Inter Press Service » Aid http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:34:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.10 What Can Be Done for Victims Still Fighting for Survival?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/what-can-be-done-for-victims-still-fighting-for-survival/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-can-be-done-for-victims-still-fighting-for-survival http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/what-can-be-done-for-victims-still-fighting-for-survival/#comments Sun, 24 Apr 2016 08:35:55 +0000 Sheikh Nazmul and John Richards http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144793 By Sheikh Nazmul Huda, Desdemona Khan, Labin Rahman and John Richards
Apr 24 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Three years have elapsed since the collapse of Rana Plaza, Savar, on a fine morning of April 24, 2013. The disaster, one of the deadliest in the world’s industrial history in two centuries, claimed the lives of 1,135 men and women and injured another 2,500, nearly 200 of whom severe enough to keep them hospitalised for months.

Photo: rahul-talukder

Photo: rahul-talukder

In the months following the accident, we, along with other colleagues, surveyed many such survivors with serious injuries. The victims were in the prime of their lives, their mean age being only 26. Two thirds were female and they were much younger than their male counterparts. Over 60 percent of the victims were married and 12 percent were either widows or divorcees.

Currently, we are following up with another survey, contacting as many as possible of those we had met in the summer of 2013. As may be apprehended, given the severity of the disaster, many survivors now face grave difficulties. It is encapsulated by Jorina’s bitter comment : “I think it would have been better if they had cut off my legs. These legs are now the bane of my life. I am completely unable to walk and they are heavy. I can’t move about as I wish to. All the time I have to use a wheelchair.” She comes from Naogaon, a northern district. There was nobody to look after her. “My daughter and son-in-law stay with me. I have two grand-daughters too, but there is not enough room for all of us to stay together in a one-room house. So I live on the verandah, I have to also sleep there.”

Soon after the collapse, the United Nations reviewed Dhaka’s capacity for undertaking a major rescue operation and offered to help out. The Bangladesh Government expressed their confidence in managing the situation and refused their offer. A large number of deeply motivated but untrained volunteers played a key role in medical evacuation and rescue operations there. The Army, the fire service and other national agencies were also active part of these efforts.

Though the rescue operations continued for more than two weeks, almost three fourths of our respondents, fortunately, got rescued on the first day, namely on April 24, 2013. A good 10 percent were rescued on the second day and on the third day another 10 percent of our respondents were dragged out of the debris. According to our data, more than one-third of the victims were found unconscious on rescue. As many as 30 percent of the injured had fractures of one or more limbs.

Approximately 20 percent had spinal or head injury. One-fifth of the seriously injured required amputation of one or more limbs.

Hospitals and clinics in the neighbourhood proved the best; these institutions, coming out of everywhere, provided critical services to the survivors. Enam Medical College Hospital, Savar, has been the most common destination of the injured. Approximately half were directly taken to this non-governmental establishment. Less than 20 percent were taken to CMH (Combined Military Hospital) Savar, devoted exclusively to the armed services of the nation otherwise. After four weeks of the tragedy, we encountered many victims being transferred to CRP (Centre for Rehabilitation of the Paralysed), Savar, one of the best centres in Bangladesh for treatment of spinal injuries.

Approximately one fourth of the seriously injured suffered spinal injuries. Initial medical assessments diagnosed nearly half of these downright. However, only three were referred to CRP for initial treatment. Despite close reach and access to CRP, some complicated cases were sent to smaller hospitals where neither requisite skills nor logistics for advanced care of spinal fractures and other complications were handy. Spinal injuries, for instance, need immediate immobilisation for minimising neurological and other kinds of damage. In many cases that did not happen. The victims often had other injuries (like bleeding, soft tissue infections, fractured limb etc.) that could be handled in multi-disciplinary hospitals. Nevertheless, immediate mobilisation after the rescue could perhaps have prevented paralysis in some cases. Optimal emergency treatment requires effective triage (a process for quick assessment of the type or the urgency of medical problems) where many cases are brought in for treatment. It seems the triage at the site of Rana Plaza could have been better.

Immediate medical care was provided generously by hospitals, community organisations and people in general. This is less evident in terms of long-term care, however. Three years into the catastrophe, we encountered many victims in need of physical and occupational therapy. Others are experiencing post-trauma stress disorder and stand in need of psychiatric help. Many are not gainfully employed anymore. Most have returned to their native villages, taking with them the trauma and consequences of the catastrophe.

Among the survivors we recently met, was a woman, whose arm was amputated from her shoulder. While under treatment she became pregnant. Her baby is now less than three years old and it is very difficult for the mother to take care of her child with only one arm. Once, while taking the baby for vaccination, the baby fell and was injured. No one in the hospital had counselled her on the techniques of managing with one arm only. This case serves to illustrate the importance of addressing the long-term needs of survivors.

What is missing is a systematic initiative for their long-term rehabilitation and wellbeing. It’s a shared responsibility no one can ignore. The garments industry, state health services, NGOs and, not least, civil society itself, can neither deny nor evade their call of duty.

The writers are members of a research collective directed by Prof. John Richards, School of Public Policy, Simon Fraser University, Canada.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Will the IMF Facility Be a Turning Point in the Economy?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/will-the-imf-facility-be-a-turning-point-in-the-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-the-imf-facility-be-a-turning-point-in-the-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/will-the-imf-facility-be-a-turning-point-in-the-economy/#comments Sun, 24 Apr 2016 08:10:41 +0000 Editor Sunday Times http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144789 By Editor, Sunday Times, Sri Lanka
Apr 24 2016 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

The IMF Extended Fund Facility (EFF) of US$ 1.5 billion with an agreement on an economic program supported by the IMF is now imminent. This could be a turning point in the economic fortunes of the country. The IMF facility would replenish the reserves, add confidence in the economy and have a salutary effect on capital inflows.

In as much as the loan is vital for getting the country out of the current critical balance of payments crisis, the commitment to the suggested economic reform program is essential to stabilise the economy and lay the foundation for a high trajectory of economic growth. The suggested corrective measures by ensuring fiscal discipline and prudent fiscal and monetary policies could get the country out of the current crisis, restore economic stability and provide the conditions for rapid economic growth.

Econ-Cartoon3-300x186IMF statement
The IMF statement of April 11th points towards the IMF granting a facility of US$ 1.5 billion with agreement on an economic program supported by the IMF. While the IMF agreement on the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) is not a fait accompli, the tenor and thrust of the statement leaves little doubt that it will be granted after the on going Annual Spring Meetings of the IMF Board and the discussions that are currently taking place in Washington D.C. between the IMF and the Sri Lankan authorities.

Economic recovery
The loan facility and the concomitant economic reform program could usher an economic recovery. The government must however have the political resolve to implement the associated economic reforms that are vital to strengthen the fiscal position, foreign exchange reserves and balance of payments.

Objectives
The broad objectives of the proposed economic program, according to the IMF, is to achieve “high and sustained levels of inclusive economic growth, restore discipline to macroeconomic and financial policies, and rebuild fiscal and reserve buffers.” The IMF identifies the key objectives underlying the reform agenda as improving revenue administration and tax policy; strengthening public financial management; reform of state enterprises; and structural reforms to enable a more outward-looking economy, deepen foreign exchange markets, and strengthen financial sector supervision.

Tax reform
One of the weakest features of the Sri Lankan economy is the low collection of government revenue. The revenue to GDP ratio has declined over the years from around 20 per cent of GDP to only 12 per cent, despite average annual GDP growth of around 7 per cent in recent years. This tax to GDP ratio is too low for the country’s level of per capita income. Countries with similar per capita incomes gather more than 20 per cent of GDP as revenue.

The low revenue collection results in high fiscal deficits and accumulation of public debt and leaves inadequate fiscal space for education, health and infrastructure development. The foreign funded high cost of infrastructure development in 2010-2014 has been the main reason for doubling of foreign indebtedness.

The reduction of the fiscal deficit is vital for economic stability. The IMF economic reform program lays considerable emphasis on fiscal consolidation. Its objective is “A durable reduction of the fiscal deficit and public debt through a growth-friendly emphasis on revenue generation.”

The cabinet has, according to the IMF statement, decided to reduce the 2016 fiscal deficit to 5.4 per cent of GDP. Although this is inadequate, it may be a realistic target. The government should take steps to achieve a fiscal deficit of 3.5 per cent of GDP in 2020 as targeted in the Prime Minister’s Economic Policy Statement of November 2015.

Strategy
The IMF strategy to increase revenue consists of broadening the tax base by reducing tax exemptions and introduction of a new Inland Revenue Act. The medium term revenue effort will be based on further reform of tax and expenditure policies, modernizing revenue administration and public financial management by implementation of key IT systems.

Pragmatic tax measures
Tax exemptions, tax avoidance and tax evasion are widespread endemic features. An effective tax system must take into account the inefficiency and corruption that prevails. The IMF proposals are essentially medium term and based on the assumption of an effective administration. New tax measures should be unavoidable and certain of collection such as withholding taxes and license fees. Otherwise the good intentions of curtailing tax evasion and tax avoidance would remain a delusion. Tax exemptions are easier to remove if the government is determined to not permit discretionary exemptions.

State enterprises
The other important economic reform that has been mooted is “a clear strategy to define and address outstanding obligations of state enterprises”. The colossal losses of state enterprises have been a heavy burden on the public finances. The reform of these enterprises is vital to redeeming the public finances. Drastic reforms, including the privatisation or part privatisation of some state owned enterprises are imperative. Will the government have the political will and courage to implement a privatisation program as was done by Chandrika Bandaranaike‘s government.

Reserves
The IMF loan facility will strengthen the country’s diminished reserves and add considerable international confidence in the Sri Lankan economy. The enhanced international confidence in the Sri Lankan economy would stem capital outflows and reduce the cost of international borrowing. As the Governor of the Central Bank, Arjuna Mahendran has stated “Depending on the success of the Extended Fund Facility with the IMF on which discussions are currently underway in Washington D.C. other global lending agencies will look at us much more favourably in the coming months.” He also said that the People’s Bank of China has given authorization to issue bonds in China in renminbi the official Chinese currency and that all these would enable the raising of US$ 3 billion at lower interest rates quite easy.

Concluding reflections
The expected IMF facility of US$ 1.5 billion will replenish the reserves and add confidence in the economy. This would have a beneficial impact on capital inflows. The corrective measures by the IMF of ensuring fiscal discipline and prudent fiscal and monetary policies are essential to get out of the crisis and restore economic stability and create conditions for higher investment and rapid growth.

This story was originally published by The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

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How the Definition of Development Aid is Being Erodedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/how-the-definition-of-development-aid-is-being-eroded/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-the-definition-of-development-aid-is-being-eroded http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/how-the-definition-of-development-aid-is-being-eroded/#comments Thu, 21 Apr 2016 23:12:22 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144768 Participants at a UN event on Interfaith harmony and the Sustainable Development Goals. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

Participants at a UN event on Interfaith harmony and the Sustainable Development Goals. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 21 2016 (IPS)

The traditional definition of aid is being eroded at the same time that governments have committed to achieving the UN’s ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Jeffrey Sachs special adviser to the UN Secretary-General on development told IPS Thursday.

“A lot of governments have a kind of magical thinking which is, we’re all for the Sustainable Development Goals but don’t come to us if you want to achieve them, go borrow from the private markets,” said Sachs.

Aldo Caliari who represents civil society in UN Financing for Development (FfD) negotiations told journalists here Monday that there has been a “significant shift in the language” in these negotiations towards “a larger presence of the private sector”.

“We are concerned about states withdrawing their responsibility and saying the private sector should do it,” said Caliari who is also director of the Rethinking Bretton Woods Project at the Washington DC-based Center of Concern.

“Loans usually go for commercial projects rather than public service delivery so this is an entirely different way of utilising the financing,” he said.

While private sector financing will provide part of the funds needed to achieve the sustainable development goals, there are definitely some areas where public funds remain essential.

“If you want to achieve universal health coverage in poor countries, which is SDG 3, that is a public sector function and the poor countries do not have enough domestic revenues to achieve that on their own,” said Sachs.

“For the poorest countries the Official Development Assistance should be overwhelmingly in the form of grants because putting absolutely impoverished countries into debt makes no sense,” he said.

Sachs said that there are examples right now where donor governments are reducing funding to development programs in favour of domestic refugee costs, peacekeeping budgets and climate financing.

“I know cases where contributions to The Global Fund (to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria) and GAVI (The Vaccine Alliance) were cancelled in favour of climate financing because the government wanted to check the box on climate financing,” said Sachs.

He said that even Scandinavian countries, which he described as “some of the world’s best donors”, were reallocating their development funds to refugee programs.

Jeroen Kwakkenbos, Policy and Advocacy Manager at the European Network on Debt and Development (EURODAD) expressed concerns that some of the biggest increases in the recently published 2015 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Official Development Assistance (ODA) figures were for areas not traditionally defined as aid.

“One of the largest increases aside from refugee costs was for non-grant financing which is basically loans which increased by 26 percent,” said Kwakkenbos.

Kwakkenbos said that there is a trend towards loans replacing grants in country’s overseas development assistance budgets.

These changes are reflected in donor government aid policies. For example, the Australian government states on its website, that aid represents “an increasingly small proportion of development finance” and that Australia’s aid program will achieve it’s purpose by “supporting private sector development and strengthening human development.”

Kwakkenbos said that the inclusion of refugees in ODA accounting started in the 1990s, “but at the time it was a very small proportion of ODA so everyone just kind of ignored it.”

Overall, the OECD figures showed a small increase in ODA in 2015, without including the refugee costs, although some OECD countries did individually reduce the development assistance in favour of refugee programs.

The OECD told IPS by email that there has “not been any change of rules to allow more refugee costs to be counted as ODA” and that the OECD Development Assistance Committee told donor countries in February they were concerned that refugee costs should not “eat into ODA”.

Despite the small overall increase, most donor countries remain a long way from meeting their commitments to increase aid to 0.7 of one percent of their Gross National Income (GNI).

Kwakkenbos said that the target to reach 0.7 has now been revised to 2030, the same year governments have agreed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

“You have to remember that the original 0.7 target was 1980 and no later than 1985,” he said.

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Developing countries left out of global tax decisionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/developing-countries-left-out-of-global-tax-decisions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=developing-countries-left-out-of-global-tax-decisions http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/developing-countries-left-out-of-global-tax-decisions/#comments Tue, 19 Apr 2016 06:02:44 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144698 Global tax rules mean companies pay taxes where their headquarters are located not in the countries where they operate. Credit: Thembi Mutch/IPS

Global tax rules mean companies pay taxes where their headquarters are located not in the countries where they operate. Credit: Thembi Mutch/IPS

By Lyndal Rowlands
Apr 19 2016 (IPS)

Over one hundred developing countries continue to be left out of global tax cooperation negotiations despite leaks such as the Panama papers showing the high cost of tax avoidance.

“Rich countries (get) together in a closed room and decide on what they call global tax rules,” Tove Maria Ryding a civil society representative on the Financing for Development (FfD) Group told journalists here Monday.

The current process which is coordinated by the 34 member Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is “extremely undemocratic,” said Ryding, who is also tax justice coordinator at the European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad).

The Group of 77 and China, which represents 134 UN member states has “repeatedly called” for the UN to have a greater role in global tax cooperation. It argues that this would “(strengthen) international cooperation in tax matters,” and “allow all member States, including developing countries, to have an equal say on issues related to tax matters.”

However this proposal was rejected at the UN’s important 2015 summit on Financing for Development leaving the OECD with continued control over global tax matters.

Ryding says that the rules which continue to be written by the OECD disadvantage developing countries. For example, she said, when a company operates in more than one country, the OECD rules decide that the taxes should mainly be paid in the country where the company has its headquarters. This advantages OECD countries, she said, where headquarters are normally located, and disadvantages developing countries where companies perform substantial parts of their operations.

Ryding said that developing countries were being asked to follow these rules despite not being given a chance to participate in making them.

After the UN Financing for Development summit in 2015 she said that the OECD “adopted almost 2000 pages of new decisions on what they call global tax rules.”

Developing countries are often left out of these meetings, or when they are asked to participate they are charged an expensive bill, said Ryding. By comparison all UN members already had representation at the United Nations, she said, so participating in these talks within the UN would be less costly.

She said that World Bank President Jim Yong Kim suggestion, reportedly made last week, that a UN tax body would be funded by aid money was incorrect.

Ryding spoke during a press conference at the beginning of a three-day follow-up to last year’s Financing for Development conference.

Other development financing issues being discussed during the follow-up include developing country debt and changes to aid money given by developed countries.

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OPINION: Wake Up! We Need Statesman and Values but We Get Selfish Politicians and Cynicism…http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/opinion-wake-up-we-need-statesman-and-values-but-we-get-selfish-politicians-and-cynicsm/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-wake-up-we-need-statesman-and-values-but-we-get-selfish-politicians-and-cynicsm http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/opinion-wake-up-we-need-statesman-and-values-but-we-get-selfish-politicians-and-cynicsm/#comments Fri, 15 Apr 2016 14:14:01 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144631 Roberto Savio, IPS news agency founder and president emeritus and publisher of Other News]]>

Roberto Savio, IPS news agency founder and president emeritus and publisher of Other News

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Apr 15 2016 (IPS)

A total indifference has accompanied the number of refugees injured by Macedonian police in Idomeni, where more than 12 000 people, including 4 000 children have been trapped, since Austria asked Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia, to prevent the continuing passage of refugees. Austria has now informed the Italian government that it will send several hundred troops to its border with Italy.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

The illegal agreement with Turkey, that Angela Merkel pushed to defuse her growing unpopularity in Germany, is conducted in a way that has obliged both the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Doctors without Borders, to refuse to participate in a brutal operation that effectively violates the UN Charter and the European Treaty by bribing the Turkish government.

The use of tear gas and rubber bullets against refugees in Idomeni is deplorable and plays into the hands of growing support among Europe’s right wing parties and even ISIS, which supposedly calls for the dignity and freedom of the Arab world and supports the creation of a war of religions.

What many seem to have forgotten is that the Austrian police actually carried out a survey of refugees and discovered that they were better educated than the Austrians.

Now the group of experts and academicians who monitors migration has published a study entitled Unpacking a Rapidly Changing Scenario, which proves the obvious. The million people , who risked their lives to come to Europe in 2015, are in large measure middle class, uprooted due to conflicts. Two-thirds of the refugees have college or university level education, and those with a university degree are one-third of all refugees. Two-thirds had a stable job before leaving their country.

Merkel originally accepted the refugees because Germany is in a dire need of workers. She had not however anticipated that the right wing parties would so effectively use the present climate of uncertainty and frustration. Now in Germany there are 2 000 racial incidents a month, and Alternative for Germany (AFD), the new right wing party, looks poised to become the third German party.

Unfortunately, no statesman is currently in the offing. That is someone who would risk votes, to educate electors to unpopular truths, like the simple fact that Europe is not viable without a large immigration. The statistics are clear. This vast tide of refugees, the largest since World War two, are on average 23 years old – half the European average – 82 percent are younger than 34, and two-thirds have a high level of education.

The European Commission, in 2015, projected that Europe would need to support an increasingly elderly population. There will be an uninterrupted decline in jobs between 2010 and 2060. The population at working age (20-64) has been declining steadily since 2010, and in 2060 will have fallen by 50 million from 310 million in 2010, to 260 million in 2060, likely to result in a probable bankruptcy of the pension system. The total number of those in the employable age bracket of 20 to 64 will shrink from 210 million in 2010, to 200 million in 2060. The issue is,who is going to replace the missing 10 million people needed to keep Europe at its present stage of global competitiveness. Who is going to pay the contributions of those who have gone into retirement?

The lack of jobs and the probable bankruptcy of the pensions systems will occur in a considerably older population. While we need 2.1 children per couple, to keep the population stable, present projections indicate that it will fall to 1.22 children per couple.

The average age of maternity, currently 31.7 years, will increase to 33 years in 2064, and the number of woman of childbearing age (between 15 and 49 years) will fall by 4.3 million.
Finally, life expectancy, currently 80 years of age for men and 85.7 for woman, will reach 91 by 2064 for men and 94.3 years for woman. It is estimated that those aged over 100 years will represent about 10% of the population.

In other words, the world we know today, will no longer exist. We are debating whether the retirement age should be 65 years. Children born today have a life expectancy of 82 years, and according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), those who are now between 18 and 25 years will go into retirement with an average pension of around Euro 630 per month, because many will be precariously employed, will not be able to meet their pension contributions, and even fewer will be able to buy property.

The ILO also found that while today parents and grandparents provide a safety social net that alleviates the pain of unemployment, the current generation that can look forward to a relatively decent pension will have disappeared in three decades, and those who will be parents will not able to help their children in the same way that their parents were able to help them. It means that we will live in a world of old people, where young people will face a much harsher destiny.

And yet today, few talk about that future. On the contrary, we listen to the xenophobes and right wing parties, which in every European country keep growing in every election, riding on the tide of frustration and fear. What they do is to call for a return to a better yesterday, for a pure Europe, where others will be deported thus leaving jobs free for Europeans. At the same time, the politicians play their game, instead of discussing a serious immigration policy.

The difference between past European statesmen, the likes of Konrad Adenauer, Alcide De Gasperi and Robert Schuman, with a clear vision and ability to communicate to their citizens (like abandoning nationalism for a European dream), are dramatically absent today. The Dutch referendum against Ukraine (an unexpected gift for Putin, who beside being a smart player is also a lucky one), will hasten the decay of Europe.

The scandals associated with the massive participation of political leaders in the Panama Funds will also hasten the decline of legitimacy of the political class, and therefore of democracy. The
American elections are also proceeding in this direction. That Ted Cruz, who is a modern incarnation of the Great Inquisitor Tomas de Torquemada, an ISIS dream, has become the solution to Donald Trump. And in a campaign that will cost over $4 billion, few contributors will cover the costs. The Koch brothers, the king of coal, have announced an investment of 900 million dollars.

If a republican wins, we can forget any real attempt to control climate change, which is already forgotten, in spite of the alarming evidence of future disaster. In a normal world, a statesman would attempt to motivate young people, to consider their future. He would create new alliances, transcend traditional politics, which look to the past, and attempt to shape a debate about the future.

The tragedy of Idomeni is not only a crime against humankind and the values of justice and solidarity: it is a crime of stupidity and cynicism, a crime committed against young Europeans, who are not aware of their future world. And Federico Mayor is right, when he says that the European Central Bank has no problem adding $20 billion a month to the $60 billion already going to the financial system, indicating clearly where priorities lie. The generational betrayal is going ahead, amidst generalized indifference.

Only history will speak of the Angela Merkels, the François Hollandes, the David Camerons, the Mariano Rajoys, the Matteo Renzis, and the Mark Ruttes, as those who looked to politics as a crutch for their survival instead of a tool for a better world, but it will be too late.

(End)

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More Children Displaced, Used for Suicide Attacks by Boko Haramhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/more-children-displaced-used-for-suicide-attacks-by-boko-haram/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=more-children-displaced-used-for-suicide-attacks-by-boko-haram http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/more-children-displaced-used-for-suicide-attacks-by-boko-haram/#comments Tue, 12 Apr 2016 23:42:16 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144593 A meeting session of the #BringBackOurGirls daily protest campaigners at Maitama Amusement Park, Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. Credit: Ini Ekott/IPS

A meeting session of the #BringBackOurGirls daily protest campaigners at Maitama Amusement Park, Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. Credit: Ini Ekott/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 12 2016 (IPS)

A dire humanitarian and security crisis continues to worsen in the Lake Chad Basin with severe consequences for youth, said Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel Toby Lanzer.

“Boko Haram’s horror continues to wreck the lives of millions and millions of people,” Lanzer told press.

The Lake Chad Basin comprises of over 30 million residents from Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger. While visiting Northeastern Nigeria, Lanzer saw rampant poverty and food insecurity in the region with villages that were “completely deserted, completely destroyed.”

Children especially bear the brunt of this insecurity.

According to the UN’s children agency (UNICEF), of the almost 3 million people displaced by Boko Haram-related insecurity, 1.3 million are children. This is one of the fastest growing displacement crises in Africa, UNICEF noted.

In its new report, the UN children’s agency found that the number of children with severe acute malnutrition spiked in one year from 149,000 to almost 200,000.

Youth also continue to face threats of kidnapping and recruitment.

With the second anniversary for the Chibok kidnappings soon approaching, the majority of the girls still remain missing. However, Lanzer noted that this is just one case.

“The plight of the girls who were taken…that is one awful example, in a litany of awful examples,” he said, adding that the those who have been taken by Boko Haram now number in the thousands.

As they continue to disappear from the Lake Chad Basin, children as young as eight years old are increasingly used in suicide attacks.

One out of every five suicide bombers deployed by the terrorist group has been a child and are mostly girls, UNICEF reported.

“To me, that’s the epitome of evil,” Lanzer told reporters at a press briefing. “I cannot think of anything more horrifying.”

The report found that 44 children were used in suicide attacks in 2015, a ten-fold increase from 2014. Cameroon had the highest number of attacks involving children, reflecting the increased spillover of violence in the region.

Many kidnapped girls also experience sexual violence and forced marriage. In one account, Cameroonian 17-year-old Khadija told UNICEF that she was kidnapped while visiting her mother in Nigeria and forced to marry to one of the group’s militants.

“’If you don’t marry us, we will kill you,’ they said. ‘I will not marry you, even if you kill me,’ I responded. Then they came for me at night. They kept me locked in a house for over a month and told me ‘whether you like it or not, we have already married you,’” she recalled.

For those who do return home, communities often shun them out of fear that they will turn against their families.

Khadija revealed the discrimination she faced after escaping Boko Haram and arriving at a displacement camp.

“Some women would beat me, they would chase me away. Everywhere I went, they would abuse me and call me a Boko Haram wife,” she said.

Lanzer urged for a broader engagement in the Lake Chad Basin to address not only short-term relief, but also long-term development and security challenges to help stabilise the situation.

“More can be done,” he said. “I know that every donor capital at the moment is stretched…but when I see the scale of destruction and the level of suffering that stared me at the face…I haven’t seen anything worse anywhere recently,” he concluded.

So far, UNICEF has only received 11 percent of its $97 million appeal to provide lifesaving assistance to families affected by Boko Haram violence in the Lake Chad Basin.

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Plan for Poorer Countries to Fund HIV Response Raises Concerns    http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/plan-for-poorer-countries-to-fund-hiv-response-raises-concerns/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=plan-for-poorer-countries-to-fund-hiv-response-raises-concerns http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/plan-for-poorer-countries-to-fund-hiv-response-raises-concerns/#comments Mon, 11 Apr 2016 19:58:18 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144564 In Zimbabwe, four out of 10 sexually active girls aged 15-19 reported taking an HIV test in the last 12 months. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

In Zimbabwe, four out of 10 sexually active girls aged 15-19 reported taking an HIV test in the last 12 months. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 11 2016 (IPS)

Calls for low and middle income countries to contribute an additional 6.1 billion dollars to the global HIV response by 2020 could see some vulnerable groups left behind, said HIV activists meeting at the United Nations last week.

A report recently published by UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, calls for low and middle income countries to increase their funding for the global HIV response by 6.1 billion by 2020, versus only an additional 2.8 billion requested from wealthy countries.

The proposed changes to funding could affect vulnerable groups, including adolescent girls in Sub-Saharan Africa who now make up 74 percent of new HIV infections in the 15 to 24 age group according to UNAIDS.

Annah Sango, from Zimbabwe, a Youth Advisor with the Global Network for Young People Living with HIV told IPS that these figures partially reflect how hard it is for young women to negotiate safe sex, even within a marriage.

“It leaves young women and girls vulnerable to STIs, vulnerable to unintended pregnancies, vulnerable to HIV, and also vulnerable to gender based violence,” she said.

Some 2000 girls and young women are being infected with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa each week, Marama Pala Chair of the international community of women living with HIV global told journalists at the UN here last week.

A reduction in resources could see addressing the complex social and cultural causes of the rise in infections among young women in Sub-Saharan Africa become a lesser priority, said Pala.

Javier Hourcade Bellocq of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance who along with Pala co-chairs the civil society task force at the United Nations said that a reliance on domestic funding could see some vulnerable groups left out.

“The overarching question is would a government in Asia or Latin America be able to provide funding for a female sex worker organisation, for advocacy, for a watchdog (group)? — probably not,” said Bellocq.

However Bellocq said that domestic finances are an important part of a sustainable HIV response and that low and middle income countries have already been slowly increasing their investment.

“Often civil society organisations and activists have been perceived as putting pressure on international donors and wealthy and developed countries where in fact it’s not true, most of our work is putting stress on domestic funding,” he said.

Bellocq said that it was important not to presume that all governments with the same income classification had the same capacity to contribute to the HIV and AIDS response.

The classifications do “not reflect income inequalities and internal debt that many middle income countries currently face,” he said.

Jamila Headley, Managing Director of the Health Global Access Project, told IPS that UNAIDS analysis of the fiscal space used to justify the increased financing from low and middle income countries was based on inaccurate information.

For example, she said, “In Malawi the government has just had to cut several health care workers from the budget because they don’t have funds.”

Headley also said that the proposed changes “undercut our efforts to push governments in the West to support as much as they can.”

The Global HIV response has shown “unprecedented mobilization of solidarity across countries,” she said, “we’ve come so far and so to come to this place where we can actually see an end in sight and to then talk about scaling back that solidarity is hugely disappointing to us.”

In a statement provided to IPS, UNAIDS said that its approach is to encourage low and middle income countries to “increase country ownership by increasing domestic spending on HIV.”

“However, the international community ​​has a responsibility to ensure that ​HIV ​programs​ are able to reach the communities that are most vulnerable to HIV​ ​in countries that have the least ability to fully fund a comprehensive HIV response,” the statement said.

Meanwhile Headley said that the proposed changes in funding could affect groups requiring special attention including adolescent girls in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“The rising rates of incidence among women aged 14 to 25 in Sub-Saharan Africa is exactly why we need full funding to support targeted, high impact prevention,” she said.

Pala an indigenous woman from New Zealand living with HIV said that women can sometimes “get lost in the epidemic,” and that the response should be intersectional in nature. But she also said that activism by other more prominent groups affected by HIV has helped women, including herself.

“There is a very strong activism from the key populations and we needed that,” she said. “For myself living with HIV if that didn’t happen I wouldn’t have the medication and be alive today.”

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OPINION: Learning from History for Progresshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/opinion-learning-for-history-for-progress/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-learning-for-history-for-progress http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/opinion-learning-for-history-for-progress/#comments Thu, 07 Apr 2016 12:37:08 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144516 Jomo Kwame Sundaram was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007]]>

Jomo Kwame Sundaram was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Apr 7 2016 (IPS)

The Chinese character for crisis combines the characters for ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’. Our ability to improve the human condition depends critically on our ability to recognize and address dangers, but also to seize opportunities made possible by recognizing that crises offer rare opportunities to pursue extraordinary options not normally available.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

New Post-War Consensus

World War Two was a case in point. The Bretton Woods Conference in July 1944 committed to create the conditions for enduring peace through post-war reconstruction and post-colonial development through sustained growth, full employment and reducing inequality.

Thus, Bretton Woods created the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) Development and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IBRD, better known as the World Bank, was created to support long-term investment and development. The IMF would help countries, not only to overcome balance of payments difficulties, but also “to direct economic and financial policies toward the objective of fostering orderly economic growth with reasonable price stability”. Similar concerns were behind the International Labour Congress two months earlier. On 10th May 1944, the Congress had adopted the historic Philadelphia Declaration which emphasized that “lasting peace can be established only if it is based on social justice”.

For decades after the war, labour’s share of output and gross income increased as other inequalities declined. This Golden Age also saw greater investment in health, education and public services, including social protection. The underlying post-WW2 consensus endured for over a quarter century before breaking down in the 1970s.

Marshall Plan

As the Cold War began, US Secretary of State General George Marshall announced a re-industrialization plan for war-torn Europe. Politically, the Marshall Plan was intended to create a cordon sanitaire to contain the spread of communism. Generous infusion of US aid and support for national developmental policies ensured the rebirth of modern Europe. For many Europeans, this is still seen as America’s finest hour.

In the decades that followed, the Marshall Plan developed into what is probably the most successful economic development assistance programme in history. Similar economic development policies and assistance were introduced in Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, especially following the establishment of the People’s Republic of China and the outbreak of the Korean War.

This experience offers valuable lessons today. Europe and Northeast Asia rebuilt quickly, industrialized and achieved sustained and rapid growth through policies including economic interventions such as high duties, quotas and other non-tariff barriers. Free trade was only pursued as international competitiveness was achieved.

George Marshall knew that shared economic development is the only way to lasting peace, as John Maynard Keynes had warned in his criticisms of the impact of the Treaty of Versailles on Germany after the First World War. Marshall also emphasized that aid should be truly developmental, not piecemeal or palliative. National economic capacities and capabilities had to be nurtured to ensure sustainable development.

Counter-Revolution

Each era, no matter how successful, sows the seeds of its own end. The celebration of markets and private property were the major new economic norms invoked from the 1980s to undermine the post-war consensus. Nobel laureate Simon Kuznets’ hypothesis – suggesting the inevitability of inequality rising with growth before its eventual decline – was invoked to justify related inequality.

The higher propensity to save of rentiers and profiteers, compared to wage earners, became the pretext for the tolerance, if not deliberate promotion of inequality in favour of the former, ostensibly to accelerate investment and growth. Conversely, progressive redistributive measures were deemed bad for growth, as they allegedly not only lowered savings and investment rates, but also deterred investors.

From the early 1980s, the so-called “Washington Consensus” – the policy consensus on developing countries uniting the American government and the Bretton Woods institutions located in the US capital city – emerged to rationalize the counter-revolutions against development economics, Keynesian economics and progressive state interventions.

Macroeconomic policies became narrowly focused on balancing the annual budget and attaining low inflation – instead of the previous emphasis on sustained growth and full employment with reasonable price stability. A relentless push for deregulation, privatization and economic globalization followed. Such measures were supposed to boost growth, which would trickle down, thus reducing poverty – hence, we were not to worry about inequality.

But the ‘neo-liberal’ measures largely failed to deliver sustained growth. Instead, financial and banking crises have become more frequent, with more devastating consequences, exacerbated by greater tolerance for inequality and destitution, which have undermined effective demand, in turn forming a vicious cycle, impeding sustained economic recovery and growth.

Global New Deal

The new global priorities from the end of the Second World War remain very relevant today. Empirical evidence has disproved the previous conventional wisdom that progressive redistribution retards growth. Instead, inequality and social exclusion have been shown to be detrimental to development.

After the last three and a half decades of regression, we have to recommit ourselves to the more inclusive and egalitarian ethos of the Philadelphia Declaration, Bretton Woods and the Marshall Plan with a global New Deal for our times.

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Yemen’s Health Crisis is “Critical,” Says WHOhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/yemens-health-crisis-is-critical-says-who/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yemens-health-crisis-is-critical-says-who http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/yemens-health-crisis-is-critical-says-who/#comments Mon, 28 Mar 2016 20:55:52 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144396 By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 28 2016 (IPS)

The health situation in Yemen has severely deteriorated and is critical, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported.

The conflict, which is now entering its second year, has devastated the country’s health system. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien has called the crisis a “human catastrophe.”

Since March 2015, more than 6,200 people have been killed and 30,000 injured.

WHO has expressed alarm over the rise in the number of causalities amid hospital damages as well as shortages in trained staff and medicine. Approximately 25 percent of all health facilities have already shut down in the country.

However, health needs remain vast, said WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr Ala Alwan.

“Operating in a conflict context is never an easy task,” Alwan added.

According to WHO, more than 21 million people—82 percent of the total population—are in dire need of humanitarian aid.

Though the provision of health services was already weak prior to the conflict, the escalation of violence has left millions of Yemenis without access to essential health services.

As a result of air strikes and rockets, water infrastructure has been and continues to be severely damaged. In February, a water reservoir serving over 40,000 people was destroyed in the capital of Sana’a following an airstrike.

Almost 19 million people currently lack access to clean water and sanitation, increasing the risk of epidemics such as dengue fever, malaria and cholera.

More than 14 million Yemenis also require urgent health services, including over 2 million acutely malnourished children and pregnant and lactating women. WHO found that 16 percent of children under the age of 5 are acutely malnourished, with the rate in some areas reaching more than 30 percent.

Alwan noted the numerous challenges in providing health services, including lack of access to hard-to-reach areas.

Permission to move and distribute humanitarian foods and personnel has been inconsistent by al-Houthi forces and allied groups such as Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners.

In a statement to the Security Council, O’Brien found that bureaucratic requirements have delayed and impeded the delivery of humanitarian assistance and even restricted movement of aid workers.

In one week alone in February, the Ministry of Interior in Sana’a rejected travel permission to three separate UN missions.

More than one third of Yemenis in need of assistance live in inaccessible areas.

Alwan highlighted the need for all parties to provide humanitarian access to all areas of Yemen and to respect the safety of health workers and health facilities which operate “under extremely challenging conditions.”

He also expressed concern over the limited funding for the health sector, which has only received 6 percent of its 2016 requirements. In February, the UN also appealed for $1.8 billion for the 2016 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan. So far, 12 percent has been funded.

“Despite our efforts so far, much more needs to be done to respond to the health needs of people in Yemen,” he urged.

Last week, UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed announced that the country’s warring parties have agreed to cease hostilities starting on April 10 and to continue peace talks in Kuwait on April 18.

Under-Secretary-General O’Brien welcomed the move and urged for continued action to support and provide assistance to civilians in the country.

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Quake Fear Stalks Kathmanduhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/quake-fear-stalks-kathmandu/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=quake-fear-stalks-kathmandu http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/quake-fear-stalks-kathmandu/#comments Thu, 24 Mar 2016 07:13:50 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144332 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/quake-fear-stalks-kathmandu/feed/ 0 DIHAD 2016 Closes With Calls For Better Future Of Those Faced With Wars And Catastropheshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/dihad-2016-closes-with-calls-for-better-future-of-those-faced-with-wars-and-catastrophes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dihad-2016-closes-with-calls-for-better-future-of-those-faced-with-wars-and-catastrophes http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/dihad-2016-closes-with-calls-for-better-future-of-those-faced-with-wars-and-catastrophes/#comments Wed, 23 Mar 2016 16:40:30 +0000 Francesco Farne http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144347 By Francesco Farnè
DUBAI, Mar 23 2016 (IPS)

The 13th Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference and Exhibition (DIHAD) ended today with keynote speakers drawn from International organizations, technical experts, diplomats and the private sector calling for building a better future and more development for those who are suffering from crisis, wars and catastrophes.

The overall aim of DIHAD conferences is to further technically sound and principled international humanitarian and development assistance. DIHAD is held under the auspices of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President, Prime Minister of United Arab Emirates, Ruler of Dubai, supported by Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Est., the United Nations, the UAE Red Crescent Authority, International Humanitarian City, Dubai Cares and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

DIHAD emphasises the transfer and sharing of knowledge through presentations, debate and dialogue; the showcasing of new trends in operational support and supply services related to the assistance domain; and networking among local, regional and global players.

This year, the three-day conference attended by a large number of international experts focused on the theme “The Importance of Innovation in Humanitarian Aid & Development”, addressing the innovative solutions that could be applied in humanitarian operations today, in the context of food security, nutrition, water and sanitation, emergency healthcare, transport, logistics and shelter. The conference highlighted that resources available to respond to these pressing crises are inadequate in the face of the unprecedented pressures of responding to crises and emergencies in the world.

Dr. Joana Wronecka, Undersecretary of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland said: “I think that the UAE can be our key gate to do more humanitarian work in the Middle East due to its perfect location and good relationships with the Middle East countries. We are also looking forward for exchanging expertise between Polish and UAE’s NGOs where they can learn from each other and add value to the humanitarian industry”.

Mr. Nabil Ben Soussia, Managing Director of IEC Telecom UAE, highlighted the importance of telecommunications when dealing with a crisis. “Humanitarian organizations usually face a breakdown of conventional communications networks which can severely restrict fast and effective delivery of aid into the field. This essential connectivity allows frontline staff rapidly and efficiently co-ordinate first response to disasters or emergency situations” he explained. With his company’s telecommunications systems, aid agencies can consolidate their relief efforts over time, set up temporary offices using semi-fixed modems, a range of satellite broadband solutions and access corporate applications, manage logistics or even use low bandwidth videoconferencing solutions.”

The UAE Red Crescent Authority received the 2016 DIHAD Recognition Award, for it being one of the fastest humanitarian and relief organisation in responding to crises and delivering aid to those affected locally and in the world.

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DIHAD Emphasizes Relief and Development Efforts to Meet Humanitarian Challengeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/dihad-emphasizes-relief-and-development-efforts-to-meet-humanitarian-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dihad-emphasizes-relief-and-development-efforts-to-meet-humanitarian-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/dihad-emphasizes-relief-and-development-efforts-to-meet-humanitarian-challenges/#comments Mon, 21 Mar 2016 17:00:39 +0000 Robert Williamson-Noble http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144279 Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference and Exhibition (DIHAD)

Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference and Exhibition (DIHAD)

By Robert Williamson-Noble
DUBAI, Mar 21 2016 (IPS)

The Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference and Exhibition (DIHAD) opened today with key speakers emphasizing the urgency to discuss innovative solutions to be applied in humanitarian operations. Under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President, Prime Minister of United Arab Emirates, Ruler of Dubai, the 13th edition of DIHAD was inaugurated by HE Mr. Ibrahim Bumelha, Cultural and Humanitarian Advisor of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and Chairman of DIHAD Higher Committee, President of DISAB, on behalf of UN Messenger of Peace and Chairperson of International Humanitarian City HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, wife of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Attended by a large number of international organizations and associations, the DIHAD conference is another big step toward realizing the vision of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum to make Dubai a global hub for innovation in all sectors. HE Ibrahim Bumelha in his address emphasized “It is no secret that the UAE is always keen to respond instantly to humanitarian crises and disasters that happen in all over the world, and it strives to help those in need and to alleviate the suffering of victims, refugees and the displaced, which follows the guidelines of our leadership and the directives of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE.” He added that “The importance of this edition of DIHAD lies in discussing the pressing issues related to innovation and its importance in enhancing the relief and development efforts to meet the humanitarian challenges that lie ahead especially asylum-seekers, migration, and climate change, and most of all finding appropriate solutions for all these issues.”

“From our point of view, innovation represents a forward-looking vision for the future of the humanitarian work on the long run, aimed at ensuring a decent life for the victims of conflicts and disasters. Certainly, innovation will have a positive impact on the humanitarian efforts via planning for the future using innovative and unconventional tools that harness science, knowledge, and technology to serve humans and achieve maximum happiness and well-being,” stated Dr. Mohammaed Atiq Al Falahi, Secretary General of Emirates Red Crescent, on behalf of HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Representative of the Ruler of Abu Dhabi in the Western Region and President of the UAE Red Crescent Authority. He concluded “What we see today on the humanitarian front, especially in the Arab region, from humanitarian tragedies that exceed all expectations, puts us in front of great challenges that need to be faced through constructive cooperation and concentrated efforts to reduce the human losses caused by the conflicts and severity of disasters.”

Ms Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and Chair of the UN Development Group, who also addressed the opening session of DIHAD, emphasized that “As humanitarian and development actors alike, we must rethink how we collaborate in response to the increasing number of protracted conflicts which the world is currently witnessing.” She added: “Traditional relief first, development later approaches are not tenable in the kinds of complex and protracted crises we face today. That is why UNDP has championed resilience-based development approaches to dealing with protracted crises, like that which Syria and neighboring countries are experiencing.”

Dr. Abdul Salam Al Madani, Executive Chairman of DIHAD Conference and Exhibition and the international scientific committee DISAB welcomed all humanitarians taking part this year, and said: “DIHAD now occupies a distinctive position on the world map, and with every success we achieve, the responsibility becomes bigger and bigger. Through the years we took the lead to embrace all international organizations, associations, institutes and NGOs and encouraged them to cooperate and build partnerships in addition to join their efforts for the benefit of the people who are going through crisis and catastrophes.”

Finally, Amin Awad, Middle East and North Africa Director of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said: “DIHAD’s theme for this year is a reflection of the leadership and commitment of the United Arab Emirates’ leadership to fostering a culture of innovation, particularly in humanitarianism. This commitment is aligned with UNHCR’s emphasis on finding new and ground-breaking responses to refugee crises in the Middle East and North Africa, and globally.”

DIHAD is organized by INDEX Conferences and Exhibitions – member of INDEX Holding and supported by Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Est, the United Nations, the UAE Red Crescent Authority, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, International Humanitarian City, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs – Dubai and Dubai Cares. DIHAD 2016 is also sponsored by Al Khair Foundation & IQRA TV.

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Malawi’s Refugee Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/malawis-refugee-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=malawis-refugee-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/malawis-refugee-crisis/#comments Thu, 25 Feb 2016 07:24:47 +0000 Charity Chimungu Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143985 Mozambican refugees living in despair in Malawi. Credit: MSF Malawi/IPS

Mozambican refugees living in despair in Malawi. Credit: MSF Malawi/IPS

By Charity Chimungu Phiri
BLANTYRE, Malawi, Feb 25 2016 (IPS)

Imagine fleeing from your home because you feel unprotected by the people who are required to do so by law. And when you get to where you feel safer, the very same people come to persuade your keepers to let you come back with them, claiming you are running away from nothing! Well, this is the situation some 5,800 Mozambican nationals have found themselves in. Hundreds of them, including unaccompanied children, have been fleeing from Tete Province, near the Malawi border, since late last year following renewed fighting between government forces and opposition Renamo fighters.

The province is said to be one of the strongholds of Renamo, and the people say they are running away because allegedly government forces have been attacking them for supporting Renamo. They have since fled to Kapise village in Mwanza district in Southern Malawi, 300 meters from the border. About two-thirds of the refugees are women and children mostly below five years old, as well as the elderly. The refugees, whose numbers continue to steadily rise every day, are living in desperate conditions at the camp scrambling for necessities with 150 local families there.

A statement from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says that refugees do not have enough water and sanitation facilities, have poor housing, and are at risk of diseases. They are also in fear of getting attacked by soldiers from their country. A two month-old baby died of diarrhoea at the camp last month. And last week alone, MSF, which set up a clinic at the camp, treated over 380 malaria cases. Even worse, the Malawi government is under pressure from Mozambique not to recognize the people as refugees, according to MSF.

The humanitarian organization states Mozambique sent several delegates to the camp to try and persuade the displaced people to come back, arguing that there was no conflict back home. However Mozambican media reports indicate that tensions have increased in recent weeks in Tete, Zambezia and Sofala provinces, with daily attacks and shootings.

MSF, which started its intervention there in November 2015, has since appealed to the Malawi government to move the people to a more spacious camp, 50 kilometers from Kapise, and also away from the border as required by international humanitarian standards.

The alternative location, Luwani, a former refugee camp, is said to be the best option for the displaced people as it has plenty of space, a school, medical centre and a better road. Furthermore, the move, according to MSF, would also allow humanitarian actors such as The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), to plan appropriate services to meet the needs of the displaced community. At a recent press briefing in Blantyre, MSF’s head of mission to Malawi, Maury Gregoire, said they are treating about 159 people every day, with half diagnosed with malaria and the rest having respiratory infections and general body pain. He said the refugees only have 14 latrines whereas the respect of minimum humanitarian conditions requires that at least 20 people have one latrine or in worst case scenarios one latrine for 50 people. According to Gregoire, people have only two boreholes for both domestic and general use: “Each person has on average eight litres of water a day, barely enough to drink and cook and well below the minimum 15 to 20 litres are recommended as a humanitarian minimum in emergency settings.”

MSF has since warned that the strain by the refugees could cause tensions with Malawian families living in the village, especially on access to water. But Malawian authorities are not yet decided on whether to move the refugees or send them back home. Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs Beston Chisamile told The Nation newspaper on Thursday that they were still discussing the matter with Mozambican authorities. “Our friends in Mozambique want these people to go back home, so unless a decision is made between the two parties that they should remain in Malawi, then we can start thinking about moving them to a different place,” he said.

The UN’s Refugee Agency representative to Malawi, Monique Ekoko, recently appealed to donors and other humanitarian organisations for more funding to help the refugees. Malawi has hosted refugees from Mozambique before. The Luwani Camp hosted over one million Mozambican refugees who fled from their country’s 16 year civil war between 1977 and 1992. The country is currently facing a tough economic situation of high inflation and interest rates which has left many people struggling to survive. It is estimated that about 2.8 million Malawians themselves are in need of food aid following last season’s dry spell and floods. A report by the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee says about K23 billion (about US$18 million) is needed to feed such people up to the next harvest.

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UN Chief Focuses on World’s First Humanitarian Summithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/un-chief-focuses-on-worlds-first-humanitarian-summit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-chief-focuses-on-worlds-first-humanitarian-summit http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/un-chief-focuses-on-worlds-first-humanitarian-summit/#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2016 20:01:50 +0000 Valentina Ieri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143855 By Valentina Ieri
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 10 2016 (IPS)

As the global humanitarian crisis continues to devastate civilian lives in conflict zones, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to the international community to ensure “no-one in conflict, no-one in chronic poverty, and no-one living with the risk of natural hazards and rising sea levels, is left behind.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (second from left) briefs the General Assembly on his report for the World Humanitarian Summit, which is to take place on 23-24 May in Istanbul, Turkey. Also pictured (from left, front row): Stephen O'Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator; Mogens Lykketoft, President of the seventieth session of the General Assembly; and Catherine Pollard, Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management. Credit: UN PHOTO/Rick Bajornas

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (second from left) briefs the General Assembly on his report for the World Humanitarian Summit, which is to take place on 23-24 May in Istanbul, Turkey. Also pictured (from left, front row): Stephen O’Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator; Mogens Lykketoft, President of the seventieth session of the General Assembly; and Catherine Pollard, Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management. Credit: UN PHOTO/Rick Bajornas

Speaking to delegates during the launch of a new report, he said the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit is “the moment for us to come together to renew our commitment to humanity.”

The report, “One Humanity: Shared responsibility“, was released Tuesday three months ahead of the summit meeting of world leaders scheduled to take place in Istanbul, Turkey, on May 23-24.

The United Nations says it needs more than 20 billion dollars to feed and care for over 60 million people who are either displaced internally or who have fled their home countries becoming refugees virtually overnight.
And there are about 40 countries – out of the 193 UN member states – which are engulfed in “high-level, medium-level and low-level crises and violence,” according to Ban

“Given the current crises in our global political economy, along with climate change”, Ban warned, violent extremism, terrorism, transnational crime and persistent brutal conflicts are devastating the lives of millions of people and destabilizing entire regions.

“Today’s complex challenges cross borders and surpass the capacity of any single country or institution to cope,” the Secretary-General said.

“We need to restore trust in our global world order and in the capacities of our national and regional institutions to confront these challenges effectively.”

According to a senior U.N. official, who provided a background briefing last week, the report contains a personal plea from the Secretary-General to “restore humanity”, while guaranteeing dignity and safety to all people, in accordance with the U.N. Universal Declaration of Rights and the 2030 Agenda.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) with Mogens Lykketoft, President of the seventieth session of the General Assembly, at the meeting where the Secretary-General briefed the Assembly on his report for the World Humanitarian Summit. Credit: UN PHOTO/Rick Bajornas

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) with Mogens Lykketoft, President of the seventieth session of the General Assembly, at the meeting where the Secretary-General briefed the Assembly on his report for the World Humanitarian Summit. Credit: UN PHOTO/Rick Bajornas

As part of Ban’s five-year plan, the WHS will appeal to the international community to come together to re-discover “global unity and solidarity” and end human suffering and inequality, according to the official.

“Funding figures for humanitarians have totally mushroomed up to over 600 percent of what we required ten years ago… and almost 80 percent of humanitarian staff, but also peace-keepers, and staff of special political missions are now deployed in these protracted situations” the U.N. official remarked, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America, along with civil society, showed their positive response to Ban’s initiative.

Oxfam’s Humanitarian Representative, Charlotte Stemmer, said: “The humanitarian system is overwhelmed with the amount of rising needs in a world racked by crises. […] (World leaders) should not pay lip service to this, as concrete action is urgently needed. The World Humanitarian Summit’s greatest legacy would be a real commitment to change this.”

According to the new report, “the international community is increasing its response to crises while struggling to find sustainable political and security solutions to end them.”

In 2014, the economic and financial cost of conflicts was estimated to be around 14.3 trillion dollars (13.4 percent of the global economy).

The five core shared responsibilities are: One, political leadership to prevent and end conflicts. Rather than investing in humanitarian assistance, the international community should prioritize political solutions, unity, and create peaceful societies.

Two, enforcing and abiding to international laws in order to protect civilians, respect human rights, restrict the use and transfer of certain arms and ammunition, halt bombings and strengthen the global justice system.

Three, “leaving no one behind” — which is also the central theme of the U.N.’s 2030 Development agenda – and reaching out to the poorest and the most vulnerable men, women and children in war-torn areas or in case of natural disasters. It also includes the protection of women and girls and focuses on the right to education for all.

Data from the report highlights that in 2014, conflicts and violence forced around 42.500 people to flee their homes daily. This resulted in 60 million internally displaced peoples, refugees and asylum-seekers by the first half of 2015.

About half of the world’s refugee children are missing out on primary education and three quarters do not have access to secondary education, according to a UN report.

Four, changing people’s lives. Currently, nearly 1.4 billion people live in fragile situations, and figures are estimated to grow up to 1.9 billion by 2030, says the report.

Therefore, it is fundamental to develop coordinated actions to anticipate crises, reinforce local institutions and governments, build community resilience, and invest in data and risk analysis.

Five, investing in humanity. Ban highlighted the concept of “grand bargain” urging donors and national authorities to change their mindset “from funding to financing” local actors and local institutions, while increasing cost-efficiency and transparency.

Organised by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Relief (OCHA) the WHS summit offers for the first time the opportunity to reflect on a new humanitarian aid framework – explained Ban.

The summit also aims at bringing together the international community –- civil society, world leaders, private sector, peace-builders representatives, peace-keepers, and NGOs — to design new policies and set new strategies for humanitarian assistance and relief in affected countries.

In a preface to the report, Ban wrote: “I ask global leaders to come to the World Humanitarian Summit prepared to assume their responsibilities for a new era of international relations; one in which safeguarding humanity and promoting human progress drives our decision-making and collective actions.”

(End)

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Argentina and United Arab Emirates Open New Stage in Bilateral Relationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/argentina-and-united-arab-emirates-open-new-stage-in-bilateral-relations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=argentina-and-united-arab-emirates-open-new-stage-in-bilateral-relations http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/argentina-and-united-arab-emirates-open-new-stage-in-bilateral-relations/#comments Fri, 05 Feb 2016 23:42:58 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143816 The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and his host, Argentina’s foreign minister Susana Malcorra, outside the San Martín Palace in Buenos Aires at the start of their meeting on Friday, Feb. 5. Credit: Government of Argentina

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

By Fabiana Frayssinet
BUENOS AIRES , Feb 5 2016 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(End)

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

Jenny Ricks is Head of Inequality Initiative, ActionAid International

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(End)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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