Inter Press ServiceAid – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 17 Oct 2018 15:43:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 For the Survival of the Nile and its Peoplehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/survival-nile-people/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=survival-nile-people http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/survival-nile-people/#respond Wed, 17 Oct 2018 14:25:11 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158229 Running through eleven countries for 6,853 kilometres, the Nile is a lifeline for nearly half a billion people. But the river itself has been a source of tension and even conflict for countries and territories that lie along it and there have been rumours of “possible war for the Nile” for years now. While to […]

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Natural fertility is actually the Nile's biggest legacy for Egyptians. A fisherman fishes for food on the Nile. Credit: Cam McGrath/IPS.

By Maged Srour
ROME, Oct 17 2018 (IPS)

Running through eleven countries for 6,853 kilometres, the Nile is a lifeline for nearly half a billion people. But the river itself has been a source of tension and even conflict for countries and territories that lie along it and there have been rumours of “possible war for the Nile” for years now. While to date there has been no outbreak of irreversible tension, experts say that because of increasing changes in the climate a shared agreement needs to be reached on the redistribution of water soon.

“Right now I do not think there is a concrete and imminent risk of conflict between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, given the internal difficulties and the unstable nearby area [Libya] of the first, the recent secession suffered by the second and the peace agreement achieved by the third with Eritrea,” Maurizio Simoncelli, vice president of the International Research Institute Archivio Disarmo, a think tank based in Rome, told IPS.

“However, it is certain that if a shared agreement is not reached on the redistribution of water in a situation of increasing climatic changes, those areas remain at great risk,” he said.

No one master of the river Nile

All the cities that run along the river exist only because of these waters. For Egypt, this is particularly true: if the Nile wasn’t there, it would be just another part of the Sahara desert.

Egypt has tried to be master of the river for centuries, seeking to ensure exclusive control over its use. Nevertheless, today upstream countries are challenging this dominance, pushing for a greater share of the waters. Egypt and Sudan still regard two treaties from 1929 and 1959 as technically binding, while African upstream nations – after gaining independence – started to challenge these agreements, signed when they were under colonial rule.

The 1959 treaty allocates 75 percent of the river’s waters to Egypt, leaving the remainder to Sudan. Egypt has always justified this hegemonic position on the basis of geographic motivations and economic development, as it is an arid country that could not survive without the Nile’s waters, while upstream countries receive enough rainfall to develop pluvial agriculture without resorting to irrigation.

“From the Egyptian point of view, it is right [to hold this hegemonic position] because it is true, Cairo has no alternative water resources. Without the Nile, Egypt would die,” Matteo Colombo, associate research fellow in the MENA Programme at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) told IPS.

Egypt – according to Colombo – should therefore aim to open regional forums focusing on cooperation in a broad sense.

Cooperation among countries sharing this watercourse is key. For example, Ethiopia could need more water to produce more electricity, which could in turn diminish the amount of flow towards Cairo. Indeed, Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is currently under construction, will be the biggest dam on the African continent and could diminish the amount of water flowing to Egypt.

Water is not the only gift of this river for Egypt. Each year, rainfall in Ethiopia causes the Nile to flood its banks in Egypt. When the Nile flood recedes, the silt – a sediment rich in nutrients and minerals and carried by the river – remains behind, fertilising the soil and creating arable land. Natural fertility is actually the Nile’s biggest legacy for Egyptians.

“The problem for Egypt is that, from a geographical point of view, it does not hold the knife on the side of the handle,” warns Colombo.

“For this reason, Egypt cannot fail to reach an agreement with neighbouring countries. What Cairo could do is to create a sort of ‘regional forum’, a ‘platform’, where the various disputes with neighbouring countries are discussed and perhaps include other topics in the talks,” Colombo added. “If other themes were included, Egypt could have some more voices than Sudan and Ethiopia, while if the discussion remains relegated to the theme of water, the margin of action for Egypt would be limited.”

The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), created in 1999 with the aim to “take care of and jointly use the shared Nile Basin water and related resources”, could be an example of regional multilateralism to resolve disputes but it remains relegated to discussions about water management.

Institutionally, the NBI is not a commission. It is “in transition”, awaiting an agreement on Nile water usage, so it has no legal standing beyond its headquarters agreement with Uganda, where the secretariat is settled.

Due to differences that have not yet been resolved, the NBI has focused on technical, relatively apolitical projects. This ends up weakening the organisation since Egypt sees technical and political tracks as inseparable. Therefore, Cairo suspended its participation in most NBI activities, effectively depleting the organisation’s political weight.

Populations living on the Nile and the impact

If regional agreements on the management of the Nile’s waters seem difficult, what is certain is that local populations’ living along the river have always been impacted by environmental changes.

The Nubian population are among these affected people. The Nubians, an ethnic group originating in southern Egypt and northern Sudan, have lived along the Nile for thousands of years. In 1899, during the construction of the Aswan Low Dam, they were forced to move and relocate to the west bank of the Nile in Aswan. During the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s, over 120,000 Nubians were forced to move for a second time.

Their new home proved far from satisfactory: not a single resettlement village was by the river. And to date, the socio-economic and political conditions of the Nubians have not appeared to have improved.

“I think we are passing through one of the worst moments for us Nubians. Every time we tried to claim some rights in the last few years, the government did not want to listen to us and many of our activists were recently arrested,” Mohamed Azmy, president of the General Nubian Union, a movement that actively promotes the right to return of the Nubian community to their ancestral land, told IPS.

Lorri Pottinger of International Rivers told Al Jazeera that Africa’s large dams have not reversed poverty, or dramatically increased electricity rates, or even improved water supply for people living near them.

“What they have done is help create a small industrial economy that tends to be  companies from Europe and elsewhere. And so these benefits are really, really concentrated in a very small elite,” she had said.

The demographic challenge

The reasons why Egypt faces water scarcity are numerous but the exponential increase in population certainly accelerates the critical situation.

The United Nations estimates that unless the current fertility rate of 3.47 changes by 2030, Egypt’s population is expected to grow from the current 97 million to 128 million. This demographic growth has grave implications as it comes at a time of unprecedented challenges in the climate which in turn has worrisome implications for loss of arable land, rising sea levels and depletion of scarce water resources.

Moreover, the demographic increase is having grave consequences on the entire economic system, as there is insufficient infrastructure and not enough jobs for the increasing young population.

Birth control policies could be and should be part of the solution to overcome these challenges. The government has recently launched a campaign named ‘Kefaya etnen’ (‘Two is enough’), through which it is trying to raise the awareness on controlling birth rates and having no more than two children per family. “I think this is a great initiative from the Egyptian government but it definitely needs to permeate the society, and this will not be easy,” said Colombo.

Egypt needs to curb its population and to turn its youth into an asset for its economy, otherwise the waters of the Nile could be insufficient.

Indeed, the importance of the Nile is felt in the blood of all Egyptians. “Walking along the Nile for me is what makes me relaxed and vent when I need it, in the chaos of the city,” Tarek, a resident of Cairo, tells IPS.

And many Egyptians hope that this gift will be with them forever, because it is not just about survival, but about the essence itself of being part of these lands.

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Q&A: Using Data to Predict Internal Displacement Trendshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/qa-using-data-predict-internal-displacement-trends/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-using-data-predict-internal-displacement-trends http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/qa-using-data-predict-internal-displacement-trends/#respond Tue, 16 Oct 2018 17:18:53 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158207 Carmen Arroyo interviews ALEXANDRA BILAK, director of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

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When isolated by floodwaters, families, like this one in Morigaon, India, have no choice but to use boats for transportation; even children must learn the survival tool of rowing. Credit: Priyanka Borpujari/IPS

By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 16 2018 (IPS)

This year the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) noted that 2017 saw the highest number of displacements associated with conflict in a decade-11.8 million people. But this is not a situation that is going to be resolved any time soon, says the organisation which has been reporting on displacements since 1998.

These numbers were published in the World Migration Report 2018, which was released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) last month. The report also stated that an average of 25.3 million people are displaced each year because of natural disasters. “This will only get worse with climate change,” said IDMC’s director Alexandra Bilak in an interview with IPS.

Bilak has over 15 years of experience with NGOs and research institutes working on African conflicts. She lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo from 2004 to 2008 and in Kenya for the next five years. In 2014, she joined IDMC. The biggest change for her, claimed Bilak, was “disconnecting from the field and connecting to high political levels of decision making.”

The IDMC, part of the Norwegian Refugee Council, is the leading international institution of data analysis on internal displacement. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the centre works towards creating dialogues on displacement and providing accurate metrics. IDMC, according to Bilak, takes data analysis to the next level: “We combine many methodological approaches to provide a databased to build research agendas. It is a very interest combination of quantitative and qualitative research, but not from an academic perspective.” She added: “The analysis wants to be practical and policy-relevant.”

Under Bilak, the institute has changed its focus. While three years ago the IDMC understood displacement as a human rights issue, now it treats it with a more comprehensive approach. “By doing that, it wasn’t having the right kinds of conversations,” claimed Bilak. Now, their employees are not only lawyers and political scientists, they are also anthropologists, geographers, and data analysts.

With a calmed voice, Bilak tells IPS that this shift was a team effort, and that she is very happy with the results. Excerpts of the interview below.

Inter Press Service (IPS): How did your interest on displacement start?

AB: I started my work in the Great Lakes region in Rwanda, but when I moved over to Eastern Congo I was exposed to the full scope of conflict impact. Displacement was a major issue. I was really struck with the capacity of communities to cope with the problem. That’s where my interest started.

Then I moved from one job to another and narrowed down on the issue of displacement. Now, at IDMC we are very interested in understanding the connections between internal displacement and wider migratory flows, cross border movements, and broader development challenges. At Geneva, you can bring the experience from the field to the higher level and see where it all ties in together.

IPS: What are your goals for the future of IDMC?

AB: I think we want to maintain this position as global authority and consolidate our expertise on data. We cannot rest on our laurels. We have to keep up our efforts. We need to continue building trust-based relationships with national governments. They are the change agents when it comes to finding solutions for internal displacement. You can’t achieve anything if you avoid them.

IPS: If national governments are the change agents, what’s the role of international organisations in displacement?

AB: Although it is a development issue for the national governments, there are many humanitarian implications that need to be addressed. International organisations provide that immediate protection and assistance that international displaced people need. This is the role they must continue playing, despite their reduced budgets. Also let’s keep in mind that there are many diplomatic efforts to prevent these conflicts.

This is the development, humanitarian and peace building nexus. They need to go hand in hand for a comprehensive approach. But yes, ultimately, it still boils down to political will.

IPS: What about natural disasters? How can we predict them to avoid their consequences?

AB: There are already models that project into the future and give a good sense of the intensity of natural hazards in the future. IDMC has actually developed a global disaster displacement risk model. There’s a way of having a sense of the scale and scope of what to expect in the future.

But our message has always been the same. This is only going to get worse with climate change, unless there is a significant investment in preventative measures like disaster-risk reduction and climate change adaptation.

We know which are the countries that are going to be most affected. The latest report from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) on climate clearly pointed out what communities are going to be more affected in the future. This will impact internal displacement.

IPS: So, what would be your recommendation to a national government to manage this situation?

AB: There are many recommendations for those countries that suffer from the impacts. They need better early warning systems and preparedness measures, so people can be quickly evacuated in the right way.

Our recommendation is also to build on the good practices governments that have already been implemented. For example, in the Philippines displacement figures are part of their disaster loss database. It would be great if every country could have the same kind of national data system in place.

Other recommendations come from processes of relocation. In the Pacific, entire communities that are at risk of climate change impact have to be relocated. How are these communities going to be moved in a dignified way respecting their cultural heritage?

Finally, there also needs to be a gender perspective to make sure that women and children can be consulted in the process.

IPS: What do you predict for the next 12 months in terms of displacement?

AB: Based on what we are monitoring, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East will continue to be areas of concern for us due to conflict. We are looking at a recent peak in displacement in Ethiopia. This is not a situation that is going to be resolved any time soon, so we will see a displacement crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria… also in Syria. We will look at high displacement figures next year.

In terms of disaster displacement, we will see massive hurricanes in Asia, which will have long-term consequences. There are pockets of displaced people that remain so for large periods of time, also in high-income countries like Japan.

The post Q&A: Using Data to Predict Internal Displacement Trends appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Carmen Arroyo interviews ALEXANDRA BILAK, director of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

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A New IFC Vision for Greening Banks in Emerging Marketshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/new-ifc-vision-greening-banks-emerging-markets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-ifc-vision-greening-banks-emerging-markets http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/new-ifc-vision-greening-banks-emerging-markets/#respond Mon, 15 Oct 2018 11:26:02 +0000 Philippe Le Houerou http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158182 Philippe Le Houérou is President, International Finance Corporation (IFC), a World Bank affiliate

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The Benban Solar Park will provide fast-growing Egypt with the clean energy it needs to drive economic growth sustainably. Credit: Dominic Chavez/World Bank

By Philippe Le Houérou
WASHINGTON DC, Oct 15 2018 (IPS)

The International Finance Corporation is rapidly greening its portfolio.

This past fiscal year, 36 percent of our own accounts and mobilization supported climate-smart projects — up from 12 percent a decade ago. Since May, we have been applying a carbon price to all project finance investments in the cement, chemicals, and thermal power sectors, at $40-80 per metric ton.

And in less than a decade we, along with other development finance institutions, have become a global leader in creating the green bond market, helping to start a market that didn’t exist in 2007 and that last year totaled more than $150 billion in investments.

Yet we should do more. Over the past few years, civil society groups have been critical of IFC for supporting financial intermediaries that have coal exposures. We do not lend for the purpose of financing coal-related activities.

In the past, we have made equity investments in banks that may have exposures to such coal projects, and we have given general purpose loans to banks and those funds may have inadvertently been invested in coal projects.

In response, we have changed our policy in the past two years to vastly reduce our direct and indirect exposure to coal in new financial intermediaries projects.

For one thing, we have eliminated our general-purpose loans to any financial intermediaries; we now ring-fence about 95 percent of our lending to financial intermediaries to ensure that the financing only supports targeted areas, such as projects promoting energy efficiency, renewables, women business owners, or small and medium-sized enterprises.

We will certainly continue to lend to financial intermediaries with targeted credit lines going forward, and take equity in banks that are not engaged in financing coal projects, in support of our development mandate. We also have stepped up our work with emerging market banks on green bonds.

But the broader discussion around the vast need for climate finance and action has spurred a lot of thinking inside IFC. We have asked ourselves, how can we have a bigger impact? Would it be to never invest in, or divest ourselves of, all equity investments in financial intermediaries that have invested in coal in the past? That, indeed, is one way.

I believe there’s a different new and more impactful approach. I want to proactively seek financial intermediaries that would like our help in greening their portfolios and reducing their exposure to coal projects, which are not only bad for the environment but could also become stranded assets in the future.

I want to develop a green equity investment approach to working with financial intermediaries that formally commit upfront to reduce or, in some cases, exit all coal investments over a defined period.
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In the coming months, we will work to define the parameters of this new approach, including a framework for transparency and disclosure as well as time-bound commitments.

I strongly believe that transparency is essential to promoting accountability and ensuring good development outcomes.

On this front, I also plan to introduce a number of improvements. We will require new equity financial intermediary clients exposed to coal projects to publicly disclose their total exposure in this sector. We will also require all new financial intermediary clients exposed to high-risk projects to disclose a summary of their environmental social management systems.

In addition, we have decided to pilot a voluntary initiative with our financial intermediary clients exposed to high-risk projects for the next two years to promote disclosure of such high-risk sub-projects initiated from IFC lending, including the name, sector, and host country of the project.

I believe we must also push transparency from the regulatory angle. In this regard, we will seek to put disclosure on the agenda of the Sustainable Banking Network, which brings together banking regulators and associations from 35 countries to transform their financial markets toward environmental and social sustainability.

The experience gained through the pilot program, discussions with clients, and feedback from regulators will help us define a much better way forward on transparency.

It is our intent that this twin strategy aimed at creating incentives for financial intermediary equity clients to reduce or exit coal projects, as well as improving transparency, will result in fewer of these investments. There are no guarantees, of course.

But I believe that IFC and other development finance institutions must move urgently with new ideas to preserve our planet. We have no choice but to be bold.

The post A New IFC Vision for Greening Banks in Emerging Markets appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Philippe Le Houérou is President, International Finance Corporation (IFC), a World Bank affiliate

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Rural Migration: An Opportunity, Not A Challengehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/rural-migration-opportunity-not-challenge/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rural-migration-opportunity-not-challenge http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/rural-migration-opportunity-not-challenge/#respond Mon, 15 Oct 2018 11:03:04 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158170 While it can be a challenging issue, migration must be seen as an opportunity and be met with sound, coherent policies that neither stem nor promote the phenomenon. A new report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) examines rural migration and urges countries to maximise the contribution of such migrants […]

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Women and children caught in a dust-laden gust at an IDP settlement 60km south of the town of Gode, reachable only along a dirt track through the desiccated landscape. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Women and children caught in a dust-laden gust at an IDP settlement 60km south of the town of Gode, reachable only along a dirt track through the desiccated landscape. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 15 2018 (IPS)

While it can be a challenging issue, migration must be seen as an opportunity and be met with sound, coherent policies that neither stem nor promote the phenomenon.

A new report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) examines rural migration and urges countries to maximise the contribution of such migrants to economic and social development.

“We cannot ignore the challenges and costs associated with migration,” FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva said.

“The objective must be to make migration a choice, not a necessity, and to maximise the positive impacts while minimising the negative ones,” he added.

FAO’s senior economist and author of the report Andrea Cattaneo echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating; “Migration, despite all the challenges that it may pose, really represents the core of economic, social, and human development.”

Though international migration often dominates headlines, the report shows that internal migration is a far larger phenomenon.

More than one billion people living in developing countries have moved internally, with 80 percent of moves involving rural areas.

Migration between developing countries is also larger than those to developed countries. For instance, approximately 85 percent of refugees globally are hosted by developing countries, and at least one-third in rural areas.

Cattaneo additionally highlighted the link between internal and international migrants, noting that in low-income countries, internal migrants are five times more likely to migrate internationally than people who have not moved.

A significant portion of international migrants are also found to have come from rural areas. FAO found that almost 75 percent of rural households from Malawi migrate internationally.

Abdul Aziz stands with his child in Dhaka's Malibagh slum. He came to Bangladesh’s capital a decade ago after losing everything to river erosion, hoping to rebuild his life, but only to find grinding poverty. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Abdul Aziz stands with his child in Dhaka’s Malibagh slum. He came to Bangladesh’s capital a decade ago after losing everything to river erosion, hoping to rebuild his life, but only to find grinding poverty. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Why all the movement?

While human movements have long occurred since the beginning of time, many migrants now move out of necessity, not choice.

Alongside an increase in protracted crises which force communities out of their homes, it is the lack of access to income and employment and thus a sustainable livelihood that is among the primary drivers of rural migration.

In China, significant rural-urban income gaps drove rural workers to abandon agriculture and migrate to cities.

Between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of China’s population living in urban areas increased from 26 percent to 56 percent, and an estimated 200 million rural migrants now work in the East Asian nation’s cities.

However, such rapid urbanisation increasingly seen around the world is posing new challenges in the availability of resources.

Poor environmental conditions and agricultural productivity have also driven rural workers away.

A recent study revealed that a 1 degree Celsius increase in temperature is associated with a 5 percent increase in the number of international migrants, but only from agriculture-dependent societies.

In other countries such as Thailand and Ghana, migration is prompted by the lack of infrastructure and access to services such as education and health care.

This points to the importance of investing in rural areas to ensure migration is not overwhelming and that residents have the means to live a prosperous life.

However, it is very important to consider the right type of investments and development, Cattaneo said.

“The type of development matters. Development per say is not going to reduce migration…but if you have the right type of development and investments in rural areas, you can make the case that you can reduce some of this migration,” Cattaneo told IPS.

A forward outlook

In the report, FAO advocates a territorial development approach to reduce rural out-migration  and thus international migration including investments in social services and improving regional infrastructure in or close to rural areas.

For instance, investments in infrastructure related to the agri-food system—such as warehousing, cold storage, and wholesale markets—can generate employment both in agriculture and the non-farm sectors and provide more incentive for people to stay instead of move to already overburdened cities.

Policies should also be forward-thinking and context specific, Cattaneo noted while pointing the consequences of climate change. This could mean investing in new activities that are viable to a particular region while another region moves towards more drought-resistant crop.

While migration may still continue, it will not be driven by the lack of economic opportunities or suitable living conditions.

“Migration is a free choice but if you put in place good opportunities at home, many people may decide not to migrate. Some will still want to migrate and that’s fine—that’s actually the type of migration that works. It’s not out of need, it’s out of choice,” Cattaneo told IPS.

In fact, migration often plays a significant role in reducing inequalities and is even included as a target under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 10, which aims to reduce inequality within and among countries.

Whilst reducing their own inequalities, migrants also contribute to economic transformation and development around the world.

“We focus on the challenges without looking at the opportunities that can come with migration because at the end of the day, people are a resource for society,” Cattaneo said.

“If we can find a way to put them into productive use, then that’s an added value for the destination or host country,” he added, pointing to Uganda as an example.

In recent years, Uganda has seen an influx of refugees from conflict-stricken nations such as South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

With its open-door policy, the East African country now has 1.4 million refugees, posing strains on resources.

Despite the challenges, its progressive refugee policy allows non-nationals to seek employment, go to school, and access healthcare. The government also provides a piece of land to each refugee family for their own agricultural use.

“This is a country that has looked beyond the challenges to see the opportunities, and they are making these people be productive part of society,” Cattaneo said.

With certain rhetoric that has cast migrants in a negative light, the international community still has a way to go to learn how to turn challenges into opportunities.

“Much remains to be done to eliminate poverty and hunger in the world. Migration was – and will continue to be – part and parcel of the broader development process,” Graziano da Silva concluded.

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Indonesia Unveils Low Carbon Development Frameworkhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/indonesia-unveils-low-carbon-development-framework/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indonesia-unveils-low-carbon-development-framework http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/indonesia-unveils-low-carbon-development-framework/#respond Fri, 12 Oct 2018 20:47:23 +0000 Kanis Dursin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158144 Indonesia is convinced that low carbon development and a green economy are key to further boosting economic growth without sacrificing environmental sustainability and social inclusivity. Low carbon development, also called low emission development strategies or low carbon growth plans, refers to economic development plans or strategies that promote low emissions and or climate-resilient economic growth. […]

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A woman works in her vegetable patch at the foot of Mount Sinabung, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Indonesia is one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG) that cause global warming on our now beleaguered planet Earth.Credit: Kafil Yamin/IPS

By Kanis Dursin
JAKARTA, Oct 12 2018 (IPS)

Indonesia is convinced that low carbon development and a green economy are key to further boosting economic growth without sacrificing environmental sustainability and social inclusivity.

Low carbon development, also called low emission development strategies or low carbon growth plans, refers to economic development plans or strategies that promote low emissions and or climate-resilient economic growth.

“It is timely for Indonesia to put in place sustainable development principles that balance the economic, social and environmental aspects. In this context, the government of Indonesia has committed to become the pioneer of sustainable development by initiating the LCDI [Low Carbon Development Indonesia report] and at the same time, preparing and implementing green financing mechanisms,” minister of national development planning (BAPPENAS) Bambang Brodjonegoro said.

He was launching the LCDI report that spells out the country’s green development path at the “Conference on Low Carbon Development and Green Economy” organised by the Indonesian government on Thursday, Oct. 11.

Organised as part of the 2018 International Monetary Fund-World Bank Group Annual Meetings that run through Oct. 14, the conference was co-hosted by several international institutions that help Indonesia in mapping and designing green growth programmes, including the UK Climate Change Unit, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), the Indonesian Climate Change Trust Fund, the New Climate Economy, and the World Resources Institute Indonesia.

The renewed stance towards green growth comes as the archipelago island nation is recovering from a 7.5 magnitude earthquake and a resultant tsunami that hit its Sulawesi Island on Sept. 28. There were an estimated 2,000 casualities.

It was followed Thursday Oct. 11 by another earthquake of 6.0 magnitude which hit the tourist area of Bali, where the current IMF-World Bank Group Annual Meetings are being held.

Indonesia is one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG) that cause global warming on our now beleaguered planet Earth.

In 2012, Indonesia produced a total of 1,453 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCOe), an increase of 0,459 GtCOe from the year 2000, according to the first Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) Indonesia submitted to the United Nations. At least 47.8 percent of the country’s GHG emissions came from land-use change and forestry, including peatland fires, followed by emissions from the energy sector, at 34.9 percent.

In 2015, Indonesia set an ambitious target to reduce GHG emissions by 29 percent under the business-as-usual scenario, and by 41 percent with international assistance and financial support by 2030. The same target was put in the NDC submitted to the U.N. under the Paris Agreement, which seeks to slow down warming to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius.

Marcel Silvius, GGGI Indonesia country representative at his office in Jakarta, Indonesia. Credit: Kanis Dursin/IPS

“The pledge puts Indonesia in a vulnerable position,” Marcel Silvius, Indonesia Country Representative of GGGI, an inter-governmental organisation that supports the implementation of green growth in Indonesia, told IPS. “It sets the agenda for former, current, and future governments.

“That is very brave, it is something that is lacking in other governments. There are very strong positive signals that Indonesia is a country that other countries look at as an example and they want Indonesia to succeed,” he added

“Countries that are not so forthcoming in their pledges will receive less foreign collaboration. So, it is all positive for Indonesia. I think Indonesia is leading on certain fronts, one clearly is on the peat land restoration, only a few countries put so much emphasis on rehabilitation of this ecosystem, Indonesia is one and Russia is another,” Silvius said.

In September, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo instructed related ministries and regional governments to stop issuing new permits for oil palm plantations, which are often blamed for forest and peatland fires, and to review existing ones for possible revocation.

In January 2016, the government established the Badan Restorasi Gambut or Peatland Restoration Agency. Directly under the president, the agency is tasked with restoring 20,000 square kilometres of degraded peat forest by 2020.

“I think Indonesia in many respects has been braver compared to other countries such as the United States, [and] even Europe. Indonesia has taken the right steps that we don’t see in other countries, including in developed countries,” Silvius said.

He also praised Indonesia’s decision to organise the conference on low carbon development and the green economy during the IMF-World Bank Group Annual Meetings in Bali.

“The event gives a strong policy signal and creates a proper investment climate for organisations like the IMF and the World Bank and countries who are members of the World Bank and the IMF. The government also needs to give this kind of signals to the private sector,” Silvius told IPS in the interview in Jakarta.

The conference included panel discussions featuring several prominent speakers including former vice president Boediono, former trade minister Mari Elka Pangestu, Co-Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, CEO of Unilever and Co-Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate Paul Polman, and LCDI Commissioner and Co-Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate Lord Nicholas Stern.

During the discussions, the speakers and participants shared their knowledge on the green economy, including business models that incorporate inclusive development and GHG emission reductions and ensure maintenance and restoration of natural capital, sectorial financing priorities and challenges, as well as strategies on how to effectively implement low carbon development.

The LCDI serves as a guideline in designing a development plan. If followed accordingly, the framework is “expected to accelerate rapid economic growth, reduce the poverty rate, and decrease greenhouse gas” emissions.

“To underline this commitment of implementing LCDI, the ministry of national development planning will mainstream the LCDI report on low carbon development framework into our next five years 2020-2024 National Medium Term Development Plan. This will become the very first ever low carbon development plan in the history of Indonesia,” said Brodjonegoro.

Recent global research suggested that bold climate action could deliver 26 trillion dollars in economic benefits in the form of new jobs and better health outcomes globally from now to 2030, compared to the business-as-usual approach.

Frank Rijsberman, Director General of GGGI, explained that foreign and domestic capital was available for the development of green projects, but that private investors require a sound supportive policy framework to help de-risk their investments in innovative green projects.

“There needs to be a strong collaboration of trusted global institutions and leaders from government and the private sector that are committed to green growth. This can certainly bring a significant change, which is very much needed by Indonesia for a better, cleaner, and more prosperous future,” Rijsberman said.

Meanwhile, the World Bank hailed Indonesia’s implementation of its NDC but warned that the current policy framework was still a challenge.

“Indonesia is making significant strides in the implementation of its NDC, including in aspects of mitigation and adaptation. However, the current policy, regulatory, and governance framework for forested landscapes remains a challenge,” Ann Jeannette Glauber, lead Environment Specialist for the World Bank, told IPS via email.

The World Bank, Glauber said, has worked with the Indonesian government, private sector, and civil society to support the country’s efforts to move toward a green growth trajectory, including providing knowledge, partnership and financing support.

“We continue to stand ready to support the government of Indonesia with technical assistance and financing support to meet their green growth objectives at their request,” Glauber said.

And what is the way forward for the country? With all the pledges and programmes to cut gas emissions, Indonesia, according to Silvius, needs support.

“I don’t think any government in the world can do these things on their own including developed countries. There should be real collaboration and transfer of knowledge between countries, financial collaboration and assistance. Indonesia cannot do it on its own,” he said.

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Kenyan Women Turning the Tables on Traditional Banking and Land Ownershiphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/kenyan-women-turning-tables-traditional-banking-land-ownership/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenyan-women-turning-tables-traditional-banking-land-ownership http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/kenyan-women-turning-tables-traditional-banking-land-ownership/#comments Fri, 12 Oct 2018 15:58:12 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158133 This article is part of a series of stories to mark World Food Day October 16.

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Mary Auma feeding one of the cows she bought with credit from her table banking group. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Oct 12 2018 (IPS)

It was less than eight months ago that Mary Auma and her three children, from Ahero in Kenya’s Nyanza region, were living in a one-room house in an informal settlement. Ahero is largely agricultural and each day Auma would go and purchase large quantities of milk and resell it – earning only a 10 percent profit.

But in February life for the single mother and her children changed for the better when she raised the USD 1,500 required to purchase an acre of land and two cows. The money did not just buy her assets, but financial security and a sustainable income. And she has moved her kids to a nicer neighbourhood. “Eight years ago, none of us had land to call their own. Today, all 24 of us have been able to acquire land through loans received from the group’s savings." --Irene Tuwei, a member of the Chamgaa table banking group.

This is all because two years ago Ahero joined a table banking group. Table banking is a group saving strategy in which members place their savings, loan repayments and other contributions. They can also borrow funds immediately. Table banking groups are growing in popularity across Africa, and can be found in Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. In some places they are called  table banks and in others they are known as village banks.

Auma always wanted to own land so she could become self-sufficient.
“With a piece of land, I could live on it, keep cows, chicken and grow vegetables behind my kitchen. This is what I have always wanted but I had no money to start these projects,” she tells IPS.

When you can’t bank on land, bank on the table

While women can freely own and buy land in Kenya, less than seven percent of them have title deeds, according to the non-governmental organisation Kenya Land Alliance.

“You need collateral to secure a loan from a commercial bank and women generally do not have property. They are therefore unable to access credit to buy land. The concept of table banking is highly attractive to women because they loan each other the capital needed to acquire property,” Francis Kiragu, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi, tells IPS.

Auma says that the loans from her table banking group are attractive since the only collateral women need to provide are household assets. “It is rare for members to default on loans as members are mainly neighbours and fellow church [goers] who come together in good faith,” she explains.

As more women take over control of their farmlands, this will not only become their source of food but also income. Having an income is important as it increases their purchasing power. Credit: Kristin Palitza/IPS

Increased access to loans means increased access to land

Farming on lands they do not own has made it difficult for women to make transformative decisions and to contribute to sustainable food security. But as informal banking takes on a new form among rural women in Africa, there is a chance that women will start having increased access to land.

“Women are no longer hoarding pennies to share amongst themselves. We meet once a week and in just one sitting, 24 of us can now contribute up to 5,000 dollars,” Irene Tuwei, a member of the Chamgaa table banking group in Turbo, Rift Valley region, tells IPS.

Tuwei says that unlike in the past, women do not have to wait months to receive their savings. Table banking is an improved version of traditional merry-go-rounds where women would save a little from their household budgets and the lump sum would be handed over to one person at a time. This would sometimes mean that if there were 15 members in a merry-go-round it could take 15 months for each member to have their turn in accessing the funds.

Things have, however, evolved from this to a revolving fund.

“In table banks, not a single coin is banked, which gives us instant loans without providing the kind of security banks ask for,” Tuwei says.

Table banking still guided by rules

One of the most visible table banking movements in Kenya is the Joyful Women Table Banking movement that has 200,000 members in all 47 counties, and which claims to have a revolving fund estimated at 27 million dollars. This is said to be currently in the hands and pockets of women across the country in form of loans.

Tuwei’s Chamgaa group is one of 12,000 under this movement.

“These groups are so successful that we now have banks reaching out to us offering special accounts where we can borrow money at very friendly terms. Before, these banks would never accept our loan applications because we did not have assets to attach while applying for them,” Tuwei tells IPS.

Table banking is guided by rules and regulations designed and agreed upon by members. They include how often to meet, with some groups meeting weekly and others monthly.

The rules also include loan repayment periods and also touch on how members should conduct themselves during meetings. Tuwei says that across table banking groups, small misdemeanours such as being late for a meeting can attract a fine of between USD 2 to USD 5. Loans given to members are also charged interest.

Land and independence to call their own 

“Eight years ago, none of us had land to call their own. Today, all 24 of us have been able to acquire land through loans received from the group’s savings,” Tuwei says of her group.

Tuwei was struck by polio at an early age which affected her legs. So she could not move around freely and required assistance to plough her fields.
Since joining the group, she owns three motorbike taxis, some cows, chickens, pigs and an ox plough. She also has plans to open a petrol station near a busy highway soon.

She now also harvests approximately 80 bags of maize cobs, which translate to about 40 bags of grains once shelled. From this, she makes approximately USD 2,300 every harvest season and puts some of this money into her table banking group to boost her savings.

“At the end of the year we share all the money that has been revolving among us for 12 months based on what each member has contributed, additional money gathered from penalties and interest from loans is shared equally,” says Tuwei.

Women need land to combat world hunger

This year’s World Food Day comes on the heels of alarming reports that after a period of decline, world hunger is now on the rise, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

According to FAO, while rural women are the mainstay of small-scale agriculture and contribute significantly to the farm labour force and to day-to-day family subsistence, they have great difficulty in accessing land and credit.

Kiragu is emphatic that while the face of farming is still very much female, it will take more women accessing loans, land and information on better farming practices to end hunger, achieve food security as well as improved nutrition.

“To begin with, the agricultural sector is not receiving sufficient financial support. In Kenya, only four percent of private sector credit is going to the agricultural sector,” Allan Moshi, a land policy expert on sub-Saharan Africa, tells IPS.

Women in Kasungu, a farming district in Central Malawi, select dried tobacco leaves to sell at the market. According to FAO, rural women are the mainstay of small-scale agriculture and contribute significantly to the farm labour force. Credit: Mabvuto Banda/IPS

Women understand land better

According to FAO, women in forestry, fishing and agriculture receive a paltry seven percent of the total agricultural investment.
Even more worrisome is that while women in Africa contribute 60 to 80 percent of food, only an estimated five percent of women have access to agricultural extension services.

“Women understand land even better than men because they interact with the soil much more closely. We are now seeing more women taking charge of the land and not just as laborers, but also as land owners,” says Charles Kiprop, an agricultural extension officer in Turbo. He says that the number of women who own land as well as those who hire acres of land during the planting season is slowly on the rise.

Kiprop tells IPS that women have also become more proactive in accessing key information on better farming practices. “I have been invited by women’s groups to speak to them on farming practices on many occasions. Women no longer wait and hope that we will pass by their farms, they are now coming to us either as land owners or those who have hired land,” he explains.

The worst is yet to come

Participation of women in harnessing food production cannot be overemphasised, particularly in light of the Global Report on Food Crises 2018, which says that the worst is yet to come. The report was co-sponsored by FAO, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

It predicted that dry weather conditions would aggravate food insecurity in a number of countries, including those in the horn of Africa’s pastoral areas in Somalia, parts of Ethiopia and Kenya.

“The March-May rainy season in Kenya was below average, this has affected food production and spiked food prices,” Kiprop adds.

According to the food security report, in the absence of conflict and displacement, climate change shocks were the main drivers of acute food insecurity in 23 out of the 65 countries and territories analysed in the previous 2017 on food crises. African countries were particularly affected.

The report indicates that at least 10 percent of the population in Ethiopia, 25 percent in Kenya, 27 percent in Malawi and 42 percent in Zimbabwe are food insecure. Other affected African countries include Madagascar, Senegal, Lesotho, Swaziland and Djibouti.

According to the report, “the global prevalence of childhood wasting (low weight for height) is around eight percent, higher than the internationally agreed nutrition target to reduce and maintain childhood wasting to below five percent by 2025.”

Women with an income and purchasing power

Moshi tells IPS that as more women take ownership of farmlands, “this will not only become their source of food but also income. Having an income is important as it increases their purchasing power.”

“Rural women will then be able to buy foods that they do not have therefore ensuring that their households are food secure,” he adds.

He notes that the women will also be able to purchase farm inputs.

Tuwei confirms that having an income has had a direct impact on her capacity to adhere to better farming practices.

“Five years ago, I could not afford to hire an Ox plough and would rely on the goodwill of neighbours who would first plough their lands and then come to my rescue. Many times they would come when it was too late to plough and plant in time,” she explains.

Tuwei further says that she and others in her group can now afford to use quality seeds, unlike before when they relied on seeds saved from previous harvests and those borrowed from neighbours.

“With the right tools, women can overhaul the agricultural sector because they have always been the ones involved in the day to day farm activities,” says Kiragu.

And thanks to the success of her milk business, Auma is ultimately glad that not only can she feed her children, but she can provide for their education and thereby their future also.

“Our table banking group is slightly different because we also contribute 20 dollars each week towards the welfare of our children. If a child needs school fees the mother is given a loan specifically from this part of our saving and at the same time she can take the usual loans from the general contribution so that she can keep her other projects going.”

The post Kenyan Women Turning the Tables on Traditional Banking and Land Ownership appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories to mark World Food Day October 16.

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Women as Influencershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/women-as-influencers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-as-influencers http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/women-as-influencers/#respond Thu, 11 Oct 2018 10:54:07 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158112 The Migrants as Messengers awareness-raising campaign (MaM), developed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), uses innovative mobile technology to empower migrants to share their experiences and to provide a platform for others to do the same. By capturing the migration experiences on-camera and sharing the videos on Facebook, the campaign aims to educate potential […]

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The Migrants as Messengers awareness-raising campaign (MaM), developed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), uses innovative mobile technology to empower migrants to share their experiences and to provide a platform for others to do the same.

By IPS World Desk
DAKAR, Oct 11 2018 (IPS)

The Migrants as Messengers awareness-raising campaign (MaM), developed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), uses innovative mobile technology to empower migrants to share their experiences and to provide a platform for others to do the same.

By capturing the migration experiences on-camera and sharing the videos on Facebook, the campaign aims to educate potential migrants and their families about the risks involved in irregular migration. It also presents alternatives to migrating on routes that run dangerously through the desert, on to the Mediterranean Sea, and often lead to indefinite detention in North African countries like Libya.

MaM, funded by the government of the Netherlands, is a regional project run in Senegal, Guinea-Conakry, and Nigeria. It trains migrants who return home, like Ndiaye and Fatou Sall, in videography, interviewing, migration reporting, and online advocacy, so they can volunteer as ‘citizen journalists,’ or more appropriately, ‘migrant messengers.’ So far, IOM has trained nearly 80 migrants, referred to as Volunteer Field Officers, across the three participating countries; about one-third of the volunteers in Senegal are women.

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Climate Change Response Must Be Accompanied By a Renewed Approach to Economic Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/climate-change-response-must-accompanied-renewed-approach-economic-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-response-must-accompanied-renewed-approach-economic-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/climate-change-response-must-accompanied-renewed-approach-economic-development/#respond Fri, 05 Oct 2018 07:16:25 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157932 In the face of the many challenges posed by climate change, Panos Caribbean, a global network of institutes working to give a voice to poor and marginalised communities, says the Caribbean must raise its voice to demand and support the global temperature target of 1.5 °C. Ahead of the United Nations climate summit in December, […]

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In August Grenada expereinced heavy rainfall which resulted in “wide and extensive” flooding that once again highlighted the vulnerability of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to climate change. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
KINGSTON, Oct 5 2018 (IPS)

In the face of the many challenges posed by climate change, Panos Caribbean, a global network of institutes working to give a voice to poor and marginalised communities, says the Caribbean must raise its voice to demand and support the global temperature target of 1.5 °C.

Ahead of the United Nations climate summit in December, Yves Renard, interim coordinator of Panos Caribbean, said advocacy, diplomacy and commitments must be both firm and ambitious.

He said this is necessary to ensure that the transition to renewable energy and a sharp reduction in emissions are not only implemented but accelerated.

“This is a mission that should not be left only to climate change negotiators. Caribbean leaders and diplomats, the private sector and civil society must also be vocal on the international scene and at home,” Renard told IPS.

“The global response to climate change must not be reduced to a mechanical concept. It needs to be accompanied by a renewed approach to economic development and by a change in mentality, so that it is included in the broader context of people’s livelihoods, social values and development priorities.”

The Panos official said artists, civil society leaders and other actors in the Caribbean should emphasise the need to challenge the dominant approaches to development and to help shape new relationships between people, businesses, institutions and the natural world.

Meanwhile, the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI) said community-based and ecosystem-based approaches are critical to build resilience to climate change, especially in Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

“Investing in conserving, sustainably managing and restoring ecosystems,” CANARI states, “provides multiple benefits in terms of building ecological, economic and social resilience, as well as mitigation co-benefits through carbon sequestration by forests and mangroves.”

Renard said as evidenced all over the Caribbean in recent years, it is the poorest, marginalised and most vulnerable who are the most affected by climate change.

These include small farmers suffering from severe drought, households without insurance unable to recover from devastating hurricanes, and people living with disabilities unable to cope with the impacts of disasters.

“Climate change exacerbates inequalities, and adaptation measures must provide the necessary buffers and support to poor and vulnerable groups,” Renard told IPS.

“All sectorial, national and international legal and policy frameworks must recognise the benefits that can be gained from participation and partnerships, including the empowerment of communities, businesses, trade unions and civil society organisations to enable them to play a direct role in the identification and implementation of solutions, particularly in reference to adaptation.”

Yves Renard, interim coordinator of Panos Caribbean, says artists, civil society leaders and other actors in the Caribbean should emphasise the need to challenge the dominant approaches to development and to help shape new relationships between people, businesses, institutions and the natural world. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Additionally, he said the architecture and operations of climate finance institutions must be improved to facilitate direct access by national and regional actors; and to consider the financing of adaptation actions on the basis of full cost, especially in small countries where there is limited potential to secure co-financing.

He said that climate finance institutions also needed to facilitate civil society and private sector involvement in project design and execution; and, increase SIDS representation in the governance of financing institutions.

Renard said that in light of the critical importance of decentralised and community-based approaches to adaptation and resilience building, financing institutions and mechanisms should design and implement facilities that make technical assistance and financing available to local actors, as is being done, with significant success, by the Small Grants Programme of the Global Environment Facility.

He said that even in some of the poorest countries in the region, local actors have been taking the initiative in responding to the impacts of climate change.

“For the Caribbean, a regional coalition of civil society actors is necessary so as to build solidarity, and to share experiences and expertise on climate action in local contexts. These civil society networks must reinforce and build on actions taken by regional governments, and more international support is required for this work to be undertaken,” he said.

“Increased resources and capacities in communications and advocacy are required in order to disseminate the scientific evidence on climate change, to deepen understanding within the region on climate change and its impacts, and to push for more ambitious action on climate change at the global level.”

In addressing the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly debate, Grenada’s foreign affairs minister Peter David called on other Caribbean nations and SIDS to serve as “test cases” for nationwide implementation of climate-related technologies and advances.

David said the Caribbean also represents some of the most globally compelling business cases for sustainable renewable energy investment.

“Being climate smart goes beyond policies,” he said. “It goes beyond resilient housing, resilient infrastructure and resilient agriculture. It means that the region can also serve as a global beacon for renewable energy and energy efficiency.”

“We aim to not only be resilient, but with our region’s tremendous potential in hydro-electricity and geothermal energy, we could also be climate smart.”

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How to Green Uganda’s Citieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/green-ugandas-cities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=green-ugandas-cities http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/green-ugandas-cities/#respond Wed, 03 Oct 2018 11:52:43 +0000 Wambi Michael http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157934 Locals in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, always have two or three things to say in a conversation about how the city is developing. Some say it is filthy because of the growing waste; others say it is a slum because of its unplanned settlements; and then there are those who say it is just plain inconvenient […]

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Old taxi Park in Uganda's Capital Kampala. The Green Growth Strategy in Uganda seeks to introduce rapid bus transport and light railways to avoid this type of congestion. Credit Wambi Michael/IPS

By Wambi Michael
KAMPALA, Oct 3 2018 (IPS)

Locals in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, always have two or three things to say in a conversation about how the city is developing. Some say it is filthy because of the growing waste; others say it is a slum because of its unplanned settlements; and then there are those who say it is just plain inconvenient because of the traffic congestion created by the boda boda (motorcycle taxis) and commuter taxis that honk incessantly as they make their way along the streets.

But Juliana (not real name), a student from Seven Hills International School, has a solution to the capital’s urbanisation crisis.

“I’m praying that a hurricane hits Kampala so that we would have no choice but to re-organise it,” she says. She is part of a class team working on a project to turn Kampala into modern city.

“What would be the name of that hurricane? This was a big statement. Have our children given up?” asks Amanda Ngabirano, an Urban Planning lecturer from Makerere University.

Ngabirano, has been working in partnership with the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) on plans for a downtown car-free zone. She disagrees with Juliana on the suggestion that the entire city should be razed and says it can transition to a low carbon future based on the Global Green Growth Institute’s green cities model.

A green city is an urban area that moves toward long-term environmental protection, social inclusion, and economic sustainability. A green city, according to GGGI, is understood as an urban area that moves toward long-term environmental protection, social inclusion, and economic sustainability. GGGI is a treaty-based international organisation that promotes green growth.

Ngabirano tells IPS that there is still an opportunity to green Uganda’s urban settlements.

A city impacted by growth

Uganda is slowly urbanising with about 19 percent of its population living in urban centres. It is projected that 30 percent of Uganda’s almost 42 million people  will be urban dwellers by 2035.

Kampala, the country’s biggest city, is faced with a number of problemswhich include the growth of informal settlements, encroachment on wetlands, and inadequate sewage and water treatment plants to service the city’s population of 1.5 million–all of which are exerting pressure on the natural environment.

Urban planners and environmentalists have concluded that Uganda’s current “grow dirty now, clean up later” style of urbanisation is not sustainable.

However, the government has embarked on reversing the damage to its natural resources. With support from development partners, the government is looking towards a green growth strategy that emphasises the need for a more harmonious relationship between development and the environment.

In partnership with GGGI, the government recently developed the Uganda Green Growth Development Strategy 2017/18 – 2030/31.

Launched last November, it will be implemented over the next 14 years and is estimated to cost USD11 billion.

Urban green growth model

The strategy suggests a new urban growth model that encourages a more compact, connected national transition by 2040. It projects to increase access to basic services by over 33 percent, reduce the aggregate infrastructure investment requirement by 11 percent, and reduce greenhouse gases by 27 percent.

Peter Okubal, the GGGI country representative to Uganda, tells IPS that his organisation has already embarked on policy changes and formulations to enable this East African nation to follow a green path to its development.

“Our analysis suggests that improved urban policy is not enough – correcting ongoing issues in the economy will be just as important for a successful urban transition,” Okubal says.

Uganda’s Vision 2040 suggests eight priority interventions to catalyse better urban growth. If implemented, they could boost GDP by USD4.3 billion by 2040, as well as provide new jobs and positive environmental benefits.

Okubal says that there is indeed an opportunity for Kampala and other cities in Africa to change the trajectory that they are on by adopting the green cities model of urbanisation.

“The population living in green cities is rapidly growing. So if the governments took advantage and developed cities that are competitive, then they are likely to reap the urban dividend rather than getting the confusion associated with urbanisation,” explains Okubal.

GGGI has supported Uganda’s ministry of lands and urban development complete the national urban policy through its green cites programme. It has also supported the process of development of a strategy to implement the green cities road map.

The road map provides a step-by-step process through which a city can be transitioned from an ordinary one to one that is competitive, compact and coordinated.

“That is the model that we promote. [For] cities in Uganda should be able to connect to each other, they must be competitive. That means that they should be able to generate businesses, they must be livable at the same time but also productive in nature,” Okubal says.

The Uganda Vision 2040 proposes four regional cities and five strategic cities in the course of Uganda’s urbanisation. These are the capital city Kampala, the regional cities of Gulu in Northern Uganda, Mbale in Eastern Uganda, Mbarara in Western Uganda, and Arua in West Nile region.

“Uganda is endowed with rich natural diversity that necessitates incorporation of sustainable and consumption practices into the economy to ensure the sustainability of natural resource capital,” Paul Mafabi, director for environment at Uganda’s ministry of water and environment, tells IPS.

He says well-planned urban settlements based on a green cities model could save the country’s natural resources.

“Most of these resources are non-renewable or in case of degradation, [result in] loss or extinction, their restoration demands a lot of financial, moral and physical input,” says Mafabi.

Chebet Maikut, Uganda’s commissioner for climate change, tells IPS that GGGI’s efforts towards a green growth model, especially in urban areas, cannot be underestimated.  “GGGI is currently helping government to work on the monitoring, verification framework for Uganda, which is quite essential under the transparency framework of the Paris Agreement which emphasises the need to track progress and report on the country’s progress on tackling climate change.”

Waste Management

In a related development, GGGI is taking steps towards addressing the increasing solid waste management crisis in the country. It recently completed the national urban solid waste policy. The document provides a framework in which the government of Uganda can manage solid waste nationally.

“The current waste management approach that the government has been using in Kampala is what we call pick and dump. Pick the waste from the household and dump it into land fill. Now GGGi proposes an alternative to that,” says Okubal.

“If we treated waste as a resource, and indeed waste is a resource, then we can leverage on the amount of waste generated to create 4 million jobs over the next 15 years,” he further explains.

According to Okubal, there are plans to develop a bankable project estimated at USD15 million to address the waste challenge in Uganda’s cities and urban authorities.

Financing Options For Green Growth in Uganda

Uganda’s government needs to mobilise USD11 billion over the next 15 years. It also needs USD2 billion dollars to be spent over the next five years. Some development actors have doubted whether the government can raise that funding from its budget or through development partners. But Okubal is of a different opinion.

“There is quite a lot of money out there. The money is out there but the governments are failing to tap the money,” he argues.

He explains that it is possible for governments to access those funds in different forms, either through routine budget cycle or through major players within the green economy.

“The EU [European Union] has, for example, allocated 60 million euro to be spent over the next two years to support the government of Uganda to implement the green growth strategy,” he explains.

Sweden, Norway and other individual EU countries are, according to Okubal, considering funding green growth efforts in Uganda.

“We have the Green Climate Fund, the Global Environment Facility and there are other international windows for funding for a green economy. All these are opportunities which the government of Uganda can tap into,” Okubal says.

The government plans to introduce the bus rapid transit and light rail which will either be run through a private/public partnership arrangement or by the a private sector led financing model.

The United Nations Development Programme country office in Uganda recently mobilised USD 24.1 million from the Green Climate Fund to implement the Presidential Initiative to restore the country’s degraded wetlands.

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Fixing the Crisis of Confidence in the Green Climate Fundhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/fixing-crisis-confidence-green-climate-fund/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fixing-crisis-confidence-green-climate-fund http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/fixing-crisis-confidence-green-climate-fund/#respond Mon, 01 Oct 2018 15:19:33 +0000 Jacob Waslander and Patricia Quijano Vallejos http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157909 Jacob Waslander is a Senior Associate at World Resources Institute and a former board member of the Green Climate Fund & Patricia Quijano Vallejos is a lawyer and Research Analyst in the Finance Center at World Resources Institute.

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GCF invests in adaptation and mitigation activities in developing countries, managing a project portfolio that is implemented by its partner organisations, known as Accredited Entities.

By Jacob Waslander and Patricia Quijano Vallejos
WASHINGTON DC, Oct 1 2018 (IPS)

The Green Climate Fund’s mandate couldn’t be more crucial: accelerating climate action in developing countries by supporting transformational investments in adaptation and emissions reduction.

Projects already financed by the GCF range from solar power in Mongolia and improved water management in Colombia, to climate-resilient agriculture in Ghana, Nigeria, and Uganda.

However, the GCF is facing a crisis of confidence.

Its most recent Board meeting, in July, was spectacularly unproductive, and its executive director left the organization. This is only the latest example of a broader problem—a GCF that in the eyes of many can be a lot more effective and efficient.

More resources and strengthened governance are fundamental to restoring confidence in the GCF, as we lay out in a new working paper, Setting the Stage for the GCF’s First Replenishment.

After speaking with 86 stakeholders—including board members from developing and developed countries—we have recommendations for strengthening key aspects of the GCF.

An Uncertain Future

In 2014, contributors pledged $10.3 billion to the GCF, making it the biggest multilateral climate fund. This money is used to stimulate environmentally sustainable economic growth in developing countries by funding projects like renewable energy facilities and storm shelters that reduce emissions and adapt a country to the changing climate.

Now, four years after the initial contributions were pledged, the GCF is getting close to allocating most of its resources and triggering a new round of funding (“replenishment”). However, given the GCF’s crisis of confidence, uncertainty looms over the process.

That is a problem, for the present as well as the future. Developing countries have prepared their nationally-determined contributions (NDCs, which are national climate plans) with the expectation that–in addition to their own domestic budget resources–they can count on financial support from developed countries, including through the GCF.

Given the longer-term objectives of the NDCs, good planning and timely implementation are key; this in turn requires predictable external financial support.

Hence, replenishing the fund and providing predictability to that funding is very important. The question is, how should contributing countries split the bill?

Splitting the Bill

How should the financial burden be allocated? The same way you might approach dividing up a dinner check among friends: agree on an objective, transparent, and fair way to determine who should pay for what.

In a similar manner, contributors might apply objective criteria to assess their contributions to the GCF. In our paper, to advance the conversation, we designed a formula that combines three objective criteria: gross national income (GNI), greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and GHG emissions per capita.

This is just one suggestion; the important thing is that any way of thinking through what countries contribute should remain based on objective data. You can interact with our methodology using our Contributions Calculator:

As expected, applying the formula will require most developed countries to increase their contributions. For leading countries—Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom—each of whom exercised exemplary global leadership in the initial round of funding, giving more than the minimum—we recommend they at least match their ambitious contributions in the replenishment.

More details on what our formula would imply for each of the contributing countries can be found in our GCF Contributions Calculator.

To be sure, the elephant in the room is the United States. The world’s second-largest GHG emitter has made no contributions to the GCF since 2016, at which point it had contributed a third of its pledge.

Stakeholders we interviewed stressed the need to stay engaged with the United States, the country that our model suggests should make the biggest contributions to the GCF.

Another feature of the Calculator relates to other countries, which might join the mix of contributors; you can experiment with the possibilities in our Calculator.

If developing countries decide to contribute, especially those that are already major emitters, it must be clear that these contributions will be voluntary and will not count towards the international finance goal of mobilizing $100 billion per year from 2020 onwards by developed countries.

Strengthening Governance to Deliver Results

The most recent GCF Board meeting in South Korea in July 2018 ended in gridlock. The Board had $1 billion in projects in the queue, and shockingly approved none. Project proposals from countries all around the world (like Tonga, India, Guatemala, South Africa and Cote d’Ivoire) are still waiting their turn. The Board also failed to advance preparations for the replenishment process.

This is just a recent example of deficiencies in the GCF’s governance system, which undermine confidence stakeholders’ confidence in the GCF – including developing and developed countries.

This loss of confidence will potentially restrain contributors from making new funds available to fill the coffers of GCF, subsequently affecting developing countries’ ambition to contribute to the timely implementation of the Paris Agreement.

This lack of progress corroborates concerns about the GCF’s governance interviewed stakeholders shared with us. We identified several shortcomings. We think three cross-cutting solutions can unlock the gridlock:

Apply consensus, not unanimity, to decisions. The GCF has interpreted consensus to mean each and every one of the 24 members has to agree with a proposed decision. Consensus is important, but not at all costs: if some Board members have reservations with a proposed decision, the Board should still be able to move forward through a mechanism for decision-making in the absence of consensus (as provided for in the GCF’s governing document.) This is essential to remain a reliable partner and to be able to accelerate climate action in developing countries.

Introduce a Board self-assessment mechanism. The Board needs to work in a collegial, structured and results-focused manner; it is important to assess from time to time whether deliberations are living up to these standards. Like many other institutions, we recommend both an external assessment and a self-assessment of Board performance.

Strengthen the Board’s role as a representative body. Most stakeholders noted a lack of clarity on what role Board members have, which countries selected them, and what responsibilities the hold. A more transparent system for selecting Board members, accounting for their positions on policy issues and clarity about their mandate, would rectify these ambiguities, as would better efforts to connect Board members with the countries they represent.

For the GCF to work, it needs predictable funding and governance reform. Predictable funding and governance reform can only come from committed leaders, who support climate action and from that perspective are willing to support a dynamic and transparent GCF, which can take risks for the sake of promoting bold action.

Time is not on our side, leaders need to act to make sure that GCF can make up its promise to support transformational change in developing countries.

The post Fixing the Crisis of Confidence in the Green Climate Fund appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jacob Waslander is a Senior Associate at World Resources Institute and a former board member of the Green Climate Fund & Patricia Quijano Vallejos is a lawyer and Research Analyst in the Finance Center at World Resources Institute.

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More Women Owning Agricultural Land in Africa Means Increased Food Security and Nutritionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/women-owning-agricultural-land-africa-means-increased-food-security-nutrition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-owning-agricultural-land-africa-means-increased-food-security-nutrition http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/women-owning-agricultural-land-africa-means-increased-food-security-nutrition/#respond Sun, 30 Sep 2018 12:01:24 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157894 Despite women being key figures in agriculture and food security, gender inequality is holding back progress towards ending hunger, poverty, and creating sustainable food systems.  During a high-level event on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, the African Union (AU) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO) reviewed the persistent […]

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Evidence shows that when women are empowered, farms are more productive, natural resources are better managed, nutrition is improved, and livelihoods are more secure. Credit: Kristin Palitza/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 30 2018 (IPS)

Despite women being key figures in agriculture and food security, gender inequality is holding back progress towards ending hunger, poverty, and creating sustainable food systems. 

During a high-level event on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, the African Union (AU) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO) reviewed the persistent gender gaps in agri-food systems in Africa and highlighted the need for urgent action. “It is therefore economically rewarding to invest in women’s education and economic empowerment since women often use a large portion of their income on children and family welfare.” -- AU commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture Josefa Leonel Correa Sacko.

“There is a strong momentum to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment in agri-food systems because women constitute the majority of agricultural labour,” said AU commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture Josefa Leonel Correa Sacko.

However, despite women’s crucial role in such systems, there are persistent gender gaps.

“We need to better recognise and harness the fundamental contribution of women to food security and nutrition. For that, we must close persisting gender gaps in agriculture in Africa,” said FAO’s Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva.

“Evidence shows that when women are empowered, farms are more productive, natural resources are better managed, nutrition is improved, and livelihoods are more secure,” he added.

While women account for up to 60 percent of agricultural labour, approximately 32 percent of women own agricultural lands across 27 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa through either joint, sole ownership, or both.

Only 13 percent of women, compared to 40 percent of men, have sole ownership on all or part of the land they own, according to the Regional Outlook on Gender and Agrifood Systems, a joint report by the FAO and AU that was presented during the event.

In 2016, thousands of rural women across Africa gathered at Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro to protest and demand the right to land and natural resources.

Some even climbed to the peak of Africa’s highest mountain, showcasing their determination for change.

Even when women are able to own their own land, many still lack access to productive resources and technologies such as fertiliser, agricultural input, mechanical equipment, and finance.

This poses numerous challenges along the food value chain, including food loss.

Globally, approximately one-third of all food produced is lost or wasted. Food loss and waste is a major contributor to climate change and in Sub-Saharan Africa, the economic cost of such losses amount up to USD4 billion every year, FAO found.

Closing productivity gaps could increase food production and consumption by up to 10 percent and reduce poverty by up to 13 percent.

While women account for up to 60 percent of agricultural labour, approximately 32 percent of women own agricultural lands across 27 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa through either joint, sole ownership, or both. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

The FAO-AU assessment also estimated that agricultural output could more than triple if farmers had access to the finance needed to expand quality and quantity of their produce.

Panellists noted that addressing the agricultural gender gaps in Africa could additionally boost food security and nutrition in the region.

Globally, hunger is on the rise and it is worsening in most parts of Africa. Out of 821 million hungry people in the world in 2017, over 250 million are in Africa.

Many African nations are also seeing a rapid rise in obesity, which could soon become the continent’s biggest public health crisis.

“It is therefore economically rewarding to invest in women’s education and economic empowerment since women often use a large portion of their income on children and family welfare,” Sacko said.

Graziano da Silva noted that among the key issues is the lack of women in governance systems and decision-making processes. 

Between five and 30 percent of field officers from ministries and rural institutions are women while only 12 to 20 percent of staff in ministries of agriculture are female.

This coincides with the lack of gender targeting and analysis mechanisms, resulting in services that target male-dominated sectors.

If such trends continue, Africa will not be close to achieving many of the ambitious development goals including the Malabo Declaration, which aims to achieve inclusive growth, sustainable agriculture, and improved livelihoods.

There has been some positive trends as many African countries have started to recognise the importance of putting women at the heart of the transformation of rural food systems.

Botswana’s Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme provides grants to women, enabling them to start their own enterprises and advance their economic well-being.

First Lady of Botswana Neo Jane Massi attended the high-level event and stressed the “importance of inclusive growth in our national development agendas in order to ensure that no one is left behind.”

Similarly, the Joint Programme on Accelerating Progress towards the Economic Empowerment of Women, implemented by various U.N. agencies including FAO and U.N. Women, has provided more than 40,000 women with training on improved agricultural technologies and increased access to financial services and markets.

While women’s participation in decision making has increased from 17 to 30 percent, Graziano da Silva stressed the need for better and more balanced representation of women at all levels.

Presenting the recommendations from the AU-FAO outlook report, Sacko called for an “enabling environment,” reinforcement of accountability mechanisms for gender equality and women’s empowerment, and a “gender data revolution” to better inform gender-sensitive policies and programs.

“Let us be ambitious, and let us all put our wings together,” Massi concluded.

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Without Food Security, There Is No Peacehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/without-food-security-no-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=without-food-security-no-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/without-food-security-no-peace/#comments Thu, 27 Sep 2018 05:33:09 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157799 Reversing years of progress, global hunger is on the rise once again and one of the culprits is clear: conflict. A high-level side event during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly brought together, U.N. officials, governments, and civil society to assess and recommend solutions to the pressing issue of conflict-based food insecurity.  […]

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Two mothers and their children look to shore after arriving by boat to Mingkaman, Awerial County, Lakes State, South Sudan. In 2014 in less than a month close to 84,000 fleeing the fighting in Bor crossed the river Nile. South Sudan has been mired in civil conflict since December 2013. Some 2.8 million people, a majority of whom depend on livestock for their livelihoods, are now facing acute food and nutrition insecurity, according to FAO. Credit: Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 27 2018 (IPS)

Reversing years of progress, global hunger is on the rise once again and one of the culprits is clear: conflict.

A high-level side event during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly brought together, U.N. officials, governments, and civil society to assess and recommend solutions to the pressing issue of conflict-based food insecurity. “The use of hunger as a weapon of war is a war crime. Yet, in some conflict settings, parties to conflict use siege tactics, weaponise starvation of civilians, or impede life-saving humanitarian supplies to reach those desperately in need." -- Action Against Hunger’s CEO Veronique Andrieux

“Conflict-related hunger is one of the most visible manifestations to human suffering emerging from war…this suffering is preventable and thus all the more tragic,” said United States’ Agency for International Development’s (USAID) administrator Mark Green.

According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018, the number of hungry people increased to over 820 million in 2017 from approximately 804 million in 2016, levels unseen for almost a decade.

The Global Report on Food Crises found that almost 124 million people across 51 countries faced crisis-level food insecurity in 2017, 11 million more than the year before.

Conflict was identified as the key driver in 60 percent of those cases.

The report predicts that conflict and insecurity will continue to drive food crises around the world, including in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

Panellists during the “Breaking the Cycle Between Conflict and Hunger” side-event noted food insecurity is often a tell-tale sign of future potential conflict and can lead to further insecurity.

“Building resilience…is indeed fundamental for strengthening social cohesion, preventing conflict, and avoiding forced migration. Without that, there is no peace,” said Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO) director-general Jose Graziano da Silva.

World Food Programme’s executive director David Beasley echoed similar sentiments, stating: “If you don’t have food security, you’re not going to have any other security. So we have to address the fundamentals.”

In an effort to address conflict-based hunger and the worrisome reversal in progress, the U.N. Security Council for the first time recognised that armed conflict is closely linked to food insecurity and the risk of famine earlier this year.

The group unanimously adopted resolution 2417 condemning the use of starvation as a weapon of war and urged all parties to conflict to comply with international law and grand unimpeded humanitarian access.

While participants lauded the historic resolution, they also highlighted that it alone is not enough.

“Humanitarian action and technical solutions can mitigate the effects of food crises but we desperately need political solutions and we need to implement [resolution] 2417 if we are to reverse the shameful, upwards trajectory of hunger primarily resulting from conflict,” said Action Against Hunger’s CEO Veronique Andrieux.

In order to prevent food crises and thus conflicts from escalating, the international community must take a holistic, preventative approach and strengthen the humanitarian-development nexus.

Before the long-running war began, Syria faced a drought which caused a spike in prices and led to food shortages. Many theorise that it was these very conditions that set off the civil war in 2011. This is a picture dated August 2014 of the then rebel-held Aleppo city, Syria. The government has since taken control of the city. Credit: Shelly Kittleson/IPS

Beasley pointed to the case of Syria where a seven-year long conflict has destroyed agricultural infrastructure, local economies, and supply chains and has left over six million food-insecure.

“The cost for us to feed a Syrian in Syria was about 50 cents a day which is almost double the normal cost because it is a war zone. If that same Syrian was in Berlin, it would be euros per day,” he told attendees.

“It is a better investment if we address the root cause as opposed to reacting after the fact,” Beasley added.

Before the long-running war began, Syria faced a drought which caused a spike in prices and led to food shortages. Many theorise that it was these very conditions that set off the civil war in 2011.

“Early action response to early warning is critical. We cannot wait for the conflict to start. We know that it will start,” said Graziano da Silva.

And it is data that can help establish early detection and prevent such crises, Graziano da Silva along with the other panelists stressed.

The Global Network against Food Crises (GNFC), which publish the Global Report on Food Crises, brings together regional and national data and analysis to provide a comprehensive picture of food insecurity globally.

It was the GNFC that enabled agencies to mitigate food crises and avert famine in northern Nigeria and South Sudan.

Just prior to the side event, FAO and the European Commission partnered to boost resilience and tackle hunger by contributing over USD70 million.

Panelists stressed the importance of such partnerships in addressing and responding to the complex issue of conflict-based food insecurity.

“At the ground, when we work together, it’s not only that we do better…we are much more efficient,” Graziano da Silva said.

Andrieux highlighted the need to uphold respect for international humanitarian law and that the U.N. and member states must hold all parties to the conflict to account.

“The use of hunger as a weapon of war is a war crime. Yet, in some conflict settings, parties to conflict use siege tactics, weaponise starvation of civilians, or impede life-saving humanitarian supplies to reach those desperately in need,” she said.

“We believe this is failing humanity,” Andrieux added.

Green pointed to the conflict in South Sudan where fighters have blocked desperately needed humanitarian assistance and attacked aid workers.

The African nation was recently ranked the most dangerous for aid workers for the third consecutive year.

“All the parties to the conflict are culpable, all the parties to the conflict are guilty, and they have all failed themselves, their people, and humanity,” Green told attendees.

Though the task of tackling conflict-based hunger is not easy, the solutions are there. What is now required is commitment and collective action, panelists said.

“All of us working together with effective solutions—we can truly end world hunger,” Beasley said.

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India Uses Tech to Power its New Battle Against Malnutritionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/india-uses-tech-power-new-battle-malnutrition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=india-uses-tech-power-new-battle-malnutrition http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/india-uses-tech-power-new-battle-malnutrition/#respond Wed, 26 Sep 2018 16:30:29 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157795 Kanaklata Raula from Kaptipada village in India’s Mayurbhanj District is on duty 24×7. The 52-year-old community health worker from Odisha state rides a bicycle for hours each day, visiting community members who need nutrition and reproductive healthcare. Raula’s main job is to ensure that the women and young children in her community are using the […]

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A mother and a child in Melghat district, an area in India with high rates of malnourishment. The government’s new POSHAN campaign aims to curb malnutrition by a significant margin by also using smartphones to collect relevant data. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
MAYURBHANJ DISTRICT, India, Sep 26 2018 (IPS)

Kanaklata Raula from Kaptipada village in India’s Mayurbhanj District is on duty 24×7. The 52-year-old community health worker from Odisha state rides a bicycle for hours each day, visiting community members who need nutrition and reproductive healthcare.

Raula’s main job is to ensure that the women and young children in her community are using the integrated free basic healthcare and nutrition services at the government-run community health and nutrition centre, locally known as Anganwadi.“Technology alone is not enough, we need to also reach the unreached population like the migrants who are too poor to afford a nutritious meal.” -- Laila Garda, the director of the KEM Hospital Research Centre in Pune city.

Raula monitors the health of all children under the age of six, checks their weight and their growth, ensures they are immunised and advises their mothers and other pregnant and nursing women on basic healthcare and nutrition. She then encourages them to regularly visit the Anganwadi.

But most important of all her duties, Raula is the record keeper of the community and notes, through numbers and statistics, the health of her patients. She then submits regular reports on the health of the community to the government.

“I am in charge of five villages. There are 300 families and more than 80 percent of them are poor tribal people. Without Anganwadi they will not be able to get proper nutrition for their children or necessary health supplements for themselves,” Raula, who received the best Anganwadi worker award in July by Plan India, the Indian arm of Plan International, tells IPS.

Life has gotten a little easier for Raula as the ministry of women and child development has decided to provide Anganwadi workers with smartphones or tablets with software especially designed to make their record-keeping and reporting easier.

India currently has the fourth-highest number of stunted people in the workforce in the world. Of these, 66 percent of  stunting is a result of childhood malnutrition, says a new World Bank report.

The recent National Family Health Survey 2015-2016 shows that while there is a declining trend in child stunting, the levels remain high at 38.4 percent in 2015/2016.

The survey noted increased levels of child wasting (where one’s weight is too low for their height); from 19.8 percent in 2005/2006 to 21 percent in 2015/2016. The country also has high levels of anaemia among children–58.4 percent of children under the age of six are anaemic.

To curb the alarming rate of malnutrition and stunting, India launched a new nutrition drive last November called Partnerships and Opportunities to Strengthen and Harmonise Action for Nutrition (POSHAN). With a total budget of nine billion rupees (USD126 million), the campaign has an ambitious goal: to reduce stunting, under-nutrition, anaemia and low birth weights by about two to three percent per annum.

According to information shared in national parliament by India’s minister of women and child development Maneka Gandhi, POSHAN is using:

  • a mobile application that is made available to the community healthcare workers and is pre-loaded on mobile phones and,
  • a six-tier monitoring dashboard for desktops.

 

IT for ground data

But how will smartphones be used by the Anganwadi workers while in the field?

Pramila Rani Brahma, the social welfare minister for Assam state, in north eastern India, explains that the phones will be loaded with software called the Common Application System or CAS, which was specially built for the POSHAN campaign and developed in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Anganwadi workers will use the software to enter the details of their patients, including the number of children they see, their health updates, weight etc., and will send this report to headquarters.

Data on service delivery and its impact on nutrition outcomes will also be collected.

The desktop monitoring system will be used to monitor the delivery of services to children, pregnant women and lactating mothers. It will analyse the ground data and map the weight efficiency, height and nutrition status of children under five years.

“There are a total 11 registers which I have to regularly maintain. It [usually] takes many hours. I think it will save me a lot of time, which I can spend on serving the community better. I think it will also help send the information much more quickly to the higher officials,” Raula tells IPS.

According to Brahma, the 61,000-strong Anganwadi workers in Assam state have been struggling to submit their daily reports and even demanded computers or laptops.

There are currently nearly 1.3 million Anganwadi workers across India – all of whom will receive a simple, android data-enabled smartphone, according to the government. The phones will be distributed by the respective state governments, while the federal government and its ministry of women and child development will provide the funds.

“I was informed that, there are provisions to provide smartphones to the Anganwadi workers and several other states have already taken this initiative. We will provide the smartphones to the Anganwadi workers within a short period of time,” Brahma said to a group of journalists – which included IPS – at a state-organised workshop on nutrition in Guwahati, Assam.

An early success story

The IT-enabled nutrition campaign has already reaped some results, when it was first rolled out in June.

“We have given over 50,000 cellphones to Anganwadi workers through which they give us daily reports on how many children were provided food, how many were weighed, etc,” Gandhi said at press conference in New Delhi. “Until now, we have identified 12,000 children (as severely underweight) and we are following up on their status with the district officials,” she said.

Besides collecting numbers, Anganwadi workers are also using the smartphones for  surveying houses in their neighbourhoods and even sending photos of children eating a hot cooked meal at the Anganwadi.

An uphill task ahead

However, despite the new campaign, the road ahead for India to become malnutrition-neutral remains a difficult one.

One of the main reasons for this is that the country still has a huge population that continues to face acute hunger. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nation’s report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2018, some 159 million of the country’s 1.3 billion people are undernourished.

The Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition’s Food Sustainability Index (FSI) 2017 ranks 34 countries across three pillars: sustainable agriculture; nutritional challenges; and food loss and waste. India ranks close to bottom on the index at 33. According to the index India ranks 32 in the world in food sustainability and human development. The centre will be hosting an international forum on food and nutrition this week as a side event to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Friday Sept. 28. One of the topics to be discussed is food and migration.

Kavita, a 22 year old domestic worker in Hyderabad’s Uppal neighbourhood, presents a perfect example of this.

She is a migrant labourer from Mahbubnagar—a rural district some 150 km away from Hyderabad—and despite labouring for nearly 12 hours each day, she is unable to afford a nutritious meal for her and her 18-month old daughter.

Every day Kavita cooks a simple meal of rice and tomato chutney for her and her child. Both the mother and daughter appear underweight and malnourished with a yellowish tinge to their hair and dark circles under their eyes. But the mother says that she has no time to visit an Anganwadi.

“I start working at 5 am and finish only at 4 pm. I have to work seven days a week. If I take one holiday, my employers will fire me. I heard that at the Anganwadi they give dhal, curry and even eggs to children. But I can’t afford to leave work and take my child there,” she tells IPS.

There are millions of poor migrants and floating workers like Kavita across urban India who are not aware of the government facilities or the POSHAN campaign and continue to be left out of these initiatives. According to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, there were 326 million internal migrants in the country as of 2007/2008.

Unless this huge population is covered, it will be difficult to achieve the targets of the POSHAN campaign, says Laila Garda, the director of the KEM Hospital Research Centre in Pune city, Maharashtra.

“Technology alone is not enough, we need to also reach the unreached population like the migrants who are too poor to afford a nutritious meal,” Garda, who has been working in community health for nearly two decades, tells IPS.

Chuna Ram, a community reporter and nutrition activist in Barmer, Rajastahan—one of the states in the country with the highest rate of malnutrition—says that government action must go beyond the rhetoric.

In Rajasthan, he says, the government has talked of providing smartphones  to the Anganwadi workers, but it has not happened yet.

“The general election is going to take place in 2019, so the government is making a lot of promises to woo the voters. But how much of these promises will actually be kept will decide how far the situation will change,” he tells IPS.

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Countries On the Frontline of Climate Change Impact Call for Stronger Mitigation Commitmentshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/countries-frontline-climate-change-impact-call-stronger-mitigation-commitments/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=countries-frontline-climate-change-impact-call-stronger-mitigation-commitments http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/countries-frontline-climate-change-impact-call-stronger-mitigation-commitments/#comments Mon, 24 Sep 2018 13:24:05 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157725 Caribbean leaders want larger countries to pick up the pace at which they are working to meet the climate change challenge and keep global warming from devastating whole countries, including the most vulnerable ones like those in the Caribbean. Diann Black-Layne, ambassador for Climate Change in Antigua and Barbuda’s ministry of agriculture, lands, housing and […]

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Damage caused by Hurricane Irma in Road Town, on the British Virgin Island of Tortola. Caribbean leaders want larger countries to pick up the pace at which they are working to meet the climate change challenge and keep global warming from devastating whole countries. Courtesy: Russell Watkins/DFID

By Desmond Brown
SAN FRANCISCO and ST. JOHN’S, Sep 24 2018 (IPS)

Caribbean leaders want larger countries to pick up the pace at which they are working to meet the climate change challenge and keep global warming from devastating whole countries, including the most vulnerable ones like those in the Caribbean.

Diann Black-Layne, ambassador for Climate Change in Antigua and Barbuda’s ministry of agriculture, lands, housing and the environment, said that at present, most studies show that globally we are on track for a 3-degree Celsius temperature rise before the end of this century.

She pointed to extreme impacts already being experienced, such as greater storms, melting ice caps, increased overall temperatures, species fragmentation, increased invasive species and many other impacts.

“Currently, we need to be below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably at 1.5 degrees, to see a drastic improvement in climate,” Black-Layne told IPS.

“To put this in context, globally we are already 1 degree Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels.”

Black-Layne added that governments must back words with action and step up to enhance their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) by 2020 in line with the Paris Agreement and the ratchet up mechanism.

Although the contributions of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to greenhouse gases are negligible, every little action towards alleviating climate change counts.

“More importantly, a global agreement requires everyone to do their part, to build trust and encourage others to act,” Black-Layne said.

“SIDS can be some of the early movers to decarbonise our economies – that means growing an economy without growing emissions.”

At the recent Talanoa Dialogue held in September in San Francisco, newly-elected prime minister of Barbados Mia Mottley said while the Caribbean countries are not responsible for causing the greatest changes in the climate, they are the ones on the frontline. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Meanwhile, at the recent Talanoa Dialogue held this month in San Francisco, newly-elected prime minister of Barbados Mia Mottley said while the Caribbean countries are not responsible for causing the greatest changes in the climate, they are the ones on the frontline.

“Dominica was hit by [hurricanes] Irma and Maria, in fact devastated to the tune of 275 percent of its GDP last year. And that came on top of [tropical storm] Erica which devastated communities and led to loss of life,” said Mottley, whose Barbados Labour Party won all 30 seats in the May 24 election.

“This is our lived reality in the Caribbean. This is not an academic discussion. This is difficult for us. And therefore, when the discussions took place between whether it is 1.5 or 2 [° C ], others could wallow in the ease of an academic discussion. For us it will have implications for what communities can survive in the Caribbean, in the Pacific and different other parts of the world.”“This is our lived reality in the Caribbean. This is not an academic discussion. This is difficult for us. And therefore, when the discussions took place between whether it is 1.5 or 2 [° C ], others could wallow in the ease of an academic discussion. For us it will have implications for what communities can survive in the Caribbean, in the Pacific and different other parts of the world.” -- prime minister of Barbados Mia Mottley

In 2015, 196 parties came together under the Paris Agreement to transform their development trajectories and set the world on a course towards sustainable development, with an aim of limiting warming to 1.5 to 2° C above pre-industrial levels.

Through the Paris Agreement, parties also agreed to a long-term goal for adaptation – to increase the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that did not threaten food production. Additionally, they agreed to work towards making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.

In June 2017, United States president Donald Trump ceased all implementation of the non-binding Paris accord.

That includes contributions to the United Nations Green Climate Fund (to help poorer countries to adapt to climate change and expand clean energy) and reporting on carbon data (though that is required in the U.S. by domestic regulations anyway).

But the U.S. remains part of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Forty years ago, Barbados commenced the use of solar water heaters through tax incentives.

Today, Mottley says, no one in the country thinks about building a house without a solar water heater.

“That simple example showed us how the change of behaviour of citizens can make a fundamental difference in the output. We aim by 2030 to be a fossil fuel-free environment but we can’t do it just so,” she said.

Explaining that Barbados has recently entered a staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund, she lamented that her new government inherited a situation where Barbados is the third-most indebted country in the world today.

“It means that our options for development and financing are seriously constrained but our reality to fight what is perhaps the gravest challenge of our time continues. We cannot borrow from the World Bank or other major entities because we’re told that our per capita income is too high,” Mottley said.

“But within 48 hours, like Dominica, we could lose 200 percent of our GDP. That is the very definition of vulnerability if ever there was one. And unless we change it we are going to see the obliteration or civilisations or we’re going to see problems morph into security and migration issues that the world does not want to deal with.”

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Levelling the Playing Field for Persons with Disabilities in the United Stateshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/levelling-playing-field-persons-disabilities-individuals-united-states/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=levelling-playing-field-persons-disabilities-individuals-united-states http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/levelling-playing-field-persons-disabilities-individuals-united-states/#respond Wed, 19 Sep 2018 12:10:55 +0000 Emily Thampoe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157676 This article is part of a series of stories on disability inclusion.

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According to the United Nations “sport can help reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with disability because it can transform community attitudes about persons with disabilities by highlighting their skills and reducing the tendency to see the disability instead of the person.” Courtesy: United Nations

By Emily Thampoe
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 19 2018 (IPS)

When it was time for Joe Lupinacci to graduate from his high school in Stamford, Connecticut, he knew he wanted to go to college. While other students were deciding which college to apply to, the choice required more thought and research on Lupinacci and his parents’ part. Lupinacci, who has Down Syndrome, needed a college that would meet his needs.

“I wanted to go to college and be like my older brother and have the college experience. I wanted to meet other people like me and learn how to be more independent,” the now 22-year-old tells IPS via email.

While it is common in the United States for public school districts to have special education programmes that offer educational support to disabled individuals, many universities only meet the minimum requirements of the country’s Disabilities Act. But there are currently at least 50 universities that go further and offer programmes and/or resources for students with disabilities.“I turned from a unfocused player who would skate around the rink touching every pane of glass to a player who got into the game and played like a man. Daredevils has helped me gain friendship." -- former New Jersey Daredevils player, Ryan Griffin.

The College Experience Programme (CEP) at the College of St. Rose in Albany, New York is one of those programmes.

The CEP is a two-year residential, non-credit certificate programme hosted in partnership with Living Resources, a local organisation that helps people living with disabilities. While the programme is not a traditional one—it does not end in students earning a bachelor’s or associate’s degree—it allows students to focus on a career area that interests them. It also teaches students valuable skills that they can apply to their life, in parallel to the educational classes they take.

Lupinacci and his family learned of it through their own research and when CEP staff visited his high school’s college fair. After visiting the College of Saint Rose on several occasions, he and his family found it a great fit.

Colleen Dergosits, the coordinator of student life and admissions for the programme, tells IPS via email that its objective is to, “give students with developmental disabilities opportunities similar to their siblings and high-school peers.”

“Life skills are not taught in traditional college experience, these are often the skills people without disabilities take for granted in knowing. For those with a disability, when life skills are not naturally developed, it can hold back a person from being able to transition into a natural college atmosphere away from their family members or furthermore an independent life,” Dergosits says.

The CEP provides finance classes that help students understand how to make purchases in an effective way, how to split a bill between friends, and the importance of paying bills on time.

For Lupinacci, who entered the programme in 2015 and graduated in 2017, the CEP has given him skills and so much more.

“After going through the programme I made good friends. I learned to cook, clean and make decisions on my own,” he says. He also gained a new-found sense of independence.

With the programme’s “community involvement” component, students learn how to navigate their neighbourhood and attend off campus activities, and how to save money for those activities. These are all skills that many students on the programme may not have been exposed to before.

Learning through experience is imperative. Dergosits says that the CEP’s vocational courses are “invaluable.” “When the foundation of employment is broken down and taught, then supervised in a real world setting, our students are better prepared to hold employment on their own post-graduation,” she says. Students can learn what the workforce is like through interning and/or working at local businesses with assistance from an on-site job coach.

Dergosits and the rest of the staff have seen progress from the growing number of students they have worked with since the programme’s beginnings in 2005.

Students who previously kept to themselves and were reliant on familial support, have developed. They now have friends, can do household chores, travel independently and even have part-time jobs.

Lupinacci says he ended up going out quite often with his friends without adult supervision. “It was fun planning and going out with my friends with no adults. I went to many campus and off site sporting events that were really fun,” he shares.

Recreation is Key

While equal educational opportunities are important in the lives of disabled people, balance is also imperative.

Steve Ritter, a coach for the New Jersey Daredevils, a special needs ice hockey team for players of all ages, believes in the power of sports for disabled people.

“Sports helps them with social skills, which is lacking in this community. We make sure when we travel to places to play games that there is a place where they can get together and hang out,” he tells IPS.

According to a United Nations publication entitled Disability and Sports, “Sport can help reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with disability because it can transform community attitudes about persons with disabilities by highlighting their skills and reducing the tendency to see the disability instead of the person.”

The team practices pretty much every Saturday during the year and also plays matches with other teams from all over the east coast. They also make an effort to have outside opportunities for the players to bond and create long-lasting friendships.

Ryan Griffin first joined the Daredevils in 2001 after trying several options to stimulate his mind. He was diagnosed as being on the Autism spectrum when he was three and a half years old, and feels he has benefited from his involvement with the team.

“I turned from a unfocused player who would skate around the rink touching every pane of glass to a player who got into the game and played like a man. Daredevils has helped me gain friendship.

“I’ve learned about sportsmanship too, it’s not just about winning. Once I got to know all my teammates, we quickly bonded together as friends and we always will be there for each other like family,” Griffin, who is now 23, shares with IPS via email.

Griffin feels as though the experience he has had with the team has given him valuable life skills.

“Most importantly, Daredevils has taught me leadership. As team captain, I learned that leaders, like captains, should always lead by example. That means, trying to stay as positive as possible, even when things are not going the way they should be,” Griffin says.

In a world that has excluded disabled people from partaking in basic human needs such as education, the workforce, and being a part of a community, it is clear that programmes that encourage mental and social growth can be important in the life of a disabled person.

So while the CEP in Albany and the New Jersey Daredevils in New Jersey are both different localised experiences, they are examples of what communities should be doing in order to promote the inclusion and development of people with disabilities.

The post Levelling the Playing Field for Persons with Disabilities in the United States appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories on disability inclusion.

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Amid Chronic Violence, Millions of Afghans Face Risks of Drought Related Displacementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/amid-chronic-violence-millions-afghans-face-risks-drought-related-displacement/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=amid-chronic-violence-millions-afghans-face-risks-drought-related-displacement http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/amid-chronic-violence-millions-afghans-face-risks-drought-related-displacement/#respond Thu, 30 Aug 2018 16:07:12 +0000 Enayatullah Azad http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157410 Enayatullah Azad is Media, Information & Advocacy Coordinator, Norwegian Refugee Council

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Drought-affected IDP children from Badghis in front of their makeshift shelter in Kahdestan area or Injil district. Credit: NRC/Enayatullah Azad.

By Enayatullah Azad
HERAT, Afghanistan, Aug 30 2018 (IPS)

Amid a precarious security situation in Afghanistan, the worst drought in recent history, that hit two out of three provinces in Afghanistan in July, has destabilized the lives of tens of thousands of civilians, some of whom have already been displaced.

The United Nations has predicted that over two million people are expected to become severely food insecure in the coming period.

The West Region of conflict-stricken Afghanistan has been hardest hit by the drought, and over 60,000 people have been displaced to Herat and Badghis provinces, as a result.

Families that fled to Herat are living in dire conditions in makeshift shelters, where they are exposed to the scorching sun and summer temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius. Many families are subsisting on a single meal a day. Many get by on just bread and water.

Herat has become the closest refuge for about 60,000 people, who have been displaced from their homes due to the drought. Conflict has also prompted many to flee their homes to the relative safety of province.

Over 1700 civilians were killed in Afghanistan during the first half of 2018, according to UNAMA. It is the highest recorded number, compared to the same periods for the past decade. The combination of drought and conflict has made tens of thousands of families destitute. They live with few long term prospects or means of regaining stability.

Among the most vulnerable are women and children. Many of the children show visible signs of malnutrition and illness, including skin diseases and eye infections due to dust and the hot weather.

Ayesha Halima is one of thousands of such children, who fled her home for Herat.  Leaning against the wall of a distribution center, she patiently awaits her next meal, as he mother moves through the growing crowd to get their rationed supplies.

 

Halima at the NRC’s cash for food distribution center in Herat.
Credit: NRC/Enayatullah Azad

 

The lack of sufficient nutrition is visible in the pallid faces of children like Soraya Hawa Gul and FatimaPari Gul, who have become neighbors in Herat. They bake bread together in a clay oven in the open air. The mothers make about ten loaves of bread a day, which they wash down with boiled water or tea.

“We cook together because we share a bag of flour,” said Hawa Gul. “Neither of us could afford a bag of flour alone. We have spent all the money we had and have taken many loans from relatives.”

Given such meagre resources, the unconditional cash grants from ECHO and NRC have become life lines for tens of thousands of the impoverished households. Despite the rapidly deployed assistance, drinking water, food and medical supplies are falling short.

Over 1700 civilians were killed in Afghanistan during the first half of 2018, according to UNAMA. It is the highest recorded number, compared to the same periods for the past decade. The combination of drought and conflict has made tens of thousands of families destitute. They live with few long term prospects or means of regaining stability.

The blazing temperatures are testing the endurance of those who are in the IDP settlements. Many people are suffering from dehydration, with children and older IDPs particularly susceptible. With few water resources around, drinking water is a prized commodity in the settlements.

“We can’t get enough water to drink or to clean ourselves and our clothes,” displaced Afghans in Herat told staff of the Norwegian Refugee Council.  “There hasn’t been any change to our life situation. We fled our homes because there was no water and it is the same here. At least we a had shelter back home in Badghis.”

With illnesses such as diarrhea, skin diseases and eye infections on the rise, many children are in need of comprehensive medical care. One-year-old Ahmad Mohammed has diarrhea, and a skin and eye infection. He lives in a makeshift shelter with his family after they were forced to leave their home in Badghis city/region/province. “It’s been 70 nights since we arrived. My children and my wife are all sick, and I don’t have the money to buy them enough food or medicine,” Mohammed’s father Ziauddin told NRC.

Shelter is another pressing issue, with families residing in makeshift shelters for the time being. While protection from the scorching sun and the high summer temperatures are the present concern, staying warm and winterisation of homes will become a need, if they remain displaced into the winter months.

But, despite the challenges, women like 57 year old Khanim Gul, who have been displaced several times, show remarkable resilience. Gul was forced to leave her family behind in Badghis. “This isn’t the first year we are suffering from drought. Last year we had almost nothing on the table. This is the fifth tent that I am setting up – the heavy wind keeps tearing it apart,” she said.

Amid the struggles of daily survival, protection has been scant, with women and girls facing heightened risks of harassment and gender-based violence. In the absence of regular schooling and safe spaces where they can grow, learn and play, children are more prone to child labour and child marriage.

Amid scarce resources and lack of livelihood opportunities, including daily labour, many of the displaced men in Herat, try to travel to Iran in search of work.

With regular wages a far fetched notion for most of the displaced populations, Karim is counting his blessings these days. With loans from family members, he has set up a vegetable stall and sell onions and potatoes to the rest of the displaced community near his tent in Herat.

 

Karim selling onions and potatoes near his tent in Kahdestan. Credit: : NRC/Enayatullah Azad.

 

For thousands of families displaced from Herat the few items they carried on their backs are the only remnants of their homes. For many, this is not the first instance of leaving their homes and belongings because of drought.

While news of peace talks and bombings in Afghanistan make the headlines, the IDP communities suffering chronic, long term displacement feel “forgotten” by their government and the international community. They are in desperate need of long term assistance.

The post Amid Chronic Violence, Millions of Afghans Face Risks of Drought Related Displacement appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Enayatullah Azad is Media, Information & Advocacy Coordinator, Norwegian Refugee Council

The post Amid Chronic Violence, Millions of Afghans Face Risks of Drought Related Displacement appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Damning U.N. Report Outlines Crimes Against Rohingya As Children Suffer from Trauma One Year Laterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/damning-u-n-report-outlines-crimes-rohingya-children-suffer-trauma-one-year-later/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=damning-u-n-report-outlines-crimes-rohingya-children-suffer-trauma-one-year-later http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/damning-u-n-report-outlines-crimes-rohingya-children-suffer-trauma-one-year-later/#respond Mon, 27 Aug 2018 23:38:55 +0000 Farid Ahmed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157366 At 12, Mohammed* is an orphan. He watched his parents being killed by Myanmar government soldiers a year ago. And he is one of an estimated half a million Rohingya children who have survived and been witness to what the United Nations has called genocide. According to accounts in a U.N. fact-finding report released today, […]

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A damning reporting by the United Nations on the Myanmar’s army crimes against the Rohingya may come too late for these Rohingya children, many of whom remain traumatised as witnesses of the genocide. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

By Farid Ahmed
DHAKA, Aug 27 2018 (IPS)

At 12, Mohammed* is an orphan. He watched his parents being killed by Myanmar government soldiers a year ago. And he is one of an estimated half a million Rohingya children who have survived and been witness to what the United Nations has called genocide.

According to accounts in a U.N. fact-finding report released today, the children were likely witnesses to their homes and villages being burnt down, to mass killings, and to the rape of their mothers. As girls, they would have likely been raped themselves.

It has been a year since the atrocities in Myanmar’s Rakhine state led to the exodus of some 700,000 Rohingya—some 60 percent of whom where children, according to the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF)—into neighbouring Bangladesh and to the coastal Cox’s Bazar district were the refugee camps have been set up.

And life remains difficult for the children in these camps.

While some who live in the squalid camps find it hard to envision themselves returning to a normal life; others, like Mohammed, dream of justice.

“I want justice… I want the soldiers to face trial,” he tells IPS, saying he wants justice from the soldiers who “ruined his life”.

“They killed our people, grabbed our land and torched our houses. They killed both my mother and father. I am now living with my sister,” he says.


A year ago, on Aug. 25, Myanmar government forces responded to a Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attack on a military base. But, according to the report by the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, “the nature, scale and organisation of the operations suggests a level of preplanning and design on the part of the Tatmadaw [Myanmar’s military] leadership.”

The report outlines how  “the operations were designed to instil immediate terror, with people woken by intense rapid weapons fire, explosions, or the shouts and screams of villagers. Structures were set ablaze and Tatmadaw soldiers fired their guns indiscriminately into houses and fields, and at villagers.”

It also notes that “rape and other forms of sexual violence were perpetrated on a massive scale” and that “sometimes up to 40 women and girls were raped or gang raped together. One survivor stated, “I was lucky, I was only raped by three men.””

The report calls for a full investigation into genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, calling for Myanmar’s top generals to be investigated for genocide in Rakhine state.

Senior-general Min Aung Hlaing is listed in the report as an alleged direct perpetrator of crimes, while the head of state, Aung San Suu Kyi, was heavily criticised in the report for not using her position “nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events, or seek alternative avenues to meet a responsibility to protect the civilian population.”

While rights agencies have responded to the report calling on international bodies and the U.N. to hold to account those responsible for the crimes, local groups have been calling for long-term solutions to aid the surviving Rohingya children.

A Rohingya girl proudly holds up her drawing at a UNICEF school at Balukhali camp, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Since their arrival in Bangladesh many Rohingya children have not received a proper education, while the healthcare facilities have been strained by the large numbers of people seeking assistance.

While scores of global and local NGOs, aid groups, U.N. agencies and the Bangladesh government are working to support the refugees, aid workers are concerned as many of the children remain traumatised by their experiences.

While they are receiving trauma counselling, it is still not enough.

“Whenever there is a darkness at night, I’m scared and feel somebody is coming to kill us… sometimes I see it in my dream when I’m asleep… sometimes I see our room is filled with blood,” 11-year-old Ayesha Ali*, who was studying at a madrassa at Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, tells IPS.

UNICEF in an alert last week warned that denial of basic rights could result in the Rohingya children becoming a “lost generation”.

“With no end in sight to their bleak exile, despair and hopelessness are growing among the refugees, alongside a fatalism about what the future has in store,” the alert states.

It is estimated that 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are housed in Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh. Credit: Mojibur Rahaman Rana/IPS

A number of children in the camps have lost either one or both parents. Last November, Bangladesh’s department of social services listed 39,841 Rohingya children as having lost either their mother or father, or lost contact with them during the exodus. A total of 8,391 children lost both of their parents.

“Most of the children saw the horrors of brutality and if they are not properly dealt with, they might have developed a mind of retaliation. Sometimes the small children talk like this: ‘We’ll kill the army…because they killed our people.’ They are growing up with a sort of hatred for the Myanmar army,” aid worker Abdul Mannan tells IPS.

And while there are 136 specialised, child-friendly zones for children and hundreds of learning centre across Cox Bazar, UNICEF notes it is only now “developing a strategy to ensure consistency and quality in the curriculum.”

BRAC, a development organisation based in Bangladesh, points out current learning centres and other facilities for children are not enough for the proper schooling and future development of the children.

“What we’re giving to the children is not enough to stand them in good stead,” Mohammed Abdus Salam, head of humanitarian crisis management programme of BRAC, tells IPS.

Newly arrived Rohingya refugees enter Teknaf from Shah Parir Dwip after being ferried from Myanmar across the Naf River. Credit: Farid Ahmed/ IPS

Salam says that the children and women in the camps also remain vulnerable. “Especially the boys and girls who have lost their parents or guardians are the most vulnerable as there was no long-term programme for them,” he says, adding that many were still traumatised and suffered from nightmares. Cox Bazar is a hub of drugs and human traffickers, and children without guardians remain at risk.

Both the Bangladesh government and international aid officials say that they are trying hard to cope with the situation in Cox Bazar which is the largest and most densely-populated refugee settlement in the world.

But Salam says that it is urgent to formulate long-term plans for both education and healthcare if the repatriation process was procrastinated. “Otherwise, many of the children will be lost as they are not properly protected,” he says.

*Names changed to protect the identity of the children.

Additional reporting by Nalisha Adams in Johannesburg.

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Rohingya Refugees Left in Limbo One Year Onhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/rohingya-refugees-left-limbo-one-year/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rohingya-refugees-left-limbo-one-year http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/rohingya-refugees-left-limbo-one-year/#respond Wed, 22 Aug 2018 16:05:44 +0000 Jan Egeland http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157318 Jan Egeland is Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council

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

By Jan Egeland
OSLO, Aug 22 2018 (IPS)

Aid funding for refugee relief is running out while conditions are still not in place for the safe return of over 700,000 people forced to flee Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh after violence broke out one year ago.

The mass human exodus of refugees from Myanmar to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, which started on 25 August 2017, was one of the fastest growing refugee crises last year. It then attracted huge international attention, but one year on only 34 percent of the United Nations aid appeal to help the refugees and the host community has been funded.

The Rohingya refugees are living in limbo. The safety of families returning to Myanmar cannot be guaranteed, yet they’re receiving scant international support in Bangladeshi camps.

We urgently need to scale up the support. The international community must shoulder more of the enormous responsibility that the Bangladeshi authorities and local communities have taken on, as well as show persecuted Rohingya refugees they are not forgotten.

Facts

Around 900,000 refugees from Myanmar are currently sheltering in Bangladesh. About 725,000 have arrived after 25 August 2017, according to UNHCR.

By 21 August the UN appeal for support to the Rohingya refugee crisis joint response plan was less than 34 percent funded, according to Financial Tracking Service.

NRC is working in Myanmar and through partners in Bangladesh.

NRC’s expert deployment capacity, NORCAP, has worked in Cox’s Bazar since the onset of the disaster last year. So far more than 40 experts have provided shelter, education opportunities, health, water and sanitation services.

Today, Cox’s Bazar is the world´s largest refugee settlement. Most of the displaced are Rohingya, a Muslim minority who have escaped extreme violence and persecution. In total, around 900,000 refugees from Myanmar are currently sheltering in Bangladesh, with the humanitarian aid system overwhelmed by the vast scale of needs.

“I have not cooked any food for my children today. I do not feel safe enough to go out and collect firewood, so I exchanged some food items for fuel, but now I do not have enough to eat,” Janoara, a single mother of two sons, told the Norwegian Refugee Council.

The humanitarian emergency was further compounded by the onset of the monsoon season in June, with heavy rain, flooding, landslides and high winds damaging or destroying refugees’ shelters. Despite ongoing relocations to safer land, the camps are still dangerously overcrowded, with the average usable space reported to be a mere 10.7 square meters per person.

Far more appropriate land is needed – a major challenge in one of the already most densely populated countries in the world. In Cox’s Bazar, rumours abound and people are worried about being expected to return to their villages before their own preconditions for repatriation are met.

“I will not return before Rohingyas get citizenship, equal rights, free movement and compensation for the houses they burned down and my land. I will not return with my family before we feel completely safe,” Nurul Amin (35) told the Norwegian Refugee Council. He fled Rakhine about one year ago and his demands are echoed by many others in the camps.

The Rohingya people have the right to return. One year after the start of this crisis, we urgently need to speed up efforts to ensure conditions for voluntary, safe and dignified return, in line with international standards.

Access for humanitarian agencies to people requiring assistance in northern Rakhine State is currently restricted and it is not possible to independently verify information about conditions in the locations of return. There are also no guarantees in place that returnees will be allowed to return to their original homes and land, or to a place of their choice.

Humanitarian agencies need full access to people in need in northern Rakhine State to make independent assessments, provide assistance and protect communities who want to return.

 

The post Rohingya Refugees Left in Limbo One Year On appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jan Egeland is Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council

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Accessible Public Transportation and Housing, a Need for People with Disabilities in Major Citieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/accessible-public-transportation-housing-need-people-disabilities-major-cities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=accessible-public-transportation-housing-need-people-disabilities-major-cities http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/accessible-public-transportation-housing-need-people-disabilities-major-cities/#comments Wed, 22 Aug 2018 09:05:43 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157302 This article is part of a series of stories on disability inclusion.

The post Accessible Public Transportation and Housing, a Need for People with Disabilities in Major Cities appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Participants of the first Disability Pride Parade in New York City in 2015. New York has a long way to go before their infrastructure becomes inclusive for people with disabilities. Courtesy: UN Photo

By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 22 2018 (IPS)

Even though over six billion people—nearly one billion of whom will have disabilities— are expected to live in urban centres by 2050, many of the world’s major urban cities have a long way to go before their infrastructure becomes inclusive for people with disabilities.

As the world’s population ages, in 2050, more than 20 percent will be 60 or older, making urban accessibility an urgent need, according to a report by the Disability Inclusive and Accessible Urban Development Network (DIAUD).

But some major cities, like New York, have a long way to go before their infrastructure becomes inclusive for people with disabilities.
The report Service Denied: Accessibility and the New York City Subway System, published in July, revealed that 24 percent of the subway stations in the city were not accessible to people with disabilities. In addition, 62 of 122 New York City neighbourhoods with subway lines did not have stations accessible under the ADA, most of them located in the Bronx, Brooklyn or Queens. Despite the city government’s efforts to ensure public transport accessibility, the subway seems a hard battle.

“New York City is a great city with a lot of history behind it, unfortunately much of its iconic infrastructure was constructed before anyone considered the needs of people with disabilities. Today it can be difficult for a person with a disability to navigate our century-old subway system,” Victor Calise, commissioner of the mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities in New York City, told IPS.

Since the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006, which was seen as a human rights and development advancement, accessibility has gained momentum.

Also, the approval of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, and its consecutive implementation and amendment in 2008, ensured city government’s focus on inclusion. Although public transit, access to restaurants or office spaces, employment and education are some of the issues that urban accessibility includes; public infrastructure and housing remain the most important barriers in some major old cities, such as New York.

“The fact remains that to be a truly inclusive city we must continue the work to make our subway system equally accessible for all. Without equal transportation people with disabilities struggle to get to school, doctor’s appointments and their places of employment,” he added.

Asked what the current options, besides the subway, are for people with disabilities, Calise replied: “There are some alternatives in place, including a 100 percent accessible bus system, an increasingly accessible taxi fleet and a subscription-based paratransit service that costs the same as a subway ride.”

He explained that since mayor Bill De Blasio took office, improvements have been made, especially in the subway system.

“First, every subway system that is being built new (most recently the 2nd Avenue subway line) is being built with accessibility in mind. Second, with major renovations being done on subway stations we are also making necessary installations of elevators and other accessibility features while the work is being done.”

A further improvement has come from the taxi industry. “The TLC [New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission] has also expanded its Accessible Dispatch programme— previously only providing pick-ups in Manhattan—to all five boroughs to connect people with disabilities to yellow and green taxis as they need them, and also advocated for greater accessibility in the for-hire vehicle sector.”

The subway accessibility problem does not only exist in New York City. Other major urban centre like Paris and London also struggle to keep their subway stations accessible: 15 out of 303 stations in Paris are wheelchair-accessible, and 71 out of 270 in London are fully accessible, according to an article at The Guardian.

However, Los Angeles (LA) and the District of Columbia (DC) have done a surprisingly good job at making their public transportation system accessible for people with disabilities: all of their subway stations are fully accessible (91 in DC and 93 in LA).

Thus, their current improvements are going a step further. The spokesperson from Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti’s office told IPS: “We all have a role to play in breaking down barriers between communities with disabilities and the larger public.”

He shared with IPS what the city government has worked on during the last months: “The mayor issued Executive Directive 10—Vision Zero— to reduce traffic fatalities and make our streets safer for everyone, particularly for children, the elderly, and people with physical disabilities. We also issued Executive Directive 17, Purposeful Ageing LA, which is an innovative, multi-year effort to enhance the lives of older adults with improvements such as additional bus benches and transit shelters for elderly and disabilities individuals to use while traveling throughout the city.”

“These directives have helped Los Angeles become one of the most welcoming and accessible cities in the world,” he added.

In terms of housing accessibility, New York still struggles, due to its layout and antiquity, whereas DC takes the lead.

“An additional pitfall of the historic nature of NYC is its buildings. People with disabilities have difficulty navigating inaccessible building infrastructure; getting into restaurants, office buildings and finding housing units that are accessible for them,” argued Calise.

Asked what the strategy is to make housing accessible, he replied: “To combat this we are focused on ensuring accessibility in everything new that is being built by reinforcing and adding to the NYC building code. In addition, there are a multitude of renovation programs that modify a person’s home to make it more accessible.”

In DC, the mayor has also improved housing accessibility.“Mayor [Muriel] Bowser has devoted over USD100 million to the District’s Housing Production Trust Fund designed to develop accessible and affordable housing units both in new and existing apartment buildings,” Matthew McCollough, director at DC’s Office of Disability Rights, told IPS.

“This has led to the delivery of 3,606 affordable units, and there are 5,000 more affordable units in the pipeline,” he concluded.

The spokesperson from LA’s mayor’s office claimed: “As a city, it’s our job to ensure that all city facilities, programs, services, and activities are accessible to individuals with disabilities. But creating a more welcoming and accessible city goes beyond our infrastructure – we want every resident to feel safe and cared for by their community.”

Accessibility beyond city government

Although local governments are responsible for public infrastructure and, thus, for making it accessible to all citizens, civil society and the private sector also have a role to play that goes from lobbying to actually implementing solutions.

From NYC, Calise argued: “The role of the private sector is to realise the enormous benefits of accessibility in your business.”

“If your facility is accessible you are not only expanding your business to someone who uses a wheelchair but friends and family of people who use wheelchairs, parents with strollers and others. Accessibility is not only the right thing to do but it’s the smart thing to do in order to benefit your business.”

As for civil society, Calise stated: “The role of civil society is to be conscious of people with disabilities and the enormous benefits of inclusive design.”

Thus, they should move from consciousness to action: “With this knowledge, civil society should be conscious of how they can make their own homes, workspaces, websites etc. accessible and usable for all. In addition, when utilising these services of accessibility be mindful of those who really need them.”

The spokesperson from the LA office agreed and argued in favour of a comprehensive strategy: “It’s our job to help spread awareness around the needs of our disabled communities so that both the public and private sectors can proactively incorporate their needs into everyday decisions around services and infrastructure. As people with disabilities face disproportionally high unemployment rates, it’s also imperative that local civil society and the private sector work to create a more inclusive workplace by proactively recruiting individuals with disabilities.”

He concluded: “This holistic approach to actively identifying and incorporating the unique needs of individuals with disabilities helps ensure that everyone in our city is able to live vibrant, active lives.”

The post Accessible Public Transportation and Housing, a Need for People with Disabilities in Major Cities appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories on disability inclusion.

The post Accessible Public Transportation and Housing, a Need for People with Disabilities in Major Cities appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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How the Yanadi, an Oppressed Indigenous People in India, are Reclaiming Their Rights One Village At a Timehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/yanadi-oppressed-indigenous-people-india-reclaiming-rights-one-village-time/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yanadi-oppressed-indigenous-people-india-reclaiming-rights-one-village-time http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/yanadi-oppressed-indigenous-people-india-reclaiming-rights-one-village-time/#respond Tue, 07 Aug 2018 10:47:33 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157097 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds initiated by IPS on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on August 9.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yanadi – a tale of poverty and oppression 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Landlessness and exploitation 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Challenges before the government 

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

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

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

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

Self-help is the way forward 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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