Inter Press ServiceAid – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 25 Apr 2018 00:04:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Illicit Trade in Oil & Fuel: an Emerging Global Policy Challengehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/illicit-trade-oil-fuel-emerging-global-policy-challenge/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=illicit-trade-oil-fuel-emerging-global-policy-challenge http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/illicit-trade-oil-fuel-emerging-global-policy-challenge/#respond Tue, 24 Apr 2018 12:02:06 +0000 Jeffrey Hardy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155440 Jeffrey Hardy is Director General, Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade*

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There is a broad spectrum of potential avenues for the illegal skimming from or shifting of profits in developing countries, carried out by criminal entities, corrupt officials and dishonest corporations. Credit: epSos .de/cc by 2.0

By Jeffrey Hardy
NEW YORK, Apr 24 2018 (IPS)

Illicit trade in any of its forms—alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, diamonds, timber, ivory and oil—sits at the nexus of two social-economic disorders that challenge global stability.

Firstly, the global economy remains on unsteady footing, and governments are scrambling to stimulate growth, employment and investment in infrastructure and other public programs.

Secondly, the upswing in criminal activity and lawlessness—in some cases punctuated by terrorist acts—has left us all questioning our security for this generation and the next.

Illicit trade exacerbates both problems and presents governments with an immediate challenge to address their pervasive and significantly negative impacts on our economy and our civil society.

Economic Impacts Deriving from Illicit Trade in the Petroleum Sector

Every year, an estimated $133 billion of fuels are illegally stolen, adulterated, or defrauded from legitimate petroleum companies. Roughly 30% of Nigeria’s refined fuel products are smuggled into neighboring states and pipeline fuel theft in Mexico is at record levels.

This illegal activity creates an enormous drain on the global economy, crowds out billions from the legitimate economy and dislocates hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Equally significant are associated fiscal losses from tax evasion and subsidy abuses that deprive governments of revenues for vital public services and force higher burdens on taxpayers—especially in developing countries where petroleum industry royalties and tax payments finance development.

For example, Philippines loses $750 million annually in tax revenue from fuel adulteration and smuggling. Dakila Cua, Chairman of the Philippines House Committee on Ways & Means, told me that fuel smuggling is a vicious practice that deprives his country of precious revenues for investment in infrastructure. He confirmed that the problem is deeply embedded in the Philippine economy and throughout ASEAN economies. The value of the illegal fuel trade in Southeast Asia ranges from $2 to $10 billion a year.

Links to transnational Organised Crime and Terrorism

The links between illicit trade and organized crime are well established. The global economic value of oil and fuel theft ranks amongst the highest of transnational crimes. Research shows connections between oil theft and drug cartels in Mexico; insurgents and human traffickers in Thailand; human smugglers in Libya; terrorists in Ireland; militant groups in Nigeria; rebel movements in Mozambique, and of course, ISIS.

This activity significantly threatens national and regional stability, and creates significant deterrents for business investment, which thrives in stable, peaceful environments.

Notably, the criminal connection is not limited to oil and fuel theft. Transnational organized crime is involved in all forms of illicit trade, from human trafficking networks and tobacco smuggling, to the involvement of the Mafia and Camorra in the trade of counterfeit goods. Moreover, profits from one illegal activity are frequently used to finance a different type of illicit trade.

Illicit Trade and Environmental Degradation

Illicit trade in the petroleum sector perpetuates extensive ripple effects across global markets, including undercutting sustainable development and hastening environmental degradation. The process of illegal tapping, bunkering and ship transfers, for example, carry a higher probability for oil spills and blown pipelines, potentially causing significant damage to soil fertility, clean water supplies and marine life.

Consequently, fighting fuel fraud is a global responsibility, as well as a prerequisite for the achievement of the UN SDGs.

Solutions

Despite these severe negative effects, the global problem of oil and fuel theft so far has been largely unchecked and remains mostly hidden from international attention.

Any long-term solution will be dependent on sustained collaboration between governments and the private sector.

Business will contribute by continuing to develop technical solutions, such as fuel markers and GPS tracking. Modern fuel-marking programs allow governments to identify stolen or diverted fuel and reduce fuel losses, while delivering improved integrity in fuel supply chains, mitigating tax evasion and subsidy abuses, and plugging revenue drains.

Business also can share intelligence, data, resources and measures that effectively control this illicit activity. And Business is willing to work with partners to convene stakeholders, improve awareness, expand the knowledge base, and energize the global dialogue.

Governments, however, need to improve regulatory structures, set deterrent penalties, rationalize tax policies, strengthen capacity for more effective enforcement and educate consumers. This is a matter of urgency and government efforts to fight illicit trade should be considered investments that pay tangible dividends to economic development and global security.

The Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (www.TRACIT.org) is responding to this challenge by leading business engagement with national governments and intergovernmental organizations to ensure that private sector experience is properly integrated into rules and regulations that will govern illicit trade.

Our specific engagement in the petroleum sector stems from the shared understanding that a united industry voice is required to track, report and stop fuel fraud – from extraction to production to distribution to consumers.

The geographic diversity and wide-ranging methods of oil and fuel theft and fraud require a comprehensive global approach to mitigating the problem. All stakeholders have an interest in stamping out illicit trade; and all benefit from collective action.

*The Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT) is an independent, business-led initiative to mitigate the economic and social damages of illicit trade by strengthening government enforcement mechanisms and integrating supply chain controls across industry sectors.

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Excerpt:

Jeffrey Hardy is Director General, Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade*

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Kidnapped, Abducted and Abandoned…http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/kidnapped-abducted-abandoned/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kidnapped-abducted-abandoned http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/kidnapped-abducted-abandoned/#respond Tue, 24 Apr 2018 06:39:05 +0000 Geetika group http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155434 Geetika Dang is an independent researcher; Vani S. Kulkarni is lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA; and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) professorial research fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England.

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By Geetika Dang , Vani S. Kulkarni and Raghav Gaiha
NEW DELHI, Apr 24 2018 (IPS)

Kidnappings and abductions have soared since 2001. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that their share in total crimes against women nearly doubled from 10% in 2001 to 19% in 2016. More striking is the fact that 11 women were kidnapped or abducted every day in Delhi in 2016. What these statistics do not reveal are brutal gang-rapes of kidnapped minors and women, multiple sales to husbands who treat them as animals, unwanted pregnancies, police inaction, and frequent abandonment with nowhere to go—not even to their maternal homes—because of the stigma of a being a “prostitute”.

Geetika Dang

An illustrative account from Mirror (23 August 2016) is not atypical. A 12-year-old girl went missing on 2 July 2006, in northeast Delhi and returned home after 10 years. After she was sold to a farmer for a paltry sum, she was forced to work all day in the fields, load heavy sacks of grain onto her back and trucks, and then at night she was raped by numerous men. Over a period of three years, she was sold nine times. At 15, she was sold and married to a drug addict and alcoholic from whom she had two children. After the husband’s death in 2011, she was tortured, forced to have sex with her brother-in-law and his friends, her children were taken away and she was thrown into the street.

A frequently cited fact that for every100 abductions of women aged 18-29 years, 66 were abducted for marriage, is at best a half-truth as it conceals how women are traded and treated as animals.

Our analysis with the data obtained from the NCRB, the Census, National Commission of Population and RBI unravels the factors that are responsible for the surge in kidnappings and abductions, especially since 2013 or post Nirbhaya.

While the incidence of kidnapping and abduction (per 1,000 women) surged 7.5 times in India over the period 2001-16, many states and Union Territories (UT) witnessed alarming spikes too. In Haryana, for example, it spiked 15 times, and in Assam 8.5 times. Delhi remained the worst with the highest incidence in both 2001 and 2016, and saw a surge of 5.8 times during this period.

Vani S. Kulkarni

An important finding of our analysis is that the higher the sex ratio (ratio of women to 1,000 men) in a state, the higher is the incidence of kidnappings and abductions. Available evidence suggests that women are often abducted from areas that have a surplus and sold in areas with a deficit. The more affluent a state, the more likely is this crime. The higher the ratio of rural/urban population, the lower is the incidence of kidnappings and abductions of women. This implies greater vulnerability of women in urban areas. As emphasised by Amartya Sen (2015) and others, the roots of crimes against women lie in the weak police and judiciary system, and callousness of society. An approximation to the ineffectiveness of the police and judiciary system is the conviction rate for all IPC crimes, which is extremely low, besides being a long drawn-out corrupt process. Yet it lowers the incidence of kidnappings and abductions. Another is governance that we capture through which party ruled a state (BJP or its coalition, Congress or its coalition, and President’s rule, relative to regional parties). The difference may lie in whether they believe in gender equity, women’s autonomy and their protection. Accounting for all other factors, the incidence of kidnappings and abductions of women are lowest in Congress or its coalition ruled states and highest in President ruled states. The latter presumably reflects a breakdown of the law and order system. Finally, and somewhat surprisingly, 2013 on saw a surge, suggesting that over these years the incidence of this crime rose markedly. It is unclear why this surge persisted.

Raghav Gaiha

The IPC distinguishes between kidnapping (applies to minors) and abduction (applies to adults). Sections 359 to 369 of the Code have made kidnapping and abduction punishable with varying degree of severity according to the nature and gravity of the offence. For example, whoever maims any kidnapped minor in order that such minor may be employed or used for the purposes of begging, is punishable with imprisonment for life. Whoever kidnaps or abducts any person in order that such person may be murdered or may be so disposed of as to be put in danger of being murdered, is punishable with imprisonment for life or rigorous imprisonment up to ten years. The relentless rise in kidnappings and abduction, and subsequent abandonment of women, despite a plethora of legislation and amendments, tell a cruel tale of apathy towards them and abysmal enforcement machinery.

Published in the Sunday Guardian, 22nd April 2018

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Excerpt:

Geetika Dang is an independent researcher; Vani S. Kulkarni is lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA; and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) professorial research fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England.

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Child Soldiers Released, But Risk Remainshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/child-soldiers-released-risk-remains/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=child-soldiers-released-risk-remains http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/child-soldiers-released-risk-remains/#respond Fri, 20 Apr 2018 16:22:15 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155369 More than 200 child soldiers were released by armed groups in war-torn South Sudan, and help will be needed to ensure their safe and bright future, according to a UN agency. The release took place in Western Equatoria State and follows a similar release last month that saw 300 children freed. Both releases are part […]

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Child soldiers released by armed groups in Yambio, South Sudan. Credit: UN Photo/Isaac Billy

By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 20 2018 (IPS)

More than 200 child soldiers were released by armed groups in war-torn South Sudan, and help will be needed to ensure their safe and bright future, according to a UN agency.

The release took place in Western Equatoria State and follows a similar release last month that saw 300 children freed.

Both releases are part of a series, supported by the UN’s children’s agency (UNICEF), that will see 1,000 children freed from armed groups.

“No child should ever have to pick up a weapon and fight” said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF’s Representative in South Sudan.

“For every child released, today marks the start of a new life. UNICEF is proud to support these children as they return to their families and start to build a brighter future,” he said.

Laying Down of the Guns

During a ceremony, known as the ‘laying down of the guns,’ the released children were formally disarmed and given civilian clothes.

The 112 boys and 95 girls that were disarmed were from the South Sudan National Liberation Movement and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

“UNICEF, UNMISS and government partners have negotiated tirelessly with parties to the conflict so as to enable this release of children. But the work does not stop here.” Mdoe said.

“The reintegration process is a delicate one and we must now ensure the children have all the support they need to make a success of their lives.”

Counselling and Psychological Services

UNCIEF says that the priority will now be medical screenings, counseling and psychosocial services.

Recent research from Child Soldiers International, a rights group that aims to stop and end all child recruitment, illuminated some of the horrific realities that children face when they fall in with armed groups.

The report, based on interviews with ex-child soldiers, detailed everything form forced murders, spying on neighbors and family members, denial of education and healthcare to forced cannibalism.

For girls, the trauma can be even deeper. It was found that a majority suffered sexual abuse and violence. Rapes, forced marriages and pregnancy are all common for girls caught in armed groups.

Such experiences for girls, CSI reported, are compounded when they return home, as many are ostracized by their families and labelled ‘prostitutes’ by their communities.

“Every effort will be made to ensure the correct psychological services. There will be immense trauma to overcome.” Mdoe said.

Families will also need support in order to facilitate reintegration.

Other reintegration services

The children involved in this release will also have access to vocational training as well as age-specific education services in schools and accelerated learning centers.

Their families will also be provided with three months’ worth of food assistance to support reintegration.

The South Sudanese Government has committed to halt child recruitment by armed groups in the country.

Child recruitment ‘far from over’ in South Sudan

Yet despite their commitment and the U.N’s tally of releasing 2,000 children in the country, advocacy groups say that some 19,000 children remain caught in South Sudan’s armed forces and groups.

As peace talks resume, the UNICEF has called on all parties to the conflict to end the use of children and to release all children in their ranks.

But with conflict lingering into its sixth year in the world’s youngest nation, the risk that children will be used in fighting remains.

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New GCF Project Signals Paradigm Shift for Water-Scarce Barbadoshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/new-gcf-project-signals-paradigm-shift-water-scarce-barbados/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-gcf-project-signals-paradigm-shift-water-scarce-barbados http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/new-gcf-project-signals-paradigm-shift-water-scarce-barbados/#respond Thu, 19 Apr 2018 00:02:28 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155338 At the start of 2017, the Caribbean Drought and Precipitation Monitoring Network (CDPN) warned eastern Caribbean countries that they were facing “abnormal climate conditions” and possibly another full-blown drought. 

 For Barbados, it was dire news. Previous drought conditions impacted every sphere and sector of life of this historically water-scarce country. But a new project […]

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Dr. Donneil Cain (right), the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre's (CCCCC) project development specialist who worked with the BWA on the Barbados Water Resilience Nexus for Sustainability Project, in discussion with Dr. Adrian Cashman from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill on the educational institutions that assisted with the project's development. Credit: Zadie Neufville

Dr. Donneil Cain (right), the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre's (CCCCC) project development specialist who worked with the BWA on the Barbados Water Resilience Nexus for Sustainability Project, in discussion with Dr. Adrian Cashman from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill on the educational institutions that assisted with the project's development. Credit: Zadie Neufville

By Desmond Brown
BRIDGETOWN, Apr 19 2018 (IPS)

At the start of 2017, the Caribbean Drought and Precipitation Monitoring Network (CDPN) warned eastern Caribbean countries that they were facing “abnormal climate conditions” and possibly another full-blown drought. 



For Barbados, it was dire news. Previous drought conditions impacted every sphere and sector of life of this historically water-scarce country. But a new project promises a new water future for Barbadians by increasing the awareness of islanders to the water cycle and the likely impacts of climate change on the island’s drinking water supply.

The Water Sector Resilience Nexus for Sustainability Project for Barbados (WSRN S-Barbados) is expected to build resilience in the sector by reducing the vulnerability to severe weather impacts, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce consumption, promote appropriate uses of diverse water sources and build the legislative safeguards to support climate smart development in water sector.

The project is being funded by the Green Climate Fund and is a collaborative effort between the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) with assistance from University of West Indies, Cave Hill Campus (UWI-CHC), and University of South Florida (USF).

WSRN-Barbados was one of several Caribbean funding commitments announced at the GCF 19th Board meeting in Korea in February to the tune of 45.2 million dollars (including 27.6 million in GCF funds and counterpart funding of 17.6 million from the BWA).

“To quantify the impact, there will be over 190,000 persons directly benefitting from this project and over 280,000 persons indirectly benefitting,” said Dr Elon Cadogan, project manager at the BWA.

He explains that within the project, there are provisions for collaboration among academic partners like UWI-CHC and USF. The aim is to develop a sharing platform that will serve as an incubator for novel ideas that will boost efforts to combat the impact of climate change and propel the discussion on climate change adaptation and mitigation.

“This project proposes to gather the relevant human resources from these institutions and form a team of scientists and engineers to drive the in-depth operational research to build capacity,” Dr Cadogan explained.

The WSRN S-Barbados project will replace 16 kilometres (about 10 miles) of existing mains to reduce leakage by 0.03 MGD per km. This is expected to result in greater availability of water, which when valued at current costs, is an avoided expense to society of 1.3 million dollars.

“Increased availability of water will reduce the instances of water outages currently being experienced by many customers,” Dr. Cadogan explained.

“Previous instances of outages have had the adverse effects of persons reporting for work late or absent from work and businesses closing. Schools have had to close due to lack of water and the potential unsanitary conditions are likely to increase health treatment costs. In addition, there have been some cancellations of tourist stays and bookings,” he continued.

Tourism is one of the backbones of Barbados’ economy. In 2014, the total contribution of tourism and travel accounted for 36.1 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employed 37.5 percent of total employment (WTTC, 2015).

Another vital sector is agriculture. Agriculture, which in 2014 contributed 1.4 percent (value-added) of GDP and employed 2.7 percent of total employment (WDI, 2016), is essential for food and nutrition security and household income.

From the feasibility study, it was found that Barbados’ already dwindling water resources are not sufficient to meet demand in the medium to long terms. Implicit in that analysis is the demand for water by the tourism and agriculture sectors.

“This project contributes to the stability of Barbados’ macroeconomic environment, mitigates its susceptibility to inflationary pressures and external shocks and increases revenue to the government,” Dr Cadogan said.

“Barbados will benefit from foreign currency savings resulting from reduced dependence on fossil fuels due to the installation of photovoltaic panels. Barbados imported 322.7 million dollars of crude oil (2014 figures) and a significant portion is used in the production of electricity and transportation.”

The WSRN S-Barbados project will ensure that there is improved resilience to climate change and that communities have access to clean potable water.

Additional benefits include reduced leakage and the related number of disruptions, increased water available to the public, a stable price for water, increased water and food security via storage and rainwater harvesting, improved/increased resilience to storm events, and increased access to adaptation and mitigation financing (micro-adaptation and mitigation funding).

With respect to vulnerable populations as well as hospitals, polyclinics, schools and community centres, water tanks for water storage will be installed.

The project is expected to create 30 new jobs at the Belle Pumping Station, while the efforts to implement rainwater harvesting initiatives will create another 15 new jobs.

“In addition, the BWA will also ensure that Barbados plays its part to reduce the fossil fuel consumption by engaging in renewable energy solutions by the use of photovoltaic technologies. By using RE technologies, this would ensure that the Government of Barbados would have some stability with respect to tariffs and therefore be able to assist the most vulnerable on the island,” Dr Cadogan said.

“It is also envisioned that there will be (a) enhanced capacity, knowledge and climate resilience in institutions, households and communities, (b) improved knowledge on water conservation and recycling and (c) improved policy and legislative environment for climate proofing and building climate resilience,” he added.

Meanwhile, over at the CCCCC, the regional agency charged with coordinating the region’s response to climate change, project development specialist Dr. Donneil Cain, the point man on the WSRN-Barbados, is looking for the next opportunity for resilience-building in the region.

“This is why we do it,” he said. “The satisfaction comes from getting these projects up and running.”

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First They Came for the Rohingyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/first-came-rohingya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=first-came-rohingya http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/first-came-rohingya/#respond Thu, 12 Apr 2018 17:31:48 +0000 Azeem Ibrahim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155256 Other ethnic minorities will be Myanmar’s next victims.

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Rohingya people wait after arriving to Shahparir Dip in Teknaf, Bangladesh. Credit: IPS

By Azeem Ibrahim
Apr 12 2018 (IPS)

In recent months, international media coverage of Myanmar has focused on the plight of the Rohingya people in the west of the country. And for good reason: Since August 2017, brutal army attacks on this Muslim ethnic minority have sent more than 750,000 people — 90 percent of the Rohingya population living in Rakhine state — fleeing over the border to Bangladesh, in what can only be described as a coordinated campaign of genocide.

The numbers are staggering, but the hate isn’t new: The Rohingya, one of the world’s largest stateless groups, have long been a favorite target for persecution by the country’s Buddhist central authorities. The Rohingya have a different religion, a different skin color, and speak a different language than most of their neighbors.

The campaign against the Rohingya has radically expanded the military’s capacity for ethnic cleansing and, perhaps more importantly, seems to have emboldened it, as the bulkof the population appears to support the army’s aggression toward the group.

Yet their well-publicized tragedy has obscured a darker truth about Myanmar: The country is in the midst of one of the longest multifront civil wars in the world. Each facet of this conflict cleaves along ethnic or religious lines — often both. The assault on the Rohingya is thus far from Myanmar’s only active military campaign against a minority group. And as soon as the Rohingya are completely removed from the country, the military will be free to redeploy its resources elsewhere.

When that time comes, Myanmar’s remaining minorities are likely to experience similar treatment. Many of these groups have been in the military’s crosshairs for more than half a century. Yet the persecution to come will far exceed anything they’ve suffered before. The campaign against the Rohingya has radically expanded the military’s capacity for ethnic cleansing and, perhaps more importantly, seems to have emboldened it, as the bulk of the population appears to support the army’s aggression toward the group.

To understand why all these conflicts have endured for as long as they have and why they are accelerating now, consider Myanmar’s demographic and political dynamics. Sixty-eight percent of the country’s population is Bamar (ethnic Burmese). The Bamar are primarily concentrated around the Irrawaddy Valley, the country’s heartland. Myanmar is also 88 percent Buddhist, and the majority of that group adheres to the conservative Theravada doctrine.

Surrounding the Irrawaddy Valley are a range of border areas home to a plethora of ethnic and religious minorities — almost all of which have sought independence from the central government at one time or another since 1948, when Myanmar, then known as Burma, gained independence from the British.

These secessionist movements stem from the fact that, soon after independence, Bamar Theravada Buddhists won overwhelming control of the government and the military and soon stamped theirs as the official identity of the state. In the years that followed, as a succession of military dictatorships attempted to build a unified nation, they systematically marginalized and repressed religious and ethnic minorities using a variety of extremely heavy-handed measures.

Numerous groups were denied citizenship, saw their villages demolished, and had their marriage rights curtailed. Authorities in Rakhine state have limited the number of children Rohingya Muslims are allowed to have — typically a maximum of two, just below the population replacement rate.

In the past few years, skirmishes between the army and the secessionist movements have intensified once again as the federal army has found new resolve. In 2011, battles between Myanmar’s military and the separatist Kachin Independence Army in the country’s north displaced nearly 100,000 Kachin people. Seven years later, the displaced are still living ininternal refugee camps, with few prospects for rebuilding their lives. And in the last two years, the army has increasingly taken to shelling targets in or near the civilian camps and villages.

In nearby northern Shan state, the military and the Taang National Liberation Army recently reopened hostilities — a continuation of a conflict that dates back to 1963. Over the last nine years, fighting between the army and the nearby ethnic Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army has sent tens of thousands of refugees over the border to China. To the south, the army has targeted Christians among the Karen people, driving more than 100,000 refugeeinto Thailand over the last couple of decades.

It’s not just such displacements that darkly echo the Rohingya situation. Kachin and Karen women have reported that the military has used rape against them as a form of repression, much like the mass rapes reported by Rohingya refugees.

This story was originally published by Foreign Policy

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Excerpt:

Other ethnic minorities will be Myanmar’s next victims.

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Caribbean Eyes Untapped Potential of World’s Largest Climate Fundhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/caribbean-eyes-untapped-potential-worlds-largest-climate-fund/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-eyes-untapped-potential-worlds-largest-climate-fund http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/caribbean-eyes-untapped-potential-worlds-largest-climate-fund/#respond Thu, 12 Apr 2018 00:01:25 +0000 Zadie Neufville http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155243 The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) also known as the 5Cs, is looking for ways to boost the region’s access to the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The Centre is on the hunt for proposals from the private and public sector organisations around the region that want to work with the Centre to develop their […]

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Deputy Director at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre Dr. Ultic Trotz (left) in conversation with farmers at a unique agroforestry project in Belize, one of many implemented by the Centre to boost the region's resilience to the effects of climate change. Credit: Zadie Neufville

Deputy Director at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre Dr. Ultic Trotz (left) in conversation with farmers at a unique agroforestry project in Belize, one of many implemented by the Centre to boost the region's resilience to the effects of climate change. Credit: Zadie Neufville

By Zadie Neufville
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 12 2018 (IPS)

The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) also known as the 5Cs, is looking for ways to boost the region’s access to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The Centre is on the hunt for proposals from the private and public sector organisations around the region that want to work with the Centre to develop their ideas into successful projects that are in line with their country’s national priorities to build resilience to climate change.

The 5Cs, the agency with responsibility for coordinating climate action in the Caribbean, has doubled its efforts in wake of the 2017 Hurricane Season which saw the devastation of several islands and which exacerbates the need for climate proofing critical infrastructure a building resilience.

“We welcome proposals from all areas and industries,” said, Dr. Kenrick Leslie executive director of the Centre, noting that as an accredited entity: “We are able to assist organisations to access Green Climate Fund (GCF) grants for climate adaptation and mitigation projects of up to 50 million dollars per project”.

The GCF has approved a couple hundred million in preparation funding for several countries across the region, but the 5Cs boss is particularly proud of the achievements of his tiny project development team.

On March 13, the Bahamas became the second of the four countries for which the Centre is the Delivery Partner, to launch their GCF readiness programme. In 2017, three countries – the Bahamas, Belize, and Guyana, and more recently St. Lucia – were approved for grants of 300,000 to build in-country capacities to successfully apply for and complete GCF-funded projects that align with their national priorities, while simultaneously advancing their ambitions towards becoming Direct Access Entities (DAEs).

Each ‘readiness’ project is expected to run for between 18-months and 2 years and include developing operational procedures for Governments and the private sector to engage effectively with the GCF; providing training about its processes and procedures, how to access grants, loans, equities and guarantees from the GCF; and the development of a pipeline of potential project concepts for submission to the Fund. These activities are not one-off measures, but will form part of an ongoing process to strengthen the country’s engagement with the Fund.

Guyana’s ‘readiness’ project began in October 2016 and is expected to end in April this year; while the Bahamian Ministry of Environment and Housing and the Centre’s recent hosting of a project inception workshop, marked the start of that programme. The Belize project is expected to begin next month and St Lucia’s will kick-off in May, and run for two years. The readiness projects are being funded by the GCF at a cost of approximately 300,000 dollars each.

Aside from these readiness grants, the Centre secured 694,000 dollars in project preparation facility (PPF) grants for a public-private partnership between the Government of Belize and the Belize Electricity Company.

The project is intended to enable Belize to utilise the indigenous plant locally known as wild cane (scientific name Arundo donax) as a sustainable alternative source of energy for electricity generation. The grant will provide the resources needed to conduct the necessary studies to ascertain viability of the plant, with the intention of facilitating large-scale commercial cultivation for energy generation purposes.

In addition, the Centre partnered with the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) to develop the proposal for the Water Sector Resilience Nexus for Sustainability Project (WSRN S-Barbados) for which the GCF announced 45.2 million dollars in funding – some of which is in counterpart funding – at the 19th meeting of the Board in Korea in March this year.

BWA’s Elon Cadogan noted that the project would directly impact 190,000 people on an island which has been described as “one of the most water stressed” in the Caribbean. The frequency of lock-offs has been costly for the country.

“Schools have had to close due to lack of water and the potential unsanitary conditions are likely to increase health treatment costs. In addition, there have been some cancellations of tourist stays and bookings,” Dr Cadogan, who is the project management officer at the BWA said.

Because of its unique operating structure, the Centre is able to call on its many partners to speedily provide the required skills to complete the assessments required to bring a project to the submission stage for further development or full project funding. In the case of the Arundo donax project, the Centre provided several small grants and with the help of the Clinton Foundation, completed a range of studies to determine the suitability of the grass as an alternative fuel.

For the Barbados project, the 5Cs worked with the University of the West Indies (UWI) and South Florida University (SFU) and the BWA to complete the submissions on time.  With the Centre’s own GCF accreditation completed within six months, the 5Cs is turning its attention to assisting countries with their own.

Head of the Programme Development and Management Unit (PDMU) and Assistant Executive Director at the Centre Dr. Mark Bynoe said that even as the Centre continues its work in project development and as a readiness delivery partner, the focus has now shifted.

“We are now turning our attention to aiding with their GCF accreditation granting process and the completion of their National Adaptation Plans (NAPS). Each country has an allocation of 3-million-dollar grant under the GCF window for their NAP preparation,” he said.

The GCF is the centrepiece of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) efforts to raise finance to address climate change related impacts. It was created to support the efforts of developing countries to respond to the challenges posed, and opportunities presented, by climate change through a network of National Designated Authorities (NDAs) and Accredited Entities (AEs).

As a readiness delivery partner, the Centre will provide the necessary oversight, fiduciary and project management, as well as monitoring and evaluation of these ‘readiness’ projects, skills that are critical to ensuring that those projects are speedily developed and submitted for verification and approval.

Every success means the Centre’s is fulfilling its role to deliver transformational change to a region under threat by climate change.

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Africa Lags Behind in Bridging Inequalitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/africa-lags-behind-bridging-inequalities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-lags-behind-bridging-inequalities http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/africa-lags-behind-bridging-inequalities/#respond Tue, 10 Apr 2018 13:09:31 +0000 Richard Munang and Robert Mgendi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155213 Dr. Richard Munang is UN Environment’s Africa regional climate change programme coordinator and Robert Mgendi is UN Environment’s adaptation policy expert.

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Effect of climate change. A dead tree in Namibia’s Namib desert.
Credit: World Bank/Philip Schuler

By Richard Munang and Robert Mgendi
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 10 2018 (IPS)

“If you wish to move mountains tomorrow, you must start by lifting stones today”—so goes an African proverb, crystallising the solutions to the continent’s socio-economic inequalities.

Africa is second only to Latin America in economic inequalities. Dollar millionaires in Africa doubled to 160,000 between 2000 and 2015, while people living on less than $1.25 a day—the poverty threshold—increased from 358 million to 415 million between 1996 and 2011, according to the Brookings Institution, a US-based research group and think tank. Brookings Institution adds that by 2024 the number of African millionaires will rise 45%, to approximately 234,000.

The effects of climate change compound Africa’s worsening inequality, constricting productivity in economic sectors that are critical to inclusive growth. Climate experts therefore posit that a first step in denting inequality is for governments to channel investments into sectors that can create socio-economic opportunities, enhance ecosystems’ resilience and combat climate change by offsetting carbon emissions.

African governments agree with climate experts on the sectors to target for investments. Meeting in Libreville, Gabon, last June, under the auspices of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), the continent’s environment ministers identified two sectors requiring investments to bridge the inequality gap: energy and agriculture driven by ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA).

An EBA-driven agriculture relies on biodiversity and ecosystem services to help people adapt to climate change effects. The ministers said that both sectors can boost agricultural productivity through value addition and curtail postharvest losses, which are currently about $48 billion per annum.

In addition to the huge postharvest losses is the $35 billion African governments spend annually on importing food. Reversing postharvest losses would mean recovering lost food while saving billions that could be invested in other sectors.

Labour productivity on the continent is currently 20 times lower than in developed regions, notes the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals Report 2016. An optimised agro-value chain and its ancillary chains of clean energy and logistics could create high-value jobs and increase labour productivity.

Deploying clean energy to power EBA-driven agriculture will achieve the twin goals of combating climate change and creating economic opportunities.

An example of such an integrated approach can be found in Cameroon’s Jakiri municipality, where UN Environment, based on its EBA for Food Security Assembly (EBAFOSA) policy-action framework, is supporting efforts to use an off-grid micro-hydro power to support the processing of EBA-produced cassava and Irish potato into varied product lines. The farmers subsequently use a mobile app to link these products to markets and supply chains.

The off-grid micro-hydro power offsets carbon emissions in energy generation, incentivizes EBA use for climate adaptation and creates income opportunities along the agriculture, clean energy and ICT value chains—all enhancing socio-economic resilience.

Studies show that EBA-driven agriculture increases production by 128%. For instance, in Jakiri, 10 youth groups of 700 each were engaged in ICT, clean energy and marketing since 2016. They created many green jobs for young people, while giving over 5,000 women access to value addition services.

The youth groups reduced postharvest losses and enhanced income stability and food security.

A growing middle class

The 350 million Africans in the middle class could potentially enhance ongoing efforts to achieve a single market. Minimizing postharvest losses in a consolidated agro-market dominated by raw commodity exports could rake in an extra $20 billion annually, according to the World Bank.

Experts project the raw commodity value added, currently $150 billion, to increase to $500 billion by 2030. Such a market could significantly boost agricultural industries. At 12% of its total trade, Africa has the lowest rate of intra-regional trade for any region. (Europe’s rate is 65%, North America’s 45% and Southeast Asia is 25%).

Forty countries have so far adopted an EBAFOSA initiative known as a compliance standard in their energy and agriculture sectors. The initiative guarantees quality control along the value chain, in addition to consolidating the markets of all 40 countries, including Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.

The compliance standard builds on the acclaimed International Organization for Standardization standards and other national standards already in use in different countries to ensure that certified products can be exported to other markets. For example, under EBAFOSA’s standard, attiéké, a Côte d’Ivoire staple food made from processed cassava, is to be marketed in Kenya and the rest of East Africa.

Africa’s development experts anticipate the consolidation of a continental food market in the coming years, hoping that Africa’s 54 countries will eventually adopt the compliance standard.
Plans for a consolidated African food market may face headwinds, including restrictive intra-Africa air travel. Although in 2002, 44 countries signed the Yamoussoukro Decision to promote seamless intra-Africa air travel, many countries still restrict their air services markets to protect local airlines, especially state-owned carriers.

Climate change effect

Also, African countries have some of the strictest visa requirements in the world. Only 11 of Africa’s 54 nations offer 100% access to other Africans. This contrasts with the European Union, where member states’ citizens enjoy 100% freedom of movement within the EU countries.

Strict visa requirements constrict deployment of continental labour and complicate efforts to create income opportunities and combat poverty. The poor are disproportionately vulnerable to climate change, as they lack the resources to adapt to, or quickly recover from, climate shocks, reports the World Bank.

The African Union’s plan for a visa-free continent for Africans by 2020, if fully implemented, will foster human capital flow for income generation and, by extension, increased climate resilience.

To address development needs, Africa cannot rely only on traditional public assistance, including the rapidly dwindling official development assistance (ODA), according to the African Development Bank. Currently ODA accounts for only 3% of the continent’s GDP, which accentuates the need for innovative approaches to financing development projects.

In its 2015 African Adaptation Gap report, UN Environment proposed domestic and innovative financing approaches, suggesting among other things that African central banks leverage the continent’s cash reserve to strengthen their lending capacity and adopt a unitary credit policy that guarantees commercial loans are issued to enterprises whose operations mitigate carbon emissions and enhance ecosystem resilience. EBA-driven agriculture like Jakiri’s will boost food security and create income opportunities.

What should be Africa’s next steps in tackling inequalities?

Another African proverb sets the tone: “To get lost is to learn the way.” While Africa lags behind other regions in bridging inequalities, it has also demonstrated that it can learn.

Many landmark policy frameworks, such as the AU Agenda 2063, the Yamoussoukro Decision on open skies, the Sirte Declaration on the African Central Bank and recently the 16th AMCEN Decision on Innovative Environmental Solutions, coupled with practical policy implementation frameworks such as EBAFOSA, prove that the continent is making the right choices.

For these policies to work, however, Africa must start lifting the stones of implementation. In other words, Africa must begin to implement strategies that create incomes out of its catalytic sectors while combating poverty and its accompanying climate vulnerabilities.

These are the authors’ views, not necessarily those of the institution they represent.

The link to the original article follows:
Africa Renewal
https://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/december-2017-march-2018/tackling-inequality-%E2%80%98lifting-stones%E2%80%99

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Excerpt:

Dr. Richard Munang is UN Environment’s Africa regional climate change programme coordinator and Robert Mgendi is UN Environment’s adaptation policy expert.

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“International Solidarity” at Yemen Donor Conferencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/international-solidarity-yemen-donor-conference/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=international-solidarity-yemen-donor-conference http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/international-solidarity-yemen-donor-conference/#respond Thu, 05 Apr 2018 15:55:56 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155181 The international community has pledged over two billion dollars towards urgently needed humanitarian assistance to Yemen during a UN event. Convened by the UN along with the Governments of Sweden and Switzerland, a High-Level Pledging Event brought together the international community to support suffering Yemenis facing a seemingly “forgotten war.” “This pledging conference represents a […]

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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (second from left) signs a Voluntary Financial Contribution Memorandum between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Nations to the 2018 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 5 2018 (IPS)

The international community has pledged over two billion dollars towards urgently needed humanitarian assistance to Yemen during a UN event.

Convened by the UN along with the Governments of Sweden and Switzerland, a High-Level Pledging Event brought together the international community to support suffering Yemenis facing a seemingly “forgotten war.”

“This pledging conference represents a remarkable success of international solidarity to the people of Yemen,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“Yemen’s situation today is catastrophic. But with international support, we can and must prevent this country from becoming a long-term tragedy,” he added.

Forty countries and organizations pledged 2.01 billion dollars towards the 2018 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan (YHRP) which requested 2.96 billion for lifesaving assistance to 13 million people across the Middle Eastern nation.

Last year’s donor conference raised 1.1 billion dollars in aid.

With the destructive conflict soon entering its fourth year, Yemen has become one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 22 million people, or 75 percent of the population, are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Though both sides are complicit, a Saudi Arabian-imposed blockade has particularly led to severe shortages in food, medicine, and other basic needs.

Approximately 18 million are food-insecure, including over 8 million who are on the brink of famine, and the lack of access to water has led to the world’s largest cholera epidemic.

With the rainy season soon to commence, many are concerned that the number of cholera cases will multiply yet again.

While humanitarian resources are extremely important in saving lives, they are not enough, said Guterres.

“We need unrestricted access everywhere inside Yemen and we need all the parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law, and to protect civilians,” he continued.

Both Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden Isabella Lovin and Switzerland’s Vice President Ueli Maurer echoed similar sentiments.

“Humanitarian aid alone cannot be the response to the growing needs of the Yemeni people endangered by the armed conflict,” Maurer said.

In addition to unfettered aid access, the hosts highlighted the need for a political process and a political solution.

Though efforts continue to try to bring warring parties to the negotiating table, attacks persist, terrorizing the people of Yemen.

Most recently, an air strike by the Saudi-led coalition left 12 people dead in the coastal city of Hodeidah. Houthi forces later retaliated by targeting the southern region of Saudi Arabia with a missile.

Groups such as Human Rights Watch and a number of UN experts have pointed to the Saudi-led coalition’s indiscriminate air strikes as disproportionately affecting civilians over the last year.

Meanwhile, among the generous donors at the conference are Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – who have fueled Yemen’s conflict. The two countries donated 930 million dolars, one of the biggest contributions the UN has ever received, prompting the UN Security Council to consider a British proposal praising the Middle Eastern nations.

The move, however, has raised ethical questions among many.

“The Security Council should be naming and shaming everyone,” said Human Rights Watch’s UN Director Louis Charbonneau.

“A statement that condemns one side, the Houthis, but doesn’t even mention the abuses of the other, the Saudi-led coalition, simply nurtures the atmosphere of impunity,” he added.

Guterres called for the full respect for international humanitarian law and an inclusive intra-Yemeni dialogue.

“Millions of people depend for their survival on the decisions we take today,” he concluded.

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I Am a Migrant: Integrating Through Syrian ‘Hummus’http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/migrant-integrating-syrian-hummus/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrant-integrating-syrian-hummus http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/migrant-integrating-syrian-hummus/#respond Wed, 04 Apr 2018 07:45:46 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155140 Khaled left Syria in 2015, when his country was already in its fourth year of war. He is 27 years old and can clearly remember what his life was like then in Damascus: a happy life, with a happy family, in a happy country. Despite coming from a land now devastated by war, Khaled does […]

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Who’s Getting Financial Inclusion Funding in Sub-Saharan Africa?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/whos-getting-financial-inclusion-funding-sub-saharan-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=whos-getting-financial-inclusion-funding-sub-saharan-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/whos-getting-financial-inclusion-funding-sub-saharan-africa/#respond Tue, 03 Apr 2018 15:41:31 +0000 Olga Tomilova and Edlira Dashi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155133 Olga Tomilova and Edlira Dashi, the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), a global partnership of over 30 leading organizations that seek to advance financial inclusion

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Olga Tomilova and Edlira Dashi, the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), a global partnership of over 30 leading organizations that seek to advance financial inclusion

By Olga Tomilova and Edlira Dashi
WASHINGTON DC, Apr 3 2018 (IPS)

For the first time in over a decade, Sub-Saharan Africa is a top priority for international funders investing in financial inclusion, with 30 percent of all active projects focused on the region.

Ten years ago, the 23 largest international funders who reported to the CGAP Cross-Border Funder Survey committed $1.73 billion to financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa. By 2016, the year covered by our latest survey, that figure had climbed 270 percent to $4.7 billion.

And funders say their strategic focus on the region is likely to stick over the next three years. So which countries are attracting the most funding, how is funding being used, and is the financial inclusion community’s investment making a difference?

There is clearly a geographic disparity in terms of funding allocation, and this appears to be driven by funders’ desire to invest in countries where they can have an impact on the most people. Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria top the list as the most funded countries.

Home to about 470 million people, including over half of Sub-Saharan Africa’s poor population, these countries attracted almost a quarter of the region’s funding in 2016. Botswana, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Mauritius and Central African Republic, on the other hand, were some of the least populous and least funded countries.

They have a combined population of about 12 million people. The $25 million in commitments these countries received added up to less than 0.5 percent of the region’s funding.

Funding commitments and countries’ population size (2016)

Sources: CGAP Cross-Border Funder Survey 2017; World Bank 2016

Our data show that the bulk of international funding in the region – close to 70 percent – is intended to finance the growth of financial services providers (FSPs) who strive to reach low-income customers.

However, funders allocated an additional 20 percent of the total committed amount exclusively to building the capacity of FSPs. Funding for capacity building is much higher than in other regions, where this figure is about 10 percent.

Do these purposes align with what is needed to advance financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa? CGAP and MIX have been tracking funder commitments for over a decade, and we observe certain correlations between funding volume and financial inclusion progress – the latter typically measured using growth in account penetration, as a proxy.

Comparing the funder survey with the Global Findex data from 2011 to 2014, we can see that with just a few exceptions, countries that have traditionally received the most funding have also showed the greatest increases in account penetration.

Kenya is the most prominent example. As the most-funded country, it was able to onboard an additional 30 percent of its adult population into the formal financial sector between 2011 and 2014.

Progress in account penetration (2011-2014) and outstanding financial inclusion funding commitments (2016)

Source: CGAP Cross-Border Funder Survey 2017 and World Bank Global Findex 2011-2014 (excluding countries where no data are available)

Of course, it is challenging to talk about direct causality between funding and progress because there are many factors that influence financial inclusion. Additionally, using account ownership as a proxy for financial inclusion doesn’t address use and quality of services issues, which may be even more important challenges right now than increasing access. Still, the correlation between financial inclusion investments and account penetration brings about several important questions.

First, have the funders’ efforts indeed advanced financial inclusion? In the case of Kenya, recent evidence suggests that the country’s dramatic progress coincided with the existence of FSD Kenya, a multi-donor initiative attempting to take a systems-wide approach to developing financial markets for poor people. For the other countries, it is harder to say. More evidence on the drivers of change and how funders contributed would be beneficial.

Second, in countries that have exhibited positive progress, are funders expanding their focus beyond access and use to promote the quality of financial services? From the Funder Survey, we can see indirect evidence of that. Seventy percent of projects funding FSPs have a capacity building component, and 20 percent of all projects attempt to use a holistic approach by going beyond just provider funding to pursue goals like improving financial infrastructure, supporting a protective and enabling policy environment and enhancing customers’ financial capability.

And what about those underserved countries? What will it take for funders to focus on them? The funder survey data are just a starting point to uncover these important issues. Funders should continue to reflect on their strategic choices, the best use of their instruments and their impact.

For more information on financial inclusion funding in Sub-Saharan Africa and other regions, explore the regional dashboards for the 2017 CGAP Funders Survey.

http://www.cgap.org/blog/who%E2%80%99s-getting-financial-inclusion-funding-sub-saharan-africa?utm_source=CGAP+Reader+%2804.03.18%29&utm_campaign=CGAP+Reader+%2804.03.18%29&utm_medium=email

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Olga Tomilova and Edlira Dashi, the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), a global partnership of over 30 leading organizations that seek to advance financial inclusion

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Senegalese Returnees from Libya, Niger Face Uncertain Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/senegalese-returnees-libya-niger-face-uncertain-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=senegalese-returnees-libya-niger-face-uncertain-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/senegalese-returnees-libya-niger-face-uncertain-future/#respond Thu, 29 Mar 2018 20:58:57 +0000 Issa Sikiti da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155098 Bouba Diop looks in delight at his uncle’s newly refurbished food canteen in the poor township of Keur Massar on the outskirts of the Senegalese capital Dakar. Since returning to Senegal from Algeria and Libya, where he was working in the construction sector, he has been wondering how to rebuild his life after spending two […]

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New arrivals receive assistance in Senegal. Credit : IOM/Lucas Chandellier

New arrivals receive assistance in Senegal. Credit : IOM/Lucas Chandellier

By Issa Sikiti da Silva
DAKAR, Mar 29 2018 (IPS)

Bouba Diop looks in delight at his uncle’s newly refurbished food canteen in the poor township of Keur Massar on the outskirts of the Senegalese capital Dakar.

Since returning to Senegal from Algeria and Libya, where he was working in the construction sector, he has been wondering how to rebuild his life after spending two years in North Africa trying to get to Europe by sea. But now, his uncle has given him back his manager job.“We have to tackle the roots and ask ourselves the question: why are we ready to lose our lives to find work elsewhere?" --Florence Kim of IOM

Home sweet home

“I’m happy to be back after living in the North African hell, but I’m angry with myself for not making my dream come true. Well, it’s destiny. Now I must look forward to the future,” Diop, a 22-year-old man who attended a Darra (religious school), added.

While Diop reflected on what he called a shattered dream, at the same time in Kolda in southern Senegal, another returnee from Niger, Ibou, pondered his future, which he described as uncertain and complicated.

Unlike Diop, who has found solace in his uncle’s shop, Ibou is wondering what to do next after selling all his livestock to hit the road, crossing the Sahara desert on his way to the European El Dorado. But he never made it even to war-torn Libya.

“I was robbed in Niger of all my money (2,800 dollars) and belongings by people posing as smugglers who promised to take me to Tripoli, and finally to Italy,” the 25-year-old man said, adding that he was stranded for several months in Agadez (northern Niger, ‘door of the Sahara’), where he almost died of hunger and malaria.

“Somehow, I’m ashamed to return because I have become another burden on my family. I was born in a poor family. They all pinned their hopes on me, thinking that I would reach Europe and get a well-paying job to start sending them money,” he said emotionally.

Sad tales

Diop and Ibou’s stories are just the tip of the iceberg in Africa, where hopeless young sub-Saharan Africans, including unaccompanied children, leave their poverty-stricken or war-torn homelands to travel to North Africa in the hope of getting a job to fund their onward and dangerous journey to Europe.

While 150,982 ‘lucky’ migrants – from Africa and elsewhere – managed to reach Europe in 2017 by the Mediterranean Sea, more than 15,000 have died trying since 2014 (3,139 last year), according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

However, for those who, for whatever reasons, were stranded either in Niger or Libyan jails (20,000 last year) or sold as ‘modern slaves’ in Libyan markets, the only way to solve the crisis seems to be assistance for voluntary return to their home countries.

New arrivals receive assistance in Senegal. Credit : IOM/Lucas Chandellier

New arrivals receive assistance in Senegal. Credit : IOM/Lucas Chandellier

Assistance for voluntary return

IOM said that in 2017 it assisted 3,023 Senegalese migrants stranded in Libya and Niger to return thanks to the European Union Trust Funds.

Florence Kim, IOM regional media and communications officer for West and Central Africa, told IPS that in Senegal, assistance to returnees has been a major focus since the establishment of the office in 1998.

“In the absence of legal migration channels, assistance for voluntary return is one of the only options that can help migrants in distress whose fundamental rights are at risk of being violated,” she explained. “More than 23,000 people have since received return assistance and were assisted on their arrival.

“This assistance is part of the IOM assistance provided globally to return voluntarily. This assistance may take the form of direct assistance on arrival, educational or medical care, or individual, collective or community reintegration.”

Welcome back to society

“Returnees should no longer be perceived as a burden on communities but rather as an advantage,” Kim said, adding that one of the innovative approaches of the new EU Trust Funds project consisted of including communities of origin in the reintegration project.

“Whereas before we were going to work with the returnees, this time we are working to integrate those who have not left so that they can benefit from the activities that were initially offered to the returnees.”

IOM said in a report that most of the Senegalese returnees assisted in 2017 came from the region of Kolda (30%), Tambacounda (16%), Dakar (15%), Sédhiou (12%) and Kaolack (6%), while others (22%) came from other regions.

The report also said that only 2.5% of these assisted returnees in 2017 were women.

Voluntary return: lasting solution?

Kim, who noted that the EU gave an additional 95 million dollars to the IOM this month to complete the operations, said  voluntary return alone was not a lasting solution.

“If it is not accompanied by reintegration into the country of origin, and if nothing is offered on return, people will risk their lives again… We are on the right track. Our priority is to shelter thousands of stranded migrants and ensure that there is enough to ensure the sustainability of the solutions they are offered.”

It is widely believed that the UN migration agency has been offering a ‘stipend’ to help returnees resettle in their communities.

Kim clarified: “We only give pocket money that differs according to the countries of the region. However, this money – the only one given – is only used to cover immediate needs and transportation once they have arrived in their country from the airport to their homes.

“It is certainly not a salary or a larger sum of money. We do not want them to go home with money. If they come back and ask to be assisted, it is for other reasons than money. What helps them to reintegrate is the implementation of projects, and income-generating activities.

“All the work starts when they arrive in the country so no, we do not say they’re gone, they’re gone. Yes we have been monitoring and monitoring to make sure that what we put in place lasts.”

Leaving for economic reasons

Unlike sub-Saharan Africans from countries such as the DRC, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia, to name only a few, who leave their homelands to escape conflict, war and massive human rights violations, Senegal’s Diop and Ibou could be classified as economic migrants.

William Assanvo, a West Africa-based expert for the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), told IPS, “If economic considerations are at the origin of the phenomenon, the answers must be economic. These involve the implementation of regional development plans, which involve investments in the education, health, agriculture or livestock sectors. The development and support of private entrepreneurship is also to be strengthened.”

Assanvo said some programs have already been set up by international partners, notably the European Union or France, to “fix” young Senegalese by providing support for the implementation of projects.

However, he said the question remains whether these initiatives were successful in achieving the goal and whether the effects were sustainable.

“They (often) fail to take into account the thousands of young people in search of a better socio-economic being. So these programs, while useful, are limited in the impact they may have.”

Valuable lessons

As with all major and daring humanitarian operations, the IOM seems to have learned some valuable lessons.

Kim said: “We have to tackle the roots and ask ourselves the question: why are we ready to lose our lives to find work elsewhere? Also, if there were legal migration routes it would be less dangerous for people.

“They would not need to leave on fortune ships, be tortured, and so on. There are legal mechanisms, but the general atmosphere at the moment in so-called host countries is not conducive to openness. The rise of populism and the fear of the other are present and our work also involves raising awareness and changing perception.

“It must be remembered how much migration is needed for the economy of host countries in an aging Europe,” she concluded.

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Bridging the Humanitarian Needs with Long-term Resilience in Dominicahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/bridging-humanitarian-needs-long-term-resilience-dominica/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bridging-humanitarian-needs-long-term-resilience-dominica http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/bridging-humanitarian-needs-long-term-resilience-dominica/#respond Thu, 29 Mar 2018 14:41:44 +0000 Luca Renda http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155092 Luca Renda is Senior Strategic Advisor for the UN Development Programme’s Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean

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Destruction left behind in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on the island of Dominica. Credit: UN Photo

By Luca Renda
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 29 2018 (IPS)

Six months ago, on 18 September 2017, Category 5 Hurricane Maria struck Dominica wreaking unimaginable disaster. Thirty-one people died, thirty-three more remain missing. Roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and over 40 percent of homes were destroyed or severely damaged.

Agriculture, a major source of income for poor people on the island, suffered tremendously: almost all crops were lost. The lush green forests, pride of this country and a UNESCO World Heritage site, were reduced to a barren, eerie landscape.

Five days later, I was at the General Assembly watching Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit deliver his address. “I come to you straight from the front line of the war on climate change,” he said, still visibly shaken.

“To deny climate change is to deny a truth we have just lived,” he added, appealing for international support. I was moved by his words. I remember thinking: this speech should be shown in every classroom, boardroom, parliament around the world!

Much to my surprise, the following day my boss asked me if I’d be willing to go to Dominica to head the UN Crisis Management Unit (CMU), tasked with coordinating the relief and recovery efforts on the ground. I had 24 hours to respond. PM Skerrrit’s words reverberated in my mind. “These are the moments for which the United Nations exists!” he had said. And so I went.

The CMU configuration (UNDP-OCHA) reflected an innovative approach to crisis response, inspired by the New Way of Working agenda, which calls for humanitarian and development actors to collaborate from the outset of a relief operation to ensure that long-term recovery needs are addressed as early as possible.

I was privileged to find exceptional colleagues on the ground from UN sister agencies (OCHA, WFP, IOM, UNICEF, FAO, PAHO), NGOs, and regional entities. Sharing the same working space in a semi-destroyed hotel in Roseau, we forged a collaboration built on our respective strengths.

We met government counterparts who admirably carried out their duties despite the situation. We drew inspiration from the determination of the Dominicans to rebuild their lives.

Shortly after my arrival, UN Secretary-General António Guterres came to visit, demonstrating the solidarity and commitment of the UN at the highest level. In the following days and weeks, thanks to generous donor support, the UN and partners distributed food, water, tarpaulins and other relief items.

We set up logistics and communications facilities, assisted the authorities in reopening schools and hospitals, supported emergency employment for debris removal, and provided counseling and cash support to vulnerable people for basic needs and home repair.

The New Way of Working became a strong partnership based on a clear division of labour within the CMU. While my OCHA colleagues focused on emergency coordination, doing a phenomenal job, my UNDP team and I worked with the government to lay the groundwork for long-term recovery.

Barely a month after the hurricane, despite logistical challenges, a comprehensive Post-Disaster Needs Assessment mission was undertaken, in partnership with the World Bank and the European Union. It provided the basis for the recovery strategy presented at the UNDP-CARICOM High-Level Conference for the Caribbean in November, which yielded over US$2.5 billion in international pledges.

Innovation was a key component of UNDP’s response. Jointly with the Ministry of Housing, we partnered with Microsoft – who donated tablets and designed a specific application – to undertake a comprehensive damage assessment that covered over 29,000 structures islandwide, generating key data for the reconstruction plan.

We also pioneered a collaboration with international NGO Engineers Without Borders to help the Ministry of Planning rewrite the Housing Guidelines to enhance structural resilience and to carry out training/certification for over 400 contractors and engineers.

Thanks to grants from China and India, we initiated programmes for resilient roofing, while the EU and the UK supported our debris removal initiative, which provided temporary employment to hundreds of hurricane-affected Dominicans. We provided advice to the government on recovery planning and the creation of a National Reconstruction Agency for Climate Resilience, based on international best practices.

These are not, strictly speaking, humanitarian activities, but in the aftermath of a crisis they are instrumental for long-term recovery. The sense of urgency of the national authorities was palpable, and we were able to respond quickly because we were there from the beginning. This is what the New Way of Working is all about.

By the end of 2017, OCHA phased out and the CMU was dissolved, its mission accomplished. We had provided humanitarian support and helped lay the foundations for long-term recovery. I departed Dominica at the end of January to return to New York, but many colleagues stayed to continue the work.

Despite considerable progress, much remains to be done to restore normalcy in the lives of Dominicans. With another hurricane season coming fast on the horizon, there is no time to spare.

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Excerpt:

Luca Renda is Senior Strategic Advisor for the UN Development Programme’s Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean

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Conflicts Force Up Global Hunger Levelshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/conflicts-force-global-hunger-levels/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=conflicts-force-global-hunger-levels http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/conflicts-force-global-hunger-levels/#respond Wed, 28 Mar 2018 14:23:50 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155063 Largely driven by conflict, the number of hungry people has dramatically increased around the world, reversing decades of progress, according to a new report. Launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), the Global Report on Food Crises 2018 has exposed the worrisome scale and […]

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Almost 400,000 famine victims who fled to the Mogadishu for aid at the height of famine, are still living in one of the many refugee camps outside Mogadishu. Credit: Abdurrahman Warsameh/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 28 2018 (IPS)

Largely driven by conflict, the number of hungry people has dramatically increased around the world, reversing decades of progress, according to a new report.

Launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), the Global Report on Food Crises 2018 has exposed the worrisome scale and magnitude of today’s crises.

“It’s been a very difficult year,” FAO’s Senior Strategic Adviser and lead author of the report Luca Russo told IPS in response to the staggering figures.

The UN agencies found that almost 130 million people across 51 countries face severe food insecurity, an 11 percent rise from the previous year.

Russo pointed out that insecurity has increasingly become the main driver of food insecurity, accounting for 60 percent, or 74 million, of the global total. If this population made up a country, it would be larger than the United Kingdom and France combined.

The report attributes the increase to new and intensified conflict in countries such as Myanmar, Nigeria and Yemen.

Russo expressed particular concern for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan, both of which have become Africa’s largest humanitarian crises.

In the DRC, an escalation of violence and political clashes has left over 13 million Congolese in need of humanitarian aid, including 7.7 million who are severely food-insecure.

In 2017, the UN declared the DRC a level three humanitarian emergency—the highest possible classification on par with Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

The UN Security Council echoed Russo’s concern and highlighted the need to “address the presence of armed groups in the country” and called for “transparent, credible, and inclusive elections.”

While an international conference has been organized for April to mobilize funding for the DRC’s 1.7-billion-dollar humanitarian appeal, South Sudan also continues to struggle with low humanitarian funding and a population at the brink of famine.

Both FAO and WFP warned that without sustained humanitarian assistance and access, more than 7 million—almost two-thirds of the population—could become severely food-insecure in the coming months while over 150,000 may be pushed over the line to famine.

“Unless these humanitarian gaps are addressed, we may have to declare again a famine in South Sudan,” Russo said.

So far, just 8 percent of the country’s 1.7 billion appeal has been funded.

However, while humanitarian aid can help save lives, Russo noted that such assistance won’t provide long-term solutions.

“Because of the fact that the conflicts continue, you have more and more people on the brink of famine…with humanitarian assistance, we are able to keep them alive but we are not able to provide sustainable solutions,” he said.

While the outlook for 2018 remains bleak, not all hope is lost.

Russo highlighted the importance of working along the humanitarian-development nexus in order to move beyond focusing on short-term assistance to addressing long-term issues which can help secure peace.

Most recently, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) brought together South Sudanese pastoralists and farmers who have long clashed with each other over land and resources.

To this end, the meeting allowed the two parties to discuss methods of conflict resolution and establish a mutually beneficial agreement in order to prevent future conflict.

Though it may be a small step in a small part of the country, such efforts can help to reduce tensions and create a more substantial chance for peace.

Russo urged for the international community to act on global crises, pointing to the case of Somalia’s 2011 famine which only saw assistance and action after over 250,000 died and the UN’s declaration of a famine in July 2011.

“Even if some of these situations are not in the media, they are there and they exist and they are likely to expand. We should not wait for a famine to be declared to act,” he said.

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Chemical Weapons in Syria? Time for Outragehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/chemical-weapons-syria-time-outrage/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chemical-weapons-syria-time-outrage http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/chemical-weapons-syria-time-outrage/#respond Wed, 28 Mar 2018 13:43:33 +0000 Tariq Raheem http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155060 US Defense Secretary James Mattis dropped a political bombshell last week when he said the U.S. has no evidence to confirm reports that the Syrian government had used the deadly chemical sarin on its citizens. Arguing half-heartedly that he was not rebutting the reports, Mattis told a Pentagon news briefing Friday: “We have other reports […]

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Since the conflict erupted in March 2011, Syria has witnessed unprecedented devastation and displacement. More than 5 million Syrians have fled the country and 6 million are internally displaced. With more than 13 million people in need of assistance, the conflict has caused untold suffering for Syrian men, women and children. Credit UN photo

By Tariq Raheem
NEW YORK, Mar 28 2018 (IPS)

US Defense Secretary James Mattis dropped a political bombshell last week when he said the U.S. has no evidence to confirm reports that the Syrian government had used the deadly chemical sarin on its citizens.

Arguing half-heartedly that he was not rebutting the reports, Mattis told a Pentagon news briefing Friday: “We have other reports from the battlefield from people who claim it’s been used. We do not have evidence of it.”

The statement by Mattis made a virtual mockery of a rash of presidential statements and proposed resolutions by the UN Security Council which has routinely accused the Syrian government of continuing to use chemical weapons on civilians, which President Bashar al-Assad had denied.

Nor has the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) made any irrefutable claims on chemical weapons use.

Still, in April, the United States fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syria in response to what it said it believed was a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 100 people.

Last month, the Reuters news agency reported that French President Emmanuel Macron warned that “France will strike” if chemical weapons are used against civilians in the Syrian conflict in violation of international treaties, but that he had not yet seen proof this was the case.

Meanwhile, at the 37th session of the Human Rights Council, the UK mission in Geneva accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta.

And Western diplomats proclaim that Syrian authorities should not be referred to as a “government” but as a “regime“ even though there is no official listing of such member-states—either as “governments” or “regimes,” any more than procedures for officially demoting a member-state from the 1st to the 2nd grade status.

In the current international scenario, the far right seems to have all the access it needs – specifically in the Western media—to advocate its cause. But regrettably, there are those whose voices are silenced, and who say that the gravity of crimes is not necessarily related to the quantity of decibels they generate on the battlefield or in the mainstream TV channels.

Take for instance two hospitals in Syria: one is bombed and destroyed, human shields or no human shields. A war crime indeed.

Another stands proudly on the horizon but its activity is paralysed by unilateral coercive sanctions: blockage of supply of spare parts make it impossible to get the theatre to operate gravely wounded people; prostheses are no longer available for amputees; electrical supply breaks down because of ban on imports of generators; water is polluted for lack of imported filters and people die in the hospital from water-borne ailments; and no medicines are available for the dying or gravely ill.

Even in the streets, people die or fall gravely ill because of the rocketing prices of basic food stuffs due to the sanctions. But everyone is told this situation is created by bad governance. Or that the Government is preventing access. This may be the case sometimes, especially if fighters can’t be separated from civilians.

The civilized world anticipated it all and the sanctions are benevolent for the civilian population because all accept the “humanitarian exception”. No one of course mentions that the SWIFT international fund transfer system has been blocked preventing Syria from importing these humanitarian supplies or indeed anything else, imposing on it a comprehensive stranglehold, as was the case previously in Iraq.

And chemical weapons of Syria today are reminiscent of the non-existent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction of yesteryear. Are all these wanton deaths not also war crimes?. We are told to believe they are not.

All wars are won in the media and through propaganda, as well as on the battlefield. This is the case also for Syria. The fact is Syria is finally winning the war on the battlefield to regain control over its own territory. As they disentangle the enemy fighters from the civilians, tens of thousands of the latter are taking refuge with the protection of the government.

So the scenario is collapsing. The only possibility of counter-attack that is left is through mobilizing, in the real sense of the word, the media. The fig leaf is human rights which are being violated by all combatants (have you ever heard of squeaky-clean snow white war in human history?) but also by those that are supplying heavy weapons to groups that they heretofore listed as terrorists.

The indictment justifying this? Human rights violation by the other side while the accuser merrily continues imposing his stranglehold on the civilian population for which he “weeps” The crime committed by the winners on the battlefield is to have called into question the geo-strategic objectives of others which the latter believed was within their reach a few years ago.

But the architects of this strategy may take advantage of this change of reality as compared to their expectations to pause and think. Those fighting in the Ghouta against the government are not democratic forces but the reincarnation of those terror groups of El Qaeda and ISIS and no one else. Crocodile tears about these “freedom fighters” seem indeed out of place when they are listed as terrorist organizations in the very countries that now cry for them.

Remember September 11? Would the strategists really want to replicate in Syria the Libyan experience or do they not fear that a new Karzai in Damascus would be disastrous in terms of reinvigorating those very terrorist groups the world has just succeeded in eradicating in Iraq and Syria?

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Former UN Chief Takes the Helm of Global Green Growth Institutehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/former-un-chief-takes-helm-global-green-growth-institute/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=former-un-chief-takes-helm-global-green-growth-institute http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/former-un-chief-takes-helm-global-green-growth-institute/#respond Tue, 27 Mar 2018 16:24:03 +0000 Ahn Mi Young http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155049 In the face of climate change and growing energy demand in developing countries, Ban Ki-moon, the new president and chair of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), unveiled his vision for a more sustainable path by helping countries in their transition to greener economies and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “We at GGGI need […]

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Ban Ki-moon, the new president and chair of GGGI, with Dr. Frank Rijsberman, the group’s director general. Credit: GGGI

Ban Ki-moon, the new president and chair of GGGI, with Dr. Frank Rijsberman, the group’s director general. Credit: GGGI

By Ahn Mi Young
SEOUL, Mar 27 2018 (IPS)

In the face of climate change and growing energy demand in developing countries, Ban Ki-moon, the new president and chair of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), unveiled his vision for a more sustainable path by helping countries in their transition to greener economies and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“We at GGGI need a much greater capacity to help member states in their transition to sustainable development and also to adapt to climate change,” said Ban Ki-moon, who previously served as the eighth secretary-general of the United Nations, in his first press conference as the President of the Assembly and Chair of the Council of GGGI on March 27 in Seoul."Countries must shift their economies towards environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive pathways." --Ban Ki-moon

Headquartered in the heart of Seoul, GGGI has 28 member states and employs staff from more than 40 countries, with some 26 projects currently in operation. These include green cities, water and sanitation, sustainable landscapes, sustainable energy and cross-cutting strategies for financing mechanisms.

As part of GGGIs growth path, Ban hopes to add new members like Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland and France.

“We need more members, particularly from those countries that would be in a position to render the financial and technological support for the developing countries which otherwise would not have much capacity to mitigate or adapt to the changing climate situation. That’s why 28 countries are not a reasonable size as an international organization. We need more member states, particularly from those OECD member states,” said Ban.

“(For that), I’ll continue to use my capacity as chair of GGGI and also I will try to use my network as a former secretary-general of the United Nations,” he added. “To implement the Paris Agreement, countries must shift their economies towards environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive pathways – which we call green growth.”

Environmentalists have warned that most developed countries are falling short of their pledges to curb the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. The future of global cooperation on the issue was clouded after US President Donald Trump’s decision last June to withdraw the US from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

“This (withdrawal by Trump) is politically suicidal and economically irresponsible as the leader of the most powerful and the most responsible country. Moreover, this is scientifically wrong,” Ban, who has been a vocal critic of the move, said in Seoul this week.

“I sincerely hope President Trump will change and understand the gravity, seriousness and urgency of this situation, in which we must take action now. Otherwise, we’ll have to regret [the consequences] for succeeding generations, humanity and this earth.”

The new GGGI chair also discussed his transition from the secretary general of a global body with 193 member countries to his leadership of GGGI, which is mandated to recommend development solutions for developing countries.

“First, GGGI is committed to achieving the same vision that I’ve pursued for the past decade. Second, GGGI is the right place to add my own experiences and passions with which I had led the United Nations.

“To achieve GGGI’s goals, I will make the most of my own experiences. If the United Nations is dealing with internationally divisive political issues, GGGI is addressing the issue on which the whole humanity is united with their full awareness of its compelling mission.”

The appointment of Ban Ki-moon as the new Assembly President and GGGI Council Chair became effective on February 20 following the unanimous agreement by members of the GGGI Assembly, the Institute’s governing body.

 

 

Dr. Frank Rijsberman, Director-General of GGGI, spoke about GGGI’s key achievements in 2017.

He said that “2017 was an excellent year for GGGI, in which we helped mobilize 524 million dollars in green and climate finance to support developing countries achieve their green growth plans.”

He said this money would be used by member countries to, for example, increase climate resilience in agriculture in Ethiopia, install solar energy plus battery storage in eight islands in Indonesia, build a green housing project in Rwanda, and prevent deforestation in Colombia.

GGGI also continued to support governments to develop green growth plans and policies, for example, a Green Growth Plan for Sonora State in Mexico, new energy efficiency laws in Mongolia, and an NDC Implementation Plan for Fiji.

Rijsberman added that GGGI has forged a strong strategic partnership with the Green Climate Fund. As of March 2018, 15 of GGGI’s member and partner countries have elected GGGI to be their delivery partner for their GCF Readiness projects. The GCF Board recently approved two direct access grants to GGGI Member countries supported by GGGI, namely a 50-million-dollar grant for Ethiopia and a 35-million-dollar project for Rwanda.

“With Mr. Ban’s leadership, I am confident that GGGI will be able to quickly expand its partnerships and memberships and mobilize greater results – championing green growth and climate resilience,” added Dr. Rijsberman.

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Accelerating Universal Health Coverage in Kenya-How do we get there?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/accelerating-universal-health-coverage-kenya-get/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=accelerating-universal-health-coverage-kenya-get http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/accelerating-universal-health-coverage-kenya-get/#respond Tue, 27 Mar 2018 14:04:10 +0000 Werner Schultink and Rudi Eggers 2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155045 Dr. Schultink is the UNICEF Representative to Kenya, Dr. Eggers is the WHO Representative to Kenya, Mr. Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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President Uhuru Kenyatta greets a one-day-old baby when he commissioned medical equipment at the Mwingi Level 4 Hospital in Kitui. Kenya. Credit: State House

By Werner Schultink and Rudi Eggers & Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 27 2018 (IPS)

The Government of Kenya has prioritized universal health coverage (UHC) in its Big 4 agenda over the next 5 years.

This is a significant and perhaps the most important strategic priority. Why? Every year over a million Kenyans get trapped into poverty because of a catastrophic out of pocket payments due to health reasons.

In 1978, health campaigners worldwide achieved a major breakthrough at the UN Alma-Ata Conference on Primary Health Care. This conference statement signaled a new approach to health care, often described as the ‘primary health care approach’ or the ‘Alma-Ata principles’ – deeply rooted in the social and structural determinants of health (such as poverty eradication), and emphasising the importance of health care being accountable and accessible to the people it serves. A global target of achieving “Health for All” by the year 2000 was established.

How do we ensure that Universal Health Coverage is possible in Kenya by 2022?

The answer is simple. The focus has to be on preventable and primary health care as emphasized in the Alma-Ata principles. The centrality of reproductive, maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health will be critical to achieving UHC.

Kenya has made considerable but slow progress in reducing maternal, newborn and child mortality, but missing its 2015 Millennium Development Goal targets implies there is still a lot of pending work to give women and children the most basic of rights – the right to life and well being. As the First Lady of Kenya Ms Margaret Kenyatta has often said, “No woman should die giving life” which led to the launch of her signature Beyond Zero campaign and the Government declared a free maternal health care policy in 2013.

There are two reasons for seeing maternal and child health as a forerunner for UHC. First, it is clear that the mother’s overall state of health has a lifetime impact on an individual child’s health. Second, there is now evidence that households with maternal health complications spend considerably more of their savings to cover medical expenses. This is particularly key in rural settings where women play major economic roles.

The loss of women’s contributions combined with the spending shock they face can force households, particularly those already vulnerable, into deeply-entrenched poverty.

Reduction of out-of-pocket expenditure is central to achievement of UHC. One approach towards this reduction must be promotive and prevention-based intervention. We already have several proven, low cost-high impact interventions for significantly reducing the number of women dying during childbirth and shrinking new-born and childhood mortality.

About 74,000 Kenyan children under the age of five died in 2016, including 33,000 aged below the age of one month. At the same time, about Kenyan 6,000 women die every year from giving life, many from treatable infections. Many of these deaths could have been averted with relatively simple interventions.

Kenya has done very well in developing relevant national guidelines and policies creating a framework that can efficiently deliver these high-impact maternal, newborn and child health interventions. Devolution of health services must now include cascading the policies to local health services, but more importantly, ensuring the guidelines are fully implemented.

Another concern is the variations in mortality, with differences between rural and urban communities, rich and poor and between developed and under-developed counties.

Even though Nairobi is the most developed county, it has the highest annual absolute number of maternal, newborn and child deaths compared to all other counties. This will only increase as the city population rapidly expands. Conversely, maternal and newborn mortality rates are highest in counties such as Marsabit, Turkana, Kitui, and Kilifi.

The recently-released UNICEF report on the power of investing in the poor indicate that for every US$ 1,000 invested in health for the poorest children, nearly twice as many lives are saved compared to investing in areas where richer people live.

The attainment of UHC must not be seen as a purely technical objective, but must be accompanied by purposeful redistribution of resources for equitable gains.

The following low cost high-impact interventions will leapfrog UHC
. These interventions should be included in the essential health service package that should be available to all Kenyans at no further cost: 1. 100% immunization coverage. 2. Scaling up maternal and child health by ensuring exclusive breastfeeding, hand-washing to prevent transfer of infectious diseases, chlorhexidine as an antiseptic for umbilical cord, newborn resuscitation, ‘Kangaroo’ mother care, family planning, antenatal and postnatal care and skilled delivery. 3. Prevention of water borne, vector borne, TB and HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. 4. Prevention of non-communicable diseases, particularly diabetes and hypertension. 5. Improving nutrition of women who conceive and follow this through to the first 5 years of a child’s life.

These 5 actions will not only help achieve universal primary health coverage within 5 years, but reduce the number of patients going into the referral systems. It will reinforce the famous adage, “prevention is better than cure.”

Innovative approaches are needed to address weaknesses and shortages of human resources and focus more on improving performance of the existing workforce. Already, the government is emphasizing the role of community health volunteers in implementing some of these interventions.

With over 70% of Kenya’s population under 30 years of age, the government of Kenya’s focus on UHC is critical for Kenya to reap a demographic dividend.

It is crucial that we further strengthen our partnership between county governments, UN agencies, international development partners, civil society and private sector to seek the quickest pathways towards realization of universal health coverage.

Kenya can lead the way in achieving universal health coverage.

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Excerpt:

Dr. Schultink is the UNICEF Representative to Kenya, Dr. Eggers is the WHO Representative to Kenya, Mr. Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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New Platform Will Support Youth Projects on Water and Climatehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/new-platform-will-support-youth-projects-water-climate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-platform-will-support-youth-projects-water-climate http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/new-platform-will-support-youth-projects-water-climate/#respond Fri, 23 Mar 2018 22:53:41 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155014 Young people around the globe with good ideas on how to deal with water and climate challenges now have a platform to show their projects to the world and attract funding and other contributions to realise their dreams. The Youth for Water and Climate (#YWC) digital platform was formally launched during the 8th World Water […]

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People participate in the launch of the Youth for Water and Climate (#YWC) digital platform during the World Water Forum in Brasilia. The initiative is promoted by the Global Water Partnership and other organisations, to connect young people from around the world dedicated to social and environmental projects that promote water security and climate change solutions. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

People participate in the launch of the Youth for Water and Climate (#YWC) digital platform during the World Water Forum in Brasilia. The initiative is promoted by the Global Water Partnership and other organisations, to connect young people from around the world dedicated to social and environmental projects that promote water security and climate change solutions. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
BRASILIA, Mar 23 2018 (IPS)

Young people around the globe with good ideas on how to deal with water and climate challenges now have a platform to show their projects to the world and attract funding and other contributions to realise their dreams.

The Youth for Water and Climate (#YWC) digital platform was formally launched during the 8th World Water Forum, held Mar. 18-23 in Brasilia with the participation of a dozen country leaders.

The aim is to connect creative young people keen on helping to solve major environmental problems, in their communities or in wider areas, with potential funders and technical allies.

The idea is to promote “love at first sight” between these young people and potential supporters, that is, to accelerate the pairing between the two parties, according to a game that illustrates the idea of digital marketing of projects, the promoters of the initiative explained.

Marly Julajuj Coj, a 19-year-old indigenous woman from Guatemala, participated along with other young people from several continents in launching the platform, promoted by the Global Water Partnership (GWP) and other partners of the initiative, on Thursday Mar. 22 at Switzerland’s country pavilion at the 8th World Water Forum.

Representatives from donor agencies in Europe and Africa were also at the event, to explain the support they offer and what kind of projects they are interested in. For example, they give priority to ones that involve gender issues, said the representative of Switzerland’s development aid agency.

The young Guatemalan woman’s project seeks to build “rainwater harvesting systems, tanks made of recycled and new materials, to provide clean water for 20 families, those in greatest need in a community of 80 families,” she told IPS.

“The local rivers are polluted, we have to find alternative sources of drinking water,” said the young high school graduate who learned English with a missionary from the U.S. This is her second trip outside of Guatemala; earlier she received training in public speaking in Belgium.

Economist Mukta Akter, executive secretary of GWP Bangladesh, together with Pierre-Marie Grondin, of the French Water Solidarity Programme (pS-Eau), which will finance water and climate projects for young people around the world. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Economist Mukta Akter, executive secretary of GWP Bangladesh, together with Pierre-Marie Grondin, of the French Water Solidarity Programme (pS-Eau), which will finance water and climate projects for young people around the world. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

“#YWC is a very useful tool, it helps to make my project known and to seek financing,” she said.

The platform is supported by a consortium of nine organisations from various regions and is operated by a Secretariat comprising the GWP, the International Secretariat for Water and AgroParisTech.

It is open to anyone who wants to submit a project or offer support. A committee evaluates the quality of the projects and gives a stamp of approval, after which they are published in order to attract funders and technical assistance.

This process enables the young social entrepreneurs to improve their projects, share tools and meet requirements, while ensuring results for donors.

On the platform people and organisations are free to choose their preferences and interests.

The advice, training and connection with supporters offered to young people is a fundamental part of #YWC, said Vilma Chanta from El Salvador, focal point in her country of GWP Central America, and a researcher in territorial development with El Salvador’s National Development Foundation.

“Young people are an important part of change in the world, they are committed, that is why it is important to train youth leaders, to help them perhaps to formulate a theory of change that every project must have, that helps to identify where to focus their efforts,” Chanta told IPS.

Vilma Chanta, a researcher in territorial development for the non-governmental National Development Foundation of El Salvador, and focal point in that country of GWP Central America, worries about the pollution and deterioration of the Lempa river, key to the generation of energy and water consumption in the Central American nation. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Vilma Chanta, a researcher in territorial development for the non-governmental National Development Foundation of El Salvador, and focal point in that country of GWP Central America, worries about the pollution and deterioration of the Lempa river, key to the generation of energy and water consumption in the Central American nation. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

With regard to water problems in El Salvador, she mentioned the Lempa River, shared with Honduras and Guatemala, countries for which the river “is not as important as it is to us as a source of energy and water,” she said.

A drought in 2017 left cities without water for three weeks, although the worst effects occurred in rural areas where “there is water but no access to it,” she said.

“It is a limiting factor for women and girls who spend a large part of their days getting water for their households,” one of the vital gender issues in territorial development, said the young Salvadoran.

On the other side of the world, the young economist Mukta Akter, executive secretary of GWP Bangladesh, also tries to promote rainwater harvesting and training for women, but with an emphasis on income generation and the creation of companies to achieve economic growth.

“Water is a basic resource, indispensable for everything, even to obtain an income,” she told IPS. “In Bangladesh, water shortages prevent poor girls from going to school,” and guaranteeing access to water is essential to women’s education and financial future, she added.

“#YWC connects very diverse people, and is an opportunity for exchanging ideas and sharing know-how, which is important in my country,” she said.

Marly Julajuj Coj, a young indigenous woman from Guatemala, who at the age of 19 was one of the participants in the launch of the Youth Platform for Water and Climate in Brasilia, as leader of a project that seeks to ensure drinking water for her community of 80 families by harvesting rainwater. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Marly Julajuj Coj, a young indigenous woman from Guatemala, who at the age of 19 was one of the participants in the launch of the Youth Platform for Water and Climate in Brasilia, as leader of a project that seeks to ensure drinking water for her community of 80 families by harvesting rainwater. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Jelena Krstajic, president of the Youth Water Community, based in Slovenia and active in central and eastern Europe, sees #YWC primarily as a tool to seek financial support.

It is important “because we are all volunteers,” she told IPS in reference to the professionals who participate in the organisation.

A project in her community is the clean-up of the Ishmi river, in Albania, where there is an accumulation of plastic waste. Another project is to encourage the “voice of young people in the selection of policies” so that they can participate in decisions on social inclusion in Eastern Europe.

Young people will be decisive in the face of water and climate challenges, “they have energy and are more sensitive to the issues” and will be able to do more if they are connected internationally, said Pierre-Marie Grondin, director of the Water Solidarity Programme, a network of French organisations that finance projects in the developing South, especially Africa.

“#YWC is a good idea, it disseminates new ideas, promoting dialogue and coordination,” he told IPS, speaking as a donor.

The digital platform and the decision to support young people’s capacity for innovation are the result of ties forged among several national and international organisations since the December 2015 climate summit in Paris.

At the summit – the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), which gave rise to the Paris Agreement – the youth-led White Paper on Water and Climate, based on interviews in 20 countries from all continents, was presented.

During the World Water Forum, there were several initiatives aimed at young activists in water issues. One was the Stockholm Junior Water Prize, sponsored by Sweden, which chose a Brazilian project to attend the Water Week in Stockholm, in August of this year.

Meanwhile, participants in the Brazilian National Youth Parliament for Water presented their studies and projects at the Citizen Village, venue of the Alternative World Water Forum (FAMA), a parallel event.

The World Water Forum, organised by the World Water Council and the Brazilian government, drew 10,500 delegates from 172 countries, according to the organisers. They took part in 300 thematic sessions, and an Expo that was visited, according to their estimates, by more than 85,000 people.

FAMA focused on environmental education and attracted some 3,000 people from 34 countries, mostly students, plus tens of thousands of visitors who visited the fair.

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A New Low for Security Council as Russia Takes Syrian Human Rights Off the Tablehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/new-low-security-council-russia-takes-syrian-human-rights-off-table/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-low-security-council-russia-takes-syrian-human-rights-off-table http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/new-low-security-council-russia-takes-syrian-human-rights-off-table/#respond Thu, 22 Mar 2018 17:52:57 +0000 Sherine Tadros http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154990 Sherine Tadros is Head of Amnesty International’s UN Office in New York

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Except for Syria, Middle East Disappeared from U.S. Network News in 2017

Syrian boy brings bread back from underground bakery in severly damaged area of Aleppo. Credit Shelly KittlesonIPS

By Sherine Tadros
NEW YORK, Mar 22 2018 (IPS)

There is nothing controversial about saying the UN Security Council has failed Syria.

Diplomats have openly admitted it, journalists have written about it, human rights organizations have declared it – several times over in the past seven years. But what happened this week was deplorable and unacceptable, even by the very low standards we now have for the Council when it comes to Syria.

On Monday, the 15 member states of the Security Council gathered to hear a briefing on the human rights situation in Syria by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al- Hussein. But before he could start, Russia used its prerogative to call for a procedural vote on the agenda – effectively to stop the UN’s own human rights chief from telling the Council about the situation on the ground.

Russia claimed discussions on human rights are not pertinent to the Security Council’s agenda. Or in other words, the body charged with maintaining international peace and security is not a forum to discuss human rights violations taking place.

It may sound absurd, but this was not the first time Russia had made this claim. They tried the same tactic to block discussions on the human rights situations in other countries including Ukraine, and previously on Syria.

The difference is that this time, they won. They got the votes and successfully stopped High Commissioner Zeid from speaking.

Russia, China, Bolivia and Kazakhstan voted against the agenda, while the African countries on the Security Council – Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea and Ivory Coast – abstained, leaving only seven countries in favour, one less than was needed for the briefing to happen.

This was a disgraceful moment for the Security Council. When it is blocked from simply discussing human rights in Syria, it has clearly lost all credibility to find a solution. Worse than that, it has become part of the problem.

Instead of using their power and influence to stop the war crimes taking place in Eastern Ghouta, Afrin, Idlib – Russia, and those Russia convinced of their warped logic, instead used it to suffocate discussion about those atrocities.

Members of the Council, led by France along with the USA, the UK, Sweden, Poland, Holland and Peru, quickly called for an informal meeting – known as an Arria Formula – and invited the High Commissioner to give his briefing outside the chamber in one of the UN conference rooms. All 15 members of the UNSC attended in another show of how dysfunctional the Council has become.

So what is happening in Syria that Russia and friends went to such lengths to prevent being discussed?

At the informal meeting, which will not be recorded as an official Security Council meeting, High Commissioner Zeid told it like it is. He begun by declaring definitively that “the Syrian conflict is characterized by its absolute disregard for even the most minimal standards of principle and law”.

The UN human rights chief went on to detail the gross violations taking place in different parts of Syria today, including the repeated targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure by Syrian forces, with the backing of Russia.

The current siege on Eastern Ghouta by the Syrian government, Zeid said, involves “pervasive war crimes” including the use of chemical weaponry, enforced starvation, denial of aid and unjustifiable mass internment accompanied by torture and ill-treatment. To a lesser extent, he remarked, non-state armed groups are also committing crimes, including sexual violence.

In concluding, Zeid said these violations should be referred by the Security Council to the International Criminal Court. He urged the permanent members of the Security Council to stop blocking efforts to bring justice and instead end the violence, particularly war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Zeid then left member states with a reflection on what had happened earlier at the Council and Russia’s justification for blocking the briefing. He said an experienced colleague in the field had given him wise advice: “The severe human rights violations of today are the inevitable conflicts of tomorrow.” He went on to say that most conflicts begin when serious human rights violations open the way for unchecked policy decisions, including the waging of war.

Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Bolivia, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea and Ethiopia – history will not forget this vote and the dangerous precedent it has set for human rights at the Security Council.

If only there were an initiative that committed member states not to vote against vital efforts to stop human rights atrocities, you might think?

Well guess what. There is.

The Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) group Code of Conduct on the Security Council politically and publicly commits its signatories not to block measures to prevent or end war crimes and other atrocities. It currently has 115 (out of 127) state signatories, including nine members of the Security Council. Kazakhstan and the Ivory Coast, either of whose vote would have been enough to allow this week’s briefing to happen, are signatories of the Code.

But the Code is not legally binding, and instead there was no place for a discussion on human rights at the Security Council this week. Most unjustly of all, the ones that pay the price for this colossal UN failure are the people in Syria being killed, maimed, starved and tortured every day.

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Excerpt:

Sherine Tadros is Head of Amnesty International’s UN Office in New York

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Asian & African Migrants Continue To Face Exploitation in Mideasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/asian-african-migrants-continue-face-exploitation-mideast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=asian-african-migrants-continue-face-exploitation-mideast http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/asian-african-migrants-continue-face-exploitation-mideast/#respond Thu, 22 Mar 2018 08:03:24 +0000 Rabiya Jaffery http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154950 With more and more people living outside their country of origin, it is becoming increasingly clear that stronger legal parameters — within and between nations — are required to protect the most vulnerable of migrants from denial of access to fundamental rights. The UN’s proposed Global Compact on Migration, currently under negotiation by UN member […]

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By Rabiya Jaffery
AMMAN, Jordan, Mar 22 2018 (IPS)

With more and more people living outside their country of origin, it is becoming increasingly clear that stronger legal parameters — within and between nations — are required to protect the most vulnerable of migrants from denial of access to fundamental rights.

Credit: International Labour Organization

The UN’s proposed Global Compact on Migration, currently under negotiation by UN member states, covers a wide range of issues on labour and human rights, and is a significant opportunity to improve the governance on migration and to address the challenges associated with today’s migration,
“It is important to remember to address the specific issues faced by domestic migrant workers in the Middle East,” Somayya Mohammed, an immigration lawyer based in the Middle East, told IPS.

“Domestic migrant workers comprise a significant part of the regional workforce in informal employment and are among the most vulnerable groups of workers.”

The Middle East’s Gulf region has an estimated 2.4 million migrant domestic workers, traditionally recruited from Asia – mostly from the Philippines, Indonesia and India.

All foreign workers in the Gulf fall under the kafala (a visa-sponsorship) system which does not allow them to leave or change employers without their initial employer’s consent. If they do, they can be arrested and punished for “absconding” with fines, detention, and deportation.

Most Gulf countries have begun pushing some sort of reforms when it comes to labor laws for migrant workers in recent year.

Last year, the Federal National Council of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) adopted a bill on domestic workers that for the first time guarantees a weekly day of rest, 30 days of paid annual leave, paid and unpaid sick leave, and 12-hours of rest a day, among other rights.

Qatar’s cabinet also recently adopted a bill on domestic workers which guarantees a weekly rest day, 30-days of paid leave, 10-hour working days, and an end-of-service payment.

“While a significant advance, these draft laws still fall short of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Domestic Workers Convention, as they provide fewer protections than those accorded other workers under national labour laws,” according to a statement by Human Rights Watch.

Oman’s domestic worker regulations, for example, are weak, with no penalties for employer breaches, and it is the last country in the Gulf region not to provide labor rights in law, the statement adds.

“While some of the Gulf countries have been making reforms in their labor laws, the very essence of this system [of kafala] is very harsh and exploitative because the sponsor basically has absolute power over their employees,” says Mohammed.

“Domestic workers, particularly, are often forced to work in isolation and harsh conditions and are vulnerable to sexual and other forms of abuse.”

Just earlier this month, the Philippines barred nationals from seeking domestic positions in Kuwait after a Filipina maid was found dead in a freezer in her employer’s home, which officials in Manila state was merely one of many similarly unacceptable incidents in the Gulf state.

A new agreement is currently being worked on between Kuwait and Filipino authorities which seems to reassure greater protection and a stronger regulatory framework for migrant workers. But, according to media reports, there is a possibility the Philippines may only lift the ban on skilled workers.

This isn’t the first time a country has taken preemptive measures to protect low-skilled nationals working or seeking work in the Gulf.

Many Asian countries now also verify contracts to check employers agree to a minimum salary and working conditions before allowing domestic workers to go abroad. India and Sri Lanka also require sponsors to provide security deposits that are returned once the worker has safely returned home.

But several reports, including one by Human Rights Watch, show that ever since Asian countries began tightening regulations to protect domestic workers, recruiters have been expanding their demand for cheap domestic labor into East Africa— especially in nations where poverty and high unemployment make the offer of work in the Middle East hard to refuse.

“People think they are going to have a lot of money and become rich. But they don’t know that they are going to hell,” Fatima (not her real name), a former Tanzanian domestic worker in Oman, told IPS.

When Fatima left Tanzania to work as a nanny and maid in Oman in 2014, she thought she had landed a dream job that would allow her to support her family back home. Instead, she spent two years virtually imprisoned in her employer’s house, being exploited and mistreated.

She was expected to do all household chores, take care of four children, including a newborn baby, be up any time of the night to tend to the baby, and then start her day at 4 a.m. to prepare the family’s breakfast and get the children ready for school.

She was allowed two meals of leftovers a day. Communication with her family was restricted to 10 minutes every two months.

Patricia Lawson, a researcher from the Tanzanian Domestic Workers Coalition, and NGO that works on protecting domestic worker rights, recently surveyed 50 Tanzanian domestic workers based in either Oman or Kuwait.

She was told by 43 of them that their employers confiscated their passports, forced them to work seven days a week, and almost half said their employers had, at one point or another, forcibly confined them to their homes or residential compounds.

“Most women said their employers made escape even more difficult by limiting their communication for weeks and prevented them from seeking help from the outside world,” Lawson told IPS. “And at least half had absolutely no privacy and were forced to sleep on the floors of living rooms.”

The women, who described sexual harassment and assault, said that male family members groped them, exposed themselves, and entered their rooms late at night. And several described attempted rape.

“The men get violent or threaten to throw us out when we refuse their advances,” says Aisha, another former Tanzanian domestic worker who worked in the UAE for a year and then in Oman for two years. “Or they would lie to their wives and say that I tried to seduce them.”

According to Lawson, women also mentioned they could not communicate with their female employers due to language barriers or fear of dismissal.

“If they did complain, female employers would not believe them, place the burden on them to avoid the harassment, or simply fire them,” says Lawson.

Many women said when they asked to leave, their employers or agents demanded repayment of recruitment costs – often far more than they had earned.

A Human Rights Watch report from 2017 mentions a Tanzanian domestic worker who went to file a complaint with the Oman police in 2016 after a male member of the family she was working for sexually assaulted her.

The police told her that her employer had pressed charges against her for running away. She was asked to pay a fine or spend three months in jail. Oman does not criminalize non-penetrative sexual assault or harassment, as in her case.

A former official at the Tanzanian embassy in Oman told IPS that none of the rape cases reported to the police by domestic workers they assisted had moved forward, either because the women refused to undergo forensic tests or the police, after questioning the women, did not believe they had been raped.

In the Gulf region, when authorities do not believe the claim, reporting a rape can be considered a confession of consensual sexual relations, prompting charges of zina (sexual relations outside of marriage) against the rape victim.

Compounding the lack of justice, due to the stigma, migrant domestic workers rarely reported sexual violence and suffered in silence.

Lawson says her NGO teaches women the telltale signs of exploitation and tracks women overseas, calling embassies if they are in trouble. Given the lack of safety mechanisms or the political will for change, she says it is better “not to tell women not to go, but to teach them to travel safely.”

According to a Human Rights Watch Report from 2016, Tanzania has expanded some protections for overseas migrant domestic workers since 2011, but there are still many gaps in Tanzania’s recruitment and migration policies which place workers at heightened risk from the outset and provide little opportunity for redress.

Tanzania requires workers to process their applications to migrate through the country’s labor ministries, but many workers migrate outside of this channel.

The authorities require women to migrate through a recruitment agency but have not set out minimum standards for how agencies assist workers in cases of abuse, or for inspections and penalties in case of violations.

“I’m pushing for investigations. I haven’t come across one case that was investigated,” Mickness Mahera, a Tanzanian politician who has been helping to rescue women trapped in the Middle East, told IPS.

Mahera is calling on the government to enter into labour agreements with Gulf nations to protect its domestic workers abroad.

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A Breath of Fresh Air in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/breath-fresh-air-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=breath-fresh-air-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/breath-fresh-air-india/#respond Tue, 20 Mar 2018 00:44:02 +0000 Ranjit Devraj http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154898 With India’s citizens clamouring for breathable air and efficient energy options, the country’s planners are more receptive than ever to explore sustainable development options, says Frank Rijsberman, Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI). Rijsberman, who was in India to attend the first International Solar Alliance Summit on March 11, told IPS in an […]

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Vehicle ownership in India is projected to hit 400 million by 2040 from the 170 million recorded in 2015, which could prompt a five-fold increase in poisonous gases emitted by cars and trucks. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Vehicle ownership in India is projected to hit 400 million by 2040 from the 170 million recorded in 2015, which could prompt a five-fold increase in poisonous gases emitted by cars and trucks. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Ranjit Devraj
NEW DELHI, Mar 20 2018 (IPS)

With India’s citizens clamouring for breathable air and efficient energy options, the country’s planners are more receptive than ever to explore sustainable development options, says Frank Rijsberman, Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI).

Rijsberman, who was in India to attend the first International Solar Alliance Summit on March 11, told IPS in an interview that the GGGI was prepared to support the Indian government to explore energy alternatives and improve the country’s growth model.

India is not yet a member country of the GGGI but is recognised as a partner, says Rijsberman. He points to the fact that GGGI has had small but successful projects running in India such as a collaboration to get India’s first electric buses running in Bangalore city.

“The electric buses are an example of how local level innovation can yield positive results in energy efficiency,” said Rijsberman. “The success of this project is in line with India’s Intended  Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) commitments to reduce carbon emissions and improve energy efficiency.

GGGI’s recognition of the potential for expanding its activity in India can be seen in the fact that  the organization has been recruiting top managerial talent for its India country office.

Frank Rijsberman. Credit: GGGI

“For us, it is a bit of restart in India trying to position GGGI well at a time when the Indian government clearly wants to have more leadership internationally and project its own cleantech or green growth initiatives,” Rijsberman said.

So far, the successes have not been on the scale of what India is capable of, says Rijsberman. “In other countries we sit with ministries — the ministry of planning and investment in Vietnam and Laos for instance — and help with national green growth strategy or in the next five-year plan.

“Last year, said Rijsberman, “we helped member countries get 500 million dollars’ worth of green and climate finance – we’ve had no such breakthrough in India.”

Still, Rijsberman finds encouraging the “growing concern over deteriorating air quality and other things that is convincing citizens and politicians that the quality of growth really matters — we are looking at what GGGI can do to help the Indian government shift to a model of growth that is cleaner and more sustainable.”

India has experience in increasing the share of renewable energy in its overall energy mix and GGGI is keen to work with the government, particularly the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and the International Solar Alliance (ISA), to share India’s expertise, and knowhow with other developing countries facing similar developmental challenges

“India has wonderful experiences that can be shared with countries like Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and in other cases we could help share experiences from other countries that could support India’s green growth initiatives,” Rijsberman said.  

It has not all been smooth sailing though. Last year, Rijsberman said, GGGI had worked with the MNRE to find a combination of financing from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency and other sources to improve India’s small and medium industries. “In the end we could not get the seal of approval from the environment ministry — so it has got a bit stuck.”

An important international finance mechanism, the GCF is  mandated to support developing countries to access international climate finance by developing projects to achieve renewable energy targets.

India country representative for GGGI, Shantanu Gotmare, said the project has not actually been shelved and is still in process. “We haven’t given it up yet,” said Gotmare, a career bureaucrat who has taken a break from government work to lead the GGGI in India.

Gotmare explained that much of GGGI’s work, so far, has been with provincial governments like those of Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab states. “We have developed comprehensive green growth strategies and supported these state governments in adopting integrated analytical approaches to assess green growth challenges and prioritise opportunities in energy, water, agriculture and forestry.

“We supported these three state governments in implementing specific green growth opportunities by formulating detailed project proposals, policy implementation roadmaps, and capacity building initiatives,” Gotmare said.

The plan for the immediate future is to scale up GGGI’s programmatic activities to launch green growth interventions at the national level.

“Our aim is to support the government to deliver on its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) ambition by helping to develop policy frameworks, mobilising domestic and international climate finance and helping to introduce clean technologies and finally to create and share green growth knowledge and best practices,” Gotmare said.

There is an immediate opportunity to finance off-grid energy (OGE) access to millions of households in India that have limited or no access to electricity. GGGI is designing an innovative finance mechanism to support the government’s goal of ‘electricity for all’.

“This is a plan that is expected to simultaneously achieve social, economic and environmental  benefits,” Gotmare said.

According to Gotmare, as India’s citizens demand more power, it is a challenge for the government to make sure that there are energy options that are cleaner than the traditional coal or diesel-fired power plants. “This is precisely where GGGI comes in,” he said.

GGGI’s experience, says Rijsberman, allows it to work closely with the government to rapidly ramp up India’s electrification plans in a clean and sustainable way and use solar solutions to extend electrification services to India’s most marginalised households.

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