Inter Press ServiceAid – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 19 Jun 2018 18:02:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 2.5 Million Migrants Smuggled Worldwide, Many Via Social Mediahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/2-5-million-migrants-smuggled-worldwide-many-via-social-media/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2-5-million-migrants-smuggled-worldwide-many-via-social-media http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/2-5-million-migrants-smuggled-worldwide-many-via-social-media/#respond Tue, 19 Jun 2018 15:43:09 +0000 Emily Thampoe and Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156291 At least 2.5 million migrants were smuggled worldwide in 2016, generating an income for smugglers which ranged between $5.5 billion and $7.0 billion, according to a newly published report “2018 Global Study On Smuggling Of Migrants” by the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Coincidentally, the release of the report followedthe arrival in […]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The role of social media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jun 18 2018 (IPS)

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

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

Roberto Savio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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

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

By Maged Srour
ROME, Jun 15 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But why are such conflicts so neglected?

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

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

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

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

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

Media Turns A Blind Eye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Less Money, More Problems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this list should serve as a reminder to all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Charlton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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Project Population: Addressing Asia’s Ageing Societieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/project-population-addressing-asias-ageing-societies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=project-population-addressing-asias-ageing-societies http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/project-population-addressing-asias-ageing-societies/#respond Tue, 12 Jun 2018 15:08:42 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156178 While populations have seen and undergone changes since the beginning of time, one trend in particular is unfolding across the world: less children, older people. In an effort to tackle the complex issue in Asia, government officials are convening to help create a sustainable society where no one is left behind. In Mongolia’s capital of […]

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Credit: Damakant Jayshi/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 12 2018 (IPS)

While populations have seen and undergone changes since the beginning of time, one trend in particular is unfolding across the world: less children, older people. In an effort to tackle the complex issue in Asia, government officials are convening to help create a sustainable society where no one is left behind.

In Mongolia’s capital of Ulaanbaatar, 40 Members of Parliament (MPs) are gathering to discuss sound policy approaches to population issues such as ageing and fertility transition which threaten the future of many Asian nations.

“This is an essential step to mitigating the impact of ageing on social systems and structures to achieve SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals),” the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Mongolia’s Director Naomi Kitahara told IPS.

By 2030, Asia could be home to over 60 percent of the total population aged 65 years or older worldwide, consulting group Deloitte calculated.

According to the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), East and Northeast Asian countries have the largest such population, accounting for 56 percent of all older persons in the Asia-Pacific region and 32 percent in the world.

Not only is the scale of population ageing in Asia unprecedented, but so is its speed.

In France, the percentage of older people grew from 7 percent to 20 percent in approximately 150 years. However, the same demographic shift was seen in Japan within just 40 years.

Kitahara particularly pointed to Japan’s case as a prime example of population issues and their repercussions.

According to the United Nations, Japan’s fertility rates were approximately 2.75 children per woman in the 1950s, well above the total fertility rate of 2.1 which has been determined to help sustain stable populations.

Today, Japan’s birth rate is 1.44 children per woman.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research found that if such trends continue, Japan’s population is expected to decrease from 126 million today to 88 million in 2065 and 51 million by 2115.

With fewer children and young adults, a vicious cycle is set in motion: a smaller labor force and spending decreases which weaken the economy and discourage families from having children, which then weakens the economy further.

At the same time, as people have a higher life expectancy, the elderly now make up 27 percent of Japan’s population in comparison to 15 percent in the United States.

This means less revenues and higher expenditures for the government, and when the number of older persons grows faster than the working-age population, there are less funds for pensions and social security, thus creating an even weaker economy.

As many Asian countries are expected to follow in Japan’s footsteps, the parliamentarian gathering seems come at a critical juncture.

“This meeting gives countries the opportunity to learn from Japan’s current challenges, as well as successes…[it] provides an opportunity for other countries to share their experience,” Kitahara said.

And it is no coincidence that the meeting is taking place in Mongolia.

Mongolia, unlike many other Asian nations, has had a stable fertility rate of 3.1 and a slowly ageing population of 6 percent. This is in large part due to its population policies which have allowed for not only population growth, but also economic growth.

For instance, the recently approved Youth Development Law supports young Mongolians’ needs in relation to the economy, employment, health, and education including through the Youth Development Fund which provides access to development fund opportunities.

The new policy has also led to the establishment of youth development centers across the country which focus on skills development, helping young people grow into resilient and self-sufficient adults.

The East Asian nation is among the few countries in the region to have a law designated specifically for young people.

However, more must be done in Mongolia, Kitahara noted.

“To achieve the SDGs by 2030 Mongolia must give more attention to social and demographic issues, as well as giving and spending budgets for social and environmental aspects of sustainable development,” she told IPS.

“For instance, there is not sufficient funding to meet the need for modern contraceptives, and this has led to increased unmet need for family planning and reduced contraceptive prevalence,” Kitahara added.

Despite having been one of nine countries in the world that achieved the Millennium Development Goal’s (MDG) maternal mortality reduction target, Mongolia’s maternal mortality rate doubled in 2016 largely due to state budget cuts and a lack of access to contraception.

The role of parliamentarians is therefore critical in not only making laws, but also providing state budgets and fiscal management, issues that are set to be discussed during the meeting in Ulaanbaatar.

Kitahara also emphasized the need to employ a human rights lens in population policies and programs, giving individuals and couples to choose when and how many children they wish to have.

In an effort to address its ageing population and a shrinking labor force, China is now considering abandoning its two-child policy which put a cap on a family’s size.

The controversial policy contributed to its uneven demographics as the East Asian nation predicts that approximately a quarter of the population will be over the age of 60 by 2030.

It has also led to a gender imbalance with over 30 million more men than women.

Kitahara highlighted the need to provide equitable access to quality family planning information and services, in line with the SDGs.

“The ability to have children by choice and not by chance transforms communities, lives and countries…by ensuring that the rights of women and girls are respected, and they have access to reproductive health information and services, including contraception and family planning,” she concluded.

Organized by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA), the “Strengthening the Capacity of Parliamentarians for the Achievement of the SDGs: Ageing, Fertility and Youth Empowerment” meeting is also supported by UNFPA and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

Among the countries participating in the 12-13 June meeting is Bhutan, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Lao, Japan, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jacqueline Mogeni

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

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

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

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

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

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

Siddharth Chatterjee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Realizing bamboo’s disaster reconstruction value

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

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

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

An efficient carbon sink

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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World Wakes up to Climate Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/world-wakes-climate-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-wakes-climate-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/world-wakes-climate-migration/#respond Mon, 11 Jun 2018 10:08:28 +0000 Harjeet Singh http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156141 Harjeet Singh is Global Lead on Climate Change at ActionAid International and is based in New Delhi*

 

Millions of people worldwide are being displaced by natural disasters triggered partially by climate change, and the international community is finally taking steps to mitigate the suffering

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Climate migration: Natural disasters forced over 18 million people out of their homes in 135 countries just last year

Sahara Begum of Nadagari village in Jamalpur district lost her home and all her assets to the 2017 floods in Bangladesh. Thousands like her now eke out a living in Dhaka and other cities. Credit: Md Sariful Islam / ActionAid

By Harjeet Singh
NEW DELHI, Jun 11 2018 (IPS)

This year is set to be an important milestone in the arduous journey of climate migrants. The global community is now beginning to fathom the challenges of people displaced by events such as floods, storms and sea level rise that are partly fuelled by climate change.

Natural disasters forced over 18 million people out of their homes in 135 countries just last year, according to a new global report released by Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). It highlights that weather-related hazards triggered the vast majority of the displacement, with floods and storms accounting for more than 80% of the incidents. China, the Philippines, Cuba and the US were the worst affected.

“Climate change is becoming a critical driver of displacement risk across the world, in combination with rapid and badly managed urbanisation, and increasing levels of inequality and persistent poverty,” Bina Desai, Head of Policy and Research at IDMC told indiaclimatedialogue.net.

The study further cites that hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria broke several records in the Atlantic and Caribbean, and a series of storms in South and East Asia and Pacific displaced large numbers of people throughout the year.

Highest disaster displacement risk

In South Asia alone, heavy monsoon floods and tropical cyclones have displaced 2.8 million, and in relation to its population size, the region has the highest disaster displacement risk globally. Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are among the 10 countries in the world with highest levels of displacement risk related to sudden-onset events.

In addition, displacement linked to slow-onset events such as sea level rise, desertification and salinisation are displacing millions more, particularly in the Sub-Saharan Africa and Pacific regions.

“No country is immune to climate change impacts anymore,” Sanjay Vashist, Director, Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA), told indiaclimatedialogue.net. “South Asia has 22% of the world’s population but it houses 60% of the poor with the least capacity to confront increasing climate impacts.”

Millions of people in the Sundarbans — a unique mangrove ecosystem shared by Bangladesh and India — are already facing the brunt of rising sea and high intensity storms more frequently. These low-lying islands away from the global attention has already seen thousands being displaced, many of them permanently to inland cities, to eke out a living. See: Sinking Sundarbans islands underline climate crisis

Migration gets centre stage

It was the UN climate change summit in the Mexican city of Cancún in 2010 that for the first time recognised the relationship between climate change and different forms of forced human mobility.

It called on governments to “commit to measures to enhance understanding, coordination and cooperation with regard to climate change induced displacement, migration and planned relocation.” Decisions at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) summits advanced the agenda in subsequent years. A high-level political boost came at the Paris summit in 2015.

The Paris Agreement not only acknowledged the rights of migrants but also gave a mandate to establish a Task Force on Displacement to provide recommendations to the Conference of Parties (COP), the apex body of the UNFCCC.

A year later, 193 nations at the UN General Assembly adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, recognising the need for a comprehensive approach to issues related to migration and refugees and enhanced global cooperation.

It decided to start the process in April 2017 to develop a “Global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.” Since then, several consultations have been organised to gather inputs from various regions and stakeholders.

The on-going negotiations will be concluded this July and the General Assembly will then hold an intergovernmental conference on international migration in 2018 in Morocco to adopt the global compact.

Along the same lines, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD) jointly hosted a stakeholder meeting in May on behalf of the UNFCCC Task Force on Displacement.

More than 60 experts from governments, regional organisations, civil society and international organisations contributed in drafting recommendations to avert, minimise and address displacement in the context of climate change.

After the discussion in its forthcoming September meeting, the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage will present the recommendations for adoption at the Katowice Climate Change Conference (COP 24) in December 2018.

“As climate change is already contributing to forced migration and displacement now and will continue to do so in the future, the recommendations of the Task Force can help develop a more prospective approach to managing displacement risk, including more equitable financing and risk reduction,” Desai told indiaclimatedialogue.net.

Migration as adaptation

There is an on-going discussion to consider migration as an adaptation strategy and not just a desperate measure taken by people badly hit by climate impacts. The answer lies in analysing whether the recourse taken by climate victims offers them better quality of life or an unsafe situation devoid of identity and inadequate access to basic services like healthcare, shelter, sanitation and security.

“If we invest in climate action today, we reduce the risks of displacement due to climate change for future generations,” said Dina Ionesco, IOM Head of Migration, Environment and Climate Change division. “It will mean reducing losses and damages that occur when migration is a tragedy and a last resort.”

But, Ionesco added, “We also have to think migration policy and practice with innovative eyes, so as to see how safe and orderly migration can provide solutions and opportunities for people who are affected by climate change to move in a dignified manner.”

All eyes are now on the December climate summit in Poland, with a few rounds of talks in between, when both the UN processes involving almost 200 countries conclude, collectively aiming to protect the safety, dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants.

“Migration remains the only option left for people who permanently lose home and income to climate change impacts,” said Vashist. “The issue requires serious attention from our governments and the global community alike.”

*The views expressed by the author are personal.

The post World Wakes up to Climate Migration appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Harjeet Singh is Global Lead on Climate Change at ActionAid International and is based in New Delhi*

 

Millions of people worldwide are being displaced by natural disasters triggered partially by climate change, and the international community is finally taking steps to mitigate the suffering

The post World Wakes up to Climate Migration appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Great Green Wall Brings Hope, Greener Pastures to Africa’s Sahelhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/great-green-wall-brings-hope-greener-pastures-africas-sahel/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=great-green-wall-brings-hope-greener-pastures-africas-sahel http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/great-green-wall-brings-hope-greener-pastures-africas-sahel/#respond Mon, 11 Jun 2018 00:01:15 +0000 Issa Sikiti da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156134 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17.

The post Great Green Wall Brings Hope, Greener Pastures to Africa’s Sahel appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Great Green Wall Brings Hope, Greener Pastures to Africa’s Sahel - By 2030 the ambition is to restore 100 million hectares of currently degraded land and sequester 250 million tons of carbon. Credit: Greatgreenwall.org

By 2030 the ambition is to restore 100 million hectares of currently degraded land and sequester 250 million tons of carbon. Credit: Greatgreenwall.org

By Issa Sikiti da Silva
DAKAR, Senegal, Jun 11 2018 (IPS)

Hope, smiles and new vitality seem to be returning slowly but surely in various parts of the Sahel region, where the mighty Sahara Desert has all but ‘eaten’ and degraded huge parts of landscapes, destroying livelihoods and subjecting many communities to extreme poverty.

The unexpected relief has come from the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI), an eight-billion-dollar project launched by the African Union (AU) with the blessing of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and the backing of organizations such as the World Bank, the European Union and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The Sahara, an area of 3.5 million square miles, is the largest ‘hot’ desert in the world and home to some 70 species of mammals, 90 species of resident birds and 100 species of reptiles, according to DesertUSA.

 

Restoring landscapes

The GGW aims to restore Africa’s degraded landscapes and transform millions of lives in one of the world’s poorest regions. This will be done by, among others, planting a wall of trees in more than 20 countries – westward from Gambia to eastward in Djibouti – over 7,600 km long and 15 km wide across the continent.

The countries include Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Senegal. There is also Algeria, Egypt, Gambia, Eritrea, Somalia, Cameroon, Ghana, Togo and Benin.

 

A girl learns about the project through a virtual reality headset. Credit: Greatgreenwall.org

A girl learns about the project through a virtual reality headset. Credit: Greatgreenwall.org

 

Popularity

Elvis Paul Nfor Tangem, AU’s GGWSSI coordinator, told IPS that the project was doing well, gaining popularity and generating many other ideas as the implementation gains momentum.

Tangem also said that the AU had begun working with the Secretariat of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Namibian government for the extension of the GGWSSI concept to the dry lands of the Southern Africa region.

Namibia, which borders South Africa, is located between the Namib and Kalahari deserts. Namib, from which the country draws its name, is believed to be the world’s oldest desert.

 

Largest project ever

If the GGW is indeed extended to Southern Africa, it will take the number of countries drawn to the project to over 20, making it one of the world’s largest projects ever.

Fundraising for beneficiaries countries is being done through bilateral negotiations, as well as through national investments, the AU said.

International partners including the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), Sahara and Sahel Observatory (SSO), among others, are also playing a critical role to ensure that the project is being successfully implemented, and upon its completion by 2030 will become the world’s largest living structure and a new Wonder of the World.

 

The icon of GGW shows the path of the Great Green Wall. Credit: Greatgreenwall.org

The icon of GGW shows the path of the Great Green Wall. Credit: Greatgreenwall.org

 

Food security

The GGW is set to create thousands of jobs for those who live along its path and boost food security and resilience to climate change in the Sahel, one of the driest parts of the world, where the FAO said an estimated 29.2 million people are food insecure.

The project founders said that by 2030 the ambition is to restore 100 million hectares of currently degraded land and sequester 250 million tons of carbon.

Asked if the project is being implementing one country after the other, Elvis replied: “The implementation of the initiative is first and famous country-based, meaning all the countries are undertaking implementation at their levels.

“However, the common factor among all the countries is the fact that their activities are based on the Harmonized Regional Strategy and their National Action Plans (NAP). We are supporting the production of the NAP in Cameroon and Ghana and also working on the SADC region.”

 

Returning home?

In Senegal, a total of 75 direct jobs and 1,800 indirect jobs, including in the nurseries sector and multipurpose gardens, have already been created through the GGW in the last six years, according to official statistics.

Also in Senegal, where desertification has slashed 34% of its area, the GGW has since ‘recovered’ just over 40,000 hectares out of the 817,500 hectares planned for the project. This is good news for people like Ibrahima Ba and his family who left their homeland to move to Dakar in the quest of greener pastures.

Now, he is contemplating a return home. “I’m planning to go back towards the end of the year to rebuild my shattered life. The Sahara hasn’t done anybody any favor by taking away our livelihood,” Ba, a livestock farmer Peul from northern Senegal, told IPS.

An estimated 300,000 people live in the three provinces crossed by the GGW in Senegal.

 

Participatory approach

However, Marine Gauthier, an environmental expert for the Rights and Resources’ Initiative, (RRI) said a participatory approach was needed if the project was to be implemented successfully.

“In a conflictual region, where people depend on the land for their survival and where there are numerous transhumance activities from herders peoples (Peuls) potentially impacted by the project, a careful participatory approach is needed,” Gauthier said.

“Conflicts have already arisen a couple of years ago with Peuls (herders practicing transhumance, whose travels were to be restrained by the project). Just like any other environmental protection project, its capacity to engage with local communities, to make them first beneficiaries of the project, is the key to its success on the long term.

“Participatory mapping is a very successful tool that has been used within other projects and that could be of great help in defining and establishing the Great Green Wall,” Gauthier said.

Furthermore, Gauthier said empowering communities would be very interesting at the scale of the Great Green Wall. “It would take a lot of efforts, consultations, financial and human resources. It is however the only way to ensure that this project, which people are talking about for more than 10 years now, reaches its goal.

“Because when the communities are empowered and when their rights on the land are secured, it benefits directly to the environment and to preserving this land from more damage.”

The post Great Green Wall Brings Hope, Greener Pastures to Africa’s Sahel appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

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

The post Great Green Wall Brings Hope, Greener Pastures to Africa’s Sahel appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Experts Urge Lawmakers to Focus on Food-Migration Nexushttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/experts-urge-lawmakers-focus-food-migration-nexus/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=experts-urge-lawmakers-focus-food-migration-nexus http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/experts-urge-lawmakers-focus-food-migration-nexus/#respond Fri, 08 Jun 2018 12:31:36 +0000 Daan Bauwens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156114 Lawmakers at the highest levels urgently need a “revolution in thinking” to tackle the twin problem of sustainable food production and migration. Starting with an inaugural event in Brussels, then travelling on to New York and Milan, an international team of experts led by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) is urging far-reaching […]

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Pulses are good for nutrition and income, particularly for women farmers who look after household food security, like those shown here at a village outside Lusaka, Zambia. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Pulses are good for nutrition and income, particularly for women farmers who look after household food security, like those shown here at a village outside Lusaka, Zambia. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Daan Bauwens
BRUSSELS, Jun 8 2018 (IPS)

Lawmakers at the highest levels urgently need a “revolution in thinking” to tackle the twin problem of sustainable food production and migration. Starting with an inaugural event in Brussels, then travelling on to New York and Milan, an international team of experts led by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) is urging far-reaching reforms in agricultural and migration policy on an international scale.

“We should be scared about the situation that is in front of us, but we should also be fascinated by the solution,” Paolo Barilla, BCFN Vice Chairman, said at the start of the first International Forum on Food and Nutrition which took place June 6 in Brussels."As we see it right now, there is no strategy at all at governmental levels in the EU to deal with migration, let alone how food policy might help.” --Lucio Caracciolo

Barilla and several experts speaking at the event pointed out the many problems lying ahead involving world-wide sustainable food production.

“One third of all food worldwide is thrown away, nearly one billion people go to sleep hungry every night and in the meantime, 650 million are obese. We urgently need new comprehensive, multi-stakeholder food systems to fix this situation,” said Andrea Renda, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies, organizer of the event together with BCFN and the United Nations Sustainable Solutions Network (UN SDSN).

“In thirty years we will need to feed nine billion people. But at the same time, because of climate change the arable land is diminishing. The Sahara desert has increased ten percent in size the last decade and the South of Italy and Spain are drying up. How will we feed everyone?” asked Lucio Caracciolo, geostrategist and President of research company MacroGeo.

The experts called on all states that are signatory to the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda to urgently establish an Intergovernmental Panel on Food and Nutrition, modeled after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change who succesfully achieved international consensus on how to tackle climate change.

Moreover, they called upon the EU to change the focus of its agricultural policies from simply increasing production to focusing on new systems that assure healthy, nutritious, affordable diets for everyone. Instead of a “Common Agricultural Policy,” the EU should shift to a “Agri-Food Policy.”

“In the current EU Common Agricultural Policy, two-thirds of the subsidies have nothing to do with sustainable development,” Andrea Renda tells IPS, “and one third is spent on innovation in agriculture, in a broader, more holistic approach. This must at least be reversed.”

Throughout the event, hunger and food insecurity were repeatedly cited as the long-term drivers of migration across the Mediterranean. For the occasion of the event, MacroGeo launched a 109-page report on the nexus between migration across the Mediterranean and food security in Africa.

The authors state that there is a particularly strong link between migration, food and conflicts. “Refugee outflows per 1000 population increase by 0.4 percent for each additional year of conflict and by 1.9 percent for each percentage increase of food insecurity,” the MacroGeo authors write, referring to recent research by the World Food Program.

“That might not seem a lot but in a country of fifty million that amounts to one million refugees per year,” said Valerie Guarnieri, assistant executive director of the World Food Program who repeated the statistics in front of the audience of 600 attendees on Wednesday.

“The connection between migration and food is heavily neglected in policy, this is a way to push it into the agenda,” Lucio Caracciolo told IPS, “because as we see it right now, there is no strategy at all at governmental levels in the EU to deal with migration, let alone how food policy might help.”

The contentious matter of dumping of European surplus produce – often named as one of the causes of hunger, food insecurity and migration – in Africa was accordingly dealt with in a talk with EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan, not coincidentally just ahead of long-awaited negotiations on the reform of the EU’s agricultural policy. The Commissioner pledged that the new Common Agriculture Policy 2021-2027 program will reduce spending on production of commodities often dumped in the developing world. At the same time, he said Europe was ending trade barriers on imports of food from the developing world.

As part of its ambitious list of policy recommendations, BCFN also calls for more awareness of the illegal exploitation of migrants in EU agriculture. According to the experts, specific EU programmes should provide funding for the fight against unethical practices. And spreading a message which does not go well with the current Italian government, MacroGeo’s Lucio Caraciolo called for a “normalisation of the presence of migrant labour. European agriculture in the South cannot survive without their help. So it is up to us to assure that their rights are respected,” he told IPS.

In its report, MacroGeo proposes a circular and seasonal migration model, in which temporary workers are contacted directly from their country of origin on a yearly basis and for determined periods. The workers are granted permits and ensured that they can return to their home country. “Intended results include disincentivizing unregulated economic migration, ensuring employees are granted work conditions as per the law, and the possibility to return to the same farms, enhancing human resources effectiveness,” the report says.

Bob Geldof, musician, activist and organizer of 1984’s Live Aid. closed the event with an at times bitter speech broadening the discussion. “We had a 1200 percent increase in consumption in the last eighty years and we’re talking about sustainability?” he asked. “Sustainability is simply impossible with this irrational economic logic, which boils down to ‘more for ourselves all the time.’”

In September, the International Forum will travel to New York to coincide with the United Nations General Assembly. In November, it will hold a third and final event in Milan.

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Human Rights Must Be on the Table During U.S.-North Korea Talkshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/human-rights-must-table-u-s-north-korea-talks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=human-rights-must-table-u-s-north-korea-talks http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/human-rights-must-table-u-s-north-korea-talks/#comments Fri, 08 Jun 2018 06:54:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156112 Human rights issues must be included in next week’s United States-North Korea summit in order to create a “sustainable agreement”, said a UN expert. In an effort towards denuclearization, U.S. President Trump is set to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore. In anticipation of the summit, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights […]

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Donald J. Trump, President of the United States of America, addresses the Assembly’s annual general debate. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 8 2018 (IPS)

Human rights issues must be included in next week’s United States-North Korea summit in order to create a “sustainable agreement”, said a UN expert.

In an effort towards denuclearization, U.S. President Trump is set to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

In anticipation of the summit, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Tomás Ojea Quintana called for human rights issues to be a topic of discussion.

“At some point, whether [in] the next summit or other summits to come or meetings, it is very important that human rights are raised,” Quintana said.

“I am not of the opinion that a human rights dialogue will undermine the opening and the talks on denuclearization at all,” he added.

Instead, DPRK’s participation in a discussion on human rights will give them “credibility” and “show that they want to become a normal state.”

While they have signed and ratified several human rights treaties, North Korea remains one of the most repressive, authoritarian states in the world

A 2014 UN report found systematic, gross human rights violations committed by the government including forced labor, enslavement, torture, and imprisonment.

It is estimated that up to 120,000 people are detained in political prison camps in the East Asian nation, often referred to as the “world’s biggest open prison.”

“My call is for an amnesty, a general amnesty that includes these prisoners, and it is a concrete call,” Quintana said.

The UN Commission of Inquiry also found the “inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”

Approximately two in five North Koreans are undernourished and more than 70 percent of the population rely on food aid.

Most North Koreans also lack access to basic services such as healthcare or sanitation.

Diarrhea and pneumonia are the two main causes of death for children under five, the report said.

It wouldn’t be the first time that President Trump has taken a strong stance on North Korea.

“No one has shown more contempt for other nations and for the wellbeing of their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea,” Trump said during his first speech to the General Assembly in 2017.

“It is time for all nations to work together to isolate the Kim regime until it ceases its hostile behavior,” he added.

In an open letter, more than 300 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from around the world have also called on North Korea to reform its regime and hope the upcoming meeting will urge human rights improvements as part of any agreement.

“North Korea’s increased dialogue with other countries is a positive step, but before the world gets too excited they should remember that Kim Jong Un still presides over perhaps the most repressive system in the world,” said Human Rights Watch’s Asia Director Brad Adams.

“As the UN Security Council has recognized, human rights abuses in North Korea and threats to international peace and security are intrinsically connected, so any security discussion needs to include human rights,” he continued.

Human Rights Watch is among the human rights organizations that signed the letter.

Among the letter’s calls to actions, organizations urged Kim Jong Un to act on UN human rights recommendations, increase engagement with the international human rights system, end abuses in detention and prisons, and to accept international humanitarian aid for needy communities.

“If [Kim Jong Un] really wants to end North Korea’s international isolation, he should take strong and quick action to show the North Korean people and the world that he is committed to ending decades of rights abuses,” Adams said.

Quintana echoed similar sentiments, noting that human rights issues were sidelined over two decades ago when the U.S. and the DPRK signed an agreement to freeze Pyongyang’s nuclear programme and again during recent six-party talks.

“Those processes, although they were well-intentioned, were not successful,” he said.

“For this new process to be successful, my humble opinion as a human rights rapporteur is that the human rights dialogue should be included because it is part of the discussion. Human rights and security and peace are interlinked, definitely, and this is the situation where we can prove that,” Quintana continued.

Otherwise, any denuclearization agreement would send the “wrong message” and prevent the two parties from building a “sustainable agreement.”

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Afghan Electorate: Basic Needs Must be met Before Political Progress can be Ensuredhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/afghan-electorate-basic-needs-must-met-political-progress-can-ensured/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=afghan-electorate-basic-needs-must-met-political-progress-can-ensured http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/afghan-electorate-basic-needs-must-met-political-progress-can-ensured/#respond Thu, 07 Jun 2018 05:56:55 +0000 Will Carter http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156097 Will Carter is Head of Programme, Norwegian Refugee Council, Afghanistan

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Despite the poor situation regarding food security and displacement, the upcoming elections in Afghanistan provide the populace with a sense of hope.

A family struggles through a dusty environment in Afghanistan. Credit: Fraidoon Poya / UNAMA

By Will Carter
KABUL, Afghanistan, Jun 7 2018 (IPS)

After four decades of perpetual conflict, Afghanistan rolls into two consecutive election years – parliamentary this year, presidential the next. But the country and its people are going through even tougher times than usual with continued displacement and a looming hunger crisis.

Since the last elections in 2014, hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees and migrants have been deported or are returning, not out of hopefulness for a country reborn, but of desperation in a hostile and unwelcoming climate abroad. Increasing numbers of refugees are displaced again after they return.

In addition, over a million Afghans have fled their homes within the country due to worsening armed conflict creating record levels of internal displacement. Left with no opportunities for a safe life, many deportees attempt to make their journeys abroad again and so the vicious circle continues.

Now the full effects of a drought coinciding with the political deadlock of elections are threatening an already exhausted population. Hunger is now hitting the country hard. The drought has already affected two out of three provinces in Afghanistan, with displaced families in the North and West regions particularly at risk.

Food insecurity levels have always been high in this country whose main agricultural output is opium, and where food production struggles to break even. But successive ‘prolonged dry spells’ over the past years are now forcing communities to their knees – thousands of families selling off their assets in ‘distress sales’ are now camped in urban centres.

In a survey released by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in January, one in two displaced Afghans said they could not adequately feed their families and were often skipping meals. This is an increase from one in three in 2012.

In hard-to-reach Badghis province in the northwest of the country, the most food insecure province in the country, over half of the recently displaced had no food stocks, and the rest had less food than to last them for a full week. 86 per cent of these displaced households had below borderline food consumption scores, with three quarters borrowing food, two thirds going into mounting debts, and a third eating smaller portions and fewer meals. One in four had restricted their own eating so that small children could eat. Over two million people risk becoming food insecure in the coming months.

Taking a step back, the landlocked country seems like a series of potent man-made and natural disasters stacked atop one another, altogether creating one of the most complex, protracted, largest emergencies on earth.

In spite of this, political and donor commitments to the country are now wavering, if not withering. Compared to five years ago, perhaps the peak of the military stabilisation period, there are now five times more internally displaced Afghans, but only half the humanitarian budgets.

NRC’s own emergency response mechanism in Afghanistan has been halved due to funding shortfalls earlier this year, specifically reducing our capacities in the North and West regions of the country.

Given the current desperate situation, it seems Afghans do not have much choice in the matter of the upcoming elections. The question of whether or not now is a good time stands as a rhetorical one.

Are Afghans hopeful of the years ahead? This one is not a rhetorical question. The odds are obviously stacked against them, but opinion polls (such as The Asia Foundation) reveal something else.

A sense of hope.

If Afghans still have hope amidst continued violence, swirling forced displacement and hunger, ahead of approaching elections, then so too must world leaders, donor countries and humanitarians.

We cannot give up, give in, abandon, or go silent.

The global public must force politicians to make good on their commitments to Afghanistan. Donors must step up their support to aid work. Humanitarians must be held accountable to not shrink but to help hungry and displaced, but yet hopeful Afghan boys and girls despite the darker, more dangerous context.

If Afghans’ hopes are dashed yet again – even they will eventually stop hoping. And that is a recipe for disaster – hope will be replaced by depression, anger, and an overwhelming need to escape. We cannot afford this, and Afghans deserve better than conflict, hunger, and forced displacement.

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Excerpt:

Will Carter is Head of Programme, Norwegian Refugee Council, Afghanistan

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“A Map and Plan”: When Greener Pastures End in a Blazing Deserthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/map-plan-greener-pastures-end-blazing-desert/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=map-plan-greener-pastures-end-blazing-desert http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/map-plan-greener-pastures-end-blazing-desert/#respond Thu, 07 Jun 2018 00:22:12 +0000 Mbom Sixtus http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156070 “Sometimes when I’m alone, I still get flashes of the grisly images I saw in the desert. I feared I was going to die out there. The people transporting us were ready to get rid of any of us where necessary,” Njoya Danialo recalled as he narrated the ordeal he endured traveling through the Sahara […]

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The drama of irregular migration: the IOM is helping Cameroonians who had attempted to relocate in Europe to reintegrate back into Cameroon - Returned migrants have something to eat and fill out papers for IOM at Yaounde Nsimalen Airport in Cameroon. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

Returned migrants have something to eat and fill out papers for IOM at Yaounde Nsimalen Airport in Cameroon. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

By Mbom Sixtus
YAOUNDE, Cameroon, Jun 7 2018 (IPS)

“Sometimes when I’m alone, I still get flashes of the grisly images I saw in the desert. I feared I was going to die out there. The people transporting us were ready to get rid of any of us where necessary,” Njoya Danialo recalled as he narrated the ordeal he endured traveling through the Sahara in search of greener pastures.

He told IPS that when the desert winds get too wild, the smugglers take refuge inside and under their vehicles, while passengers perched on luggage in overloaded pickup trucks are left at the mercy of the deadly, dust-filled wind.

Njoya is one of over 1,300 returnees that IOM, the UN Migration Agency, has repatriated to Cameroon since it started its operation in sub-Saharan Africa in June 2017. Boubacar Seybou, IOM Chief of Mission in Cameroon, told IPS the European Union has set aside 3 million Euros for its migrant reintegration operation in this country.

The operation is carried out in collaboration with officials of the EU Delegation in Cameroon, Cameroon’s ministry of external relations, the ministry of public health, ministry of social affairs and ministry of youth and civic education.

The program was planned to run for three years, facilitating the socioeconomic reintegration of 850 returnees at a cost of 3 million euros. Now Seybou said the program needs to be reviewed as more than 1,000 returnees were registered barely six months after the operation began.

The drama of irregular migration: the IOM is helping Cameroonian returnees to reintegrate safely back into Cameroon - Workers with IOM register returned migrants at Yaounde Nsimalen Airport in Cameroon. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

Workers with IOM register returned migrants at Yaounde Nsimalen Airport in Cameroon. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

Njoya graduated from the Francoise Xavier Vogt football school in Yaounde but never played in a professional club. He claims one is obliged to know someone or pay a bribe to be recruited into a good football club. “That is why I decided to try my luck abroad, especially as a strange illness had attacked my father, causing our family business to crumble. I had to make it on my own,” he said.

Like many of the one million sub-Saharan Africans who have migrated to Europe since 2010, he had a map and a plan. He had high hopes as he navigated his way from Cameroon through Chad, Niger and Benin, until the night he curled up on a street corner in Algeria to sleep. Only then did he realise illegal migrants were not welcome. Like many others, he was forced to leave the country.

“The police arrested many of us and dropped us off at the border in the desert. Many people who walked with us died as I walked on.”

Dubious agents

“Along the trajectory from Niger to Morocco are agents called ‘passeurs’. They offer three possibilities. They can help you get to the Mediterranean where you cross into Spain. They can take you to a detention facility and call your parents for ransom. Or [they will] rob you and abandon you in the forest,” Njoya told IPS.

He was fortunate to get passeurs who helped him travel. He met another migrant from Burkina Faso whowas Spain-bound before being forced to make a U-turn in Algeria. They both struggled to make it to Niamey where the IOM help them return to their various home countries.

But Ramanou Abdou, who was also heading to Spain from Cameroon, told IPS he was not as lucky. The agents, always heavily armed and noted for raping women, drove them into a Savanah forest, robbed them and zoomed off. They all had to struggle to find their way to Niamey where they could get help from IOM, he said.

Like Njoya and others who returned to Cameroon with the help of IOM, Ramanou was offered a package that would facilitate his reintegration. He chose to return to school. He currently studies geography in the University of Dschang.

“I am grateful for the help they offered. I wish they could continue until I obtain my bachelors degree. I also wish they could help me get medical care for the protracted skin disease and stomach problems I returned with. I am still suffering,” he said.

Besides illnesses, Ramanou says many people have a negative impression of those who return from abroad. “Most of my classmates think I am thief. Some think that all returnees are hoodlums or something. Few of them treat me well.”

Like Ramanou, Njoya equally thinks the assistance provided returnees should be stepped up. He was given about 800 euros to start a business which crumbled within a couple of months. He now loads vehicles at a motor park for a living.

“I am saving money to travel abroad through the right track. My dream is still alive and I will make it the right way. I pity those who have left again to follow the same road to perdition in the name of traveling to Europe by land,” he said.

Besides Njoya and Ramanou, another returnee used his seed capital from IOM to start a small business is Ekani Awono. He opened up a coffee shop, but now tells IPS the money was too little to keep his business alive.

The beneficiaries who spoke to IPS say their peers who left the IOM office in Niamey and returned to the Ivory Coast claim to have been given as much as 3,000 euros to start sustainable businesses.

“But in Cameroon, we are constrained to submit business plans for funding limited to FCFA 500,000,” said one of them who preferred not to be named.

But Boubacar Seybou of OIM says the business plans are approved by a steering committee consisting of the funder and government ministries. He told IPS that IOM makes sure reintegration packages are sustainable. He also pointed out that there are many returnees whose businesses are doing well.

Apart from financial aid, IOM and the government provide medical check-ups and psychosocial assistance to returnees when they arrive home, according to Edimo Mbappe of the ministry of social affairs.

“Some women who were raped in the forest, deserts and camps and get here pregnant. Alongside traumatised boys and girls, they are given psychosocial support before we let them move into the community,” she told IPS.

IOM and the government has organised a series of activities, including radio and TV shows, photo exhibitions and musical concerts to dissuade would-be migrants from attempting to travel abroad illegally. They are equally trying to educate the public to absorb returnees and reject the stereotypes that make them feel uncomfortable.

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US Administration Wants to Control Immigration by Slashing Aid: Here’s What They Need to Knowhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/us-administration-wants-control-immigration-slashing-aid-heres-need-know/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=us-administration-wants-control-immigration-slashing-aid-heres-need-know http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/us-administration-wants-control-immigration-slashing-aid-heres-need-know/#respond Tue, 05 Jun 2018 17:05:21 +0000 Michael Clemens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156064 Michael Clemens is Co-Director of Migration, Displacement, and Humanitarian Policy & Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development

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Michael Clemens is Co-Director of Migration, Displacement, and Humanitarian Policy & Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development

By Michael Clemens
WASHINGTON DC, Jun 5 2018 (IPS)

The US is going to use aid to shape migration. That’s at least how the president’s remarks seem to have laid it out on Wednesday, when he announced his White House is “working on a plan to deduct a lot of aid” from countries whose nationals arrive at the US border. “[W]e may not just give them aid at all.”

Michael Clemens

The target of these proposed cuts is clear. He was speaking at an event about gangs originating in El Salvador. The president’s words follow a recent series of remarks focused on the gang’s convicted and alleged crimes here in the US, purportedly the result of criminal entities sending members across the border as and among unaccompanied child migrants.

But slashing assistance would miss an opportunity to effectively and cost effectively shape migration through aid. Cooperation in Central America has the potential not only to meet this administration’s goal of reducing illegal migration, but simultaneously to extend more security and opportunity to children in the communities that child migrants are leaving.

To achieve this, the administration’s strategy to shape migration through aid needs to done right.
If evidence isn’t behind the president’s efforts, this policy will at best do nothing to deter illegal migration from El Salvador, and at worst will encourage it.

If what the United States wants to do is prevent irregular child migration in a way that works and is cost effective, it should not do what it has traditionally done—spend ten times as much on border enforcement trying to keep child migrants out as it spends on security assistance to the region.

In fact, smartly packaged security assistance is the only things that have been shown to reduce violence effectively and cost effectively.

This is based on the initial evidence we have: that well-considered expansion of security assistance may reduce child migration. There is a lot of evidence we don’t have—namely, zero evidence that slashing aid will reduce migration.

Let’s take stock of what we do know:

First, cutting aid to the Salvadoran government will not make it stop promoting illegal migration by gang members, because the Salvadoran government is not doing that. Emigration from El Salvador is a choice made by individuals, not a policy of the government.

And the Salvadoran government, like every other government, is barred under international law from restricting emigration of its nationals.

Second, enhanced US assistance can meet the goal of reducing illegal migration, including by Salvadoran youths. This is because projects financed by US aid have been shown to reduce violence in the region, and that violence is a major driver of illegal migration.

We know this from independent and scientifically sound evaluations of such projects. The best example comes from a rigorous multi-year evaluation of USAID-funded crime prevention programming, under USAID’s Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), including in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

CARSI deployed a package of community-based programs aimed at violence prevention, also encompassing tools such as vocational skills building, engagement of at-risk youth, efforts to boost employment, and community-based policing.

The evaluation is reliable and transparent because it was carefully designed to compare randomly-chosen “treatment” and “control” communities, like a pharmaceutical trial. The package was shown to reduce reports of homicide and extortion by half.

Third, reduced violence acts directly to suppress illegal migration by youths. My research showed this through an unprecedented statistical analysis. I analyzed confidential government data on all 179,000 Unaccompanied Alien Children from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala apprehended by US Customs and Border Protection over a six-year period, linking this to detailed data on violence in their communities of origin.

I find that a decline of ten homicides in an average municipality of this region caused six fewer children from there to be apprehended at the US border. I don’t just mean that less violence was associated with less child migration.

I find that declines in violence caused less child migration, regardless of those Central American municipalities’ geographic location, size, urbanization, ethnic composition, or extent of prior migration.

Putting this together implies that cutting off US assistance to Central American governments in their fight the gangs and cartels could drive more youths to the desperate choice of emigration. That would miss a big opportunity to help those kids find the safety they deserve.

But it will also miss an opportunity to act in the direct national interest of the United States. Assistance that reduces the number of people moving in desperation takes revenue away from the transnational criminal networks that prey on those people.

Beyond this, unaccompanied child migration from Central America is a major burden on every taxpayer in the United States. Hannah Postel and I estimate that each apprehension of a child migrant at the US border costs taxpayers at least $50,000.

Averting just one homicide per year in the region between 2011 and 2016 would have prevented about four child migrant apprehensions—a savings to US taxpayers of $200,000. So if a violence prevention program can stop just one homicide per year, and that program costs less than $200,000 (which is quite likely), that would mean a savings to US taxpayers.

Strategically designing foreign aid programs to effectively reduce violence, building programs on the evidence we have and piloting other ideas of what might work, can help shape the migration flows—including deterring UACs from leaving home. Greater cooperation with Northern Triangle partners can advance the US national interest. Leaving Central America to its fate will do the opposite.

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Excerpt:

Michael Clemens is Co-Director of Migration, Displacement, and Humanitarian Policy & Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development

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Unilateral Coercive Measures have Devastated the Syrian Economy &Ruined Civilian Liveshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/unilateral-coercive-measures-devastated-syrian-economy-ruined-civilian-lives/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unilateral-coercive-measures-devastated-syrian-economy-ruined-civilian-lives http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/unilateral-coercive-measures-devastated-syrian-economy-ruined-civilian-lives/#respond Fri, 01 Jun 2018 17:08:00 +0000 Idriss Jazairy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156031 Idriss Jazairy is Special Rapporteur on “the Negative Impact of Unilateral Coercive Measures on the Enjoyment of Human Rights to the Syrian Arab Republic”*

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Idriss Jazairy is Special Rapporteur on “the Negative Impact of Unilateral Coercive Measures on the Enjoyment of Human Rights to the Syrian Arab Republic”*

By Idriss Jazairy
GENEVA, Jun 1 2018 (IPS)

I have been entrusted by the Human Rights Council with the task of monitoring, reporting and advising on the negative impact on the enjoyment of human rights of unilateral coercive measures.

The United Nations has repeatedly expressed concern that the use of such measures may be contrary to international law, international humanitarian law, the UN Charter and the norms and principles governing peaceful relations among States1.

Idriss Jazairy. Credit: UN Photo

During my visit, I had the honour of being received by Ministers, Deputy Ministers and senior officials of the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Economy and Foreign Trade, Local Administration and Environment, Social Affairs and Labour, Transport, Agriculture and Agrarian Reform, Electricity and Health.

I also met with the leadership of the Planning and International Cooperation Commission, the Central Bureau of Statistics, the Chamber of Commerce, and with the Governor of the Central Bank.

I was briefed by staff from civil society, humanitarian organizations and by independent experts. Last but not least, I am also grateful to the numerous diplomatic missions that shared their views with me during my visit. I very much appreciate the briefings I received from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia in Beirut prior to my visit.

The purpose of this mission was to examine to what extent unilateral coercive measures targeting the Syrian Arab Republic impair the full realization of the rights set forth in the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments.

I will present my full report to the Human Rights Council in September 2018. My present statement contains my preliminary observations on the outcome of my visit.

I have examined the situation of the Syrian Arab Republic as a target of unilateral coercive measures by a number of source States. I have examined relevant evidence and endeavoured to assess the actual impact of such measures on the Syrian people.

One source country has applied unilateral coercive measures since 1979, and they were strengthened in subsequent years. A larger group of States began applying similar measures in 2011.

The collective measures call for a trade ban on the import and export of multiple goods and services. It also includes international financial transfers. The superimposition of different packages of collective sectoral measures, together with the across-the-board implementation of financial restrictions, are tantamount in their global impact to the imposition of comprehensive restrictions on Syria.

Additional measures targeting individuals by virtue of their alleged relationship with the government have also been applied.

Because of their comprehensive nature, these measures have had a devastating impact on the entire economy and the daily lives of ordinary people. This impact has compounded their suffering resulting from the devastating crisis that has unfolded since 2011.

Singling out the impact of the unilateral coercive measures from that of the crisis is fraught with difficulty, but this does in no way diminish the necessity to take measures to restore their basic human rights as a whole.

It is clear that the sufferings imposed by the unilateral coercive measures have reinforced those that were caused by the conflict.

Indeed, it seems ironic that these measures applied by source States out of a concern for human rights are actually contributing to the worsening of the humanitarian crisis as an unintended consequence.

The dramatic increase in the suffering of the Syrian people

The Syrian economy continues to decline at an alarming rate. Since the application of coercive measures in 2011, and the beginning of the current crisis, the total annual GDP of Syria has fallen by two thirds.

Foreign currency reserves have been depleted, and international financial and other assets remain frozen. In 2010, 45 Syrian Liras were exchanged for one dollar; by 2017 the rate fell to fell to 510 liras per dollar. Inflation has dramatically increased since 2010, reaching a peak of 82.4% in 2013; the cost of food items rose eight-fold during this time.

This combination of factors visited further devastation on the living conditions of the population that were already degraded by the conflict. This has hit the half of working Syrians living on fixed salaries particularly hard.

The unintended consequences of unilateral coercive measures

This damage to the economy has had predictable effects on the ability of Syrians to realize their economic, social and cultural rights. Syria’s human development indicators have all tumbled. There has been a staggering increase in the rate of poverty among ordinary Syrians.

While there was no food insecurity prior to the outbreak of violence, by 2015 32% of Syrians were affected. At the same time unemployment rose went from 8.5% in 2010 to over 48% in 2015.

Banking restrictions

The most pervasive concerns I have heard during my mission relate to the negative effect that comprehensive financial restrictions have had on all aspects of Syrian life. Restrictions on the Central bank, state-owned and even private banks, and transactions in the main international currencies have comprehensively damaged the ability of anyone seeking to operate internationally.

Despite nominally including “humanitarian exemptions” they have proven to be costly, or extremely slow, to access in practice.

The uncertainty around what transactions do, or do not violate the unilateral coercive measures, have created a “chilling effect” on international banks and companies, which as a result are unwilling or unable to do business with Syria.

This has prevented Syrian and international companies, non-governmental actors (including those operating in purely humanitarian fields), and Syrian citizens from engaging in international financial transactions (including for goods which are legal to import), obtaining credit, or for international actors to pay salaries or contractors in Syria.

This has forced Syrians to find alternatives, such as hawala, which result in millions of dollars flowing through high cost financial intermediaries, who are alleged at times to be owned by terrorist organizations.

These channels which are not transparent, cannot be audited, and increase transaction costs remain the only avenue for smaller companies and Syrian civil society actors to operate internationally.

Medical care

Syria practices universal, free health care for all its citizens. Prior to the current crisis, Syria enjoyed some of the highest levels of care in the region. The demands created by the crisis have overwhelmed the system, and created extraordinarily high levels of need.

Despite this, restrictive measures, particularly those related to the banking system, have harmed the ability of Syria to purchase and pay for medicines, equipment, spare parts and software.

While theoretical exemptions exist, in practice international private companies are unwilling to jump the hurdles necessary to ensure they can transact with Syria without being accused of inadvertently violating the restrictive measures.

Migration and ‘brain drain’

While the security situation was a central factor which led to migration flows from Syria, it should be emphasized that the dramatic increase in unemployment, the lack of job opportunities, the closure of factories unable to obtain raw materials or machinery or to export their goods have all contributed to increasing the emigration of Syrians.

Some receiving States have selected skilled migrants, while pressuring the less fortunate to return to Syria. This “brain drain” has harmed the medical and pharmaceutical industries in particular, at the worst possible time for Syria.

The anticipated end of the current conflict will not put an end to the flows of migrants, especially to Europe, in view of the saturation of neighbouring countries.

These flows are likely to continue so long as the Syrian authorities are prevented by unilateral coercive measures from addressing the pressing problems related to their social and economic infrastructure, in particular the restoration of energy and water supplies.

Ban on equipment and spare parts

The ban on the trade in equipment, machinery and spare parts has devastated Syrian industry. Vehicles, including ambulances and fire trucks, as well as agricultural machinery suffer from a lack of spare parts. Failing water pumps gravely affect the water supply and reduce agricultural production.

Power generation plants are failing, and new plants cannot be purchased or maintained, leading to power outages. Complex machinery requiring international technicians for maintenance are failing, damaging medical devices and factory machinery.

Civilian aircraft are no longer able to fly safely, and public transit buses are in woeful condition. Whatever rationale source countries may have for restricting so-called dual use goods, greater effort is needed to ensure that goods that are clearly intended for civilian use are permitted, and that they can be paid for.

Ban on technology

As a result of unilateral coercive measures, Syrians are unable to purchase many technologies, including mobile phones and computers. The global dominance of American software companies, technology companies, and banking and financial software, all of which are banned, has made it difficult to find alternatives. This has paralyzed or disrupted large parts of Syrian institutions.

Education

Shortages of inputs, energy and water supply as well as of teaching material causing delays in the rebuilding of schools have kept 1.8 million children without access to their classrooms.

The ability of Syrians to participate in the international community has been sharply affected. Syrians have been excluded from international educational exchange programs, and the tremendous difficulties involved in obtaining a visa have prevented many from studying or travelling abroad, upgrading their training and skills, or participating in international conferences.

By removing consular services from Syria, countries have forced people including the poorest, to travel to neighbouring countries for such applications, which are also placing onerous restrictions on entry for Syrians.

Conclusion

I am profoundly concerned that unilateral coercive measures are contributing to the ongoing suffering of the Syrian people. Claims that they exist to protect the Syrian population, or to promote a democratic transition, are hard to reconcile with the economic and humanitarian sufferings being caused.

The time has come to ask whether these unintended consequences are now more severe than can be reasonably accepted by democratic States. Whatever their political objectives, there must be more humane means by which these can be achieved in full compliance with international law.

In view of the complexity of the system of unilateral coercive measures in place, there needs to be a multi-stage approach to addressing the dire human rights situation prevailing in Syria.

This would imply a sequenced approach involving addressing the crucial humanitarian needs of the population throughout the whole of Syria, without preconditions, when these touch on issues of life and death. A first stage could include addressing the urgent needs of the food insecure, which represent nearly one third of the population.

The second stage is to translate at the ground level effective measures to fulfil the commitment of source States to meet their obligation to allow humanitarian exemptions, particularly for financial transactions.

Finally, there must be a serious dialogue on reducing unilateral coercive measures, starting with those that have the most egregious effect on the population, along with those that will promote confidence building between the parties, with the ultimate aim of lifting the unilateral coercive measures. I hope that my report and my future work can contribute in this end.

*Based on the end-of-mission statement by the Special Rapporteur,and includes “preliminary observations and recommendations” on Syria.

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Excerpt:

Idriss Jazairy is Special Rapporteur on “the Negative Impact of Unilateral Coercive Measures on the Enjoyment of Human Rights to the Syrian Arab Republic”*

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Food Security and Growth in Asiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/food-security-growth-asia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=food-security-growth-asia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/food-security-growth-asia/#respond Mon, 28 May 2018 06:51:19 +0000 Geetika Dang and Raghav Gaiha http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155942 A disquieting finding of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017, Building resilience for peace and food security, or (SFSN2017), Rome, is that, in 2016, the number of chronically undernourished people in the world increased to 815 million, up from777 million in 2015 although still lower than about 900 million in […]

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By Geetika Dang and Raghav Gaiha
NEW DELHI, May 28 2018 (IPS)

A disquieting finding of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017, Building resilience for peace and food security, or (SFSN2017), Rome, is that, in 2016, the number of chronically undernourished people in the world increased to 815 million, up from777 million in 2015 although still lower than about 900 million in 2000. Similarly, while the prevalence of undernourishment rose to 11 percent in 2016, this is still well below thelevel attaineda decade ago. Whether this recent rise inhunger and food-insecurity levels signals thebeginning of an upward trend, or whether itreflects an acute transient situation calls for a close scrutiny.

Undernourishment is associated with lower productivity. More importantly, in an agrarian economy with surplus labour and efficiency wages, a weather or market shock could result in rationing out of those lacking adequate physical stamina and dexterity from the labour market. This could perpetuate the poverty of the undernourished, often referred to as nutrition –poverty trap.

By contrast, other indicators of food security have registered improvement. Stunting refers to children who are too shortfor their age. It is a reflection of achronic state of undernutrition.When children are stunted before the age of two, they are athigher risk of illness and more likely thanadequately nourished children to lackcognitive skills and learning abilities in later childhood and adolescence.Globally, the prevalence of stunting of children under five years fell from29.5 percent to 22.9 percent between 2005and 2016. The global average of the prevalence of anaemiain women of reproductive age increased slightlybetween 2005 and 2016. When anaemia occurs duringpregnancy, it causes fatigue, loweredproductivity, increased risk of maternal andperinatal mortality, and low birth weight babies.

Has Asia’s experience been different? It is argued below on the basis of Table 1 that it has been more mixed.

Table 1
Food Security Indicators in Asia



Source: The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017, Building resilience for peace and food security (SFSN2017).

Although proportion of undernourished in different sub-regions of Asia varied within a narrow range in 2004-06, it became narrower in 2014-16. In all sub-regions, the proportion of undernourished fell during this period but slowly, as in Asia as a whole. Under-five stunting is a key indicator of child malnutrition. The range was large in 2005, with a high of 44.6 % in Southern Asia and a low of 9.4 % in Central Asia. The range became narrower in 2016 but Southern Asia continued to have the highest prevalence of over 34 % (but lower than in 2005) and Eastern Asia the lowest of 5.5 % (substantially lower than in 2005). So except for Central Asia which witnessed a slight rise, all other sub-regions recorded reductions in stunting. Prevalence of anaemia among women of reproductive age was widespread with a high of 50 % in Southern Asia and a low of about 19 % in Eastern Asia in 2005. While the prevalence of anaemic women fell in Southern Asia from 50 % to 43.7 % in 2016, this sub-region still had the highest prevalence.

Geetika Dang

Eastern Asia saw a more than moderate rise, South Eastern Asia experienced a negligible reduction, and Central Asia a small reduction. As a result, there was a bunching of high prevalence rate in Central Asia, Eastern Asia and South Eastern Asia, and a consequent rise in prevalence of anaemic women from a high of 33.3 % to 36.6 per cent.

SFSN (2017) attributes much of the worsening in food security-especially in Sub-Saharan Africa- to frequency of conflicts, droughts, and fragility of governance, but the analysis is largely conjectural.

As Asia was not so prone to conflicts, we sought to unravel the relationship between these indicators of food security and income growth, allowing for unobservable country –level heterogeneity and residual time effect. Whether the political regime of a country is more inclined to protect the poor and vulnerable -especially children and women in the reproductive age-group- against the risks of undernourishment from weather and market shocks is unobservable but crucial for isolating the effect of income.

Our analysis shows that there are robust relationships between these indicators and per capita income (PPP2011) and the residual time effect. Assessing the effect of income in terms of elasticities, proportionate change in say prevalence of undernourishment/proportionate change in income, we find that the elasticity of undernourishment to income is –0.28, implying that a 1 % higher income will lower prevalence of undernourishment by 0.28 %. A related finding is that the elasticity (in absolute value) rose substantially during 2005-16, implying that a 1% higher income will be far more effective in curbing undernourishment. Moreover, there was a substantial negative residual time effect, implying that controlling for income, other time related factors led to reduction in prevalence of undernourishment.

Raghav Gaiha

The elasticity of under-five stunting with respect to income was also robust, with an elasticity of -0.045, implying that a 1 % higher income will translate into a reduction of stunting by -0.045 %. Compared to the elasticity of undernourishment with respect to income, this is considerably lower. This is not surprising given that stunting is the result of persistent undernourishment over time. In addition, there was a significant negative residual time effect, implying presumably better hygiene and sanitary conditions. The elasticity (in absolute value) rose more than moderately between 2005 and 2016, implying greater sensitivity of under-five stunting to income.Finally, the elasticity of prevalence of anaemia among women in reproductive phase with respect to income was negative but also low (-0.075). So a 1 % higher income is likely to be associated with a reduction in prevalence of anaemia of 0.075 %. The (absolute) elasticity rose slightly between 2005 and 2016. The residual time effect was negative, implying better access to medical services, hygiene and sanitary conditions for women in reproductive phase over time.

Although limited in scope, our analysis confirms that income growth is key to food security in Asia. This is not to suggest that other factors (e.g. social safety nets, greater nutritional awareness-especially among women-and education) do not matter. They matter too but call for a broader investigation.

 
 

Geetika Dang is an independent researcher; and Raghav Gaiha is currently (Hon.) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England, and Visiting Scientist, Department of Global Health, Harvard School of Public Health (2015 and 2016).

The views expressed are personal.

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