Inter Press Service » Civil Society http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 25 May 2016 17:37:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.11 OPINION: Central America, Still Caught Up in the Arms Racehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/central-america-still-caught-up-in-the-arms-race/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=central-america-still-caught-up-in-the-arms-race http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/central-america-still-caught-up-in-the-arms-race/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 14:29:10 +0000 Lina Barrantes Castegnaro http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145301

In this column, Lina Barrantes Castegnaro, executive director of the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress, denounces the arms race in Central America and calls for the implementation of the Costa Rica Consensus, which urges rich countries to increase development aid to countries that cut military spending.

By Lina Barrantes Castegnaro
SAN JOSE, May 25 2016 (IPS)

The recent announcement of the Nicaraguan government’s 80-million-dollar purchase of 50 Russian tanks caught the attention of the press in Latin America and caused alarm in the international community.

The purchase, not an isolated acquisition, is part of an arms race seen in Latin America in recent years.

The rise in military spending stands in contrast to the realities in a poor region like Central America, where the levels of defence spending are as shocking as the poverty rates.

Lina Barrantes Castegnaro

Lina Barrantes Castegnaro

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported that in 2015, in Belize 1.1 percent of the annual budget (19.6 million dollars) went toward military expenditure, in El Salvador 0.9 percent (223 million), in Guatemala 0.4 percent (274 million), in Honduras 1.6 percent (324 million) and in Nicaragua 0.6 percent (71.6 million).

(Costa Rica and Panama, which don’t have armies, do not declare military expenditure.)

While these funds are being spent on weapons, the specter of hunger and underdevelopment hangs over the region. In the 2015 United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index , Guatemala ranked 128th, Honduras 131st, El Salvador 116th, Nicaragua 125th and Belize 101st, out of 188 countries.

Costa Rica was in 69th place and Panama 60th.

The worst performers in the region, in the HDI, are Honduras and Guatemala, the two countries with the lowest level of human development in Central America.

That is, the poorer the country, the more the government spends on war toys. But the question is: Who will these toys be used to wage war against?

One possible answer is that the upgrading of weaponry is aimed to give countries the capacity to respond in case of war or invasion. But it’s not clear which war or invasion that might be.

Another hypothesis that could be set forth is that they could be used against the countries’ own citizens deported from the United States, who return after graduating from intensive courses in violence and crime in Latino neighbourhoods.

The UNDP Human Development Report 1994 formally introduced a new concept that had been debated for years in the international arena: if the world spent money on development instead of military expenditure, poverty could be eradicated in just a few years.

From that standpoint, poverty doesn’t just have to do with war, but with military spending itself.

In the period 1987-1994 global military expenditure declined by an estimated 935 billion dollars. Unfortunately, this money did not go towards social spending or development; actually the way these funds were used is not clear.

Spending on armament is deplorable, but it is even more so in the case of poor countries like those of Central America.

For that reason the concept of peace dividends, presented to the world by then Costa Rican president Oscar Arias in 2006 as the “Costa Rica consensus”, is so important.

According to this idea, countries that spend more on development than on death would be given priority when it comes to international financial resources.

Just as the Arms Trade Treaty proposes linking human rights and ethics with military spending, the Costa Rica consensus is aimed at creating mechanisms to condone debt and support, with financial resources, developing countries that spend more on health, education and housing for their people, and less on arms and soldiers.

In other words, the international financial community would reward not only those countries that spend in an orderly fashion, as it does now, but those that spend ethically.

When the Nobel Peace Laureates for Food Security and Peace Alliance was created earlier this month, at U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) headquarters in Rome, Arias proposed taking up the Costa Rica consensus again as an alternative for fighting hunger in the world, to support countries that use their budget funds for the lives of their citizens rather than their deaths.

We hope the day this will happen is not too far off.

Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Prickly Pears Drive Local Development in Northern Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/prickly-pears-drive-local-development-in-northern-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=prickly-pears-drive-local-development-in-northern-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/prickly-pears-drive-local-development-in-northern-argentina/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 14:51:45 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145260 Marta Maldonado, secretary of the “Siempre Unidos Minifundios de Corzuela” association, standing next to a prickly pear, a cactus that is abundant in this municipality in the northern Argentine province of Chaco. Making use of the fruit and the leaves of the plant has changed the lives of a group of local families. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Marta Maldonado, secretary of the “Siempre Unidos Minifundios de Corzuela” association, standing next to a prickly pear, a cactus that is abundant in this municipality in the northern Argentine province of Chaco. Making use of the fruit and the leaves of the plant has changed the lives of a group of local families. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
CORZUELA, Argentina , May 23 2016 (IPS)

Family farmers in the northern Argentine province of Chaco are gaining a new appreciation of the common prickly pear cactus, which is now driving a new kind of local development.

Hundreds of jars of homemade jam are stacked in the civil society association “Siempre Unidos Minifundios de Corzuela” (smallholders of Corzuela united), ready to be sold.

Until recently, the small farmers taking part in this new local development initiative did not know that the prickly pear, also known as cactus pear, tuna or nopal, originated in Mexico, or that its scientific name was Opuntia ficus-indica.

But now this cactus that has always just been a normal part of their semi-arid landscape is bringing local subsistence farmers a new source of income.

“The women who took the course are now making a living from this,” Marta Maldonado, the secretary of the association, which was formally registered in 2011, told IPS. “They also have their vegetable gardens, chickens, pigs and goats.”

“The prickly pear is the most common plant around here. In the project we set up 20 prickly pear plantations,” she said.

Local farmers work one to four hectares in this settlement in the rural municipality of Corzuela in west-central Chaco, whose 10,000 inhabitants are spread around small settlements and villages.

The initiative, which has benefited 20 families, made up of 39 women, 35 men and four children, has been implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the U.N. Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Small Grants Programme (SGP).

The SGP, which is active in 125 countries, is based on the sustainable development concept of “thinking globally, acting locally”, and seeks to demonstrate that small-scale community initiatives can have a positive impact on global environmental problems.

The aim of these small grants, which in the case of the local association here amounted to 20,000 dollars, is to bolster food sovereignty while at the same time strengthening biodiversity.

The SGP has carried out 13 projects so far in Chaco, the poorest province in this South American country of 43 million people.

In the region where Corzuela is located, “there are periods of severe drought and fruit orchards require a lot of water. The prickly pear is a cactus that does not need water,” said Gabriela Faggi with the National Agricultural Technology Institute (INTA).

The large-scale deforestation and clear-cutting of land began in 1990, when soy began to expand in this area, and many local crops were driven out.

“The prickly pear, which is actually originally from Mexico but was naturalised here throughout northern Argentina centuries ago, had started to disappear. So this project is also important in terms of rescuing this local fruit,” said Faggi.

“Sabores de Corzuela” (Flavours of Corzuela) reads the label on the jars of prickly pear fruit jam produced by an association of local families in this rural municipality in the northern Argentine province of Chaco. Credit: UNDP Argentina

“Sabores de Corzuela” (Flavours of Corzuela) reads the label on the jars of prickly pear fruit jam produced by an association of local families in this rural municipality in the northern Argentine province of Chaco. Credit: UNDP Argentina

This area depends on agriculture – cotton, soy, sunflowers, sorghum and maize – and timber, as well as livestock – cattle, hogs, and poultry.

However, it is now impossible for local smallholders to grow crops like cotton.

“In the past, a lot of cotton was grown, but not anymore,” the association’s treasurer, Mirtha Mores, told IPS. “It’s not planted now because of an outbreak of boll weevils (Anthonomus grandis), an insect that stunts growth of the plant, and we can’t afford to fight it, poor people like us who have just a little piece of land to farm.”

Before launching the project, the local branch of INTA trained the small farmers in agroecological techniques for growing cotton, and helped them put up fences to protect their crops from the animals.

They also taught them how to build and use a machine known as a “desjanadora” to remove the spines, or “janas”, from the prickly pear fruits, to make them easier to handle.

“It’s going well for us. Last year we even sold 1,500 jars of prickly pear fruit jam to the Education Ministry,” for use in school lunchrooms, Maldonado said proudly.

The association, whose work is mainly done by women, also sells its products at local and provincial markets. And although prickly pear fruit is their star product, when it is not in season, they also make jam and other preserves using papaya or pumpkin.

“It has improved our incomes and now we have the possibility to sell our merchandise and to be able to buy the things that are really needed to help our kids who are studying,” Mores said.

The project, which began in 2013, also trained them to use the leaves as a supplementary feed for livestock, especially in the winter when there is less fodder and many animals actually die of hunger.

“We make use of everything. We use the leaves to feed the animals – cows, horses, goats, pigs. The fruit is used to make jam, removing the seeds,” said Mores.

The nutrition and health of the families have improved because of the properties of the fruit and of the plant, said Maldonado and Mores. And now they need less fodder for their animals, fewer of which die in the winter due to a lack of forage.

At the same time, the families belonging to the association were also trained to make sustainable use of firewood from native trees, and learned to make special stoves that enable them to cook and heat their modest homes.

In addition, because women assumed an active, leading role in the activities of the association, the project got them out of their homes and away from their routine grind of household tasks and gave them new protagonism in the community.

“Living in the countryside, women used to be more isolated, they didn’t get out, but now they have a place to come here. They get together from Monday through Friday, chat and are more involved in decision-making. In the association they can express their opinions,” said Maldonado.

“When women get together, what don’t we talk about?” Mores joked.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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What do Aid Organisations Want from the Humanitarian Summithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/what-do-aid-organisations-want-from-the-humanitarian-summit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-do-aid-organisations-want-from-the-humanitarian-summit http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/what-do-aid-organisations-want-from-the-humanitarian-summit/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 00:54:03 +0000 Daphne Davies http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145241 By Daphne Davies
LONDON, May 23 2016 (IPS)

The UN World Humanitarian Summit takes place in Istanbul, 23-24 May. So what hopes do the humanitarian organisations, which deliver aid on the ground, have for the outcomes?

The UN report One Humanity: shared responsibility, produced ahead of the Summit describes the international community as “in a state of constant crisis management”. The report emphasises that conflict and fragility remain the biggest threats to human development, with 11 major civil wars in 2014, and nearly 1.4 billion people living in fragile situations. By 2030 62 percent of the world’s poor are likely to be living in fragile situations.

Just a case of more resources?

The increase in humanitarian disasters has brought with it an unbridgeable funding gap, with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) relief agencies appealing for an extra $US16.4 billion in 2015.

Kathrin Schick, Director of VOICE (Voluntary Organizations in Cooperation in Emergencies), the European network of non government organisations (NGOs) involved in humanitarian aid, says while money is scarce, it is a case of “how much can we do with what we have –making aid use not only more effective, but also more efficient”.

Gareth Price-Jones, Senior Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy Coordinator, CARE International, agrees there is a massive case for more resources, and points out that “the total humanitarian aid bill could be covered by the profits of the big six tobacco companies. However, the problem is less the supply of humanitarian aid, and more the failure to prepare for disasters, to address conflict and increasingly a failure to address climate change”.

Will a Grand Bargain between donors and the UN alleviate the funding crisis?

The High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing has also produced a report for the meeting Too important to fail. The report suggests that the funding crisis can be alleviated through striking a ‘Grand Bargain’, between donors and the UN. This would involve more engagement with the private sector, greater emphasis on crisis prevention and disaster risk reduction and bridging the humanitarian/development divide.

Schick describes this as “possibly the one concrete proposal to come out of the Summit”, whereas for Price-Jones it is “an efficiency drive – a first step in convincing donors and taxpayers that making aid as efficient as possible won’t address the funding gap”.

Réiseal Ni Chéilleachair, Trocaire’s Humanitarian Advocacy and Policy Adviser, believes that UN reform could make humanitarian action more effective by reducing the bureaucracy for getting funds, shortening time delays between securing funding and implementation, making UN agencies collaborate more, strengthening UNOCHA’s role and streamlining reporting requirements across donors.

For Alex Jacobs Director of Programme Quality, Plan International, there should be more predictable long-term funding and some of the conditions for getting funding should be removed. He also wants a mechanism in which recipients of humanitarian aid can give feedback on how aid was delivered and used.

However, some NGOs remain sceptical about how much the WHS will achieve, as evidenced by Medecins Sans Frontiers’ withdrawal from the Summit, saying “We no longer have any hope that the WHS will address the weaknesses in humanitarian action and emergency response”.

More work with local partners

In preparation for the Summit humanitarian organisations have produced the ‘Charter for Change’ (so far signed by 23 international NGOS). The Charter urges International NGOs (INGOs) to change the way they work, passing more power and resources to local ‘Southern-based’ partners.

The emphasis on localisation runs through One Humanity. Schick believes that “we have to talk about first responders since national and international NGOs have to work in partnership and more attention has to be given to capacity building of national NGOs who are often the first on the scene”. However, Ni Chéilleachair feels more needs to be done before this can work: “Funding systems need to be adapted to support local actors and new partners, rather than their expending limited resources trying to navigate the existing ones”.

Relying more on governments, and business is another thread running through the report, which NGOs applaud. Alex Jacobs believes that host governments are becoming “more muscular” in taking the lead in providing support after natural disasters, as happened after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines

Business is increasingly being used to supply essential international services, with credit card companies working with PLAN to carry out cash transfers. Business is useful in setting up systems for long-term prevention for natural disasters, and often prefers to work at arms’ length, rather than putting their staff into high-risk situations.

Invest in stability – linking development with humanitarian aid

The UN report notes that “a shift from perpetual crisis management towards effectively managing prevention and early action is urgently needed”, and INGOs agree that greater collaboration between humanitarian and development NGOs, is crucial in preventing disasters.

Schick says linking humanitarian action with measures where NGOs help local communities prepare for natural disasters is an obvious move. Ni Chéilleachair adds that organisations and donors need to be more agile and responsive if this development-humanitarian complementarity is going to be successful.

However, the difficulties of combining development and humanitarian do not present problems for ‘multi-mandate’ organisations, like CARE, which can combine funding “from different pots and multiply the impact, building resilience, so when disaster hits your aid solves immediate problems and addresses long-term issues”, says Price-Jones.

Outcomes

Humanitarian actors are concerned when aid is used to mitigate the effects of the conflicts, as in Syria or South Sudan, and where their staff are most at risk. One positive outcome in the run-up to the Summit is the acknowledgement that solving conflict is the precursor of humanitarian work.

All the NGOs consulted agreed that the only way to resolve the humanitarian crisis was for the most powerful member states to show the political will to solve it. As Schick put it: ”We want UN Member States to take the political will to solve conflicts, which will reduce humanitarian needs”.

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Humanitarian Summit Must Address Weapons Shipments Toohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-must-address-weapons-shipments-too/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-summit-must-address-weapons-shipments-too http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-must-address-weapons-shipments-too/#comments Sun, 22 May 2016 17:04:43 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145235 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-must-address-weapons-shipments-too/feed/ 2 When Emergencies Last for Decadeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/when-emergencies-last-for-decades/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=when-emergencies-last-for-decades http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/when-emergencies-last-for-decades/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 21:34:06 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145217 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/when-emergencies-last-for-decades/feed/ 0 Indigenous Peoples Inclusion at United Nations Incompletehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/indigenous-peoples-inclusion-at-united-nations-incomplete/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-inclusion-at-united-nations-incomplete http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/indigenous-peoples-inclusion-at-united-nations-incomplete/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 17:44:57 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145213 Guests at an indigenous cultural event during the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Credit: Aruna Dutt/IPS.

Guests at an indigenous cultural event during the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Credit: Aruna Dutt/IPS.

By Aruna Dutt
UNITED NATIONS, May 20 2016 (IPS)

The United Nations Indigenous Forum is one of the UN’s most culturally diverse bodies yet its inclusion within the overall UN system remains limited.

“Thousands of people who come to the forum throughout the years do not have the opportunity to express their concerns,” said Alvaro Esteban Pop Ac, Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, here Thursday.

Over 1,000 Indigenous people from all over the world came here for the 15th session of the  Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) held from May 9-20.

“The demand by indigenous peoples is to have a new category as observer,” said Joan Carling, Member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Carling said that while indigenous people are not states or NGOs, according to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, they “have the right to self-determination.”

“The main aim of the resolution is to really ensure that effective participation of indigenous peoples is afforded in the UN system.”

“We need to be able to participate in decision-making processes in the UN  to be able to express our specific conditions and our aspirations as peoples. That deserves the space at the highest level,” she said.

“We are contributing to the resolution of conflict, we are contributing to sustainable development, we are contributing to the cultural diversity of the world which benefits everyone, but these contributions are not being recognized and protected," -- Joan Carling

The contributions that Indigenous peoples are making, to areas such as peace and environmental protection, are not reflected in their level of participation at the UN.

“We are contributing to the resolution of conflict, we are contributing to sustainable development, we are contributing to the cultural diversity of the world which benefits everyone, but these contributions are not being recognized and protected,” said Carling.

“The issue of conflicts and the issue of injustice will continue because decisions are being undertaken at global level where we don’t have any participation, that is the thing that we want to rectify,” she added.

Indigenous peoples still cannot make recommendations directly to Security Council, only through the Economic and Social Council.

Carling, an indigenous activist from Cordillera in the Philippines, said that the situation of Indigenous women in particular should be addressed by the 15-member UN Security Council, arguably the most powerful organ within the UN system.

Violence against Indigenous women was a major theme of the 2016 forum.

Throughout history, Pop Ac said, “Indigenous women have lead indigenous dialogue. Women play a key role in keeping the community together. We promote our issues through women,” said Pop Ac.

He pointed to Northeast India, where there is a heavy presence of more than 70 armed groups and 500, 000 military troops, which have been related to the rampant sexual abuse and trafficking of indigenous women.

Jacob Bryan Aki from Peace Child International-Hawaii and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement was one of the young Indigenous people who participated in the forum.

“We come here, we learn, and the work doesn’t stop,” said Aki.  “The two weeks we have here sets us up for the rest of the year, to go back home, to work with our family and our communities, to take the opportunities we have had here to those who do not. These messages need to be heard from youth.”

“We are the next generation of leaders and scholars,” said Aki. “It is very important for us to engage in this international level because in 10-20 years we are going to be thrust into these leadership roles and this is preparation to lead and learn how to make this world a better place for our people.”

With over 5000 different cultures and an estimated 7000 different languages, Indigenous peoples represent much of the world’s cultural diversity.

Yet despite their cultural differences Indigenous peoples – who make up five percent of the world’s overall population – have many shared experiences.

“The first criteria which defines an indigenous peoples, is a peoples that have survived colonization,” said Pop Ac.

“Humanity needs a different logic and ethic in defining wealth” Pop Ac added.

“It is human greed which is destroying the environment.”

Indigenous peoples are the “guardians of life” and are working to protect their environments, he said.

Next year will be the 10th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which was established by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

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Climate Change Compounds Humanitarian Crises in Global Southhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/climate-change-compounds-humanitarian-crises-in-global-south/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-compounds-humanitarian-crises-in-global-south http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/climate-change-compounds-humanitarian-crises-in-global-south/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 06:20:41 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145197 Tacloban, in the Philippines, one of the areas hit hardest by super typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. The disaster coincided with the COP19 climate talks and served as the backdrop for negotiations on mechanisms of damage and losses. Credit: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development

Tacloban, in the Philippines, one of the areas hit hardest by super typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. The disaster coincided with the COP19 climate talks and served as the backdrop for negotiations on mechanisms of damage and losses. Credit: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSE, May 20 2016 (IPS)

As the Global South works to overcome a history of weak institutions, armed conflict and poverty-driven forced exodus, key causes of its humanitarian crises, developing countries now have to also fight to keep global warming from compounding their problems.

“Disaster Risk Reduction and climate change adaption in fragile and conflict-affected states in the Global South have long been overlooked, as it is often perceived as too challenging or a lower priority,” Janani Vivekananda, an expert in security and climate change, told IPS.

Vivekananda, the head of Environment, Climate Change and Security in International Alert, a London-based non-governmental organisation working to prevent and end violent conflict around the globe, cited her country, Sri Lanka, as an example of problems shared by developing countries.

“Given the fragile political situation since 25 years of violent conflict ended in May 2009, ensuring that climate impacts do not fuel latent conflict dynamics is critical,” she said from London.

A politically unstable developing island nation like Sri Lanka, and many other countries in the South, will see their problems multiply in a warmer planet with higher sea levels, she said.

“Climate change is the ultimate ‘threat multiplier’: it will aggravate already fragile situations and may contribute to social upheaval and even violent conflict,” says “A New Climate for Peace”, an independent report commissioned in 2015 by members of the Group of Seven (G7) wealthiest nations.

This is the challenge faced by the governments and organisations that will attend the first World Humanitarian Summit to be held May 23-24 in Istanbul. The conference was convened by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “to generate strong global support for bold changes in humanitarian action.”

At the summit, the delegates will search for ways to integrate the traditional conception of humanitarian emergencies with new crises, such as those caused by climate change, which this year caused record high temperatures.

“This is why the World Humanitarian Summit’s initiative to remake the humanitarian system is so timely and so important,” said Vivekananda.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that in the absence of policies that effectively curb greenhouse gas emissions, global temperatures will rise by four degrees Celsius by 2100.

And even if the world were to reach the “safe limit” for global warming – a rise of 1.5 to 2.0 degrees C, the target agreed in the Paris Agreement in December – the effects would still be felt around the planet, warns the IPCC, which decided in April to prepare a special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The landmark climate deal is one of the key elements that the national delegations will have when they reach Istanbul, along with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, agreed in September, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, agreed in March 2015.

More people were displaced worldwide in 2015 by weather-related hazards than by geophysical events. Credit: IDMC 2016 report

More people were displaced worldwide in 2015 by weather-related hazards than by geophysical events. Credit: IDMC 2016 report

“Explicit recognition of the linkages between different types of risks and vulnerabilities is still missing,” said Vivekanada, with regard to the not yet formalised connection between these two agreements and the World Humanitarian Summit.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) forming part of the 2030 Agenda are essential for understanding the relationship between climate change and humanitarian assistance.

The report commissioned by the G7 says the poorest countries with the most fragile political systems, like Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo or Haiti face the greatest risks and difficulties adapting to climate change.

Climate pressure could hurt food production or require extra aid for local governments overwhelmed by the situation. In extreme circumstances, these phenomena can lead to forced migration.

According to the 2016 Global Report on Internal Displacement, published this month by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), more people were displaced in 2015 by hydrometeorological disasters (14.7 million) than by conflicts or violence (8.5 million).

The report also stressed the impact of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENOS) meteorological phenomenon and said that for the people most exposed and vulnerable to extreme rainfall and temperatures, the effects have been devastating and have caused displacement.

For example, El Niño caused intense drought along Central America’s Pacific coast and in particular in the so-called Dry Corridor, a long, arid stretch of dry forest where subsistence farming is predominant and rainfall shrank by 40 to 60 percent in the 2014 rainy season.

“Hundreds of people were forced to leave Nicaragua because of the drought,” Juan Carlos Méndez, with Costa Rica’s National Commission for Risk Prevention and Emergency Management (CNE), told IPS.

As a CNE official, Méndez is also an adviser to the Nansen Initiative, an inter-governmental process to address the challenges of cross-border displacement in the context of disasters and the effects of climate change.

“This is where we see the biggest political and technical challenges. You can clearly associate displacement with a natural disaster like an earthquake or a hurricane, but now we have to link it to climate change issues,” the expert said.

Partly for that reason, Costa Rica and another 17 countries launched the Geneva Pledge for Human Rights in Climate Action in February 2015, a voluntary initiative to get human rights issues included in the climate talks.

In the final version of the Paris Agreement, the concept was incorporated as one of the principles that will guide its implementation.

The simultaneous inclusion of climate change and its humanitarian impacts in international summits is not new, but is growing.

The backdrop to the climate talks at the 19th United Nations Climate Change Conference in November 2013 in Warsaw was the devastation wrought by Super Typhoon Haiyan in Southeast Asia, and in the Philippines in particular.

The human impact of the typhoon, which claimed 6,300 lives, intensified the talks in the Polish capital and prompted the creation of a mechanism to address climate change-related damage and losses.

A scientific study published in January this year found that the Philippines would experience the highest sea level rise in the world, up to 14.7 mm a year – nearly five times the global average.

“Which is why it is very urgent for the Philippines to beef up efforts on disaster preparedness, particularly in the communities with high risk for disasters and high poverty incidence,” Ivy Marian Panganiban, an activist with the Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO), told IPS.

Along with six other Filipino institutions, CODE-NGO is calling for locally-based humanitarian emergency response, with an emphasis on local leadership, and hopes Istanbul will provide guidelines in that sense.

NGOS “should really be capacitated and involved in the governance process since they are the ones that are in the forefront – people who are actually affected by disasters,” she said from Manila.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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A Latin American Humanitarian Emergency Invisible to the Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-latin-american-humanitarian-emergency-invisible-to-the-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-latin-american-humanitarian-emergency-invisible-to-the-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-latin-american-humanitarian-emergency-invisible-to-the-world/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 23:42:43 +0000 Daniela Pastrana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145171 In Mexico there is a trail of ghost towns, where local residents have fled en masse due to the violence of the drug cartels. On empty streets in Santa Ana del Águila, in the municipality of Ajuchitlán del Progreso, Guerrero state, bullet marks can be seen on the walls. Credit: Daniela Pastrana /IPS

In Mexico there is a trail of ghost towns, where local residents have fled en masse due to the violence of the drug cartels. On empty streets in Santa Ana del Águila, in the municipality of Ajuchitlán del Progreso, Guerrero state, bullet marks can be seen on the walls. Credit: Daniela Pastrana /IPS

By Daniela Pastrana
MEXICO CITY, May 18 2016 (IPS)

“This is a humanitarian crisis,” said Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres, referring to the generalised violence in Mexico and in Honduras and other countries of Central America, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and is a product of transnational crime, but is invisible to the international community.

Zúñiga Cáceres, the daughter of indigenous environmental activist Berta Cáceres, who was murdered on Mar. 2, is in Mexico after visiting several European cities to ask for help clarifying her mother’s murder and to call for a cancellation of the financing for the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project, to which the Lenca indigenous people are opposed.

In an interview with IPS she admitted that despite the death threats and the murders of other activists, she didn’t believe they would dare kill her mother, who was so well-known at an international level.“You don’t hear bombs here (like in the Middle East, for example), but blood is shed, there are killings, many killings. It’s a situation that has to be urgently addressed by the United Nations agencies, especially the UNHCR (the refugee agency).” -- Rubén Figueroa

She herself and her siblings had fled to Mexico due to the threats against members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH), which was founded by Cáceres 23 years ago. She had been studying in Mexico for a month when her mother was killed.

Now she wants to tell the world about communities that are displaced and forced off their land because of a “neoliberal, racist and patriarchal” system.

The victims, she said, are not only the Lenca Indians. Also affected are the Garifunas, mixed-race descendants of native people and African slaves, who have been displaced by the construction of tourist resorts in their coastal territory.

To that is added abuse by the police and other agents of the state, since the 2009 coup d’etat that overthrew President Manuel Zelaya, mixed with criminal violence that has forced thousands of people to seek refuge outside of Honduras.

Rubén Figueroa, coordinator of the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement, which has organised 11 caravans of Central American mothers searching for their children who have gone missing in Mexico, concurs with Zúñiga Cáceres.

“The situation in the entire Northern Triangle region of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) is a humanitarian crisis,” the migrants’ rights activist told IPS.

“You don’t hear bombs here (like in the Middle East, for example), but blood is shed, there are killings, many killings. It’s a situation that has to be urgently addressed by the United Nations agencies, especially the UNHCR (the refugee agency),” he said.

Figures from an invisible crisis

According to the 2016 Global Report on Internal Displacement, published this month by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), the number of internally displaced people forced from their homes by armed conflict and violence rose to a record 40.8 million in 2015.

Of that total, at least 7.3 million were in Latin America, most of them in Colombia, because of its decades-long armed conflict.

But the report dedicates a special analysis to the growing new phenomenon of displacement caused by criminal violence, in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico now stand out on the global map of internal displacement because of the victims of criminal violence, a phenomenon that is invisible and ignored by international humanitarian assistance agencies. Credit: IDMC 2016 report

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico now stand out on the global map of internal displacement because of the victims of criminal violence, a phenomenon that is invisible and ignored by international humanitarian assistance agencies. Credit: IDMC 2016 report

These four countries accounted for a total of one million internally displaced persons – nearly double the number reported in the 2014 edition of the report. They are mainly victims of criminal violence, principally associated with drug trafficking and gangs.

The IDMC stresses that these are incomplete figures, to which must be added the number of people who are forced to leave the country by criminal violence.

It describes those displaced by criminal violence as “unseen and in displacement limbo”.

Human rights activists in Mexico blame this generalised violence on the war between organised crime groups, as well as on violence by the states against opponents to mining and energy projects.

“What we are experiencing is not a war on drug trafficking, but a war by the state against the general population,” María Herrera, an activist with the group of relatives searching for family members forcibly disappeared in Mexico, who number in the thousands, told IPS.

Also part of this new kind of humanitarian emergency, arising from transnational crime, are civilian victims of the growing militarisation in countries of Central America and Mexico, according to those interviewed by IPS, who complain that the issue is not on the agenda for the World Humanitarian Summit to be held May 23-24 in Istanbul.

Figueroa said a series of regional policies, such as Mexico’s Southern Border Plan and the Alliance for Progress in Central America, were partly to blame for the crisis.

“Approximately five years ago we began to notice that displacement is caused by more direct violence. We have seen young people who come to the shelters with bullets in their bodies. People who have returned to their countries and have been killed,” the activist said.

The Beast, the train that undocumented migrants from Central America ride on its way across Mexico, heading for the United States, stopped in Hidalgo in the centre of the country, in a photo from the IDMC 2016 report. Migrants hitching a ride on the train face the risk of being robbed, assaulted, raped and even killed by gangs and organised crime. Credit: Keith Dannemiller/OM

The Beast, the train that undocumented migrants from Central America ride on its way across Mexico, heading for the United States, stopped in Hidalgo in the centre of the country, in a photo from the IDMC 2016 report. Migrants hitching a ride on the train face the risk of being robbed, assaulted, raped and even killed by gangs and organised crime. Credit: Keith Dannemiller/OM

“Migration has always existed, but now people are being displaced by drug trafficking and gang warfare, and there is also the question of persecution and harassment of activists and human rights defenders in Honduras. It’s become structural violence,” he said.

Mexico between a rock and a hard place

The Central American diaspora triggered by violence, along with the deportation of thousands of migrants by the United States, has turned Mexico into a sort of sandwich. And this is causing a growing phenomenon, which has not been addressed either: Central Americans who are choosing to stay in Mexico rather than head north to the United States.

More than two million people were deported during U.S. President Barack Obama’s first term – 2009-2012 – alone.

The governmental Mexican Commission for Aid to Refugees (COMAR) reports that 2,000 Central Americans requested refugee status in 2014, and only one-fifth were granted it.

Mexico, meanwhile, has its own humanitarian emergency. The Mexican Commission of Defence and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH) documented 281,400 cases of forced displacement caused by generalised violence between 2011 and February 2015.

One-third of these displaced persons fled their communities in 141 mass displacements in 14 states.

Mass displacement is defined as an event simultaneously affecting more than 50 people or 10 families. Between January 2014 and February 2015, the CMDPDH registered 23 mass displacements.

One-fifth of these happened in Guerrero, a state that doubled its record and became the leader in forced displacement due to violence in Mexico in the last year.

“People who have been internally displaced do not have mechanisms or institutions for their protection or assistance,” says the report Forced Displacement in Mexico, released by the CMDPDH, a government agency, in 2015.

But there are other cases, like that of Myrna Lazcano, a Mexican woman who, after marrying and having two daughters in the United States, decided to return to Mexico in 2008.

However, the violence against women in her home state of Puebla and in Veracruz, where she found work, forced her to send her daughters back, first, and then return herself to the United States, where she has requested asylum.

Like her, another 9,200 Mexicans applied for asylum in the United States in 2012 – three times the number of requests filed there by Mexicans in 2008.

“This is an emergency that no one wants to address,” said Figueroa. “It is influenced by the position, especially on the part of the United States, with regard to the situation in Central America, because they would be forced to offer refuge if they recognised it.”

But in his view, “another element is the stance taken by Mexico and the countries of origin (of the migrants), because they would be forced to admit that they are failing, as is the international community.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Industrial-Level Aid Logistics in Colombia’s Decades-Long Humanitarian Disasterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/industrial-level-aid-logistics-in-colombias-decades-long-humanitarian-disaster/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=industrial-level-aid-logistics-in-colombias-decades-long-humanitarian-disaster http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/industrial-level-aid-logistics-in-colombias-decades-long-humanitarian-disaster/#comments Mon, 16 May 2016 22:23:54 +0000 Constanza Vieira http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145142 Social actors and government representatives sign a social and political pact for reparations and peace in Colombia on Apr. 11, the National Day of Remembrance and Solidarity with the Victims of the Conflict. Credit: UARIV

Social actors and government representatives sign a social and political pact for reparations and peace in Colombia on Apr. 11, the National Day of Remembrance and Solidarity with the Victims of the Conflict. Credit: UARIV

By Constanza Vieira
BOGOTA, May 16 2016 (IPS)

“If you’re going to talk about Colombia and the peace process, do it somewhere else,” was heard at a regional preparatory meeting for the World Humanitarian Summit, according to Ramón Rodríguez, with the Colombian government’s Unit for Attention and Integral Reparation for Victims (UARIV).

“Cuba’s representative, for example, stated: ‘This is a World Humanitarian Summit, we’re going to talk about humanitarian questions in general, and not specific cases,” the official said with respect to the preparations for the first gathering of its kind, to be held May 23-24 in Istanbul.

“For the organisers of the World Humanitarian Summit, disasters are the main issue. They practically fobbed us off,” added Rodríguez, UARIV’s director of social and humanitarian questions, in an interview with IPS in his Bogotá office.

This is true even though United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, when he called the summit, declared that “We must ensure no-one in conflict, no-one in chronic poverty, and no-one living with the risk of natural hazards and rising sea levels is left behind.”

"Truth is the true reparations”

On May 11, journalist Jineth Bedoya refused an indemnification payment of 8,250 dollars, which she had originally accepted two years ago when the government established May 25 as the National Day for Dignity for Women Victims of Sexual Violence. May 25 was the day she was kidnapped and raped by paramilitaries because of her reporting work, in 2000.

When she received the indemnification, Bedoya said it could not be seen as reparations. Nevertheless, UARIV assistant director Iris Marín presented the indemnification for Bedoya as a case of effective reparations, at a public hearing in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights a month ago.

“Truth is the true reparations,” Bedoya said in a press conference. El Tiempo, the newspaper where she works, wrote “The state claims its agents did not participate in what happened, even though there is proof that state agents took part in the kidnapping, torture and sexual violence against the reporter.” The Freedom of the Press Foundation hopes the IACHR will refer Bedoya’s case to the Inter-American Court on Human Rights.

In any case, “the issue (of the Colombian armed conflict) draws a lot of attention, although it is very limited,” said Rodríguez, an industrial engineer who organised and directs the world’s biggest humanitarian aid logistics system, in terms of percentage of a national budget that goes to citizens of the country itself.

Colombia is the only country in Latin America and the Caribbean where a humanitarian crisis has been declared due to internal armed conflict.

In nearly seventy years of civil war in different shapes and formats, the counting of and attention to victims has undergone major changes. Today there is basically industrial-level aid, adapted to a lengthy, calculated disaster.

“We, the government, are the main humanitarian actor in Colombia,” said Rodríguez. “We have an emergency response team. We work with humanitarian organisations through local humanitarian teams.”

Perhaps the main lesson that the Colombian government learned was that it had to count the number of victims and people affected by the conflict, in order to address the humanitarian crisis in its true magnitude. Until 2004, getting the government to admit the number of victims was a tug-of-war.

In 1962, a study on Violence in Colombia (by Guzmán, Fals and Umaña) estimated that 200,000 people were killed between 1948 and 1962.

The victims of forced displacement began to be counted in 1985 by the Catholic Church, at the time the only non-governmental institution with the capacity to carry out a national census of displaced persons.

In 1994, the government put the number of displaced persons at 600,000; however, the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) counted 900,000.

But it was a 2004 Constitutional Court sentence that ordered the government to – gradually – acknowledge the real number of displaced persons, thus recognising the effects of the war.

The Court has been able to verify compliance with the ruling thanks to the support of a non-governmental alliance of academics and researchers: the Follow-up Commission on Public Policies on Forced Displacement.

Finally, in 2011, on the initiative of the government of current President Juan Manuel Santos, whose term began in 2010, the Victims and Land Restitution Law was approved. Among the many measures it involved, it created the UARIV.

At the time, the government recognised 4.5 million people affected by the war in a country of 48 million.

The UARIV opened a Single Registry of Victims, which up to Apr. 1, 2016 had counted a total of 8,040,748 victims since 1985.

Victims registered with the state 1985-2015

Forced displacement: 84.2%
Homicide: 3.5%
Death threats: 3.4%
Forced disappearance: 2.1%
Loss of belongings, housing or land: 1.3%
Terrorist act/Attack/Combat/Harassment : 1.1%
Kidnapping: 0.5%
Land mines/Unexploded ordnance/Explosive device: 0.2%
Crimes against liberty and sexual integrity: 0.2%
Torture: 0.1%
Abandonment or forced eviction from land: 0.1%
Recruiting children or adolescents: 0.1%
No information: 3.2%

Source: UARIV

Apart from the debate on whether the victims were undercounted, or the number of victims grew, or what grew was the number counted by the state, today UARIV knows that 84.2 percent of the registered victims are displaced persons, and that 45.4 percent come from the geostrategic, resource-rich and dynamic department of Antioquia in northwest Colombia.

It also reports that when the threats peak, this coincides with a peak in forced displacement of people from their land, which intensified between 1995 and 2007, while kidnappings (which account for 0.5 percent of victims) peaked in 2002 and are now becoming a thing of the past.

The UARIV also recognises that the worst years of the war were between 2000 and 2008, and that 2015 has been the most peaceful year since 1985.

In addition, the unit reports that among the victims there are slightly more women than men, while children are the single largest group. And it says one-fourth of the victims are black or indigenous people.

Rodríguez has kept up his monitoring as the peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas continue in Havana.

“I asked for a report for the Jan. 1-Apr. 30 period,” he said. “In the same period last year we had 15 mass displacements. In 2016 we had 16. In 2015 1,425 families were affected, 5,721 people. So far this year we have 1,200 more people. Which means that there was an increase in the number of people affected between 2015 and 2016.”

The increase is attributed to criminal bands made up of former far-right paramilitaries, and to the National Liberation Army (ELN), a smaller left-wing rebel group, with which the government recently announced the start of talks.

Colombia is now on the verge of a peace deal. But Rodríguez said it will take “three to five years to achieve peace. There will be an upsurge in violence,” not only because of former paramilitaries but also guerrillas who refuse to lay down their arms.

“Something that should be shown at the World Humanitarian Summit is the rise in violence that is going to occur when the peace agreement is signed. The question of control territory is of great importance to the armed actors, and converges with economic aspects,” said the official.

For Rodríguez, the “victim response, assistance and reparations model” that Colombia has come up with is another key element that would be useful to share at the Istanbul summit.

The model has two phases. The first, immediate humanitarian aid, operates within 48 hours after acts of violence, and comes in two forms: funds, through the municipalities, and in kind, through operators who are subcontracted, who were paid a combined total of more than five million dollars in 2015 for providing services.

Several months later, the victims are registered in the Single Registry of Victims, and emergency and transition aid (for housing and food) begins. The last phase is reparations, which includes indemnification of different kinds.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Justice for Berta Caceres Incomplete Without Land Rights: UN Rapporteurhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/justice-for-berta-caceres-incomplete-without-land-rights-un-rapporteur/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=justice-for-berta-caceres-incomplete-without-land-rights-un-rapporteur http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/justice-for-berta-caceres-incomplete-without-land-rights-un-rapporteur/#comments Fri, 13 May 2016 21:44:24 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145113 UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, an Igorot from the Cordillera region in the Philippines. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, an Igorot from the Cordillera region in the Philippines. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, May 13 2016 (IPS)

The murder of Honduran Indigenous woman Berta Caceres is only too familiar to Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

All around the world, Indigenous peoples are murdered, raped and kidnapped when their lands fall in the path of deforestation, mining and construction. According to the group Global Witness, one Indigenous person was killed almost every week in 2015 because of their environmental activism, 40 percent of the total 116 people killed for environmental activism.

“We shouldn’t forget that the death of Berta is because of the protest that she had against the destruction of the territory of her people,” Tauli-Corpuz told IPS in a recent interview.

Caceres, who was murdered at the beginning of March, had long known her life was in danger. She experienced violence and intimidation as a leader of the Lenca people of Rio Blanco who protested the construction of the Agua Zarca dam on their traditional lands.

“A very crucial part of the problems that Indigenous peoples face is that many of the things happening in their communities are happening because of the investments that are coming in from these richer countries." -- Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.

Caceres activism received international recognition, including through the 2015 Goldman Prize, however this was not enough to protect her.

She knew she was going to die, she had even written her own obituary, said Tauli-Corpuz who met with Caceres during a visit to Honduras in 2015.

Four men were arrested in relation to Caceres death earlier this week.

While Tauli-Corpuz welcomed the arrests she said that justice would not be clear until after the trial, and that real justice was about more than the criminal proceedings for Caceres murder.

“We cannot rest on our laurels to say the whole thing is finished because that’s not the point,” she said. “The point is this whole issue about the dam still being there.”

Tauli-Corpuz has witnessed accounts of violence against many other Indigenous activists around the world, in her role as Special Rapporteur.

Their experiences have startling similarity, Indigenous peoples are subjected to rape, murder and kidnap, whenever they stand in the way of access to lands or natural resources.

“You cannot delink the fight of indigenous people for their lands, territories and resources from the violence that’s committed against indigenous women (and men), especially if this is a violence that is perpetrated by state authorities or by corporate security,” said Tauli-Corpuz.

Tauli-Corpuz also said that a look at the bigger picture reveals the increasingly international nature of the problems experienced by Indigenous peoples worldwide.

“A very crucial part of the problems that Indigenous peoples face is that many of the things happening in their communities are happening because of the investments that are coming in from these richer countries,” she said.

“You see a situation where the state is meant to be the main duty bearer for protecting the rights of Indigenous peoples, but at the same time you see investors having strong rights being protected and that is really where a lot of conflicts come up,” she said.

In Guatemala, Tauli-Corpuz says that 50 Indigenous women are still waiting for justice after their husbands were murdered and their lands taken in 1982.

“(Their) husbands were killed by the military because they were demanding the rights to their lands then (the military) took the women (to) the military camps and raped them and made them sexual slaves,” said Tauli-Corpuz.

Tauli-Corpuz said that the women were brave enough to take their case to the courts but had to cover their faces because they were still being harassed by the military.

She said that when she recently asked the women what they would like if they won their case, they said that they would like their land back. After 33 years, their lands have never been returned.

Tauli-Corpuz also noted that for Indigenous peoples justice is incomplete if their lands are protected but they are denied access to them.

“(The land) is the source of their identities, their cultures and their livelihoods,” she said. If the forest is preserved but people are kicked off their lands, “than that’s a another problem that has to be prevented at all costs.”

In other cases, Indigenous peoples are forced off their lands when their food sources are destroyed.

For example said Tauli-Corpuz a major dam being built in the Amazon is not only destroying the forest but also means that there are no longer any fish in the rivers for the Indigenous people who rely on them.

Tauli-Corpuz said that it is important to remember that Indigenous peoples are contributing to climate change and environmental solutions by continuing their traditional ways of forest and ecosystem management.

Tauli-Corpuz has first-hand experience as an Indigenous activist and environmental defender. As a leader of the Kankanaey Igorot people of the Cordillera Region in the Philippines she helped successfully protest the construction of the Chico River Hydroelectric dam in the 1970s.

She notes that dams shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a climate change solution because they destroy forests and produce methane which is more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon.

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Deadly Algal Bloom Triggers Social Uprising in Southern Chilehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/deadly-algal-bloom-triggers-social-uprising-in-southern-chile/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=deadly-algal-bloom-triggers-social-uprising-in-southern-chile http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/deadly-algal-bloom-triggers-social-uprising-in-southern-chile/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 23:08:05 +0000 Orlando Milesi and Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145082 Fisherpersons in Chiloé have cut off the 5 Sur highway on its way to the Chacao channel, which separates Isla Grande from mainland Chile. Protesting decades of neglect of this part of southern Chile, thousands of residents of the archipelago have joined the demonstrations by fishing communities affected by the ban on seafood harvesting due to the red tide. Credit: Pilar Pezoa/IPS

Fisherpersons in Chiloé have cut off the 5 Sur highway on its way to the Chacao channel, which separates Isla Grande from mainland Chile. Protesting decades of neglect of this part of southern Chile, thousands of residents of the archipelago have joined the demonstrations by fishing communities affected by the ban on seafood harvesting due to the red tide. Credit: Pilar Pezoa/IPS

By Orlando Milesi and Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, May 11 2016 (IPS)

A ban on harvesting shellfish in Chiloé due to a severe red tide outbreak sparked a social uprising that has partially isolated thousands of local residents of the southern Chilean archipelago and revived criticism of an export model that condemns small-scale fishing communities to poverty and marginalisation.

“I was born and raised on this island,” said Carlos Villarroel, the president of the Mar Adentro union of artisanal fishers in the municipality of Ancud, 1,100 km south of Santiago. “I am the son and grandson of artisanal fishermen. My father, who is now 70, taught me and my brother to work out at sea. None of us ever suffered before when there was a red tide,” he told IPS by phone.

But Villarroel and another 5,000 fishers in the southern Chilean region of Los Lagos are affected today by the red tide, a phenomenon caused when microscopic algae reproduce and cluster in one area of the ocean.

This “algal bloom”, which contains toxins lethal to marine life and also affects human health, can change the colour of the water – hence the name.

The latest red tide, the cause of which is not yet totally clear, and the solution for which is still being studied, began in February and reached its current intensity in April. This prompted health authorities to ban the harvest of shellfish within 1,000 kilometres of the country’s southern Pacific coast.

Small-scale fishers responded by launching protests on May 3, which have included roadblocks that have cut Chiloé off from food and fuel supplies and left local residents without transportation, classes or pension payments, while hospitals are facing serious difficulties and hundreds of tourists are stranded.

Thousands of the archipelago’s local residents have taken part in the demonstrations, complaining about decades of neglect by the government – the same complaint that sparked a similar social outbreak in 2012 in another southern region, Aysén.

On Monday, May 9, protests also broke out in Santiago and other cities around the country in solidarity with the demands voiced by the people of Chiloé.

The archipelago has a total territory of 9,181 sq km and is home to some 167,600 people in this country of 17.6 million, which has 6,435 km of shoreline.

Chiloé Island or Isla Grande, the main island, is the archipelago’s political, social and economic centre, where the two main cities are located: Ancud and the provincial capital Castro, world-famous for its palafitos, picturesque wooden houses on stilts. Chiloé is also known for its local myths, legends and beliefs.

Aquaculture and fishing are the economic mainstays of the islands, followed by the production of potatoes and grains, and crafts using fibers, wool and wood. An estimated 80 percent of the population depends on fishing.

“Chiloé is significant not in economic, political or social terms, but with regard to how the country sees itself,” social anthropologist Juan Carlos Skewes told IPS. “Chiloé is a powerful part of this country’s mystique, image and identity.”

He added that the conflict brought to light the neglect suffered by this part of Chile and the shortcomings of the current model of development, where large-scale seafood exporters largely monopolise profits in the industry.

“What the ‘Chilotes’ (Chiloé islanders) have seen in recent years is that salmon farming has flourished, but not much has changed in their lives.”

Skewes said that in this conflict, “local communities have more clearly seen the neglect and vulnerability they suffer, and how economically powerful groups operate without curbs.

“Apparently the convergence of these factors, added to the loss of a fundamental component, seafood harvesting, triggered this social outbreak,” he said.

The union headed by Villarroel represents 35 fishers who mainly catch the Chilean blue mussel (Mytilus chilensis), Chilean abalone (Concholepas concholepas), the hard clam (Mercenaria mercenaria) and the surf clam (Mesodesma donacium).

All of these have been contaminated by the red tide.

In previous outbreaks, “the seaweed hadn’t been contaminated, but now it has been. We’ve never seen that before,” Villarroel said.

He believes the salmon companies “have destroyed the marine system and seabed.”

The protests, which have included the burning of tires and clashes with the police, worry the government of socialist President Michelle Bachelet, which offered 1,100 dollars indemnification each for 5,500 artisanal fishers, to be paid in four installments, subject to the evolution of the red tide.

The compensation, which also included a basket of basic foodstuffs worth 37 dollars, was rejected by union leaders, who argued that the amount was too small and that it wasn’t being paid to all of the affected fishers.

In a new 28-point list of demands, they demanded the payment of 2,650 dollars in six installments, cancellation of their debts, and the declaration of a large part of Chiloé as a “disaster zone”.

They also called for greater regional control of local natural resources, lower fuel prices, a special regional minimum wage, guaranteed public health coverage, and a regional university.

Most scientists blame the red tide on climate change, which drove up water temperatures and caused an increase in algae and toxins.

But fishers and a number of experts blame the salmon industry, because it dumped nearly 5,000 tons of dead fish in the Pacific after they were killed by an earlier algal bloom.

However, SalmónChile, the salmon farming industry association, said the dumping of the fish “has no relation to” the current red tide, because “what is happening today has occurred normally for a long time in this area,” although with less intensity.

A study commissioned by the government to determine what caused the red tide could help clarify other unusual phenomena that have happened in recent months, such as the beaching of 337 sei whales in the gulf of Penas in the south of Chile in late 2015, or the mass die-off of 10,000 giant squid along the coast of the southern region of Bío Bío in January.

In addition, in the first week of May, some 20 tons of sardines washed up along the shore in the southern coastal region of Araucania – a repeat of a similar phenomenon involving more than 1,000 tons of sardines in mid-April.

Enrique Calfucura, an expert in the economics of natural resources at Diego Portales University in Santiago, told IPS that the red tide “could be explained by the fact that this year’s El Niño (a cyclical climate phenomenon that affects weather patterns around the world) was more intense than in 2015, heating up the temperatures in the Pacific and inland waters.”

He said water temperatures in Chiloé Island’s Reloncavi Sound rose between two and four degrees this year, leading to blooms of harmful algae.

With respect to the impacts of the salmon industry, Calfucura said “it is suspected that the phosphorus, nitrogen and other elements that fish farms discharge into the sea reduce oxygen and foment the growth of harmful algae.”

He said, however, that “other human factors that could influence red tide outbreaks still need to be scientifically studied.”

The expert said attempts to combat the red tide phenomenon around the world have been ineffective and will eventually have negative impacts on ecosystems.

In the midst of efforts by the government and scientific researchers to control the problem, Chiloé island residents remain adamant in their demand for assistance in keeping with the magnitude of the catastrophe, while at the same time insisting on measures to address what they describe as the long-time neglect of their region.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Why Peacebuilding is Part of the Sustainable Development Agendahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/why-peacebuilding-is-part-of-the-sustainable-development-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-peacebuilding-is-part-of-the-sustainable-development-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/why-peacebuilding-is-part-of-the-sustainable-development-agenda/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 21:26:45 +0000 Patrick Keuleers http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145076 Sustainable development and peace are linked, including through education. Credit: John Robinson/IPS

Sustainable development and peace are linked, including through education. Credit: John Robinson/IPS

By Patrick Keuleers
UNITED NATIONS, May 11 2016 (IPS)

We tend not to worry when things are going well.

If people can take care of their daily business and send their kids to school without fear of violence, resolve disputes through a functioning justice system when the need arises, express their views both in private discussions and in public processes, feel they can truly contribute to decisions that affect their lives, and know effective institutions are in place to deliver basic services to their families and communities without interruption or the need for bribes, chances are they will be broadly content with the way their society is managed.

But, if any one of these public goods is absent, or if their access to safety, health, education or livelihoods are threatened, concerns are likely to be expressed quickly – and often very loudly.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognises the importance of these public goods as being at the heart of sustainable development. There is a strong focus on peaceful, just and inclusive societies in the 2030 Agenda – and explicit recognition that there can be no peace without sustainable development and no sustainable development without peace. Where safety is routinely and casually under threat, it will be impossible to generate lasting improvements in most aspects of people’s lives.

But what does this mean in practice? How do people know that their government is committed to progress on these issues – to consolidating existing strengths, and to generating further gains over time?

That is a valid question. Unlike other elements of the 2030 Agenda – access to health, education, and sanitation, for example, which were part of the previous Millennium Development Goals – commitments to peace, justice and inclusion have not been measured systematically before as part of a global agenda agreed by UN member states.

"There can be no peace without sustainable development and no sustainable development without peace."

In an attempt to provide an answer to that question, a small group of member states started in the latter part of 2014 to test how best to define and measure these concepts in practice. Even before the final adoption of the 2030 Agenda – including Goal 16 on peace, justice and institutions – these countries had been identifying their priorities and experimenting with goals, targets and indicators to demonstrate progress.

The results of this “pilot” work – in Albania, Indonesia, Rwanda, Tunisia and the UK – are presented in a Final Report launched on 21 April. The Report contains interesting lessons about what it means to work with these fundamental but often elusive concepts, lessons which will be of interest to a much wider group of countries now that the 2030 Agenda is a reality, and implementation a priority for all Member States.

The pilot experiences emphasise the importance of many elements that will be central to all approaches: effective planning, sound institutional structures at the heart of government, and partnerships down to the most local level involving community based organisations and civil society, alongside government.

But one message that comes across very clearly from the pilot exercises is that there is no magic formula for demonstrating progress. Context matters and different countries will need to assess their particular needs and capacities for monitoring and implementation, using available tools and developing approaches to measurement that are considered appropriate for the majority of the stakeholders affected.

The 2030 Agenda contains the shared commitment from all UN Member States to keeping people safe, to ensuring the fair administration of justice in accordance with the rule of law, and to building genuinely inclusive institutions which provide people a voice in the decision-making processes that affect them.

Global indicators will provide a snapshot each year of how successful we are as a global community. But alongside this global framework, there is ample space for different approaches at the national and local level, allowing countries to demonstrate how they are making society more peaceful, just and inclusive for all people – especially those most at risk of violence, injustice and exclusion.

The pilot countries gave us a head start, showing that with the right level of dedication, building peaceful, just and inclusive societies is both feasible and measurable.

Patrick Keuleers is Director of Governance and Peacebuilding, UNDP Bureau for Policy and Programme Support

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Kenyan Refugee Camp Closures will have Disastrous Consequenceshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/kenyan-refugee-camp-closures-will-have-disastrous-consequences/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenyan-refugee-camp-closures-will-have-disastrous-consequences http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/kenyan-refugee-camp-closures-will-have-disastrous-consequences/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 01:04:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145049 An aerial view of the Ifo 2 Refugee Camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider.

An aerial view of the Ifo 2 Refugee Camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 11 2016 (IPS)

The Kenyan government’s decision to close its refugee camps will have disastrous consequences and must be reconsidered, international organisations have stated.

At the end of last week, the Kenyan government announced that the “hosting of refugees has to come to an end”, citing economic, security and environmental concerns.

Currently, Kenya hosts over 600,000 refugees, many of whom are from Somalia and South Sudan. The country is also home to the Dadaab complex, the largest refugee camp in the world.-

The government has already disbanded its Department of Refugee Affairs and is working to close its camps in the “shortest time possible.”

International human rights groups have lambasted the move.

“In a single breath, the Kenyan government recognizes that the Somalis it has been hosting for nearly 25 years are still refugees, but then states it’s finished with them,” said Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) Refugee Rights Program Director Bill Frelick.

Amnesty International’s (AI) Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes Muthoni Wanyeki called the decision “reckless” and an “abdication” of its responsibility to protect the vulnerable.

Similarly, Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) Head of Mission in Kenya Liesbeth Aelbrecht said that the move highlights the “continued” and “blatant neglect” of refugees around the world.

The government has already disbanded its Department of Refugee Affairs and is working to close its camps in the “shortest time possible.”

The camp closures mean refugees will be repatriated to their countries of origin.

Aelbrecht stated that in one Dadaab camp alone where MSF works, approximately 330,000 Somalis will be affected and forced to return to a war-torn country with little access to vital humanitarian assistance. Somalia is also facing a drought, exacerbating food insecurity and malnutrition in the country. Approximately 4.7 million people—nearly 40 percent—are in need of humanitarian assistance in the East African nation.

The ongoing conflict in neighbouring South Sudan has also displaced and killed millions, worsened access to food and water, and destroyed schools and hospitals.

Wanyeki said that the forced repatriation would be in “violation of Kenya’s obligations under international law.” Frelick echoed these sentiments, stating that though the threat of Al-Shabab is real, Kenya still has to “abide by international refugee law.” HRW also noted that there is no evidence linking Somali refugees to any terrorist attacks in Kenya.

This is not the first time that Kenya has made such calls.

According to Refugees International, in 2012 and 2014, the government ordered all urban refugees to report to refugee camps. Refugees were subsequently bribed, harassed, physically assaulted and arrested by police.

The most recent announcement may therefore increase levels of extortion and abuse by security forces, said Refugees International Senior Advocate Mark Yarnell.

Though they acknowledged the humanitarian consequences of the decision, the Kenyan government stated that they have been “shouldering” the burden on behalf of the regional and international community.

“As a country with limited resources, facing an existential terrorist threat, we can no longer allow our people to bear the brunt of the International Community’s weakening obligations to the refugees,” said Kenya’s Minister for National Security Karanja Kibicho in an editorial.

He noted that there has been a fall in international funding and lack of commitment to resettlement, partly due to a magnified focus on the refugee crisis in Europe.

“The world continues to learn the ruinous effect of these persistent double standards,” Kibicho stated.

In response to the government’s concerns, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) noted the “vital” role Kenya has played as one of the frontline major refugee hosting nations.

Organisations including Oxfam and the International Rescue Committee also acknowledged the “hospitality” and “responsibility” that the Kenyan government has borne over decades in a joint statement.

“The NGO community is committed to continue supporting the Government of Kenya in the search for long-term and sustainable solutions for refugees,” the statement says.

The joint statement calls on the international community to provide predictable and sufficient financial support to Kenya’s refugee programmes and to expand resettlement quotas.

The joint statement, along with UNHCR and MSF, also called on the government to reconsider its decision.

Aelbrecht stated that Kenya, alongside the international community, must continue providing humanitarian assistance and ensure adequate living conditions for the thousands “who desperately need it.”

Wanyeki, while recognizing the slow resettlement process, also urged the government to consider permanent solutions towards the full integration of refugees.

“Forced return to situations of persecution or conflict is not an option,” she concluded.

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Asia’s Indigenous Communities Marred by Militarisationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/asias-indigenous-communities-marred-by-militarisation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=asias-indigenous-communities-marred-by-militarisation http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/asias-indigenous-communities-marred-by-militarisation/#comments Tue, 10 May 2016 04:08:12 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145037 Opening of the Fifteenth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas.

Opening of the Fifteenth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 10 2016 (IPS)

Militarisation in indigenous territories in Asia is exacerbating conflict and human rights violations, said Secretary-General of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact Joan Carling at an event during the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) held here Monday.

The annual two-week forum has brought together over 1000 participants from around the world to discuss issues of conflict, peace, and resolution and its implications on indigenous communities.   

On its first day, a group of delegates came together during a side event to focus and raise awareness of the theme in the context of Asia.

Approximately two-thirds of the world’s indigenous population lives in Asia, making it the most culturally diverse region in the world. Among the increasingly major challenges in the region is militarisation and the denial of indigenous self-determination and rights to land.

Home to 11 indigenous groups, Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) continues to be one of the most militarized areas in the world.

According to the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), an estimated one-third of the Bangladesh Army is in the CHT, an area that only accounts for one percent of the country’s total population and nine percent of land mass.

The military bases were initially established due to a two-decade war between the Government of Bangladesh and Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti (PCJSS) over indigenous rights and the region’s autonomy.

“After their deaths, [the paramilitary] said that we had to evacuate in two days and if we didn’t, we would all be massacred." -- Josephine Pagalan.

Despite a 1997 peace accord which included commitments to withdraw military troops and self-governance, military presence and de facto control persist.

“Almost 18 years have passed and major commitments have not been fulfilled,” said Secretary-General of the Bangladesh Indigenous People’s Forum Sanjeeb Drong during the event.

Drong stressed that indigenous communities are not against the military, but they do not support military rule.

“The military can be there, but civil government will rule the area,” he stated. However, this has not been the case in CHT as indigenous institutions continue to be invalidated, he added.

An appointed Special Rapporteur Lars Anders-Baer also expressed concern in a report over the failure to implement the agreement and the continued deployment of armed forces in the region.

“The lack of substantial progress is leading to an increasing sense of frustration and disillusionment among the indigenous peoples in the region,” the report states.

“Adding fuel to the dwindling faith in the Government’s sincere intent or political ability to fully implement the accord are developments and initiatives that violate or go against the spirit of the accord,” Anders-Baer adds.

Violations include torture and arbitrary arrests committed by military personnel, suppressing dissident voices. Another major issue is land grabbing, Drong notes.

Beyond forced evictions of indigenous residents and illegal land leases to non-local individuals, Drong stated that the military’s involvement in the tourism industry has contributed to the expropriation and destruction of indigenous lands in CHT.

Sena Kalyan Sangstha (SKS), the business wing of the Bangladesh military, is a key player in real estate construction and management. With the help of government subsidies and funds earned from UN peacekeeping missions, the group operates luxury resorts including the Nilgiri resort in CHT. During its construction, the army reportedly tore down a local indigenous group’s orchard as well as shops and a nearby school.

Similarly, indigenous leader Josephine Pagalan spoke of land grabbing in the resource-rich Mindanao island of the Philippines.

The island is particularly known for its mineral resources including copper and gold. As a result, Mindanao host 60 percent of the Philippines’ armed forces excluding paramilitary groups, she noted.

The southern Philippines is also is home to the majority of the country’s indigenous groups, collectively called the Lumads.

The country’s military have forcefully evicted and displaced numerous Lumad residents, which many believe are aimed to protect and allow the expansion of large-scale mining industries.

The military has also been involved in the massacre of indigenous leaders.

Pagalan, who witnessed the event, recalled the incursion by a paramilitary group, stating: “Last September 1st, at 3:30 in the morning, we were forced awake and forced to leave our houses…all 150 of us.”

In front of her, the group stabbed the Executive Director of a Lumad school Emerico Samarca multiple times along with indigenous leader Dionel Campos and his cousin Aurelio Sinzo.

“After their deaths, [the paramilitary] said that we had to evacuate in two days and if we didn’t, we would all be massacred,” she told attendees.

The event reportedly sparked the evacuation of almost 3,000 Lumads.

Just a month prior to these attacks, Human Rights Watch reported that Philippine government soldiers killed five members of a Lumad family, including children ages 13 and 17, reflecting larger, systematic violations of human rights.

President Benigno Aquino III denied any wrongdoing, stating that “there is no campaign to kill Lumad people, we are serving the people.”

Pagalan urged for government accountability and justice for affected indigenous peoples, including the return of ancestral lands.

Bangladeshi politician and activist Devasish Roy especially highlighted the need for justice in CHT at a press briefing Monday, stating: “We really need to look at peace…with justice as a necessary part of it. You can have the cessation of hostilities…but [it] doesn’t mean that’s real resolution.”

Carling expressed her hope to IPS that the UNPFII will particularly raise awareness among member states to respect and enforce conflict resolution and indigenous rights.

“Unless states take this matter seriously and have the political will to address the issue of militarisation…then we cannot expect much of any improvement in the situation.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a video message during the opening of the forum, announced the launch of a system-wide action plan for coherent and coordinated action on indigenous issues.

“Lasting peace requires that indigenous peoples have access to cultural, social and economic justice…it is essential that we work as one to realize the full rights of indigenous peoples,” he stated.

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MSF Withdrawal Part of Ongoing Debate Over Humanitarian Aidhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/msf-withdrawal-part-of-ongoing-debate-over-humanitarian-aid/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=msf-withdrawal-part-of-ongoing-debate-over-humanitarian-aid http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/msf-withdrawal-part-of-ongoing-debate-over-humanitarian-aid/#comments Mon, 09 May 2016 05:00:48 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145027 Dr. Joanne Liu, President of MŽedecins Sans Frontires, and Mr. Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, speak following the adoption by the Security Council of a resolution on healthcare in armed conflict. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas.

Dr. Joanne Liu, President of MŽedecins Sans Frontires, and Mr. Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, speak following the adoption by the Security Council of a resolution on healthcare in armed conflict. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 9 2016 (IPS)

Aid organisations have differing views about the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit, after Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) pulled out last week some still hope the Summit will help bring about much needed change.

There is little doubt that the world’s humanitarian system is over-burdened as a result of the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.

The ongoing crisis prompted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to convene the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), which will take place in Istanbul on May 23-24.

Although MSF are concerned the summit will not adequately address weaknesses in humanitarian action, other aid organisations are more hopeful that the summit’s approach could help bring about a more coordinated approach to humanitarian and development assistance. Currently humanitarian aid, which focuses on disasters, is delivered by a largely separate system to development aid, which focuses on addressing systemic poverty.

MSF, which was significantly involved in preparations for the summit, announced last week that they “no longer have any hope” that the meeting will improve emergency response and reinforce the role of impartial humanitarian aid.

“Right now what you’re seeing is people using emergency funding for decades of aid which isn’t the right way to go about it." -- Christina Bennett, ODI.

The summit’s focus on doing “aid differently” and “end(ing) need” threaten to “dissolve humanitarian assistance into wider development, peace-building and political agendas,” the organisation said in a statement.

MSF also stated that the WHS has become a “fig-leaf of good intentions” which does not make states accountable or responsible.

“By putting states on the same level as nongovernmental organisations and UN agencies, which have no such powers or obligations, the Summit will minimize the responsibility of states,” MSF said.

UN Secretary-General Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric expressed his disappointment in the move, noting that MSF is a “strong and influential voice” in the field.

MSF’s decision to withdraw announced last Thursday has contributed to an ongoing international debate over what is required to create “better aid.”

Care International’s Senior Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy Coordinator Gareth Price-Jones told IPS the WHS needs to ensure faster and more “principled” aid that is still based on the humanitarian doctrine of impartiality and neutrality.

Where Care International differs from MSF is the importance of addressing why there are such needs in the first place, he said.

“[MSF] feels that humanitarian aid should be strictly reactive…although having that reactive response is critical, what we also need is to address the demand side,” said Price-Jones.

He noted that a nexus between humanitarian and development aid would help to implement much needed measures for prevention and mitigation especially in cases of conflict, natural disasters and climate change.

“When the fire service was set up, the logic was to charge in and protect fires,” he said. “But if you look at what modern fire services do nowadays is mostly fire prevention because everyone knows it is obviously far better to prevent a fire than to put it out after it has happened.”

However focusing on prevention does not necessarily mean that humanitarian aid will become politicized, he added.

Similarly, Senior Research Fellow of the Overseas Development Institute’s (ODI) Humanitarian Policy Group  wrote in a report that the collaboration of humanitarian and development actors can contribute to making communities more resilient to future crises.

Bennett told IPS that addressing humanitarian and development aid together could more effectively address complex, long-term crises.

“Right now what you’re seeing is people using emergency funding for decades of aid which isn’t the right way to go about it,” she said.

Though Bennett acknowledges the important role of neutral and independent humanitarian assistance and stressed the need for caution, she said aid should not operate in such separate “silos” in some cases.

“Just call it need and combine forces to understand how we can address that need,” she told IPS. With a “larger pot of funding,” actors can address both short and long-term needs, she added.

She cited the refugee crisis in the Middle East as a case that requires a more long-term, comprehensive aid approach.

“The problem is not going to go away…its not that they are going to leave their home for nine months and then go back and rebuild their house and live there again, that’s not really what happens anymore,” she stated.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the average length of displacement is now 17 years. Already, refugee-hosting countries such as Jordan have found their economic resources exhausted.

Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) Country Director for Jordan Petr Kostohryz told IPS that the focus on immediate needs in the refugee crisis’ early stages created a degree of “aid dependency” instead of contributing to long-term solutions. This is partly due to the nature of humanitarian assistance, he added.

According to a UN and World Bank study, 90 percent of Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon live under the national poverty line. Many families are unable to legally earn income and many children still lack access to education.

“We are at risk (of) losing a whole generation of Syrian refugee children,” he said.

Approximately 40 percent of all Syrian children in Jordan are out of school.

Though different stages of displacement calls for different needs, such protracted displacement often calls for early strategies beyond short-term immediate assistance in order to build resilience against future shocks, Kostohryz stated.

Bennett echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating that a long-term view that combines short-term and long-term assistance is necessary to help provide education resources, create jobs, and give refugee families a more permanent living situation where “they feel they can actually start a life.”

When asked if he believes that the WHS will result in such tangible outcomes, Kostohryz told IPS that “we have no choice.”

“Although we may live in a time where agreeing on a common outcome or vision is the most difficult in decades, we need changes and new strategies that all key actors gather around and support,” he continued.

Kostohryz said that the solutions are ultimately political and that he hopes the WHS will lead to a confirmed commitment to the protection of civilians including education for all and a reaffirmation of principled humanitarian action.

Price-Jones also expressed similar optimistic hopes for the WHS, underscoring the need for states to make and strengthen such commitments to minimize humanitarian consequences.

“There are no humanitarian solutions to humanitarian problems. They are an outcome of a political failure either to plan for a natural disaster or to prevent and mitigate a conflict,” he told IPS.

Humanitarian reform is therefore in the hands of the world’s governments, a view that MSF shares.

Bennett added that along with governments, institutions such as the UN and large international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) must also address systemic issues in order to improve the humanitarian system including aid delivery and its outcomes.

More skeptical about the potential success of WHS, Bennett hopes that the meeting will at least provide a roadmap to “start” this conversation.

The WHS will bring together approximately 6,000 representatives from governments, businesses, aid organisations and affected communities. This includes 80 member states of the UN’s 193 members.

With the diversity in perspectives of what “humanitarian” means and should look like, it is still unclear what outcomes or actions the summit intends to produce, observers note.

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Let’s Not Forget Disaster Risk as we Rush to Adapt to Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/lets-not-forget-disaster-risk-as-we-rush-to-adapt-to-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lets-not-forget-disaster-risk-as-we-rush-to-adapt-to-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/lets-not-forget-disaster-risk-as-we-rush-to-adapt-to-climate-change/#comments Mon, 09 May 2016 01:52:50 +0000 Jen Stephens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145024 A collapsed irrigation system has led the local community to try and improvise a solution—with unfortunate timing as the rice fields need the water now for spring yields. Credit: UNDP in Indonesia

A collapsed irrigation system has led the local community to try and improvise a solution—with unfortunate timing as the rice fields need the water now for spring yields. Credit: UNDP in Indonesia

By Jen Stephens
UNITED NATIONS, May 9 2016 (IPS)

Helping at-risk communities adapt to climate change impacts is an important part of the Paris Climate Change agreement, but adaptation will not be complete without considering disaster risk.

Disasters and climate change pose major challenges to sustainable development. They undermine livelihoods, access to natural resources, and food security for billions of people. From 1980 to 2012, disasters caused nearly $3.8 billion in economic loss and claimed a total of 1.4 million lives.

In developing countries, vulnerable population’s ability to recover from the impact of these events can be weakened by poverty, inadequate or unsustainable development practices, environmental degradation, and population growth.

When it comes to climate change, there is no shortage of urgency. We are no longer placing our worry for the future in our grandchildren’s era. Our immediate global condition is at stake.

If you ask the pastoralists in the Turkana region of Kenya – a place already facing drought every two to three years – they will tell you first hand that the rain they depend on has become completely unreliable. For them, as for millions more, risk management now has to be calibrated to an ever-changing climate in order to be effective.

At the same time, as we rush to adapt to climate change, we must not forget the resources and lessons offered from decades of risk management to address landslides, earthquakes, floods, droughts, and storms—encompassing both climate risk and non-climate risk.

During a recent visit to a village in rural Indonesia in March I saw firsthand the impact of disaster on climate adaptation initiatives. Just the year before, an adaptation project had been implemented—benefiting the local women in particular with alternative livelihoods – introducing an irrigation system for traditional and new crops.

On paper this sounds wonderful, and in many respects it is, however, in person you would see that the location of this village is on a very steep mountainside extremely prone to landslides. No risk assessment (nor risk-mitigating measures) had been completed, and a recent landslide had completely destroyed the irrigation channel.

Despite the ingenuity of the community to devise a makeshift replacement channel, the village now faces severe losses in their crop yield this year.

Had a risk assessment been done to catalogue the likelihood of a landslide, risk mitigation and management measures could have been added on to the project, preventing losses.

2016 represents an opportunity for disaster risk management because of three important global policy agendas. Never before has the world been so committed—and in favor of working in tandem—to achieving sustainable development, reducing disaster risks, and adapting to and combatting climate change.

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction was adopted in 2015 and promotes actions that go beyond reactionary disaster management to addressing the complex nature of risk, including from climate change.

The Paris Climate Agreement marks a critical opportunity to launch an era of innovation, emphasizing adaptation, mitigation and national targets that can accelerate low-emission and climate-resilient development. And uniting them all are the Sustainable Development Goals, the ambitious agenda that plots progress on everything from food security to education to resilient infrastructure.

Having these agendas in place at the global level is highly motivating, but what we need now is effective action on the ground that will not fail the ‘last-mile’ communities we support. This very simply means working together.

A longstanding perception is finally changing—that limited resources means investment in one area takes away from another. The reality on the ground is proving time and again that strategic investment in combined approaches not only maximizes co-benefits but also protects and makes investments sustainable.

Disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation both share an overarching aim to reduce vulnerability and build resilience as a means to achieve sustainable human development. Nevertheless, these two practices have often been implemented separately, thus creating duplications and in some cases competition reducing progress towards the shared objective.

This has to change. The Integrated Climate Risk Management Programme, funded by the Government of Sweden, is an example where participating countries have been using integration to make headway for sustainable development at national and local levels, while being connected to a global South-South network to exchange tools and good practices.

The support has enabled early warning systems, and riverbed and slope stabilization in Nepal; risk-informed livelihood diversification in Kenya where pastoralists are taking up bee-keeping; and climate-smart agriculture and agroforestry in Uganda. These interventions were built on and informed by an integrated and evidence-based review of local contexts, including risk-profiles.

This brought together both climate change and gender-sensitive risk analyses and led to a better approach that addresses climate change and possible disasters in tandem.

Lessons need to be shared and good practices like this need to be expanded. Development, if it is going to be sustainable must be resilient. We will fall short of true resilience if disaster risk is not recalibrated to climate change and equally if adaptation is not risk-informed.

Jen Stephens is Programme Coordinator, Integrated Climate Risk Management Programme in the United Nations Development Program’s Bureau for Policy and Programming Support.

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Mexico Needs to Improve Control of Toxic Chemicalshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/mexico-needs-to-improve-control-of-toxic-chemicals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexico-needs-to-improve-control-of-toxic-chemicals http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/mexico-needs-to-improve-control-of-toxic-chemicals/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 07:15:24 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144997 Two Greenpeace technicians take water samples from a river that runs by the Pajaritos Petrochemical Complez in the Mexican city of Coatzacoalcos, where an Apr. 20 explosion in the Planta Clorados III plant left 32 people dead and 136 injured. Credit: Greenpeace Mexico

Two Greenpeace technicians take water samples from a river that runs by the Pajaritos Petrochemical Complez in the Mexican city of Coatzacoalcos, where an Apr. 20 explosion in the Planta Clorados III plant left 32 people dead and 136 injured. Credit: Greenpeace Mexico

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, May 6 2016 (IPS)

A recent explosion at a petrochemical plant in southeast Mexico highlighted the need to strengthen monitoring of hazardous substances, step up inspections of factories and update regulations in this country.

The Apr. 20 blast at the Clorados III plant in the Pajaritos Petrochemical Complex in the port city of Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz state, left 32 dead and 136 injured.

“One basic problem is the handling of toxic chemicals,” Robin Perkins, the Detox Programme leader at Greenpeace Mexico, told IPS. “This is a country with few regulations and the list of regulated and controlled substances is short. There is a lack of regulations, inspections and reviews.”

The plant, which belongs to Petroquímica Mexicana de Vinilo (PMC), a public-private petrochemical company, produces 170,000 tons a year of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which generates dioxins and furans, and has two incinerators.“We want the government to monitor and tell us what chemicals were there and what was released into the environment; there has to be short, medium and long-term monitoring; we need to know the impact on the workers, firefighters and surrounding communities; we’re talking about an impact on the entire ecosystem. It’s virtually impossible for there not to be an impact on the environment.” -- Robin Perkins

Dioxins and furans are environmental pollutants that belong to the so-called “dirty dozen” – a group of dangerous chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), POPs are present throughout the food chain and bio-accumulate in organisms.

Vinyl chloride, a known carcinogen, is found in gas and liquid form, and through inhalation or contact with skin it can cause dizziness, drowsiness, and headaches, while long-time exposure can lead to severe skin problems or liver damage.

Dioxin exposure has been linked to birth defects, miscarriage, learning disabilities, immune system suppression, lung problems, skin disorders and other health problems.

“It is important to monitor these kinds of chemicals, not only through environmental samples but also in the biota, and in exposed human populations, such as workers or local residents,” said Fernando Díaz-Barriga, a researcher at the Coordination for the Innovation and Application of Science and Technology at the public Autonomous University of San Luis Potosí.

To do that, he told IPS, “they must be detected in sediments and soils.”

For the past three decades, Díaz-Barriga has studied the impact of these substances on human health and the environment, including in the area of Pajaritos, and the result has always been the same: high levels of toxic compounds and elements.

In the wake of the explosion at the petrochemical plant, one of the worst environmental disasters in the history of Mexico due to the possible emission of dioxins, Greenpeace experts took samples of water, soil and dust in nearby communities, to detect pollutants.

The material is now being analysed at the University of Exeter in Britain and independent laboratories, and the results will be published in a few weeks.

Two weeks earlier, Díaz-Barriga had gathered samples of biota, soil and sediment around the Pajaritos complex, to identify POPs in the area, which is near the Gulf of Mexico and the mouth of a river.

The PVM company emerged in 2013 from an alliance between the private firm Mexichem, which holds a 54 percent share and runs the plant, and the state-run oil company Pemex, which owns 46 percent.

The accident was not an isolated incident.

 “We want the truth!” about what happened in an explosion of a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plant in a petrochemical complex in the city of Coatzacoalcos in southeast Mexico, reads a Greenpeace sign, while a technician takes a soil sample after the disaster. Credit: Greenpeace Mexico


“We want the truth!” about what happened in an explosion of a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plant in a petrochemical complex in the city of Coatzacoalcos in southeast Mexico, reads a Greenpeace sign, while a technician takes a soil sample after the disaster. Credit: Greenpeace Mexico

In Pajaritos there have been at least three accidents since 1991, and there are an average of 600 emergencies a y ear involving hazardous materials in Mexico, and at least one major disaster every 12 months, according to the environmental justice programme in the Federal Agency of Environmental Protection (PROFEPA).

International commitment

The explosion in the plant underscored the importance of Mexico living up to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, signed in 2001 and in effect since 2004.

The Convention is aimed at eliminating or reducing levels of nine chemicals used as pesticides, dioxins, furans and polychlorinated biphenyls – elements involved in the blast in Coatzacoalcos.

Every two years, parties to the convention meet to decide which additional chemicals should be added to the original “dirty dozen”. The next meeting is in 2017.

In Mexico, the Updating of the National Implementation Plan for the Stockholm Convention, which is reviewing the first plan from 2007, makes it clear how far the country still is from being up-to-date with respect to hazardous materials.

The evaluation for modernising the plan stresses the lack of a national network of laboratories for studying POPs, a formal programme for monitoring them, and a basic studies programme to identify trends involving these compounds.

Another problem is that the new industrial POPs that emerge are not studied, which means the country is not fully complying with the Stockholm Convention.

Greenpeace is calling for a longer list of regulated substances, a mandatory greenhouse gas emissions registry, and stricter penalties for polluters.

“We want the government to monitor and tell us what chemicals were there and what was released into the environment; there has to be short, medium and long-term monitoring; we need to know the impact on the workers, firefighters and surrounding communities; we’re talking about an impact on the entire ecosystem. It’s virtually impossible for there not to be an impact on the environment,” said Perkins.

On Apr. 28, PROFEPA closed down the Clorados III plant indefinitely, instructed the company to remove and safely confine substances like hydrochloric acid, ethane, and ethylene, and ordered it to carry out an impact study and a damage remediation programme.

In 2013, the government’s Registry of Emissions and Transference of Pollutants covered 3,523 establishments that reported 73 substances released into the air, water and soil or transferred in waste or discharge.

A food processor, an auto-maker, the Pajaritos complex, two oil refineries, two steel mills, three paper plants, seven chemical factories, 10 hazardous waste treatment plants and at least 35 cement plants reported dioxins and furans.

Of 135 substances identified as hazardous by various international bodies, 43 have been included in 13 laws in Mexico.

“The difficult thing is establishing new substances as the convention is updated,” said Díaz-Barriga. “The disaster in Pajaritos showed that we were right, that the monitoring programme is important. This is a problem of national priority.

“But the environmental issue has been pushed to the backburner, because it’s not a priority for the country; it only arises when these accidents happen.”

As part of the National Plan for the Stockholm Convention, Mexico plans to update and modify its regulations on the characteristics, handling, identification and classification of hazardous waste.

It also plans to expand the list of hazardous substances and establish stricter regulations with regard to emission limits on particulate matter from fixed installations.

The process will take at least two years.

The plan also establishes the modification of the General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection, in effect since 1988, with a special annex on POPs and chemical substances.

In addition, it proposes monitoring the presence of pesticides and other POPs in food, soil, water and air, and assessing the effective application of the measures, as well as a programme to hold companies accountable for proper handling of these pollutants.

By 2024, Mexico plans to have a programme to monitor POPs in the atmosphere and in breast milk, and to gauge the economic costs of these pollutants for the environment and health.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Deteriorating Protection of Journalists’ Sources a Global Problemhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/deteriorating-protection-of-journalists-sources-a-global-problem/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=deteriorating-protection-of-journalists-sources-a-global-problem http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/deteriorating-protection-of-journalists-sources-a-global-problem/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 21:31:32 +0000 Linus Atarah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144995 A journalist conducts an interview in Kenya. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

A journalist conducts an interview in Kenya. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Linus Atarah
HELSINKI, May 5 2016 (IPS)

The freedom of the press is a universally cherished democratic right, but what may have been overlooked as the World Day Freedom of Information was celebrated on Wednesday is that the ability of journalists to protect their source is increasingly coming under attack by authorities.

To Julie Posetti, there should be global standard adopted by all countries to protect the source of journalists, a fundamental principle to the capacity to do journalism that supports democracy.

“Journalists can draw on the universal right to freedom of expression and also right to privacy,” says Julie Posetti, editor at the Australia-based Fairfax Media, “what is lacking however, is that there is no international law that specifically enshrines the right to protect journalistic sources as part of this other international human rights framework,” Posetti told IPS.

Speaking at a UNESCO conference to mark the World Press Freedom Day in Helsinki, on Wednesday, Posetti said in some jurisdictions, for instance in Europe, there are regional laws and court judgments that uphold traditional rights to protect sources, but these protections are rather done in an “analogue way” – by which she means the laws need to be updated to take into account the digital reality of today’s world.

“The traditional rights of journalistic source might protect your right in court not to identify your source, or your notebook from proceedings, or to hand them over to the police, but not the digital information on one’s laptop or hard drive, all of which can reveal not just one source but many, many sources” -- Julie Posetti.

This year’s celebration marks the 250th anniversary of world’s first freedom of information act, due to campaign of Anders Chydenius, a member of parliament and priest, passed in modern day Sweden and Finland. Finland was part of Sweden until 1809, when it was handed over to Czarist Russia as a gift of war.

“The traditional rights of journalistic source might protect your right in court not to identify your source, or your notebook from proceedings, or to hand them over to the police, but not the digital information on one’s laptop or hard drive, all of which can reveal not just one source but many, many sources”, she said.

“It would be wonderful to have an international standard that declared that the protection of journalists sources was fundamental to the right of freedom expression”, she says, “instead what exists are piecemeal references to those right around the world, some very good laws, most are not up to date”.

The protection of a journalist’s source is an ethical principle in journalism recognised globally. People who often approach journalists with sensitive information usually do that at considerable risk, including the risk of losing their lives. Such people would wish to have their identity protected but if journalists cannot guarantee that, then it will have a chilling effect on the public right to information in general.

Some countries have legislation that provides protection to journalistic sources but such legislation is now being undermined by the use of data retention and national security and anti-terrorism policies globally.

According to findings for a book authored by Posetti and published by UNESCO last year, out of 121 countries surveyed for evidence of source protection legislation, 69 percent or 84 countries had inadequate legislation to protect journalistic sources – these laws were undermined by mass and targeted surveillance, anti-terrorism and national security policies and data retention policies.

Patrick Penninckx, Head of Information Society Department in the Council of Europe also expressed similar concerns over the violation of media freedoms in the 47-member Council of Europe, whose main objectives is upholding democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

Members of the Council of Europe include Russia and Azerbaijan but excludes Belorus. Some members are also members of the European Union.

“We are on the wrong path when it comes to freedom of the media”, Penninckx, told IPS. According to him, national legislations in 27 of the 47 members in the Council of Europe are going towards the wrong direction. These individual member countries seem to be saying, ‘why should we have any kind of European body dictate to us or oversee what we are doing if we can decide on that on by ourselves’, Pennickx, said

Therefore these countries are resorting to “legislative nationalism”, rather than accepting international best practice recommended by international institutions, even including the Council of Europe.

And this does not just apply to the “usual suspects”, he said, namely, Turkey, Russia and Azerbaijan, that are more often talked about in terms of suppressing press freedoms. Rather, it is a general tendency among member countries to use terrorism legislation, state of emergency and mass surveillance to diminish rights of individuals and through that put pressure on journalists and other media actors.

Europe is in the midst of multiple crisis – financial, refugee, migration – even some of these countries are in a conflict situation such as Ukraine, but in spite of that Pennickx insists that countries must still uphold human rights and press freedom in times of crisis.

In situations of targeted and mass surveillance there should be a higher threshold, for instance, the need to have a warrant in order to demand a journalist’s metadata. There must also be transparency and accountability in judicial measures, says Posetti.  In certain jurisdiction where judicial hearings take place in a closed court without the awareness of journalists, it is difficult for them to protect their sources.

While in favour of adopting an international standard to protect the sources of journalists, Guy Berger, Director of the Division of Freedom Expression and Media Development in UNESCO points out the difficulties faced by his organisation to bring that about.

UNESCO, being an intergovernmental organisation, he says, can only operate through diplomatic pressure. According to him, it would be considerably difficult to reach a consensus among 195 members of UNESCO to adopt a common legislation to provide journalistic sources. “In this era of concern over terrorism, governments have no appetite for a binding legislation.

“We try to influence with the power of reason and the NGOs and the media have the power of embarrassment; so you bring those together”, Berger told IPS.

“Freedom of information is not a Christmas tree, a gift to be used from time to time. It is an everyday gym exercise,” says Mabel Rehnfeldt, investigative journalist and Editor of ABC-Digital in Paraguay. To her, legislation per se, may not be enough to achieve the goal, rather it should followed advocacy and awareness raising for everyone, including journalists to fully grasp the significance of protecting journalistic sources.

“We need to be activists for the protection of our sources, because that principle is fundamental to our capacity to do journalism that supports democracy, without it we certainly are going to be unable to continue doing the kind of investigative journalism that has the capacity to effect change”, says Posetti.

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Is the System Broke or Broken?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/is-the-system-broke-or-broken/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-the-system-broke-or-broken http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/is-the-system-broke-or-broken/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 17:35:19 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144971 Families displaced from their homes in Pakistan’s troubled northern regions returning home. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS.

Families displaced from their homes in Pakistan’s troubled northern regions returning home. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 4 2016 (IPS)

Though the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit may seem timely, a debate ensues on an important question: is the world humanitarian system broke or broken?

The first-ever World Humanitarian Summit, which takes place in Istanbul on May 23-24, was convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to address the pressing needs of today’s humanitarian problems.

“We believe this is a once in a generation opportunity to address the problems, the suffering of millions of people around the world,” said European Union Ambassador to the United Nations João Vale de Almeida during a press briefing.

More than 125 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance globally. If this were a country, it would be the 11th largest in the world. Over 60 million are forcibly displaced, making it the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. Crises now last longer, increasing the average length of displacement to 17 years from 9 years.

However, need has surpassed capacity and resources. As of the beginning of May, almost $15 billion in appeals is unmet for crises around the world including in Nigeria, Central African Republic, and Syria. Approximately 90 percent of UN humanitarian appeals continue for more than three years.

The meeting therefore represents not only a call for action, but also an alarm to reform the increasingly strained humanitarian system.

From the recent earthquake in Ecuador to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, local communities and NGOs are often the first responders due to their proximity.

Among the summit’s core responsibilities is strengthening partnerships and a multi-stakeholder process that puts affected civilians at the heart of humanitarian action.

“The current system remains largely closed, with poor connections to…a widening array of actors,” a summit synthesis report stated following consultations with over 23,000 representatives. “It is seen as outdated.”

Senior Research Fellow at the Overseas Development Institute’s (ODI) Humanitarian Policy Group Christina Bennett agrees, noting that humanitarian and aid structures have changed very little since it was first conceived.

“It’s still a very top-down, paternalistic way of going about things,” she told IPS.

In an ODI report, Bennett found that the system has created an exclusive, centralised group of humanitarian donors and actors, excluding local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from participating.

In 2014, 83 percent of humanitarian funding came from donor governments in Europe and North America.

Between 2010 and 2014, UN agencies and the largest international NGOs (INGOs) received 86% of all international humanitarian assistance. Meanwhile, less than two percent was directly provided to national and local NGOs.

This has prevented swift and much needed assistance on the ground.

Field Nurse for Doctor of the World’s Greece chapter Sarah Collis told IPS of her time working in the Idomeni refugee camp in Greece, noting the lack of medical resources and basic items such as food and blankets.

“Distribution of blankets only happened at night because the aid agencies were worried about mass crowds,” she told IPS. “This meant that single mothers and young families often had no chance,” she added.

Collis also recalled that there were only two ambulances for the whole region and at times, her team often had to pile six people in an ambulance at once.

The most fast acting groups, Collis said, were the small NGOs and volunteers with direct funding sources and less red tape.

From the recent earthquake in Ecuador to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, local communities and NGOs are often the first responders due to their proximity. They also have better access to hard-to-reach areas, have familiarity with the people and cultures, and can address and reduce risk before disaster strikes.

On the other hand, larger organisations or institutions such as the UN often have difficulty conducting efficient and effective humanitarian operations.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) identified the UN as being at the “heart of the dysfunction” in the humanitarian system. They found that UNHCR’s three-pronged role, as being a coordinator, implementer and donor, led to their poor performance in South Sudan, Jordan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In South Sudan’s Maban county, UNHCR was reportedly slow in response and struggled to mobilise qualified staff.

Their “triple” role also made it difficult for subcontracting NGOs to share implementation challenges and for the agency itself to “admit to bigger problems or to ask for technical assistance from other UN agencies, for fear of losing out on funding or credibility.” This, in turn, impacted the quality of information to make sound decision-making.

Though some funds from UN agencies and INGOs are provided to local NGOs, the relationship is more “transactional” rather than a “genuine, strategic engagement,” Bennett says.

For instance, when aid is provided, it is often determined by the availability of goods and services rather than what people actually need or want on the ground.

“We don’t have more of an alliance…with these organisations as equal players,” Bennett told IPS.

These issues also came to a head during consultations for the World Humanitarian Summit in Geneva.

“Southern NGOs are demanding accompaniment rather than direction,” Executive Director of African Development Solutions (Adeso) Degan Ali told government officials, UN representatives, and civil society. “Be prepared to be uncomfortable.”

Though many acknowledge that there is an important role for INGOs and donor governments in the humanitarian system, there is an emerging understanding that such actors must shift their positions from one that is dominating to one that is enabling.

Organisations such as Oxfam and Adesso have called for the UN and large INGOs to enable local NGOs by directly providing funds. This will not only help them to prepare and improve their responses to crises, but it would also put decision making and power “where it should be,” Oxfam stated.

They have also urged for a target of 20 percent of all humanitarian funding to go directly to local organisations. Already, a charter has been created to commit INGOs to these actions. Among the signatories are Oxfam, Care International and Islamic Relief Worldwide.

Despite these calls to action, Bennett told IPS that she does not believe that the World Humanitarian Summit will lead to change.

“I think it isn’t something on the agenda of the World Humanitarian Summit…partially because they are hard to address and they’re very political—these aren’t easy wins,” she said.

In order to achieve fundamental changes, donor governments and institutions with decision making power must address the underlying assumptions and power dynamics that hold the system back, Bennett remarked.

“Until they move, the system is stuck.”

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World Celebrates 250 Years Since First Freedom of Information Acthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/world-celebrates-250-years-since-first-freedom-of-information-act/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-celebrates-250-years-since-first-freedom-of-information-act http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/world-celebrates-250-years-since-first-freedom-of-information-act/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 15:54:40 +0000 Milla Sundstrom http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144949 By Milla Sundström
HELSINKI, May 4 2016 (IPS)

Press freedom is not just a beautiful idea but a very concrete thing, included in the UN’s Sustainable Development agenda which is meant to lead the humankind to sustainable development, UNESCO’s director general, Irina Bokova, said at the opening of the World Press Freedom Day here Tuesday.

The meeting marked the 25th celebration of World Press Freedom Day and attracted a record audience of more than 1200 journalists from around the world.

The origins of World Press Freedom Day are in Namibia where a group of African journalists gathered at an UNESCO seminar in 1991. The call to create an international day of press freedom was endorsed by the United Nations in 1993.

Bokova and the prime minister of Finland, Juha Sipilä, both recalled another important anniversary. This year’s press freedom day is organised 250 years after Finland – then a part of Sweden – became the first country in the world to get a freedom of information act. Since then, more than hundred states have followed suit.

According to Bokova the world has changed a lot and two dramatic changes came just last year when both the UN’s Sustainable Development Agenda and the Paris climate agreement were accepted.

There is, however, turbulence and change across the world and this ”requires a strong environment of press freedom and a well-functioning system to ensure the people’s right to know,” Bokova said.

Violence haunts journalists, too. 825 professionals have been killed during the past decade and less than six per cent of the cases have been resolved. UNESCO is working to improve the safety of journalists and to end the impunity of crimes against them, she continued.

The two-day UNESCO conference includes various plenaries, panel discussions and other events. One of the panels on Tuesday ended up discussing whether neutrality is possible or even desirable in news coverage on migration. The theme of the panel was the Impact of the Refugee Crisis on Public Service Media Values.

The title of the panel referred to the recent events in Europe where the influx of about 1,3 million asylum seekers mainly from Middle East and Africa has caused a phenomenon called ”refugee crises”.

The term has also been used in the UNESCO meeting’s host country Finland which received in 2015 about 32 000 people compared to previous years with only a couple of thousand refugees arrivals.

Ali Jahangiri, a Finnish radio presenter, originally from Iran, was recently part of a team that made a television documentary called Unknown Refugee. They followed Syrian refugees from the Greek island of Lesbos through Europe.

Jahangiri is strongly against ”forced balance” where the coverage is based on the idea of ”creating debate” by picking up ”extreme ends” of opinions on controversial themes like refugees.

Charlotte Harder from Danish Broadcasting Corporation recalled that the same method of ”balancing” used to be used in climate change reporting but has since been dropped. She reclaimed ”being fair instead of being neutral” while covering these themes.

Carolina Matos, Brazilian lecturer of sociology from London City University, argued that instead of trying to balance two aspects the news coverage should include many sides, especially the positive sides which tend to be left uncovered.

Professor emerita of journalism from Helsinki University, Ullamaija Kivikuru, sat in the audience of the panel and drew a conclusion that it does not seem to be very clear to anybody how these important questions should be covered.

She has a simple message: More research is needed. ”No abstract theories but describing what has been reported and media critical analyses on that.”

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