Inter Press Service » Aid http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 05 Feb 2016 23:42:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.10 Argentina and United Arab Emirates Open New Stage in Bilateral Relationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/argentina-and-united-arab-emirates-open-new-stage-in-bilateral-relations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=argentina-and-united-arab-emirates-open-new-stage-in-bilateral-relations http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/argentina-and-united-arab-emirates-open-new-stage-in-bilateral-relations/#comments Fri, 05 Feb 2016 23:42:58 +0000 Stephanie Wildes http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143816 The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and his host, Argentina’s foreign minister Susana Malcorra, outside the San Martín Palace in Buenos Aires at the start of their meeting on Friday, Feb. 5. Credit: Government of Argentina

The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and his host, Argentina’s foreign minister Susana Malcorra, outside the San Martín Palace in Buenos Aires at the start of their meeting on Friday, Feb. 5. Credit: Government of Argentina

By Stephanie Wildes
Feb 5 2016 (IPS)

With United Arab Emirates’ foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s visit to Argentina, the two countries launched a new stage in bilateral relations, kicked off by high-level meetings and a package of accords.

On Friday, Feb. 5 Al Nahyan and his host, Argentina’s foreign minister Susana Malcorra, signed five agreements on taxation, trade and cooperation in the energy industry, after a meeting with other officials, including this country’s finance minister, Alfonso Prat-Gay.

The meeting in the San Martín Palace, the foreign ministry building, addressed “important” aspects of ties with the Gulf nation made up of seven emirates, an Argentine communiqué stated.

Al Nahyan’s visit took the UAE’s contacts to the highest diplomatic level with the new Argentine government of Mauricio Macri, who received the minister Friday in Olivos, his official residence, less than two months after being sworn in as president on Dec. 10.

After the meeting in the foreign ministry, the Emirati minister also met with Argentine Vice President Gabriela Michetti, and visited the Senate.

The day before, Al Nahyan was named guest of honour in Buenos Aires by the city’s mayor, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, with whom he met after the ceremony.

In the meeting between Al Nahyan and Malcorra, a tax information exchange agreement was signed, along with an accord between the Argentine Industrial Union and the UAE Federation of Chambers of Commerce aimed at “establishing a joint business council.”

The foreign ministers of Argentina, Susana Malcorra, and the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, exchange tax agreements signed during their meeting in Buenos Aires on Friday Feb. 5. Credit: Government of Argentina

The foreign ministers of Argentina, Susana Malcorra, and the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, exchange tax agreements signed during their meeting in Buenos Aires on Friday Feb. 5. Credit: Government of Argentina

The governor of the southern Argentine province of Neuquén, Omar Gutiérrez, was also present at the meeting, where an agreement was reached to grant a loan to that region to finance the Nahueve hydroelectric project through the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), in the town of Villa del Nahueve.

A four-MW hydroelectric plant will be built in that town of 25,000 people in southern Argentina with an investment of 18 million dollars, through a soft loan, the secretary-general of the Argentine-Arab Chamber of Commerce, Walid al Kaddour, told IPS.

According to the Chamber, trade between the two countries stood at 228 million dollars in 2014, with Argentina exporting nearly 198 million dollars in mainly foodstuffs and steel pipe and tube products.

As Al Kaddour underlined, “there is a great deal of room to grow (in bilateral ties), especially taking into account that the United Arab Emirates is located at a strategic point linking the West with the East.”

He explained that products can be re-exported to all of Asia from the Emirati city of Dubai, because “it is a very important distribution hub.”

The population of the UAE is just barely over nine million, “but it can reach a market of 1.6 billion inhabitants, and it has major logistics infrastructure enabling it to re-export products,” he said.

Al Kaddour said the UAE’s chief interest is importing food, “which is what Argentina mainly produces,” although he said the Gulf nation could also buy raw materials as well as manufactured goods.

The UAE at one point imported up to 1,000 vehicles a year from Argentina, he pointed out.

According to Al Kaddour, another aim of the Emirati minister’s visit was “to meet Argentina’s new administration.”

Macri, of the centre-right “Cambiemos” alliance, succeeded Cristina Fernández of the centre-left Front for Victory, who had strengthened ties with the UAE during an official visit to Abu Dhabi in 2013, where an agreement on cooperation in nuclear energy for peaceful purposes was signed.

“The UAE has pinned strong hopes on the new administration in Argentina,” said Al Kaddour. “The last few years have also been positive in terms of building a friendlier relationship.

“The idea now is to move towards concrete things, such as investment projects in different areas, like renewable energy and agriculture,” he added.

In an article sent to the Argentine daily Clarín, Al Nhayan stressed that “the ties of friendship between Argentina and the United Arab Emirates are strong” and the two countries “are united by shared economic interests.”

He added that “we hope to be able to work with the president, and we believe that together we can bring many benefits to our two countries and our people.”

He also emphasised that his country is seen as “the future gateway for access to Argentine products to the Middle East.”

Emirati sources told IPS that the UAE minister and the Buenos Aires mayor discussed questions such as sustainable urban development and solar energy – an area in which the Gulf nation is interested in cooperating with Argentina.

Although it is a leading oil producer, the UAE is considered a pioneer in the development of unconventional renewable energies, which it is fomenting as the foundation of clean development that will curb climate change.

In Argentina, Al Nahyan kicked off his Latin America tour that will take him to Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica through Feb. 12.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Activists Accuse India of Violating UN Convention on Child Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/activists-accuse-india-of-violating-un-convention-on-child-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=activists-accuse-india-of-violating-un-convention-on-child-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/activists-accuse-india-of-violating-un-convention-on-child-rights/#comments Tue, 26 Jan 2016 07:03:28 +0000 K. S. Harikrishnan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143697 A view of government juvenile home at Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala. Rights activists allege that most of the children homes in India do not have adequate physical facilities to rehabilitate and reform delinquent children. Credit: K.S.Harikrishnan/IPS

A view of government juvenile home at Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala. Rights activists allege that most of the children homes in India do not have adequate physical facilities to rehabilitate and reform delinquent children. Credit: K.S.Harikrishnan/IPS

By K. S. Harikrishnan
NEW DELHI, Jan 26 2016 (IPS)

Civil rights groups and child welfare activists have strongly protested against the enactment of a new Juvenile Justice Act by the Indian parliament, lowering the age of a legally defined juvenile for trial from 18 to 16- years old in heinous crimes cases.

Human rights activists and people working for child welfare say reducing the age would be against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which India ratified in 1992.

According to the existing law in India, formed in 2000, the accused under the age of 18 cannot be given any penalty higher than three years, nor be tried as an adult and sent to an adult jail. The new law also treats all children under the age of 18 similarly, except for one difference. It states that any one between 16 and 18 who commits a heinous offence may be tried as an adult.

The ongoing heated debates and protests started against the backdrop of the higher appeal courts’ permission to release one of the main accused in the high profile 2012 Delhi gang-rape case. The boy was a juvenile, from a reform home at the end of his three-year remand period.

The case relates to a horrific incident on 16 December 2012, when a 23-year-old female physiotherapy intern was beaten and gang raped in a moving private transport bus in which she was travelling with a male friend at night.

Dr. Pushkar Raj, well-known human rights leader and former General Secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, said that the move of the government to pass tougher laws on juveniles was ill-conceived and would not achieve the intended purpose of reducing crimes amongst juveniles.

“Though juvenile crime has slightly risen in India in last few years, it stands half as compared to US and Australia. While in India it hovers under 1500 per 100,000 of juvenile population, in the US and Australia it is well above 3000 per 100,000,” he told IPS.

The National Crime Records Bureau data says that there has been an increase in crimes committed by juveniles, especially by those in the 16 to 18 age group during the period 2003 to 2013.

The data shows that the percentage of juvenile crimes has increased from one per cent in 2003 to 1.2 per cent in 2013. During the same period, 16-18 year olds accused of crimes as a percentage of all juveniles accused of crimes increased from 54 per cent to 66 per cent.

Experts, however, say that the new law would go against the global commitment of India to child rights.

Shoba Koshy, Chairperson, Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, told IPS that whatever may be the logic behind the lowering of age, it is not acceptable as seen from a child rights perspective. She expressed the apprehension that the new law would be counterproductive until and unless correct remedial measures are taken.

“We have committed ourselves both nationally and internationally to protect child rights up to the age of 18 years.
Therefore, the new amended law is not suitable to this norm. Even if you reduce the age to 16 and then a 15-year old commits a similar crime, would you again reduce the age,” she asked.

“There are several unattended issues concerning children which need to be looked into. We should help our children to grow up to be good individuals by providing systems that will give them the care and protection they deserve in their childhood and by imparting proper education and moral values. The government should allocate more funds for strengthening infrastructure facility to develop reformative and rehabilitative mechanisms under the Juvenile Justice Law, “she said.

The National Human Rights Commission also disagreed with the government move and sent its disagreement in writing to the government.

Media reported that the rights panel opined that every boy at 16 years would be treated as juvenile. “If he is sent to jail, there is no likelihood of any reformation and he will come out a hardened criminal. “

However, participating in the debate in Parliament, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said that under the new law any juvenile aged between 16 and 18 years will stay in an institution meant for housing adolescent offenders till the age of 21 years, whatever the sentence.

A study report in 2013 on ‘Factors Underlying Juvenile Delinquency and Positive Youth Development Programs’, prepared by Kavita Sahney of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, National Institute of Technology at Rourkela in Odisha, revealed that offences committed by delinquents were primarily due to the combination of various individual and environmental variables, individual risk factors of the delinquents, negligence and ignorance of the parents, peer influence, poor socio-economic status, family pressure and lack of proper socialization.

A section of women activists and members of parliament believe that the new law neither gives safety to women from crimes against them nor gives protection to the children involved in such cases.

Dr. T.N. Seema, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and parliament member in the Upper House, expressed deep anguish over the “encroachment” by the government on the rights of children.

“Most of the juvenile homes in the country do not have a good atmosphere and enough physical facilities to reside delinquent children. In such a situation, how can we reform juveniles?” she told IPS.

T. P. Lakshmi, an activist at Nagarkovil in Tamil Nadu, said that the government succumbed to the “pressure tactics” of a section of women’s groups “taking mileage from the Delhi rape case.” “It is unfortunate that one or two rape cases determine the fate of all the boys accused in juvenile cases in the country,” she said.

(End)

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New Year, New Fight Against Inequalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/new-year-new-fight-against-inequality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-year-new-fight-against-inequality http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/new-year-new-fight-against-inequality/#comments Wed, 20 Jan 2016 14:15:09 +0000 Jenny Ricks http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143640

Jenny Ricks is Head of Inequality Initiative, ActionAid International

By Jenny Ricks
DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 20 2016 (IPS)

With New Year’s resolutions already fading fast for most people, attention turns to what 2016 will really hold. And so it is for those wanting to tackle the world’s biggest problems.

This week in Davos politicians and business leaders meet at the World Economic Forum, where inequality is once again on the agenda. By common consensus we are living through an inequality crisis, with the gap between the richest and the rest at levels not seen for a century. So what will be different in 2016?

Well, inequality is already recognised as socially and economic harmful by a whole range of influential people such as the Pope, and institutions like the IMF and OECD. We have no shortage of acknowledgement of at least part of the problem. And all countries have pledged to tackle it through the Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda 2030) and the Climate Accord agreed in Paris in December.

But the problem is far from being resolved. The stark reality in contrast to those commitments is that inequality isn’t being tackled and the status quo approaches that exacerbate inequality are still being followed by the countries and institutions that claim to be tackling it.

So what to do? The challenge now is to go from acknowledging the problem to fixing it. To do that we need three things: a shift in polices, a shift in power, and a shift in mind set and ideas about how change will happen.

Civil society is clear on the contradiction between rhetoric and the reality, as are poor people themselves facing the brunt of these inequalities that ActionAid works with around the world. They are not waiting for world leaders to change their ways, they are busy tackling inequality from its roots and creating a new reality.

Today, leaders from a range of environment, women’s rights, human rights, faith based and development groups and trade unions will spell out what it will really take to tackle inequality and commit to stepping up the fight. This is exciting news.

Why does this agenda matter to such a diverse range of groups? As the joint statement says: “Struggles for a better world are all threatened by the inequality crisis. Workers across the world are seeing their wages and conditions eroded as inequality increases. The rights of women are systematically worse in situations of greater economic inequality.”

The vast majority of the world’s richest people are men; those in the most precarious and poorly paid work are women. Young people are facing a crisis of unemployment. Other groups such as migrants, ethnic minorities, LGBTQI people, people with disability and indigenous people continue to be pushed to the margins, suffering systematic discrimination. The struggle to realise the human rights of the majority are continually undercut in the face of such disparities of wealth and power.

Extreme inequality is also frequently linked to rising restrictions on civic space and democratic rights as political and economic elites collude to protect their interests. The right to peaceful protest and the ability of citizens to challenge the prevailing economic discourse is being curtailed almost everywhere, for elites know that extreme inequality and participatory democracy cannot co-exist for long.

Even the future of our planet is dependent on ending this great divide, with the carbon consumption of the 1% as much as 175 times that of the poorest.”

Though it is going to be a difficult road, we know that change to forge a new economic system that puts people and the planet first will only be created by a people powered movement. 2016 is not a year of high profile summits and commitments. It’s a year of building power from below, of building a movement in many countries amongst these constituencies and others including social movements and young people.

There is reason for hope and experience to build on. We know this is possible because of what we see in our work with communities around the world, because of some positive current examples and past periods of reducing inequality in countries such as Brazil, and because people have won great struggles before. This new struggle against inequality has started in earnest.

(End)

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Military Conflicts Threaten to Undermine Battle Against Rural Povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/military-conflicts-threaten-to-undermine-battle-against-rural-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=military-conflicts-threaten-to-undermine-battle-against-rural-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/military-conflicts-threaten-to-undermine-battle-against-rural-poverty/#comments Thu, 31 Dec 2015 13:16:12 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143485 http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/military-conflicts-threaten-to-undermine-battle-against-rural-poverty/feed/ 0 SYRIA: Give Peace a Chancehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/syria-give-peace-a-chance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=syria-give-peace-a-chance http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/syria-give-peace-a-chance/#comments Tue, 22 Dec 2015 12:31:17 +0000 Emirates News Agency http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143418

Att.Editors: The following item is from the Emirates News Agency (WAM)

By Emirates News Agency (WAM)
ABU DHABI, Dec 22 2015 (IPS)

(WAM) – The Gulf Today, a United Arab Emirates (UAE) newspaper has said that years of strife and with millions of its people scattered across the globe, peace is what Syrians yearn for. The country is in ruins and the spreading of radicalism poses major security challenges regionally and globally.

“The Syrian conflict has rattled the world so much that any initiative aimed to restore peace in that country should be welcomed without any hesitation,” said ‘The Gulf Today’ in an editorial published on Monday.

“In this context it is good that in its first resolution that focuses on ending Syria’s five-year-long war, the Security Council has now given the United Nations an enhanced role in shepherding the opposing sides to talks for a political transition, with a timetable for a ceasefire, a new constitution and elections, all under UN auspices.

“Also to give the Syrian peace prospects a strong push, foreign ministers from 17 countries gathered in New York before the council’s session. The UAE has always been a peace-loving country and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister, also took part in the meeting, presided over by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

“As Kerry put it, the UNSC has sent a clear message to all concerned that the time is now to stop the killing in Syria and lay the groundwork for a government that the long-suffering people of that battered land can support.

“More than 250,000 people have been killed since Syria’s conflict erupted in March 2011. The civil war has been the main driver of mass displacement, with more than 4.2 million Syrian refugees having fled abroad and 7.6 million uprooted within their shattered homeland as of mid-year.

“An opportunity for peace has at last emerged. All parties involved in the talks should seize the chance. There is a dire need for leaders deliberating on the Syrian issue to take a flexible approach.

“The unambiguous goal is end to violence and a negotiated peace solution. The participating leaders should leave no stone unturned in achieving that,” concluded the Sharjah-based daily. (WAM) (END/2015)

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Mexico to Export Nixtamalisation of Grains to Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/mexico-to-export-nixtamalisation-of-grains-to-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexico-to-export-nixtamalisation-of-grains-to-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/mexico-to-export-nixtamalisation-of-grains-to-africa/#comments Fri, 18 Dec 2015 03:12:23 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143385 The corn is cooked with limewater to eliminate aflatoxins that cause liver and cervical cancer. Here a worker at the Grulin company is stirring the corn before it is washed, drained and ground, in San Luís Huexotla, Mexico. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The corn is cooked with limewater to eliminate aflatoxins that cause liver and cervical cancer. Here a worker at the Grulin company is stirring the corn before it is washed, drained and ground, in San Luís Huexotla, Mexico. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
TEXCOCO, Mexico , Dec 18 2015 (IPS)

Every day in the wee hours of the morning Verónica Reyes’ extended family grinds corn to make the dough they use in the tacos they sell from their food truck in Mexico City.

Sons, daughters-in-law and nephews and nieces divide the work in the family business that makes and sells cecina (dried, salted meat) tacos, longaniza (a kind of Spanish sausage), quesadillas and tlacoyos (thick stuffed oval-shaped corn dough tortillas).

“We cook the corn the night before and we grind it early in the morning, to serve people at 8:00 AM,” said Reyes, who has made a living selling food for years.

The family loads up the metal countertop, gas cylinders, tables, chairs, ingredients and over 60 kg of corn dough in their medium-sized truck before heading from their town of San Jerónimo Acazulco, some 46 km southwest of Mexico City, to whatever spot they have chosen that day to sell their wares.

When the taco truck packs up, it has sold just about all the food prepared that day.

The cooked corn dough takes on a yellow tone, an effect caused by a process called nixtamalisation – the preparation of corn or other grain, which is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution, usually limewater, and hulled.According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 25 percent of world food crops are contaminated with aflatoxins.

This technique dates back to before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in Mexico in the 15th century, when local indigenous people cooked corn this way.

Nixtamalisation significantly reduces aflatoxins – any of several carcinogenic mycotoxins produced by molds that commonly infect corn, peanuts and other crops.

“In Mexico aflatoxins are a serious problem,” Ofelia Buendía, a professor at the department of agroindustrial engineering at the Autonomous University of Chapingo, told IPS. “A major effort has been made to eliminate them. The most effective is the traditional nixtamalisation technique.”

She has specialised in “nixtamalising” beans, quinoa, oats, amaranth, barley and other grains, and in producing nutritional foods.

Mexico’s corn dough and tortilla industry encompasses more than 78,000 mills and tortilla factories, over half of which are concentrated in just seven of the country’s 31 states.

Nearly 60 percent of the tortillas sold were made with nixtamalised dough.

Corn is the foundation of the diet in Central America and Mexico, where the process of nixtamalisation is widely used.

But consumption of tortillas has shrunk in Mexico, from 170 kg a year per person in the 1970s to 75 kg today, due to the inroads made by fast food and junk food.

Mexico is now cooperating with Kenya in east Africa to transfer know-how and technology to introduce the technique, to help that country reduce aflatoxins.

Mexico and Kenya signed two cooperation agreements, one of which offers technical support and involves the sending of mills by Mexico’s International Development Cooperation Agency.

Kenya needs 45 million 90-kg bags of corn a year, and only produces 40 million.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 25 percent of world food crops are contaminated with aflatoxins, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 4.5 billion people in the developing world have chronic exposure to them.

Studies by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) suggest that approximately 26,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa die every year of liver cancer associated with chronic exposure to aflatoxins.

At 3:00 AM, the machines are turned on in the processing plant of the Comercializadora y Distribuidora de Alimentos Grulin food processing and distribution company in the town of San Luís Huexotla, some 50 km east of Mexico City.

The work consists of washing the corn cooked the night before, draining it, and grinding it to produce the dough for making tortillas and toast, which are packaged and distributed to sales points in the area.

“Nixtamalisation respects the nutrients in the corn, although some are lost in the washing process,” José Linares, director general of Grulin, told IPS. “There are faster systems of nixtamalisation, but they’re more costly. The technology is shifting towards a more efficient use of water and faster processing.”

His father started out with one tortilla factory, and the business expanded until the Grulin company was founded in 2013.

Grulin processes between 32 and 36 50-kg balls of dough a day. One kg of corn produces 1.9 kg of dough.

The corn is cooked for 90 minutes and then passes through a tank of limewater for 30 seconds before going into tubs with a capacity of 750 kg, where it remains for 24 hours. It is then drained and is ready for grinding between two matching carved stones.

Officials from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) have visited Mexico to learn about nixtamalisation and test corn products.

The experts who talked to the Kenyan officials said the technique could be adopted by nations in Africa.

“In Africa they want to know about the process, because of its tremendous uses for food. Some variables can be influenced, such as texture and taste,” said Buendía. “The Chinese eat tortillas, so this technique could be adopted. These opportunities cannot be missed.”

Besides cultural questions, the availability of water and generation of waste liquid – known as ‘nejayote’ – can be problems. For every 50 kg of corn processed, some 75 litres of water are needed. The nejayote, which is highly polluting because of its degree of alkalinity, is dumped into the sewer system.

Academic researchers are investigating how to make use of the waste liquid to produce fertiliser, to reuse it in washing the corn, and to make water use more efficient.

“It would be necessary to overcome the cultural barriers, and make sure the taste of lime isn’t noticeable….The technique is replicable,” said Grulin’s Linares.

In 2009, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service developed a biological control technology called AflaSafe, to fight aflatoxins in corn and peanuts. It is so far available in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Kenya, Senegal and Zambia.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez and Verónica Firme/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Development Aid on the Decline, Warns New Studyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/development-aid-on-the-decline-warns-new-study/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=development-aid-on-the-decline-warns-new-study http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/development-aid-on-the-decline-warns-new-study/#comments Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:38:30 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143286 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 10 2015 (IPS)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed fears last month that increases in humanitarian aid to thousands of refugees invading Europe could result in sharp cuts on development aid by Western donors.

Confirming those fears, a new report by CONCORD, the European confederation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) representing all 28 European Union (EU) members, points out aid budgets are increasingly being used to cover refugee and asylum seekers costs: the Netherlands at 145%; Italy 107%; Cyprus 65%; and Portugal 38%.

And despite repeated promises, the EU, as a whole, did not deliver on its commitment to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) as official development assistance (ODA) by 2015.

More worryingly, says the report, there is an emerging trend in EU countries to divert aid budgets from sustainable development to domestic costs associated with hosting refugees and asylum seekers.

Luxembourg, Poland and Bulgaria have already decided not to report refugee costs as ODA, contrary to Spain, Malta and Hungary.

The report, the tenth CONCORD AidWatch and titled “Looking to the future, don’t forget the past – aid beyond 2015,” finds that EU as a group remains well short of the target having spent 0.42% of its GNI on aid, with only four of 28 Member States meeting the 0.7% target;

The only four EU countries meeting aid targets are: Luxembourg, Sweden, Denmark and the UK.

According to CONCORD, the largest increases in EU aid were in the EU13 countries, namely Romania (65% increase), Croatia (41%), Estonia, (21%), Hungary (13%) and Malta (13%).

Significant increases were also recorded in Germany (14%), Finland (14%), the UK (9%) and Sweden (7%), although aid is expected to contract significantly in Finland in 2015.

Major cuts were recorded in other countries, including Lithuania (21% cut), Spain (20%), Portugal (14%), France (8%) and Poland (7%).

Of these countries, Spain, Portugal and France are a source of serious concern, because they have continued on a downward trend for the last few years.

Asked about declining aid, the UN Secretary-General told reporters at a press briefing in Finland Wednesday he appreciates the difficulties and challenges facing many European countries.

“At the same time, I commend such compassionate leadership and generous support for many refugees who are seeking better opportunities and safety. “

“While I appreciate such difficulties, I ask the rich countries, the European countries, to increase their financial support and generous support for all these migrants and refugees, rather than diverting their already earmarked development aid.“

Ban said he realizes there is a limit to resources.

“So inevitably, they may have to temporarily divert and use this development money for humanitarian purposes but in the longer term, if this kind of trend continues, it will only perpetuate this bad balancing between humanitarian and development.”

If development doesn’t move on, it will create more jobless people, it will create more frustration and then, they may have to flee their homes again for better opportunity, he warned.

“So I think you have to address this in a balanced and comprehensive way – that is my earnest appeal to many European countries.”

Asked specifically about Finland, he said it was one of the biggest donors in the world, and one of the leaders of the world for the development agenda and empowerment, and for peace and human rights.
“It is a model Member State and I asked many other Member States to emulate from that shining example,” he added.

Meanwhile, the CONCORD report says EU aid is still seen by many as a tool to drive policy change or liberalization in partner countries – much aid remains directly tied or comes with a ‘suggested’ policy agenda.

The study also said development aid commitments by EU countries are also at risk of being “greenwashed” to meet climate finance promises to poorer nations and that these existing aid commitments could be relabeled to qualify as climate finance. Also the growing costs of climate change should not replace existing development priorities.

The UN’s post-2015 development agenda 2030, which was adopted by world leaders last September, will require ambitious financing from all actors.

“What’s been lacking to date is real action from most – though certainly not all – of the donor community to meet their own commitments and promises on aid which we’ve seen again this year as the EU misses its own 2015 target to deliver on the 0.7% promise.

Aid will remain a vital development source for years to come – it is focused on reaching the hardest to reach which is vital for the leave no one behind agenda and is more flexible, predictable and accountable, the report says.

To ensure the new development framework delivers as expected, EU should reach the 0.7% target by 2020 in line with the commitment made (at the Financing for Development Conference in July) in Addis (Ababa, Ethiopia)”, said Amy Dodd CONCORD AidWatch Chair and Director UK Aid Network.

Jessica Poh-Janrell from CONCORD Sweden, said: “We recognize the urgent nature of the current refugee crisis, but remain convinced that aid should be used to support development in third countries.”

The world’s poorest should not foot the bill for the refugee costs in Europe. Aid is essential to prevent more people having to flee their homes. Continuing investing in fighting poverty and inequality in developing countries is ultimately the most sustainable way of dealing with the crisis in the long term, she added.

Last month Ban appealed to the international community not to forsake its longstanding commitment for development assistance to the world’s poorer nations.

Ban’s appeal followed a UN pledging conference on Nov 10 which reported a “dramatic decline” in donor commitments: from 560 million dollars in 2014 to 77 million dollars in the most recent pledges, largely covering 2015.

Asked if the Secretary-General’s appeal was the result of the decline in commitments, UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq told IPS: “It’s in response to many factors, including concerns expressed by some states about maintaining aid levels.”

The secretary-general said resources for one area should not come at the expense of another.

Redirecting critical funding away from development aid at this pivotal time could perpetuate challenges that the global community has committed to address, he warned.

“Reducing development assistance to finance the cost of refugee flows is counter-productive and will cause a vicious circle detrimental to health, education and opportunities for a better life at home for millions of vulnerable people in every corner of the world,” Ban declared.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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World’s Poorest Nations Battle Rising Rural Povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/worlds-poorest-nations-battle-rising-rural-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=worlds-poorest-nations-battle-rising-rural-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/worlds-poorest-nations-battle-rising-rural-poverty/#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2015 18:46:41 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143120 http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/worlds-poorest-nations-battle-rising-rural-poverty/feed/ 0 Hunger Heralds Climate Change’s Arrival in Botswanahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/hunger-heralds-climate-changes-arrival-in-botswana/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hunger-heralds-climate-changes-arrival-in-botswana http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/hunger-heralds-climate-changes-arrival-in-botswana/#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2015 15:38:23 +0000 Baboki Kayawe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143101 Cattle among drought victims. Credit: Kagiso Onkatswitse

Cattle among drought victims. Credit: Kagiso Onkatswitse

By Baboki Kayawe
GABORONE, BOTSWANA, Nov 24 2015 (IPS)

A perfect storm of lower rainfall and a growing population beckons for Botswana. But others find climate change is already in the fields and paddocks. “As climate change ushers in more stress on the water sector, it is increasingly a concern that losses in rangeland productivity will result in food insecurity, especially in rural areas,” a country analysis report unveiled recently on Botswana states.

Far from the airy conference rooms where such reports are typically shared, are thousands of subsistence farmers – growing crops mainly to feed their families – for whom these words come to life in the fields and the paddocks of Botswana every harvest season.

For these farmers, the national ideals of poverty eradication and sustainable development are slipping ever further out of reach. Bathalefhi Seoroka, 65, is a subsistence farmer in Boteti, one of Botswana’s drier areas located in the central region. She mostly grows maize, sorghum, beans and melons on her six-hectare field.

Seoroka has noticed her crops have been failing because of declining rainfall since 2010. “Weather patterns have drastically changed,” she says. “I don’t know how we will be able to survive under such dry conditions.”

Another farmer, Kgasane Tsele accuses the government of responding too slowly to the 2014-2015 drought, which was declared early in June. “This is really scary for us as farmers and we eagerly wait to see how government will respond,” he says. “By now government should have announced how it is going to help farmers in alleviating the impact of this drought. The response team must always be on alert and respond early.”

The Department of Meteorological Services predicts the southeastern part of Botswana – which is already suffering from drought and water shortages – is poised to experience its driest season in 34 years.

To cope with food shortage risks, the Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) ordered 1,000 tons of yellow maize from South Africa, and an additional 10,000 tons of white maize is due to arrive soon.

BAMB spokesperson, Kushata Modiakgotla says strategic grain reserves currently stand at 30,000 tons of sorghum and 3,000 tons of cowpeas left, but there is no maize. “BAMB has started the process of buying 5,000 tons of white maize from Zambia and it is exploring other avenues to import an additional 5,000 tons if necessary,” she states.

Imports from both nations would help meet supply as local reserves are under threat, while yellow maize is used to produce animal feed. The government insists consumers are not in any danger of going hungry as more than 90 percent of the maize consumed in Botswana is sourced by local millers from South Africa. But despite the supply contracts, consumers will have to pay more for maize meal the longer drought persists.

Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) chief executive Akolang Tombale says climate risks also present challenges to beef production and exports. “We are just emerging from a very dry season and if another drought is forecast it is a problematic state as production will be reduced,” he explains. Grasslands and pasture are an important resource for Batswana who derive most of their livelihood from livestock.

The majority of the BMC’s throughput starts at natural pastures, before being prepared with feedstock. Tombale is holding out hope for showers to replenish pastures around the country, but he acknowledges this may not be a long-term solution.

BMC has been receiving higher rates of deliveries than usual this year, since the Ministry of Agriculture advised farmers to destock as means of cutting their losses. However, this is a short-lived gain because if the situation persists in the next raining cycle, beef revenues would be badly affected. The BMC is now urging farmers to change their approach from quantity to quality-based cattle production.

President Ian Khama recently urged farmers to adopt more innovative approaches to their work in order to cope with the impacts of climate change. Speaking at the 2015 National Agricultural Show ‘Practicing Smart Agriculture to Combat the Effect of Climate Change’, he pointed to Israel, where farmers have harnessed new technologies in order to maintain production in highly water stressed environments.

“This ravaging drought we are currently experiencing is an opportunity to be innovative and resort to new methods and technologies to produce under such conditions. It is for this reason that farming methods such as conservation agriculture are promoted,” he said.

Recommendations include using improved crop varieties that are drought tolerant and high yielding, investing in breeds that can withstand the current climate, as well as adoption of proper crop husbandry practices though agricultural infrastructure. Lare Sisay, United Nations Development Programme’s deputy resident representative, predicts water shortages will lead to an increase in undesirable types of grass species.

“This has a far-reaching impact on social and economic sectors, and this has not yet been quantified and factored into the country’s economic projections,” he says. He predicts this could derail Botswana’s efforts to break through its middle-income country status.

Parliamentarians – many of whose constituents are rural and peri-urban populations involved in communal farming – are expected to tackle the climate change policy, once it appears in the National Assembly. The policy is due in the November sitting and already momentum is gathering from activists to ensure robust debate and urgent approval.

This story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change and developed thanks to Jessica Shankleman from @BusinessGreen.

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Analysis: Are Young People the Answer to Africa’s Food Security?http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/analysis-are-young-people-the-answer-to-africas-food-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=analysis-are-young-people-the-answer-to-africas-food-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/analysis-are-young-people-the-answer-to-africas-food-security/#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2015 07:41:28 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143095 http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/analysis-are-young-people-the-answer-to-africas-food-security/feed/ 2 Opinion: China’s New South-South Funds – a Global Game Changer?http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/opinion-chinas-new-south-south-funds-a-global-game-changer/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-chinas-new-south-south-funds-a-global-game-changer http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/opinion-chinas-new-south-south-funds-a-global-game-changer/#comments Mon, 16 Nov 2015 22:02:16 +0000 Martin Khor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143016

Martin Khor is the executive director of the South Center, based in Geneva.

By Martin Khor
GENEVA, Nov 16 2015 (IPS)

South-South cooperation is usually seen as a poor second fiddle to North-South aid in the world of development assistance. Indeed, developing countries’ policy makers themselves insist that South-South cooperation can only supplement but not replace North-South cooperation.

Martin Khor

Martin Khor

However, this widespread view received a jolt recently when China announced it was setting up two new funds totalling a massive 5.1 billion dollars to assist other developing countries.

The pledges, made by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to the United States in September , have given an immediate boost to the status of South-South cooperation in general, and to the rapidly growing global role of China.

President Xi first announced that China would set up a China South-South Climate Cooperation Fund to provide 3.1 billion dollars to help developing countries tackle climate change.

Secondly, speaking at the United Nations, Xi said that China would set up another fund with initial spending of 2 billion dollars for South-South Cooperation and to aid developing countries to implement the post-2015 Development Agenda.

The sheer size of the pledges gives a big political weight to the Chinese contribution. Xi’s initiatives have the feel of a “game changer” in international relations.

It is significant that Xi used the framework of South-South cooperation as the basis of the two funds.

In the international system, there have been two types of development cooperation: North-South and South-South cooperation.

North-South cooperation has been based on the obligation of developed countries to assist developing countries because the former have much more resources and have also benefitted from their former colonies.

Indeed, developed countries have committed to provide 0.7 per cent of their gross national income (GNI) as development assistance, a target that is regularly monitored and taken seriously but unfortunately is currently being met by only a handful of countries.

South-South cooperation on the other hand is based on solidarity and mutual benefit between developing countries as equals, and without obligations as there is no colonial history among them.

This is the position of the developing countries and their umbrella grouping, the G77 and China.

Xi himself described South-South cooperation as “a great pioneering measure uniting the developing nations together for self-improvement, is featured by equality, mutual trust, mutual benefit, win-win result, solidarity and mutual assistance and can help developing nations pave a new path for development and prosperity.”

In recent years, as Western countries reduced their commitment towards aid, they tried to blur the distinction and have been pressing big developing countries like China and India to also commit to provide development assistance just like they do, and preferably within the framework of the OECD, the rich countries’ club.

However, the developing countries have stuck to their political position: the developed countries have the responsibility to give adequate aid to poor countries and should not shift this on to other developing countries. The developing countries however will also help one another, through the arm of South-South cooperation.

This has increasingly led some developed countries to advocate, during negotiations at several UN meetings, that for them to continue with their aid commitment, some of the developing countries should also pay their share.

The traditional framework in international cooperation may now be changed by the two Chinese pledges, both interesting in themselves.

It is noted by many that the 3.1 billion dollar Chinese climate aid exceeds the 3 billion dollars that the US has pledged (but not yet delivered) to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) under the United Nations Climate Convention.

China has now taken that South-South route by announcing it will set up its own South-South climate fund, with the unexpectedly big size of 3.1 billion dollars, an amount larger than any developed country has pledged at the GCF.

With such a large amount, the Chinese climate fund has the potential to facilitate many significant programmes on climate mitigation, adaptation and institutional building.

As for the other fund announced by Xi, the initial 2 billion dollars is for South-South cooperation and for implementing the post-2015 development agenda just adopted by the United Nations. The agenda’s centrepiece is the sustainable development goals. Xi mentioned poverty reduction, agriculture, health and education as some of the areas the fund may cover.

This new fund has the potential of helping developing countries learn from one another’s development experiences and practices and make leaps in policy and action.

Xi also said an Academy of South-South Cooperation and Development will be established to facilitate studies and exchanges by developing countries on theories and practices of development suited to their respective national conditions.

The next steps to implement these pledges would be for China to set up the institutional basis for the funds, and design their framework, aims and functions. It is a great opportunity to show whether South-South cooperation can contribute as positively as North-South aid.

Of course, aid is not the only dimension of South-South cooperation, which is especially prominent in the areas of trade, investment, finance and the social sectors.

The regional trade agreements in ASEAN, East Asia, and the sub-regions of Africa and Latin America, as well as the trade and investment links between the three South continents, have shown immense expansion in recent decades.

Recently, the world’s imagination was also captured by the creation of the BRICS New Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Chinese One Belt One Road programme, which all contain elements of South-South cooperation.

South-South cooperation in aid, however, is symbolically and practically of great importance, as it tends to assist the more vulnerable – including poor people and countries, and fragile environments including biodiversity and the climate undergoing crisis.

Let’s hope that the two new funds being set up by China will give a much-needed boost to South-South cooperation and solidarity among the people.

(End)

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Refugee Crisis May Threaten Development Aid to World’s Poorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/refugee-crisis-may-threaten-development-aid-to-worlds-poor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=refugee-crisis-may-threaten-development-aid-to-worlds-poor http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/refugee-crisis-may-threaten-development-aid-to-worlds-poor/#comments Wed, 11 Nov 2015 21:52:23 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142974 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 11 2015 (IPS)

As the spreading refugee crisis threatens to destabilize national budgets of donor nations in Western Europe, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Wednesday appealed to the international community not to forsake its longstanding commitment for development assistance to the world’s poorer nations.

Ban’s appeal comes two days after a UN pledging conference reported a “dramatic decline” in donor commitments: from 560 million dollars in 2014 to 77 million dollars in the most recent pledges, largely covering 2015.

Asked if the Secretary-General’s appeal was the result of the decline in commitments, UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq told IPS: “It’s in response to many factors, including concerns expressed by some states about maintaining aid levels.”

The secretary-general said resources for one area should not come at the expense of another.

Redirecting critical funding away from development aid at this pivotal time could perpetuate challenges that the global community has committed to address, he warned.

“Reducing development assistance to finance the cost of refugee flows is counter-productive and will cause a vicious circle detrimental to health, education and opportunities for a better life at home for millions of vulnerable people in every corner of the world,” Ban declared.

At a summit meeting of political leaders from Europe and Africa in Malta Wednesday, the European Union (EU) was expected to announce plans to create a Special Trust Fund, initially estimated at 1.9 billion dollars, to address the financial problems arising out of the refugee crisis.

Since European countries are expected to boost this fund over the next few months, there are fears these contributions may be at the expense of development assistance.

According to figures released by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), development aid flows were stable in 2014, after hitting an all-time high in 2013.

But aid to the poorest countries continued to fall, according to official data collected by the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC).

Net official development assistance (ODA) from DAC members totalled 135.2 billion dollars, with a record 135.1 billion dollars in 2013, though marking a 0.5% decline in real terms.

Net ODA as a share of gross national income was 0.29%, also on a par with 2013. ODA has increased by 66% in real terms since 2000, when the Millennium Development Goals were agreed, according to OECD.

The secretary-general said that with the world facing the largest crisis of forced displacement since the Second World War, the international community should meet this immense challenge without lessening its commitment to vitally needed official development assistance. (ODA)

He underscored the importance of fully funding both efforts to care for refugees and asylum seekers in host countries as well as longer-term development efforts.

The Secretary-General said he recognized the financial demands faced by host communities and partner governments as they seek to support the international response.

He expressed his “sincere gratitude to governments and their citizens for their generosity.”

Nick Hartmann, Director of the Partnerships Group at UN Development Programme (UNDP) told delegates Monday the important agreements that Member States had come to in 2015 called for increased policy support.

To deliver that, adequate and predictable resources were required.

He said core resources were the foundation of UNDP’s support to the poorest and most vulnerable.

UNDP, he pointed out, had responded to a range of crises over the past year and had ensured that 11.2 million people benefited from improved livelihoods. Almost a million jobs were created in 77 countries, with half of those reaching women.

“However, he said reduced contributions from many top partners and unfavourable exchange rate movements had caused a downward trend in funding.”

Hartmann said a number of partners faced overwhelming pressures, including the migrant crisis, he thanked those who had submitted pledges at Monday’s pledging conference.

The UNDP is described as the UN’s global development network covering 177 countries and territories.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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OPINION: Refugee Crisis – Diverting Funds From Civil Society is a Bad Ideahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/opinion-refugee-crisis-diverting-funds-from-civil-society-is-a-bad-idea/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-refugee-crisis-diverting-funds-from-civil-society-is-a-bad-idea http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/opinion-refugee-crisis-diverting-funds-from-civil-society-is-a-bad-idea/#comments Tue, 10 Nov 2015 07:22:05 +0000 Teldah Mawarire http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142955

Teldah Mawarire is a policy and research officer at CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance.

By Teldah Mawarire
JOHANNESBURG, Nov 10 2015 (IPS)

Europe is in the throes of a refugee crisis and it’s not difficult to see that it does not quite know how to respond to it. By mid-October more than 600,000 people had reached Europe by sea.

Teldah Mawarire

Teldah Mawarire

The International Organisation for Migration estimates that more than 3,100 people have died or are missing this year alone as they try to make their way to Europe. The flow is likely to continue with the UNICEF saying more Syrians could head to Europe as the conflict in their country continues.

The response to the crisis has been markedly different by different sectors and in different countries. On the whole, it is civil society and not governments or regional unions that have led the effort to help those escaping the horror of war. Civil society organisations (CSOs) have responded by providing food, water, shelter, health services and skills programmes for arriving migrants. CSOs are lobbying the European Union and its members intensely to tackle the intolerance towards refugees. Even the monitoring of refugee arrivals and the database on deaths is being done by CSOs.

The response from those in power however has been inadequate. From bickering in the European Union to hard-line stances taken by the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban that his country must defend its borders from “migrants.”

There are, however, glimmers of hope. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has been more welcoming to refugees until the recent vote by Germany’s lower house of parliament to limit the number of refugees, although the country still projects to receive about 1.5 million refugee arrivals this year. The European Union last month agreed to share 120,000 refugees through a quota system to some member states.

The United Kingdom has promised that it would take in 4,000 refugees this year and 20,000 refugees over the next five years, although it is one of the European Union members that have refused to be part of the quota system. After unhelpful remarks by British lawmakers earlier this year that refugees must not make their way to London because its streets are “not paved with gold,” taking in refugees is a step in the right direction but it is still a “pitifully small” response, as stated by Green MP Caroline Lucas in the UK parliament.

Worryingly, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has said that the money to support refugees should be taken from the Department for International Development (DFID) – the United Kingdom’s official agency in charge of administering aid. DFID is involved in a wide range of projects that include preventing malaria deaths, improving child education and child immunisations, infrastructure development, humanitarian work, civil society support and research among others.

DFID substantially spends about 12 billion pounds per year on international aid. Although the bulk of DFID funding is disbursed through governments, there is a possibility of reduction in allocations to projects led by civil society that rely on funding from the United Kingdom if the Osborne proposal is implemented.

Given the important work being done by CSOs in dealing with refugee crisis, it makes little sense for the UK government to cut or divert aid budgets from CSOs especially when efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, agreed to by world leaders in September this year, will need additional resources. Instead, the UK should make a greater effort to support refugees from its domestic budget.

While the current rules around Official Development Assistance (ODA) allow for donors to count some expenditure for resettling displaced people in their own countries as part of their aid allocation, only a relatively small amount of aid given to refugees has been counted as part of ODA in previous years.

The concern for civil society is that faced with the immensity of the current refugee crisis, coupled with fiscal austerity, donor countries will divert more aid in this way.

Reducing funding could set a bad precedent and lead to other donor governments reducing their funding of projects in the Global South. Already there are concerns in Sweden as the government is considering diverting development aid to refugee reception aid.

In an environment where civil society around the world already faces a funding crisis, while the demand for its work increases, diverting funding is the last thing that the sector needs.

Funding the response to the refugee crisis should be seen as separate from regular development assistance support. If anything, additional resources need to be made available for civil society organisations to continue the essential work they are doing to respond to the crisis, while governments do their best to help refugees in line with humanitarian principles.

(End)

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Central America Seeks Recognition of Its Vulnerability to Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/central-america-seeks-recognition-of-its-vulnerability-to-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=central-america-seeks-recognition-of-its-vulnerability-to-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/central-america-seeks-recognition-of-its-vulnerability-to-climate-change/#comments Fri, 30 Oct 2015 23:21:17 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142859 In its national contribution, Costa Rica said the sector most vulnerable to climate change is road infrastructure. This highway, which connects San José with the Caribbean coast, and which crosses the central mountain chain, is closed several times a year due to landslides. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

In its national contribution, Costa Rica said the sector most vulnerable to climate change is road infrastructure. This highway, which connects San José with the Caribbean coast, and which crosses the central mountain chain, is closed several times a year due to landslides. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSE, Oct 30 2015 (IPS)

For decades, the countries of Central America have borne the heavy impact of extreme climate phenomena like hurricanes and severe drought. Now, six of them are demanding that the entire planet recognise their climate vulnerability.

An initiative that has emerged from civil society in Central America wants the new binding universal climate treaty to acknowledge that the region is especially vulnerable to climate change – a distinction currently given to small island developing states (SIDS) and least developed countries (LDCs).

In the climate Oct. 19-23 talks in Bonn, Germany, the proposal found its way into the draft of the future Paris agreement. If it is approved, Central America could be given priority when it comes to the distribution of climate financing for adaptation measures – which would be crucial for the region.

“Civil society – and I would dare to say the governments – have been demanding this because it could give the region access to windows of financing, technology and capacity strengthening,” said Tania Guillén, climate change officer at Nicaragua’s Humboldt Centre.“Civil society – and I would dare to say the governments – have been demanding this because it could give the region access to windows of financing, technology and capacity strengthening.” -- Tania Guillén

These contributions, the expert told IPS, “should go towards the benefit of vulnerable communities” in this region. But for now, only SIDS and LDCs have a priority.

Semantic disputes have taken on great importance, a month before the start of the Nov. 30-Dec. 11 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris, where the new climate treaty is to be approved.

That is because the language used will form part of the foundations on which the legal bases of the agreement will be set.

Central America’s 48 million people live on the isthmus that separates the Pacific Ocean from the Caribbean Sea, along whose length stretches a mountain chain and an arid dry corridor.

Nearly half of the region’s inhabitants – 23 million, or 48 percent – live below the poverty line, according to official statistics.

The issue of climate vulnerability – the set of conditions that make a society or ecosystem more likely to be affected by extreme climate events – has been on Central America’s agenda for years, since Hurricane Mitch’s devastating passage through the region in 1998 forced a rethinking of risk management.

As part of this process, the Vulnerable Central America, United for Life Forum was born in 2009 – a civil society collective that has pushed for the region to be declared particularly subject to the consequences of climate change.

Over the last year, climate impacts have caused human and material losses throughout Central America, from the catastrophic mudslide in Cambray on the outskirts of Guatemala City to the sea level rise threatening Panama’s Guna Yala archipelago in the Caribbean Sea.

The most widely extended of these impacts has been the drought associated with the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a climate phenomenon which complicated agricultural conditions in Central America’s so-called dry corridor.

The corridor is an arid stretch of dry forest where subsistence farming is the norm and where rainfall was 40 to 60 percent below normal in the 2014-2015 dry season.

Central America accounts for just 0.6 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. This means it sees reducing its vulnerability to climate change as more urgent than mitigation measures.

If successful, the call for the region to be recognised as especially vulnerable would make it a priority for climate change adaptation financing and technology.

But it will not be easy to reach this goal in the negotiations, as it is hindered by other countries of the developing South and even by some in this region itself.

The tension first arose within the Central American Economic Integration System (SICA), which held three meetings during the October climate change talks in Bonn, but failed to reach a consensus on the initiative, due to internal opposition from Belize.

“It must be pointed out that (SICA members) Belize and the Dominican Republic are SIDS, which means that to avoid problems with that negotiating bloc they did not back the proposal,” Guillén said.

In his view, “the painful thing is what Belize is doing, because the Dominican Republic is in a different situation,” since it is not actually part of the Central American isthmus, but is a Caribbean island nation.

Although Belize is on the mainland, it joined the SIDS in the climate talks.

The head of the Guatemalan government’s delegation to the climate talks, Edwin Castellanos, confirmed to IPS that no consensus was reached within SICA.

For that reason, “the proposal was made by El Salvador, as current president of SICA, but it was not made in the name of SICA because member countries did not back the motion.” It was also signed by Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.

Castellanos also noted that there are other countries seeking to be included on the list of the most vulnerable countries, an issue that was addressed within the powerful Group of 77 and China negotiating bloc, which represents the countries of the developing South.

“When Central America presented this initiative, Nepal followed it with a similar proposal for mountainous countries. The problem is that this starts off a list that could be interminable, and which already includes the LDCs, islands, and most recently, Africa,” the negotiator said.

He acknowledged that the initiative came from Central American civil society, and mentioned in particular the Mexico and Central America Civil Society Forum held Oct. 7-9 in Mexico City, ahead of COP21.

Alejandra Granados, a Costa Rican activist who took part in the civil society forum, told IPS that the proposal was set forth by Alejandra Sobenes of the Guatemalan Institute for Environmental Law and Sustainable Development (IDEADS), and that “each organisation sent it to the negotiators for their respective countries” prior to the meeting in Bonn.

The Central American countries that have already submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the UNFCCC agreed on including adaptation components to which governments have committed themselves.

El Salvador and Nicaragua have not yet presented their INDCs, the commitments that each nation assumes to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions to fight global warming.

Granados said that, if Central America is recognised as especially vulnerable, the countries of the region will have to work hard together with local communities to improve their adaptation plans prior to 2020, when the new treaty will go into effect.

“This recognition is not an end in itself; it is a major responsibility that the region is assuming, because it is as if at an international level all eyes turned towards the region and said: ‘Ok, what are you waiting for, to do something? You wanted this recognition, now assume your responsibility to take action’,” said the Costa Rican activist, who heads the organisation CO2.cr.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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United Arab Emirates and Cuba Forge Closer Tieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/united-arab-emirates-and-cuba-forge-closer-ties/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=united-arab-emirates-and-cuba-forge-closer-ties http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/united-arab-emirates-and-cuba-forge-closer-ties/#comments Tue, 06 Oct 2015 19:10:19 +0000 Patricia Grogg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142609 The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, shakes hands with his opposite number in Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez, after raising the UAE flag at the opening of the Emirati embassy in Havana on Oct. 5, 2015. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, shakes hands with his opposite number in Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez, after raising the UAE flag at the opening of the Emirati embassy in Havana on Oct. 5, 2015. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Patricia Grogg
HAVANA, Oct 6 2015 (IPS)

Cuba and the United Arab Emirates agreed to strengthen diplomatic ties and bilateral cooperation during an official visit to this Caribbean island nation by the UAE minister of foreign affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

During his 24-hour stay, Al Nahyan met on Monday Oct. 5 with Cuban authorities, signed two agreements, and inaugurated his country’s embassy in Havana, which he said was a clear sign of the consolidation of the ties established by the two countries in March 2002.

“I am sure that the next few years will witness the prosperity of our ties,” he added during his official meeting with his Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodríguez, with whom he signed an agreement on air services “between and beyond our territories” which will facilitate the expansion of opportunities for international air transport.

In the meeting, Rodríguez reaffirmed his government’s support for Arab peoples in their struggle to maintain their independence and territorial integrity.

According to official sources, the two foreign ministers concurred that the opening of the UAE embassy is an important step forward in bilateral ties and will permit closer follow-up of questions of mutual interest.

Al Nahyan also met with the first vice president of the councils of state and ministers, Miguel Díaz Canel. The two officials confirmed the good state of bilateral ties and the possibilities for cooperation on the economic, trade and financial fronts, Cuba’s prime-time TV newscast reported.

The foreign ministers of Cuba and the United Arab Emirates, Bruno Rodríguez (left) and Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, during the Oct. 5, 2015 agreement-signing ceremony in Cuba’s ministry of foreign affairs in Havana. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The foreign ministers of Cuba and the United Arab Emirates, Bruno Rodríguez (left) and Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, during the Oct. 5, 2015 agreement-signing ceremony in Cuba’s ministry of foreign affairs in Havana. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Cuba’s minister of foreign trade and investment, Rodrigo Malmierca, signed a credit agreement with the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, to finance a solar energy farm that will generate 10 MW of electricity.

Al Nahyan first visited Havana on Oct. 1-2, 2009 in response to an official invitation from minister Rodríguez. On that occasion they signed two agreements, one on economic, trade and technical cooperation, and another between the two foreign ministries.

“We have great confidence in Cuba’s leaders and in our capacity to carry out these kinds of projects,” Al Nahyan told the local media on that occasion.

United Arab Emirates, a federation made up of seven emirates – Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain – established diplomatic relations with Cuba in March 2002, in an accord signed in Cairo.

The decision to open an embassy in the Cuban capital was reached in a June 2014 cabinet meeting presided over by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE vice president and prime minister, and the ruler of Dubai.

In late February 2015, Al Maktoum received the letters of credentials for the new ambassador of Cuba in the UAE, Enrique Enríquez, during a ceremony in the Al Mushrif Palace in the Emirati capital.

The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed al Nayhan, unveils a plaque commemorating the official opening in Havana of the new UAE embassy, together with his opposite number in Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed al Nayhan, unveils a plaque commemorating the official opening in Havana of the new UAE embassy, together with his opposite number in Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Later, UAE Assistant Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Ahmed al Jarman and Enríquez discussed the state of bilateral relations and agreed to take immediate concrete steps to expand and strengthen ties in different areas.

Enríquez also met with Cubans living in Abu Dhabi with a view to bolstering relations between them and their home country. They agreed on periodic future gatherings.

In May 2014, the UAE and Cuba signed an open skies agreement to allow the airlines of both countries to operate in each other’s territories, as well as opening the door to new plans for flights between the two countries, the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) reported.

The accord formed part of a strategy to boost trade with other countries, said Saif Mohammed al Suwaidi, director general of the GCAA, who headed a delegation of officials and representatives of national airlines during a two-day visit to Cuba.

The UAE signed similar agreements with other Latin American countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico, as part of its effort at closer relations with this region, which is of growing interest to the Gulf country.

Talks have also been announced between the UAE and Russia to build a giant airport in Cuba, which would serve as an international airport hub for Latin America, the Abu Dhabi-based National newspaper reported in February.

The proposal is being discussed by the Russian government and the Abu Dhabi state investment fund Mubadala, mandated to diversify the emirate’s economy.

In 2013 and 2014, UAE was named the world’s largest official development aid donor in a report released by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In 2013, the Gulf nation provided five billion dollars in ODA to other countries.

Last year, according to OECD data, the only Gulf country to have a Ministry of International Cooperation and Development spent 1.34 percent of their gross domestic product in development cooperation.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Human Rights Activists Condemn Houthi Militia’s Atrocities Against Women in Yemenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/human-rights-activists-condemn-houthi-militias-atrocities-against-women-in-yemen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=human-rights-activists-condemn-houthi-militias-atrocities-against-women-in-yemen http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/human-rights-activists-condemn-houthi-militias-atrocities-against-women-in-yemen/#comments Wed, 30 Sep 2015 15:04:16 +0000 Emirates News Agency http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142554 By Emirates News Agency (WAM)
Geneva, Sep 30 2015 (IPS)

(WAM) — Arab and Yemeni human rights activist monitoring the civil war in Yemen say that women have been subjected to grave human right violations at the hands of the rebel Houthi militia and an allied insurgent group under the command of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The human rights defenders were speaking at a landmark event organised by the Arab Federation for Human Rights (AFHR) on the sidelines of the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Dr. Mona Hejres, a member of the AFHR and head of “Together for Human Rights,” noted in her presentation at the event that that women were active participants in the revolution that drove Saleh out of power and that many had faced human rights crimes including killing, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, and use of excessive force during that struggle. She said that today, in rebel-held areas, women suffer greatly at the hands of the Houthi militia and Saleh group, with widespread murders, forced disappearances, kidnappings, deprivation of basic educational and health services, bombardment of residential districts, and other atrocities targeting them in the capital Sana’a, Aden and other cities.

She called upon the international community to live up to its responsibilities in protecting the Yemeni people, especially women, and to back the Arab Coalition’s operations seeking to protect the Yemeni people. She also appealed to the UN Security Council to enforce its resolutions on Yemen and ensure protection, safety and security for its people, and particularly women.

During the event, a number of heads of Yemeni human rights associations and organisations pointed to a recent report by the Yemeni Coalition to Monitor Human Rights Violations (YCMHRV) as further evidence of the suffering caused by the Houthi militia and Saleh group in Yemen, particularly with regard to women.

Representatives of the AFHR and the YCMHRV also reiterated their rejection of the western countries’ request to establish a fact finding committee, which they said would dilute and ignore what they termed a human tragedy fomented by the rebel militias. Instead, they said, the international community should focus on prosecuting war criminals in the conflict, and to uphold its responsibilities to protect women during armed and military conflicts and disputes.

Maryam bin Tawq, Coordinator at the AFHR, spoke about the importance of establishing the international coalition “Operation Restoring Hope” aimed at protecting the Yemeni people from violations and crimes against humanity being carried out by al-Houthi group and the Saleh Militia. She said that the Euro-Mediterranean Center for Human Rights had found that the rebel militias had committed more than 4,500 human rights violations within the course of just one month of their control of Sana’a. (END)

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Opinion: Renewed Optimism or Higgledy-Piggledy Vision?http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/opinion-renewed-optimism-or-higgledy-piggledy-vision/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-renewed-optimism-or-higgledy-piggledy-vision http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/opinion-renewed-optimism-or-higgledy-piggledy-vision/#comments Wed, 30 Sep 2015 13:05:51 +0000 S Kulkami http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142546 vani_raghav_ok

By Vani S. Kulkarni and Raghav Gaiha
Philadelphia and Boston, Sep 30 2015 (IPS)

The 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the whopping 169 targets were adopted in the largest ever United Nations Summit, attended by Prime Ministers, Presidents and the Pope, among other luminaries, in New York. These goals encompass world peace, the environment, gender equality, elimination of poverty and hunger and much, much more.

So far, they have evoked mixed reactions ranging from complete dismissal to grudging acceptance and overwhelming euphoria. Much of the scepticism is rooted in the ambitiousness of the SDGs relative to highly varying and, in most cases, limited capacities of developing countries to accomplish them. A comment in The Economist (19 September, 2015) derides them as “higgledy-piggledy, “bloated” and “unwieldy” but acknowledges a shift in development thinking.

While we commend the vision of SDGs for their comprehensiveness, emphasis on their inter-relatedness and inclusiveness, we have drawn upon recent evidence to develop the following key strategic elements in the spirit of enriching the policy debates.

A profound and lasting contribution of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was that they enhanced awareness of the multiple deprivations that afflicted large majorities of the people in many developing countries and policy challenges that confronted the governments, multilaterals and donors.

The SDGs have not just expanded their vision but also enriched it by focusing on sustainability. As Amartya Sen emphasised in the context of universal health care, it is not so much lack of affordability but a failure to recognise the capacity of poor countries (such as Rwanda), and states (such as Kerala in India) to mobilise and utilise resources effectively.

As global poverty fell, so did the gap between rural and urban poverty. Still, more than three-fourths of the extremely poor live in rural areas. It is clear, then, that global poverty remains a rural problem.

Overemphatic endorsement in recent studies of urbanisation as the main strategy for sustainable development neglects agriculture and the rural non-farm economy (RNFE) as key drivers of growth and reduction of inequality and poverty, as a vast majority of rural people still depend on them for their livelihoods.

Structural changes have occurred in both agriculture and the RNFE. Some features of changes in agriculture include its commercialisation, the emergence of high value food chains associated with demographic changes, urbanisation and growing affluence, and growth of agricultural exports.

Some have questioned the importance assigned to smallholder agriculture as a pathway out of poverty. Specifically, they contest the argument of the World Development Report 2008 that stimulating agricultural growth is “vital for stimulating growth in other parts of the economy,” and that smallholders are at the core of this strategy.

Pervasiveness of smallholder participation in high value food chains in different regions – especially in vegetables and fruits, milk and dairy products, and meat – is much higher than generally expected.

But there are barriers, too: lack of access to technology, credit markets, economies of scale in marketing, and ways of meeting stringent food quality standards. Contract farming is an option. Producers’ associations also contribute to overcoming some of these constraints. Central to this is inculcation of entrepreneurial skills among smallholders – especially young men and women – making sure that land, labour, credit and output markets function more efficiently.

While a majority of recent studies are emphatic about low labour productivity in agriculture impeding sustainable agricultural development, it is seldom acknowledged that these are manifestations of “underinvestment” in agriculture and market imperfections (e.g. dominance of local money lenders charging exorbitant interest rates, limited land rental markets, the sharp wedge between farm gate and wholesale prices for smallholders). Size neutrality of new agricultural technology implies an important role for extension services.

As part of the diversification of the rural economy, the RNFE has assumed greater importance in that it comprises a diverse set of activities ranging from pottery to trading and manufacturing with varied returns. Available evidence points to a large “overlap” between smallholders and those engaged in the RNFE using time disposition data. There is also some evidence that more than a small share of those classified as engaged in the RNFE live in rural areas but work in urban areas, raising questions about a sharp rural-urban dichotomy.

Other issues that deserve greater attention include labour tightening and higher wage rates, reduction of vulnerability of agriculture to weather shocks, volatility of prices, and forging of closer linkages with small and secondary towns. Central to expansion of the RNFE is how to make it more attractive for not just those who are engaged in both agriculture and the RNFE but also others who may move out of agriculture in pursuit of more rewarding opportunities elsewhere. Inculcation of managerial skills, more efficient credit and output markets, and improvements in rural infrastructure to enable easier access to output markets could stem the rural-urban migration tide and thereby the rapid growth of slums.

For poverty reduction, some forms of inequality matter more than others. Important ones include inequality in the distribution of assets, especially land, human capital, financial capital and access to public assets such as rural infrastructure. Broadly, a pro-poor agenda should include measures to moderate current income inequality while facilitating access to income-generating assets and the promotion of employment opportunities for the poor.

Much of the cross-country evidence relates to the benefits of financial depth rather than to broad financial inclusion. The Global Financial Development Report 2014 (World Bank, 2014) makes an emphatic case for the latter on the grounds it reflects a growing realization of its potentially transformative power to accelerate development gains through greater access to resources for investing in education, capitalizing on business opportunities, and confronting shocks. Indeed, greater diversification of clientele through financial inclusion is likely to lead to a more resilient and more stable economy.

As more and more economies upgrade to middle-income and institutional quality improves, private capital inflows will become increasingly important. A stable macro-economic environment and incentives for public-private partnerships would promote growth and poverty reduction. Greater transparency of contracts and better enforcement are imperative. Not just national but local institutions matter a great deal in a sustainable rural transformation and poverty reduction.

Institutional responses to risks need to be strengthened by promoting community level institutions; widening and deepening of the reach of financial institutions; and providing social protection to the most vulnerable. When designed well and targeted effectively, these institutions and programmes help poor households build resilience against risks and severe hardships.

Local organizations (e.g water users’ associations, producers’ groups, women’s groups) not only help in equitable use of scarce natural resources in a community but also in facilitating access to credit and other markets.

Indeed, contrary to the deep pessimism, the SDGs reflect a renewed commitment to and optimism about bettering the “nasty, short and brutish lives” of the poor, disadvantaged and vulnerable in the near future.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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‘Why is it Easier to Find Money to Destroy People than Protect Them?’ Asks U.N. Chiefhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/why-is-it-easier-to-find-money-to-destroy-people-than-protect-them-asks-u-n-chief/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-is-it-easier-to-find-money-to-destroy-people-than-protect-them-asks-u-n-chief http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/why-is-it-easier-to-find-money-to-destroy-people-than-protect-them-asks-u-n-chief/#comments Mon, 28 Sep 2015 22:44:55 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142522 United States President Addresses General Assembly. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

United States President Addresses General Assembly. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 28 2015 (IPS)

Speaking at the opening session of the high-level debate of the U.N. General Assembly Monday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said a politically troubled world is suffering from a lack of empathy.

“One hundred million people require immediate humanitarian assistance,” he told delegates, pointing out that at least 60 million people have been forced to flee their homes or their countries.

The United Nations has asked for nearly 20 billion dollars to meet this year’s needs – six times the level of a decade ago. But demands continue to dwarf funding, although member states have been generous, he said.

Still, he lamented, the global humanitarian system is not broken; “it is broke.”

“We are not receiving enough money to save enough lives. We have about half of what we need to help the people of Iraq, South Sudan and Yemen – and just a third for Syria.”

In Yemen, 21 million people — 80 per cent of the population — need humanitarian assistance.

The U.N.’s response plan for Ukraine is just 39 per cent funded while the appeal for Gambia, where one in four children suffers from stunting, has been met with silence.

Still, he pointed out, the world continues to squander trillions in wasteful military spending.

“Why is it easier to find the money to destroy people and planet than it is to protect them?” he asked delegates, who include five of the world’s major military powers: the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain.

Speaking for nearly 45 minutes, U.S. President Barack Obama covered a wide range of subjects in his address to the General Assembly.

And his appearance before the United Nations coincided with a breaking story about Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria joining a new coalition to fight the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL) — even while a Western coalition has been fighting a losing battle against the terrorist group.

“I’ve said before and I will repeat: There is no room for accommodating an apocalyptic cult like ISIL, and the United States makes no apologies for using our military, as part of a broad coalition, to go after them,” Obama warned.

“We do so with a determination to ensure that there will never be a safe haven for terrorists who carry out these crimes. And we have demonstrated over more than a decade of relentless pursuit of al Qaeda, we will not be outlasted by extremists.”

But while military power is necessary, the U.S. President argued, it is not sufficient to resolve the situation in Syria.

“Lasting stability can only take hold when the people of Syria forge an agreement to live together peacefully,” he said.

Obama said the United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict.

“But we must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the pre-war status quo.”

Asked to react to Obama’s speech, Ray Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America told IPS, President Obama showed renewed interest in engaging on a peace process for Syria – one that includes Iran and Russia.

“We’re hopeful that when he returns to Washington it is with the intention to remain personally engaged in a peace process. His words were welcome but they must be followed by action.”

He said a ‘fate worse than death’ is how some of the four million Syrian refugees, now registered in countries neighboring Syria, describe what it’s like to watch the towns and cities they left behind crumble under mortar attacks and barrel bombs.

“What is needed urgently is an inclusive peace process — pressure on the parties to end indiscriminate attacks and allow greater access to humanitarian assistance,” Offenheiser said.

“We welcome Obama’s recent announcement that the U.S. will take more refugees, but remain concerned that the pace and scale of the U.S. response is nowhere near enough. We urge the United States to resettle at least 100,000 Syrian refugees in the coming fiscal year.”

The U.S. can and should do much more to provide refuge and safety to the millions of Syrians displaced by the conflict, he declared.

Speaking of the U.N.‘s track record over the last 70 years, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff listed some of the world body’s successes and failures.

She said the United Nations has broadened its initiatives, incorporating the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, incorporating issues related to the environment, poverty eradication, social development and access to quality services.

Matters such as urban challenges and gender and race issues have become a priority.

Still, she said the Organization has not had the same success, in addressing collective security, an issue which was present at the U.N.’s origins and which remains at the center of its concerns.

She said the proliferation of regional conflicts – some with high destructive potential – “as well as the expansion of terrorism, that kills men, women, and children, destroys our common heritage and displaces millions of people from their secular communities, show that the United Nations is before a great challenge.”

“One cannot be complacent with barbaric acts such as those perpetrated by the so called Islamic State and other associated groups.”

This situation explains, to a large extent, the refugee crisis that humankind is currently experiencing, Rousseff said.

A significant portion of the men, women and children who perilously venture the waters of the Mediterranean and painfully wander along the roads of Europe come from the Middle East and Northern Africa, from countries which had their state institutions de-structured by military action undertaken in contravention of international law, thereby opening space for terrorism, the Brazilian President noted.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Report Condemns Atrocities of Houthi Rebels in Yemenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/report-condemns-atrocities-of-houthi-rebels-in-yemen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=report-condemns-atrocities-of-houthi-rebels-in-yemen http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/report-condemns-atrocities-of-houthi-rebels-in-yemen/#comments Mon, 28 Sep 2015 16:49:06 +0000 Emirates News Agency http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142516 By Emirates News Agency (WAM)
ABU DHABI, Sep 28 2015 (IPS)

(WAM) – A new report from a human rights group operating in Yemen says that human rights violations have reached unprecedented levels, with more than 3,000 people murdered by the insurgent Houthi militia and its allies in Yemen.

The report by the Yemeni Coalition to Monitor Human Rights Violations (YCMHRV), prepared from
reports by the organisation’s field monitors in Yemen, outlines a series of atrocities committed over the
past year in Sana’a, the capital, Aden, Taiz, Lahej, Hodiedah, Addali’e, Abyan, Dhamar and Shabwa,
governorates (see full report in report. http://www.wam.ae/en/news/international/1395286001275.html).

The report tied the Houthi militia and an allied group operating under the command of former Yemeni
president Ali Abdullah Saleh with unconstitutional overthrow of the legitimate government that has
resulted in human rights violations that have afflicted men, women, children, property and the
environment.

The findings show that between September 2014 and August 2015, 3,074 people were murdered, about
20 percent of whom were women and children, and 7,347 civilians were wounded due to random
shelling, at least 25 percent of whom were women and children. A total of 5,894 people were arbitrarily
detained during the monitoring period – 4,640 of them were released and 1,254 people remain in
captivity.

The report also focuses on arbitrary detention, forcible disappearances and hostage taking violations,
which the monitors said have been carried out regularly by the rebel militia against politicians,
journalists, and human rights and political activists. It said detainees are frequently mistreated and
deprived of basic needs such as food, water and proper hygiene and sanitation. Monitors also reported
that some detainees are used as human shields at military sites that have been targeted by the Coalition
airstrikes.

“This is a clear violation of both national and international legislation,” said the report. “The de facto
forces, the Houthis, failed to observe their commitment towards human rights and humanitarian law,
being the power in control that practices the state’s functions. Rather, the Houthis-Saleh showed total
recklessness towards human rights and human suffering.”

The report concludes with recommendations, calling on the Houthi-Saleh militia, Yemeni government
and the international community to implement relevant UN Security Council resolutions. It also calls on
the international community to support the newly established National Commission to investigate
alleged human rights Violations with all needed technical assistance. (END)

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U.N.’s New Development Goals Need Funds, Political Commitment for Successhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/u-n-s-new-development-goals-need-funds-political-commitment-for-success/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-n-s-new-development-goals-need-funds-political-commitment-for-success http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/u-n-s-new-development-goals-need-funds-political-commitment-for-success/#comments Mon, 28 Sep 2015 15:54:57 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142507 sdgs_25_27_red

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 28 2015 (IPS)

The U.N.’s much-ballyhooed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), unanimously adopted by over 150 world leaders at a three-day summit meeting, which concluded Sep. 27, has been touted as the biggest single contribution to humanity since the invention of sliced bread.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Summit, the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the 17 SDGs as an integral part of a post-2015 development agenda to end poverty in all its forms.

“The true test of commitment to Agenda 2030 will be implementation. We need action from everyone, everywhere. Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals are our guide. They are a to-do list for people and planet, and a blueprint for success,” said Ban.

But what does it really take to ensure the SDGs are implemented over the next 15 years so that the world will witness a radical transformation of global society, including the elimination of poverty, hunger, gender discrimination, spreading diseases and environmental degradation — all by the year 2030.

Political will? Increased domestic resources and official development assistance (ODA)? A rise in private sector investments? Or all of it?

Ambassador Macharia Kamau of Kenya, one of the co-facilitators of the SDGs inter-governmental consultative process, told reporters last month the implementation of the agenda could cost a staggering 3.5 trillion to 5.0 trillion dollars per year.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International said: “The new Sustainable Development Goals are ambitious on paper – and they could be historic in their impact. They seek to go beyond band-aid solutions by setting out to eradicate – not just reduce – extreme poverty and hunger in every country.”

“The key is to welcome the richest people back in touch with the rest of society, rather than allowing them to exist on the margins of privilege,” she added.

Leida Rijnhout, Director of Global Policies and Sustainability at the European Environmental Bureau, (in New York) said the 17 goals have the potential to push for higher ambitions and more coherence in policymaking, although the goal of ‘sustained economic growth’ could undermine the others.

“It is clear that the Earth’s carrying capacity is not increasing and that some countries need to substantially decrease their resource use to achieve more equitable sharing of resources and to allow other countries to develop and meet basic needs.”

“We are massively over-consuming in Europe at the expense of the climate and the development of poorer countries – a trend that is causing increasing conflicts over ever scarcer resources.”

The European Commission, she said, has the perfect chance when it reviews the Europe 2020 Strategy and the EU Sustainable Development Strategy to come up soon with an action plan for the implementation of the SDGs that shows it has understood the goals and the need to change track.
Asked if SDGs are realistic and implementable over the next 15 years, Zubair Sayed, Head of Communication and Campaigns at CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, told IPS the SDGs are much wider in scope than the MDGs and are also universal in scope which means they apply to both developed and developing countries.

There are two issues, however, with regard to their implementation, he pointed out.

“Do states have the means and more importantly, do they have the will to implement them,” he asked.

What will be common in all contexts is that their success will depend on the political will of governments to take them seriously, to include transformative targets in their national development plans, to put the necessary resources behind them and to include citizens and civil society in all aspects of the design, implementation and monitoring, he noted.

“It’s also important that relevant indicators are identified by the international community to underpin the targets.”

Asked what is most needed through 2030, Sayed told IPS the success of the SDG’s will depend on the extent to which decision makers take them seriously and commit to their implementation through the setting of transformative national targets and committing financial resources to achieve them, the full and meaningful involvement of citizens in setting targets, reporting, and monitoring progress, and the inclusion of civil society as an equal partner in multilateral forums and processes.

The mobilisation of public opinion to ensure meaningful implementation of the goals by leaders will also be critical, he added.

Yolanda Kakabadse, President of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) International, said “most importantly in the coming months, countries need to figure out how they’re going to contribute to achieving these goals and set benchmarks and indicators so they can report on their efforts.”

“We’re in the race and can finally see the finish line – but we need some runners at the starting line if we’re going to make this happen in 15 years.”

Every country is required to develop national indicators and programmes of implementation through individual development plans, she pointed out.

In March, countries will crucially agree a set of indicators that will allow the UN to report annually on global progress in coming years.

“The indicator question will be challenging, but if countries can unite to solve the financial crisis, they can figure this out. The crucial part will be working together and being as transparent with data as possible,” said Kakabadse.

Manish Bapna, executive vice president and managing director of World Resources Institute said the SDGs are a remarkable achievement that set a bold new agenda for international development.

Reflecting profound changes in the world, the new SDGs apply to all countries and importantly put environmental sustainability at their core.

“The SDGs recognize that we cannot eradicate extreme poverty and ensure lasting economic growth without also caring for the planet,” he noted.

“Fortunately, there are a growing number of examples where poverty reduction, economic growth and environmental protection go hand-in-hand. This includes creating compact cities that focus on people, restoring degraded land, expanding access to low-carbon energy, and many more.

“Of course, it’s not enough to have good goals. Now, it’s up to governments – and others in the private sector, international organizations, and civil society – to follow through on this vision. By setting smart policies, encouraging sustainable investment, and measuring progress, countries can put us on a path to achieve these goals.

“If successful, the SDGs will usher in a radical shift in development. We can move away from today’s imbalanced approach to one that benefits all people and protects the planet at the same time.

Adriano Campolina, chief executive at ActionAid, told IPS the SDGs are a step forward as they identify the causes of poverty, “but unless we change the rules that govern the global system, the same players will keep winning.”

“We need to build a more just future for all people and the planet where it’s no longer just money that talks and the gaps in society are narrower.”

“We need to make sure that people living in poverty around the world benefit from these new development goals. Massive corporate investments alone will not guarantee a reduction in poverty and inequality. Governments must change the rules of the game and stop looking to the corporate sector for all the answers. We urgently need to address inequality if these new development goals are to stand a chance of succeeding in the next 15 years.”

The SDGs, proposed by an Open Working Group comprising all 193 U.N.member states, are the result of a three-year-long transparent, participatory process inclusive of all stakeholders and people’s voices.

The 17 SDGs and 169 targets of the new agenda will be monitored and reviewed using a set of global indicators. The global indicator framework, to be developed by the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators, will be agreed on by the UN Statistical Commission by March 2016.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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