Inter Press Service » Aid News and Views from the Global South Mon, 24 Oct 2016 10:25:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Learning from Past Mistakes: Rebuilding Haiti After Hurricane Matthew Sun, 23 Oct 2016 03:46:05 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage The UN is providing assistance to residents of Les Cayes in Western Haiti. Credit: Logan Abassi UN/MINUSTAH

The UN is providing assistance to residents of Les Cayes in Western Haiti. Credit: Logan Abassi UN/MINUSTAH

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

As Haiti reels from another disaster once again, many are questioning the humanitarian system and looking for long-term solutions with Haitians at the heart of response.

Since Hurricane Matthew made landfall in early October, over 500 Haitians have reportedly died, thousands of homes have been left destroyed, and vital farm land overturned. This devastation has affected over 19 percent, or 2.2 million, of the Caribbean nation’s 10 million citizens. More than 12 percent of the population is in need of immediate assistance, especially in the southern part of the country.

In response, the United Nations launched a flash appeal of $119 million to provide urgent life-saving aid to 750,000 people in the next three months. This appeal is in addition to $194 million for the 2016 Haiti Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) requested early this year.

Neighboring nations however did not experience such devastation, with only 4 deaths in the Dominican Republic and none in Cuba. So why did Haiti take such a hard hit?

“Fundamentally, the problem is that Haiti is very poor,” David Sanderson, a Professor at the University of New South Wales specialising in humanitarian responses told IPS.

Haiti, a nation formed following a slave rebellion, has long struggled with extreme poverty, after beginning its existence in debt to its former coloniser France. Meanwhile aid delivered to Haiti has often been criticised for being insufficient and inefficient and at times even counter-productive.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere with more than a quarter of its people living in extreme poverty. The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction found that poverty and disaster mortality often go hand in hand, reporting that the majority of the 1.35 million killed by natural disasters between 1996 and 2015 occurred in low-income countries.

“Haiti has become a Republic of NGOs—so international NGOs have created this complete parallel of government that always bypasses the Haitian government,” -- France Francois.

Many have also noted the impacts of decades of political instability and corruption in creating a weak government that has not enacted key disaster preparedness policies such as necessary improvements to infrastructure.

According to a report from the American Institute of Architects, there is no national building code and a lack of enforcement of building construction standards. Instead, engineers often use standards from other countries that do not account for Haiti’s own context.

The government was only weakened further following the devastating magnitude 7 earthquake in 2010 which claimed over 200,000 lives and left over 1.5 million people homeless. Now over six years after the earthquake, almost 60,000 people are still displaced.

A Byproduct of the International Development System

However, many are pushing back on this narrative, pointing to the international aid regime as a major source of the country’s inability to withstand and recover from such disasters.

“The weakness of the government is a byproduct of the entire international development system,” said France Francois, a former development worker in post-earthquake reconstruction efforts, to IPS.

“It’s easy to point the finger and say well the Haitian government should have done this or should have done that, but what you have to look at is the larger structure…It’s not simply because [the government doesn’t] want to do things, it is because they don’t have the capacity and they don’t have the capacity because they only get one percent of foreign aid,” Francois continued.

Haiti-American development consultant Jocelyn McCalla echoed similar sentiments to IPS, noting that the international aid regime has lead to very few assets being provided “in order to build the capacity of Haitians themselves to own the process of rebuilding.”

According to the UN Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti, the Haitian government received less than one percent of humanitarian aid after the 2010 earthquake while humanitarian agencies and international non-governmental organisations received the other 99 percent. Provisions for long-term recovery funding to the Government of Haiti was slightly higher at approximately 15 percent.

This failure to assist and coordinate with the government creates a “vicious cycle” in which Haitians are left relying on forces “outside of their control,” said Haiti-American development consultant Jocelyn McCalla to IPS.

“Haiti has become a Republic of NGOs—so international NGOs have created this complete parallel of government that always bypasses the Haitian government,” said Francois.

She also pointed to the disconnect between donor priorities and Haitians’ needs.

As part of efforts towards reconstruction after the 2010 earthquake, the Bush-Clinton Haiti Fund, created by former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, invested $2 million in the Royal Oasis Hotel aimed to house aid workers and foreign investors.

Though the project was meant to create jobs for Haitians, it failed to address the permanent, seismic-proof housing needs of thousands of Haitians.

“If you asked the Haitian people…they would have said that [being] safe during a hurricane is a priority for them, not hotels for foreigners,” Francois told IPS.

The Center for Global Development also found that donor concerns trumped the Haitian government’s post-earthquake priorities as funding requests for reconstruction, education and health fell significantly short.

The failure to focus on resilience and disaster preparedness is not isolated to Haiti. Sanderson, who is one of the editors of the 2016 World Disasters Report, found that only 40 cents to every $100 spent on development aid was invested in disaster risk reduction activities.

“That’s wrong—there should be way more going in advancement to stop disasters from happening in the first place,” Sanderson told IPS, adding that there is a shared responsibility towards such action.

As a result of past failures, many have said that greater transparency and accountability is “sorely needed.”

Francois particularly pointed to the American Red Cross’ alleged mismanaged funds and unfulfilled promises to build homes for Haitians. Though the group received nearly $500 million in donations following the earthquake, ProPublica and National Public Radio released an investigative report claiming the Red Cross only built six permanent homes.

In response, the Red Cross denied allegations and called the misrepresentation “disappointing.”

“Despite the most challenging conditions, including changes in government, lack of land for housing, and civil unrest, our hardworking staff—90 percent of whom are Haitians—continue to meet the long-term needs of the Haitian people. While the pace of progress is never as fast as we would like, Haiti is better off today than it was five years ago,” Red Cross said in a statement.

Francois said that beneficiaries must hold organisations and donors accountable for aid flows, and that organisations must work with and involve communities in every step of the way.

“That’s standard best practice,” she told IPS.

“What I hope will happen is that those who want to support Haiti and the Haitian government will sit down with the proper authorities and put together what the long term sustainable plan will look like for this reconstruction effort,” she continued.

McCalla highlighted the need to ensure there is no repeat of the cholera epidemic that was introduced to the waterways following the 2010 earthquake.

UN peacekeepers have been blamed for the outbreak which has so far killed over 10,000 people. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found “an exact correlation” between arrival of Nepalese peacekeepers to the appearance of first cases in the Meille river. In August, a UN spokesperson said that the UN was convinced it needed to do more regarding its own involvement in the initial outbreak, however the UN has continued to claim immunity

“Because of a number of past failures, we should respond clearly and say we are accountable…we want to work with the Haitian people to do it…and also make every effort possible to commit to remedying the situation,” McCalla told IPS. However, no effort has been made thus far, he added.

Investing in Local Institutions and People

As the three week mark approaches along with the fading interest and relief resources that often goes with it, the push for long-term solutions is underway, one that gives control to Haitians.

“Business as usual is not an option,” said Sanderson, urging for a focus on long-term recovery that puts local citizens in charge.

McCalla and Francois made similar comments, highlighting the need to invest in Haitians.

“When you cast (Haitians) aside, and say we’re going to take care of everything…that is demeaning,” McCalla told IPS.

He also stressed the need to challenge the “charity” narrative of Haiti.

Francois said that organisations should hire and train Haitians not only as a way to build trust, but also to show their investment in communities.

“You build the local capacity so that you are no longer needed…you are supposed to grow and change and show results but only in the development world, remaining stagnant is something to be proud of,” she told IPS.

Though Haiti will continued to need funds, “people are not helpless,” McCalla told IPS, noting that many are already trying to rebuild their livelihoods and country whilst asserting their position at the forefront of disaster relief and recovery.

Ambassador of Haiti to the U.S. Paul Altidor released a statement at the wake of the disaster, urging for a coordinated and strategic relief effort “to avoid mistakes from the past.”

“As the country continues to assess the extent of the damage, the state of Haiti strongly encourages all who wish to help to work with the local organisations and institutions on the ground in order to gain their input on the actual needs of the affected communities,” he said in a statement, adding that local institutions can also be good partners too and should not be bypassed.

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Wage and Fiscal Policies for Economic Recovery Wed, 05 Oct 2016 17:31:36 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram Anis Chowdhury is Visiting Fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, and held various senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok. Jomo Kwame Sundaram was UN Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development.]]> Employers are finally creating more jobs and paying higher wages than seven years after the Great Recession started following the 2008 financial crisis. Credit: IPS

Employers are finally creating more jobs and paying higher wages than seven years after the Great Recession started following the 2008 financial crisis. Credit: IPS

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram

The new US census data released in late September show that 3.5 million people in the US climbed out of poverty, as the tepid economic recovery continues. Employers are finally creating more jobs and paying higher wages than seven years after the Great Recession started following the 2008 financial crisis.

This progress, while modest, debunks the claims of those who predicted a dire outcome following the increase in the legislated US minimum wage, especially without a robust recovery. The data show large employment and wage gains, particularly for the lower end of the jobs spectrum.

Raising the legal minimum-wage and other government programmes, such as social security, earned-income tax credit, and food stamps, have not only kept tens of millions from sinking into poverty. They also aided economic recovery by supporting household expenditure, and hence, aggregate demand, enabling a 1.2 percentage point decline in the poverty rate, the largest annual drop since 1999.

Every major demographic group benefited from the stronger economy and an expanding job market. Furthermore, wage increases were stronger at the bottom than in the middle. The poverty rate fell in 23 states, and stayed flat in the rest, not getting worse in any.

So, what is the lesson? Addressing poverty, inequality, and economic recession needs progressive counter-cyclical macroeconomic policies, with wage and social protection programmes.

Low growth trap
Meanwhile, the recent OECD Interim Economic Outlook worries that the world economy remains stuck in a low-growth trap, with poor growth expectations depressing trade, investment, productivity, and wages. It estimates that the “potential” growth rate per person for its 35 member countries has halved to one percent a year. It also warns that “exceptionally low and negative interest rates” are distorting financial markets – including share and housing price bubbles – and creating risks of future crises.

Hence, the OECD recommends switching the current policy stance from its sole dependence on expansionary monetary policy to fiscal stimulus. It also recognizes that fiscal stimuli always work better when countries act in concert, rather than in a ‘beggar thy neighbour’ fashion.

This has long been the message from the United Nations since the crisis began, especially after G20 countries prematurely switched to fiscal consolidation following the 2010 Toronto Summit. The UN also consistently argued that fiscal and structural measures are needed to boost demand and raise productive capacity.

Ensuring growth is likely to reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio in the short term, by adding more to nominal GDP than to public debt. Thus, when fiscal measures raise output, a temporary debt-financed expansion need not increase debt ratios in the longer term.

UN tax and spending policy advice favours more growth by improving infrastructure spending, social protection, and progressive tax incidence. Better labour market programmes benefit both short-term demand, longer-term supply and inclusive growth.

Malaysia’s minimum wage policy
Khazanah Research Institute’s recent second State of Malaysian Households report, based on the 2014 Household Expenditure Survey by the Department of Statistics, suggests a significant increase in household income of the ‘bottom 40%’ from RM1761 in 2012 to RM2296 in 2014!

While partly attributable to higher commodity prices before the commodity price slump from late 2014, this impressive increase was probably also due to implementation of the 2012 minimum wage law from 2013.

The minimum wage law had long been sought by the labour movement and opposition political parties. Nevertheless, it continues to be opposed by some employers, especially in the plantation sector, and those of ‘neo-liberal’ economic persuasion as ‘populist’. Some of these critics claim, without supporting evidence, but by citing others of similar ideological persuasion, that such labour market distortions will result in greater unemployment and dissuade productivity growth.

In fact, the continued availability of immigrant workers prepared to work for lower wages has delayed the introduction of labour saving innovations which would increase labour productivity. Malaysia has to come to terms with its immigrant labour policy as it threatens economic progress and worker welfare.

By subjecting foreign workers to poor working conditions, Malaysians depress the welfare of all. By understating their numbers and contribution of 30-40 percent of the labour force, economic performance seems more impressive than is actually the case. This is especially so in the most dangerous, dirtiest and depressed jobs, weakening efforts to ensure ‘decent work’ for all.

Although Malaysia remains a very open economy, better working conditions will go a long way towards boosting aggregate demand. Lower income households are much more likely to spend most, if not all their additional income. In turn, their spending is more likely to be on goods and services produced within the national economy.

Thus, high commodity prices until 2014 and enforcement of the 2012 minimum wage law have helped economic recovery. But with the collapse of commodity prices and fiscal spending since, prospects for the economy are poorer.

An election budget may help improve public sentiment, but is unlikely to help address fundamental underlying problems, not least because so much will be syphoned off by political rentiers, ostensibly for campaign finance.

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The UN’s Blind Spot for Conflict Prevention Mon, 03 Oct 2016 19:53:17 +0000 Jonathan Rozen A graphic at UN headquarters in New York compares daily spending on arms versus peace. Credit: IPS UN Bureau.

A graphic at UN headquarters in New York compares daily spending on arms versus peace. Credit: IPS UN Bureau.

By Jonathan Rozen

As the world struggles to respond to conflicts and the people fleeing them, UN insiders are also struggling to advance a ‘shift in mindset’ to help prevent these crises from happening in the first place.

“Part of the challenge is the way we have characterised the work of the UN as one of a first responder, fire-fighter, as an organisation that comes in when things fall apart,” Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya to the UN, told IPS. “As a consequence all of the institutions in the UN tend to be more reactive than preventive.”

To change this, a group of diplomats and UN staff are seeking to bolster the UN Peacebuilding Fund. This fund operates with an annual budget of roughly 100 million dollars, making small yet targeted investments to avert crises over the long-term.

“Conflicts are pushing UN system to its limits,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. “Without the Peacebuilding Fund, we will be forced to stand by as we witness the preventable loss of countless lives.” But the fund is dramatically under financed.

‘Bang for buck’

On September 21, the UN Peacebuilding Fund held a pledging conference for the fund’s continued operation. The contributions of 30 countries, however, only amounted to 152 million dollars – just over half of the 300 million dollar funding target.

“The rhetoric that we have on peacebuilding is way ahead of the willingness to face up to the challenges of delivering on peace,” said Kamau, who also serves as the Peacebuilding Commission chairperson. “Something fundamentally different needs to happen.”

This year’s budget for the UN’s 16 Peacekeeping missions is roughly eight billion dollars. Looking ahead, small investments by the UN Peacebuilding Fund could save money by preventing the need for expensive missions that respond to what are often already dire circumstances, argue proponents of peacebuilding.

But improved foresight and proactive investments may also have impacts beyond countries’ chequebooks.

As the international body with the mandate to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” the UN’s credibility rests largely on its ability to prevent and resolve conflict.

“If we are able to stop these conflicts from emerging in the first place, much of what we see today in the refugee situation putting a lot of pressure on individuals and countries would of course not have happened in the first place,” said Olof Skoog, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the UN.

‘Sustaining peace’

The UN Peacebuilding commission is a relatively new arm of the UN, established only in December 2005. Its mandate widened in April this year with the adoption of two identical resolutions by the UN General Assembly and Security Council. These moved peacebuilding responsibilities beyond post-conflict recovery to include comprehensive efforts for more proactive conflict prevention and ‘sustaining peace.’

Sustaining peace is the “idea that this process of prevention is actually something that goes on from the early warnings … over the conflict stage … and the post-conflict,” Jan Eliasson, UN Deputy Secretary-General, told the Peacebuilding Fund pledging conference. It involves consideration for the whole range of social, political, and economic factors that may contribute to peace.

This links conflict prevention to the achievement of the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda 2030). For example, Goal 1 and Goal 10 – “No Poverty” and “Reduced Inequalities” – will not be possible without sustained peace.

According to the World Bank, the world’s poorest people are becoming increasingly concentrated in fragile areas affected by conflict and violence, as peaceful areas reap the benefits of development. By 2030, 46 percent of people in extreme poverty will live in fragile and conflict affected areas, up from 17 percent today, says the Bank.

“We are still in early days to say what [Agenda 2030] will look like in terms of implementation,” Helder da Costa, General Secretary of the g7+ association of developing countries affected by conflict, told IPS after a meeting on Goal 16. “If you really want to build peaceful societies … we need practical implementation on the ground.”

One of the Peacebuilding Fund’s investments provided two million dollars to register births of 350,000 children in Côte d’Ivoire. Without registration, these children, many of whom were born just before or during the recent conflict, would be left in “legal limbo” without access to social services, advanced schooling or employment.

While the Peacebuilding Fund has been involved with various initiatives in Côte d’Ivoire since 2008, this registration effort aims to promote national identity for improved social cohesion, strengthening the social fabric of the country.

Investment in the SDG’s will support the social, economic, and political conditions that may prevent conflict and sustain peace. This process, however, will take time and the UN Peacebuilding Fund is looking to make the immediate and targeted investments that may curb the potential for conflicts.

“Lets not be impeded by bureaucratic challenges … lets think outside the box and then try to help things at the country level,” da Costa continued. But in a large and complex institution like the UN, new and innovative ways of thinking do not easily gain political traction or financial backing. In some cases they may even be directly opposed.

The UN Security Council initially resisted the Peacebuilding Commissions’ role in conflict prevention, said Eliasson. They believed it was an “infringement” on their primacy as the UN body for peace and security matters. Even now, with the world’s compounding crises of conflict, climate change, and refugees, countries’ investments remain focused on reacting to crises rather than preventing them.

It is important to cover the urgent humanitarian needs of today, Skoog explained to IPS. “At the same time, it’s very important to get this shift going to avoid these conflicts in the first place.”

As the international body with the mandate to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” the UN’s credibility rests largely on its ability to prevent and resolve conflict. Nevertheless, too often violence is permitted to spiral out of control and endure.

The president of the General Assembly for 2016-2017 has said he will support the shift to a more proactive mindset of ‘sustaining peace’ and encourage additional contributions to the Peacebuilding Fund. But after January 1 2017, when the next UN Secretary General takes office, it remains to be seen how the new leadership will prioritise proactive conflict prevention and the ‘sustaining peace’ mindset.

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Pensions for All Sat, 01 Oct 2016 18:31:22 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Rob Vos Jomo Kwame Sundaram was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development. Rob Vos is Director of Agricultural Development Economics at FAO and was Director of Development Policy Analysis at the UN Secretariat.]]> Seniors in conversation at Jongmyo Park, in downtown Seoul, Republic of Korea. UN Photo/Kibae Park

Seniors in conversation at Jongmyo Park, in downtown Seoul, Republic of Korea. UN Photo/Kibae Park

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Rob Vos
KUALA LUMPUR and ROME, Oct 1 2016 (IPS)

October 1st is the International Day of Older Persons. Just another day? Perhaps, but it should remind us that the world’s population is ageing, brought about by the combined effects of declining mortality and fertility rates and longer longevity. By mid-century, one out of five people will be over 65 compared to over one in ten now.

This is dramatic enough. What is equally compelling is that eighty per cent of older persons in the world will be living in developing countries by then – within two generations.

This ageing of the world’s population is one of humanity’s major achievements. Yet, significant challenges are keeping in step with this historic and emerging trend. For example, can health systems adapt to growing and new demands for care? What about the sustainability of social protection schemes? How do we keep our pension systems viable? These are serious, but solvable challenges.


The challenges are greatest, of course, in developing countries, where the vast majority of older persons lack adequate income protection. In the absence of pension incomes or other social transfers for older persons, the risk of spending one’s older years in poverty rises sharply. Moreover, in most developing countries, poverty compels older persons to continue working as long as they are able to. But reduced capacities, limited job opportunities, low incomes and other factors often combine to reduce their earnings.

The situation is particularly acute in rural areas, and, in many contexts, affects older women more than older men. In some parts of the world, notably in Sub-Saharan Africa, the problem is compounded by added responsibilities for the care of grandchildren, e.g. due to migration, disease, disability or death.

Many older persons who take on these added responsibilities are already deprived of support from their adult children that they had expected for their old age. Their own resources are often already seriously depleted when they are called upon to support their grandchildren. While additional transfers from social networks and family members, particularly children, can provide additional security for older people, these are often unstable income sources.

Social attitudes to caring for older persons are also changing, even in developing countries. As families get smaller, their ability to meet the financial and care demands of ageing members is affected at a time when, paradoxically, family support assumes greater importance as assets decline and options narrow in old age. Formal pension systems will thus need to expand as families are unable or unwilling to provide income security.

In recent decades, pension reforms in developing countries have focused on private ownership or management, ostensibly to make the systems more financially viable. In fact, many such reforms have had mixed, if not dubious results.

All this has done little for those without access to any formal pension scheme. At face value, a universal pension system in poor countries may seem utopian. However, there is a growing consensus that pensions for all are, in fact affordable, even for the poorest nations.

Some developing countries have managed to introduce social pensions that provide minimal income security to all persons in old age. These schemes are typically tax-financed rather than based on contributions made while employed.

Thanks to these schemes, everybody who has reached a certain age can get a pension, or benefits are given to all who can show they have no other means to survive. In Bolivia, Botswana and Mauritius, for example, such pensions are granted to all who have reached 65 years of age. In Argentina, Namibia and South Africa, social pension benefits are targeted at the poor.

Is it reasonable to use general taxpayers’ money for such purposes? Such provisions keep older persons out of poverty, and thereby facilitate their fuller participation in society. Such social pension schemes significantly contribute to poverty reduction.

In Brazil, only 3.5 per cent of older persons receiving a social pension remain poor, unlike 51 per cent of those who do not. Similarly, the universal pension scheme in Mauritius has reduced poverty among older persons by more than 40 per cent.

Moreover, such pension benefits are often shared with household and family members. For example, in Namibia, more than 70 per cent of pension income is shared among household members and spent on food and education for grandchildren.

In Bolivia, higher caloric consumption, as well as lower school drop-out rates, were recently observed in rural households benefiting from the universal pension benefit. In Brazil, the rural pension has been linked to higher expenditure on seeds and tools to support agricultural production as well as improve household access to credit.

But can poor countries afford to provide all older persons with a minimum income? According to a United Nations study, in two-thirds of developing countries, the cost of a pension benefit of that amount would cost their societies less than one per cent of national income. And, even a benefit of double the global poverty line is quite manageable, even in 2050, when the numbers of older persons will have become much larger.

It may be less affordable, though, for some of the poorest countries, which have far fewer fiscal resources and face many competing demands. In such cases, there could also be a role for the donor community, which may already be supporting education and health budgets, to also contribute by providing adequate budget support to support broader development efforts, including improved coverage of social services and social protection.

With international solidarity, a pension for all is affordable. Therefore, priorities should be set to ensure that ageing is an achievement that can be cherished by all humanity.

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Providing Practical Support for UN Projects Fri, 30 Sep 2016 19:22:50 +0000 an IPS Correspondent Grete Faremo (left), Executive Director of the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), with Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF)  and Helen Clark - UNDP Administrator. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

Grete Faremo (left), Executive Director of the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), with Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Helen Clark - UNDP Administrator. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

By an IPS Correspondent

From electrifying hospitals in Somalia to providing waste management services in Sri Lanka, the UN Office for Project Services works in over 80 countries to provide practical support to help meet the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

IPS spoke with Grete Faremo UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) Executive Director about how the office –  a fully self-financing body within the UN System – is finding practical solutions to help deliver a diverse range of projects.

For example, in Gaza, a UNOPS information system is helping to track down “dual-use” building materials that have helped more than 100,000 people to purchase materials to repair their shelters and homes since 2014, said Faremo.

In Colombia, UNOPS is helping some of the poorest communities to rehabilitate their housing to provide “safe, resilient, hygienic, well ventilated and sufficient living spaces,” added Faremo.

UNOPS procures a very wide and diverse range of goods and services in 2015 including:
• Motor vehicles and their accessories and components: $77,473,687
• Medical equipment and accessories and supplies: $46,583,282
• Pharmaceuticals, including contraceptives and vaccines: $27,037,143
• Law enforcement and security and safety equipment and supplies: $17,972,753
• Technology broadcasting and telecommunications: $12,600,601
• Engineering and research and technology based services: $221,269,078
• Politics and civic affairs services: $65,809,301
• Transportation and storage and mail services: $50,268,260
• Building and facility construction and maintenance services: $45,136,959
• Management and business professionals and administrative services: $31,701,546

“UNOPS identifies eligible families and works with them to ensure the sustainable design and efficient building of the houses.”

“Following the success of the project, the Government of Colombia asked UNOPS to undertake a second related project in 2016, involving 2,500 families and homes spread across 15 municipalities.”

Overall, UNOPS provides support to 26 different UN agencies in 80 countries. UNOPS also works extensively with the World Bank.

“Over the past 10 years, UNOPS collaborated on more than 200 projects funded by the World Bank around the world, ranging from emergency response to tailored technical assistance,” said Faremo.

A new agreement with the World Bank will “reduce the time it takes to negotiate individual projects between UNOPS and Governments for projects funded by the World Bank,” she added.

Every year UNOPS procures billions of dollars worth of supplies and services to support the work of the UN. For example in 2015, UNOPS procured over $27 million dollars worth of pharmaceuticals, including contraceptives and vaccines for UN projects.

One way that UNOPS is working to improve procurement is by increasing supplier diversity and committing to use more in-country based suppliers.

These efforts are responding to UN General Assembly resolutions calling for the UN to increase opportunities for suppliers from developing economies:

“Increasing supplier diversity is a UNOPS-led initiative that ensures our continued commitment to use and development of in-country based suppliers – this is much more than conducting a few business seminars or workshops. This is a fulfilment of our commitment to sustainability and key to our maintaining our leader status at the UN in that domain,” said Faremo.

In 2015 alone, UNOPS worked with 26 different organisations within or related to the UN system, including:
United Nations Global Compact (UNGC)
World Vision
Global Fund
Green Project Management Institute
Association of Certified Fraud Examiners
Peace Nexus
Secretariat of the United Nations
IAIG-Global Fund
Korea International Cooperation Agency
The Petunia Foundation
Inter Press Service (IPS)
IAIG-Norwegian MoFA
IAIG-World Bank
European Commission (EC)
International Telegraph Union (ITU)
World Trade Organization (WTO)

These efforts fit within a far and transparent bidding process aimed at fostering “effective competition among suppliers,” said Faremo.

“We do this to achieve best value for money while keeping the best interests of UNOPS and our partners in mind.”

As a specialised body with a primary focus on procurement UNOPS delivers savings for UN agencies and other international organisations, she added:

“Procuring goods and services through a specialized organisation leads to lower costs by providing economies of scale.”

“It also offers access to technical expertise, shortens time-to-procure cycles by developing agreements with pre-approved suppliers, ensures on-time delivery and lowers risks in procurement and supply chains,” said Faremo.

Overall, Faremo says that UNOPS has grown its delivery by an average of 13 percent annually while also reducing its overhead costs.

“I am proud to say UNOPS has been able to deliver more with less,” said Faremo. “We take great pride in delivering beyond expectations of our partners.”

She provided the example of an Enterprise resource planning (ERP) system (a business process management software), which UNOPS successfully delivered on time and well within budget earlier this year, which she described as “not an easy feat by any public or even private sector standard.”

Faremo also explained how UNOPS can help facilitate larger scale projects. Some of the larger infrastructure projects needed to meet the SDGs will need new sources of financing beyond traditional Official Development Assistance – the official name for aid and concessional loans, explained Faremo.

“Sustainable and resilient infrastructure will require large-scale investments from both the public and private sectors,” she said.

While private investments are needed, particularly in order to achieve Goal 9 – Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation – Faremo noted that this is more about directing private investments towards more sustainable projects.

“We need to be smart about the use of Official Development Assistance (ODA) as a catalyst for further private investments in a sustainable future for all and make sure that any and all such engagements directly contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and focus on the social dimensions of any project.”

UNOPS also works closely with members of the Group of 77, which represents 133 members of the UN General Assembly.

Ambassador Peter Thomson, current President of the UN General Assembly, and former Chair of the G77 described the relationship between UNOPS and G77 as follows in 2014 when he was President of the Executive Board of UNDP,UNFPA and UNOPS:

“In my role with the G-77, I have seen how UNOPS has supported its partners in some of the most challenging environments imaginable, by delivering tangible benefits on the ground. UNOPS gets things done.”

The G77 Newswire is published with the support of the G77 Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF) in partnership with Inter Press Service (IPS).

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Ending Lingering Hunger in a World of Plenty Wed, 28 Sep 2016 13:45:00 +0000 Lindah Mogeni 0 Global South Address Sustainable Development Challenges Sun, 25 Sep 2016 03:04:19 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage Presentation by Prime Minister of Thailand Prayuth Chan-o-cha Thailand's pledged contribution to Eduardo Praselj, President of the Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF). Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

Presentation by Prime Minister of Thailand Prayuth Chan-o-cha Thailand's pledged contribution to Eduardo Praselj, President of the Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF). Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

On Friday, a group of 134 developing nations, known as the Group of 77 (G77), came together for a meeting to address challenges and solutions in achieving sustainable development. In attendance were G-77 Foreign Ministers, the President of the General Assembly, the UN Secretary-General and other UN senior officials.

During the 40th Annual Meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, whose country is currently Chair of the group, highlighted the need to translate the vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into concrete action in line with developing nations’ needs and interests.

“There is no one size fits all approach for development,” he told delegates.

Prime Minister Chan-o-cha pointed to several resources to ensure the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including human resources.

“Human beings are full of potential and are the source of innovation and creativity. The challenge is how to tap that potential,” he said. Prime Minister Chan-o-cha looked to education and the improvement of quality of life as ways to build human capacity.

“The Global South’s cause is a universal cause for all mankind,” -- Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Guillaume Long.

Another key challenge that arose during the meeting was ensuring equal participation of developing nations in discussions and solutions.

Prime Minister Chan-o-cha expressed his delight in being invited for the first time to the recent G20 Summit in China and called it an “opportunity” for the G77 and developing nations to be heard. However, he still stressed the need to build a global partnership within and beyond developing nations.

“Thailand, as a Chair of the Group, is working as a bridge-builder among all actors that share the same goal in creating a better world, a world without poverty,” he stated. He added that developed nations should assist G77 countries through short-term assistance and capacity building to pave the way for a long-term outcome with the group’s needs in mind.

During the meeting The Kingdom of Thailand made a contribution of 520,000 US dollars to the Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund (PGTF) for South-South Cooperation. The fund supports economic and technical cooperation among developing countries.

President of the 71st Session of the General Assembly (GA) Peter Thomson particularly underlined the importance of cooperation within the Global South.

“South-South cooperation represents the best expression of solidarity and interdependence among developing countries, and will be pivotal in complementing North-South, public and private SDG-implementation initiatives,” he told delegates in his opening address.

Thomson was Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the UN, making him the first GA President from the Pacific Islands. Fiji is also a member of the G77.

Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Guillaume Long told delegates that there needs to be a “re-founding” of the multilateral system in order to increase solidarity.

“We need a UN with more voices and fewer vetoes,” he stated.

“The Global South’s cause is a universal cause for all mankind,” Long continued.

Ecuador is next in line for chairmanship of the G77 in January 2017, which marks the first time the country will assume the position.

The G77, which began with 77 nations, has since grown to include 134 member states from around the world. It has become the largest intergovernmental organisation of developing countries in the UN, allowing the Global South to express their needs and promote cooperation for development.

Both Thomson and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted that the G77 is an “indispensable” and “invaluable” partner of the UN.

Thailand will continue as chair of the G77 until the end of December 2016.

During the meeting Prime Minister Chan-o-cha also presented an award to G77Executive Secretary Mourad Ahmia to express appreciation for his leadership andsupport provided by the G77 Secretariat team to the Kingdom of Thailand as Chair country and to all the Member States.

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The Right to Development at 30 Years Fri, 23 Sep 2016 22:04:40 +0000 Martin Khor Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre, based in Geneva]]>

Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre, based in Geneva

By Martin Khor
GENEVA, Sep 23 2016 (IPS)

It’s had a very useful if sometimes controversial past and it will have great relevance for many more years ahead. That’s the sense one has about the Declaration on the Right to Development as it is commemorated 30 years after its adoption by the United Nations General Assembly in 1986.

Three decades ago, the Declaration “broke new ground in the struggle for greater freedom, equality and justice,” remarked the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, at a session of the Human Rights Council on 15 June, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Declaration.

The right to development has had great resonance among people all over the world, especially in developing countries. Even the term itself “the right to development” carries a great sense and weight of meaning and of hope.

In the past three decades it has been invoked numerous times in international negotiations. The right to development is a major component of the Rio Principles endorsed by the 1992 Earth Summit, and most recently it was included in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change of 2015.

It is fitting to recall some of the important elements of this right to development. It is human and people centered. It is an inalienable human right , where every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to and enjoy development in which all rights and freedoms can be fully realized . The human person is the central subject of development and should be the active participant and beneficiary of development.

It gives responsibility to each state to get its act together to take measures to get its people’s right to development fulfilled. But it also places great importance to the international arena, giving a responsibility to all countries to cooperate internationally and especially to assist the developing countries.

The right to development is also practical. The Declaration makes it a duty for governments to work towards the realisation of the right to development. It recognises that there are national and international obstacles to the realisation of this right and calls on all parties to eliminate these obstacles.

It is thus useful to identify some of the present key global issues that have relevance to the right to development, or that constitute obstacles to its realisation, and to take steps to address them.

Firstly is the crisis in the global economy. The economic sluggishness in developed countries has had adverse impact on developing economies, with lower commodity prices and falling export earnings affecting their economic and social development.. Many economies face the havoc of volatility in the inflow and outflow of funds, due to absence of controls over speculative capital, and fluctuations in their currency levels due to the lack of a global mechanism to stabilise currencies.

Several countries are facing or are on the brink of another external debt crisis. There is for them an absence of an international sovereign debt restructuring mechanism, and countries that undertake their own debt workout may well become victims of vulture funds.

All these problems make it difficult for developing countries to maintain their development momentum, and constitute obstacles to realising the right to development.

Second is the challenge of formulating and implementing appropriate development strategies. This includes getting policies right in boosting agricultural production, farmers’ incomes and food security; and climbing the ladder from labour intensive to higher technology industries and overcoming the middle-income trap. There is also the imperative to provide social services such as healthcare, education, water supply, lighting and transport, and developing financial and commercial services.

For many countries, development policy-making has been made more difficult due to premature liberalisation resulting from loan conditionality and trade and investment agreements which severely constrain their policy space. Policies used by other countries when they were developing may no longer be available due to conditionality or international agreements.

Recently, there has been a crisis of legitimacy over investment agreements that contain the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system, which enable foreign investors to take cases against host governments, taking advantage of imbalanced provisions and shortcomings in the arbitration system. The cases taken up not only cost countries a lot in monetary compensation payments but also put a chill on the formulation of policies and regulations. A review of these conditionalities and trade and investmemt agreements, taking account of their effects on the right to development, would be useful.

Thirdly, climate change has become an existential problem for the human race. It is an outstanding example of environmental constraints to development and the right to development.

In 2014 the Assestment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) revealed that the world has to limit its release of Greenhouse Gases to only release another 1,000 billion tonnes if there is to be a reasonable chance of avoiding global warming of 2 degree Celsius, and anything above that level would cause a devastating disaster. Global emissions are running at 50 billion tonnes a year. Within two decades the atmospheric space would be filled up. Therefore there is an imperative to cut global emissions as sharply and quickly as possible.

The Paris Agreement of December 2015 was a success in multilateral deal making. But it is not environmentally ambitious enough, nor did it generate any confidence that the commitment for transfers of finance and technology to developing countries will be met. There is a danger of that the burdens of adjustment will be passed on to the developing and poor countries. How to equitably share the costs of urgent environmental action which should also be economically feasible is the major climate change challenge that will impact seriously on the right to development.

Fourthly is another existential problem — the crisis of anti-microbial resistance and the dangers of a post-antibiotic age. Many diseases are becoming increasingly difficult to treat because bacteria have become more and more resistant to anti-microbials. Some strains of bacteria are now resistant to multiple antibiotics and a few have become pan resistant – resistant to all antibiotics. The WHO Director General has warned that every anitibiotic ever developed is at risk of becoming useless. She added that: “A post-antibiotic era means in effect an end to modern medicine as we know it. Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill.”

Actions are needed to reduce the over-use and wrong use of antibiotics including control over unethical marketing of drugs, control of the use of antibiotics in livestock, to educate the public and discover new antibiotics. The World Health Assembly (WHA) in 2015 adopted a global plan of action to address anti-microbial resistance but the challenge is in the implementation. Developing countries require funds to enforce the measures as well as technology such as microscopes and diagnostic tools; they also need to have access to existing and new antibiotics at affordable prices; and people worldwide need to be protected from anti-microbial resistance if life expectancy is to be maintained.

Finally there are major challenges in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs include very ambitious and idealistic goals and targets, but there are obstacles to fulfilling them.

For example, Goal 3 is “to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” One of the targets is to achieve universal health coverage, that no one should be denied treatment because they cannot afford it. But this will remain an unfulfilled noble aim unless governments address the controversial issue of how to finance public health measures..

The problem is compounded when medicines are priced beyond the reach of the poor and the middle class. The treatment for HIV AIDS became more widespread and affordable only when generics were made available at cheaper prices, for example $60 a patient a year today, compared to the prices of original drugs of $10,000, and millions of lives have been saved.

Some of the new medicines, for example for Hepatitis C and cancers, are unaffordable even in rich countries and thus not provided through their national health service. They will certainly be out of the reach of patients in developing countries unless generic versions are made available through the use of flexibilities in the global patent regime, such as the non-granting of patents and compulsory licenses.

The interconnecting issues of patents, over pricing of original drugs, and the need to make generic drugs more available, are relevant to the implementation of SDGs, universal health coverage, and the realisation of the right to health and the right to development.

The examples above of pressing global problems show there is a long way to go before we make progress on social and economic development, while protecting the environment. The principles and instruments associated with the Right to Development can shine a bright light on the way forward. The Declaration adopted 30 years ago continues to have great relevance, if only we make full use of it.

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Caribbean: Rethinking Progress in Sustainable Development Era Mon, 19 Sep 2016 09:20:31 +0000 Jessica Faieta United Nations Assistant Secretary General and UN Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.]]>

United Nations Assistant Secretary General and UN Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

By Jessica Faieta

Caribbean countries make a special case for development. The high and increasing exposure to hazards, combined with very open and trade-dependent economies with limited diversification and competitiveness portray a structurally and environmentally vulnerable region, composed, in the most part, of middle income countries.

As these countries start implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) we are calling for a new notion of progress. Our UN Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report for the Caribbean titled “Multidimensional Progress: human resilience beyond income, launched this week in Barbados with top regional authorities makes the case for a new generation of public policies to boost resilience and increase gains in the economic, social and environmental fronts, including peace and justice.

For the Caribbean this “multidimensional progress” entails not only adapting to shocks. It means breaking through structural obstacles that hinder growth and people’s well-being—beyond the traditional measurements of living above or below a poverty line. Nothing that reduces the rights of people and communities or threatens the environment can be considered progress.

This holistic approach is crucial, especially for the Caribbean.

After decades of persistent and volatile low growth, human vulnerability has increased. Most CARICOM countries’ Human Development Index—our composite measure of income, education and longevity— ranking has dropped over the last five years. Jamaica and Dominica, two extreme cases, have fallen 23 and 10 positions respectively.

When the human development results of the Caribbean are situated in a context of slow, volatile and low economic growth, high unemployment and under-employment especially among youth and women, a clear picture emerges showing the deep interconnectedness between human progress and the challenges of the state to cope, our report shows.

The first challenge is that, despite the very high indebtedness and the fiscal constraints affecting the region, governments should be able to implement combined public policies and interventions that foster inclusive growth: one that leaves no one behind. This also entails preventing setbacks and safeguarding hard won social, economic gains by boosting resilience, particularly among the most vulnerable groups to improve the lives of Caribbean women men and children.

To protect these achievements, economic growth alone is not enough. Our Report shows that social protection throughout people’s life cycle; expansion of systems of care for children, elderly and persons with disabilities; broader access to physical and financial assets (that act as cushions when crisis hit, like a car, a house or savings account); and continuous improvements in job skills – particularly in the case of women and youth– are vital.

In addition, many forms of exclusion transcend income and are associated with unequal treatment, discrimination, violence or stigmatization based on ethnicity, race, skin colour, identity and sexual orientation, gender, physical or mental disability, religion, migrant status or nationality. Being a woman, LGBTI, youth, a person with disabilities, being from an ethnic minority… all of these factors affect people’s life opportunities, the possibility of social and economic mobility and access to services. Closing material gaps is not enough to eradicate these forms of exclusions. A level playing field for citizenship requires implementing protection policies, affirmative action, empowering citizens and recognizing individual and collective rights.

The second challenge is to move towards a new public policy framework that can break sectoral and territorial silos and provide social protection throughout the life cycle. Part of the responsibility lies with States, which should generate and coordinate sustainable financial resources for public policies; but part also lies with the citizens, to the extent that it is necessary to build a culture of resilience and prevention in each household and community.

Like many in Latin America and the Caribbean, we believe that the challenge of sustainable, holistic and universal development are not resolved by crossing a given income threshold. There is no “graduation” from the development challenges unless appropriate answers are provided to the multiple dimensions that allow people to live a life they have reasons to value.

Now more than ever the world needs to rethink the methods for ranking development in the region’s countries that go beyond per capita income, economic growth rates and Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Caribbean countries‘ high debt hinders the ability to access finance for sustainable development, also limiting the region’s ability to achieve the SDGs.

In view of the development-financing context in the Caribbean, the report demonstrates how, for the most part, Caribbean countries are ineligible for concessional finance due to their status as middle-income countries. With average national per capita income levels above the international financial eligibility benchmark, the report makes a case for a review of eligibility criteria to access concessional financing.

In line with the SDGs, our report stresses that on the one hand it is crucial to invest in people, environment, sustainable and affordable energy, institutional efficiency, stability and security as these are key factors to boost economic growth. On the other hand, it is essential to ensure that economic growth is inclusive, empowers people, leaves no one behind—and is not achieved at the expense of the environment.

This holistic approach to improving people’s lives while taking care of the planet will help countries in the Caribbean achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, boost climate resilience, end poverty in all its forms and leave no one behind.

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Building Bridges: Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed of the Emirates at the Vatican Thu, 15 Sep 2016 19:32:13 +0000 Rubya Delarose Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed and Pope Francis exchange gifts in the papal library at the apostolic palace. Credit: WAM

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed and Pope Francis exchange gifts in the papal library at the apostolic palace. Credit: WAM

By Rubya Delarose
ROME, Sep 15 2016 (IPS)

As the rise of religious racism and Islamophobia sweeps across Europe, the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E) is increasing their emphasis on the message for peaceful tolerance across all nations.

The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Sheikh Zayed met with Pope Francis in Rome recently. The meeting held at the headquarters of the papacy was also attended by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Cardinal Pietro Parolin Vatican Secretary of State. The focus of their meeting was on global development and social and humanitarian issues, including initiatives in the educational and health areas in underprivileged communities.

Pope Francis commented at the meeting that the U.A.E’s adoption and deployment of sustainable sources of energy and support of countries and communities in need act as outstanding contributions to international development.

“Sheikh Mohamed’s visit to the Pope is part of his continuous meetings aimed at promoting the values of tolerance, peace and co-existence in all societies” Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi, Minister of State for Tolerance told Emirates News Agency WAM.

As terrorism destabilizes Europe, Sheikh Zayed’s meeting at the papacy was an opportunity to confirm the U.A.E’s condemnation of all forms of violent extremism and his country’s position as a united force against intolerance.

WAM reported that the U.A.E stands with Pope Francis on his universal rejection of extremism. The Vatican and the U.A.E recognize that the ideology and actions of extremists do not represent the core ethos of Islam.

As the consequences of Islamophobia threaten Muslims worldwide, the need to spread a message of tolerance across all religions is vital. Any form of extremism must be denounced.

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Rich Countries Should Take Development Goals Seriously Too Fri, 02 Sep 2016 06:04:39 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands The Sustainable Development Goals projected onto UN Headquarters. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

The Sustainable Development Goals projected onto UN Headquarters. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

By Lyndal Rowlands

The UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals apply to all 193 UN member states, yet one year in some say that rich countries aren’t taking their critical role quite as seriously as they should be.

“What is an interesting, but also a scary observation, is (that the Sustainable Development agenda) is taken more seriously in developing countries than in many developed countries right now,” Mogens Lykketoft President of the UN General Assembly told IPS in a recent interview.

“The development agenda is not as it was expressed more or less in the Millennium Development Goals (which ended in 2015), about poor people in poor countries, it’s about all people in all countries,” said Lykketoft.

Lykketoft highlighted several ways that developed countries could contribute to addressing sustainable development, including through addressing climate change, tackling tax evasion and tax havens and improving official development assistance (ODA) (the official name for aid).

“We know that the loss in revenue from rich countries and rich people (taking) their profits from developing countries that loss is much larger than the ODA going the other way,” said Lykketoft.

“We have to strengthen very much the global cooperation against tax evasion and tax havens but we also have in this context to support many developing countries to develop those institutions that are able to cope with the large companies investing in their countries,” he said.

“Challenges such as climate change and inequality don’t observe national boundaries, they require collaboration at the global level. So the SDGs are for all countries to achieve,” Bonian Golmohammadi.

Lykketoft noted that such tax cooperation is currently coordinated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and that there is not consensus between the UN member states to change this.

Lykketoft also described how developed countries need to help developing countries to adapt to and survive climate change.

“A very big part of the transformation needed to have a sustainable future, to avoid climate catastrophes, is investment that has to take place in (the) most developed countries – in their way of using energy, saving energy, production methods and general consumption patterns,” he said.

IPS spoke with representatives from organisations working on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in both developed and developing countries, who all agreed that developed countries have an important role to play in achieving the global goals.

Joh​n Romano, Coordinator of the Transparency, Accountability & Participation (TAP) Network which is closely monitoring how UN member states measure and report on the SDGs, told IPS that it seems like some developed countries are not taking the SDGs as seriously as they should be.

“We saw some developed countries present their voluntary national reports with the claim that they have already achieved many SDGs and targets, and used this as a justification for a narrow focus on just a handful of SDGs as their priorities.”

“The SDGs are meant to be aspirational in nature, so the claim that a country has achieved certain goals or targets only 10 months in to the adoption of the 2030 Agenda is either a discouraging sign that Member States didn’t set their goals high enough, or that they are content with maintaining the status quo and not pushing their ambition to achieve transformative change.”

Kate Carroll. International Research & Policy Coordinator at ActionAid agreed with Romano’s observations. “In our work we are consistently seeing that developed countries have a lot more to do (to achieve) the SDGs.

“They’ve not only got a lot more to do in terms of ensuring that inequalities within their own countries are addressed but also the global ones, and I think climate change is a really good example because it’s such an inescapable part of any global partnership.”

“Looking at developed countries high historical and continued emissions, we’re seeing that then that they are really failing to do more to support developing countries to adapt to climate impacts.”

Other areas where developed countries could be doing more to address global inequality, include addressing preferential treatment in global trade and improving the quality of aid, said Carroll.

However Bonian Golmohammadi, Secretary-General of the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) which has members in over 100 countries, told IPS that the WFUNA has seen both developed and developing countries taking the SDGs seriously.

Golmohammadi agreed that all countries must be involved in order for the goals to be successful.

“Challenges such as climate change and inequality don’t observe national boundaries, they require collaboration at the global level. So the SDGs are for all countries to achieve,” said Golmohammadi.

Ana Marie Argilagos, senior advisor on Equitable Development at the Ford Foundation, also believes that developed countries are taking the SDGs seriously, particularly domestically.

She says that she has seen a lot of interest in the SDGs in the United States, noting that while Americans may use different terminology there is a lot for them to identify with in the goals.

“We just don’t use the word development, we call it community development, we call it economic development, we call it civil rights, we call it social justice,” she says.

“We took all these years, with all of these panels and all of these really smart people, and we had civil society, and they have developed for us a very compelling list of the most important priorities for our generation, so let’s use it,” she said.

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Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund Finances 278 Projects in Developing Nations Mon, 29 Aug 2016 22:19:47 +0000 Thalif Deen The PGTF’s five-member Committee of Experts is chaired by Dr Eduardo Praselj.

The PGTF’s five-member Committee of Experts is chaired by Dr Eduardo Praselj.

By Thalif Deen

The Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF), described as one of the most successful ventures of the Group of 77, has provided $13.2 million in “seed money” for 278 small-scale projects in developing countries.

With mandatory “matching funds” from outside sources, the total value of the projects has been estimated at over $38.5 million since the PGTF began operations 30 years ago.

The projects, held out as prime examples of South-South cooperation, are largely regional, sub-regional and inter-regional covering, Asia-Pacific, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America and the Caribbean.

The financing, which is maximized at $35,000 each, has benefited a wide range of projects related to socio-economic issues in the developing world.

At its meeting in July 2016, the PGTF’s five-member Committee of Experts, chaired by Dr Eduardo Praselj, recommended funding for 13 of the 26 applications submitted this year.

The recommended allocation for these 13 projects, to be finally approved at a ministerial meeting of the Group of 77 in late September, totaled $435,000.

“It is South-South cooperation at its best – without going into high level diplomatic stuff – and directly involving field actors.” -- Dr Eduardo Praselj.

The approved projects include: an E-commerce development programme for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from developing countries; capacity-building on management and utilization of solar energy resources for improving living conditions in rural areas; bamboo development assessment for Asia and Africa under China’s “One Belt, One Road” Initiative; research on economic diversification of land-locked developing countries; and cooperation for intellectual property and productive transformation in Latin America and the Caribbean, among others.

Over the years, three priority areas have received about 70 percent of total support from PGTF: namely technical cooperation, food and agriculture, and trade.

Other areas include: consulting services, training and other activities relating to technical cooperation among developing countries (TCDC); technology; energy; information exchange and dissemination; industrialization; health; raw materials and finance.

In an interview with IPS, Dr Praselj said PGTF-approved projects have benefited a large number of developing countries, as well as institutions and peoples within these countries.

So far, 125 developing countries have been direct participants in and/or beneficiaries of PGTF-funded projects, while all 134 member countries of the Group of 77 have been collective beneficiaries of PGTF-funded projects carried out by a large number of regional or interregional institutions and organizations of the South.

These institutions, which have also co-financed multiple projects, include the Latin American Economic System (SELA), the Caribbean Council of Science and Technology, the Third World Network, Mercosur Economic Research Network, the Islamic Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, Inter Press Service news agency, and the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

Dr Praselj said the projects approved involve sharing knowledge and experience. “It is South-South cooperation at its best – without going into high level diplomatic stuff – and directly involving field actors.”

He singled out several projects where developing countries cooperated to resolve common problems, including battling animal diseases and also micro credit entrepreneurship led by women in Islamic countries.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, he said, a number of countries were working on projects on sugar cane by-products. In Africa, there were small scale hydro power and solar energy projects (and also how to better cultivate maize and rice).

A coalition of six countries – Afghanistan, Jordan, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Palestine – received funding to battle animal diseases affecting cattle, goats and sheep (with the danger of some these diseases being transmitted to humans).

He said the PGTF has also approved projects in Latin America and the Caribbean supporting poor farmers, with no managerial capacities or bargaining powers to market their products.

He described the PGTF as “healthy, transparent, efficient and low cost”.  He highlighted that the Fund has been receiving a steady flow of well-prepared project proposals, the input for PGTF activities. “The better the raw material, the better the product,” said Dr Praselj.

He pointed out that PGTF approved projects are geared towards all 134 members of the Group of 77, the largest single coalition of developing countries.

These countries include the poorest of the world’s poor, including the least developed countries (LDCs), land-locked developing countries (LLDC) and small island developing states (SIDS).

Asked if priority is given to any special group of developing countries, he said: “There is no special window,” pointing out that applicants include governments, universities, international institutions, think tanks and regional, sub regional and inter-regional bodies.

He said 90 percent of the 278 approved projects are in full implementation within their specific deadlines.

The PGTF was established in 1983, in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution 38/201, with an initial core capital of $5.0 million, which was increased to $7.0 million, with $1.0 million each in magnanimouscontributions from two member countries: Venezuela in 2004 and Oman in 2015.

The PGTF, which is described as an “endowment fund”, is managed by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

In keeping with guidelines for its utilization, only interest accruing on the Fund could be used to support projects so as to preserve intact the $7.0 million core capital.

Dr Praselj said the Committee discusses and agrees on investment strategy with the UNDP Treasury. The paramount consideration for investing PGTF resources is preservation of the capital while striving to achieve the highest possible return.

“The higher the risk, the higher the rewards,” he said, “But you will have to strike a balance. You cannot be smarter than the market.”

As of now, 27 developing countries have made multiple contributions to PGTF. They include: South Africa (fourteen separate contributions, the highest to date);  Algeria (thirteen contributions); China, and Trinidad and Tobago (ten contributions each); Venezuela (eight contributions); Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (seven contributions); Indonesia (six contributions); Argentina and Peru (five contributions each); Islamic Republic of Iran, Qatar,Singapore, United Arab Emirates, and Uruguay (four contributions each); Afghanistan, Antigua and Barbuda, Chile, Cyprus, Egypt, Kuwait, and Thailand (three contributions each); and Brazil, Cameroon, Namibia, Pakistan, Philippines, and Viet Nam (two contributions each).

The PGTF Committee has invited other countries to follow these “encouraging initiatives.”

And in January, Thailand, the current chair of the G77, pledged $520,000.

The deadline for the submission of project proposals for next year is 30 April 2017. More information can be found on the PGTF website.

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Thailand’s Sufficiency Economy Philosophy and the Sustainable Development Goals Fri, 26 Aug 2016 12:05:21 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands 0 Chatterjee, new Resident Coordinator, to lead 25 UN agencies in East Africa Fri, 26 Aug 2016 05:48:47 +0000 an IPS Correspondent By an IPS Correspondent
NAIROBI, KENYA, Aug 26 2016 (IPS)

Siddharth Chatterjee, the Representative of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Kenya, has been appointed UN Resident Coordinator, where he will lead and coordinate 25 UN agencies in East Africa. At the same time, he will also serve as the Resident Representative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

At UNFPA, he and his team spearheaded efforts to reduce the unacceptably high maternal deaths in Kenya putting the spotlight on the challenges faced by adolescent girls, including child marriage, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and sexual and gender based violence.

Before he joined UNFPA, Chatterjee served as the Chief Diplomat and Head of Strategic Partnerships and was also responsible for resource mobilization at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) since 2011.

In 1997 he joined the UN in Bosnia and over the next two decades served in Iraq, South Sudan, Indonesia, Sudan (Darfur), Somalia, Denmark, and Kenya. He has worked in UN Peace Keeping, UNICEF, UNOPS, the Red Cross and UNFPA.

Welcoming the appointment, Ruth Kagia, Senior Advisor, International Relations and Social Sectors in the Office of the President of Kenya said, “Sid’s insightful understanding of clients’ needs as the UNFPA Representative in Kenya has translated into tangible gains in maternal, child and adolescent health. His relentless energy and focus on results has helped build relationships and networks of trust and confidence with the highest levels of Government, civil society, the private sector and development partners.”

Chatterjee is expected to continue his advocacy for women’s empowerment in Kenya where he has led notable initiatives to advance reproductive, maternal, neo-natal, child and adolescent health.

Chatterjee is expected to continue his advocacy for women’s empowerment in Kenya where he has led notable initiatives to advance reproductive, maternal, neo-natal, child and adolescent health.

Dr Julitta Onabanjo, UNFPA’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa said, “Sid resolutely pushed UNFPA’s mandate in the hardest to reach counties and service of the most vulnerable.  He mobilized resources and partners in the private sector to join this drive to leapfrog maternal and new-born health. This bold initiative was highlighted by the World Economic Forum in Davos and Kigali”.

Among Chatterjee’s other career achievements include mobilizing the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement to join the eradication of polio initiative; negotiating access with rebel groups to undertake a successful polio immunization campaign in the rebel controlled areas of Darfur; leading UNICEF’s emergency response when conflict broke out in Indonesia’s Aceh and the Malukus provinces; and overseeing UNICEF’s largest demobilization of child soldiers in South Sudan in 2001.

A prolific writer, Chatterjee’s articles have featured on CNN, Al Jazeera, Forbes, Huffington Post, Reuters, the Guardian, Inter Press Service, as well as the major Kenyan newspapers.  He was recently profiled by Forbes magazine in an article titled, “Passionate Leader of UNFPA Kenya Battles Violence against Women, FGM and Child Marriage.” 

His early career was in a Special Forces unit of the Indian Army, where he was decorated in 1995 for bravery by the President of India. Chatterjee holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Princeton University, USA and a Bachelor’s degree from the National Defence Academy in India.

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Smart Technologies Key to Youth Involvement in Agriculture Tue, 23 Aug 2016 10:50:48 +0000 Friday Phiri A cow being milked by a milking robot. Photo courtesy of Cornelia Flatten.

A cow being milked by a milking robot. Photo courtesy of Cornelia Flatten.

By Friday Phiri
BONN, Germany, Aug 23 2016 (IPS)

She is only 24 and already running her father’s farm with 110 milking cows. Cornelia Flatten sees herself as a farmer for the rest of her life.

“It’s my passion,” says the young German. “It is not just about the money but a way of life. My dream is to grow this farm and transform it to improve efficiency by acquiring at least two milking robots.”

A graduate with a degree in dairy farming, Cornelia believes agriculture is an important profession to humanity, because “everyone needs something to eat, drink, and this requires every one of us to do something to make it a reality.”

Simply put, this is a clarion call for increased food production in a world looking for answers to the global food problem where millions of people go hungry. And with the world population set to increase to over nine billion by 2050, production is expected to increase by at least 60 percent to meet the global food requirements—and must do so sustainably.

While it is unanimously agreed that sustainability is about economic viability, socially just and environmentally friendly principles, it is also about the next generation taking over. But according to statistics by the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD), agriculture has an image problem amongst youth, with most of them viewing it as older people’s profession.

For example, YPARD says half of farmers in the United States are 55 years or older while in South Africa, the average age of farmers is around 62 years old.

This is a looming problem, because according to the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), over 2.5 billion people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. In addition, for many regions of the world, gross domestic product (GDP) and agriculture are closely aligned and young farmers make considerable contributions to the GDP from this sector. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, 89 percent of rural youth who work in agriculture are believed to contribute one-quarter to one-third of Africa’s GDP.

Apart from increasing productivity, leaders are tasked to find ways of enticing young people into agriculture, especially now that the world’s buzzword is sustainability.

“It’s time to start imagining what we could say to young farmers because their concern is to have a future in the next ten years. The future is smart agriculture, from manual agriculture, it’s about producing competitively by not only looking at your own farm but the larger environment—both at production and markets,” said Ignace Coussement, Managing Director of Agricord, an International Alliance of Agri-Agencies based in Belgium.

Speaking during the recent International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) Congress discussion on sustainable solutions for global agriculture in Bonn, Germany, Coussement emphasised the importance of communication to achieve this transformation.

“Global transformation is required and I believe communication of agricultural information would be key to this transformation to help farmers transform their attitude, and secondly push for policy changes especially at government level,” he said.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), creating new opportunities and incentives for youth to engage in both farm and non-farm rural activities in their own communities and countries is just but one of the important steps to be taken, and promoting rural youth employment and agro-entrepreneurship should be at the core of strategies that aim to addressing the root causes of distress of economic and social mobility.

Justice Tambo, a Senior Researcher at the Centre for Development Research of the University of Bonn (ZEF), thinks innovation is key to transforming youth involvement and help the world tackle the food challenge.

With climate change in mind, Tambo believes innovation would help in “creating a balance between production and emission of Green House Gases from Agriculture (GHGs) and avoid the path taken by the ‘Green Revolution’ which was not so green.”

It is for this reason that sustainability is also linked to good governance for there has to be political will to tackle such issues. According to Robert Kloos, Under Secretary of State of the Germany Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, “It is true that people are leaving their countries due to climate change but it is not the only problem; it is also about hunger…these people are starving. They live in rural underdeveloped areas of their countries.”

“Good governance is a precondition to achieving sustainability,” he adds, saying his government is working closely with countries in regions still struggling with hunger to support sustainable production of food.

Alltech, a global animal health and nutrition company, believes leadership has become a key ingredient more than ever to deal with the global food challenge.

“Business, policy and technology should interact to provide solutions to the global food challenge of feeding the growing population while at the same time keeping the world safe from a possible climate catastrophe,” said Alltech Vice President, Patrick Charlton.

Addressing the IFAJ 2016 Master class and Young Leaders programme, Charlton added that “If the world is to feed an increased population with the same available land requires not only improved technology, but serious leadership to link policy, business and technology.”

But for Bernd Flatten, father to the 24-year-old Cornelia, his daughter’s choice could be more about up-bringing. “I did not pressure her into this decision. I just introduced her to our family’s way of life—farming. And due to age I asked whether I could sell the farm as is tradition here in Germany, but she said no and took over the cow milking business. She has since become an ambassador for the milk company which we supply to,” said the calm Flatten, who is more of spectator nowadays on his 130-hectare farm.

It is a model farm engaged in production of corn for animal feed, while manure is used in biogas production, a key element of the country’s renewable energy revolution. With the services of on-farm crop management analysis offered by Dupont Pioneer, the farm practices crop rationing for a balanced biodiversity.

But when all is said and done, the Flattens do not only owe their farm’s viability to their daughter’s brave decision to embrace rural life, but also her desire to mechanise the farm with smart equipment and technology for efficiency—an overarching theme identified on how to entice youths into agriculture.

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Deadly Yellow Fever Spreading, Amid Global Vaccine Shortages Fri, 19 Aug 2016 04:59:12 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands A WHO Yellow Vaccination book. Credit: IPS.

A WHO Yellow Vaccination book. Credit: IPS.

By Lyndal Rowlands

As deadly yellow fever spreads to seven provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), new measures have been introduced to ensure that as many people as possible are immunised, despite global shortages of the yellow fever vaccine.

Global emergency stocks of just 6 million yellow fever vaccines have been strained by the current outbreak, which began in Angola and has now spread to neighbouring DRC.

To reach as many people as possible with the limited supply of vaccines, the World Health Organization (WHO) has started recommending the use of partial doses.

“Studies done in adults show that fractional dosing using one fifth of the regular dose provides effective immunity against yellow fever for at least 12 months and possibly much longer,” WHO Spokesperson Tarik Jašarević told IPS.

The WHO began recommending that fractional doses could be used as an emergency measure in June 2016, ensuring additional doses would be available for mass vaccination campaigns in Angola and the DRC.

The WHO has also recently changed its recommendations for those who have already been immunised with a complete dose of the yellow fever vaccine.

“We know now that a single complete dose provides lifelong protection,” said Jašarević.

“There is a global shortage and yellow fever vaccines take quite a long time to produce and I think there are only five outlets in the world that manufacture the vaccine,” Heather Kerr, Save the Children.

The change in recommendation happened on 11 July 2016, but also applies retrospectively to those already carrying certificates of immunisation required for travel.

“This lifetime validity of these certificates applies automatically to certificates issued after 11 July 2016, as well as certificates already issued,” said Jašarević.

The new measures will potentially mean that more doses are available for mass vaccination campaigns such as the one the DRC government began in Kinshasa this week.

IPS spoke with Heather Kerr who is the DRC Country Director of Save the Children, which is providing support to the DRC Ministry of Health’s mass vaccination campaign.

“So far in DRC there are 74 actual confirmed cases and there’ve been 16 deaths from those cases,” she said. This means that more than 20 percent of people who have contracted yellow fever in the DRC have died. The number of suspected cases in the DRC and Angola is much higher.

“Obviously a big city like Kinshasa worries us, we don’t really know how many people there are in Kinshasa, no census has been done since the 1980s but we estimate around 10 million.”

The current campaign aims to reach 420,000 people in Kinshasa over 10 days, said Kerr.

“The governments decision was in Kinshasa to use what’s called the fractionalised dose, so it’s a fifth of the normal dose.”

Kerr says that since the fractional doses only provide protection for one year, revaccination will be required, but that hopefully by this time there will be more vaccines available globally.

“There is a global shortage and yellow fever vaccines take quite a long time to produce and I think there are only five outlets in the world that manufacture the vaccine,” she said.

“There’s no known cure for yellow fever,” said Kerr. “Prevention is better than cure always, but in this case it really is, so that’s why this vaccination campaign is so important.”

In the early stages Kerr says that yellow fever either has hardly any symptoms or symptoms such as fever, nausea and diarrhea “which could be confused also with something like malaria.”

“Then the more severe symptoms are bleeding because it’s a haemorrhagic fever, and then people can become severely jaundiced and can go into organ failure and that’s why it’s called yellow fever.”

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The Time is Ripe to Act against Drought Thu, 18 Aug 2016 14:13:32 +0000 Monique Barbut

The author is the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which co-organized with the Namibian government the Africa Drought Conference on 15-19 August in Windhoek. This Op-Ed is based on Barbut’s opening speech to the Conference High –level Segment.

By Monique Barbut
WINDHOEK, Aug 18 2016 (IPS)

Let us start with some good news.  Sort of.  The strongest El Niño in 35 years is coming to an end. [1]

In 2015/2016 this “El Niño effect” led to drought in over 20 countries [2].  There were scorching temperatures, water shortages and flooding around the world.  Worst hit were eastern and southern Africa[3]

Monique Barbut

Monique Barbut

To understand what that means for people, you just have to look at the numbers about food insecurity[4].  32 million people in southern Africa were affected by food insecurity as a result.  Across Africa, 1 million children required treatment for severe acute malnutrition.

And though the worst of the drought is coming to an end, predictions are high (at about 75%) that La-Nina will arrive later in 2016. La Nina – El Niño’s opposite number – is known for the flooding it brings.

There may not be much relief for policy makers and people across Africa before the end of the year.

But then, if will be over, we can breathe again.  We can go back to business as usual – right?

Well…if you will allow me…for Albert Einstein…one of the definitions of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

Going back to business as usual fits this definition of insanity very well.

  • We know the next El Niño droughts are likely to return regularly.  Probably as often as every two to seven years.
  • We know that the extent and severity of droughts will increase.  This is because of climate change and unsustainable land use.   Scientists have estimated that the fraction of the land’s surface regularly experiencing drought conditions is predicted to increase from less than 5 percent today to more than 30 percent by the 2090s[5].
  • We know we will miss our targets on water scarcity (6.4, 6.5 and 6.6) under the sustainable development goals[6].
  • We know poor people, who tend to be wholly dependent on natural resources like water and land to provide for their families, will suffer.

Unless we change our approach, when drought comes and the rains fail, the future of the 400 million African farmers who rely on rain fed subsistence agriculture, for example, is put in jeopardy.

Rain-fed agriculture accounts for more than 95 percent of farmed land in sub-Saharan Africa. And water scarcity alone could cost some regions 6 percent of their Gross Domestic Product.

Unless we change our approach, people are going to be increasingly forced to decide whether to ride out a drought disaster and then rebuild.  Or simply leave.

It is a form of madness that we force our people to make these difficult choices.


Especially if the cycle of drought disaster and recovery could be broken. 

Progress is starting to happen. Mexico, Brazil, Vietnam and Morocco, to name just a few countries, are now implementing drought plans with a strong emphasis on risk mitigation and preparedness.

And in the areas where land has been restored in Central and Eastern Tigray in Ethiopia, ecosystems and people seem to have fared better in recent El Nino related droughts than areas where no restoration has been undertaken.

But because by 2050, one in four people – up to 2.5 billion people – will be living in a country at risk of water scarcity, more needs to be done. Everywhere.  We must prepare better and manage drought risks proactively.

Africa has already done a lot[7] but needs to stay on its toes.

UNCCD is proposing three important pillars for your consideration.


Firstly, Early Warning Systems. 

Declaring a drought too late can have a devastating impact on lives and livelihoods. Yet when you declare a drought, it can often be very subjective and highly political.

Africa would benefit from an effective Early Warning System (EWS) in all countries. The system would need good data and – equally important – local and traditional knowledge. It would guide you by providing timely information that you can use to reduce risks and to better prepare for an effective response.


Secondly, vulnerability and risk assessment.

Of course, no amount of early warning will work without action to protect the most vulnerable.

Some people and some systems are more vulnerable to drought as a result of social, economic, and environmental factors. So it is important to combine better forecasts with detailed knowledge on how landscapes and societies respond to a lack of rain.

Which communities and ecosystems are most at risk? Why are important sectors like agriculture, energy, tourism, health vulnerable?

Then turn that knowledge into early intervention.

We can assure it would be highly cost effective.  Before the cost of a single late response is reached, you can “overreact” up to six times.

In Niger and Mozambique for example, the cost of an early intervention and resilience building efforts would lead to a cost reduction of 375 million US dollars in Mozambique and 844 million US dollars in Niger when compared to late humanitarian response to drought.[8]


Finally, drought risk mitigation measures.

We can identify measures to address these risks head on.  There are things that can be done at a very practical level to reduce drought risk, which if started right away, can deliver real and tangible benefits to your communities.

African countries could consider the development of sustainable irrigation schemes for crops and livestock or water harvesting schemes or the recycling and reuse of water. They can explore the cultivation of more drought tolerant crops, expand crop insurance schemes and establish alternative livelihoods that can provide income in drought-prone areas.

Investing in improved land management, for example, can improve on-farm water security by between 70 and 100%[9].

This would result in higher yields and more food security.   In Zimbabwe, water harvesting combined with conservation agriculture increased farmers gross margins by 4 to 7 times and increased returns on labour by 2 to 3 times. [10]

This is the type of proactive drought risk management, which could save lives and the livelihoods of millions of people, is something that we all should aspire to.


The Africa Drought Conference is a rare window of opportunity.

An opportunity for the continent to recognize that the traditional approach of “responding” to drought is no longer viable. It has proved to be ineffective far too often. Instead, Africa could lead a proactive drought revolution.

By investing in early warning systems and addressing their vulnerabilities head on, well-planned and coordinated drought action will have a positive ripple effect across sectors and across borders.

Nelson Mandela once said, “We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right”.

The time is ripe. Taking proactive action against drought is the right thing to do.




[2] List compiled from: and



[5]  WMO( 2011): Towards a Compendium on National Drought Policy, p. 9.


[7] i.e. The Sahel and Sahara Observatory (OSS), IGAD’s Drought Resilience Sustainability Initiative (IDDRSI), the Southern Africa Development Community – Community Climate Service Center (SADC-CSC) or the African Drought Risk and Development Network (ADDN).

[8] Department for international development : The Economics of Early Response and Resilience Series,

[9] Bossio, Deborah et al( 2010): Managing water by managing land: Addressing land degradation to improve water productivity and rural livelihoods, p. 540.

[10] Winterbottom, R. (et al.): Improving Land and Water Management. Working Paper, Installment 4 of Creating a Sustainable Food Future. World Resources Institute, 2013, p. 18.

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Dhaka Could Be Underwater in a Decade Tue, 16 Aug 2016 23:10:34 +0000 Rafiqul Islam Dhaka is home to about 14 million people and is the centre of Bangladesh's growth, but it has practically zero capacity to cope with moderate to heavy rains. Credit: Fahad Kaiser/IPS

Dhaka is home to about 14 million people and is the centre of Bangladesh's growth, but it has practically zero capacity to cope with moderate to heavy rains. Credit: Fahad Kaiser/IPS

By Rafiqul Islam
DHAKA, Aug 16 2016 (IPS)

Like many other fast-growing megacities, the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka faces severe water and sanitation problems, chiefly the annual flooding during monsoon season due to unplanned urbanisation, destruction of wetlands and poor city governance.

But experts are warning that if the authorities here don’t take serious measures to address these issues soon, within a decade, every major thoroughfare in the city will be inundated and a majority of neighborhoods will end up underwater after heavy precipitation.A 42-mm rainfall in ninety minutes is not unusual for monsoon season, but the city will face far worse in the future due to expected global temperature increases.

“If the present trend of city governance continues, all city streets will be flooded during monsoon in a decade, intensifying the suffering of city dwellers, and people will be compelled to leave the city,” urban planner Dr. Maksudur Rahman told IPS.

He predicted that about 50-60 percent of the city will be inundated in ten years if it experiences even a moderate rainfall.

Climate change means even heavier rains

Dhaka is home to about 14 million people and is the centre of the country’s growth, but it has practically zero capacity to cope with moderate to heavy rains. On Sep. 1, 2015, for example, a total of 42 millimeters fell in an hour and a half, collapsing the city’s drainage system.

According to experts, a 42 mm rainfall in ninety minutes is not unusual for monsoon season, but the city will face far worse in the future due to expected global temperature increases.

The fifth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that more rainfall will be very likely at higher latitudes by the mid-21st century under a high-emissions scenario and over southern areas of Asia by the late 21st century.

More frequent and heavy rainfall days are projected over parts of South Asia, including Bangladesh.

Dhaka is also the second most vulnerable to coastal flooding among nine of the most at-risk cities of the world, according to the Coastal City Flood Vulnerability Index (CCFVI), developed jointly by the Dutch researchers and the University of Leeds in 2012.

Dhaka has four surrounding rivers – Buriganga, Turag, Balu and Shitlakhya – which help drain the city during monsoon. The rivers are connected to the trans-boundary Jamuna River and Meghna River. But the natural flow of the capital’s surrounding rivers is hampered during monsoon due to widespread encroachment, accelerating water problems.

S.M. Mahbubur Rahman, director of the Dhaka-based Institute of Water Modeling (IWM), a think tank, said the authorities need to flush out the stagnant water caused by heavy rains through pumping since the rise in water level of the rivers during monsoon is a common phenomenon.

“When the intensity of rainfall is very high in a short period, they fail to do so,” he added.

Sylhet is the best example of managing problems in Bangladesh, as the city has successfully coped with its water-logging in recent years through improvement of its drainage system. Sylhet is located in a monsoon climatic zone and experiences a high intensity of rainfall during monsoon each year. Nearly 80 percent of the annual average precipitation (3,334 mm) occurs in the city between May and September.

Just a few years ago, water-logging was a common phenomenon in the city during monsoon. But a magical change has come in managing water problems after Sylhet City Corporation improved its drainage system and re-excavated canals, which carry rainwater and keep the city free from water-logging.

A critical network of canals

City canals play a vital role in running off rainwater during the rainy season. But most of the canals are clogged and the city drainage system is usually blocked because of disposal of waste in drains. So many parts of the capital get inundated due to the crumbling drainage system and some places go under several feet of stagnant rainwater during monsoon.

“Once there were 56 canals in the capital, which carried rainwater and kept the city free from water-logging…most of the canals were filled up illegally,” said Dr Maksudur Rahman, a professor in the Department of Geography and Environment at Dhaka University.

He stressed the need for cleaning up all the city canals and making them interconnected, as well as dredging the surrounding rivers to ensure smooth runoff of rainwater during monsoon.

In October 2013, the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (DWASA) signed a 7.5 million Euro deal with the Netherlands-based Vitens Evides International to dredge some of the canals, but three years later, there is no visible progress.

DWASA deputy managing director SDM Quamrul Alam Chowdhury said the Urban Dredging Demonstration Project (UDDP) is a partnership programme, which taken to reduce flooding in the city’s urban areas and improve capacity of DWASA to carry out the drainage operation.

“Under the UDDP, we are excavating Kalyanpur Khal (canal) in the city. We will also dig Segunbagicha Khal of the city,” he added.

Dwindling water bodies

Water bodies have historically played an important role in the expansion of Dhaka. But as development encroaches on natural drainage systems, they no longer provide this critical ecosystem service.

“We are indiscriminately filling up wetlands and low-lying areas in and around Dhaka city for settlement. So rainwater does not get space to run off,” said Dr Maksud.

A study by the Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS) in 2011 shows that about 33 percent of Dhaka’s water bodies dwindled during 1960-2009 while low-lying areas declined by about 53 percent.

Lack of coordination

There are a number of government bodies, including DWASA, both Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) and Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB), that are responsible for ensuring a proper drainage system in the capital. But a lack of coordination has led to a blame game over which agency is in charge.

DWASA spokesman Zakaria Al Mahmud said: “You will not find such Water Supply and Sewerage Authority across the world, which maintains the drainage system of a city, but DWASA maintains 20 percent of city’s drainage system.”

He said it is the responsibility of other government agencies like city corporations and BWDB to maintain the drainage system of Dhaka.

DSCC Mayor Sayeed Khokon said it will take time to resolve the existing water-logging problem, and blamed encroachers for filling up almost all the city canals.

Around 14 organisations are involved in maintaining the drainage system of the city, he said, adding that lack of coordination among them is the main reason behind the water-logging.

DNCC mayor Annisul Huq suggested constituting a taskforce involving DWASA, city corporations, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK) and other government agencies to increase coordination among them aiming to resolve the city’s water problems.

This story is part of special IPS coverage of World Humanitarian Day on August 19.

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Arable Lands Lost at Unprecedented Rate: 33,000 Hectares… a Day! Tue, 16 Aug 2016 17:50:46 +0000 Baher Kamal Desert, drought advancing. Photo UNEP

Desert, drought advancing. Photo UNEP

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Aug 16 2016 (IPS)

Humankind is a witness every single day to a new, unprecedented challenge. One of them is the very fact that the world’s arable lands are being lost at 30 to 35 times the historical rate. Each year, 12 million hectares are lost. That means 33,000 hectares a day!

Moreover, scientists have estimated that the fraction of land surface area experiencing drought conditions has grown from 10-15 per cent in the early 1970s to more than 30 per cent by early 2000, and these figures are expected to increase in the foreseeable future.

While drought is happening everywhere, Africa appears as the most impacted continent by its effects. According to the Bonn-based United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), two-thirds of African lands are now either desert or dry-lands.

The challenge is enormous for this second largest continent on Earth, which is home to 1.2 billion inhabitants in 54 countries and which has been the most impacted region by the 2015/2016 weather event known as El-Niño.

Daniel Tsegai

Daniel Tsegai

IPS interviewed Daniel Tsegai, Programme Officer at UNCCD, which has co-organised with the Namibian government the Africa Drought Conference on August 15-19 in Windhoek.

“Globally, drought is becoming more severe, more frequent, increasing in duration and spatial extent and its impact is increasing, including massive human displacement and migration. The current drought is an evidence. African countries are severely affected,” Tsegai clarifies.

The African Drought Conference focus has been put on the so-called “drought resilience.”

IPS asks Tsegai what is this all about? “Drought resilience is simply defined as the capacity of a country to survive consecutive droughts and be able to recover to pre-drought conditions,” he explains.

“To begin with there are four aspects of Drought: Meteorological (weather), Hydrological (surface water), Agricultural (farming) and socioeconomic (effects on humans) droughts.”


The Five Big “Lacks”

Asked for the major challenges ahead when it comes to working on drought resilience in Africa, Tsegai tells IPS that these are mainly:

a) Lack of adequate data base such as weather, water resources (ground and surface water), soil moisture as well as past drought incidences and impacts;

b) Poor coordination among various relevant sectors and stakeholders in a country and between countries in a region;

c) Low level of capacity to implement drought risk mitigation measures (especially at local level);

d)    Insufficient political will to implement national drought policies, and

e) Economics of drought preparedness is not well investigated, achieving a better understanding of the economic benefits of preparing for drought before drought strikes is beneficial.

As for the objectives of the UNCCD, Tsegai explains that they are to seek to improve land productivity, to restore (or preserve) land, to establish more efficient water usage and improve the living conditions of those populations affected by drought and desertification.

According to Tsegai, some of the strategies that can be adopted to build drought resilience include:

First: a paradigm shift on the way we deal with drought. We will need to change the way we think about drought.

“Drought is not any longer a one time off event or even a ‘crisis’. It is going to be more frequent, severe and longer duration. It is a constant ‘risk’, he tells IPS.

“Thus, we need to move away from being reactive to proactive; from crisis management approach to risk management; from a piecemeal approach to a more coordinated/integrated approach. Treating drought as a crisis means dealing with the symptoms of drought and not the root causes,” Tsegai explains.

“In short, developing national drought based on the principles of risk reduction is the way forward.”

Second: Strengthening Drought Monitoring and early warning systems (both for drought and the impacts);

Third: Assessing vulnerability of drought in the country (Drought risk profiling on whom is likely to be affected, why? Which region and what will be the impacts?);

Fourth: Carrying out practical drought risk mitigation measures including the development of sustainable irrigation schemes for crops and livestock, monitoring and measuring water supply and uses, boasting the recycling and reuse of water and waste-water, exploring the potential of growing more drought tolerant crops and expanding crop insurance.


The Five Big Options

Asked what is expected outcome of the African Drought Conference, Tsegai answers:

  1.  To come up with a Common Strategy document at Africa level, a strategy that strengthens African drought preparedness that can be implemented and further shared at country level.
  1. To lead to the development of integrated national drought policies aimed at building more drought resilient societies based on the sustainable use and management of natural resources (land / soil, forest, biodiversity, water, energy, etc.).
  1. Countries are expected to come up with binding Drought Protocol- to adopt Windhoek Declaration for African countries-, which would be presented at the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment next year and expected to be endorsed at the African Union summit.
  1. With this in mind, the outcomes of the conference will be brought to the attention of the African Union for the collective African heads of states and governments’ endorsements, and
  1. It is further expected that the conference will strengthen partnerships and cooperation (South-South) to support the development of new and the improvement of existing national policies and strategies on drought management.


Droughts, The “Costliest” Disasters

It has been estimated that droughts are the world’s costliest natural disasters and affect more people than any other form of natural disaster, Tsegai tells IPS.

Race against time in drought-ravaged Southern Africa to ensure 23 million people receive farming support | Photo: FAO

Race against time in drought-ravaged Southern Africa to ensure 23 million people receive farming support | Photo: FAO

“Droughts are considered to be the most far-reaching of all natural disasters, causing short and long-term economic and ecological losses as well as significant spiralling secondary and tertiary impacts.”

To reduce societal vulnerability to droughts, a paradigm shift of drought management approaches is required to overcome the prevailing structures of reactive, post-hazard management and move towards proactive, risk based approaches of disaster management, he stresses.

“Risk based drought management is, however, multifaceted and requires the involvement of a variety of stakeholders, and, from a drought management policy perspective, capacities in diverse ministries and national institutions are needed.”

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Ethiopian Food Aid Jammed Up in Djibouti Port Mon, 15 Aug 2016 22:11:20 +0000 James Jeffrey Workers in Djibouti Port offloading wheat from a docked ship. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Workers in Djibouti Port offloading wheat from a docked ship. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By James Jeffrey
DJIBOUTI CITY, Aug 15 2016 (IPS)

Bags of wheat speed down multiple conveyor belts to be heaved onto trucks lined up during the middle of a blisteringly hot afternoon beside the busy docks of Djibouti Port.

Once loaded, the trucks set off westward toward Ethiopia carrying food aid to help with its worst drought for decades.“The bottleneck is not because of the port but the inland transportation—there aren’t enough trucks for the aid, the fertilizer and the usual commercial cargo.” -- Aboubaker Omar, Chairman and CEO of Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority

With crop failures ranging from 50 to 90 percent in parts of the country, Ethiopia, sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest wheat consumer, was forced to seek international tenders and drastically increase wheat purchases to tackle food shortages effecting at least 10 million people.

This resulted in extra ships coming to the already busy port city of Djibouti, and despite the hive of activity and efforts of multitudes of workers, the ships aren’t being unloaded fast enough. The result: a bottleneck with ships stuck out in the bay unable to berth to unload.

“We received ships carrying aid cargo and carrying fertilizer at the same time, and deciding which to give priority to was a challenge,” says Aboubaker Omar, chairman and CEO of Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority (DPFZA). “If you give priority to food aid, which is understandable, then you are going to face a problem with the next crop if you don’t get fertilizer to farmers on time.”

Since mid-June until this month, Ethiopian farmers have been planting crops for the main cropping season that begins in September. At the same time, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization has been working with the Ethiopian government to help farmers sow their fields and prevent drought-hit areas of the country from falling deeper into hunger and food insecurity.

Spring rains that arrived earlier this year, coupled with ongoing summer rains, should increase the chances of more successful harvests, but that doesn’t reduce the need for food aid now—and into the future, at least for the short term.

“The production cycle is long,” says FAO’s Ethiopia country representative Amadou Allahoury. “The current seeds planted in June and July will only produce in September and October, so therefore the food shortage remains high despite the rain.”

Port workers, including Agaby (right), make the most of what shade is available between trucks being filled with food aid destined to assist with Ethiopia’s ongoing drought. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Port workers, including Agaby (right), make the most of what shade is available between trucks being filled with food aid destined to assist with Ethiopia’s ongoing drought. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

As of the middle of July, 12 ships remained at anchorage outside Djibouti Port waiting to unload about 476,750 metric tonnes of wheat—down from 16 ships similarly loaded at the end of June—according to information on the port’s website. At the same time, four ships had managed to dock carrying about 83,000 metric tonnes of wheat, barley and sorghum.

“The bottleneck is not because of the port but the inland transportation—there aren’t enough trucks for the aid, the fertilizer and the usual commercial cargo,” Aboubaker says.

It’s estimated that 1,500 trucks a day leave Djibouti for Ethiopia and that there will be 8,000 a day by 2020 as Ethiopia tries to address the shortage.

But so many additional trucks—an inefficient and environmentally damaging means of transport—might not be needed, Aboubaker says, if customs procedures could be sped up on the Ethiopian side so it doesn’t take current trucks 10 days to complete a 48-hour journey from Djibouti to Addis Ababa to make deliveries.

“There is too much bureaucracy,” Aboubaker says. “We are building and making efficient roads and railways: we are building bridges but there is what you call invisible barriers—this documentation. The Ethiopian government relies too much on customs revenue and so doesn’t want to risk interfering with procedures.”

Ethiopians are not famed for their alacrity when it comes to paperwork and related bureaucratic processes. Drought relief operations have been delayed by regular government assessments of who the neediest are, according to some aid agencies working in Ethiopia.

And even once ships have berthed, there still remains the challenge of unloading them, a process that can take up to 40 days, according to aid agencies assisting with Ethiopia’s drought.

“I honestly don’t know how they do it,” port official Dawit Gebre-ab says of workers toiling away in temperatures around 38 degrees Celsius that with humidity of 52 percent feel more like 43 degrees. “But the ports have to continue.”

The port’s 24-hour system of three eight-hour shifts mitigates some of the travails for those working outside, beyond the salvation of air conditioning—though not entirely.

Scene from Djibouti Port. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Scene from Djibouti Port. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

“We feel pain everywhere, for sure,” Agaby says during the hottest afternoon shift, a fluorescent vest tied around his forehead as a sweat rag, standing out of the sun between those trucks being filled with bags of wheat from conveyor belts. “It is a struggle.”

To help get food aid away to where it is needed and relieve pressure on the port, a new 756 km railway running between Djibouti and Ethiopia was brought into service early in November 2015—it still isn’t actually commissioned—with a daily train that can carry about 2,000 tonnes, Aboubaker says. Capacity will increase further once the railway is fully commissioned this September and becomes electrified, allowing five trains to run carrying about 3,500 tonnes each.

Djibouti also has three new ports scheduled to open in the second half of the year—allowing more ships to dock—while the one at Tadjoura will have another railway line going westward to Bahir Dar in Ethiopia. This, Aboubaker explains, should connect with the railway line currently under construction in Ethiopia running south to north to connect the cities of Awash and Mekele, further improving transport and distribution options in Ethiopia.

“Once the trains are running in September we hope to clear the backlog of vessels within three months,” Aboubaker says.

The jam at the port has highlighted for Ethiopia—not that it needs reminding—its dependency on Djibouti. Already about 90 percent of Ethiopia’s trade goes through Djibouti. In 2005 this amounted to two million tonnes and now stands at 11 million tonnes. During the next three years it is set to increase to 15 million tonnes.

Hence Ethiopia has long been looking to diversify its options, strengthening bilateral relations with Somaliland through various Memorandum Of Understandings (MOU) during the past couple of years.

The most recent of these stipulated about 30 percent of Ethiopia’s imports shifting to Berbera Port, which this May saw Dubai-based DP World awarded the concession to manage and expand the underused and underdeveloped port for 30 years, a project valued at about $442 million and which could transform Berbera into another major Horn of Africa trade hub.

But such is Ethiopia’s growth—both in terms of economy and population; its current population of around 100 million is set to reach 130 million by 2025, according to the United Nations—that some say it’s going to need all the ports it can get.

“Ethiopia’s rate of development means Djibouti can’t satisfy demand, and even if Berbera is used, Ethiopia will also need [ports in] Mogadishu and Kismayo in the long run, and Port Sudan,” says Ali Toubeh, a Djiboutian entrepreneur whose container company is based in Djibouti’s free trade zone.

Meanwhile as night descends on Djibouti City, arc lights dotted across the port are turned on, continuing to blaze away as offloading continues and throughout the night loaded Ethiopian trucks set out into the hot darkness.

“El Niño will impact families for a long period as a number of them lost productive assets or jobs,” Amadou says. “They will need time and assistance to recover.”

This story is part of special IPS coverage of World Humanitarian Day on August 19.

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