Inter Press Service » Aid News and Views from the Global South Tue, 01 Dec 2015 17:48:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 World’s Poorest Nations Battle Rising Rural Poverty Wed, 25 Nov 2015 18:46:41 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

The world’s 48 least developed countries (LDCs), described as the poorest of the poor, are fighting a relentless battle against rising rural poverty.

More than two thirds of the population of LDCs live in rural areas, and 60 per cent work in agriculture.

As a result, there is an urgent need for structural changes focused on the fight against poverty, says a new report released November 25 by the Geneva-based UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

“This means developing the synergies between agricultural modernisation and diversification of the rural economy.”

Currently, the total population of the 48 LDCs is estimated at over 932 million people.

UNCTAD’s Least Developed Countries Report 2015, subtitled “Transforming Rural Economies”, presents a road map to address rural poverty, lack of progress in rural transformation and the root causes of migration within and from LDCs.

The migration of poor people from the countryside into cities fuels excessive rates of urbanisation in many of the 48 LDCs, while many international migrants come from rural areas, says the report.

The theme of World Food Day last October was “Social Protection and Agriculture: Breaking the Cycle of Rural Poverty:” in line with FAO’s annual State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) report that called for “sustained private and public investments and social protections for the rural poor.”

Rural women, the majority of whom depend on natural resources and agriculture for their livelihoods, make up over a quarter of the total world population, according to the United Nations.

And in developing countries, rural women represent approximately 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force, and produce, process and prepare much of the food available, thereby giving them primary responsibility for food security.

Since 76 per cent of the extreme poor live in rural areas, rural women are critical for the success of the new Sustainable Development agenda for 2030, according to the United Nations.

The eradication of poverty by 2030 is one of the main objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by world leaders last September.

Gauri Pradhan, the Nepali-based, International Coordinator of LDC Watch, an umbrella group of NGOs in LDCs, told IPS the means of Implementation in the SDGs is key to transforming rural economies and enhancing productive capacity in LDCs, which is primarily based on agriculture.

SDG 2a recognises this, and “it is imperative that we have both international cooperation and effective domestic measures that focus on LDCs,” he said.

SDG2 calls to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

The LDCs cover a wide range of countries, extending from Afghanistan, Angola and Bangladesh to Vanuautu, Yemen and Zambia.

Of the 48 LDCs , 34 are in Africa, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gambia Sudan and Uganda, among others.

Since the LDC category was initiated by the UN General Assembly in 1971, only four countries have graduated to developing country status based on their improved economic performance: Botswana in 1994, Cabo Verde, in 2007, Maldives in 2011, and Samoa 2014.

At least two more countries — Equatorial Guinea and Vanuatu – are expected to graduate in the coming years.

UNCTAD recommends placing more importance on non-farm rural activities instead of primarily focusing on increasing agricultural productivity, as well as increasing the production of higher-value agricultural products.

Since 2012, economic growth in LDCs has continued to slow, reaching 5.5 per cent in 2014 as compared to 6.1 per cent in 2013.

Demba Dembele, LDC Watch President based in Senegal, told IPS the UNCTAD report comes at a time when agricultural policies and migration issues are high on the African agenda, with a recent African Development Bank Conference on African agricultural policies, and an Africa-European Union Summit on Migration.

“So it is hoped that this report will gives direction on how to deal more effectively with these issues, particularly in Africa”, he added.

The writer can be contacted at

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Hunger Heralds Climate Change’s Arrival in Botswana Tue, 24 Nov 2015 15:38:23 +0000 Baboki Kayawe Cattle among drought victims. Credit: Kagiso Onkatswitse

Cattle among drought victims. Credit: Kagiso Onkatswitse

By Baboki Kayawe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Analysis: Are Young People the Answer to Africa’s Food Security? Tue, 24 Nov 2015 07:41:28 +0000 Busani Bafana 2 Opinion: China’s New South-South Funds – a Global Game Changer? Mon, 16 Nov 2015 22:02:16 +0000 Martin Khor

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

By Martin Khor
GENEVA, Nov 16 2015 (IPS)

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

Martin Khor

Martin Khor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Refugee Crisis May Threaten Development Aid to World’s Poor Wed, 11 Nov 2015 21:52:23 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To deliver that, adequate and predictable resources were required.

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

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

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

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

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

The writer can be contacted at

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OPINION: Refugee Crisis – Diverting Funds From Civil Society is a Bad Idea Tue, 10 Nov 2015 07:22:05 +0000 Teldah Mawarire

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

By Teldah Mawarire

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

Teldah Mawarire

Teldah Mawarire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Central America Seeks Recognition of Its Vulnerability to Climate Change Fri, 30 Oct 2015 23:21:17 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz In its national contribution, Costa Rica said the sector most vulnerable to climate change is road infrastructure. This highway, which connects San José with the Caribbean coast, and which crosses the central mountain chain, is closed several times a year due to landslides. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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United Arab Emirates and Cuba Forge Closer Ties Tue, 06 Oct 2015 19:10:19 +0000 Patricia Grogg The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, shakes hands with his opposite number in Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez, after raising the UAE flag at the opening of the Emirati embassy in Havana on Oct. 5, 2015. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

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

By Patricia Grogg
HAVANA, Oct 6 2015 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Human Rights Activists Condemn Houthi Militia’s Atrocities Against Women in Yemen Wed, 30 Sep 2015 15:04:16 +0000 Emirates News Agency By Emirates News Agency (WAM)
Geneva, Sep 30 2015 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Opinion: Renewed Optimism or Higgledy-Piggledy Vision? Wed, 30 Sep 2015 13:05:51 +0000 S Kulkami vani_raghav_ok

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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‘Why is it Easier to Find Money to Destroy People than Protect Them?’ Asks U.N. Chief Mon, 28 Sep 2015 22:44:55 +0000 Thalif Deen United States President Addresses General Assembly. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

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

By Thalif Deen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The writer can be contacted at

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Report Condemns Atrocities of Houthi Rebels in Yemen Mon, 28 Sep 2015 16:49:06 +0000 Emirates News Agency By Emirates News Agency (WAM)
ABU DHABI, Sep 28 2015 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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U.N.’s New Development Goals Need Funds, Political Commitment for Success Mon, 28 Sep 2015 15:54:57 +0000 Thalif Deen sdgs_25_27_red

By Thalif Deen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The writer can be contacted at

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UAE Government Stresses its Abiding Support for Syrian Refugees Thu, 17 Sep 2015 13:31:22 +0000 Omar Salim By Omar Salim
ABU DHABI, Sep 17 2015 (IPS)

In response to suggestions that the Gulf states are doing littleor nothing to help Syrians fleeing their civil war, the Government of the United Arab Emirates has announced that it has take a broad range of supportive actions to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian population and to care for Syrian refugees in Syria and abroad, reports WAM.

Calling the Syrian refugee crisis a political and security crisis, a tragedy of enormous proportions and a key priority for his government, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, noted that the UAE Government has welcomed and extended residency permits to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees, from all segments of society and various religious sects, since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

This has brought the number of Syrian residents in the UAE to almost a quarter million, he said.

In addition, the minister noted, the UAE Government has during this time allowed thousands more Syrian nationals with expired visas or travel documents to adjust their status, enabling them to remain in the UAE.

Government figures show that the number of new and registered Syrian students enrolled in UAE schools since the beginning of the crisis has surpassed 17,000, while more than 6,000 Syrian nationals have established businesses in the country, indications that, according to the minister, “Syrian families are living a natural and normal life in the UAE’s secure and welcoming environment.”

The UAE government has also pointed out that it is among the leading financial contributors to efforts to help the Syrian people during the civil war. Thus far, the UAE has provided about 1.1 billion dollars, about half of that in humanitarian aid that has directly benefited Syrian refugees and another 420 million dollars to combat Daesh terrorism in Syria and Iraq and to provide humanitarian support and relief to displaced people.

These efforts include the UAE-funded Mrajib Al Fhood camp in Jordan, which provides high-quality care, shelter and education for 6,437 Syrian refugees and has been expanded to accommodate up to 10,000. Additionally, the UAE-Jordanian field hospital in Al Mafraq offers a wide range of professional medical services to Syrian refugees and has provided nearly a half-million treatments.

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Is Good Governance Good For Development? Mon, 14 Sep 2015 15:43:23 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
ROME, Sep 14 2015 (IPS)

Many well-meaning people who would like better governance have been misled into insisting on so-called ‘good governance’ reforms, with the expectation that this would lead to development.

There is no clear or systematic evidence that good governance – as an approach — is necessary for development. However, the evidence favours the converse: governance improves with development.

No one is advocating bad governance, or corruption, or however one wants to define whatever good governance is meant to address. Nor is anyone saying that governance does not matter.

Clearly, no one is opposed to good governance in the sense of governance that is good. On the contrary, everyone wants to improve governance in many aspects of human affairs.

When the policy prescriptions of the conventional wisdom of the last three decades did not result in sustained development, good governance reforms became the great hope. After all, the statistical correlation between good governance indicators and economic performance has long fuelled hope that good governance would bring development.

Thus, good governance became a convenient way to explain away the failure of the development economics orthodoxy of the last two decades of the 20th century — when Latin America lost more than a decade, and Sub-Saharan Africa a quarter century due to enforcement of the so-called ‘Washington Consensus’!

Market liberalization was supposed to be the necessary complement of freedom and democracy — following the late Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, both Nobel laureates in economics with considerable name recognition.

Thus, good governance was touted as the great miracle cure for development failure and corruption, usually simplistically attributed to big government. After all, who favours corruption, red-tape or ineptitude?

These were easy targets, and when conventional analysis could not explain development failures and corruption, bureaucracy, bad governance and governance failure could conveniently be blamed.

But unfortunately, all good things in life do not necessarily go together. And while most people want democracy, or want to see an end to corruption, development does not necessarily follow. And that is the problem.

Unfortunately, unrealistic expectations have been created by presuming that good governance reforms are necessary for development. When good governance reforms are imposed as aid conditionalities, recipient developing country governments often end up mimicking donor expectations.

And when you have well over a hundred good governance indicators, reforms become so wide-ranging, impossible to achieve, beyond the means of most developing countries and, worst of all, a major distraction from needed development efforts.

To make things worse, many ostensible good governance solutions favour particular vested interests, with grossly unfair consequences. Also, many good governance reforms have had unexpected, if not perverse outcomes, sometimes worsening governance problems, e.g. when decentralization and devolution have led to powerful local political patrons — which some call ‘cacique’ democracy.

So, let us improve governance by all means. But let us not overload the governance reform agenda unnecessarily. As Harvard Professor Merilee Grindle has put it, we need ‘good enough’ governance — meaning we must prioritize, and strategically.

There is no systematic evidence that the much touted good governance reforms are necessary for development. We cannot presume that the advocates of good governance have been always right about how best to improve governance.

Take the claims about the ostensible necessity to strengthen property rights.

In reality, the tragedy of the commons is not inevitable, and strengthened property rights are not the only solution. The late, much maligned Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom showed that human societies have long coped with ecological, resource and other constraints with a variety of arrangements other than by strengthening property rights.

As governance improves with development, let us prioritize development-enhancing governance reforms, or developmental governance. A pragmatic approach to improving governance cannot be dogmatic, pre-conceived, and one-size-fits-all, where one has the solution even before one knows the problem.

Identify the major constraints, analyse, and then address them, perhaps sequentially. Draw from relevant experiences, lessons learned. Do not presume there are best practices regardless of context. We need to be humble, not presumptuous, and that is never easy for those of us deemed experts.

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UAE Continues Relief to Syrian Refugees in Lebanon Sat, 12 Sep 2015 21:19:21 +0000 Emirates News Agency

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

By Emirates News Agency (WAM)
ABU DHABI, Sep 12 2015 (IPS)

(WAM) – Under the directives of the President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), efforts are underway to provide relief to the Syrian refugees in Lebanon. A strategic humanitarian plan has been put in place by the country which includes shelter to refugees closer to Lebanon in order to facilitate their return home when the crisis is over.

According to reports issued by the UAE news agency WAM, since the crisis began in 2011, the Gulf countries received more than 100,000 Syrian refugees. Earlier 140,000 refugees were accomodated in the region.

The UAE was one of the first countries to respond to the growing humanitarian crisis, providing more than USD530 million in direct aid, mainly through the Syria Recovery Trust Fund.

Since January 2015, the UAE provided an additional USD44 million as part of a new aid commitment of USD100 million, reported WAM.

The UAE is also working towards peace and stability in Syria, by supporting the Global Coalition Against Daesh and as a co-leader for the Coalition Working Groups on Stabilisation and Strategic Communications in the region.

Commenting on the UAE humanitarian assistance to the Syrian refugees, Hamad Saeed Sultan Al Shamsi, Ambassador of UAE to Lebanon, said “The UAE government, its humanitarian institutions and organisations through direct initiatives and its offices have continued their support for the displaced Syrians in Lebanon.”

Ambassador Al Shamsi added that the UAE Embassy in Lebanon, in cooperation with the UN and other international organisations including Dar Al Fatwa, Orphanage House and municipalities, have provided humanitarian and relief assistance to the Syrian refugees with included medical treatment, date food packages, drinking water and food supplements for children, blankets and mattresses, and, during Iftar and Eid ul Fitr, distributed clothes, gifts and sacrificial meat. He also pointed out that the UAE Embassy in Beirut purchases goods from the local markets to support the Lebanese economy.

Millions of Syrians fled their homes as the conflict in their country escalated. By the summer of 2014, more than 11 million people — nearly half the population of Syria — had either been internally displaced or fled the country altogether. More than four million sought refuge in neighbouring countries, where they were sheltered in refugee camps, such as the UAE-funded Mrajeeb Al Fhood refugee camp in Jordan, that is home now to more than 4,000 Syrian refugees, and other refugee camps in Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey. (WAM) (END/2015)

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Africa Sees U.N. Climate Conference as “Court Case” for the Continent Thu, 10 Sep 2015 15:57:08 +0000 Isaiah Esipisu Section of a geothermal power plant in Kenya. Some African countries have invested heavily in green energy, showcasing what  Africa can do, given resources. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

Section of a geothermal power plant in Kenya. Some African countries have invested heavily in green energy, showcasing what Africa can do, given resources. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Isaiah Esipisu
DAR ES SALAAM, Sep 10 2015 (IPS)

As the clock ticks towards the United Nations climate change conference (COP21) in Paris in December, African experts, policy-makers and civil society groups plan to come to the negotiation table prepared for a legal approach to avoid mistakes made during formulation of the Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty which extends the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that commits countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, based on the premise that global warming exists and that man-made CO2 emissions have caused it.

“The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is a legal instrument, and therefore we need legal experts to argue the case for Africa, using available evidence instead of having only scientists and politicians at the negotiation table,” according to Dr Oliver C. Ruppel, a professor of law at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.“We must stop complaining and look at how much we have done ourselves with and without support, look at our success stories and build a case of what Africa can do instead of shouting for resources” – John Salehe, Africa Wildlife Foundation

“It is a court case for Africa, and Africa must argue it out, and not keep looking for scientific evidence,” Ruppel told an Africa Climate Talks (ACT!) forum on ‘Democratising Global Climate Change Governance and Building an African Consensus toward COP 21 and Beyond’ last week in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The forum, which was organised by the Climate for Development in Africa (ClimDev-Africa) Programme, was part of the preparatory process for Africa’s contribution to COP 21 in Paris.

Africa has always based its climate argument on geopolitics and science. However, in Paris, experts say that Africa will have to include a good number of lawyers who will table existing evidence of what climate change has caused, what Africans have done about it, and what they can do given appropriate financial and technological support.

“We must stop complaining and look at how much we have done ourselves with and without support, look at our success stories and build a case of what Africa can do instead of shouting for resources,” said John Salehe of the Africa Wildlife Foundation. “We need to show evidence of what we can do, then approach the negotiations positively,” added Ruppel.

Dr Mohammed Gharib Bilal, Vice-President of Tanzania, observed that Africa has suffered under the Kyoto Protocol because there were unforeseen gaps. “Since we are negotiating a new agreement, nobody in Africa will benefit if we make the same mistakes that were made in the Kyoto Protocol negotiations,” he told the forum.

According to experts, the Kyoto Protocol was formulated in a way that was designed to address mitigation of climate change, rather than adaptation to its impacts.

“The agreement also failed to recognise some countries which have since emerged as major greenhouse gas emitters, a fact that has complicated implementation of the agreement’s mechanisms,” observed Mithika Mwenda, executive secretary of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA).

He also noted that the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the protocol was based on markets, and therefore failed completely to address climate change in countries with negligible emissions.

Such gaps must be sealed in Paris and a new agreement reached or else the world’s sustainable development path will be jeopardised, warned Bilal.

Nevertheless, the Tanzanian Vice-President recognised that sometimes Africa expects too much from the developed countries. “We need to change and change has to start from within,” he said.” The vision has to be crafted from within and we have to go to Paris to champion a narrative and cause that is consistent with our own development aspirations.”

So far, in response to changing climatic conditions, African countries have proactively put in place climate change policies with tools geared towards mitigating and adapting to their impacts. Some have invested heavily in clean energy, some have adopted climate-smart farming techniques, and others have invested in tree growing.

“Africa has lots of capacities but they differ,” said John Kioli, chairman of the Kenya Climate Change Working Group. “We need to take stock of what we have, and negotiate for enhancement of what we do not have.”

Dr Joseph Mutemi, a climate scientist and executive director of the Africa Centre for Technology Studies, noted that the playing field has always been tilted to support pro-mitigation. “As Africa, we need to be strategic enough to understand where mitigation supports adaptation and take advantage of it,” he said.” We should start from the known, then venture into the unknown.”

ACT! seeks to crystallise a conceptual framework umbrella for Africa’s role in the global governance of climate change, and to position climate change as both a constraint on Africa’s development potential as well as an opportunity for structural transformation of African economies.

The objective is to mobilise the engagement of Africans from all spheres of life in the run-up to the Paris negotiations, increase public awareness of climate change and the roles people can play in the global governance of climate change, and elicit critical reflection on the UNFCCC process among Africans.

Edited by Phil Harris   

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G20 Finance Ministers Committed to Sustainable Development Wed, 09 Sep 2015 22:32:33 +0000 Jaya Ramachandran The Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors of the G20. Credit: TCMB/cc by 2.0

The Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors of the G20. Credit: TCMB/cc by 2.0

By Jaya Ramachandran
BERLIN, Sep 9 2015 (IPS)

Finance ministers and central bank governors of the world’s 20 major economies, accounting for 66 percent of world population, have pledged to “promote an enabling global economic environment for developing countries as they pursue their sustainable development agendas”.

In this context, they are looking forward to “a successful outcome” of the U.N. Summit in New York for the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The summit will be held from Sep. 25 to 27 in New York as a high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly of the world body.

The G20, meeting in Turkey’s capital Ankara on Sep. 4-5, reviewed ongoing economic developments, their respective growth prospects, and recent volatility in financial markets and its underlying economic conditions. They welcomed “the strengthening economic activity in some economies” but said that global growth was falling short of their expectations.

To remedy the situation, they vowed to take decisive action to keep the economic recovery on track and expressed confidence that the global economic recovery would gain speed. With this in view, they would continue to monitor developments, assess spillovers and address emerging risks as needed to foster confidence and financial stability.

The G20 welcomed “the positive outcomes of the Addis Ababa Conference on Financing for Development (FFD)”. In support of these, they aim to scale up their technical assistance efforts to help developing countries build necessary institutional capacity, particularly in the areas specified in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.

The agreement was reached by the 193 U.N. Member States attending the Conference, following negotiations under the leadership of Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “This agreement is a critical step forward in building a sustainable future for all. It provides a global framework for financing sustainable development.”

He added, “The results here in Addis Ababa give us the foundation of a revitalized global partnership for sustainable development that will leave no one behind.”

The G20 includes 19 individual countries – Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States – along with the European Union (EU). The EU is represented by the European Commission and by the European Central Bank.

The Group was founded in 1999 with the aim of studying, reviewing, and promoting high-level discussion of policy issues pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability.

It seeks to address issues that go beyond the responsibilities of any one organisation. Collectively, the G20 economies account for around 85 percent of the gross world product (GWP), 80 percent of world trade (or, if excluding EU intra-trade, 75 percent), and two-thirds of the world population. The G20 heads of government or heads of state have periodically conferred at summits since their initial meeting in 2008.

The G20 are responsible for 84 percent fossil fuel emissions worldwide. To support the climate change agenda of 2015, they welcomed the Climate Finance Study Group (CFSG) report, took note of the inventory on climate funds developed by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), and the toolkit developed by the OECD and the GEF (Global Environment Facility) to enhance access to adaptation finance by the low income and developing countries, especially those that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.

While recognising developed countries’ ongoing efforts, they called on them to continue to scale up climate finance in line with their commitments.

“We are working together to reach a positive and balanced outcome at the 21st Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC (COP 21). Based on the outcomes and towards the objectives of the COP21, CFSG will continue its work in 2016 by following the principles, provisions and objectives of the UNFCCC,” they added.

UNFCC is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that emerged from the Earth Summit in June 1992 in Rio, Brazil, which is currently the only international climate policy treaty with broad legitimacy, due in part to its virtually universal membership.

The CFSG was established by Finance Ministers, in April 2012, and was welcomed by leaders in the Los Cabos Summit, in Jun 2012, with a view “to consider ways to effectively mobilize resources taking into account the objectives, provisions and  principles of the UNFCCC”.

In November 2012, Finance Ministers agreed to “continue working towards building a better understanding of the underlying issues among G20 members taking into account the objectives, provisions and principles of the UNFCCC”, and also recognised that the “UNFCCC is the forum for climate change negotiations and decision making at the international level”.

Following the mandate of the group, and building on the CFSG 2013 Report, the Group identified four areas to be studied in 2014, namely: (a) Financing for adaptation; (b) Alternative sources and approaches to enhance climate finance and its effectiveness; (c) Enabling environments, in developing and developed countries, to facilitate the mobilization and effective deployment of climate finance; (d) Examining the role of relevant financial institutions and MDBs in mobilizing climate finance.

This report aims to present to the G20 Finance Ministers and Leaders a range of non-exhaustive policy options (“toolbox”) for voluntary consideration, related to these four areas, and to suggest further work on other important issues on climate finance.

The G20 said they were “deeply disappointed” with the continued delay in progressing the 2010 International Monetary Fund (IMF) Quota and Governance Reforms. In their view, their earliest implementation is essential for the credibility, legitimacy and effectiveness of the Fund and “remains our highest priority”.

As part of continuing efforts to promote market confidence and business integrity, G20 Finance Ministers also endorsed a new set of G20/OECD corporate governance principles.

The G20/OECD Principles of Corporate Governance provide recommendations for national policymakers on shareholder rights, executive remuneration, financial disclosure, the behaviour of institutional investors and how stock markets should function.

Sound corporate governance is seen as an essential element for promoting capital-market based financing and unlocking investment, which are keys to boosting long-term economic growth.

“In today’s global and highly interconnected world of business and finance, creating trust is something that we need to do together,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said during a presentation of the new Principles with Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Cevdet Yilmaz,‎ who chaired the G20 finance ministers meeting.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Mental Health Another Casualty of Changing Climate Tue, 08 Sep 2015 20:10:20 +0000 Jed Alegado and Angeli Guadalupe A young resident of Tacloban in the Philippines walks through some of the damage and debris left by the Typhoon Yolanda, Dec. 21, 2013. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

A young resident of Tacloban in the Philippines walks through some of the damage and debris left by the Typhoon Yolanda, Dec. 21, 2013. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Jed Alegado and Angeli Guadalupe
MANILA, Sep 8 2015 (IPS)

Jun* is in chains, tied to a post in the small house that resembles a fragile nipa hut. His brother did this to prevent him from hurting their neighbours or other strangers he meets when he’s in a ballistic mood. Jun has been like this for three years now, but since Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines two years ago, his symptoms have worsened.

After the disaster, Jun lost his own house, his wife and his children. This psychological distress he went through triggered a relapse of his psychiatric illness. With no one else able to take care of him, Jun was taken by his brother to their family’s house.Climate change’s health impacts are inequitably distributed with the most vulnerable sectors like the elderly, children and pregnant women having the least capacity to adapt.

But since his brother is working and the other people in the house are their old, sickly and frail parents, no one can control Jun during his manic episodes. He has not been able to maintain his medications because his family can’t afford them and the free supply at the local health center doesn’t come consistently. For these reasons, the best option left for Jun’s brother is to put him in chains.

Impacts on mental health

A few more cases like Jun exist in Tacloban City and most likely, in other areas of the Philippines as well – both urban and rural. Typhoon Yolanda (also known as Typhoon Haiyan) struck the country on Nov. 8, 2013. It was a Category 5 super-typhoon with wind speeds ranging from 250 to 315 kph, killing at least 6,300 people and costing PhP 89 billion in damages.

Due to extreme loss and survivor guilt, at least one in 10 people here suffers from depression. But two years after the disaster, some survivors remain unaware of available mental health services. Others complain of the poor quality of services and scant supply of medications. Many survivors who are more affluent choose to consult psychiatrists in other cities to avoid the stigma.

As with most disasters, physical rehabilitation is prioritised. This is understandable and perfectly rational, but the mental health of the victims should not be forgotten.

According to the World Health Organization’s report on the Global Burden of Disease, mental disorders follow cardiovascular diseases as the top cause of morbidity and mortality in terms of disability-adjusted life years or the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death.

Yet despite the staggering number of people affected, only an estimated 25 percent of them worldwide have access to mental health services. More than 40 percent of countries have no mental health policy and mental health comprises less than 1 percent of most countries’ total health expenditures.

Nowadays, climate change brings us more frequent and devastating natural disasters. In emergencies such as natural disasters, rates of mental disorders often double. Hence, attention to mental health should be doubled as well, especially in countries highly vulnerable to disasters such as the Philippines.

Being an archipelago and still a developing country, this is not surprising. According to the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security’s World Risk Index Report 2014, out of the 15 countries with the highest disaster risk worldwide, eight are island states, including the Philippines.

Ensuring health impacts in the negotiation text

Health advocates are quick to respond to this alarming issue. Groups led by the International Federation of Medical Students (IFMS) are ensuring that the issue of health and its impacts to climate change are included in the climate negotiating text.

Beginning from the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) in Lima, Peru last year which continued in Geneva last February, the group has been advocating for health to be back at the center of negotiations and in effect ensuring that parties will forge a strong climate agreement in Paris on December.

Last week’s Bonn climate negotiations – one of the few remaining negotiation days before the actual COP in December – proved to be an exercise in futility as negotiators keep dodging on the issue of a loss and damage mechanism, which, according to health advocates, is crucial for helping people affected by the health-related impacts of climate change.

According to IFMS, “there is a growing involvement of member states to include health in the negotiating text. As a group, we want to ensure that health is included in all parts of the negotiating document – preamble, research, capacity building, adaptation and finance.”

Indeed, the impacts of climate change go beyond environment, food security, land rights and even indigenous peoples’ rights. More importantly, climate change has both direct and indirect effects on health. Climate change’s health impacts are inequitably distributed with the most vulnerable sectors like the elderly, children and pregnant women having the least capacity to adapt.

Parties to the UNFCCC must see this alarming issue towards forging a fair and binding climate deal in December which will limit keep global warming below 2 degrees C and ensure adaptation mechanisms to the most vulnerable nations.

In the future, it is foreseen that wars will be fought over water not oil. Disasters nowadays may give us a glimpse of the worst to come when the staggering impacts climate change worsen and affect us in ways beyond what we can handle.

Yet, with the rapid turn of extreme weather events, what we are doing is not just for future generations. It is for us, who are living now on this planet. We are going to be the victims if we do not take responsibility as much as we can, as soon as we can.

*Name has been changed to protect his identity.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Opinion: From Inequality to Inclusion Tue, 08 Sep 2015 16:57:54 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
ROME, Sep 8 2015 (IPS)

Recent years have seen a remarkable resurgence of interest in economic inequality, thanks primarily to growing recognition of some of its economic, social, cultural and political consequences in the wake of Western economic stagnation.

The unexpectedly enthusiastic reception for last year’s publication of Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” underscores this sea change.New thinking on social protection recognises that most of the poor and vulnerable in developing countries are outside the formal economy, with almost four-fifths of the poor living in the countryside.

Piketty has correctly renewed attention to the connections between the functional and household/individual distributions of income as well as to wealth inequality. Clearly, the distribution of wealth (capital, real property) is the major determinant of the functional distribution of income.

And by textbook economics’ definition, profit maximisation involves capturing economic rents of some kind – from finance, monopolistic intellectual property rights (IPRs), ‘competitive advantage’, producer surplus, etc., presumably thanks to successful rent-seeking, by influencing legislation, regulation, public policy, public opinion and consumer preferences.

As is understandable and the norm, Piketty’s focus is on inequality at the national level, rather than at the global level. But Branko Milanovic and others have shown that about two-thirds of overall world interpersonal or inter-household inequality is accounted for by inter-country inequality, with the remaining third due to what may be termed class and other intra-national inequalities.

International inequality

There are many competing explanations for international inequalities. Historical differences in capital accumulation, including public investments, and productivity are commonly invoked to explain different economic capacities, capabilities and incomes.

But frequently unsustainable foreign investments also lead to significant net outflows, greatly diminishing the net benefits from additional economic capacities. Financial flows to the settler colonies from the late 19th century were exceptional in this regard. Generally, a small share of foreign direct investment actually enhances economic capacities, instead mainly contributing to acquisitions and mergers.

Financial globalisation in recent decades, especially capital market flows, have not ensured sustained net flows from capital-rich to capital-poor economies, but has instead worsened financial volatility and instability, increasing the frequency of crises with traumatic effects for the real economy, and growth sustainability.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom that international trade lifts all boats, it has generally favoured the richer countries at the expense of their poorer counterparts. For well over a century, except during some notable periods and some rare minerals more recently, the prices of primary commodities have declined against manufactures.

This has been especially true of tropical agriculture compared to temperate products, as productivity gains have accrued to consumers more than to producers. In recent decades, cut-throat competition has meant a similar fate for developing country manufactured exports compared to the large marketing margins of manufactures from developed economies.

Social protection

As the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals approaches, the call to address inequality as a crucial challenge for development has emerged as an issue to be addressed in the post-2015 development framework.

Inequality gradually came back into development debates after the United Nations, the World Bank and the IMF focused flagship publications on this issue a decade ago, with the publication of the UN 2005 Report on the World Social Situation entitled The Inequality Predicament, the World Development Report 2006, and the 2007 World Economic Outlook on Globalization and Inequality.

The ongoing effects of the global financial and economic crisis since 2008 have reinforced recognition that inequality has been slowing not only human development, but also economic recovery. But this has not led to any fundamental change in economic policy thinking or a major commitment to redress inequality at the global or even national level, except perhaps by improving taxation.

Instead, it has led to a consensus to establish a global social protection floor, recognising not only that poverty and hunger in the world will not be eliminated by more of the same economic policies, especially with the currently dim prospects for sustained economic and employment recovery and growth.

Historically, the welfare state emerged in developed countries to address deprivations in the formal economy – retirees, retrenched workers, military veterans and mothers among others. Social protection and other fiscal interventions do not fundamentally challenge wealth or income distribution, and current thinking is mindful of the potentially unsustainable burden of a welfare state.

New thinking on social protection recognises that most of the poor and vulnerable in developing countries are outside the formal economy, with almost four-fifths of the poor living in the countryside. The new interventions thus seek to accelerate the transition from protection to production, for greater resilience and self-reliance.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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