Inter Press ServiceAid – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 17 Aug 2018 17:14:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 How the Yanadi, an Oppressed Indigenous People in India, are Reclaiming Their Rights One Village At a Timehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/yanadi-oppressed-indigenous-people-india-reclaiming-rights-one-village-time/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yanadi-oppressed-indigenous-people-india-reclaiming-rights-one-village-time http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/yanadi-oppressed-indigenous-people-india-reclaiming-rights-one-village-time/#respond Tue, 07 Aug 2018 10:47:33 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157097 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds initiated by IPS on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on August 9.

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The women of Macharawari Pallem, a village of the Yanadi indigenous people located some three hours from Chennai city in South India, finally re-claimed their land after being award it over two decades ago and losing it to landlords and village elites. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
NELLORE DISTRICT, India, Aug 7 2018 (IPS)

Under the blazing midday sun, a tractor moves slowly along a dirt trail in Nacharwari Pallem, a village of the Yanadi indigenous people located some three hours from Chennai city in South India. Atop the tractor, women of the village – 36 in all – sit expectantly, ignoring the heat. Squeals of excitement fill the air as the tractor slowly halts near a stretch of rice fields.  

The women scramble to get down and make a beeline to the nearest rice field, a pink piece of paper tightly held in each of their hands. This is the official document that declares ownership of a plot of land.  

Once at the rice field, the women stand in a circle and in a ritual-like manner, clap and break into laughter. The moment is historic: after the struggle of a lifetime, the  Yanadis finally have rights to the land that they have cultivated for generations. 

Yanadi – a tale of poverty and oppression 

There are roughly three million Yanadis in India today, spread over four districts in Andhra Pradesh state, and divided into four clans. The Reddy or ‘Good’ Yanadis have always worked for the Reddy’s or the rich men of the villages, while the Challa Yanadis had menial jobs only, which included scavenging. In return for their work they were paid only with leftover food–a clear indication of their exploitation. “There are so many odds, but for my people, standing together can be the best way to overcome them all." -- Gandala Sriramalu, Yanadi village elder.
 

The Kappalla Yanadi who catch fish and also often frogs, make up the third clan. And finally, there are the Adavi Yanadi, who live in the forests as hunter gatherers. 

While the clans live in different areas and traditionally take on different types of work, what is common among all four is the cycle of utter poverty and deprivation that they have been subjected to.  

At least 60 percent of Yanadi do not own a home and live in makeshift thatched huts, with the majority labouring hard in other people’s homes as domestic workers or on farms as labourers for little or no wages.  

Only 14 percent of Yanadis are literate despite the fact that Andhra Pradesh state has an average literacy rate of 67 percent.  

And despite the large size of their population, this group of indigenous people still have no political representative in either the National Parliament or the Assembly (the provisional legislature). In addition, save barely two to three percent, the entire people are landless. 

Much of their current condition is a result of their semi-nomadic lifestyle, says Sheikh Basheer who heads the Association for the Rural Development (ARD), a non-governmental organisation that has been working for the rights and welfare of the Yanadis for nearly 30 years.  

These indigenous people initially lived in the forests and near small waterbodies like rivers, streams and ponds, catching fish and small animals. However, as resources dried up slowly, they moved away from this type of life and had to begin working as manual labourers to survive. But while they worked for people in villages, they continued to live in their isolated huts, and unlike their village counterparts they did not own land or settle down to a more organised village life. As a result, they were left out of village affairs, and became seen as pariahs who lived in isolation. 

But most damaging to the Yanadis and their way of life has been their bondage–a form of slavery where the village elites who employed the Yanadis also decided their present and their future. “The Reddy’s [elites] employed the whole family as one labour unit. This means only one person was paid—not with cash, but in food grains—while the entire family, including the children, worked hard,” Basheer tells IPS.   

“Above all, the employment would continue for generations and the family could not leave until the employer let them go. So, these people have lived in silence with no knowledge of their rights,” Basheer, who has helped free over 700 Yanadis from slavery, says.

Landlessness and exploitation 

Gandala Sriramalu is a community elder who is one of the lucky few to have received an education and been employed in government job. Now retired, Sriramalu spends his time visiting his community and making them aware of their rights as well as the opportunities available to them, including free education for their children.  

The problem, he tells IPS, is that the Yanadis have never learnt to think or act on their own. So, when aid is given from the government and other agencies like NGOs, they are unable to make use of the opportunities.  

The ownership of land is one such issue. For the past two decades, the government has been distributing land rights to the Yanadis. But, it is extremely rare to see a community member actually utilising the land. In most cases it is his employer who enjoys the landrights.  

“The employer uses the Yanadi as a puppet, cultivating the land and consuming the produce. The Yanadi does not speak because he is either scared of losing his job or of being beaten up,” Sriramalu explains. 

There are roughly three million Yanadis in India today, spread over four districts in Andhra Pradesh state, and divided into four clans. Many still live in abject poverty in makeshift thatched huts, with the majority labouring hard in other people’s homes as domestic workers or on farms as labourers for little or no wages. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

The case of Nacharwari Pallem is an example of this. Here, each of the Yanadi families received rights to half an acre of land about 20 years ago when the government assigned it to them through the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA), a special agency mandated to work for indigenous peoples.  

However, while the Yanadis had ownership of the land here, it was in truth firmly under the control of a village elite. It took five years for ARD to convince the Yanadis to claim back their land rights and to assure them they need not fear any consequences from the village as the law was on their side. 

Chinni Hemalatha, 32, tells IPS that her family waited several years for their land even after initially receiving formal ownership sometime back.  

“It’s only last year that we finally got access to our land. When the rains come [in January], I am going to sow rice,” she says with a smile. 

Malli Pramila, another Yanadi woman, is yet to obtain her ownership rights. But seeing others get theirs has excited her.  

“I am so happy it is happening in our community at last,” she tells IPS. 

Challenges before the government 

Kamala Kumari is the joint collector in Nellore and a senior government official. Known for her clean image, Kumari was earlier a project officer at the ITDA and is known to have a high level of awareness on the issues facing indigenous peoples, including the Yanadis.  

In an interview with IPS, she says that the government has a host of welfare schemes for the Yanadis that aims to provide them with housing, education and a livelihood.  

However, she also admits that changes are extremely slow to come into effect. “There are so many challenges. The biggest one is a lack of sufficient funds. Last year, we had 6.5 million rupees [USD94,500] which was grossly inadequate for such a large population. This year, I have asked for two billion rupees [USD29 million], but we have to see how much of it is actually cleared.” 

The Yanadis way of living in isolated pockets and a lack of community representatives who can speak on behalf of their community also poses a challenge, she says.  

Self-help is the way forward 

Unaware of the challenges of government officials, the Yanadis are taking small steps to claim their rights.  

In dozens of villages in Nellore—one of the four districts where the Yanadis are a majority—these indigenous people have begun joining Yanadai Samakhya, a network created by Sriramal with the help of ARD.  

Currently, there are about 12,000 members in the network which looks into all the major issues faced by the Yanadis, with landrights, education, bondage and unpaid labour being some of them.  

Together, they have been winning small battles, including the right to use the mineral resources on their property. 

Ankaiya Rao of Reddy Gunta village, has been mining quartz stone since March, when his village first received rights to mine 159 acres of land that is rich in quartz deposit.   

Rao, who owns three acres, has been selling the stone to traders.   

“The business is good. For a ton, I get 80,000 rupees [roughly USD1,200]. I am happy and my wife is happy too,” he tells IPS. 

The father of two now dreams of giving his children a better childhood than his own. A few others in the village have also joined him in the mining of quartz, though on a smaller scale.  

However, there remains the constant fear of falling back into the trap of exploitation and losing the rights to a landlord, admits Basheer who had been instrumental in getting Reddy Gunta village its rights to mine quartz.  

“A number of powerful and politically-connected people are eyeing this land now and anyone could lure or intimidate a villager to sell his plot for a small bundle of cash. Once that happens, the entire community will eventually lose as landgrab is a common occurrence here,” he cautions. 

The answer is to stand united and vigilant against any possible landgrab efforts, says Sriramalu.  

“There are so many odds, but for my people, standing together can be the best way to overcome them all.” 

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Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds initiated by IPS on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on August 9.

The post How the Yanadi, an Oppressed Indigenous People in India, are Reclaiming Their Rights One Village At a Time appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Support of Influential World Leaders Not Enough to End Rohingya Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/support-influential-world-leaders-not-enough-end-rohingya-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=support-influential-world-leaders-not-enough-end-rohingya-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/support-influential-world-leaders-not-enough-end-rohingya-crisis/#respond Thu, 19 Jul 2018 21:04:56 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156793 Despite having the strong support of influential global leaders, Bangladesh has “missed” the opportunity to mobilise the world’s superpowers and place pressure on Myanmar to allow for the repatriation of the Rohingya refugees.  Experts specialising in international affairs expressed their disappointment to IPS that despite the recent joint visit by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres […]

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Over a million Rohingya refugees are now cramped in hilly terrains of Ukhiya in southeastern regions of Cox’s Bazar along Bangladesh border with Myanmar. Credit: ASM Suza Uddin/IPS

By Naimul Haq
DHAKA, Jul 19 2018 (IPS)

Despite having the strong support of influential global leaders, Bangladesh has “missed” the opportunity to mobilise the world’s superpowers and place pressure on Myanmar to allow for the repatriation of the Rohingya refugees. 

Experts specialising in international affairs expressed their disappointment to IPS that despite the recent joint visit by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, the world’s biggest refugee crisis remains unresolved.

“No single event of such magnitude ever drew so much global attention and solidarity, not even the ethnic cleansing in the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina where tens of thousands of Muslims were killed in conflicts among the three main ethnic groups,” professor Tareq Shamsur Rehman, who teaches International Relations at Jahangirnagar University, told IPS.

Since the influx of over 700,000 Rohingya refugees from August last year, leaders from around the world have visited Bangladesh, travelling to the coastal Cox’s Bazar district were the refugee camps are. 

Foreign ministers from Japan, Germany and Sweden; a high-level delegation from 58 countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation; a delegation from the U.N. Security Council and the European Union; a United States Congressional fact-finding mission and Dhaka-based diplomats have all heard the recounts of the refugees. In February, Nobel Laureates Mairead Maguire, Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkol Karman travelled to Cox’s Bazar to highlight the plight of the Rohingya.

During his visit earlier this month, U.N. Secretary-General Guterres said he heard “heartbreaking” accounts of suffering from the refugees and expressed concern about the conditions in the camps ahead of the monsoon season.

The World Bank announced almost half a billion dollars in grant-based support to Bangladesh for health, education, sanitation, disaster preparedness, and other services for the refugees until they can return home safely, voluntarily and with dignity.

But the aid may have come too late. In Bangladesh some 63 million of the country’s 160 million people live below the poverty line. The influx of over one million refugees has impacted not only the country’s monetary resources, but natural resources also. The environmental impact is significant as over a million refugees are now cramped in hilly terrains of Ukhiya in southeastern regions of Cox’s Bazar along Bangladesh border with Myanmar. Trees on over 20 acres of land near the camps are being cut down daily for firewood for cooking.

And there has been a social impact too. Some locals have said that since the arrival of the refugees the crime rate in Ukhiya has increased, with many accusing the Rohingya of assault, murder, human trafficking and drug dealing.

“The solution to the Rohingya crisis is possible if two-way pressure on Myanmar is possible. The way the U.S. imposed sanctions on North Korea, like preventing remittance and imposing economic sanctions, it has really had the desired impact,” Mohammad Zamir, a former ambassador and international relations analyst, told IPS.

“If the world imposes a similar ban on Myanmar that there will be no foreign investment in Myanmar, I think they would then be under tremendous pressure and may bow to the demands to repatriate the Rohingya refugees. If the world adopts these preventive measures on Myanmar then there will be a possibility to solve the Rohingya problem.”

It is estimated that over one million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are housed in Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh. Credit: Mojibur Rahaman Rana/IPS

IPS visited Cox’s Bazar early this month and spoke to a number of people in the 21 Rohingya camps, including those in the largest camps of Kutupalong and Balukhali.

Mohammad Mohibullah, a spokesperson for the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, told IPS that while they welcomed the visit of U.N. and World Bank chiefs, “the money they pledged is for our survival and not for resolving our crisis.”

“We have not noticed any effective role of the leaders in pressurising Myanmar to repatriate the Rohingya,” Abdul Gaffar, another spokesman for the group told IPS. “They come and go but leave us with no hope of any permanent solution. We want to return to our ancestral home and not live in shambles like we are doing now.”

In January, the Myanmar government agreed with Bangladesh to take back Rohingya refugees. However, weeks after the agreement they allowed only about 50 families, mostly comprising Hindus, to return. Then the so-called repatriation process stopped after Myanmar demanded that a joint Bangladeshi/Myanmaris team first identify the Rohingya as their citizens.

The U.N. and other international agencies have previously been denied access to Rakhine State to assess the conditions for returning refugees, however, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi was allowed entry in May. Then in June the Myanmar government signed an agreement with the U.N. Refugee Agency and U.N. Development Programme as a first step in setting up a framework for the return of the refugees.

But the process is slow.

Just this week the country’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, urged U.N. Special Envoy to Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener to persuade Myanmar to take back the refugees.

Experts have pointed out the “misreading in diplomacy” by Bangladesh towards resolving the Rohingya crisis has resulted in the current deadlock.

“Instead of using influential powers like China and Russia, Bangladesh engaged itself in bi-lateral negotiation, which is a stalemate. They [Myanmar] have clearly demonstrated defiance once again. For instance, every demand we put forward, like the demand for fixing the start of repatriation date, Myanmar instead of complying with the bilateral agreement insisted on verifying their citizens – a tactic used to delay the process and ultimately enforce deadlock,” professor Delware Hossain from the International Relations Department at the University of Dhaka told IPS.

“What we really need is lobbying with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council who have the powers to impose economic, military and political sanctions. It is sad though that until now we have not seen our foreign ministers visiting Moscow, Beijing, London and Paris in mobilising them acting in favour of Bangladesh,” Rehman said, adding that in other international cases of genocide, military leaders have been identified, tried and punished because of the strong commitment and involvement of leading nations.

Others argue that despite such powerful political support, even from the United States, Myanmar remains unmoved continuing their mission of ethnic cleansing.

Human rights organisation, Fortify Rights, stated in a report released today, Jul. 19, that the lack of action by the international community against the 2016 attacks against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine State allowed Myanmar to proceed with genocide. The report is based on over 250 interviews conducted over two years with eyewitnesses, survivors of attacks, and Myanmar military and police sources, among others.

“The international community failed to act after the Myanmar Army killed, raped, tortured, and forcibly displaced Rohingya civilians in October and November 2016. That inaction effectively paved the way for genocide, providing the Myanmar authorities with an enabling environment to make deeper preparations for more mass atrocity crimes,” the report stated.

But professor Amena Mohsin who teaches International Relations at the University of Dhaka believes that there is significance to the recent visits of Guterres and Kim.

“Let us not forget that the 73rd session of the U.N. General Assembly will open in September next and their visits act as a pressure. We hope that the Rohingya issue will be discussed during the assembly and Myanmar will further feel the pressure,” Mohsin told IPS.

World Bank Group spokesperson in Washington, David Theis, responded to questions from IPS, saying they were collaborating closely with the U.N. and other partners to encourage Myanmar to put in place the conditions for “the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of refugees and to improve the welfare of all communities in Rakhine State.”

He said they would incentivise further progress through a proposed project focused on employment and economic opportunities for all communities in Rakhine State.

“This is part of our strategy to stay fully engaged in Myanmar’s economic transition, with a greater focus on social inclusion in conflict-affected areas.”

However, noted journalist Afsan Chowdhury told IPS that the U.N. had not been very effective since the Rohingya arrived in Bangladesh. “One of the reasons is that the U.N. is effective only when big powers are interested. The World Bank’s impact in this issue is very low end, not a high end impact, as I see it.”

Additional reporting by A S M Suza Uddin from Cox Bazaar.

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Family Planning Is A Human Righthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/family-planning-human-right/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=family-planning-human-right http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/family-planning-human-right/#comments Wed, 11 Jul 2018 07:32:15 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156639 It has been five decades since the international community affirmed the right to family planning but women still remain unable to enjoy this right, which is increasingly under attack around the world. For World Population Day, held annually on Jul. 11, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has focused its attention on “Family Planning is […]

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A basket of condoms passed around during International Women’s Day in Manila. Without publicly funded family planning services or information, we can only expect to see higher rates of unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and infant mortality in the U.S. Credit: Kara Santos/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 11 2018 (IPS)

It has been five decades since the international community affirmed the right to family planning but women still remain unable to enjoy this right, which is increasingly under attack around the world.

For World Population Day, held annually on Jul. 11, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has focused its attention on “Family Planning is a Human Right,” and aptly so.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1968 International Conference on Human Rights where family planning was, for the first time, understood to be a human right.“Chipping away at women’s access to information is a direct attack on their access to healthcare, and the right to make informed autonomous decisions about their lives and their bodies,” said Human Rights Watch’s Senior Researcher Amanda Klasing.

“Parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children,” the Tehran Proclamation from the conference states.

The historic meeting also linked the right to the “dignity and worth of the human person.”

“Family planning is not only a matter of human rights; it is also central to women’s empowerment, reducing poverty, and achieving sustainable development,” said UNFPA’s Executive Director Natalia Kanem.

However, in developing countries, more than 200 million women still lack safe and effective family planning methods largely due to the lack of information or services.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently found that clinical guidelines are followed in less than 50 percent of cases in poorer nations, resulting in “deficient” family planning.

In such circumstances and without access to contraception, women and girls often turn to dangerous methods such as ingesting or inserting vinegar, which can cause bodily damage.

UNFPA found that in one country, the stiff plastic wrapper of an ice popsicle is used as a replacement for condoms which could result in genital lacerations.

While such practices have generally decreased, countries like Yemen where conflict has restricted access to family planning are seeing more women using unsafe, traditional methods of contraception.

In other places such as the United States, family planning is deliberately under attack.

Just a year after implementing the global gag rule, which cuts off international family planning funds to any foreign nongovernmental organization who advocate or even give information about abortion, the Trump administration is now turning inwards and targeting its own.

Title X is a USD300 million government programme dedicated to helping the four million low-income women who wish to access birth control and other family planning services

However, new proposed regulations echo a sense of a “domestic gag rule” by restricting people’s access to family planning care. One such proposal forbids doctors from counselling patients with unplanned pregnancies about their reproductive options and instead advocates coercing pregnant patients towards having children regardless of their own wishes.

The scenario can already be seen playing out across the country.

Recently in California, the Supreme Court reversed a law that required crisis pregnancy centres, which often trick women into believing they provide family planning services, to provide full disclosure.

The Supreme Court found that it “imposes an unduly burdensome disclosure requirement that will chill their protected speech.”

“It’s clear the U.S. government is taking more and more swipes at a fundamental aspect of the right to health—the right to information,” said Human Rights Watch’s Senior Researcher Amanda Klasing.

“Chipping away at women’s access to information is a direct attack on their access to healthcare, and the right to make informed autonomous decisions about their lives and their bodies,” she continued.

Withholding such essential resources and information from women also heightens the risk of ill-health or even death for newborns.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, women with unintended pregnancies, which is often higher among the poor, often receive worse prenatal care and poor birth outcomes. When women are able to decide when to have children and space out their pregnancies, their children are less likely to be born prematurely or have low birth weights.

Already, a study found that U.S. babies are three times more likely to die compared to 19 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development largely due to high poverty rates and a weak social safety net.

Without publicly funded family planning services or information, we can only expect to see higher rates of unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and infant mortality in the U.S.

And now with President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who has a history of undermining women’s reproductive freedom, we may even see worse including the dismantling of the historic Roe v. Wade case which legalised abortions.

If we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health care and meeting all family planning needs, the international community should not forget its affirmation at the 1968 International Conference on Human Rights.

“Investments in family planning today are investments in the health and well-being of women for generations to come,” Kanem concluded.

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Urgent Action Needed to Safeguard Saint Lucia’s Biodiversityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/urgent-action-needed-safeguard-saint-lucias-biodiversity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=urgent-action-needed-safeguard-saint-lucias-biodiversity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/urgent-action-needed-safeguard-saint-lucias-biodiversity/#comments Mon, 09 Jul 2018 08:43:33 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156592 Wildlife conservationists consider it to be one of the most striking parrots of its kind. Saint Lucia’s best-known species, the endangered Amazon parrot, is recognised by its bright green plumage, purple forehead and dusty red-tipped feathers. But a major conservation organisation is warning that climate change and a lack of care for the environment could […]

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Climate change and a lack of care for the environment could have devastating consequences for Saint Lucia’s healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Climate change and a lack of care for the environment could have devastating consequences for Saint Lucia’s healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Jul 9 2018 (IPS)

Wildlife conservationists consider it to be one of the most striking parrots of its kind. Saint Lucia’s best-known species, the endangered Amazon parrot, is recognised by its bright green plumage, purple forehead and dusty red-tipped feathers. But a major conservation organisation is warning that climate change and a lack of care for the environment could have devastating consequences for Saint Lucia’s healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity, including the parrot.

Sean Southey chairs the Commission on Education and Communication (CEC) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

He told IPS that urgent action is needed to safeguard the eastern Caribbean island nation’s biodiversity, which is under constant threat.

“With climate change, countries like St. Lucia [experience] significant weather events. The increase in hurricanes, the increase in bad weather and mudslides – these are incredible consequences of climate change,” Southey said.“As you drive across the landscape of St. Lucia, you see a landscape strewn with old plastic bags," Sean Southey, chair of the Commission on Education and Communication.

Though less than 616 square kilometres in area, St. Lucia is exceptionally rich in animals and plants. The island is home to more than 2,000 native species, of which nearly 200 species occur nowhere else.

Other species of conservation concern include the pencil cedar, staghorn coral and St. Lucia racer. The racer, confined to the nine-hectare island of Maria Major, is thought to be the world’s most threatened sake.

Also at risk are mangrove forests and low-lying freshwater wetlands, Southey said.

But he said it was not too late to take action, and he urged St. Lucia and its Caribbean neighbours to take advantage of their small size.

“The smallness of islands allows for real society to get involved. What it means is helping people connect to the environment,” Southey said.

“It means that they need to know and feel and appreciate that their individual behaviours make a difference. Especially the biodiversity decisions [like] land use planning. If you are going to sell your family farm, do you sell for another commercial tourist resort, do you sell it to make a golf course or do you sell it to [produce] organic bananas? These are the type of individual decisions that people have to make that protect an island or hurt an island,” he said.

Southey added that thoughtful management of mangroves and effective management of shorelines, “can create natural mechanisms that allow you to cushion and protect society from the effects of climate change.”

 

St. Lucia is exceptionally rich in animals and plants. The island is home to more than 2,000 native species, of which nearly 200 species occur nowhere else. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

St. Lucia is exceptionally rich in animals and plants. The island is home to more than 2,000 native species, of which nearly 200 species occur nowhere else. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

 

The CEC chair said recent extreme weather events have forced people in the Caribbean to understand climate change more than inhabitants from other countries in the world do.

“If you’re over the age of 30 in the Caribbean, you’ve seen a change in weather patterns. It’s not a story that you hear on the news, it’s a reality that you feel during hurricane season every year. So I believe there is an understanding,” he said.

In September 2017, Hurricane Irma tore through many of St. Lucia’s neighbouring islands, including Barbuda.

The category five hurricane wreaked havoc on Barbuda’s world-famous frigate bird colony. Most of the 10,000-frigate bird population disappeared in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane that destroyed the mangroves in which they nest and breed.

While many countries in the Caribbean are working on building natural barriers and nature-based solutions in response to climate change, Southey still believes there needs to be a greater strengthening of that sense that people can actually do something to contribute.

Reducing plastic waste

In June 2016, Antigua took the lead in the Caribbean with a ban on the commercial use of plastic bags.

The island’s environment and health minister Molwyn Joseph said the decision was made in a bid to reduce the volume of plastic bags that end up in the watercourses and wetlands.

“We are giving our mangroves a fighting chance to be a source of healthy marine life, that can only benefit us as a people,” he said.

Antigua also became the first country within the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and the second within the Caribbean Community, to ratify the Nagoya Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The Nagoya Protocol provides a transparent legal framework for the effective implementation of one of the three objectives of the CBD: the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources.

On Jul. 3 this year, one of the Caribbean’s largest supermarket chains launched a campaign to discourage the use of single use plastic bags for bagging groceries at its checkout counters, while actively encouraging customers to shop with reusable bags as a more eco-friendly option.

Managing director of Massy Stores St. Lucia Martin Dorville said the company is focused on finding more permanent solutions to reducing plastic waste and its own demand for plastic bags.

He said the decision to encourage customers to use less plastic was bold, courageous and will help manage the adverse impacts of single use plastic on the environment.

“I am very thrilled that one of the number one supermarkets has decided to ban all plastic bags. It’s a small behaviour but it helps everyone realise that their individual actions make a difference,” Southey told IPS.

“As you drive across the landscape of St. Lucia, you see a landscape strewn with old plastic bags, so I was very appreciative of that. But what I really liked is that when I spent over USD100, they gave me a recyclable bag as a bonus to encourage me to use that as an individual so that my behaviour can make a difference,” he said.

He added that if school children could understand the importance of mangroves and complex eco-systems and the need to protect forests, wildlife and endangered birds “then I think we can make a huge difference.”

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War, High Tariffs and Nationalisation – their Cost to Africa’s Climatehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/war-high-tariffs-nationalisation-cost-africas-climate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=war-high-tariffs-nationalisation-cost-africas-climate http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/war-high-tariffs-nationalisation-cost-africas-climate/#comments Thu, 05 Jul 2018 15:04:15 +0000 Issa Sikiti da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156557 Africa’s political instability, its armed conflicts and regulatory issues are placing at risk investment needed to tackle climate change and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the continent.  “A renewable energy developer or investor faces increased risk that their returns and earnings could decline as a result of political change, such as terrorism, expropriation (dispossession […]

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In this dated picture, a child collects bullets from the ground in Rounyn, a village in North Darfur, Sudan. Armed conflict on the African continent poses huge risk on any potential investments to address climate change. Credit: Albert Gonzalez Farran / UNAMID

By Issa Sikiti da Silva
KINSHASA, Jul 5 2018 (IPS)

Africa’s political instability, its armed conflicts and regulatory issues are placing at risk investment needed to tackle climate change and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the continent. 

“A renewable energy developer or investor faces increased risk that their returns and earnings could decline as a result of political change, such as terrorism, expropriation (dispossession of property for public use), and sovereign breach of contract,” Dereje Senshaw, the principal specialist at Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), told IPS. He added that credit, market and technological risks were also obstacles towards reducing GHG emissions.

According to International Monetary Fund and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development papers, green investment refers to the investment necessary to reduce GHG and air pollutant emissions without significantly reducing the production and consumption of non-energy goods. It covers both public and private investment.

Senshaw’s explanations come against the backdrop of several armed conflicts that are tearing the resource-rich continent apart. Millions of people have been uprooted from their homes and the instability has dealt a blow to development projects and poverty-eradication programmes.

This month, the Norwegian Refugee Council listed the world’s 10-most neglected crises. Six were from Africa. In the Central African Republic, conflict began in 2013 after a coup. The country held elections three years later but peace has been elusive. The Democratic Republic of Congo is listed as having the world’s second-most neglected crisis as the central African nation has experienced almost two decades of conflict. Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia are also on the list.

Tariffs too high

Apart from political risks, green investments could also be compromised by regulatory issues or tariffs, Senshaw said.

“Some African countries set tariffs at very high rates, making it very unattractive to investors as they may not have the chance to recover their incurred costs in the future,” he explained.

Another major risk is the delay of utility contracts. Circumstances could change during the lifetime of a project in many sub-Saharan Africa countries and even essential services, like the provision of electricity, may stop. In addition, risk arises when regulatory agencies start to interfere with the operations of private companies.

“Similarly, there is the risk of the nationalisation of utilities and policy changes. In addition there are various regulatory risks related to biddings, procurements and hiring, and contracts,” Senshaw said, explaining that bids are frequently cancelled, postponed or disputed. “This discourages interested private actors from spending time and money on these bids. Also, some African countries put in place bureaucratic procurements and hiring procedures that hamper operations of private energy companies,” he said.

He added that corruption was another risk.

“However, I think corruption has not been overlooked by investors, rather it is still considered as one of the potential investment risks,” he said.

Senshaw said African governments needed to establish an enabling environment for private investors in renewable projects, which he described as the main driver for accelerating the deployment of renewable energy in Africa.

USD225 billion by 2030

The search for money to fund these green projects continues unabated.

Toshiaki Nagata, an expert from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), said recently that Africa would need USD225 billion by 2030 to implement energy targets set out in national determined contributions (NDCs), of which 44 percent are for unconditional targets. In the Paris Agreement, a global agreement to tackle climate change, countries declared their NDCs, which are outlines of the actions they propose to undertake in order to limit the rise in average global temperatures to below 2°C.

Unconditional targets, Nagata explained, are the targets that countries are committed to meet without international support, while conditional targets are the ones that countries would only be able to meet with international support in areas of finance and technology, among others.

Nagata, who made the announcement in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, at a GGGI capacity building summit, told IPS that the amount applied to African countries that have quantified renewable energy targets.

Virtually all African countries mention renewables in their NDCs and 85 percent of them include quantified renewable energy targets, Nagata said. He said 23 countries in Africa have renewable energy action under adaptation, while 15 have targets with off-grid renewables.

USD470 billion to fund NDCs

Currently, USD470 billion is available to fund the implementation of NDCs globally, according to IRENA. However, the agency warned that barriers to investment could come in the form of insufficient or contradictory incentives, limited experience and institutional capacity and immature financial systems.

NDCs, Nagata pointed out, provided an opportunity to capture the benefits renewables offer for climate resilient infrastructure. 

“Some renewables, especially solar, can bring electricity in a cost-effective manner to those areas where electricity cannot be brought otherwise. This will enhance their resilience. In many cases, remote areas use diesel for power,” he said, adding that it was costly and therefore not environmentally sustainable.

While the commitment of African governments plays a role in countries reaching their NDCs, the major investment driver for establishing renewable energy projects remains the attractiveness of financial returns, says Senshaw.

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Declining Birth Rates Not Exclusive to Wealthy Nationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/declining-birth-rates-not-exclusive-wealthy-nations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=declining-birth-rates-not-exclusive-wealthy-nations http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/declining-birth-rates-not-exclusive-wealthy-nations/#comments Mon, 02 Jul 2018 20:15:42 +0000 Ranjit Devraj http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156508 Countries do not have to be economically prosperous to move from a situation of high birth and death rates to low fertility and mortality rates. Education, social security, environments conducive to economic development and good value systems are what promote this, as evidenced by the recorded experiences of Asian countries as far apart as Japan […]

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Countries do not have to be economically prosperous to move from high birth and death rates to low fertility and mortality rates. In India as the female literacy rate increased from 39 percent to 65 percent, the fertility rate dropped. These women pictured are studying an IT short course. Credit: Ranjita Biswas/IPS

By Ranjit Devraj
NEW DELHI, Jul 2 2018 (IPS)

Countries do not have to be economically prosperous to move from a situation of high birth and death rates to low fertility and mortality rates.

Education, social security, environments conducive to economic development and good value systems are what promote this, as evidenced by the recorded experiences of Asian countries as far apart as Japan and India.

According to Dr. Osamu Kusumoto, Secretary-General of the Asian Population Development Association, the economy and demographic transition or DT are indirectly rather than directly correlated.

Demographic transition is the theory that holds that countries move from a situation of high birth and death rates to low fertility and low mortality rates as they industrialise. However, in more recent times, the theory has been hit by contradictions and there are debates over whether industrialisation leads to declining population or whether lower populations lead to industrialisation and higher incomes.“At the same time the spread of healthcare and public health services promote mortality transition or lowered death rates. But, with real prosperity there is potential for fertility to rise again.”

Thus, according to Kusumoto, in high-income oil-producing countries, DT is unlikely to advance unless the countries also implement modern economic systems.

There are also debates around such inter-related DT issues as higher female incomes, old-age security and the demand for human capital with experiences differing across countries and regions.

As a country transitions, the cost of education rises creating relative poverty and promoting fertility transition, or a lowered birth rate, says Kusumoto. “At the same time the spread of healthcare and public health services promote mortality transition or lowered death rates. But with real prosperity there is potential for fertility to rise again.”

Kusumoto cites the example of Japan where, even with high per-capita incomes, people live in relative poverty and find unaffordable the high cost of educating children. “It is possible to say that fertility declines, even when social security systems are in place and old-age pensions are provided for, because people will make the rational choice of avoiding the cost of having children through marriage and childbirth.”

Japan’s birth rate is 1.44 per woman, which has caused the population to decline by one million in the last five years.

What people in Japan fail to realise, adds Kusumoto, is that without children the social security system becomes unsustainable and cannot support them in old age.

Meanwhile India, a developing country that is home to the world’s second-largest population, the total fertility rate has shown a steady decline from 3.6 per woman in 1991 to 2.4 per woman by 2011. Over that 20-year period per capita incomes rose from 1,221 dollars to 3,755 dollars, going by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) figures.

During the same period the female literacy rate increased from 39 percent to 65 percent. Also the composite human development index score of the UNDP, which combines education, health and income, rose from 0.428 in 1990 to 0.609 in 2014.

A closer look at the statistics at the district levels shows curious results such as that in eight Indian states, where there was a drop in the use of modern contraceptive methods, fertility had decreased, according to studies by the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) in Mumbai.

Professor Sanjay Kumar Mohanty at the IIPS says that disaggregated analyses at the district level are important since the districts are the focus of planning and programme implementation in India, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “Such analyses may throw light on the unexplained decrease in fertility levels.”

According to an IIPS study published in 2016, while most of India’s 640 districts experience substantial declines over the 1991-2011 period, no clear relationship between initial levels and subsequent changes was discernible.

In the Indian experience, says Mohanty, female education and literacy have been associated with the use of modern contraceptives, higher age at marriage and birth spacing.

According to Kusumoto, in order to achieve the SDGs, what is needed is mortality transition as well as fertility transition. “We need to design a system where young people can have children if they wish to do so.”

Advances in medicine and public health and the availability of healthcare services will inevitably lead to mortality transition, says Kusumoto. “But unless there is also fertility transition, the population will continue to increase beyond the Earth’s carrying capacity.” 

While fertility control was successfully promoted using healthcare-based family planning and services, as in the case of India, from the 1960s onwards Western Europe and more recently East Asia began to see fertility rates falling below mortality rates in a “second demographic transition,” Kusumoto says, adding that research is still lacking on why exactly low fertility occurs. 

A notable example of the unpredictability showed up in the rapid DT in China’s Sichuan province during a study carried out in the 1980s by Toshio Kuroda, a winner of the U.N. Population Award. Kuroda noticed that DT happened despite the province’s low gross national product, making it an exceptional case of the economic DT theory.   

While there is a correlation between the economy and DT there are clear cases where it is not the economy but changes in people’s norms and values that bring about positive transition.

The exceptional changes that took place in the former Soviet countries may be attributed to a shift from communism to a market economy, which people accepted as rational. A World Bank report shows that Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan all had birth rates of 6 children per woman in 1950-55, but this declined by almost half by 2000. It was a decline also experienced by other former Soviet countries that previously had high birth rates. All former Soviet countries also showed increased life expectancy.

In the end, says Kusumoto, what is important is policies that promote “appropriate fertility transition” and are aimed at building a society in which “human dignity is maintained as envisioned in the SDGs.”

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Overly Bureaucratic Procedures and Long Waits Cuts off Support to 22 Million Yemenishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/overly-bureaucratic-procedures-long-waits-cuts-off-support-22-million-yemenis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=overly-bureaucratic-procedures-long-waits-cuts-off-support-22-million-yemenis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/overly-bureaucratic-procedures-long-waits-cuts-off-support-22-million-yemenis/#respond Thu, 28 Jun 2018 14:41:38 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156445 As Yemen’s people struggle to survive amid what has been described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the stranglehold by both government coalition forces and rebels over the country’s main ports of entry and distribution is cutting off a lifeline of support to 22 million people. Amnesty International, in a report published on Jun. 22 […]

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Sana'a backstreet, Yemen. Credit: Ahron de Leeuw

By Maged Srour
ROME, Jun 28 2018 (IPS)

As Yemen’s people struggle to survive amid what has been described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the stranglehold by both government coalition forces and rebels over the country’s main ports of entry and distribution is cutting off a lifeline of support to 22 million people.

Amnesty International, in a report published on Jun. 22 after seven months of extensive research, said that the Saudi-led government coalition are blocking the entrance of essential humanitarian aid, including food, fuel and medicines. And any distribution of this aid is slowed by Houthi rebels within the country.

“The core aspect highlighted by the report is that humanitarian aid finds it extremely difficult to reach destinations inside the country,” Riccardo Noury, communications director and spokesperson for Amnesty International in Italy, told IPS.

Aid workers described to Amnesty International the extent of delays, with one saying that it took up to two months to move supplies out of Sana’a, the country’s capital.

“The most difficult part was getting the aid out of the warehouse once it is in Yemen,” the aid worker was quoted as saying.

World’s worst humanitarian crisis

Yemen’s war began after Houthi rebels took control of the country’s capital at the end of 2014, forcing the government to flee. In support of the government a coalition of states, led by Saudi Arabia, launched an offensive against the rebels. At least 10,000 Yemenis have been killed in almost three years of fighting, with the overall injured numbering 40,000.

The conflict has pushed Yemen, which was already known as the Middle East’s poorest country before 2014, to the verge of a total human, economic and social collapse.

Save the Children, an international non-governmental organisation that promotes human rights, estimates that 130 children in Yemen die every day from extreme hunger and disease.

It is estimated that three quarters of Yemen’s 27 million people are in need of assistance.
A third require immediate relief to survive and more than half are food insecure – with almost 2 million children and one million pregnant or lactating women being acutely malnourished, the Amnesty International report said. About 8.4 million people face severe insecurity and are at risk of starvation, the report noted quoting figures from the World Food Programme and the United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).

Overly bureaucratic procedures and long waits for clearance

Amnesty International examined the role of the two major parties in the conflict. On the one hand there is a blockade imposed by the Saudi-led coalition on the country’s air, road and harbour ports, while and on the other hand the slow bureaucracy and corruption of Houthi rebels compromises the flow of aid within Yemen.

Last November, the Saudi-led coalition blocked all Yemen’s ports after rebels fired missiles on neighbouring Saudi Arabia. The ports where opened weeks later but only to allow humanitarian aid into the country.

“However, humanitarian aid alone is not sufficient to meet the needs of the Yemeni population, who also rely on commercial imports of essential goods such as fuel, food and medical supplies,” the Amnesty International report said. It noted the restriction on commercial imports “impacted Yemenis’ access to food and exacerbated existing food insecurity.”

Whereas prior to the blockade more than 96 percent of the country’s food requirements were being met, as of April, “food imports were half (51 percent) of the monthly national requirement.”

Exacerbating the matter is the fact that this year Yemen only received 53 percent of required aid funding. According to the Financial Tracking Service database, which tracks humanitarian aid flows in areas of crisis, in 2018 Yemen received only USD1.6 billion against a request of USD2.9 billion. According to UNOCHA, Saudi Arabia has donated over half a billion dollars towards this aid.

While humanitarian aid is allowed into the country, the government coalition forces are accused of forcing aid vessels to wait for coalition clearance before being allowed to proceed to anchorage. This leads “to excessive delays and unpredictability that have served to obstruct the delivery of essential goods and humanitarian aid.”

However, even when aid eventually enters Yemen, its distribution is hindered by rebel forces.

Houthi rebels have to approve authorisation of movement of aid in the country. It is meant to take, at the most, two days. But sometimes it can take up to five days because of a shortage of officials.

“However, [aid workers] complained that overly bureaucratic procedures have caused excessive delays. They gave the example of the fact that permits provided to humanitarian organisations confine authorisation for movement to the specific day, time, and geographic location that was mentioned in the application.”

The consequence is that if aid workers “are not able for some reason to proceed to the operation on that day [they] have to put a request for a new permit and wait again,” the report said.

Houthi forces have been accused of extortion and interference in the distribution of aid and of “using their influence to control the delivery of aid, to influence who receives aid, and in which areas, and which organisations deliver it.”

One aid official told Amnesty International that they were “often told by Houthi forces to hand over the aid and that they [Houthi forces] would distribute it.”

The delays by both sides is against international humanitarian law, said Noury.

“All warring parties must facilitate the rapid distribution of impartial humanitarian assistance to all civilians in need. They also must ensure freedom of movement for all humanitarian personnel,” he added.

Human rights in Yemen

Noury expressed deep concern for the human rights situation in the country.

“First of all, you have all this situation linked to violations of international humanitarian law, that deals with the conflict itself. This is a very dirty conflict, in which warring parties have used arms that are forbidden by international law, such as cluster bombs. Then, you have the countless attacks against civilians that were committed by the Saudi-led coalition, and then, obviously the issue of humanitarian aid flows,” he said.

Noury stated his concern over the freedom of expression in Yemen as activists from local NGO, Mwatana for Human Rights, are being arrested by both Houthi rebels or Saudi forces as they attempt to impartially report on crimes perpetrated by both warring parties.

Amnesty International have called for the U.N. to “impose targeted sanctions against those responsible for obstructing humanitarian assistance and for committing other violations of international humanitarian law.”

It’s called on the government coalition forces and rebel forces to end delays and allow prompt delivery of aid and the allowance of commercial flights into the country.

Additional reporting by Nalisha Adams

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West Africa Moves Ahead with Renewable Energy Despite Unpredictable Challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/west-africa-moves-ahead-renewable-energy-despite-unpredictable-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=west-africa-moves-ahead-renewable-energy-despite-unpredictable-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/west-africa-moves-ahead-renewable-energy-despite-unpredictable-challenges/#respond Tue, 26 Jun 2018 18:22:03 +0000 Issa Sikiti da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156416 The West African nation of Guinea may be a signatory of the Paris Agreement, a global undertaking by countries around the world to reduce climate change, but as it tries to provide electricity to some three quarters of its 12 million people who are without, the commitment is proving a struggle. Mamadou Bangoura, head of […]

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Forested hills in Guinea’s Kintampo area. Credit: CC by 3.0

Forested hills in Guinea’s Kintampo area. Barely a quarter of the population has access to electricity. Credit: CC by 3.0

By Issa Sikiti da Silva
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Jun 26 2018 (IPS)

The West African nation of Guinea may be a signatory of the Paris Agreement, a global undertaking by countries around the world to reduce climate change, but as it tries to provide electricity to some three quarters of its 12 million people who are without, the commitment is proving a struggle.

Mamadou Bangoura, head of planning and energy management at Guinea’s Ministry of Energy, told IPS that his country faced a major challenge implementing its programme for the development and provision of energy resources to all citizens at a lower cost. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, only 26 percent of the population has access to electricity. “Our main concern is to find a balance between the implementation of this programme and the protection of biodiversity." --Mamadou Bangoura of Guinea’s Ministry of Energy

“Our main concern is to find a balance between the implementation of this programme and the protection of biodiversity. This is further compounded by a requirement to take into rigorous account the environmental and social aspects in the framework of the realisation of any infrastructure project,” Bangoura explained.

According to conservation organisation Fauna and Flora International, Guinea’s wildlife is already under threat. “Conservation solutions need to be found that enable people to make a living while protecting their natural assets into the future,” the organisation reports.

Unlike other African nations that are heavily reliant on fossil fuels, only 43 percent of Guinea’s electricity is generated from this as more than half (55 percent) is produced by hydropower.

The country’s potential for hydropower is significant. Guinea is regarded as West Africa’s water tower because 22 of the region’s rivers originate there, including Africa’s third-longest river, the Niger.

Bangoura added that despite the challenges, his country was making progress and several hydropower projects were being constructed. The Kaléta project, which will produce 204MW, is already completed. However, the Souapiti (459MW) and Amaria (300MW) hydropower plants “are still work in progress.”

He said negotiations were also underway for the construction of a 40MW solar power and a 40MW power plant. “Concession and power purchase agreements are being finalised,” he added.

In the Gambia, challenges in implementing renewable energy exist also. The small West African nation of only 1.8 million people is considered to be rare in its ambitious commitment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — it pledged a 44 percent reduction below its business-as-usual emission level. It’s a big task as currently around 96 percent of all electricity produced in the country comes from fossil fuels.  

Sidat Yaffa, an agronomist with expertise in climate change at the University of The Gambia, told IPS there were barriers to renewable energy programmes because the sector was still new to the Gambia.

“Therefore, a better understanding of the technology is still a challenge, securing adequate funding for implementation is a gap, and availability of trained human resources using the technology is also a gap,” Yaffa said.

He added that the Gambia’s renewable energy programmes included a wind energy pilot project at Nema Kunku village in West Coast Region.

“The agriculture sector’s GHG could be drastically reduced in the next five years in the Gambia if adequate solar panel water irrigation technologies are implemented,” Yaffa added.

Cote d’Ivoire also has strong ambitions for the development of reliable and profitable renewable energies, a cabinet minister said last year, adding that the country is committed to produce 42 percent of its energy through renewable energy.

This week representatives from Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Guinea and Senegal will meet in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou to discuss both the challenges and successes they have had in reaching their nationally determined contributions (NDCs). NDCs are blueprints or outlines by countries on how they plan to cut GHG emissions.

The regional workshop, the first of its kind, is hosted by the Global Green Growth Institute in association with the International Renewable Energy Agency and the Green Climate Fund.

It aims to enhance capacity for NDC implementation, share experiences and best practices, and discuss renewable energy opportunities and associated challenges in the region.

Rural electrification headache

This regional cooperation is a significant step forward as 60 percent of the West African population living in the rural areas continue to depend on firewood as their primary source of energy.

In the Gambia and Senegal a quarter of the rural population has access to electricity, while the number is slightly higher in Cote d’Ivoire with about 29 percent having access.

But in Guinea and Burkina Faso only three and one percent of the respective rural populations have electricity.

Last year, Smart Villages Initiatives (SVI) conducted energy workshops in West Africa and it attributes poor electricity access in the region to insufficient generation, high prices of petroleum, lack of financing and transmission and distribution losses.

The World Bank’s 2017 State of Electricity Access Report makes the link that energy is inextricably linked to every other critical sustainable development challenge, including health, education, food security, gender equality, poverty reduction, employment and climate change, among others.

The Agence Française de Développement acknowledged the benefits of rural electrification programmes, stating, “(they) have the opportunity to reach more poor households and have larger impacts in the lives of the rural poor by providing new opportunities and enhancing the synergies between the agricultural and non-agricultural sector,”

Bangoura has acknowledged his country’s challenge to electrify rural areas. He said his government has just created the Guinean Rural Electrification Agency and launched a couple of projects, including a collaboration with the Electricity of Guinea, that will pave the way for the electrification of rural areas.

However, SVI said while most governments had set up rural electrification agencies or funds, the impact of such organisations may be hampered by a lack of financial and technical expertise. Hence the need to turn to international institutions and experts for capacity building and green energy finance.

Bangoura agreed that one of the problems his country is struggling with is implementation. “The problems at this level lies in the adaptation of the texts of the country to those governing the Paris Agreement…Hence the importance of this workshop that is focusing on capacity building.”

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Savagery of Rapes of Minorshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/savagery-rapes-minors/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=savagery-rapes-minors http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/savagery-rapes-minors/#comments Fri, 22 Jun 2018 21:56:03 +0000 Geetika 3 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156382 Geetika Dang is an independent researcher; Vani S. Kulkarni is lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA; and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) professorial research fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England, and Visiting Scholar, Population Studies Centre, University of Pnnsylvania, USA).

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

By Geetika Dang, Vani S. Kulkarni and Raghav Gaiha
NEW DELHI, Jun 22 2018 (IPS)

Rapes of minors surged from 16 per day in 2001 to 46 per day in 2016. As if this was not horrendous enough, their savagery adds to it.

In 2016, 43.3% of the total female rape victims were minors. Around 13% of the minor female victims were of age 11 and below. The deceased victim in the Kathua rape case from a nomadic Muslim community was barely eight years old. Her crumpled body was found in a blood-smeared dress in January, 2018. A group of Hindu men lured her into a forest, kidnapped her, drugged her, locked her in a Hindu temple, gang-raped her and then strangled her.

Geetika Dang

In another depraved and cruel assault, an eight-month-old baby girl was raped in New Delhi in January, 2018, by her 28-year-old cousin. As reported, the baby was on life support as her internal organs were damaged during the assault. In yet another case in Hisar’s Uklana town in December 2017, a 6-year old Dalit girl was brutally raped and murdered. The post-mortem revealed that the murderer had inserted a wooden stick in her body. Her body parts were badly brutalized, bore multiple injuries and scratch marks, and blood was spilt all over her body.

In April 2018, a four-month-old baby was raped and murdered in the historic Rajwada area in Madhya Pradesh. The infant’s body was found in the basement area of the heritage Shiv Vilas Palace, with blood smears on the stairs telling a barbaric tale. The ravaged body was carried away in a bundle. Many more gruesome cases could be cited but are omitted as they differ in location but not in the brutality. At the risk of overstating it, the surge in the frequency of rapes of minors has been inextricably linked to their brutality in recent years. Why bestial masculinity has risen in recent years is unclear.

Our analysis with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data and from other sources over 2001-16 yields useful insights into changes in incidence of rapes of minors (per lakh minors) across different states and over time.

Rapes of minors spiked between 2010-14, dropped sharply in 2015, and then spiked again in 2016. Surprisingly, after enactment of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) in 2012, the incidence of rapes of minors surged. It covers crimes such as child rape, sexual assault and harassment and using children for pornography. However, NCRB began collecting data under POCSO in 2014. This may be partly linked to the spike in 2014.

Vani S. Kulkarni

There are some striking variations across the states (including Delhi as a sole union territory because of its infamous characterisation as the ‘rape capital’ of India). In 2001, the top three states (with lowest incidence of rapes of minors per 1,000,00 minors) were West Bengal (0.03), Jharkhand (0.12) and Arunachal Pradesh (0.19). In 2016, the top two states changed, with Bihar as the best (0.33), followed by Jammu and Kashmir (0.35) and Jharkhand (1.24) slipping from the second to the third best. So not just the states changed but the incidence was much higher among them.

In 2001, the three worst states/union territory were Delhi (4.44), followed by Chattisgarh (4.16) and Madhya Pradesh (3.24). In 2016, the three worst were Delhi (8.32), followed by Arunachal Pradesh (7.97) and Chattisgargh (7.58). Thus, while two out of the three worst states remained unchanged, the incidence of rapes rose.

At the regional level, the central was the worst in 2001 (33.53% of total rapes of minors), followed by a considerably lower share of the northern (19.01), and a slightly lower share of the southern (16.90%). In 2016, the central contributed the largest share (33.62%), followed by the southern (18.41 %), overtaking the northern region (16.10 %).

Raghav Gaiha

Using the NCRB and other data sets for the period 2001-16, we conducted an econometric panel analysis of rapes of minors during 2001-16, designed to isolate the contribution of each of the several factors associated with the surge in rapes of minors. Specifically, the panel model allows for individual state heterogeneity The larger the pool of minor girls (<17 years relative to men), the higher is the incidence of rapes of minors (hereafter just rapes). The greater the affluence of a state (measured in terms of state per capita income), the lower is the incidence of rape. The effect, however, is small. The lower the ratio of rural to urban population, the lower is the incidence of rapes, implying higher incidence in the latter. Congress and its coalition- ruled states lowered the rapes while President- ruled states saw a rise, presumably because the latter resulted from a breakdown of law and order. There are two surprising findings. One is that after the enactment of POCSO in 2012, the rapes increased. This is contrary to the spirit and intent of POCSO which was enacted as part of an initiative to make anti-rape laws more stringent. As convictions for rapes of minors are not available for the entire period of our analysis, we have used convictions for rapes as a proxy. This has a positive effect on rapes albeit small. This is not surprising as in 2016, out of 64,138 cases of child rapes for trials in courts, trials were completed only in 6626 cases and 57,454 (89.6%) cases are still pending. Of the cases in which trials were completed, offenders were convicted only in 28.2% of the cases.The problem is not just underreporting of rapes of minors for familiar reasons such as incest and fear of retaliation but also the incompetence and corruption of the police and judicial systems. So the recent legislation of capital punishment for rapists of girls below 12 years is a mere distraction from the imperative of systemic reforms. Worse, the capital punishment could add to the butchery of rapes of minors.

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Excerpt:

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

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Three Countries Protect Half the World’s New Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/three-countries-protect-half-worlds-new-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=three-countries-protect-half-worlds-new-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/three-countries-protect-half-worlds-new-refugees/#respond Wed, 20 Jun 2018 04:41:55 +0000 Jan Egeland http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156304 Jan Egeland is Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council and former United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator

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Refugees on the move. Credit: UNHCR/Ivor Pricket

By Jan Egeland
OSLO, Norway, Jun 20 2018 (IPS)

Turkey, Bangladesh and Uganda alone received over half of all new refugees last year. Never before has the world registered a larger number of people displaced by war and persecution.

International responsibility-sharing for displaced people has utterly collapsed. Rich countries are building walls against families fleeing war, at the same time as less money is available for aid to people in conflict areas.

The number of people forced to flee reached 68.5 million at the start of 2018, according to figures from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and NRC’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. This is as many people as there are living in the United Kingdom.

International cooperation and peace diplomacy are in deep crisis. The number of people displaced worldwide is increasing for the sixth year in a row, and fewer people are safely returning home.

Forty million people are displaced within their own countries, and another 28.5 million have crossed a border and become refugees.

Turkey was the country that received most new refugees last year – 700,000 people. It now houses over 3.8 million refugees, most of them from Syria. In comparison, the rest of Europe as a whole received about half a million refugees last year, and the US received about 60.000.

When so few asylum seekers are arriving in Europe and the US, we have the responsibility to increase our support to less rich countries that are currently hosting a large number of refugees, like Bangladesh, Lebanon and Uganda, and increase the number of people we receive for resettlement.

The safety net we put in place after Second World War and which has provided millions of refugees with protection, is now being upheld by an increasingly small number of countries.

If these countries do not receive sufficient support, the whole protection system will unravel. If so, this will have dramatic consequences not only for the people affected, but also for the stability and security in many parts of the world.

By May this year, Uganda had only received 7.0 percent of the money needed for UN and other organisations to be able to provide necessary support to the large number of refugees from South Sudan and DR Congo. In Bangladesh the equivalent figure was 20 percent.

In addition to economic support to countries receiving a large number of refugees, 1.2 million refugees need to be resettled in a new country, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). These are people that are not safe where they currently are. Last year the UN member countries only received about 103.000 resettlement refugees.

The consequences of the lack of responsibility sharing were evident this month when the rescue vessel Aquarius with 629 refugees and migrants was denied entry to Italian ports.

When people in need at sea become pieces in a political game, it is a grotesque symbol of the current lack of a proper system for international responsibility sharing.

NRC is concerned to see new border barriers raise in front of people fleeing war and persecution, and the refugees’ rights being under threat.

In many of the countries NRC work, people in power are referring to how European countries are closing their borders, when they want to defend their decision to close their own borders.

We have to end this race to the bottom, and rather let us inspire by generous recipient countries like Uganda, where vulnerable refugees are being protected.

Facts:

• 68.5 million people were displaced at the entry of 2018.
• 40 million people are displaced within their own country, according to NRC’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC)
• 28.5 million people have fled their country and are refugees or asylum seekers, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
• In 2017, 3.6 million sought protection in another country, either by themselves or through resettlement programs. Turkey received close to 20 percent of all new refugees in 2017, Bangladesh 18 percent, Uganda 15 percent and Sudan 14 percent.
• 667,000 refugees returned to their home country last year. Most returned to Nigeria (283,000)

Sources: UNHCR, NRC’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

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Excerpt:

Jan Egeland is Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council and former United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator

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2.5 Million Migrants Smuggled Worldwide, Many Via Social Mediahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/2-5-million-migrants-smuggled-worldwide-many-via-social-media/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2-5-million-migrants-smuggled-worldwide-many-via-social-media http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/2-5-million-migrants-smuggled-worldwide-many-via-social-media/#comments Tue, 19 Jun 2018 15:43:09 +0000 Emily Thampoe and Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156291 At least 2.5 million migrants were smuggled worldwide in 2016, generating an income for smugglers which ranged between $5.5 billion and $7.0 billion, according to a newly published report “2018 Global Study On Smuggling Of Migrants” by the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Coincidentally, the release of the report followed the arrival […]

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The Italian Navy rescues migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. Credit: Italian Coastguard/Massimo Sestini

By Emily Thampoe and Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 19 2018 (IPS)

At least 2.5 million migrants were smuggled worldwide in 2016, generating an income for smugglers which ranged between $5.5 billion and $7.0 billion, according to a newly published report “2018 Global Study On Smuggling Of Migrants” by the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

Coincidentally, the release of the report followed the arrival in Spain, over the weekend, of more than 600 stranded migrants, initially rejected by Italy’s new populist government which followed through on its anti-immigration campaign policies.

During the launch of the report, many member states’ representatives were also concerned with the rising role of social media in the illegal smuggling of migrants. The report concluded that many social media platforms are used to advertise smuggling services.

This promotion can be seen through published advertisements on Facebook or other platforms that migrants themselves make use of to share their opinions and experiences with smuggling services.

On the one hand, smugglers will often gander the attention of those thinking to migrate through the creation of enticing advertisements with very nice photos and also provide logistical information such as payment options and methods of getting in contact with them.

While migration has long been an issue handled by member states; since 2016, they decided to work together to produce the Global Compact for Migration through the UN. Intergovernmental negotiations are still ongoing and the states will meet next December in Morocco for the final Intergovernmental Conference.

The report, launched at the meeting, described as the “New York Launch of the First Global Study on Smuggling of Migrants” at the UN Headquarters June 13, discusses the topic of smuggling migrants in great lengths, but specially highlights the use of social media by both migrants and smugglers.

The researchers Kristiina Kangaspunta and Angela Me presented the report and discussed its results with the member states’ representatives attending the meeting.

According to the study, smuggling processes vary widely, depending on the area and the type of routes they follow. The duration of the journey, for example, depends on the travel -which can be through sea, air or land- and the organization.

The fastest journeys can last between 15 and 20 days, when smugglers give contacts to the migrants for the different steps of the route. This method is used specially to move migrants from South Asia into Greece.

Once again, this report raised the question of how to handle the migration crisis; and different individuals provided different answers. From UNODC the general claim, held by Kangaspunta and Me, was to encourage member states to share their information on migrants.

On the other hand, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) urged the international community to act faster in order to prevent the refugee crisis.

María Jesús Herrera, leader of the Mission at IOM Spain, told IPS: “Stopping one boat or more in the Mediterranean Sea is not an answer to Europe’s migration challenges. A comprehensive approach to migration governance is needed, combining opportunities for safe and orderly movement, humane border management and countering migrant smuggling and trafficking. Saving lives should always be our top concern. We must urgently find a means to help these rescued migrants and work for a comprehensive method of supporting migrants and States throughout Europe.”

Asked what IOM is proposing, she added: “IOM urges the EU to re-consider a revision of the Dublin regulation based on the European Parliament’s proposal, and to reach agreement in Council to ensure solidarity among member states fully respecting the provisions of the Treaties”.

However, for some non-profit organizations, member states act too slow to stop the migrant crisis. “European governments and institutions have not always coped well with this crisis and have struggled to provide safe, humane options and adequate care and support for those affected by the trauma of conflict and displacement”, Chelsea Purvis, Mercy Corps Policy and Advocacy Advisor, told IPS.

The Mediterranean is not the only area of concern when talking about the migrant crisis, as some nonprofit organizations emphasize.

David Kode, who leads campaigns and advocacy for global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, urged member states to rethink their approach to the Palestinian refugees: “There are currently about 7.0 million Palestinian refugees across the world including the approximately 1.3 million refugees in the Gaza strip. If some states continue to support Israel’s actions and other states remain silent in the face of the atrocities committed against Palestinians, very little will change as Israeli forces continue to use unnecessary, indiscriminate and disproportionate force against protesters”.

The role of social media

The smuggler’s key to success, says the report, depend on building trust with migrants. That’s why, often times “they have the same citizenship as the migrants they smuggle”, and they target the youth in small villages -which are more eager to believe them.

Other tactics used by smugglers may be deceptive and manipulative. Sometimes they use Facebook to pose as employees for NGOs or personnel who are involved with fake European Union organizations.

Some smugglers, especially in relation to Afghan migrants, have made themselves appear to be legal advisors for asylum on various social media platforms. Herrera, from IOM, shares her concern with IPS: “Criminal organized groups show unfortunately great capacity in exploiting new technologies to expand their benefits. Social networks are obviously a great leverage of coercion and may result into the trafficking of human beings as observed in Libya”.

On the other hand, migrants also take advantage of social media to discuss the specifics of migrating and using the services of smugglers. In some cases, social media may be used as a sort of “consumer forum” to share experiences with specific smugglers with fellow migrants; akin to a research tool.

For example, Syrians use social media extensively to research the smugglers, asking other migrants for information through Skype, WhatsApp or Facebook.

When asked how the UN, member states, and NGOs can use social media to counter illegal smuggling, Kangaspunta and Me replied that they must harness the power of social media in creating communities, in the same way that migrants warn each other of the risks of hiring a smuggling service.

Sharing her insights with IPS, Purvis said: ”Mercy Corps’ focus is on using technology and social media to help refugees on the move find safety, and our Signpost programme operates in Europe and Jordan. Using an online platform provides refugees with accurate and factual information in their own language about their options and how they can access services in the country they are in.”

Herrera shared with IPS what seems to be IOM’s goal: “The desired future outcome is that states, international organizations, and other actors work towards a situation where migration systems, at a minimum, do not exacerbate vulnerabilities but rather guarantee protection of the human rights of migrants irrespective of status, while migration takes place within the rule of law, and is aligned with development, social, humanitarian and security interests of states”.

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Trump is Here to Stay and Change the Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/trump-stay-change-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-stay-change-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/trump-stay-change-world/#respond Mon, 18 Jun 2018 15:05:37 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156274 Donald John Trump, 45th and current president of the United States, has been seen in many illustrious circles as an anomaly that cannot last. Well, it is time to look at reality. If we put on the glasses of people who have seen their level of income reduced and are afraid of the future, Trump […]

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By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jun 18 2018 (IPS)

Donald John Trump, 45th and current president of the United States, has been seen in many illustrious circles as an anomaly that cannot last. Well, it is time to look at reality.

If we put on the glasses of people who have seen their level of income reduced and are afraid of the future, Trump is here to stay, and he is a result and not a cause.

Roberto Savio

In his year and a half of government, Trump has not lost one of his battles. He has changed the political discourse worldwide, established new standards of ethics in politics, a new meaning of democracy, and his electoral basis has not been shrinking at all.

His critics are the media (which a large majority of Americans dislike), the elite (which is hated) and professionals (who are considered to be profiting at the expense of the lower section of the middle class).

There is now a strong divide with the rural world, the de-industrialised parts of the United States, miners with their mine closed, etc. In addition, white Americans feel increasingly threatened by immigrants, minorities, corporations and industries which have been using the government to their advantage. At every election their number shrinks by two percent.

Let us not forget that Trump was elected by the vote of the majority of white woman, in a country which is the bedrock of feminism.

I know that this could create some irate reactions. The United States is home to some of the best universities in the world, the most brilliant researchers as shown by the number of Nobel prizes awarded , very good orchestras, libraries, museums, a vibrant civil society, and so on. But the sad reality is that those elites count, at best, for no more than 20 percent of the population.

In 80 percent of cases, TV news is the only source of information on international affairs. Newspapers are usually only local, with exception of a few (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, in all less than ten), and have a readership of 35 percent of the population.

You have only to travel in the US hinterland to observe two striking facts: it is very rare to meet somebody who knows geography and history even minimally, and everybody is convinced that the United States has been helping the entire world for which nobody is grateful.

An investigation by the New York Times found out that Americans were convinced that their country has been giving at least 15 percent of its budget for support and philanthropy. In fact, in recent decades the real figure has been below 0.75 percent. At the same time, it has a number of institutes of international studies of the highest level with brilliant analysts, plus a large number of international NGOs. But only 34 percent of the member of the Senate, and 38 percent of members of the House of Representatives have a passport…

The country is divided into two worlds. Of course, the same happen in every country, and in Africa or Asia the division between elite and low-level population is even more extreme. But the United States is an affluent country, where for more than two centuries efforts have been made on the fronts of education and integration in a country which has also been called the “melting pot”, and where it is widely believed that it is the best – if not the only – democracy in the world.

Trump, therefore, has an easy and captive electorate, made up of strong believers, and we cannot understand why, if we do not go over the history of American politics, which is in fact parallel to the political history of Europe. The calls for a lengthy analysis which is what is missing in today’s media, and in which recent US politics can be divided (very roughly) into three historical cycles.

The first, from 1945 to 1981), saw the political class convinced that the priority was to avoid a new world war. For this, institutions for peace and cooperation had to be built, and individuals were to be happy with their status and destiny.

Internationally, that meant the creation of the United Nation, multilateralism as a way to negotiate on the basis of participation and consensus, and international cooperation as a way to help poor countries develop and reduce inequalities. Domestically, this was to be done by giving priority to labour over capital. Strong trade unions were created and in 1979 income from labour accounted for 70 percent of total income. A similar trend was also the seen in Europe.

The second cycle ran from 1981 to 2009, the year Barack Obama was named president. On behalf of the corporate world, Ronald Reagan had launched the neoliberal wave. He started by shutting down the trade union of air traffic controllers, and went on to dismantle much of the welfare and social net built over the previous four decades, eliminating regulations, giving free circulation to capital, creating unrestricted free trade, and so on.

That led to delocalisation of factories, the decline of trade unions and their ability to negotiate, and a very painful reduction of the labour share of wealth, which fell from 70 percent in 1979 to 63 percent in 2014, and has continued to decline ever since.

Unprecedented inequalities have become normal and accepted. Today, an employee at Live Nation Entertainment, an events promotion and ticketing company, who earns an average of 24, 000 dollars would need 2,893 years to earn the 70.6 million dollars that its CEO, Michael Rapino, earned last year.

Reagan had a counterpart in Europe, Margaret Thatcher, who dismantled trade unions, ridiculed the concept of community and common goods and aims (“… there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families …” ), partly followed by Gerard Schroeder in Germany. Globalisation became the undisputed new political vision, far from the rigid ideologies which had created communism and fascism, and were responsible for the Second World War. The market would solve all problems, and governments should keep their hands off.

Reagan was followed by Bush Sr., George H. W. Bush. who somewhat moderated Reagan’s policies. While he started the war with Iraq, he did not go on to invade the entire country. And he was followed by a Democrat, Bill Clinton, who did not challenge neoliberal globalisation but tried to ride it, showing that the left (in American terms) could be more efficient than the right. To give just one example, it was Clinton who completed deregulation of banks by repealing the Glass-Steagall Act which separated savings and investment banking. That led to the transfer of billions of dollars from savings to investments, or speculation, with the result that today banks consider customer activity less lucrative than investments, and finance has become a sector that is totally separate from the production of goods and services. There are now 40 times more financial transactions in one day than output from industry and services, and finance is the only sector of human activity without any international control body.

Markets are now more important than the vote of citizens given that, in many cases, it is they that decide the viability of a government. Furthermore, this has become a sector with no ethics: since the financial crisis of 2008, banks have paid a whopping amount of 321 billion dollars in penalties for illegal activities.

Clinton’s conviction that the left could be successful also had its counterpart in Europe, like Reagan had Thatcher. It was Tony Blair, who constructed a theoretical design for explaining the submission of the left to neoliberal globalisation: this was the so-called Third Way which was, in fact, was a centrist position that tried to reconcile centre-right economic and centre-left social policies.

However, it became clear that neoliberal globalisation was in fact lifting only a few boats and that capital without regulation was becoming a threat. Social injustices continued to increase and legions of people in the rural area felt that towns were syphoning off all revenues and that the elite was ignoring them, and unemployed workers and the impoverished middle class no longer felt old loyalties to the left, which was now considered representative of the elite and professionals.

In the United States the Democratic Party, which also held a neoliberal view with Clinton, began to change its agenda from an economic approach to one of human rights, defending minorities, Afro-Americans and immigrants, and advocating their inclusion in the system.

The fight was no longer between corporations and trade unions, and Obama was the result of that fight, the champion of human rights also as an instrument of international affairs. In fact, while he had a brilliant agenda on human rights, he did very little on the social and economic front, beside the law on national health. But his alliance of minorities and progressive whites was a personal baggage, who could not pass on to an emblematic figure of the establishment like Hillary Clinton.

That led to a new situation in American politics. Those on the left began to see defence of their identity (and their past) as the new fight, now that the traditional division between left and right had waned. Religious identity, national identity, fight against the system and those who are different, become political action.

It should be stressed that the same process happened in Europe, albeit in a totally different cultural and social situation. Those left out deserted the traditional political system to vote for those who were against the system, and promised radical changes to restore the glories of the past.

Their message was necessary nationalist, because they denounced all international systems as merely supporting the elites who were the beneficiaries. It was also necessarily to find a scapegoat, like the Jews in the thirties. Immigrants were perfect because they aroused fear and a perceived loss of traditional identity, a threat in a period of large unemployment.

The new political message from the newcomers was to empower those left out, those who felt fear, those who had lost any trust in the political class, and promise to give them back their sovereignty, reject intruders and take power away from the traditional elites, the professionals of politics, to bring in real people.

Since the end of the financial crisis in 2008 – which brought about even further deterioration of the social and economic situation) – those parties known as populist parties started to grow and they now practically dominate the political panorama.

In the United States, the Republicans of the Tea Party, radical right-wing legislators, were able to change the Republican party, pushing out those called compassionate conservatives because they had social concern. In Europe, the media were startled to see workers voting for Marine Le Pen in France, but the left had lost any legitimacy as representative of the lower incomes; technological change led to the disappearance of social identities, like workers.

In a period of crisis, there was no capability for redistribution. The left had now found itself in the middle of a crisis of identity and it will not emerge from it soon.

Let us now come to today. In November 2016, to universal amazement, (and his own) Trump was elected president of the United States, and just four months later, in March 2017, Brexit came as a rude awakening for Europe. The resentful and fearful went to the polls to get Great Britain out of Europe. The fact that the campaign was plagued by falsehood – recognised by the winners after the referendum – was irrelevant. Who was against Brexit? The financial system, the international corporations, the big towns like London, university professors: in other words, the system. That was enough.

Here, I have deliberately lumped together the United States and Europe (the European Union) to show that globalisation has had a global impact. A United States, which had been the creator and guarantor of the international system, started to withdraw from it under Reagan when he felt that it was becoming a straitjacket for the United States.

This started the decline of the United Nations: on American initiative, trade was taken away from the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was created. Globalisation has two engines, trade and finance, and both are now out of the United Nations, which has become an institution for health, education, children, woman and other non-productive sectors, according to the market. It is no coincidence that Trump is now fighting against the globalisation that United States invented, and one of its main enemies is the WTO.

An old maxim is that people get the government they deserve. But we should also be aware that they are being pushed by a new alliance: the alternative right alliance. In all countries it has the same aim: destroy what exists. This network is fed at the same time by Russia and the United States. American alt-right ideologues like Steve Bannon are addressing European audiences to foster the end of the European Union, with clear support from the White House. The populists in power, like Viktor Orban in Hungary or Matteo Salvini in Italy (as well those not in power, like Le Pen) all consider Trump and Vladimir Putin as their points of references. Such alliances are new, and they will become very dangerous.

And now we come to Mr. Trump. After what has been said above, it is clear why he should be considered a symptom and not a cause, while his personality is obviously playing an additional important role. It should be noted that he has not lost any important battle since he came to power. He has been able to take over the Republican party completely, and it is now de facto the Trump Party.

In the primaries for the November 2017 elections (for all House of Representative seats and 50 percent of those of the Senate), he intervened to support candidates he liked, and their opponents always lost. In South Carolina, conservative Katie Arrington, who won against a much stronger opponent, Mark Sanford, declared in her acceptance speech: our party is the Trump party.

Trump knows exactly what his voters think, and he always acts in a way that strengthens his support, regardless of what he does. He is a known sexist, and is now involved in a scandal with a porno star? He has moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and he now has the support of the evangelists, a very large and puritan Protestant group which is an important source of votes. (Interestingly, Guatemala and Paraguay which decided to move their embassies to Jerusalem are also run by evangelists.)

Trump has refused to disclose his incomes and taxes, and he has not formally separated himself from his companies. In the United States, this is usually is enough to force people to resign.

He has removed from his cabinet all the representatives of finance and industry he had put in on his arrival (in order to be accepted by the establishment) and replaced them with right-wing hawks, highly efficient and not morons, from National Security Advisor John Bolton to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He has managed to obtain Gina Hastel, a notorious torturer, as director of the CIA with the votes of Democrats.

He has turned his back on a highly structured treaty with Iran (and other four major countries) to forge a totally unclear agreement with North Korea, which creates problems with Japan, an American ally by definition. He has decided to side with Israel and Saudi Arabia against Iran, because that move has the support of a large American sector.

In addition to narcissism, what moves Trump are not values but money. He has quarreled with all historical allies of the United States and he is now engaging in a tariff war with them, while starting one with China, simply on the basis of money. However while erratic, Trump is not unpredictable. All that he has done, he announced during his electoral campaign.

Trump believes he is accountable to no one, and has created a direct relationship with his electors, bypassing the media. According to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog, which keeps track of Trump’s many misstatements, untruths and outright lies, he exceeded 3,000 untrue or misleading statements in his first 466 days – on average, 6.5 untruths a day. Nobody cares. Very few are able to judge.

When a president of United States announces that he is abandoning the treaty with Iran, because they are the main financier of ISIS and Al Qaida, the lack of public reaction is a good measure of the total ignorance of most Americans.

Americans have no idea that Islam is divided between Sunni and Shiite, and that the terrorists are Sunni and based on an extreme interpretation of Islam, Wahhabism, or Salafism. Iranians, who are not Arabs, are Shiite, and are considered apostate by the Sunni extremists; Iran has lost thousands of men in the fight against ISIS.

This ignorance helps Trump win Republican voters, no matter what.

The fact that Trump knows exactly what his voters feel and think feeds his narcissism. After his meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, at a press conference he said of previous US presidents: “I don’t think they’ve ever had the confidence, frankly, in a president that they have right now for getting things done and having the ability to get things done”.

He does not tolerate any criticism or dissent, as his staff well knows. The result is that he is surrounded by yes men, like no president before. His assistant for trade, Peter Navarro, has declared that there should be a special place in hell for foreign leaders who disagree with Trump.

According to the large majority of economists, the tariff war that he has now started now with US allies plus China will bring growth down all over the world, but nobody reacts in the United States. It is all irrelevant to his voters. He now has a 92 percent rate of confidence, the highest since the United States has existed.

Considering all he has done in less than two years against the existing order leads us to consider that the real danger is that he will be re-elected, and leave office only in 2024. By then, the changes in ethics and style will have become really irreversible.

With many candidates in various countries looking to him as a political example, he will certainly be able to change the world in which we have grown and which, albeit with many faults, has been able to bring about growth and peace.

It is true that the traditional political system needs a radical update, and it does appear able to do so. Meanwhile, it is difficult to foresee how a world based on nationalism and xenophobia – with a strong increase in military spending worldwide, and many other global problems from climate change to no policy for migration, and a global debt that has reached 225 percent of GNP in ten years – will be able to live without conflicts,

What we do know is that the world which emerged from the Second World War, based on the idea of peace and development, the world which is in our constitutions, will disappear.

Democracy, can be a perfect tool for the legitimacy of a dictator. This is what is happening in the various Russias, Turkeys, Hungarys or Polands. A strongman wins the elections, then starts to make changes to the constitution in order to have more power. The next step is to place cronies in institutional positions, reduce the independence of the judiciary, control the media, and so on. That is then followed by acting in name of the majority, against minorities.

This is not new in history. Hitler and Mussolini were at first elected, and today many “men of providence” are lining up.

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Fertility Struggles More Open – and Shared on Social Mediahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/fertility-struggles-open-shared-social-media/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fertility-struggles-open-shared-social-media http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/fertility-struggles-open-shared-social-media/#respond Mon, 18 Jun 2018 13:21:40 +0000 Michelle Catenacci http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156269 Michelle Catenacci is an Infertility Specialist and IVF Doctor, Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago

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By Michelle Catenacci, M.D
CHICAGO, Jun 18 2018 (IPS)

Fertility health is an incredibly personal – and often vulnerable – topic. Fertility, infertility, and fertility preservation have gained increased public interest over the past few years. Infertility is formally defined as the inability to achieve pregnancy after one year of unprotected intercourse.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that approximately 12% of women aged 15 to 44 in the United States have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term. Even though a significant proportion of the population suffers from the challenges associated with infertility, awareness of these challenges has historically been limited, as many regarded fertility to be a “taboo” topic.

More recently (thankfully!), couples have become more and more open about their fertility struggles. Stories are being shared on social media, celebrities are discussing their experiences, and physicians are starting the dialogue with their patients about fertility health. This has led to increased “fertility awareness” and a more proactive approach to treating and preventing infertility.

Women experience an age-related fertility decline that impacts both quantity and quality of eggs. Infertility and miscarriage rates also generally increase as women age. Although egg quality is more difficult to decipher, we do have some testing that to look at egg quanitiy, or ovarian reserve.

With regard to egg quantity: unlike men, who produce new sperm throughout their lifetime, women are born with a fixed number of eggs. This pre-set number declines steadily as women age. A woman’s exact egg supply and her rate of egg depletion are unique to each woman and are likely related to her genetics. Environmental factors, such as smoking, have been shown to deleteriously affect egg quantity as well.

A physician can get a general sense of a women’s egg quantity, or ovarian reserve, through various hormonal tests and an ultrasound evaluation. Women will typically get blood test to measure a day three estrogen and FSH (follicle stimulating hormone). FSH is the brain’s stimulating hormone for the ovaries.

As the egg supply decreases, the brain has to work harder to produce an egg, and thus we see an elevation in FSH levels. Another hormone frequently checked is AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone). AMH is secreted from small follicles in the ovary. Lower AMH numbers indicate a lower number of follicles.

A pelvic ultrasound is also frequently used to assess egg quantity by measuring the antral follicle count (2-9 mm follicles in the ovary), which also typically decreases with age. Having lower egg reserve does not necessarily cause infertility; however, it can make treating infertility more difficult as women with lower reserve tend not to respond as robustly to the stimulating medications used by fertility specialists to promote egg production.

Many women are now requesting fertility evaluations, even when they are not actively trying to become pregnant. These women may be considering fertility preservation techniques and want to see what their current ovarian status is, or they may simply wish to learn more about their reproductive health.

Although getting your ovarian reserve tested when not trying to get pregnant will usually not tell you for certain whether or not you will eventually have difficulty getting pregnant, these tests can provide some insights to prepare for possible future struggles.

Women who are concerned about their future fertility health may elect to undergo an egg freezing cycle to be used in the future, just in case they do have difficult conceiving. Fertility preservation via egg freezing had previously been recommended primarily for cancer patients, however in 2013, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine opened up this option for anyone wishing to preserve fertility.

Egg freezing for fertility preservation has been growing over the past several years due to increased fertility awareness, decreasing costs, and even insurance coverage. The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology reports that in 2016, 3.7% of the 237,385 Assisted Reproductive Technologies cycles done in the United States were for egg freezing for fertility preservation and they expect this number to continue to rise.

Ideally, women should be freezing their eggs in their 20s or early 30s when egg quantity and quality are superior, but women of any age may elect this option after appropriate counseling.

As women gain a better understanding of their fertility health, more and more women have chosen to undergo egg freezing cycles to preserve their fertility or “stop the biological clock”. Although no procedure can guarantee a baby, improved egg freezing techniques have dramatically increased the success rates seen by women having babies from frozen eggs.

This has given women more options and the flexibility to build a family using their own eggs on their own timeline. Women interested in learning more about their reproductive health should contact a reproductive endocrinologist to receive fertility testing and interpret results to assess overall fertility health.

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Excerpt:

Michelle Catenacci is an Infertility Specialist and IVF Doctor, Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago

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Now is Not the Time to Give up on the People of DRChttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/now-not-time-give-people-drc/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=now-not-time-give-people-drc http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/now-not-time-give-people-drc/#respond Fri, 15 Jun 2018 14:33:56 +0000 Jean-Philippe Marcoux http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156251 Jean-Philippe Marcoux is Mercy Corps Country Director, Democratic Republic of Congo

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Displaced women at the Simba Mosala Site in Kikwit, Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Badylon Kawanda Bakiman/IPS

Displaced women at the Simba Mosala Site in Kikwit, Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Badylon Kawanda Bakiman/IPS

By Jean-Philippe Marcoux
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Jun 15 2018 (IPS)

After more than 20 years of brutal conflict, few might believe that things could get worse in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). And yet they most dishearteningly are.

In the last year, we have witnessed a continuous escalation of violence that has spread to half of the country, endangering millions. Some 2 million children suffer from acute hunger, and the DRC is home to the largest number of displaced people in Africa.

Political instability has sparked a flare-up of militia violence that has pockmarked eastern and central Congo, forcing tens of thousands to flee in recent months and stirring fears the African nation could plunge back into civil war. Now is the time for the international community to recognize the threat and to finally address the root causes of DRC’s seemingly endless cycle of conflict.

Yet many donors are forced to pick and choose which disasters to respond to in a world grappling with an unprecedented number of humanitarian crises. Budget constraints make it is easy to justify diverting funds to meet emergency needs.

However, the value of long-term development projects, which too often get short-shrift in the face of ongoing crisis, cannot be underestimated.

We know that humanitarian responses mostly serve to alleviate the symptoms of larger issues and are not solutions themselves. So, my organisation, Mercy Corps, and other agencies are working to address what drives conflict in the DRC: the grievances stemming from the lack of access to services and economic opportunities in a country where two-thirds of the population is under the age of 25.

As insecurity and violence in DRC has forced people out of the traditional rural and farming areas and into towns and cities where they feel safer, urban services are struggling to keep up with the new demand.

Currently, three-quarters of the population lack access to safe drinking water. Without access to clean water, people are more susceptible to disease, and women and girls are disproportionately impacted as they often have to take responsibility for the collection of water. As Justine, one of the women we work with says: “Water is life. So there is nothing we can do without water.”

This is why Mercy Corps is undertaking one of our largest-ever infrastructure programmes to provide safe drinking water to approximately 1 million people in the cities of Goma and Bukavu.

The IMAGINE programme, delivered with support from the U.K. government, involves nine local organisations, six health zones, five districts, two cities, two provincial water ministries and the public water utility.

All of these different parts form an integrated water governance initiative working in partnership to ensure that neighbourhoods have access to safe, clean water, as well as the means to provide feedback to improve water-delivery service. IMAGINE is proof that development gains can be made, even while chaos reigns in other parts of the country.

To be sure, Mercy Corps and other aid groups must and do respond to the most pressing needs that arise from violence in the DRC. Since the beginning of 2018, we have doubled our humanitarian response and set up the Kivu Crisis Response for newly displaced Congolese.

This programme allows us to coordinate with other organisations to respond in a smarter more rapid way to the most urgent needs of displaced people, providing lifesaving assistance in a way that maintains their dignity.

Ultimately, the Congolese people hold the power to decide their own futures. This includes choosing their own leaders through elections that are scheduled for this year. Development programmes like IMAGINE are tools that the Congolese people can use to build safer and healthier futures for themselves and future generations. Maintaining, and where possible, increasing development programming is central to this effort.

Home of to some of Africa’s most majestic national parks, this is a nation whose almost boundless natural beauty and potential eludes most newspaper headlines. Despair often eclipses the energy and determination of its inhabitants after so many years of war. But there are seedlings of hope. Now is not the time to give up on the people of DRC.

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Excerpt:

Jean-Philippe Marcoux is Mercy Corps Country Director, Democratic Republic of Congo

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Europe, Sharing the Love?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/europe-sharing-love/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=europe-sharing-love http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/europe-sharing-love/#respond Fri, 15 Jun 2018 12:42:42 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156249 Even if arrivals of migrants into Italy by sea have decreased between 2017 and 2018 so far, recent events in the Mediterranean rim have strongly drawn attention to the migration issue and a fierce debate is now underway among European countries. On June 10, Italy’s new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, barred the ship Aquarius, jointly […]

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Mediterranean waters in Spain. Credit: Photo by David Aler on Unsplash

By Maged Srour
ROME, Jun 15 2018 (IPS)

Even if arrivals of migrants into Italy by sea have decreased between 2017 and 2018 so far, recent events in the Mediterranean rim have strongly drawn attention to the migration issue and a fierce debate is now underway among European countries.

On June 10, Italy’s new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, barred the ship Aquarius, jointly operated by the NGOs‘SOS Mediterranée’ and ‘Doctors Beyond Borders’ (MSF), from docking at Italian ports. There were 629 migrants on the ship. Among them where 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 children and seven pregnant women.

The Italian coastguard coordinated the rescue operation but after moving the migrants to the Aquarius, the new Italian government denied access to Italian harbours. Malta, similarly when asked by Italy to accept the boat and take care of the relief, denied responsibility.

In recent years Italy has been at the forefront of a constant wave of migration from North Africa and has provided a huge amount of support by allowing the vessels into Italian ports. Malta also, with its relatively small population has accepted a large number of migrants despite its fewer than 450 000 inhabitants and small land size.

While public opinion, activists, policymakers, local officials and news agencies have criticised the latest decision by the Italian Government, the Government has also given to understand that it is working towards a solution with other European governments, given the very real humanitarian concerns involved in migration to its shores and those of other Mediterranean countries.

Similarly several local officials in Italy have condemned the hardline stance, such as the mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando and the Mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, the latter stating that “…the port of Naples is ready to welcome” the migrants. “We are humans, with a great heart. Naples is ready, without money, to save human lives” he tweeted on June 10.

A breakthrough in the situation occurred only when Spain’s newly elected Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, decided to welcome the 629 migrants after the mayors of Valencia and Barcelona both offered to take the boat in at their ports. “It is our duty to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a safe port to these people” Sánchez’s office said.

As of 15 June, 792 migrants have either died or gone missing while crossing the Mediterranean, says the UN Migration Agency (IOM). This number represents a decrease compared to the last three years, as deaths in the same period, were 1,836 in 2017, 2,899 in 2016 and 1,806 in 2015.

However, this situation is still represents a shameful paradox in our century. In 2017, migrants dead or missing while crossing the Mediterranean waters were 3,116 and the EU initiatives and allocations of funds have not been able to avoid these tragedies. In 2018 alone, of the 52,389 people who attempted to cross the Mediterraneam rim, 792 died, making the death rate 1.5%. The deadliest route in 2018 is – as of June 15 – the central route (503 deaths), as opposed to going by the western route (244) or the east (45).

 

 

The timing of the Aquarius’ events may not be completely coincidental, as there is an EU meeting at the end of June that will consider changing the rule that asylum must be claimed in the country of first entry.

That is the rule that has put Italy on the frontline of Europe’s migration crisis. If considered in this light, the latest Italian decision, could be viewed as a bid for a domestic political win, as dissatisfaction of Italian public opinion towards migration flows has been steadily increasing in recent years. It remains to be seen what will be the political outome at the EU level.

While France’s government deeply criticized Italy’s decision to deny Aquarius’ docking, other countries, such as Hungary, praised Rome’s decision. Viktor Orban, the anti-migration prime minister said that Salvini’s decision is a “great moment which may truly bring changes in Europe’s migration policies.”

After being abandoned for four days, those migrants feared they were going back to Libya, a nightmare that obviously any of them wanted to consider. On November 2017, a CNN report on slave auctions in Libya had prompted international outrage over a slave market operating in the country.

Ben Fishman, an analyst from The Washington Institute, has highlighted what are the root causes of the growth of this general abuse of African migrants in Libya. “First” he wrote in a policy paper right after the CNN report was published, “many traffickers exploit migrants’ desperation to reach Europe, often trapping them in Libya. These traffickers enjoy free rein in Libya exploiting the country’s lawlessness in the same manner that the Islamic State did in 2015-2016 when it took control of Sirte.

Smugglers and gangs overlap with the militia landscape, making it extremely difficult to curtail the activities of one group without impacting the overall profit stream”. Fishman also added that “the main push factors that compel migrants to risk these treacherous journeys – namely, poverty, and lack of opportunities […] have not been adequately addressed”. In 2015 the EU had established a 3.2 billion euros fund to facilitate migration management at the point of origin in Africa but this EU-led initiative clearly needs to be greatly expanded.

Many analysts and activists urge the EU to address the migration crisis in an adequate and sustainable manner. Migration flows will continue, especially if policy responses remain as weak as they are at the moment. The EU needs to implement a comprehensive framework that deals both with the situation in Libya and with the points of origins in Africa, as well as with the welcoming policies implemented by the receiving countries in Europe.

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Sahel in the Throes of a Major Humanitarian Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/sahel-throes-major-humanitarian-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sahel-throes-major-humanitarian-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/sahel-throes-major-humanitarian-crisis/#respond Wed, 13 Jun 2018 18:04:32 +0000 Mark Lowcock http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156214 Mark Lowcock is UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

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A mother caresses the head of her sleeping malnourished baby, at the mother and child centre in the town of Diffa, Niger. Credit: UNICEF/Tremeau

By Mark Lowcock
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 13 2018 (IPS)

I am increasingly concerned by the situation in the Sahel. In Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal, nearly 6 million people are struggling to meet their daily food needs. Severe malnutrition threatens the lives of 1.6 million children. These are levels unseen since the crisis of 2012, and the most critical months are still ahead.

Governments in the region were successful in beating back the crisis six years ago. I am encouraged by the efforts of regional partners to scale up their operations following early warning signs. But the rapid deterioration over recent months reveals an urgent need for more donor support.

The crisis was triggered by scarce and erratic rainfall in 2017, resulting in water, crop and pasture shortages and livestock losses. Pastoralists had to undertake the earliest seasonal movement of livestock in 30 years – four months earlier and much further than usual. This has also increased the likelihood of conflict with farmer communities over scarce resources, water and land.

Food security across the region has deteriorated. Food stocks have already run out for millions of people. Families are cutting down on meals, withdrawing children from school and going without essential health treatment to save money for food.

Severe acute malnutrition rates in the six countries have increased by 50 per cent since last year. One child in six under the age of five now needs urgent life-saving treatment to survive.

In a severe lean season, anticipated to last until September, the number of people who need food and livelihood support may increase to 6.5 million.

I am most concerned about Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Mauritania. In Burkina Faso, for example, the number of people facing food insecurity has already jumped nearly threefold since last year. In Mali, the number of people in ‘emergency’ conditions have increased by 120 per cent. In Mauritania, severe acute malnutrition rates are at their highest since 2008.

With support from the United Nations and partners, national authorities have developed prioritized response plans that focus on pastoral and food security needs. A scale-up in operations to reach 3.6 million people with food security interventions is already underway.

Critical nutrition interventions are being scaled up in areas where emergency thresholds have been surpassed. Ongoing technical support to governments and regional organisations is helping mitigate conflict between farmers and herders.

While increased insecurity has complicated aid delivery in parts of the region, the humanitarian presence in the Sahel and capacity to deliver services are stronger than ever before. Regional, national and local organisations stand ready to step up assistance and help meet exceptional needs.

But UN response plans across the six affected countries are only 26 per cent funded. Last week, I released US$30 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund to help scale up relief efforts in the region. I call on donors urgently to provide further funding. We can still avert the worst.

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Excerpt:

Mark Lowcock is UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

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Stop Neglecting African Conflictshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/stop-neglecting-african-conflicts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stop-neglecting-african-conflicts http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/stop-neglecting-african-conflicts/#respond Wed, 13 Jun 2018 12:27:32 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156207 Conflicts have uprooted millions across several African nations and we must not forget them, said a human rights group. Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) timely message was published through their annual list of the worlds most neglected displacement crises. “It’s a sad pattern that we are once again seeing that the crises on the African continent […]

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A group of displaced men, women, and children find refuge at a church on the outskirts of Nyunzu village in eastern Congo. Pastor Mbuyu (pictured) looks after them. Credit: NRC/Christian Jepsen

By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 13 2018 (IPS)

Conflicts have uprooted millions across several African nations and we must not forget them, said a human rights group.

Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) timely message was published through their annual list of the worlds most neglected displacement crises.

“It’s a sad pattern that we are once again seeing that the crises on the African continent seldom make media headlines or reach foreign policy agendas before it is too late,” said Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland.

This year’s results found that six of the worlds 10 most neglected conflicts are found in Africa.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – where years of civil war have displaced more than 5 million people – topped the list.

South Sudan, Central African Republic, Burundi and Ethiopia rounded out the top five.

But why are such conflicts so neglected?

Lack of political and diplomatic will is among the NRC’s major concerns.

“We – the West – are good at turning a blind eye when there is little geopolitical interest for us,” NRC’s spokesperson Tiril Skarstein told IPS.

“The countries on the list are often considered less strategically important, and that’s why there’s no international interest in finding a solution,” she added.

Skarstein explained that in some countries, the opposite is the case, where there are many actors with conflicting political interests taking part in the conflict. Such are the cases of Yemen and Palestine, where political gains are put before the lives of civilians.

The lack of political will to work towards a solution is one of three criteria on which a crisis is measured in order to be included on the list.

Media Turns A Blind Eye

According to the NRC, the plight of African refugees is also consistently too far removed from the ‘consciousness of the west’ as their stories fail to be told in Western news and media.

If they are, they certainly are not being covered as as much as other humanitarian conflicts in the world.

Expanding on this point, Skarstein drew comparison between Syria and the DRC where the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in both conflicts is approximately 13 million.

“Many people wouldn’t know that. Why? Because the two have had vastly different levels of international exposure,” she told IPS.

Since many of the refugees from the Syria have fled the Assad regime via Europe, many in the West have been forced to “confront and come to terms with their plight.”

“We are literally seeing these people arrive on our doorsteps. In the media, their story in chronicled, tv, online, on social media. And when people get to see others and know their situation people have a tendency to care and act,” Skarstein noted.

Meanwhile, conflicts in the DRC and other African nations often see displaced people flee to neighboring countries.

“They are not arriving on tourist beaches. Crossing one African border to another doesn’t generate the same level of exposure,” Skarstein said.

Less Money, More Problems

Because of the lack of political will and media attention, many of African crises also end up struggling to access humanitarian funds.

“Crises that are given little international attention and are seldom mentioned in the media, are also often declined the financial support needed to meet severe humanitarian needs,” Skarstein told IPS.

DRC is currently the second lowest funded of the world’s largest crises with less than half of the US$812 million aid appeal met.

A further problem is ‘donor fatigue’, a phenomenon whereby the longer a conflict goes on, the harder it is to attract the necessary funding from donors.

“You have conflicts raging for years, sometimes even decades – you get people thinking it’s a hopeless case, it’s all over. We need to fight that,” she said.

So what can get these African conflicts off the most neglected list?

The NRC says the most important thing is for donor states to provide assistance on a needs basis rather than a political one.

The human rights group also highlighted the role of media in bringing attention to overlooked humanitarian disasters.

“Exposure is so critical, that people be heard and listened too is key. The more we speak up about these crises and the more we see of them, the more that can be done,” Skarstein said.

And this list should serve as a reminder to all.

“Just because we do not see these people suffer, it does not make their suffering any less real…importantly, it does not absolve us from our responsibility to act,” Skarstein concluded.

Violence escalated in several parts of the DRC in 2015, forcing almost 2 million people to flee their homes in 2017 alone.

Among the other countries to make this year’s “World’s Most Neglected Displacement Crises” list is the Palestinians territories, Myanmar, Yemen, Venezuela and Nigeria.

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Universities & Their Duty to Help Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/universities-duty-help-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=universities-duty-help-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/universities-duty-help-refugees/#respond Wed, 13 Jun 2018 11:29:17 +0000 Mark Charlton http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156200 Mark Charlton is Head of Public Engagement, De Montfort University (DMU)*

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Mark Charlton is Head of Public Engagement, De Montfort University (DMU)*

By Mark Charlton
LEICESTER, UK, Jun 13 2018 (IPS)

A global network of universities is helping to create positive change for the experiences of refugees and migrant families. On June 7, scholars and students travelled to the United Nations HQ in New York to share how they are supporting refugees – and how small actions can make a big difference.

Mark Charlton

Having run support projects for local Leicester refugees through our community engagement program #DMUlocal, De Montfort University was asked by the UN to coordinate a global network of universities committed to encouraging a positive attitude on migration, share strategies on supporting refugees on campuses and most importantly – take action.

We have taken the lead in the higher education sector as advocates of the UN’s Together campaign, which aims to create a global support network for refugees worldwide. Our goal? To involve universities and encourage them to use their ample resources to support refugees in their local areas.

To launch the work, De Montfort University held a summit at the UN headquarters back in January with over 600 students and representatives from universities around the world. Here, we discussed the small-scale ways students and their universities could begin to support refugees in their own communities. Nine other universities from countries including Germany, China, America and Cyprus made the trip and shared their inspiring stories.

All universities involved in our campaign commit to working with refugee communities in their local regions to solve a particular issue that has been highlighted, such as access to legal advice and opportunities for work.

Their projects are then shared through the #JoinTogether network, resulting in successful ideas being replicated worldwide – a powerful demonstration of how higher education institutions can be a force for good, not only in their respective communities, but globally as well.

On June 7, Universities #JoinTogether held its first six-month progress meeting at the United Nations headquarters in New York to share success stories and ideas – with leaders voting for the projects they want to bring to their campuses.

This conference focused on the campaign’s evolution to champion the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, with a specific emphasis on SDG 16 to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

We welcomed new universities and have now expanded to include 38 universities and a number of international university associations – creating a global conversation of more than 200 higher education institutions.

The conference voted to implement two programs: one conceived by The University of Pennsylvania promoting high-quality job opportunities for refugees at its institution and with partners, and another from Amsterdam University College, aiming to provide better access to education for refugees. Additional programs highlighted were:

• Universidad de Jaén (Spain): Here, academics and students have been able to support those who are vulnerable not only as refugees, but also because they belong to at-risk ethnic groups, or because of their sexual orientation or religion.
• Every Campus A Refuge at Guilford College (US): By welcoming refugees to their new homes, participating students learn about forced displacement, refugee resettlement and the lives of immigrants. They help organise housing, transport, translation services and meals for new arrivals.
• Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece): The university runs a programme of psychological support and help in accessing health and legal advice.
• The University of Massachusetts in Boston’s Refugees Welcome: This non-profit organization focuses on bringing together refugee service providers. Its mission is to provide a platform for refugee organizations, advocate for the expansion of refugee services, and fill any financial gaps.

I am proud of the work accomplished so far and optimistic about the difference it will make in the days and years to come. Changing the narrative around those who have been displaced is a key part of our action charter and one campus, with its resources and brainpower, can make a big difference.

The #JoinTogether network has already grown considerably in a short span of time, but there is still much work to be done. Through organized efforts, higher education truly can make a difference to those who most need it.

*Mark Charlton is responsible for leading DMU’s work with the community and has overseen the university’s leadership of the #JoinTogether campaign.

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Excerpt:

Mark Charlton is Head of Public Engagement, De Montfort University (DMU)*

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Kenya Can End the Moral Indignity of Child Labourhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/kenya-can-end-moral-indignity-child-labour/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenya-can-end-moral-indignity-child-labour http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/kenya-can-end-moral-indignity-child-labour/#respond Tue, 12 Jun 2018 13:20:44 +0000 Jacqueline Mogeni and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156175 Jacqueline Mogeni is the CEO at Kenya’s Council of Governors and Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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12 June is the World Day Against Child Labour. In the world's poorest countries, around one in four children are engaged in work that is potentially harmful to their health

Although child abuse and exploitation is prohibited by the Kenyan constitution, some children are still engaged in manual labour. XINHUA PHOTO: SAM NDIRANGU

By Jacqueline Mogeni and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 12 2018 (IPS)

On 12 June every year is the World Day Against Child Labour. In the world’s poorest countries, around one in four children are engaged in work that is potentially harmful to their health.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest proportion of child labourers (29 per cent of children aged 5 to 17 years) and is considered detrimental to their health and development.

Many children not yet in their teens, are sent out to work in farms, as sand harvesters, street hawkers, domestic workers, drug peddling and most piteously, as sex workers and child soldiers.

Of all child labourers in these and similar industries around the world, half are in Africa, indicating that the continent’s conscience must urgently be pricked into action.

Jacqueline Mogeni

Kenya has made some commendable moves towards eliminating child labour, primarily through the National Policy on the Elimination of Child Labour, and most recently the Computer and Cybercrime Bill with its provisions on child sexual exploitation. And worth mentioning is the Children’s Act which domesticated most international and continental conventions to enhance child rights and protection.

Kenya has ratified most key international conventions concerning child labour including Minimum Age, Worst Forms of Child Labour, Optional Protocol on Armed Conflict, Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons.

The country must now also ratify the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.

Among the steps that will reduce the number of children ending up as workers is the policy on compulsory secondary education. Currently, only the primary level schooling is mandatory, which leaves an almost five-year gap between completion and the minimum working age of 18 years.

Officially, primary and secondary schools are prohibited from charging tuition fees, but unofficial school levies, books and uniforms still make it difficult for families to send their children to school. Partly because of that, transition to secondary school is at about 60%, leaving many children prone to exploitation.

While engaging children has been considered as more income, new analysis by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) indicates child labour is economically unjustified.

Siddharth Chatterjee

Sending such children out to work rather than to school means they miss out on education and the skills that might have landed them better jobs in the future. It means we are not investing in human capital, but rather ensuring the youth will remain mired in low-skilled jobs, thus jeopardising any hopes for reaping a demographic dividend. Efforts to empower, educate and employ young people will have a cascading effect on the rest of society.

Estimates indicate that in sub-Saharan Africa, the last few years have witnessed a rise in child labour, where other major regions recorded declines. It is conceivable that the retrogression was driven largely by economic slow-down, but clearly, child labour is likely a cause rather than cure for poverty for families and for entire nations. “Child labor perpetuates poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, population growth, and other social problems”, says Nobel Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi.

A particularly obdurate form of child labour is early marriage, with statistics indicating that one in five girls under 15 years is married, invariably to a much older man. The cycle of abuse sets off immediately, with most of these ‘child brides’ being overworked in the home; often made to walk many kilometres to fetch water, sweep the house, prepare meals and give birth to many children while their peers are in school.

Childbirth is a deadly hit-or-miss proposition for them. Young mothers are four times likelier than those over 20 to die in pregnancy or childbirth, even without considering other perils such as fistula that are hazards for child mothers.

Even where such births are uneventful, it means that such children will most likely never go back to school, dashing any hopes of decent employment in future.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by world leaders in 2015, include a renewed global commitment to ending child labour.

With its current momentum including moves to clamp down on exploitation of children and increasing secondary school transition rates, Kenya can be a model for Africa in the global commitment.

The post Kenya Can End the Moral Indignity of Child Labour appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jacqueline Mogeni is the CEO at Kenya’s Council of Governors and Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

The post Kenya Can End the Moral Indignity of Child Labour appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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When a Grass Towers over the Treeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/grass-towers-trees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=grass-towers-trees http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/grass-towers-trees/#comments Tue, 12 Jun 2018 11:30:37 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156163 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17.

The post When a Grass Towers over the Trees appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Instead of cutting forests to make charcoal for household energy, these Chinese women use bamboo which will grow back. Photo Courtesy of INBAR

Instead of cutting forests to make charcoal for household energy, these Chinese women use bamboo which will grow back. Photo Courtesy of INBAR

By Manipadma Jena
NEW DELHI, Jun 12 2018 (IPS)

As governments scramble for corrective options to the worsening land degradation set to cost the global economy a whopping 23 trillion dollars within the next 30 years, a humble grass species, the bamboo, is emerging as the unlikely hero.

“Bamboo being grass, all 1640 species have a very strong root system that binds soil, and are the fastest growing plants making them best suited for restoring unproductive farmland, erosion control and maintaining slope stability,” Hans Friederich, Director-General of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), told IPS from their Beijing headquarters.

Bamboo is a strategic resource that many countries are increasingly using to restore degraded soil and reverse the dangers of desertification.

“Our members pledged to restore 5 million hectares degraded land with bamboo plantation by 2020 for the Bonn Challenge in 2015. Political pledges have already exceeded the commitment and are today close to 6 million hectares,” Friederich said. “Planting on the ground however is much less , because nurseries have to be set up and planting vast areas takes a few years,” he added.

INBAR, an intergovernmental organization, brings together 43 member countries for the promotion of ecosystem benefits and values of bamboo and rattan. Before joining INBAR in 2014, Friederich was regional director for Europe at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The Bonn Challenge is the global effort to restore 150 million hectares – an area three times the size of Spain – of deforested and degraded land by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.

Western Allahabad rural farmland under 150 brick kilns in the 1960s. Photo Courtesy of INBAR

Western Allahabad rural farmland under 150 brick kilns in the 1960s.
Photo Courtesy of INBAR

The same farmland today revived by integrated bamboo plantations. Photo Courtesy of INBAR

The same farmland today revived by integrated bamboo plantations.
Photo Courtesy of INBAR

When soil health collapses, food insecurity, forced migration and conflict resurrect themselves

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification’s (UNCCD) latest review released in May, to take urgent action now and halt these alarming trends would cost 4.6 trillion dollars, which is less than a quarter of the predicted 23-trillion-dollar loss by 2050.

Globally, 169 countries are affected by land degradation or drought, or both. Already average losses equal 9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) but for some of the worst affected countries, such as the Central African Republic, total losses are estimated at a staggering 40 percent of GDP. Asia and Africa bear the highest per year costs, estimated at 84 billion and 65 billion dollars, respectively.

“Healthy land is the primary asset that supports livelihoods around the globe – from food to jobs and decent incomes. Today, we face a crisis of unseen proportions: 1.5 billion people – mainly in the world’s most impoverished countries – are trapped on degrading agricultural land,” said Juan Carlos Mendoza, who leads the UNCCD Global Mechanism, which helps countries to stabilize land and ecosystem health.

Hans Friederich at a Chinese bamboo plantation. Photo Courtesy of INBAR

Hans Friederich at a Chinese bamboo plantation. Photo Courtesy of INBAR

Indian farmlands ravaged by 150 brick kilns are nurtured back by bamboo plantations

In the 1960s, construction was newly taking off in India. Brick kiln owners came calling at the 100 villages of Kotwa and Rahimabad in western Allahabad, a developing centre in central India’s Uttar Pradesh state. Rice, sugarcane, and bright yellow fields of mustard flowers extended to the horizon on this fertile land. Attracted by incomes doubling, the farmers leased their farmlands to the brick makers. Within a decade, over 150 brick kilns were gouging out the topsoil from around 5,000 hectares to depths from 3 to 10 feet.

When the land was exhausted, the brick makers eventually left. Thousands of farm-dependent families sat around, their livelihoods lost, while others migrated away because nothing would grow on this ravaged land anymore. With the topsoil cover gone, severe dust storms, depleted water tables and loss of all vegetation became the norm.

Starting bamboo plantations on 100 hectares at first in 1996, today local NGO Utthan with the affected community and INBAR have rehabilitated 4,000 hectares in 96 villages. Here bamboo is grown together with moringa, guava and other fruits trees, banana, staple crops, vegetables, medicinal plants and peacocks, oxen and sheep. Annually bamboo stands add 7 inches of leaf humus to the soil and have also helped raise the water table by over 15 metres in 20 years.

Selling bamboo adds 10 percent to the farmers’ income now. But the best benefit has accrued to women – 80 percent of cooking is done with biogas, not charcoal or wood. Much of the waste bamboo goes into biomass gasifiers that run 10 am to 1 pm powering 120 biogas generators at the NGO’s centres to keep refrigerators running, keeping vaccines and critical medicines safe during the regular power shortages.

A family of bamboo artisans sells household items in Satkhira district of Bangladesh. Bamboo provides a sustainable livelihood for the poorest communities in Asia and Africa. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

A family of bamboo artisans sells household items in Satkhira district of Bangladesh. Bamboo provides a sustainable livelihood for the poorest communities in Asia and Africa. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Multi-functional bamboo’s global market is 60 million dollars and community is reaping benefits

Today, bamboo and rattan are already among the world’s most valuable non-timber forest products, with an estimated market value of 60 million dollars. Rural smallholder communities are already benefiting by innovating beyond their traditional usages.

“The more they benefit from this growing market of bamboo and rattan, the more they can become an integral part of conservation efforts,” according to Friederich, an explorer and bamboo enthusiast.

He narrates to IPS how rural Chinese women have carved out economic opportunities, are being innovative and entrepreneurial with bamboo to reap rich incomes. After the devastating 1998 Yangtze floods and 1997 severe drought in the Yellow River basin, the Chinese government began a massive restoration programme afforesting degraded farmland with bamboo which today involves 32 million farming households in 25 provinces.

Like millions of others, a woman in Guizhou province in central China made furniture out of the abounding bamboo available. As she expanded the business, the larger pieces of bamboo waste went into the furnace generating electricity and heating but the bamboo powder heaps grew mountainous. She experimented growing mushrooms on them – high value delicacies restaurants vie to buy from her today.

The bamboo leaves are fodder for her 20,000 free-running plump chickens. A 2017 study shows fiber in the bamboo leaves enlarges the chickens’ digestive tract, enabling them to consume more and increase in body weight by as much as 70 percent more than chicken fed on standard organic diets. The dye in bamboo leaves the chicken eggs a slightly bluish tinge akin to the pricey duck egg. Consumers pay more for her blue chicken eggs. She’s not complaining.

Her yearly earnings have grown to 30,000 million Renminbi or 5 million dollars.

In Ghana again, a young woman manufacturing sturdy bamboo bicycles, employing and training local village girls who have few opportunities, is already exporting her innovation to Netherlands, Germany and the US.

Realizing bamboo’s disaster reconstruction value

“Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and other earthquake-prone regions have changed building regulations to allow bamboo as a structural element. They have seen, after disasters bamboo structures may crack or damage but have not collapsed as often as concrete structures have,” Friederich said.

Nepal is building 6,000 classrooms still in need of repairs post -2015 earthquake, with round earthen walls, and bamboo roofs which allow the building to flex a little bit even when the ground trembles.

Besides housing, furniture, household items, bamboo can be used for a number of other durable products, including flooring, house beams, even water carrying pipes.

An efficient carbon sink

But in a warming world, that bamboo as a very effective carbon sink is not as widely known. Because of their fast growth rates and if regularly harvested allowing it to re-grow and sequestrate all over again, giant woody bamboos (grown in China) can hold 100 – 400 tonnes of carbon per hectare. But bamboo’s carbon saving potential increases to 200 – 400 tonnes of carbon per hectare if it replaces more emissions-intensive materials like cement, plastic or fossil fuels, according to Friederich.

Partnering with International Fund for Agricultural Development from its start, INBAR now has recently entered a strategic intra-Africa project with the UN organization, focusing on knowledge sharing between Ghana, Cameroon, Madagascar and Ethiopia, regions in dire need of re-greening.

The Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress (BARC 2018), starting 25 June in Beijing will see this project kick-started, besides plenary discussions on bamboo and rattan’s innovative, low-carbon applications, and how bamboo has and can further support climate-smart strategies in farming and job creation.

The post When a Grass Towers over the Trees appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17.

The post When a Grass Towers over the Trees appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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