Inter Press Service » Education News and Views from the Global South Fri, 01 Jul 2016 19:48:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Preventable Child Deaths Not Always Linked to Poorest Countries: UNICEF Wed, 29 Jun 2016 02:01:10 +0000 Aruna Dutt 1 Can Better Technology Lure Asia’s Youth Back to Farming? Sat, 25 Jun 2016 13:38:29 +0000 Diana G Mendoza ADB president Takehiko Nakao speak at the Food Security Forum in Manila. Credit: Diana G. Mendoza/IPS

ADB president Takehiko Nakao speaks at the Food Security Forum in Manila. Credit: Diana G. Mendoza/IPS

By Diana G Mendoza
MANILA, Jun 25 2016 (IPS)

Farming and agriculture may not seem cool to young people, but if they can learn the thrill of nurturing plants to produce food, and are provided with their favorite apps and communications software on agriculture, food insecurity will not be an issue, food and agriculture experts said during the Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s Food Security Forum from June 22 to 24 at the ADB headquarters here.

The prospect of attracting youth and tapping technology were raised by Hoonae Kim, director for Asia and the Pacific Region of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Nichola Dyer, program manager of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), two of many forum panelists who shared ideas on how to feed 3.74 billion people in the region while taking care of the environment.

“There are 700 million young people in Asia Pacific. If we empower them, give them voice and provide them access to credit, they can be interested in all areas related to agriculture,” Kim said. “Many young people today are educated and if they continue to be so, they will appreciate the future of food as that of safe, affordable and nutritious produce that, during growth and production, reduces if not eliminate harm to the environment.”

Dyer, citing the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimate that 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year worldwide, said, “We have to look at scaling up the involvement of the private sector and civil societies to ensure that the policy gaps are given the best technologies that can be applied.”

Dyer also said using technology includes the attendant issues of gathering and using data related to agriculture policies of individual countries, especially those that have recognized the need to lessen harm to the environment while looking for ways to ensure that there is enough food for everyone.

“There is a strong need to support countries that promote climate-smart agriculture, both financially and technically as a way to introduce new technologies,” she said.

The Leaders Roundtable on the Future of Food was moderated by the DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman. The President of ADB, Takehiko Nakao was a panellist along with Ministers of Food and Agriculture of Indonesia and Lao PDR, FAO regional ADG and CEO of Olam International. - Credit: ADB

The Leaders Roundtable on the Future of Food was moderated by the DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman. The President of ADB, Takehiko Nakao was a panellist along with Ministers of Food and Agriculture of Indonesia and Lao PDR, FAO regional ADG and CEO of Olam International. – Credit: ADB

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific estimated in 2014 that the region has 750 million young people aged 15 to 24, comprising 60 percent of the world’s youth. Large proportions live in socially and economically developed areas, with 78 percent of them achieving secondary education and 40 percent reaching tertiary education.

A regional paper prepared by the Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA) in 2015, titled “A Viable Future: Attracting the Youth Back to Agriculture,” noted that many young people in Asia choose to migrate to seek better lives and are reluctant to go into farming, as they prefer the cities where life is more convenient.

“In the Philippines, most rural families want their children to pursue more gainful jobs in the cities or overseas, as farming is largely associated with poverty,” the paper stated.

Along with the recognition of the role of young people in agriculture, the forum also resonated with calls to look at the plight of farmers, who are mostly older in age, dwindling in numbers and with little hope of finding their replacement from among the younger generations, even from among their children. Farmers, especially those who do not own land but work only for landowners or are small-scale tillers, also remain one of the most marginalised sectors in every society.

Estrella Penunia, secretary-general of the AFA, said that while it is essential to rethink how to better produce, distribute and consume food, she said it is also crucial to “consider small-scale farmers as real partners for sustainable technologies. They must be granted incentives and be given improved rental conditions.” Globally, she said “farmers have been neglected, and in the Asia Pacific region, they are the poorest.”

The AFA paper noted that lack of youth policies in most countries as detrimental to the engagement of young people. They also have limited role in decision-making processes due to a lack of structured and institutionalized opportunities.

But the paper noted a silver lining through social media. Through “access to information and other new networking tools, young people across the region can have better opportunities to become more politically active and find space for the realization of their aspirations.”

Calls for nonstop innovation in communications software development in the field of agriculture, continuing instruction on agriculture and agriculture research to educate young people, improving research and technology development, adopting measures such as ecological agriculture and innovative irrigation and fertilisation techniques were echoed by panelists from agriculture-related organizations and academicians.

Professor David Morrison of Murdoch University in Perth, Australia said now is the time to focus on what data and technology can bring to agriculture. “Technology is used to develop data and data is a great way of changing behaviors. Data needs to be analyzed,” he said, adding that political leaders also have to understand data to help them implement evidence-based policies that will benefit farmers and consumers.

President of ADB Takehiko Nakao - Credit: ADB

President of ADB Takehiko Nakao – Credit: ADB

ADB president Takehiko Nakao said the ADB is heartened to see that “the world is again paying attention to food.” While the institution sees continuing efforts in improving food-related technologies in other fields such as forestry and fisheries, he said it is agriculture that needs urgent improvements, citing such technologies as remote sensing, diversifying fertilisers and using insecticides that are of organic or natural-made substances.

Nakao said the ADB has provided loans and assistance since two years after its establishment in 1966 to the agriculture sector, where 30 percent of loans and grants were given out. The ADB will mark its 50th year of development partnership in the region in December 2016. Headquartered in Manila, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2015, ADB assistance totaled 27.2 billion dollars, including cofinancing of 10.7 billion dollars.

In its newest partnership is with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which is based in Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines, Nakao and IRRI director general Matthew Morell signed an agreement during the food security forum to promote food security in Asia Pacific by increasing collaboration on disseminating research and other knowledge on the role of advanced agricultural technologies in providing affordable food for all.

The partnership agreement will entail the two institutions to undertake annual consultations to review and ensure alignment of ongoing collaborative activities, and to develop a joint work program that will expand the use of climate-smart agriculture and water-saving technologies to increase productivity and boost the resilience of rice cultivation systems, and to minimize the carbon footprint of rice production.

Nakao said the ADB collaboration with IRRI is another step toward ensuring good food and nutrition for all citizens of the region. “We look forward to further strengthening our cooperation in this area to promote inclusive and sustainable growth, as well as to combat climate change.” Morell of the IRRI said the institution “looks forward to deepening our already strong partnership as we jointly develop and disseminate useful agricultural technologies throughout Asia.”

DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman - Credit: ADB

DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman – Credit: ADB

The ADB’s earlier agreements on agriculture was with Cambodia in 2013 with a 70-million-dollar climate-smart agriculture initiative called the Climate-Resilient Rice Commercialization Sector Development Program that will include generating seeds that are better adapted to Cambodia’s climate.

ADB has committed two billion dollars annually to meet the rising demand for nutritious, safe, and affordable food in Asia and the Pacific, with future support to agriculture and natural resources to emphasize investing in innovative and high-level technologies.

By 2025, the institution said Asia Pacific will have a population of 4.4 billion, and with the rest of Asia experiencing unabated rising populations and migration from countryside to urban areas, the trends will also be shifting towards better food and nutritional options while confronting a changing environment of rising temperatures and increasing disasters that are harmful to agricultural yields.

ADB president Nakao said Asia will face climate change and calamity risks in trying to reach the new Sustainable Development Goals. The institution has reported that post-harvest losses have accounted for 30 percent of total harvests in Asia Pacific; 42 percent of fruits and vegetables and up to 30 percent of grains produced across the region are lost between the farm and the market caused by inadequate infrastructure such as roads, water, power, market facilities and transport systems.

Gathering about 250 participants from governments and intergovernmental bodies in the region that include multilateral and bilateral development institutions, private firms engaged in the agriculture and food business, research and development centers, think tanks, centers of excellence and civil society and advocacy organizations, the ADB held the food security summit with inclusiveness in mind and future directions from food production to consumption.

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Lords of the Campus Thu, 23 Jun 2016 16:11:39 +0000 Rafia Zakaria By Rafia Zakaria
Jun 23 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Thomas Pogge is a professor of philosophy at Yale University, one of the most eminent educational institutions in the world. From there he directs the Global Justice Centre, which advocates, among other issues, the premise that the wealthy countries of the world have a moral and ethical responsibility towards providing aid to poorer nations.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

In a dog-eat-dog world, Dr Pogge, at least on the face of it, stood for what is right.

But appearance and reality rarely coalesce, as an investigation by Buzzfeed News revealed last month. Pogge is also allegedly a sexual harasser. In 2010, a Yale graduate student named Fernanda Lopez Aguilar accused Dr Pogge of sexually harassing her and then retaliating against her for refusing him by rescinding a fellowship offer.

When the incident first took place, Aguilar, who is a foreign student, went to the Yale authorities to report what the professor had done. According to Aguilar, Yale University not only did not investigate her claim, but tried to buy her silence by offering a payment of $2,000. When she refused, a panel was finally convened to investigate the matter. Their report found that while it was clear that Prof Pogge had behaved in an unprofessional manner, there was insufficient evidence that the professor was guilty of sexual harassment. Pogge was permitted to keep his post, and teach at and direct the Centre for Global Justice.

All of that happened in the years 2010-2011. More recently, the Buzzfeed investigation revealed, Yale has been confronted with more evidence of Pogge’s alleged sexual harassment in his interactions with students from other institutions. In addition, in 2015, Fernanda Aguilar, whose case had been so deftly dismissed by Yale’s internal investigation, chose to file a federal lawsuit against Yale University for violating Title IX of the Equal Protection Act, under which educational institutions like Yale are responsible for eliminating hostile environments and taking action against sexual harassment. She has also filed a claim under Title VII, which prohibits racial discrimination.

Educational institutions offer excellent opportunities for power plays and harassment, whose targets are often, if not always, women.

Some of the allegations reveal the common modus operandi of most harassment situations: offers of better opportunities. In one illustrative incident, when Aguilar and Pogge were supposed to attend a conference together, she arrived to find that he had booked them not in separate rooms as she had expected, but only one room.

Yale University may be far away from Pakistan, but the issue of sexual harassment in the campus context is not. One recent case involves a pattern ironically quite similar to that of the esteemed Dr Pogge of Yale University. In March of this year, there was a news report about a case of sexual harassment filed at Karachi University against a member of the visiting faculty.

The complainant was a young assistant professor who said that the faculty member had barged into her office and behaved inappropriately with her. It was alleged that she was later subjected to similarly inappropriate behaviour, involving physical contact, by the same teacher in the office of another, senior faculty member.

In this case, like Fernanda Aguilar of Yale University, the teacher who alleged inappropriate behavior chose to do what most women do not: make a complaint. She is said to have first gone to the person in whose office the latter incident is supposed to have taken place and whom she believed would be supportive of her situation. When, as reported, he refused to take action, she filed a complaint with the vice chancellor. It took a month and a student protest for the university to form a three-member investigative committee.

The committee issued its report, stating that “there is no conclusive evidence available to the committee based on which the charges levelled by [the teacher] can be proved” and that she “took this incident too far ahead”. If it was not enough to dismiss a complaint that had allegedly taken place in the office of a senior professor, the investigation committee chose to level a charge of its own, saying that the complainant had “previous handshakes with him in the past”.

The tone of the report comes across as dismissive and accusatory, and is an indication of just the sort of obstacles that confront working women who insist on demanding a workplace that is free of harassment. Even while the investigation committee had to be formed under the Protection of Women against Workplace Harassment Act 2010, it appears that the members seemed determined to permit a culture of harassment to continue. In the words of an investigative reporter, such is the entrenched nature of sexual harassment that even dismissive comments by investigative committees have not been considered sufficient to establish that an inquiry could well have been biased.

Educational institutions, their formats of instruction and advancement, are by design hierarchical. Being so, they offer excellent opportunities for power plays and harassment, whose targets are often, if not always, women. In the case of Pakistan, the situation is exacerbated by the fact that allegations against progressive-minded professors are quickly co-opted by members of religious groups who want to ban women from the workplace and from educational institutions altogether.

All of it comes together to create a situation where men, religious or progressive, remain the lords of campus, their bad behaviour, their misogyny, their failure to respect women, all tolerated, promoted and considered entirely and completely acceptable.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Rethinking Fiscal Policy for Global Recovery Thu, 23 Jun 2016 14:42:37 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram Anis Chowdhury was Professor of Economics, University of Western Sydney, and held various senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok. Jomo Kwame Sundaram was UN Assistant Secretary- General for Economic Development.]]>

Anis Chowdhury was Professor of Economics, University of Western Sydney, and held various senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok. Jomo Kwame Sundaram was UN Assistant Secretary- General for Economic Development.

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Jun 23 2016 (IPS)

Global economic recovery is being held hostage by the ideological dogma of the last three and a half decades. After long contributing to neo-liberal conventional wisdom, in its October 2015 World Economic Outlook, the IMF identified the vicious circle undermining global recovery and growth. Low aggregate demand is discouraging investment; slower expected potential growth itself dampens aggregate demand, further limiting investment.

Investment in Europe, especially in crisis-ridden economies, has collapsed sharply despite very low interest-rates. The IMF also noted that prolonged recessions may have a permanent negative effect, not only on trend productivity levels but also on trend productivity growth as well as wage growth that, in turn, sustains low aggregate demand.

The rise of fiscal policy

From the mid-1930s until about the mid-1960s, fiscal policy has played a major role, both in developed and developing countries. The fiscal deficit was the main policy instrument to address the Great Depression of the 1930s and later, to maintain full-employment in developed countries. Deficits and surpluses were adjusted counter-cyclically over business cycles. In his 1936 budget speech, President Roosevelt noted, “the deficit of today … is making possible the surplus of tomorrow.”

Governments in developing countries have played a major role in building infrastructure and providing basic public services such as health-care and education. They often did not have the resources, domestic or foreign, as war-torn Europe had with the Marshall Plan, to rebuild their economies.

Thus, the main way to develop their newly decolonized countries was by running deficits, financed by printing money. This was also the case when the US emerged as a newly independent nation. Alexander Hamilton, the first US Treasury Secretary under President Washington, incurred debt to establish “sound credit”, laying the foundation for a robust future market in US debt.

There was a brief revival of fiscal activism when the 2008-2009 financial crisis hit the global economy. Developed countries responded with large fiscal stimulus packages, in addition to bailing out troubled financial institutions. Major developing countries also put in place carefully designed fiscal stimulus packages that included public infrastructure investment and enhanced social protection measures.

But instead of recognizing that deficits and surpluses should be adjusted counter-cyclically over business cycles rather than being held hostage by financial markets, this moment was soon lost to claims of ‘green shoots of recovery’ once the most influential financial interests had been saved.

The fall of fiscal policy

With the counter-revolution against Keynesian and development economics in the late 1970s and early 1980s, budget deficits became taboo. The fall from grace of fiscal policy followed the ascendancy of market-fundamentalist conservative politics with the election of Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in the US.

The conservative distrust of governments favoured rule-based policies to curb discretionary government spending, including the US Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit-control legislation and the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact that set a 60 percent debt-GDP ratio ceiling. In fact, debt is sustainable if government expenditure enhances both growth and productivity. The claim that government deficits will need to be ‘financed’ with higher tax rates in future is spurious as revenues are bound to rise in an expanding economy.

Understanding this requires abandoning the narrow concept of “sound” finance in favour of “functional” finance, which evaluates government finance based on its impact. Thus, for Abba Lerner, “The central idea is that government fiscal policy, its spending and taxing, its borrowing and repayment of loans, its issue of new money and its withdrawal of money, shall all be undertaken with an eye only to the results of these actions on the economy and not to any established traditional doctrine about what is sound or unsound.”

Crowding-out or -in

A lingering concern is financing the deficit. The first recourse for governments is to borrow domestically, raising the spectre of “crowding-out”, i.e. government borrowings driving up interest rates, adversely affecting private investment. This view ignores the consequences (e.g. low profitability, bankruptcies, etc.) of a depressed economy. After all, government action is necessitated, in the first place, by inadequate private spending.

Moreover, the immediate financial implication of expansionary policy action is to augment the cash reserves of private sector banks where government cheques are deposited. This, in turn, increases (net) liquidity if the central bank does not implement offsetting money market operations. Hence, the actual central bank discount rate should decrease, exerting downward pressure on retail interest rates. This should, therefore, encourage, rather than crowd-out private investment.

In its October 2014 World Economic Outlook, the IMF favoured an infrastructure push in the face of low borrowing costs and weak aggregate demand. It also observed that “debt-financed projects could have large output effects without increasing the debt-to-GDP ratio if clearly identified infrastructure needs are met through efficient investment”. Maintaining this favourable view of debt-financed public investment, the IMF’s October 2015 World Economic Outlook asserted that debt-financed public investment in infrastructure, education, health and social protection would boost aggregate demand and productivity.

As outgoing Reserve Bank of Australia governor, Glenn Stevens has pointed out, “the impediments… are not financial. The funding would be available, with long- term interest rates the lowest we have ever seen or are likely to…The impediments are in our decision-making processes and, it seems, in our inability to find a political agreement on how to proceed.”

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Islamic State: Foreign Fighter Trends Tue, 21 Jun 2016 16:06:09 +0000 Syed Mansur Hashim Photo:


By Syed Mansur Hashim
Jun 21 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Thanks to Edward Snowden dumping sensitive data on to the net, there now exists more accurate estimates on foreign fighters recruited by the Islamic State (IS). Indeed, going by The Combating Terrorism Centre at West Point (United States Military Academy) recently made available a report titled ‘The Caliphate’s Global Workforce: An Inside Look at the Islamic State’s Foreign Fighter Paper Trail’ which provides data of some 4,600 foreign fighters recruited between early 2013 and 2014. This study which is a compilation of 4018 Mujahid Data forms, 2 Excel files (with 155 individuals entered), Exit records (31 files, 431 individuals) and 15 miscellaneous files provide a pattern of recruitment, which interestingly points to something rather disturbing, i.e. Europeans are signing up in alarming numbers, mostly from smaller countries like Belgium and Denmark. We are talking continental Europe here and the IS has successfully recruited from East and West and the Balkans.

What has become clear from the data presented is that the IS recruits from over 70 countries and that means the global workforce IS commands brings with them different skills and capabilities. The educational backgrounds of foreign fighters vary widely and the group has benefitted enormously as most of the fighters have received higher education. This means that the group is actively “head hunting” for more than fighters, it is recruiting “individuals with specific educational, professional, or military backgrounds that might prove useful to the group in the future.” The average age of the foreign fighter is 26-27, but what should be noted here is that IS does not recruit based on age, rather on specific skills sets that these foreign citizens bring to the group. As pointed out in the report, information on 12 individuals born in the ’50s (two apparently are French citizens) “demonstrated relatively significant professional experience, to include multiple engineers, teachers, business owner, and a government employee (from Saudi Arabia).

All this points to IS’s efforts to recruit more than suicide bombers. We are looking at a divergent group of people who have skills linked to governance, business aptitude and technical knowhow. The IS has recruited heavily amongst people with IT background, especially those having media and communications background, which include amongst others, having knowledge in computer design and engineering, networks, programming, telecommunications, and website design. This would explain the savvy propaganda material coming out of the IS social media factory that make even the most gruesome acts of terror appealing or horrifying depending on the audience.

The IS has “facilitators” who travel widely to recruit. The data presented provides the name of top five border facilitators, viz. Abu-Muhammad al-Shimali who facilitated some 31 percent of all foreign fighter recruits (1,306) and the other four Abu-al-Bara’ al Shimali, Abu-Mansur al-Maghribi, Abu-Ilyas al-Maghribi and Abu-‘Ali-al-Turki combined recruiting some 637 fighters. The US government has offered a US$5 million reward for al-Shimali who has been identified as the IS’s Border Chief and following the Paris attacks is now chief accused for helping those who carried out the Paris operation to travel to France. Although IS allows for recruits to select their area of preference (suicide, frontline fighter), a mere 12 percent opted for suicide missions and that can perhaps be attributed to the fact that today, IS commands significant territory. By looking at these patterns, it would appear that the Islamic State is looking into the future where the “caliphate” that can successfully be governed. Hence, the shift is away from one-way missions (suicide bomber) to a combat role that allows for greater survivability.

So where does that leave countries at the receiving end of IS’s actions? IS has emerged as the first truly multi-national Islamic militant organisation that can and does strike across continents, many European countries are finding out the hard way that their counter-terrorism efforts are sorely lacking. In the aftermath of the Belgian bombings in March, it took authorities four months to locate Salah Abdeslam in the neighbourhood he grew up in. Belgium’s plight in combating terrorism is not unique. These nations have never faced anything as deadly as the IS which has successfully recruited fighters with prior combat experience, fighters who blend in with the local populace who are well educated and sophisticated in outward appearance.

As government agencies go back to the drawing board, whether in Europe or Asia, the message is clear. There has to be cooperation among agencies and countries. The IS apparently has mobilised some 400 operatives on the European continent. We have little idea of its operations in the Indian subcontinent. And there lies the danger. Bangladesh has been witness to rising militancy problems. Although we are informed there is no IS presence in Bangladesh and the killings have been carried out by our own home-grown outfits, what we should remember is that IS in all respects is the world’s first truly global jihadist movement with recruits from 70 nations. There is no room for complacency when it comes to our national security and it would be ill advised to sit back and relax.

The writer is Assistant Editor, The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Fences and Walls: A Short-sighted Response to Migration Fears? Mon, 20 Jun 2016 14:16:09 +0000 Andrew MacMillan and Jose Graziano da Silva José Graziano da Silva is Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Andrew MacMillan, former Director of Field Operations. ]]> Refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border near the town of Idomeni. Credit: Nikos Pilos/IPS

Refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border near the town of Idomeni. Credit: Nikos Pilos/IPS

By Andrew MacMillan and José Graziano da Silva
ROME, Jun 20 2016 (IPS)

European nations from which millions once left to escape hardship and hunger – Greece, Ireland, Italy – are today destinations for others doing the same.

Many people are on the move. The really big numbers relate to rural-urban migration in developing countries. In 1950, 746 million people lived in cities, 30 percent of the world’s population. By 2014, urban population reached 3.9 billion (54 percent).

By comparison, about 4 million migrants have moved into OECD countries each year since 2007.(*) And 60 percent of Europe’s 3.4 million immigrants in 2013 came from other European Union member states or already held EU citizenship. Those from outside amounted to less than 0.3 percent of the EU’s population.

Conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, along with the breakdown of law or of freedom in Libya, Eritrea, Somalia and South Sudan, have catalyzed a surge in asylum seekers – whose numbers climbed to 800,000 in OECD countries alone in 2014 and who, under international law, must be protected.

Growing apprehension in some recipient countries has led to calls for fences and walls to cut migrant flows. Barriers, however, are costly, can be circumvented, and are all too reminiscent of the restrictions on liberty from which many migrants are seeking refuge.

The urge for a better life is the main driving force for migration, both local and international. People are “pulled” by the belief that better prospects exist elsewhere. As mobile phones and internet access have reached the remotest corners of the world, such beliefs have proliferated.

For those countries wishing to reduce cross-border migratory pressures, the best option is probably to address the root causes. This entails actions that foster peace and security where there is conflict and oppression. It also implies closing the widening gaps in living standards, both between nations and between rich and poor in the countries that economic migrants are leaving.

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO/Alessandra Benedetti

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO/Alessandra Benedetti

Some destination countries have cut social security allowances for new arrivals in a bid to reduce their attraction. But more fundamental policy shifts in wealthier societies towards deterring their own people’s most conspicuous consumption behavior are needed. This will not be easy. It could involve having consumers meet the full costs of the environmental and social damage incurred in the production and use of what they buy.

Extreme poverty is found mainly in rural communities, where most internal migration begins. Poverty is not simply a matter of low incomes but also of limited access to adequate housing, clean water, energy, decent education and health services. On almost every score, rural people are worse off than city dwellers and also more vulnerable to shocks. Paradoxically, the incidence of hunger and malnutrition is highest in the very communities that produce much of the world’s food.

Urbanization seems bound to further widen these gaps. Cash remittances sent by first-generation local and international migrants to their relations back home help, but are usually modest in scale.

Policies to eliminate rural poverty must respond to locally expressed priorities for improved access to infrastructure and public services, including competent and honest local government institutions. They also need to include social protection programmes, ideally based on regular and predictable cash transfers to the poorest households, ensuring that all people are, at the very least, able to eat healthily and cope with periods of shortages.

The European Union has endorsed the principle of addressing the root causes of migration from Africa to Europe and, at a November 2015 summit in Malta, declared that investing in rural development is a priority. However, the EU’s nearly 30 members approved only EUR1.8 billion in extra resources. This is trivial, given the scale of poverty. It is about a quarter of what they offered Turkey to stem the flow of migrants into Europe.

Andrew MacMillan

Andrew MacMillan

Much greater funding is warranted. This is explicitly acknowledged in last September’s unanimous endorsement by all governments of the UN-brokered Sustainable Development Goals, including the eradication of poverty and hunger by 2030. Apart from being morally correct, this will reduce the conflicts that often drive international migration in the first place.

The link between the reduction of extreme deprivation and peace was acknowledged by FAO’s founders in 1945 when they wrote:
“Progress towards freedom from want is essential to lasting peace, for it is a condition of freedom from the tensions, arising out of economic maladjustment, profound discontent, and a sense of injustice which are so dangerous in the close community of modern nations.” (**) FAO today is guided by these principles in its ongoing work in rebuilding food security and creating greater resilience in countries torn apart by conflict.

Remittances and aid can help reduce inequalities but a more sustainable way of closing the urban-rural gap is offered by fairer trading in food, the main saleable output of most rural communities. When consumers begin to pay food prices that reward producers fairly for their investments, skills, risk exposure and labour, and for their responsible stewardship of natural resources, the market can become the main vehicle for eradicating the extreme deprivation and hunger that “push” migration. (***)

This move towards fairer food prices would be a first step towards harnessing the great power offered by the processes of globalization to create a world in which all people know they can, through their work, lead a decent life even when they choose to live where they were born.


(*) See OECD (2015), International Migration Outlook 2015, OECD Publishing, Paris

(**) See United Nations Interim Committee on Food and Agriculture, The Work of FAO, Washington DC, 1945

(***) Contrary to most predictions, the food price rises of 2008 and 2011 reduced extreme poverty in the long term in both rural and urban communities. See Headey, D., Food Prices and Poverty Reduction in the Long Run, IFPRI Discussion Paper 01331, Washington DC, 2014

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‘Likes’ That Can Kill Mon, 13 Jun 2016 14:33:36 +0000 Nizamuddin Ahmed By Nizamuddin Ahmed
Jun 13 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Selfies were born when people found no one to take their photo. Again, no one among family and friends wanted to be left out, and so the crowding into the frame began. The fish-pout emanates from self-consciousness, and then mimicry. Phones got cheaper, the reversible camera was installed, apps arrived to share the shots with friends and others, a system of approval (‘like’) was invented, and an epidemic was born.

Illustration: Davehaenggi

Illustration: Davehaenggi

Selfies today are a big part of the internet-based public network, the growing web culture. While a great deal of the photography is of glee and gladness, anniversaries and moments of joy, alarmingly a good number of insensitive users chose to go overboard, much to their own peril – social, psychological and physical. It is the outcome of an urge to outdo one another; self-esteem and personal safety can go to hell.

People have taken selfies, smiling against a bellowing fire or a coffin at burial. Two girls, God knows why, took a selfie in a funeral home bathroom. Natural disaster victims became the background to ‘sympathisers’ with pouting lips. Animals have bitten selfie-masters at the right time in the wrong place. Doctors and nurses were selfied by a patient in labour. A girl was clinging on to the edge of a cliff and her friend did the selfie in full grin mode.

On occasions, the dignity of a person is at stake due to overindulgence on Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Tumblr . . . Only last week, a woman was chatting on her mobile phone while travelling on the Kolkata-Delhi train. While still at it, she got up to go to the toilet and returned to her seat after finishing her job, unawares that she had left her pyjamas behind. To her, a greater incident would have been for the handset to have dropped in the loo.

Selfie-ness derives from loneliness and/or desperation for attention. With society suffering from both, a contraption at the end of a stretched-out arm and people huddling to get into the frame is now accepted as normal social etiquette.

Some selfies have remained the last before the unfortunate were struck by tragedy, self-inflicted if you will.

Twenty-one year old Oscar Otero Aguilar was “drinking and decided he wanted to make a new Facebook profile picture by taking a selfie with a gun to his head. The gun was loaded and went off, killing Oscar”.

There is an element of craziness attached to this wave of common practice. “Two Iranian girls were taking a selfie video of themselves singing while driving. Luckily, when they did crash they weren’t killed, just badly injured.” But that did not deter them. “They also took a selfie on the way to the hospital.”

Courtney Sanford was not that blessed. She “posted a selfie while driving and listening to the song “Happy” by Pharrel Williams. Seconds later her car crashed into a truck causing a fatal accident.”

People can be stupid when it comes to impressing others on the social media. To some, it is an unsaid contest. Eighteen-year old Xenia Ignatyeva “climbed a 28-foot (8.4m) railroad bridge to take a selfie and lost her balance. When she fell she grabbed onto high voltage wires and was electrocuted.”

Our youths, as well as adults if not to that extent, have been enamoured by this ‘like’ fad. Below I narrate a posting from one of my younger Facebook friends last week:

“This (10/6/2016) afternoon, a tragic incident took place in our Rampura WAPDA Road area. Some Class VIII students went to the rooftop of a six-storied building to shoot a video. The video was about them jumping from one rooftop to another, a ‘sport’ called parkour (which does not advocate unnecessary risk). They would post that video on Facebook to get maximum ‘likes’.

“They did not understand how big a risk they were taking at such a tender age. While leaping from one roof to another, one of the boys fell down between two six-storied buildings. His friends were lost for words. The boy has broken bones. With severe head injuries he is now fighting for life at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital. The police have taken his friends into custody.

“Although this is a heart-rending incident, the social conditions of our youth are more frightening. Why should the ‘like’ madness affect Class VIII students, 12-13-year-olds, that they have to take the risk of falling from a six-storied roof? Bro, your life has not yet begun. Did you have to finish it so soon? Why do you have to become famous now by getting like after like? You are not yet in college, not yet a graduate, not yet employed, not married, [have] not yet served your parents. There is so much to do, so much to see in life.

“If you have to be famous, succeed in life. Then you[r] one post will get one thousand likes. Your writing, your picture, will then not only be seen by boys and girls of your class and school, but by the entire country. Don’t strive to become a so-called ‘Facebook Celebrity’.

“Guardians too have to be aware. At what age are we giving our children a smart phone? Why? What are they doing [with] it? Do they know about the dark aspects? We have to think.”

Let us not yearn for the approval of another, especially not in a manner that can endanger or jeopardise life.

The writer is a practising Architect at BashaBari Ltd., a Commonwealth Scholar and a Fellow, a Baden-Powell Fellow Scout Leader, and a Major Donor Rotarian.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Bougainville Women Turn Around Lives of ‘Lost Generation’ Mon, 13 Jun 2016 12:08:20 +0000 Catherine Wilson Anna Sapur of the Hako Women's Collective leads a human rights training program for youths in Hako Constituency, North Bougainville. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

Anna Sapur of the Hako Women's Collective leads a human rights training program for youths in Hako Constituency, North Bougainville. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

By Catherine Wilson
HAKO, Buka Island, Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea , Jun 13 2016 (IPS)

Finding a sense of identity and purpose, as well as employment are some of the challenges facing youths in post-conflict Bougainville, an autonomous region in eastern Papua New Guinea in the southwest Pacific Islands.

They have been labelled the ‘lost generation’ due to their risk of being marginalised after missing out on education during the Bougainville civil war (1989-1998), known locally as the ‘Crisis’.

But in Hako constituency, where an estimated 30,000 people live in villages along the north coast of Buka Island, North Bougainville, a local women’s community services organisation refuses to see the younger generation as anything other than a source of optimism and hope.

“They are our future leaders and our future generation, so we really value the youths,” Dorcas Gano, president of the Hako Women’s Collective (HWC) told IPS.“There were no schools, no teachers and no services here and we had no food to eat. I saw people killed with my own eyes and we didn’t sleep at night, we were frightened." -- Gregory Tagu, who was in fifth grade when the war broke out.

Youth comprise about 60 percent of Bougainville’s estimated population of 300,000, which has doubled since the 1990s. The women’s collective firmly believes that peace and prosperity in years to come depends on empowering young men and women in these rainforest-covered islands to cope with the challenges of today with a sense of direction.

One challenge, according to Gregory Tagu, a youth from Kohea village, is the psychological transition to a world without war.

“Nowadays, youths struggle to improve their lives and find a job because they are traumatised. During the Crisis, young people grew up with arms and knives and even today they go to school, church and walk around the village with knives,” Tagu explained.

Tens of thousands of children were affected by the decade-long conflict, which erupted after demands for compensation for environmental damage and inequity by landowners living in the vicinity of the Panguna copper mine in the mountains of central Bougainville were unmet. The mine, majority-owned by Rio Tinto, a British-Australian multinational, opened in 1969 and was operated by its Australian subsidiary, Bougainville Copper Ltd, until it was shut down in 1989 by revolutionary forces.

The conflict raged on for another eight years after the Papua New Guinea Government blockaded Bougainville in 1990 and the national armed forces and rebel groups battled for control of the region.

Many children were denied an education when schools were burnt down and teachers fled. They suffered when health services were decimated, some became child soldiers and many witnessed severe human rights abuses.

Tagu was in fifth grade when the war broke out. “There were no schools, no teachers and no services here and we had no food to eat. I saw people killed with my own eyes and we didn’t sleep at night, we were frightened,” he recalled.

Trauma is believed to contribute to what women identify as a youth sub-culture today involving alcohol, substance abuse and petty crime, which is inhibiting some to participate in positive development.

They believe that one of the building blocks to integrating youths back into a peaceful society is making them aware of their human rights.

In a village meeting house about 20-30 young men and women, aged from early teens to late thirties, gather in a circle as local singer Tasha Kabano performs a song about violence against women. Then Anna Sapur, an experienced village court magistrate, takes the floor to speak about what constitutes human rights abuses and the entitlement of men, women and children to lives free of injustice and physical violations. Domestic violence, child abuse and neglect were key topics in the vigorous debate which followed.

But social integration for this age group also depends on economic participation. Despite 15 years of peace and better access to schools, completing education is still a challenge for many. An estimated 90 percent of students leave before the end of Grade 10 with reasons including exam failure and inability to meet costs.

“There are plenty of young people who cannot read and write, so we really need to train them in adult literacy,” Elizabeth Ngosi, an HWC member from Tuhus village declared, adding that currently they don’t have access to this training.

Similar to other small Pacific Island economies, only a few people secure formal sector jobs in Bougainville while the vast majority survive in the informal economy.

At the regional level, Justin Borgia, Secretary for the Department of Community Development, said that the Autonomous Bougainville Government is keen to see a long-term approach to integrating youths through formal education and informal life skills training. District Youth Councils with government assistance have identified development priorities including economic opportunities, improving local governance and rule of law.

In Hako, women are particularly concerned for the 70 percent of early school leavers who are unemployed and in 2007 the collective conducted their first skills training program. More than 400 youths were instructed in 30 different trade and technical skills, creative visual and music art, accountancy, leadership, health, sport, law and justice and public speaking.

Two-thirds of those who participated were successful in finding employment, Gano claims.

“Some of them have work and some have started their own small businesses….Some are carpenters now and have their own small contracts building houses back in the villages,” she said.

Tuition in public speaking was of particular value to Gregory Tagu.

“I have no CV or reference, but with my public speaking skills I was able to tell people about my experience and this helped me to get work,” Tagu said. Now he works as a truck driver for a commercial business and a technical officer for the Hako Media Unit, a village-based media resource set up after an Australian non-government organisation, Pacific Black Box, provided digital media training to local youths.

Equipping young people with skills and confidence is helping to shape a new future here and further afield. HWC’s president is particularly proud that some from the village have gone on to take up youth leadership positions in other parts of Bougainville, including the current President of the Bougainville Youth Federation.

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Politics of Numbers Fri, 10 Jun 2016 14:54:40 +0000 Zubeida Mustafa By Zubeida Mustafa
Jun 10 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

The Pakistan Economic Survey 2015-16 reminds us of our ticking population bomb.

We are told that today the country`s population stands at 195.4 million 3.7m more than it was the previous year. We have regressed.

The population growth rate stands at 1.89pc in 2016. It dropped to 1.49pc in 1960-2003.

Yet few express serious concern about the threat we face from our rapidly growing numbers that are undermining our national economy and destroying our social structures.

Many myths have been propagated to camouflage the official apathy vis-à-vis the population sector. Thus, it is said that there is population resistance to family planning on religious grounds. Another myth goes that people are ignorant of birth control and prefer large families.

These myths have been exploded by the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey of 2007 and 2014 which established that only a handful of women cited religion as a factor in their failure to limit pregnancies.

As for ignorance, practically all women questioned knew of at least one or more contraceptive methods. It cannot be disputed that irrespective of the views expressed from the pulpit women are now ready to plan their families. According to the two demographic surveys, there is also a substantial unmet need. That means there is a big chunk of the reproductive age female population 40 pc according to some estimates who want to limit their family size but cannot.

Then why are we failing in this sector? Of course, there is the usual absence of political will, ineptitude and corruption that marks the government`s working in the social sectors.

Policies are there but implementation is not.

The number and performance of population welfare centres that were set up to provide access to contraceptive services leave much to be desired. Media reports indicate that they are either non-existent or non-functional in many remote areas. Poor performance of official service institutions impacts mainly on the underprivileged, the worst sufferers. This is visible in the large family size of the poor.

There is a lot of focus on awareness-raising and research when the key issue to be addressedis thatofeasy access tocontraceptive services for potential acceptors. It is a pity that many who do not want more children cannot avert births because family planning services are beyond their reach.

There is also the need to integrate the population sector with the health system. This was suggested many years ago by Dr Nafis Sadik, the first executive director of the UN Population Fund, to the Pakistan government. But for reasons not known, Islamabad could never understand why a holistic approach was needed for a successful familyplanning programme.

Another aspect that has been ignored is the need to focus intensely on the status of women.

It seems that the progress made by the feminist activists in the 1980s and 1990s in empowering women has been pushed back. With daughters held in low esteem, family planning has suffered a setback. Parental preference for a male child remains pronounced.

Itappears thatithasbeenlefttoahandful of NGOs to sustain Pakistan`s population programme. The biggest of them is RahnumaFPAP, the oldest organisation in the field.

Having been launched in 1953 when Pakistan did not even have an official population programme, it has an impressive delivery network of 10 family health hospitals, 10 mobile service units and thousands of clinics. It has created referral mechanisms with a number of government and private clinics and practitioners and thus claims to cover an area of 77,910 square kilometres and a population of 12.5m.

Rahnuma`s dynamic and committed president, Mahtab Akbar Rashdi, tells me that her organisation has made all its programmesholistic and integrated. She herself is a staunch advocate of family planning and agrees that low esteem for women is a deterrent to progress in this sector.

HANDS is another large NGO that was launchedin 1979 with the mission of improving health and education, with a focus on mother and child and reproductive health. It claims an outreach of 25m people in 42,000 villages. Its Marvi model involving community-based health workers visiting women in their homes was conceptualised in 2007. HANDS claims that it is making an impact.

But can NGOs with their limited resources and capacity achieve what is essentially the government`s responsibility? Mahtab Rashdi complains that `visible political commitment from the provincial governments is yet to be seen`. She specifically identifies Punjab, Pakistan`s most populous province, where the government`s family planning programme `reaches only 17pc of people in the reproductive age`.

This leaves one wondering if family planning also has a political dimension as the census that has been blocked since 2008. After all, doesn`t a big population translate into a big constituency? That is a political bonus in a country where ethnicity determines electoral results.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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The Ali Shuffle Wed, 08 Jun 2016 14:17:22 +0000 Mahir Ali By Mahir Ali
Jun 8 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

There was the incredible Ali Shuffle in the 1960s when a restless young athlete danced around his opponents in the boxing ring, delivering potent blows but taking few in return, the heavyweight champion of the whole world, as he frequently liked to put it.

`The Greatest`, as Cassius Clay dubbed himself even before he had unexpectedly defeated the notionally unbeatable Sonny Liston to claim the crown.

Then, a couple of decades later, there was the Ali shuffle, when the physical faculties of the man who could once `float like a butterfly, sting like a bee` had been depleted to the point where his gift of the gab was largely a thing of the past, and his growing lack of dexterity was manifested in the way he appeared in public.

His dignity was never at risk, though. It wasn`t just retained; if anything, it was enhanced during the years when Parkinson`s disease took its unfortunate toll. The incredible outpouring of grief when Muhammad Ali shuf fled of f the mortal coil last week testified to his status as a global folk hero.

He acquired it initially by standing up to the government of the United States 50 years ago, by his refusal to participate in the obnoxious war against Vietnam. `No Vietcong ever called me a nigger` is how he is believed to have justified his refusal to answer the call to arms.

It is vital to remember that this came before the antiwar movement in general, and draft resistance in particular, had picked up pace. It wasn`t until a year later, in 1967, that Martin Luther King Jr plucked up the courage to explicitly denounce the Vietnam War and his nation`s status as the primary purveyor of violence in the world, citing Muhammad Ali`s resistance in the process.

Ali was promptly stripped of his title and the right to pursue his profession anywhere in the US. This unprecedented vindictiveness transformed him instantly into an international figurehead of resistance against American imperialism.

It is seldom mentioned that Ali`s conviction that his African American compatriots had far better cause to be engaged with the battles that needed to be fought at home almost exactly echoed the stance Paul Robeson had taken while addressing a 1949 peace conferenceinParis.

Like Ali, Robeson too was consequently deprived of the right to earn a living in his homeland. The pioneering athlete, actor and, above all, exquisitely powerful singer was at the time the best known African American globally. He, too, was a fighter and eventually regained his rights after a decade, but it was too late to arrest the deterioration of his intellectual well-being. Robesonspent his last dozen years in seclusion and was effectively written out of history.

Ali, of course, staged a tremendous comeback. Cut down in his prime, he was never again quite the same fighter. His unexpected victory in 1974`s Rumble in the Jungle was more than an athletic triumph, though.

Regaining the heavyweight crown also represented a vindication of his political stance.

Like millions of others, I can clearly recall arising at an unearthly hour to watch the live transmission of the fight from Kinshasa, and the tension as All miraculously absorbed the blows from his formidable opponent, and then, in a transcendent moment, floored George Foreman with a flurry of devastating blows.

In comparison, his third crown, retrieve d from Leon Spinl(s, was something of an anticlimax. He ought to have retired before then. Ali himself designated his experience during the torturous Thrilla in Manila against Joe Frazier as the closest thing todying. By the time of the ill-advised bouts against Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick in 1980-81, the signs of Parkinson`s were already clearly visible.

If it`s a tragedy that Muhammad All found his place in the world via a brutal sport, it is perhaps equally unfor-tunate that his politicisation owed a great deal to his membership of an organisation that called itself the Nation of Islam (NoI) and that he chose the wrong side in relinquishing his friendship with Malcolm X, opting instead for the cult of Elijah Muhammad.

This led him to expound some obnoxious views over the years: during an interview with Playboy published in 1975, the interviewer appropriately remonstrated, `You`re beginning to sound like a carbon copy of a white racist.

To his credit, though, Ali eventually recanted some of his earlier views and, more broadly, transcended them with his inspirational humanitarian impulses. His lapses were already but a memory by the time he lit the flame at the Atlanta Olympics. The fact that erstwhile foes were willing to embrace him didn`t mean he had changed, so much as it was a tacit acknowledgement of his role in changing the world. Ultimately, it indeed turned out that `the elements` were `so mix`d in him that Nature might stand up/ And say to all the world, `This was a man!“


This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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On Secret Marriages Wed, 08 Jun 2016 14:00:32 +0000 Rafia Zakaria By Rafia Zakaria
Jun 8 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

It happens far more often than anyone is willing to admit or acknowledge. A woman who is a widow, or whose family owes a debt, or who has caught the eye of a lecherous boss, or who is no longer very young, or who fails to fit the fair and lovely demands of the usual suitors, is approached by an older man for marriage.

This type of male suitor is already married, often with grown children and successful business interests. Creeping into advanced years, he wants to add something new to his life, and given his means and money, he can afford for this freshness to be a new marital arrangement.

Given the fact that four wives are permitted in Pakistan, there are no legal obstacles to his desires.

There is, however, the prospect of the ire of the existing wife and her family, or drawing the censure of a community that may giggle and snicker at an aging groom`s mid-life marriage. The answer is a secret marriage, legally valid but socially surreptitious, a recipe for the man of means to really have it all. Not only is the man newly married a second time, he is also now a secret saviour, rescuing some hapless woman from the absolute horror and hell of remaining husband-less in a society that worships men.

Not all secret marriages follow this pattern; some are conjured in secret because the parties not previously married believe that their families will be opposed to the match. Other cases more and more prevalent given Pakistan`s large expatriate worker population involve men working abroad who have wives at home and at work. Often, the second wife knows about the first; usually the first wife is completely unaware of her husband`s secret family.

When the secret wife produces children, they too bear the burden of being secret children, whose surreptitious father sires them but will not publicly claim them. If and when the secret marriage is discovered, the secret wife and her children face huge risks of divorce and repudiation, leaving them in an even more vulnerable position when the secret husband/father abandons them.

According to Dr Mohammed Fadel, professor of law at the University of Toronto, who specialises inIslamic jurisprudence, some schools of thought consider secret marriages to be technically legal on the basis that they fulfil all stipulations of an Islamic marriage contract. However, others are more sceptical of such an arrangement.

What may be technically legal, however, is not necessarily moral and may actually be quite far from being good. In his discussion of secret marriages, Dr Fadel points out that while Islamic marriage emphasises consent to ensure that the two individuals entering into marriage are happy withthe arrangement, individual happiness is not the one and only goal of a Muslim marriage.

Indeed, as Fadel argues, the technicalities of an Islamic marriage contract, the requirement of mahr and of witnesses, can be seen as safeguards that point to the necessary involvement of the community in the relationship. While secret marriages can skirt this requirement by finding witnesses (and guardians on the female side) who are willing to keep the marriage secret, this can be seen as a contravention of the purpose of witnesses themselves.

The prescription to publicise and celebrate marriage can be seen as existingforthe express reason that when a larger number of people know of the relationship, and support and celebrate it, the chances of abuse and neglect are reduced. In secret marriages, no such checks exist on the behaviour of men. Predators know their prey; most women who enter these surreptitious arrangements are already vulnerable; the underhanded nature of the arrangement further exposes them as well as their childrento abuse, shame and neglect.

In a patriarchal society, where men dominate, arguments against secret marriages are quickly transformed into promotions of polygamy. If secret marriages are wrong, eager adherents of multiple marriages argue, then it is the task of women, of first wives (and consequently second and third ones), to readily hand out permission for subsequent marriages. It`s a clever trick that, like secret marriages themselves, looks to reduce faith and its following to technicalprescriptions(andhence self-servingloopholes) rather than the larger principles of love and compassion Some attention to these values, so routinely ignored by Muslim men, would suggest that marital unions in which the wife feels subdued, coerced, used and manipulated can never be the foundation for the just society that is envisioned by the Islamic faith. A revival of love and compassion as the foundation of all marriages would require an end to both secret marriages and polygamous marriages. Both these forms may technically be allowed to exist and persist (given that the vast majority of Muslim jurists have been and continue to be men) but they would be absent of the sort of affection that exists between freely choosing partners. A compromise born of circumstances, a situation that dictates the assent of most women who become a part of such a relationship, is not the same as a choice.

In countries like Egypt, the state informs first wives when their husbands marry again, since registration of marriages is a requirement. In Pakistan, many marriages are not registered, and even if they were the state is not required to make such information available. As a result, all women, those who are married and those who may marry, are vulnerable to being duped by men who manipulate the technicality of marital requirements to suit their desires for new or more wives, while paying no attention at all to the moral requirements of a Muslim marriage.

The writer is an attomey teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Of GPA 5 and Journalistic Ethics Tue, 07 Jun 2016 14:37:27 +0000 Akhtar Sultana By Akhtar Sultana
Jun 7 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

We can all agree that in recent years, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of Bangladeshi students who achieved GPA 5 in both the secondary and higher secondary school level. It is no doubt heartening to see that our young people are doing so well in their studies, but it also raises a pertinent question as to the standard of education that is being imparted in our schools and colleges. The question that has been frequently asked is “Do so many deserve GPA 5 or is it being handed out to them?” This issue undoubtedly requires serious reflection.

journalism_and_gpa__A few days ago, a well-known television channel carried a report on GPA-5 achievers and their level of knowledge on various topics. The reporter picked a handful of GPA 5 achievers and asked them general knowledge questions, both on national and international topics, which most of the students were unable to answer. My question today, however, is not about these students and their level of knowledge or lack thereof – rather it is about how this was portrayed in the media. The reporter asked students questions in quick succession, “rapid fire” style. While the reporter hammered on, these young people avoided making eye contact with the camera, clearly embarrassed about their inability to answer the questions. The topics were without doubt very relevant and appropriate, but these children were humiliated on national television for all of Bangladesh to see on the 7 o’clock news.

Here arises the important question regarding the ethics of journalism. Does the TV channel, or any media for that matter, have the right to humiliate anyone, especially children, in a public domain? Was the reporter aware of the damage he was causing to these children, both emotionally and psychologically and the embarrassment, taunting and humiliation they would have to face among their peers? These youngsters perhaps agreed to be interviewed, hoping to tell their friends and family that they were featured on television, absolutely unaware of what was to follow.

My question is to the television channel that aired this report. How could a responsible television channel air this report? Shouldn’t it have been edited? As I watched the six and a half minute long video, I kept wondering what the reporter was trying to establish. Was it the GPA 5 achievers’ lack of knowledge, their inability to answer general knowledge questions or the standard of education that is being imparted in our schools? The reporter perhaps had good intentions, but the way it was carried out was far from right.

Students alone cannot be held responsible for their lack of knowledge. We have to dig deeper into the issue. It is the education system that is responsible, and as long as we do not pay heed to changing our system, this will not end. Our education system emphasises memorisation, rather than active learning and creativity. Attending coaching classes and running around from tutor to tutor has become the norm. Our society cares more for the scores you have obtained in an exam rather than the knowledge you have gained in the long run. As a result, parents, teachers, private tutors and schools all focus on students achieving higher GPAs. The schools are rated with the students’ GPA – the higher the GPA, the better the school or the coaching centre is thought to be. When a school’s students score GPA 5, they proudly display this information – and why shouldn’t they? This is the parameter by which the success of the school is decided. As a result, parents too, are forced to give in to this pressure to get their youngsters into a college where GPA matters most. This is a toxic cycle from which we all need to break free. For the sake of better education, a better system, and most of all, for the sake of the youth of Bangladesh.

Whatever the cause, it needs to be addressed but not in a manner which humiliates young people in front of the nation. The youth have the right to their privacy which must be respected. It is time for our reporters to pay more heed to the ethics of journalism, and high time for our media to be more conscious of the content and the people they are portraying.

The writer is Professor, Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, University of Dhaka.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Reproductive Violence Tue, 07 Jun 2016 14:20:52 +0000 Tahir Mehdi By Tahir Mehdi
Jun 7 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Two things happened in Islamabad on the same day recently, one pertaining to the Council of Islamic Ideology and the other to Pemra, the electronic media regulator. CII sanctioned `lightly beating` of wives and Pemra banned (and then partially withdrew) advertisements of contraceptives.

The two seemingly unrelated events have more than their timing in common. Their relationship is intriguing and intense and covered by the same ignorance that so many in our society defend in the name of religion and culture.

But before I dilate on the link between the two, let me first contradict the maulanas who topped their shenanigans by declaring that wife-beating does not exist in our beloved country which is inhabited by pious Muslims. It not only exists, it is rampant.

There is no doubt that this areais understudied and lacks specific data and information but whatever little is available makes it evident that wifebeating is the rule and not an exception. A small study (which I helped to conduct) a few years ago in two villages of central Punjab revealed that two in every three women were beaten by their husbands.

A quarter of them were not only slapped, boxed and shoved but beaten with sticks and shoes at a frequency of `often` to `regularly`. Nine of the 190 women who were interviewed reported having bled at least once as a result of being beaten, and seven had one of their bones broken in a single bout.

If these horrendous statistics could be extrapolated to the 38 million or so married women of the country, the picture becomes extremely grave. But that`s not what one sees from the windows of the CII office in Islamabad.

Besides attempting to quantify the practice of wife-beating, information was also sought on the marriage age of respondents, the number and sequence of male and female children born and perceptions about who was at fault, what triggered the incidents, their mitigation strategy and which family member played what role during and afterthe act of violence. That`s where links between wife-beating and misplaced concepts about reproductive performance of the couple become evident.

As a rule, women in Pakistan are married young.

Young men entering a marriage are under pressure to produce evidence of their male prowess and what better proof than a pregnant wife? The young brides are thus expected to conceive immediately and if they fail owing to any natural or healthor age-related factor, the men take it as an affront.

There were incidents reported in the study when men started beating their wives for months after the marriage but stopped when the woman became pregnant.

The average Pakistani male`s understanding of sex and reproduction is at best at the level of what it used to be in the mediaeval ages. Male egos thrive in this sea of ignorance. It is impossible for them to accept that their wife`s failure to conceive can also be due to some reversible or irreversible problem at their end. It is the women who have always been faulted and who must bear the brunt.

Two middle-aged men in the study, who savagely beat their wives, took second wives as the first ones did not bear them any children, but their second wives remained issueless too.

When a bride is finally pregnant; her next `assignment`is to give birth to a male child. Women giving birth to girls first or to more girls than boys are considered inferior. Such women lose the sympathy of even their close circles and their `poor` husbands are seen justified in venting their frustration.

There was considerable difference in the pattern of violence involving women who were proud mothers of sons compared with those who bore only girls. No one has a clue about the scientific fact that it is the man who is responsible for whether the offspring will be male or female. This fact could only become part of common knowledge if talking about sex and sex education were not taboo.Almost half of the women (mostly in their 30s) beaten by their husbands reported that they were no longer beaten. But that comes when the man`s age is close to 40 and his children have reached adulthood. Most women of this group reporte d that when their husbands intend to beat them, their sons tell them not to. There were women in this group, however, who said that their husbands had stopped beating them as soon as the coveted male heir was born.

This, however, is not to say that the archaic understanding of reproductive matters is the sole instigator of such violence. But if the ego of a large section of Pakistani males is deconstructed, their poor understanding of sexual matters will be found as one of its important factors.

Ignorance breeds ignorance. Our young men and women have no institution to fall back on for guidance on such matters. Sex education in schools gets an even stricter rebuke from the authorities than the Pemra ban on contraceptive ads.

This chosen ignorance then becomes a huge market for quacks offering dangerous quick fixes and for `pirs` bestowing amulets and other more hazardous prescriptions. There is a reason why every village wall is painted with their advertisements.

A few vertical programmes related to reproductive health have attempted to raise communities` knowledge base but they too face stiff resistance from the guardians of public morality. These programmes are implemented by young worl

It is ironic that the acts that deprive them of this clout, damaging their cause, come from the highest level of government that is actually supposed to lead these campaigns with vigour and resolve.

The writer works with Punjab Lok Sujag, a research and advocacy group that has a primary interest in govemance and democracy

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Thailand Shows the Way Towards an HIV-Free World Tue, 07 Jun 2016 12:12:32 +0000 Dr Poonam Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh is the Regional Director of the South East Asia Region of WHO.]]>

Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh is the Regional Director of the South East Asia Region of WHO.

By Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh
NEW YORK, Jun 7 2016 (IPS)

Thailand has provided the world with an important milestone towards the global goal of ending pediatric AIDS. This week, the World Health Organization is formally declaring that Thailand has officially eliminated new HIV infections among children.

Whereas in 2000 an estimated 1000 children in Thailand were newly infected with HIV, in 2015 just – 85 children were infected with the disease. This very low level of new infection among children is comparable to the results achieved in North America and Western Europe, where mother-to-child HIV transmission is extremely rare.

Last year, Cuba became the first country to be officially acknowledged as having eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis. This week’s landmark represents the first time that a country with a large HIV epidemic has reached this milestone for children. In Thailand today, 98% of all pregnant women living with HIV receive antiretroviral therapy, and the rate of mother-to-child HIV transmission is less than 2%. This is a remarkable achievement in a country where an estimated 450 000 people were living with HIV in 2014.

Several factors have contributed to Thailand’s extraordinary achievement. First, sustained success in preventing new HIV infections generally has reduced the burden of HIV among women of childbearing age. From 2000 to 2014, the annual number of women newly infected in Thailand fell from 15 000 to 1900 – an 87% reduction. That is a degree of prevention success that exceeds what has been recorded in most high-income countries.

Second, Thailand has established a solid framework for Universal Health Coverage. This means that essential health services are available to both rich and poor, making Thailand a pathfinder for Universal Health Coverage not only in the region but for the entire world.

Finally, Thailand has demonstrated a visionary commitment to equitable access. Like Thai citizens, immigrants are also covered for HIV treatment. In our increasingly connected and mobile world, withholding lifesaving health services solely based on one’s country of origin is both inhumane and contrary to basic principles of public health. Thailand’s commitment to equity reflects a response grounded in human rights that will leave no one behind.

Thailand’s success reflects much more than the story of one country. It also exhibits how the AIDS response has changed our world. For far too long, it was assumed that only the wealthiest countries would obtain immediate access to biomedical breakthroughs but that everyone else would wait years or even decades before benefiting from lifesaving technologies. Beginning with AIDS, though, low- and middle-income countries are attempting to guarantee the same standard of health as is available in the wealthiest countries. This is a tectonic shift in the history of global health, and this universal approach is fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Thailand’s achievement offers inspiration as we work towards the global goal of ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030. National leadership, looking to science as the guidepost for action and involving affected communities have been central to what Thailand and other countries around the world have achieved thus far in our response to AIDS.

But the many gains that have been made in the AIDS response have also been possible because of transformative international partnerships – not only between the North and South but also South-South partnerships. Thailand has not only benefited from this partnership but has also served as a critical source of knowledge, learning and best practices on AIDS. Thailand has been the home of some of the most important HIV clinical trials and implementation studies, including with respect to prevention of mother-to-child transmission. Thailand’s early pioneering of condom promotion among sex workers has inspired effective HIV prevention measures all across the world – in both financially rich and not-so-rich countries. And as Thailand’s investments in health have placed it on track to achieve HIV treatment for all within the next several years, Thailand is showing the entire world what it takes to fully leverage antiretroviral therapy to reduce new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths.

As the entire global community gathers this week in New York to agree on concrete commitments towards ending the AIDS epidemic once and for all, Thailand’s story also teaches us another important lesson. At the same time that we work towards achieving HIV treatment for all, we also need to keep the focus on prevention efforts that reduce the risk of HIV acquisition.

So while we congratulate and celebrate Thailand today, let us also pledge to use the lessons from Thailand’s experience to generate the same kind of achievements all across Asia and the entire world.

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Stepping Up the Fight to End Cholera and Chikungunya Outbreaks in Mandera County, Kenya Sun, 05 Jun 2016 07:11:54 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee Siddharth Chatterjee is the UNFPA Representative to Kenya and the United Nations Resident Coordinator ad interim.]]> "An MSF assisted cholera treatment center in Mandera, Kenya". June 03, 2016  - Photo credit : @unfpaken

"An MSF assisted cholera treatment center in Mandera, Kenya". June 03, 2016 - Photo credit : @unfpaken

By Siddharth Chatterjee
Mandera County, Kenya, Jun 5 2016 (IPS)

Mandera’s double whammy, the concurrent outbreaks of cholera and chikungunya, is bringing to the fore the need for accelerated epidemic preparedness and prevention systems.

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated.

Chikungunya virus is most often spread to people by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. These are the same mosquitoes that transmit dengue, yellow fever and zika virus. Its symptoms include high fever, joint pain, rash and headache. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection.

The twin epidemics have hit the expansive north-eastern county in Kenya, with half the population coming down with chikungunya virus infection. Since April, almost 1,103 cases of cholera has been reported in Mandera including 16 deaths, 3 being children.

For about 17 months, several areas in Kenya have reported cholera outbreaks, but the outbreaks in Mandera present special challenges in a region where one health worker serves about 2,000 people and half the population has no access to clean water.

Almost 80 per cent of the Mandera residents are down with the outbreak – which has adversely affected health care workers and the livelihoods of many vulnerable urban poor, especially women and children.

Even the Mandera county Governor Ali Roba became a victim of chikungunya and spoke of the “excruciating and intolerable pain in his joints” for nearly a week.

The current cholera outbreak, in Mandera has been worsened by the immobilized health work force due to chikungunya outbreak and hence slowing response efforts from the local capacities.

While chikungunya infection is often self-limiting and rarely fatal, the cholera outbreak is the more worrying, given the limited access to clean water and health facilities and a poor communication infrastructure that complicates efforts for tracing, diagnosis and isolation of cases.

There is a realistic fear that the outbreaks could spread to other regions, for instance in the coastal region if urgent action is not taken now. That would portend ill especially for the country’s tourism sector that has just recently began recovering from a debilitating slump.

With half of Mandera’s health workforce working at less than ideal capacity due to chikungunya infection, it is time for more hands to quickly be put on deck. The Mandera Referral Hospital is already overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of patients turning up with cholera and chikungunya symptoms.

Though the Kenya Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Switzerland have stepped up to bolster the county’s health facilities to deal with the cholera outbreak, and support the Ministry of Health with response measures, gaps abound.

County health authorities are appealing for more health personnel, supplies such asintravenous fluids, antibiotics and water treatment chemicals. Public education efforts are also being cranked up.

The array of needs was clear today, June 03, 2016 as a team composed of UNICEF, WHO, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), the United Nations Population Fund, AMREF, Kenya Red Cross, MSF, government officials and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) led by the Cabinet Secretary for Health Dr. Cleopa Mailu visited Mandera East sub-county, the epicentre of the twin outbreaks.

As per reports the chikungunya virus was imported by infected travellers from Somalia. The team conducted a quick assessment to identify current response inputs and gaps, but more importantly to establish cross-border coordination links with partner agencies in the neighbouring countries of Somalia and Ethiopia.

While the prevailing circumstances call for emergency measures, the lesson must be that disease agents with pint-size virility like chikungunya can wreak havoc on an unprepared health system.

Health system strengthening approaches such as well-functioning surveillance and response systems will reduce the reliance on emergency measures. Dr Mailu said today, “the twin outbreak of cholera and chikungunya poses a real threat to public health not just in Mandera and the neighbouring counties but to all of Kenya. I am determined to make our health systems resilient and versatile to prevent disease outbreaks.”

Building the capacity of health staff and use of community-driven prevention measures will prepare the local systems for quick response before external support is mobilised. Public-private partnerships and cross-border collaboration will neuter the viruses before they can spark multiple new chains of transmission.

Stopping outbreaks quickly at source must be the target for health systems. This means such systems must be equipped to detect early signs of unusual disease patterns, they must have quick-response teams to track and investigate cases, and there must be laboratory services to help diagnose and confirm outbreaks promptly.

A public-private initiative where the Government of Kenya, county governments, UN agencies a number of private organizations have coalesced around improving maternal and child health, is already making encouraging progress in six high-burden counties in Kenya.

This inclusiveness must be the new paradigm in health systems development. The response to this twin outbreak in Mandera should lay the foundation for building a robust health system capable of preventing future outbreaks and build back better.

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Young African Women More Vulnerable to HIV Thu, 02 Jun 2016 04:14:20 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands 0 A Jarring Anomaly of Society Mon, 30 May 2016 17:56:30 +0000 Aasha Mehreen Amin By Aasha Mehreen Amin
May 30 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

It is easy to miss stories about child domestic workers being tortured and killed. Easy because stories of children being killed have become eerily regular. It is May 28 and there is the report of 14-year-old Konika Rani being hacked to death by a drug addict with three of her classmates also grievously injured by him. There is also the horror of having to read about a six-year-old being left critically wounded after being raped by her neighbour. Next to this is the news of 11-year-old Hasina Akhter dying in hospital from the fatal wounds inflicted on her, presumably by her employers.

child_domestic_workerIt’s hard to choose which incident merits more attention – they are, after all, all children. But for now let’s just focus on the child domestic worker. Why? Because in the other two cases, such attacks, though heinous and reprehensible, are unpredictable. In the case of Hasina, however, the chance of abuse is uncomfortably high. Child domestic workers – a staggering 421,000 in number, according to Unicef (2015) – are possibly the most vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse mainly because they are confined to a house 24-7 and have little means of escape.

Extreme poverty forces families to send their children to homes of the more privileged. Once they are employed, they are at the mercy of their employers and their families. They are often made to do the work of an adult and paid a pittance. They work odd hours and are given hardly any time to rest, least of all play. School, for most, is no longer a part of their lives. But the worst part of their working environment is that they will be severely reprimanded in the form of verbal or physical abuse for making the smallest of mistakes. A Unicef study has reported as much as 60 percent of child domestic workers saying that they faced some kind of abuse during work, such as slapping and scolding; more than half received no wage at all.

The fact that Hasina Akhter did not even get a chance to say goodbye to her mother before her frail little body gave in to the injuries inflicted on her, is not surprising. Yet the extent to which her tormenters went will not fail to make one feel sick to the stomach: her hand and leg were broken, there were burns on her back and injuries on her head and other parts of her body, her face bloodied. This is how her mother Salma Begum found her when she rushed from her home in Mymensingh to Dhaka Medical College.

Salma, a domestic worker, had fallen ill and she sent her little daughter Hasina to her employer Shariful Islam’s house in Mohammadpur. She was to do some light housework and play with the children. For four months, however, Salma had no news of her child, until she got the ominous call from her employer that Hasina had typhoid and malaria and was in hospital. According to a news report, Shariful Islam had brought a severely injured Hasina to the hospital, telling the police on duty that he had found her lying on the street. After admitting her to the hospital, Shariful quickly left the scene. Later, when the police went to Shariful’s house, after Salma had spoken to them, the couple had already fled. They were later arrested from Sreepur while in hiding.

There may be all kinds of socio-psychological explanations behind such barbarity inflicted by people who otherwise appear quite ‘normal’. Think of the well-known cricketer and his wife who turned out to be sadistic torturers of their child domestic worker. We don’t need experts to tell us, however, why employers think they can get away with abusing child workers. Despite the Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy-2015, which has been approved by the cabinet, there has been virtually no move to enforce this policy that would require all domestic workers to be registered as well as be guaranteed basic rights in terms of working hours, leave, benefits, health care and legal redress. Despite laws that serve the harshest punishment for physical torture, rape and murder of children, child domestic workers continue to be victims of all kinds of abuse.

The reason is simple. It is easy to beat and torture a child and get away with it. Child workers do not have a voice and there are no avenues by which they can get help when they are being victimised. The worst part is that in many cases the entire family collaborates in the torture. There is no one to speak out for the child domestic worker. Neighbours may hear their cries of help but few will try to intervene.

The idea of child labour is abhorrent in any society but it is a reality that we have done little to fix. Poverty compels families to send their children to the city to work in strangers’ homes in the hope that they will be fed, clothed and given some money to help them survive. This makes it a complex issue, one that cannot be solved with blanket bans without addressing the factors that push children into domestic work. But can we call ourselves a civilised nation if we continue to employ little children to work like adults who are vulnerable to abuse? It is hard to accept the truth that while employers shower their own children with love, caring and indulgence, when it comes to their child domestic worker, she/he is treated with contempt, neglect and sometimes brutality. Essentially, it is a class issue and the feudal mindset of society serves to perpetuate the idea that domestic workers are inferior beings with child domestic workers falling in the lowest rung of the ladder.

While we may wait for the Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy-2015 to make any significant change in the lives of domestic workers in general, the state must work towards the total prohibition of employing children for household work, which can only be defined as hazardous child labour. This is because no matter how much we harp on having helplines, monitoring teams, mandatory schooling and enforcement of stringent laws to ensure the safety and wellbeing of child domestic workers, in the real world, human beings have a propensity to become monsters when no one is looking.

The writer is Deputy Editor, Editorial & Opinion, The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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The Price of Non-Governmental Growth Sun, 29 May 2016 12:05:17 +0000 Rashaad Shabab By C. Rashaad Shabab
May 29 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

It is well known that since the 1980s, Bangladesh has made astonishing progress on a wide variety of development indicators such as reducing the prevalence of extreme hunger and poverty, increasing primary education enrolment rates, and reducing child and maternal mortality. This progress has been mirrored by an impressive record of sustained GDP growth, spanning decades. In contrast to these successes, the quality of our democratic institutions has languished to the point where they now threaten to undermine all these hard-won gains. This article argues that the provision of public goods and services by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) has not only contributed to these successes, but also to this failure.

Much, if not most, of Bangladesh’s development has happened outside the purview of its successive governments. The vibrant community of NGOs and civil society organisations working across the spectrum of development issues have been the principal drivers of progress, and undoubtedly, things like reduced infant mortality are progress. But by satisfying the immediate needs of Bangladesh’s citizens, the NGO movement has severed a critical link between us and our government. It has decoupled our access to services that would otherwise be provided by the state, and our ability to effectively demand these services from the state.

The delivery of public goods and services by non-state actors has crowded out not only the capacity of the state to serve its people, but also the capacity of the people to hold the state accountable. And whenever a people have failed to hold their government to account, state policy has followed a predictable trajectory. Unconstrained by the will of the people, the powers that be adopt policies that are designed to extract the nation’s wealth for their own enrichment.

It is not hard to list examples of extractive institutions in Bangladesh: overly complicated clearing and forwarding procedures at our ports, a lack of transparency in public procurement, bribes that must be paid before the receipt of most public services – the list is long, and growing. That is because over time, the extractive institutions tend to reinforce themselves. As the political elite divert more and more state’s resources under their control, they amass ever increasing means to consolidate their own power.

For the beneficiaries of an extractive system to continue enriching themselves without effective resistance, it becomes necessary for them to attack people’s freedom of speech and expression. This is because extractive policies cannot hope to stand up to the scrutiny of open, public debate.

The filling of key positions by loyalists rather than by the meritorious is also part of the process of extraction. This helps seal off institutions where we citizens might have sought redress from the influence of the will of the people, which becomes increasingly opposed to the incentives of their rulers. This gradual but deliberate erosion of the responsiveness of political institutions to the will of the people makes the prospect of organising any effective countervailing power within the existing system more and more grim.

So far, however, robust economic growth and the widespread provision of social services by NGOs meant that we, the people, were quite satisfied to pay the dues demanded of us by the extractive system, because we could still get on with the business of bettering our own lives. But robust economic growth and extractive institutions cannot coexist in the long term.

Institutions that are designed to extract wealth are very bad at creating it. At the most basic level, if anything of value can be expropriated by the state, nobody has an incentive to invest in creating anything valuable. If we continue on this path towards ever more extractive institutions, growth will stagnate.

Once this is understood, our right to free speech, our right to be free of state coercion, and our right to an independent judiciary cease to be the idealised luxuries that our leaders would have us believe. Rather, these things are the fundamental building blocks of sustainable economic growth. And without growth, none of the progress that Bangladesh has made in alleviating the human suffering that is symptomatic of poverty can be maintained.

The ability of citizens to effectively make demands of their government and to constrain the power of those who govern them is the key to long term growth and the sustainable eradication of poverty. The NGO movement in Bangladesh has temporarily circumvented, but ultimately failed to address this necessary condition for sustainable development. In the meantime, we the people, having our basic needs met, allowed the system to pervert the nation’s institutions; to silence all dissenting voices; and to coerce our fellow citizens who attempted to organise any countervailing power. Such is the price for decades of non-governmental growth.

The writer is a PhD. student in the Economics Department of the University of Sussex, UK.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Latest Population Projection of 25 Million Poses Serious Challenges Sun, 29 May 2016 11:50:05 +0000 Editor sunday By Editor, Sunday Times, Sri Lanka
May 29 2016 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

The most recent population projections expect the Island’s population to reach 25 million by 2042 and 25.8 million by 2062. It is expected to stabilise around the mid 2060s at 25-26 million. This is a significant departure from earlier projections that expected population stability much earlier at around 23-24 million in the 2030s and to decline thereafter.

This higher population growth that is mainly due to the recent increase in fertility from below replacement level to above replacement level, poses serious social and economic challenges in education, health, care of the elderly, public finances and retirement benefits.

Twenty Five million
Prof. Indralal de Silva’s and Dr. Ranjith de Silva’s recent book, Sri Lanka: 25 Million People and Implications, Population and Housing Projections 2012-2062, presents comprehensive population projections for 2012-2062 incorporating the latest information revealed in the Census of Population and Housing 2012. These expect population growth to be higher than experienced in recent years.

Projected population increase
This standard population projection of the authors projects that the population would reach 21.3 million in 2017, 22.2 million by 2022, 25 million by 2042 and 25.8 million by 2062. The population reaches stability around the mid 2060s at 25-26 million.

This population projection is a significant departure from earlier projections that expected population stability much earlier at around 23-24 million in the 2030s and then begin to decline. This revision is mainly due to the increase in fertility from below replacement level to above replacement level in the past ten years.

The revised population projections are different to those made several years ago since fertility trends have changed recently. The previous projections expected the country’s population to stabilize at around 23 to 24 million in 2025. This was based on the total fertility rate declining to below replacement level of 2.1 and reaching 2.0 in 2010. With the total fertility rate increasing to 2.4 in 2012-13, the population is increasing faster.

Growth of population
Since a large number of women will enter reproductive age in the next few years and the expected total fertility rate would be above the replacement level for some time, there is an in-built momentum for the growth of population in the next three to four decades. However, the rate of population growth will be on a declining trend and a near zero population growth rate would be attained after 2062.

Gender balance
According to the projection the sex ratio would favour females for the next two decades. However due to an expected improvement in male health in the next decade, and the elimination of some factors, such as the war that reduced male life expectancy in the past, male survival rates could improve.

The Sri Lankan population is becoming increasingly feminised. In the aged category, a high proportion is female due to their increased life expectancy compared to males. According to the authors of this book, female life expectancy today exceeds male life-expectancy by a wide margin as a majority of this female elderly category are economically inactive in contrast to males in the same category. This implies increased attention to coping with the increasing female aged dependents.

The out-migration of females, especially to the Middle East, and the transition from extended to nuclear families has led to inadequate familial care for elderly at home. The government needs to provide social security mechanisms for the increasing female elderly population. As the number of the elderly grows, the higher mortality among them would result in an increase in the crude death rate.

Population pyramid

The shape of Sri Lanka’s population pyramid has been changing rapidly over the years. This pyramid, which had a classical shape in 1981, changed into a pagoda like structure by 2012. During the interim period, the working age population grew significantly. The proportion of children (below 15 years) declined from 35 per cent in 1981 to 25 per cent in 2012. The declining fertility over the years led to the progressive decline in the base of the pyramid.

The number of children is significant when making projections on expenditure on education. This number that was 5.1 million in 2012 will increase to 5.3 million in 2017, remain fairly static for the next ten years, and fall once again to 5.1 million by 2032. Thereafter, it would be on a declining trend and drop to 4.4 million by 2062. This contrasts with earlier predictions of a continuous decline in the child population.

Unenviable predicament

Although this age structure transition was an expected phenomenon with society undergoing the demographic transition, what was unexpected was the increase in fertility that arrested the deckling child dependency. Sri Lanka is now in an unenviable predicament of both child dependency and old age dependency being high in the next few decades.

While the ageing of the population poses serious economic and social challenges, child dependency will not decrease as expected earlier owing to the increasing fertility. The proportion of females would be higher than of males and the labour force would not decline.

Problems and challenges
The new population projections that are different to what was expected earlier have to be taken into account in the planning of health facilities, education and social welfare, particularly the care of the elderly. The ageing population requires the enhancement of medical care for illnesses associated with ageing and the expansion of institutional homes for the elderly. The retirement schemes now in operation are limited in coverage, inadequate to the beneficiaries and a strain on the resources of the pension funds or the government. A total revamping of these schemes to make them more supportive of the elderly, while at the same time financially viable is a serious challenge facing the country. The continuing increase in the child populations means that maternal and child care and primary education will require adequate resources. These critical issues that must be addressed without delay if the country is to avoid severe social strains will be discussed in next Sunday’s column.

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

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Menstrual Hygiene Gaps Continue to Keep Girls from School Fri, 27 May 2016 21:16:02 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage 0