violent uprising, pitting ethnic Dinka loyal to Kiir against Nuer led by Macher.

Both sides committed atrocities, while the narrative of fighting for religious freedom was manipulated for political advantage. The SPLA has painted themselves as Christian liberators — atrocities notwithstanding — their propaganda referring to the churchgoing Kiir as the “Joshua” who took South Sudan to the promised land of independence.

“The blood of the tribe has become thicker than the blood of the Christ,” Episcopal Bishop Enock Tombe remarked in 2014.

But the church has been caught up in the divisive fallout too. 

“The current war has divided people along ethnic lines — the church is not immune to these divisions,” says Carol Berger, an anthropologist who specialises in South Sudan.

In a speech in April, South Sudan’s vice president James Wani Igga accused priests of promoting violence.

“While individual clergy may have their own political sympathies, and while pastors on the ground continue to empathise with their local flock, the churches as bodies have remained united in calling and for an end to the killing, a peaceful resolution through dialogue, peace and reconciliation — in some cases at great personal risk,” Ashworth says.

Some have accused the church of inaction during the latest civil war. Ashworth suggests that after the 2005 peace agreement the SSCC “took a breather to rebuild and repair,” with the 2013 outbreak of war catching them unprepared and less capable. Subsequently it has taken church leaders longer than expected to rebuild capacity, but now the SSCC is taking action to make up for lost ground.

It has begun by choosing a new Secretary General, says Philip Winter, a South Sudan specialist who has long been engaged in its peace processes. He notes how the SSCC was called upon by the warring parties negotiating in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, to help them get over their differences — something the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) failed to do as a mediator.

Following the talks in Ethiopia in June, both warring sides signed a peace agreement in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, a week later.

“The SSCC recognised that is was perhaps not as effective as the most recent conflict required,” Winter says. “So they are once more playing an important, if discreet, role.” 

The SSCC’s renewed impetus includes implementing a national Action Plan for Peace (APP), which recognises the need for a long-term peace process to resolve not only the current conflict but also the unresolved effects of previous conflicts which are contributing causes of the current conflict. The SSCC says the APP may continue for 10 or 20 years.

At this stage of the plan, the SSCC hopes to see a visit to the country by Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church. Earlier this year a delegation of Christian leaders from South Sudan met the Pope and urged him to visit.

“We gave the situation of the Church in South Sudan, that the people are hungry for peace, and they expect the Pope to visit them,” the Bishop Emeritus of Tori, Paride Taban, a member of the delegation, told media after meeting the Pope. “He [the Pope] encourages us not to fear. We are not alone, he is with us, and he will surely come.”

The bishop spoke at the Rome headquarters of Sant’Egidio, a peace and humanitarian group that is trying to help peace efforts in South Sudan. The group played a crucial role in the 2015 papal visit to another war-torn country, the Central African Republic, and was instrumental in the signing of the Mozambique peace accords in 1992. 

The Pope previously postponed a planned 2017 South Sudan trip with Justin Welby, the head of the Anglican Church. Most media assumed that decision was based on the country being too dangerous to visit. But Welby told media the visit was postponed to ensure it would have the maximum impact in helping to establish peace. However, with the current, tentative ceasefire, the pope may visit to consolidate peace.

“You’re playing a heavyweight card and you have to get the timing right,” he said. “You don’t waste a card like that on anything that is not going to work.”

Others, however, remain deeply sceptical of how the Pope could visit.

“I see no way that the Pope could visit South Sudan,” says Berger. “The capital of Juba is a sad and troubled place these days. People have left for their villages, or neighbouring countries. Shops and hotels have closed. The town is heavily militarised and there is hunger everywhere.”

Whether the Pope would have a lasting impact, if he comes, remains to be seen. But current events indicate why the SSCC think it worth his trying, as the world’s youngest state remains afflicted by war and famine, and mired in an almost constant state of humanitarian crisis.     

“More exhortations to the antagonists to stop fighting are largely a waste of breath,” Winter says.

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Separated Central American Families Suffer Abuse in the United Stateshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/separated-central-american-families-suffer-abuse-united-states/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=separated-central-american-families-suffer-abuse-united-states http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/separated-central-american-families-suffer-abuse-united-states/#respond Mon, 02 Jul 2018 23:20:14 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156513 After three hours of paperwork, Katy Rodriguez from El Salvador, who was deported from the United States, finally exited the government’s immigration facilities together with her young son and embraced family members who were waiting outside. Rodríguez and her three-year-old son were reunited again on Jun. 28, just before she was sent back to her […]

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Katy Rodríguez and her son (in his father’s arms) when they were reunited after leaving the Migrant Assistance Centre in San Salvador following their deportation. Like thousands of other Central American families since April, mother and son were separated for four months after entering the United States without the proper documents. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Katy Rodríguez and her son (in his father’s arms) when they were reunited after leaving the Migrant Assistance Centre in San Salvador following their deportation. Like thousands of other Central American families since April, mother and son were separated for four months after entering the United States without the proper documents. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
SAN SALVADOR, Jul 2 2018 (IPS)

After three hours of paperwork, Katy Rodriguez from El Salvador, who was deported from the United States, finally exited the government’s immigration facilities together with her young son and embraced family members who were waiting outside.

Rodríguez and her three-year-old son were reunited again on Jun. 28, just before she was sent back to her home country El Salvador. She is originally from Chalatenanango, in the central department of the same name.

The 29-year-old mother and her little boy spent more than four months apart after being detained on Feb. 19 for being intercepted without the proper documents in the U.S. state of Texas, where they entered the country from the Mexican border city of Reynosa.

“It’s been bad, very bad, everything we’ve been through, my son in one place and me in another,” Rodríguez told IPS in a brief statement before getting into a family car outside the Migrant Assistance Centre, where Salvadorans deported from both the United States and Mexico arrive.

She was informed she could apply for asylum, but that meant spending more time away from her son, and for that reason she chose to be deported. “I felt immense joy when they finally gave me my child,” she said with a faint smile..

Rodriguez was held in a detention centre on the outskirts of San Antonio, Texas, while her son was sent to a children’s shelter in far-flung New York City as a result of the “Zero Tolerance” policy on illegal immigration imposed in April by the Donald Trump administration.

The traumatic events experienced by Rodríguez and her son are similar to what has happened to thousands of families, most of them from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, detained and separated on the southern U.S. border after Trump implemented the measure to, in theory, stem the flow of immigrants to the United States.

According to the Salvadoran General Migration Officete, between Jan. 1 and Jun. 27, 39 minors were deported from the US, either alone or accompanied, 1,020 from Mexico and five others from other locations. That figure of 1,064 is well below the 1,472 returned in the first half of 2017.

Of the 2,500 children separated from their parents or guardians on the southern border of the U.S. since April, just over 2,000 are still being held in detention centres and shelters in that country, according to the media and human rights organisations.

This is despite the fact that President Trump signed a decree on Jun. 20 putting an end to the separation of families.

Images of children locked up in cages created by metal fencing, crying and asking to see their parents, triggered an international outcry.

“The detention of children and the separation of families is comparable to the practice of torture under international law and U.S. law itself. There is an intention to inflict harm by the authorities for the purpose of coercion,” Erika Guevara, Amnesty International’s director for the Americas, told IPS from Mexico City.

The plane in which Rodríguez was deported carried another 132 migrants, including some 20 women, who told IPS about the abuses and human rights violations suffered in the detention centres.

The presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and the vice president of the United States gave a press conference after a Jun. 28 meeting in Guatemala City on the issue of migration by undocumented Central Americans to the U.S.. Credit: Presidency of El Salvador

The presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and the vice president of the United States gave a press conference after a Jun. 28 meeting in Guatemala City on the issue of migration by undocumented Central Americans to the U.S.. Credit: Presidency of El Salvador

Carolina Díaz, 21, who worked in a maquiladora – export assembly plant – before migrating to the United States, told IPS that she was held for a day and a half in what migrants refer to as the “icebox” in McAllen,Texas.

The icebox is kept extremely cold on purpose, because the guards turn up the air conditioning as a form of punishment “for crossing the border without papers,” said Díaz, a native of Ciudad Arce, in the central department of La Libertad, El Salvador.

“You practically freeze to death there, with nothing to keep yourself warm with,” she added, saying she had decided to migrate “because of the economic situation, looking for a better future.”

To sleep, all they gave her was a thermal blanket that looked like a giant sheet of aluminum foil, she said. Another woman, who did not want to be identified, told IPS that she was held in the icebox for nine days without knowing exactly why.

Díaz also spent another day and a half in the “kennel,” as they refer to the metal cages where dozens of undocumented immigrants are held.

“When I was in the kennel, the guards made fun of us, they threw the food at us as if we were dogs, almost always stale bologna sandwiches,” she said.

Díaz said that in McAllen, as well as in a similar detention centre in Laredo, Texas, she saw many mothers who had been separated from their children, crying inconsolably.

“The mothers were traumatised by the pain of the separation,” she said.

Guevara of Amnesty International said Trump’s decree does not stop the separations, but only postpones them, and families will continue to be detained, including those seeking asylum.

“The president’s Jun. 20 decree does not say what they are going to do with the more than 2,000 children already separated, in a situation of disorder that is generating other human rights violations,” she said.

These violations include the failure to notify parents or guardians when children are transferred to other detention facilities.

She added that the United States has created the world’s largest immigrant detention system, and currently operates 115 centres with at least 300,000 people detained each year.

Meanwhile, Marleny Montenegro, a psychologist with the Migrations programme in Guatemala’s non-governmental Psychosocial Action and StudiesTeam, explained that children detained and separated from their parents suffer from depression, fear, anxiety and anguish, among other psychological issues.

“They are affected in their ability to trust, their insecurity and they have trouble reintegrating into the community and in communicating their feelings and thoughts,” Montenegro told IPS from the Guatemalan capital.

The plane with undocumented deportees arrived in El Salvador on the same day as U.S. Vice President Michael Pence, who was meeting in Guatemala with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, and El Salvador’s President Sánchez Cerén.

Pence’s aim at the Jun. 28 meeting was to obtain a commitment from the three governments to adopt policies to curb migration to the U.S. According the figures he cited, 150,000 Central Americans have arrived to the US. so far this year – an irregular migration flow that he said “must stop.”

In a joint statement, at the end of what they called “a frank dialogue” with Pence, the three Central American leaders expressed their willingness to work together with the United States on actions that prioritise the well-being of children and adolescents, family unity and the due process of law.

They also stressed the importance of working in a coordinated manner to inform nationals of their countries of the risks involved in irregular migration and to combat human trafficking and smuggling networks.

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The ‘Stop Soros’ Bill: Strong Drawback for NGOs in Hungaryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/stop-soros-bill-strong-drawback-ngos-hungary/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stop-soros-bill-strong-drawback-ngos-hungary http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/stop-soros-bill-strong-drawback-ngos-hungary/#comments Mon, 02 Jul 2018 15:14:15 +0000 Carmen Arroyo and Emily Thampoe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156501 On World Refugee Day June 20, the Hungarian Parliament passed the ‘Stop Soros’ bill which is aimed at criminalizing groups who support refugees and other types of undocumented immigrants. The government also proposed a 25% migration tax on any organization which deals with immigration in any way. With these measures, the nonprofit sector is experimenting […]

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Sit-in of Syrian migrants. Credit: IPS

By Carmen Arroyo and Emily Thampoe
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 2 2018 (IPS)

On World Refugee Day June 20, the Hungarian Parliament passed the ‘Stop Soros’ bill which is aimed at criminalizing groups who support refugees and other types of undocumented immigrants.

The government also proposed a 25% migration tax on any organization which deals with immigration in any way. With these measures, the nonprofit sector is experimenting a full drawback in the country.

Aron Demeter, the Media Manager of Amnesty International Hungary, told IPS that this bill “might have a chilling effect on the wider civil society in Hungary”.

This bill comes at a tumultuous time, what with similar ideas and protocols being discussed within the United States. Also just this week, dozens of representatives from refugee-led organizations met in Geneva with UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for the first Global Summit on Refugees, during which they have been developing structures for a global network of refugees.

In Hungary, the sentiment is the contrary from that of the United Nations. The ‘Stop Soros’ bill is named after a notable philanthropist and financialist George Soros, who is known for being involved with Hungarian rights organizations.

Abroad, Soros has been known to support American progressive political issues, even establishing the Open Society Foundation, which in the foundation’s words works to, “build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people”.

Led by the conservative government of prime minister Viktor Orban and its party Fidesz (Hungarian Civic Alliance), the Stop Soros law includes prison time for groups that help illegal immigrants get documents to remain in the country and limitations for NGOs to prevent them of assisting in asylum cases.

Along with these measures and the aforementioned law, the Parliament approved a constitutional amendment which said that foreigners cannot stay in Hungary.

While the bill has not been signed and enacted yet, it will be rather impactful when it is law. According to Amnesty, these new additions to Hungarian law, “pose a serious threat to the right to seek asylum; the freedoms of association, assembly, expression, and movement; the right to housing and associated economic and social rights; and the right to be free from discrimination, in violation of international human rights law and regional law”.

Charlie Yaxley, UNHCR Spokesperson for Asia and Europe, told IPS: “It is our concern that these laws will further inflame what is already a hostile public discourse around refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants and will fuel xenophobic attitudes.”

Hungary has been restricting its immigration policies since the start of the refugee crisis, and with the reelection of Fidesz last April, the country is willing to pass more restrictive legislation in order to protect its Christian identity.

However, with these measures Hungary is slowly drifting away from Western Europe, and the international community is outraged by it. The international system, led by the United Nations, has expressed its discontent with the bill.

Demeter, from Amnesty International, said “Many international actors from the UN, CoE, EU or other stakeholders have openly criticised the adoption of the law and the government’s anti-NGO campaign. We expect the European Commission to launch an infringement procedure and – in case their assessment is the same as ours – take it to CJEU.

“We also expect that MEPs – the EP plenary is going to vote on the possible launch of the Article 7 against Hungary in September – will deem this bill as one of the clear signs that the Hungarian government is systematically neglects the core European values and rules”.

When asked for Amnesty’s views on the present bill, Demeter responded: “The recently adopted STOP Soros is a new low and it “perfectly” fits into the Hungarian government’s witch-hunt against human rights NGOs that has started in 2013”.

He added: “The vague and absurd new bill – by criminalizing totally lawful activities – aims to silence those NGOs who are critical towards the government’s cruel and unlawful refugee and migration policies and other human rights issues. Though the bill at least on the surface aims to put in jail only those who are helping asylum-seekers and refugees, the message is very clear: if you are critical, you are the enemy of the government”.

Yaxley also shared with IPS UNHCR’s views on the impact of the bill on refugees: “What we may see happen to people who have been forced to flee their homes due to war, violence, and persecution, many who have been through traumatic experiences and are simply looking to exercise their fundamental human right to seek asylum, is that they might be deprived of critical aid and services.”

However, according to the Interior Minister Sandor Pinter in a document attached to the draft of the bill, “The STOP Soros package of bills serves that goal, making the organisation of illegal immigration a criminal offence. We want to use the bills to stop Hungary from becoming a country of immigrants”.

The nonprofit sector

Many international NGOs in Hungary will be targeted with this bill. Amnesty International is one of them. “Amnesty International Hungary is one of the organisations that are in the target of the government for many years.

Amnesty International many times has been named as an organisation “supporting illegal migration”. Since the law is vague and incomprehensible from a legal perspective nobody knows what is going to happen”, said Demeter.

Yaxley from UNHCR told IPS that this bill will definitely be a drawback for the nonprofit work in Hungary: “The key aspect is the additional financial requirements that are set to be placed on any NGOs that receive foreign funding. Our understanding is that our own funding [UNHCR’s] could potentially fall under this clause.”

“This may lead to a situation where essentially NGOs feel unable or unwilling to provide assistance that is really needed for refugees and asylum seekers that often arrive to countries with nothing more than the clothes on their backs or a handful of necessities.”

When asked about the repercussions after the bill is implemented, Demeter said: “Amnesty is committed to stay in Hungary and do its job just as in the previous nearly 30 years. We are going to fight against the law in front of every domestic and international court as possible”.

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Community Work Among Women Improves Lives in Peru’s Andes Highlandshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/community-work-greenhouses-give-boost-women-families-perus-andes-highlands/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=community-work-greenhouses-give-boost-women-families-perus-andes-highlands http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/community-work-greenhouses-give-boost-women-families-perus-andes-highlands/#respond Sat, 30 Jun 2018 02:20:14 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156475 At more than 3,300 m above sea level, in the department of Cuzco, women are beating infertile soil and frost to grow organic food and revive community work practices that date back to the days of the Inca empire in Peru such as the “ayni” and “minka”. “We grow maize, beans and potatoes, that’s what […]

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In the community of Paropucjio, several women stand next to the solar greenhouse they have just built together on the plot of land belonging to one of them, in the district of Cusipata, more than 3,300 metres above sea level in the Cuzco highlands region in Peru. They get excited when they talk about how the greenhouses will improve their families' lives. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

In the community of Paropucjio, several women stand next to the solar greenhouse they have just built together on the plot of land belonging to one of them, in the district of Cusipata, more than 3,300 metres above sea level in the Cuzco highlands region in Peru. They get excited when they talk about how the greenhouses will improve their families' lives. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

By Mariela Jara
CUSIPATA, Peru, Jun 30 2018 (IPS)

At more than 3,300 m above sea level, in the department of Cuzco, women are beating infertile soil and frost to grow organic food and revive community work practices that date back to the days of the Inca empire in Peru such as the “ayni” and “minka”.

“We grow maize, beans and potatoes, that’s what we eat, and we forget about other vegetables, but now we’re going to be able to naturally grow tomatoes, lettuce, and peas,” María Magdalena Condori told IPS, visibly pleased with the results, while showing her solar greenhouse, built recently in several days of community work.

She lives in the Andes highlands village of Paropucjio, located at more than 3,300 m above sea level, in Cusipata, a small district of less than 5,000 inhabitants."We want to help improve the quality of life of rural women by strengthening their capacities in agriculture. They work the land, they sow and harvest, they take care of their families, they are the mainstay of food security in their homes and their rights are not recognized." -- Elena Villanueva

The local population subsists on small-scale farming and animal husbandry, which is mainly done by women, while most of the men find paid work in districts in the area or even in the faraway city of Cuzco, to complete the family income.

The geographical location of Paropucjio is a factor in the low fertility of the soils, in addition to the cold, with temperatures that drop below freezing. “Here, frost can destroy all our crops overnight and we end up with no food to eat,” says Celia Mamani, one of Condori’s neighbors.

A similar or even worse situation can be found in the other 11 villages that make up Cusipata, most of which are at a higher altitude and are more isolated than Paropucjio, which is near the main population centre in Cusipata and has the largest number of families, about 120.

Climate change has exacerbated the harsh conditions facing women and their families in these rural areas, especially those who are furthest away from the towns, because they have fewer skills training opportunities to face the new challenges and have traditionally been neglected by public policy-makers.

“In Paropucjio there are 14 of us women who are going to have our own greenhouse and drip irrigation module; so far we have built five. This makes us very happy, we are proud of our work because we will be able to make better use of our land,” said Rosa Ysabel Mamani the day that IPS spent visiting the community.

The solar greenhouses will enable each of the beneficiaries to grow organic vegetables for their families and to sell the surplus production in the markets of Cusipata and nearby districts.

Women farmers from Paropucjio, in the district of Cusipata, more than 3,300 metres above sea level, smile as they talk about the wooden structure for a solar greenhouse, which they jokingly refer to as a “skeleton”. The roof will be made of a special microfilm resistant to bad weather, intense ultraviolet radiation and extreme temperatures, and the greenhouses are built collectively, in the Andean region of Cuzco, Peru. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

Women farmers from Paropucjio, in the district of Cusipata, more than 3,300 metres above sea level, smile as they talk about the wooden structure for a solar greenhouse, which they jokingly refer to as a “skeleton”. The roof will be made of a special microfilm resistant to bad weather, intense ultraviolet radiation and extreme temperatures, and the greenhouses are built collectively, in the Andean region of Cuzco, Peru. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

With a broad smile, Mamani points to a 50-sq-m wooden structure that within the next few days will be covered with mesh on the sides and microfilm – a plastic resistant to extreme temperatures and hail – on the roof.

“We will all come with our husbands and children and we will finish building the greenhouse in ‘ayni’ (a Quechua word that means cooperation and solidarity), as our ancestors used to work,” she explains.

The ayni is one of the social forms of work of the Incas still preserved in Peru’s Andes highlands, where the community comes together to build homes, plant, harvest or perform other tasks. At the end of the task, in return, a hearty meal is shared.

The minga, another legacy of the Inca period, is similar but between communities, whose inhabitants go to help those of another community. In this case women from different villages and hamlets get together to build the greenhouses, especially the roofs, the hardest part of the job.

Training in production and rights

A total of 80 women from six rural highlands districts in Cuzco will benefit from the solar greenhouses and drip irrigation modules for their family organic gardens, as part of a project run by the non-governmental Peruvian Flora Tristán Women’s Centre with the support of the Spanish Basque Agency for Development Cooperation.

Women farmers from the community of Huasao, in the Andean highlands region of Cuzco, Peru, stand in front of one of the 50-sq-m solar tents, which has a 750-litre water tank for the drip irrigation module for their vegetables. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

Women farmers from the community of Huasao, in the Andean highlands region of Cuzco, Peru, stand in front of one of the 50-sq-m solar tents, which has a 750-litre water tank for the drip irrigation module for their vegetables. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

“We want to help improve the quality of life of rural women by strengthening their capacities in agriculture. They work the land, they sow and harvest, they take care of their families, they are the mainstay of food security in their homes and their rights are not recognised,” Elena Villanueva, a sociologist with the centre’s rural development programme, told IPS.

She said the aim was comprehensive training for women farmers, so that they can use agro-ecological techniques for the sustainable use of soil, water and seeds. They will also learn to defend their rights as women, farmers and citizens, in their homes, community spaces and before local authorities.

The expert said the solar greenhouses open up new opportunities for women because they protect crops from adverse weather and from the high levels of ultraviolet radiation in the area, allowing the women to grow crops that could not survive out in the open.

“Now they will have year-round food that is not currently part of their diet, such as cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and lettuce, that will enrich the nutrition and diets in their families – crops they will be able to plant and harvest with greater security,” she said.

The women have also been trained in the preparation of natural fertilisers and pesticides. “Our soils don’t yield much, they squeeze the roots of the plants, so we have to prepare them very well so that they can receive the seeds and then provide good harvests,” Condori explains.

In the 50 square metres covered by her new greenhouse, the local residents have worked steadily digging the soil to remove the stones, turn the soil and form the seed beds for planting.

Women and men from the community of Paropucjio, in Peru’s Andes highlands region of Cuzco, share lunch after completing the community work of building one of 80 small greenhouses, where women farmers will be able to grow organic vegetables despite the extreme temperatures in the area. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS


Women and men from the community of Paropucjio, in Peru’s Andes highlands region of Cuzco, share lunch after completing the community work of building one of 80 small greenhouses, where women farmers will be able to grow organic vegetables despite the extreme temperatures in the area. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

“To do that we have had to fertilise a lot using bocashi (fermented organic fertiliser) that we prepare in groups with the other women, working together in ayni. We brought guinea pig and chicken droppings and cattle manure, leaves, and ground eggshells,” she explains.

This active role in making decisions about the use of their productive resources has helped change the way their husbands see them and has brought a new appreciation for everything they do to support the household and their families.

Honorato Ninantay, from the community of Huasao, located more than 3,100 metres above sea level in the neighbouring district of Oropesa, confesses his surprise and admiration for the way his wife juggles all her responsibilities.

“It seems unbelievable that before, in all this time, I hadn’t noticed. Only when she has gone to the workshops and has been away from home for two days have I understood,” he says.

“I as a man have only one job, I work in construction. But my wife has aahh! (long exclamation). When she left I had to fetch the water, cook the meals, feed the animals, go to the farm and take care of my mother who is sick and lives with us. I couldn’t handle it all,” he adds.

His wife, Josefina Corihuamán, listens to her husband with a smile on her face, and confirms that he is now involved in household chores because he has understood that washing, cleaning and cooking are not just a “woman’s job.”

She also has a solar greenhouse and irrigation module and is confident that she will produce enough to feed her family and sell the surplus in the local market.

“What we will harvest will be healthy, organic, chemical-free food, and that is good for our families, for our children. I feel that I will finally make good use of my land,” she says.

The post Community Work Among Women Improves Lives in Peru’s Andes Highlands appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Football, Xenophobia, Racism, Discrimination– & a Few More Thingshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/football-xenophobia-racism-discrimination-things/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=football-xenophobia-racism-discrimination-things http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/football-xenophobia-racism-discrimination-things/#respond Fri, 29 Jun 2018 17:16:07 +0000 Pablo Alabarces http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156470 Pablo Alabarces holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Brighton, England. He is Professor of Popular Culture at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires and has published several books on football and popular culture.

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Credit: iStockphoto.com/ peepo

By Pablo Alabarces
BUENOS AIRES, Jun 29 2018 (IPS)

Football tells us a great deal about identity. Even a budding sports journalist knows that. And it has come to be a meeting point and even an advertising theme. But what we never discuss is the varying forms of this identity that are possible, let alone the consequences, which are sometimes ill-fated.

Saying that football is tied to identity is comforting because it places higher status on it than just a triviality: it allows us to emphatically claim that “soccer is the most important of the least important things” (another triviality).

Of course, this importance is derived precisely from the fact that it comprises a series of memories and stories in which very diverse identities are invented and adopted and from the fact that its effectiveness is based on its emotional warmth (the apparent “passion”), the potential beauty of the game (although rare, to be honest), and the unpredictability of the outcome.

But the comfort of identity overlooks—or conceals—that we have not explained anything with this; that we need to add another dimension that is indispensable (and generally covert): the dimension of power.

The dimensions of identity involved are not just the two most visible ones: identity at the micro or tribal level (the club, the team, the colors) and national identity (national team, country, homeland), although these also require our attention before we start celebrating.

The stories of identity that football involves—or has involved in Latin America in the past—have been centered on a wide variety of themes. At least in broad terms, these have included ethnicity, race, class, territory, and country—all of which were triggered by stories that—in some cases—labeled themselves as “playing styles”.

Ethnicity stems from the actual roots and conflicts among Europeans (not only the English), criollos and mestizos; class, from the sport’s popularization and the disputes over professionalization; race, from the appearance of those of African descent; territory, from the close relationship between teams and cities or towns (or neighborhoods in major cities).

And finally country, which found the ideal channel to popularize narratives of identity in soccer in 1916 and the appearance of international competitions. At the same time, however, there is something major missing – and not just in Latin America: the dimension of gender was silenced (as well as banned) in this discovery and in these stories.

Let us pause here and use this missing component to better illustrate the dimension of power. The commonality of identity sometimes overlooks the fact that these are essentially male identities and stories, that they were imposed as universal at the expense of censorship and the exclusion of football and female fandom.

To top it off, the culture of sports does not allow women to be a channel for identity narratives, since this is impossible based on a broader principle that is not just Latin American. According to this principle, the narrative of one’s homeland cannot be told from a female perspective and women cannot be the heroes in a nationalist story.

On the contrary, the excess of narratives—the effective excess of narratives—in male football ruled out the possibility of having a female story altogether, and even excluded it, as we have already noted.

Thus the aim here is not to celebrate identities, but to assess who creates them, who adopts them, and how they are narrated. And fundamentally, who they are narrated against. Because, as we know, every story of identity is also a story of otherness: what someone is and what someone isn’t.

In football, the prevailing story is that the one telling it is masculine: but the “other” is gay—not a woman—which doubles the exclusion of women in one fell swoop. It is a matter entirely for men, which in turn creates space for a homoerotic story and—paradoxically—a homophobic one.

This is an initial common ground for discrimination that was recently used in an unsuccessful ad by television broadcaster Torneos y Competencias [Latin American sports and entertainment service]: disguised as alleged criticism of Russia’s repression of homosexuality, the ad revealed the persistent anti-feminine discrimination established by football culture.

Racism and xenophobia

The same holds true for the concepts of ethnicity and race. Latin American soccer was built on top of an ethnic dispute (at times disguised as anti-imperialism) during the process of making a European-invented game more criollo. Once this initial stage was over, however, it gave rise to two conflicting junctures:

1. The national narratives of differentiation—Buenos Aires against provincial Argentina, Santiago against Valparaíso, Rio de Janeiro against São Paulo, coastal areas against the mountainside in Colombia, Ecuador, and to a lesser extent in Peru, and
2. The racialization of African-descendant ethnicity, a key concept that was crucial to the invention of “popular” soccer in Brazil, Uruguay, and Peru.

These concepts started to come into play at the international level in 1916: the Chilean league demanded that the points achieved by the Uruguayan team in the first South American Championship not be counted because they had “African players” on their roster.

At the 1921 South American Championship in Buenos Aires, Brazilian President Epitácio Pessoa stated his desire to have the Brazilian team made up of only white players since the year before, the Argentine press had called the Brazilians “little monkeys” when they passed through Buenos Aires on their way to the South American Championship in Chile.

This was not the first presence of racism in “white” Latin American societies; we are simply pointing out that football allowed this racism to establish itself from then on and gave it a competitive advantage.

Since the 1930s, all these concepts were primarily narrated by the mass media, with the resulting prevalence of stereotyping. The media uses stereotypes to create and tell narratives, simply because this is the method it has to readily put a chaotic world in order.

The problem comes when a stereotype also dictates our understanding of the world since no other story lines can be found. Here we see the problem of power once again: the narrators were—and mostly still are—white and middle class, so all their narratives were created from these perspectives.

The prevailing voice and practically the only perspective throughout the Americas is still white, urban, and middle class. The best example of this in football is in Brazil, where it was revealed that an apparent racial democracy was achieved starting in 1958, with its first World Cup title in Sweden, led by its star players Vavá, Didí, Pelé, and Garrincha. Three black men and a mulatto. But this revelation was made and publicized by educated white men: Gilberto Freyre and Mário Filho.

A discriminatory celebration

The aim here is not to attribute the homophobic, xenophobic, and racist excesses of Latin American fans to mass culture, however. Mass culture simply sets the stage for the prevailing stories such that broadly homophobic, xenophobic, and racist societies cannot avoid having these characteristics in their mass culture, and thus in their soccer.

Due to its massiveness, soccer provides greater visibility of these narratives and sets the stage for the masses. These are not every day racist acts. Instead, it is a crowd berating the blackness of a particular soccer player in mostly white societies. The xenophobic narrative, in turn, is disguised as a joke.

Sports journalists think very highly of their own humor and believe mutual bashing between Chileans and Peruvians, Argentines and Brazilians, or Colombians and Venezuelans can be adopted based on the argument of tradition (“that the way it’s always been”) and humor (“not seriously”).

The outlook is thus dreadful. FIFA regulations appear to have achieved few results in the world of UEFA, let alone in the world of CONMEBOL. It is possible that this relative lack of success is due to an issue of power.

The ones who make these rules—for the sake of political correctness—are members of the same groups that can and do discriminate on multiple bases (white, urban, and rich, if possible). In the case of Argentina, no one seriously believes that it is that bad to call a rival “black,” “Bolivian,” or “fag”—it’s a “guy thing,” said in the heat of the moment during the game. It is certainly not possible to find fault with tens of thousands of fans who are simply adopting the ethics of their dominant classes, either.

It will take far more than a few well-written disciplinary rules to potentially undo this process. Last August, Frank Fabra—a Colombian player of African descent, who plays for Argentina’s Boca Juniors—was insulted by rival fans of “Estudiantes de la Plata” [Argentine professional sports club based in La Plata] with predictable shouts of “black,” “fag,” and “Colombian.” The referee decided not to interrupt the game, claiming that the shouting did not come from the entire stadium.

So, as we said: it was just a joke.

The link to the original article: https://www.fes-connect.org/trending/football-xenophobia-racism-discrimination-and-a-few-more-things/

The post Football, Xenophobia, Racism, Discrimination– & a Few More Things appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Pablo Alabarces holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Brighton, England. He is Professor of Popular Culture at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires and has published several books on football and popular culture.

The post Football, Xenophobia, Racism, Discrimination– & a Few More Things appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Fight Against Drug Consumption Needs Gender Specific Treatmentshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/fight-drug-consumption-needs-gender-specific-treatments/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fight-drug-consumption-needs-gender-specific-treatments http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/fight-drug-consumption-needs-gender-specific-treatments/#respond Fri, 29 Jun 2018 06:38:06 +0000 Carmen Arroyo and Emily Thampoe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156461 The World Drug Report 2018, launched this week by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), highlighted the importance of gender in drug consumption and behaviour, suggesting it is essential to provide different types of health-care and legal solutions. As Marie Nougier, Head of Research and Communications at the International Drug Policy Consortium […]

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By Carmen Arroyo and Emily Thampoe
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 29 2018 (IPS)

The World Drug Report 2018, launched this week by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), highlighted the importance of gender in drug consumption and behaviour, suggesting it is essential to provide different types of health-care and legal solutions.

Only one in five women addicts seeks treatment for drug abuse, the president of the International Narcotics Board (INCB) has warned. Credit: UN Photo/D. Gair

As Marie Nougier, Head of Research and Communications at the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) told IPS: “There is certainly no one-size-fits-all strategy towards drug use – there should be a range of evidence-based prevention, harm reduction, treatment and other health and social support services that are able to respond to the many problems women may face when using drugs”.

About 5.6% of the global population between 15 and 64 years old -275 million people- used drugs during 2016, according to the report. From those, 31 million suffer from drug disorders, which means that they need treatment.

However, drug treatments are only reaching one sixth of drug consumers. The consequences are terrible, with 450,000 people dying in 2015 due to drug consumption. What’s more, global opium production increased by 65% from 2016 to 2017, which is the highest estimate so far.

The report has been separated into five sections, the fifth being about the effect that gender has on drug usage, especially in terms of women. The others include information such as an executive summary, drug demand and supply, drug markets, and drugs and age.

The fifth report states that while women consume opioids and tranquilizers more often than men, they use more cannabis and cocaine. Despite women starting to consume substances later in life than men, they increase their intake of related drugs -alcohol, opioids and cocaine- faster than them.

Whereas women mostly associate drug consumption with an intimate partner, men tend to consume substances with other male friends. And while women tend to suffer more from depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions, men suffer from externalized problems like conduct disorder, such as “attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and antisocial personality disorder”.

These are some of the gender-based differences in drug consumption that the report points out, but what stands out most in terms of finding long-term solutions is that women “may also have experienced childhood adversity such as physical neglect, abuse or sexual abuse”.

When this is coupled with strong drug policies, the result is a higher proportion of women sentenced for drug-related offences. Women are also shown to be more affected by post traumatic stress disorder.

Nougier from IDPC told IPS: “Drug policies focusing on punishing people for drug use have greatly contributed to drug-related health issues, including the spread of HIV and hepatitis C and overdose deaths, as the fear of arrest and punishment deters people from accessing the harm reduction and treatment services they may need”.

She added: “Punitive approaches have also increased the levels of stigma and discrimination against people who use drugs”.

Additionally, according Nougier, punitive approaches tend to affect women more, as there are no treatment programs that include a gender approach. Their needs -due to their background and consumption behavior- are different.

Also “because of the gender inequalities that continue to prevail in our societies, with women facing significant stigma for breaking with the role of the ‘good woman’ or the ‘good mother’ for using drugs. In some countries, using drugs during pregnancy is a criminal offence, which acts as a serious barrier for women to seek prenatal healthcare support or drug services”.

Kamran Niaz, epidemiologist at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, told IPS that “women have better long-term outcomes when they receive treatments that focus on the issues more commonly found in women with drug use disorders compared to treatments that lack such a women-centred focus”.

Gender specific treatments

Asked about gender-specific treatments, Niaz added: “Prevention of drug use among girls/women requires investing in family-based prevention addressing vulnerabilities that appear to be unique to girls”. He continued: “in order to address the issues of drug use disorders among women, treatment services and programmes should be tailored to the needs of women and pregnant women”.

Some of the programmes that Niaz found specific for girls included: “dealing with stress, depression, social assertiveness, body image and improving relations and communication with parents and other significant others”.

Pamela Kent, Associate Director of Research at the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA), told IPS: “A more informed and empathetic approach to women’s substance use is required—one that also considers various aspects such as reproductive health, perinatal service and child welfare. It’s important to note that not a one-size fits all—society needs to provide women-centered prevention and treatment resources and responses”.

Regarding the relation between drug use and abuse, Niaz said: “As women with drug use disorders are more vulnerable to domestic violence and sexual abuse, and their children may also be at risk of abuse, a liaison with social agencies protecting women and children is helpful”.

He added: “In addition in the case of child abuse we need programmes to prevent such abuse and, particularly, to support the victims and to address post-traumatic stress disorders among them”.

Kent agreed that abuse is a primary concern: “[The 2017 Life in Recovery from Addiction in Canada survey] showed that females reported greater family violence and untreated mental health concerns during addiction compared to males. In additional, for informal support, females more likely to use technology, connect with an animal, or use art, poetry, writing and yoga compared to males”.

However, not many programs have been implemented that include this gender-based approach. The report adds that the criminal justice system is designed for male offenders and thus forgets any nuances that relate to women.

Nougier said: “We continue to see a concerning lack of access to treatment by women dependent on drugs, both in the community and in prison. Available services are generally designed by and for men, and are often unable to tailor to the specific needs faced by women. In closed settings, most harm reduction and treatment services are only available in male prisons”.

Some facilities are starting to adapt themselves to these proven needs, according to Nougier. “Dome harm reduction and treatment facilities have adapted their services to better engage with women with specific opening hours for women only, a space for children while women come to the centre, and the provision gender-specific services (e.g. legal aid or support to respond to domestic violence, sexual and reproductive health support, etc.)”, she said.

Niaz agreed that “the programmes need to manage the myriad of issues such patients face, and should encompass broader health, learning, and social welfare context in collaboration with family, schools and social services”.

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New Human Rights Chief? UN Secretary-General Cannot Afford to Get It Wronghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/new-human-rights-chief-un-secretary-general-cannot-afford-get-wrong/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-human-rights-chief-un-secretary-general-cannot-afford-get-wrong http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/new-human-rights-chief-un-secretary-general-cannot-afford-get-wrong/#respond Thu, 28 Jun 2018 15:20:30 +0000 Fred Carver and Ben Donaldson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156448 Fred Carver is Head of Policy & Ben Donaldson, Head of Campaigns, United Nations Association – UK

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Fred Carver is Head of Policy & Ben Donaldson, Head of Campaigns, United Nations Association – UK

By Fred Carver and Ben Donaldson
LONDON, Jun 28 2018 (IPS)

UN Secretary-General António Guterres is about to make one of the most important decisions of his tenure – one that will directly impact communities worldwide: the appointment of the next High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The role is formidable. She or he is tasked with promoting and protecting all human rights for everyone, everywhere. This is an immensely challenging mandate in itself.

Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Al Hussein, the outgoing UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Credit: UN

At a time when fundamental human rights are in retreat across the world, including in established democracies, it is even more crucial that a talented and effective individual is appointed, who can rise to the occasion.

The Secretary-General cannot afford to get this wrong. The world is watching.

Since the current post holder – Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein – announced last December that he will not be standing for re-appointment, UNA-UK has worked with partners to encourage a robust, transparent and inclusive process.

We were delighted that the Secretary-General issued a public call for nominations to governments, as well as an explicit invitation to civil society and national human rights institutions to put forward candidates.

We are also pleased that he has committed to advertising widely, to involving external experts in the recruitment process, and that he has encouraged female nominees.

But the Secretary-General is leaving things very late. While we have no doubt there have been vigorous efforts behind the scene, the public call for nominations was only issued on 11 June, with a deadline of one month.

That will leave a mere 51 days between the closing date and the new High Commissioner’s first day in the job. In that time, the candidate will need to be pre-vetted, interviewed, vetted again more rigorously, nominated by the Secretary-General, approved by the UN General Assembly, serve out any notice they have in their current role, move to Geneva and prepare for one of the toughest positions on the planet.

The Secretary-General’s own appointment process benefitted greatly from reforms which brought inclusivity and transparency triggered by pressure from member states and civil society, including the ‘1 for 7 Billion’ campaign of our organisation – UNA-UK.

Technically, the HCHR’s appointment is different – it’s an internal concern for the Secretary-General without meaningful involvement of the Security Council or the General Assembly – but that does not mean the process should be less robust, or that there is no room for public consultation. After all, this is the UN’s principal human rights official.

UNA-UK is therefore pushing to use the limited time available to ensure the call for nominations reaches the widest possible audience, and to campaign for a fair and transparent process.

Our “transparency checklist” shines a light on the process, using metrics such as “are the terms of reference for the interview panel disclosed”, “do women make up at least half the shortlist”, “is a clear timetable for the appointment published” and “are human rights defenders and civil society consulted during the process?”

The future postholder’s mandate will be strengthened if they are seen to have come through a thorough, meritocratic recruitment process. At present, our checklist identifies significant room for improvement on this front.

A lack of transparency will feed the speculation that a small group of powerful states could have undue influence on the process raising the spectre of a compromised appointee.

A robust process, meanwhile, would make the General Assembly’s approval a mandate, rather than a rubberstamp. Including civil society would send a strong message about the UN’s openness to the public, as well as a signal to member states that they are not the organisation’s only stakeholders.

The UN is on its knees financially. The US is looking for cuts and Russia and China calling for those cuts to fall on the UN’s already underfunded human rights mechanisms. This is happening already in peacekeeping, but is unlikely to stop there.

Security Council gridlock between the big powers has resulted in conflicts in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere turning into quagmires. The US has pulled out of the Human Rights Council, which will not make joined up work on human rights across the UN any easier. Now more than ever the UN needs to inspire faith in its representatives from the public and the wider UN membership.

The incumbent high commissioner voiced an ominous rationale for not seeking a second term – that he fears his voice will be silenced and his independence and integrity compromised. The next postholder will need to rise to this formidable challenge – being seen to come through a rigorous and fair recruitment process will help.

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Fred Carver is Head of Policy & Ben Donaldson, Head of Campaigns, United Nations Association – UK

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