Inter Press Service » Education http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 26 Jul 2016 07:56:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Global List of Smart Cities Gives MM Kulelat Statushttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/global-list-of-smart-cities-gives-mm-kulelat-status/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-list-of-smart-cities-gives-mm-kulelat-status http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/global-list-of-smart-cities-gives-mm-kulelat-status/#comments Wed, 20 Jul 2016 19:30:01 +0000 Marlen Ronquillo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146162 By Marlen V. Ronquillo
Jul 20 2016 (Manila Times)

IESE, the graduate school of business of the University of Navarra, recently released a ranking of the “smart cities” of the world. This is a yearly ritual for the Opus Dei-founded school, which has a solid reputation as one of the best graduate schools of business in Europe.

Marlen V. Ronquillo

Marlen V. Ronquillo

There was some predictability to the “Smartest Ten” list drawn up by IESE, in Pamplona, Spain. American and European cities dominated. What list would take off New York, or San Francisco—or Chicago and Boston, for that matter—from the roll call of smart cities? London’s place is a given: it was No.1 last year; it placed second this year. Paris seems to have locked third place.

The only Asian country on top of that list is Seoul. Sydney, also in the top 10, would not consider itself an Asian city. The notable absence was Tokyo, now ranked 12th. It used to be very high on that list. Singapore was relatively high in the list, too.

Where was Metro Manila? It was given a kulelat status—145th out of 181 cities surveyed. In contrast, the Vietnamese city named after Uncle Ho—Ho Chi Minh—was in the middle of the list, with Canton and Shenzhen.

Why was Metro Manila among the kulelats? It was viewed as failing the 10 distinct benchmarks used by the IESE study: economy, technology, human capital, social cohesion, international outreach, environment, mobility and transportation, urban planning, public management, and governance. While some foreigners revel in the chaos of Metro Manila, the serious students on what makes a city “smart” were not impressed.

The list just validated the earlier report that the Philippines ranked low in the general area of “competitiveness.” One cannot be “smart” by being laid-back, complacent, indolent and incurious.

On top of the benchmarks was “economy.” Why MM was ranked low, we do not know. MM, according to data, accounts for more than 30 percent of the country’s GDP. The rest just account for the more than 60 percent. Was that not impressive enough, given MM’s disproportionate share of the country’s total GDP? And given the Aquino government’s boast of impressive GDP growth? Why were the IESE people not impressed?

The failure of MM’s economy to impress, despite its outsize role in the country’s economy, may be related to the next two criteria—technology and human capital.

The output of Metro Manila may not be impressive enough to those looking for elements of smartness. There are no serious technology hubs, no world-class innovation facilities, no venture capitalists that exist to fund the would-be Twitters, Ubers or Airbnbs. We have small-scale versions of all that, but they are not even impressive from an Asian context. The IESE people found nothing that could change the world with the kind of technology and innovation work being done in MM.

Our technology workers are BPO workers, doing routine voice and tech support work. And the elite technology workers are in security, firewall, network engineering and some programming. If we go down below the work chain, we will find service industry workers, from fast-food crew to restaurant staff, who mostly serve the BPO staffers.

Growth is driven by consumer spending, mostly the OFW income that is being spent in Metro Manila, and the BPO income. With the human capital engaged in dreary, boring, underpaid jobs, those looking for elements of smartness will not really be impressed. No Sundar, no Satya will emerge from the human-capital pool.

The government allocates very little for research and development. The top research university in the country has the physical space required to host and nurture great technology hubs. But it does not have the funding. It does host squatter colonies.

The P1.4 trillion PPP spending does not even allocate a peso for technology hubs.

We can’t even talk about “environment.” Look at the Pasig River, the grand old river that is dying if not yet dead, with almost zero BOD. Look at the air pollution index. Our air pollution trackers conk out after some use due to the gravity of the air pollution. Just look at Manila Bay after days of rain. You can easily net 10 tons of garbage along the seawall alone. Look at the blight and overall grimness of the urban slums.

Transportation and mobility is our Waterloo. Waze, the traffic-monitoring app, just ranked Metro Manila traffic as the worst in the world. The endless gridlock has been exacting a grievous economic and psychological toll on the nation. Yet, traffic management is about neglecting the urban rail system and discriminating against the de facto mode of mass transport—buses. Private vehicles, which each carries one-and-a-half passengers on the average, are king. What kind of transport policy holds cars sacrosanct except in our stupid, and science- and math-ignoring country?

Governance? MM’s grand cities are governed by ex-felons, comedians, and sons and daughters of dynastic families.

Urban planning? The so-called “urban planners,” who bloviate on primetime TV, are mostly poseurs.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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The Importance of Soft Powerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-importance-of-soft-power/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-importance-of-soft-power http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-importance-of-soft-power/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 15:02:07 +0000 Syed Mansur Hashim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146141 By Syed Mansur Hashim
Jul 19 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The world is at war with extremists. Developed and developing nations, whether it is France, the United States, Russia or China, the Middle East or countries in the sub-continent, we are all battling one form of Muslim militancy or another. And while alliances are being forged on a regional or trans-continental basis to fight outfits like the Boko Haram, Al Qaeda or the Islamic State (IS), and battles are being fought out on land in Iraq Syria, Libya or Yemen, on the streets of Paris or in Dhaka, every nation that has faced the onslaught of extremists who are connected to a global network of jihadists that is increasingly sophisticated, the realisation that they are now battling for the ‘hearts and minds’ of the populace is emerging.

soft_power_The extremists’ distortion of religion and their success in disseminating information has policymakers the world over going back to the drawing board and reassessing the threat – not just in military terms, but also incorporating a new strategy that makes use of media activity, to new school curricula, to effectively counter jihadist propaganda. It is the realisation that this is an ideological battle and the war must be fought on two fronts, both militarily and undermining extremist ideology that will put a dent in their recruitment efforts.

Taking the actual message of Islam to the schooling system is one approach being tried out in some countries. It is now obvious that if young Muslims are to be stopped being turned by jihadists, something has to be done about teachings and preaching in mosques, seminaries and educational institutions. The use of religious text that prove that arguments put forth by extremists that mass killings are condoned by the Qur’an is false, that Islamists are toying with young impressionable minds – is essentially at the forefront of this new effort. Unless hard-line teachings can be countered, the “war on terror” will be a losing battle.

Adam Garfinkle of the Foreign Policy Research Institute put all this into context: “we face not an esoteric intellectual but a full-fledged sociological problem in the greater Middle East…The larger and deeper social context, which feeds off collective emotion rather than the tracts of Sayiid Qutb or the tape-recorded rants of Osama bin-Laden, explains why newly vogue US counter-messaging efforts are a waste of time and money. Those efforts are bound to fail because those messages are…disembodied from the social networks in which ideas are embedded and give life. The notion that a bunch of people on the fifth floor of the State Department are one fine day going to discover the perfect set of words placed in perfect order and translated perfectly into Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Pashto and so on – and that set before fanatics these words are going to suddenly change their entire point of view – is a rationalist fantasy.”

One approach that has worked to counter gang violence in developed countries is now being tailor made to go counterterrorism in developing countries. Tailor-made in the sense that experts take into account local conditions, but the success of such approaches largely depend on the willingness of local stakeholders that include the respective governments to cooperate to change their corrupt and abusive behaviour. The idea that criminal gangs and terrorist outfits possess similarities in outlooks based on socioeconomic conditions is giving criminologists ideas to come up with programmes that may be implemented in various countries to counter the philosophies espoused by militants. Some basic elements are the same. The feeling of hopelessness in the face of police brutality, the need to belong to a club or a congregation of people who face similar identity crisis, the overwhelming hatred for the ‘establishment’, the need to feel powerful, proactive and invincible, etc. The counter-messaging efforts that are emerging differ from region to region.

For any effort to succeed, the respective governments must be open to ideas. The United States State Department has tried to find common ground with Bangladesh police to introduce ‘community policing’ that would help devise a strategy based on police-civilian partnerships. That initiative never went anywhere because local conditions and culture were not factored in. A country where the larger populace is in fact alienated from the police due to a myriad of reasons, and also corruption amongst certain elements of the citizenry provided the grounds for failure. No solution can be imposed from the outside. What works in El Salvador will probably not work in Bangladesh and vice versa.

What will work of course is bringing on board the religious leadership of the country who control the mosques and religious schools and the Islamic scholars to work with authorities. This will only work if the vast majority of the religious opinion leaders are convinced that it is time to forge a partnership with the State to counter a force that threatens their way of life too and not just that of the State’s. The State for its part has to step back from wholesale suppression of any dissent which is giving rise to much of the anger that is being utilised by jihadists to reach their own end goals. At the end of the day, we have to realise that ideas must be fought with ideas. No amount of policing and counterterrorism will root out militancy. Only when the State takes into confidence the people can there be any meaningful resistance to the spread of ideals (no matter how distorted) amongst the youth – illiterate or otherwise.

The writer is Assistant Editor, The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Entrenched Inequalitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/entrenched-inequalities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=entrenched-inequalities http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/entrenched-inequalities/#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2016 16:19:17 +0000 Faisal Bari http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146083 By Faisal Bari
Jul 15 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Do a girl born in a poor household in rural Balochistan and a boy born in a rich household in Karachi have the same or even a similar set of opportunities in life? Are their chances of acquiring an education similar? Do they have access to comparable healthcare services and facilities? Do they have equal opportunities for access to physical infrastructure and the freedom of movement and association?

Faisal Bari

Faisal Bari

The girl from the poor household in rural Balochistan has a significant probability of not surviving infancy. If she does, it is unlikely she will go to school. The chances of her making it to matriculation are almost negligible. She will be malnourished as a child and anaemic as an adult (the oft-heard refrain that at the very least nobody goes to sleep hungry in Pakistan is a blatant lie and a powerful means of self-deception). If she survives and makes it to adulthood, it is unlikely that marriage will change her economic/social status by much. Childbearing-related health risks and exposure to environmental hazards will make it likely that she will have a less than average lifespan.

Distribution of opportunities is highly unequal in Pakistan, and the differences are of many dimensions: income, wealth, gender, caste, ethnicity, sect, religion, rural/urban and provincial. But, more importantly, these inequalities are very deeply entrenched in our social, political and economic fabric. Our institutions, organisations and ways of doing things are structured to perpetuate this inequality and deepen it across generations. A poor child is likely to remain poor in his/her lifetime and his/her children are likely to remain poor too.

Our society and institutions are structured to perpetuate inequality across generations.

Socio-economic inequalities, and their entrenched and self-perpetuating nature, are the biggest challenge we face in shaping a future for Pakistan. It is easy to find challenges that Pakistan faces: there are plenty of good candidates. The fundamental one is inequality and what perpetuates it. But, and here is the perplexing part, despite its fundamental nature, it is one issue that is not even on the agenda for discussion or on the reform agenda.

People have been concerned about terrorism and extremism. Right or wrong, the government, with most stakeholders in agreement, came up with Operation Zarb-i-Azb and the National Action Plan to deal with it. We have been concerned about stabilisation and, right or wrong, we have been shoving stabilisation policies, under the guidance of the IMF, down everyone’s throat. We have become concerned about growth and, right or wrong, we have responded with investments in energy, infrastructure and now through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

But where is the response to the highly unequal access to opportunities in the country? Where is the outrage against this blatant neglect of the rights and needs of the majority? The politicians are not interested in the issue. There is no debate on the issue in legislatures, there are no policy options on the table, and there is not even an articulated demand or ideological approach by any political party on this larger question.

There does not seem to be any articulated demand from the public for addressing this issue either. Elections are not lost or won on the issue of addressing equality of opportunity: the provision of quality education/skills training, basic health, access to good social/physical infrastructure, and employment and growth opportunities.

Though we often talk of both the free, highly vocal and developed mass media in the country and the free and independent judiciary, they have not been instrumental in raising fundamental issues of rights and opportunities. The media produces more heat than light through the debates that incessantly go on. The judiciary has not taken up any of the fundamental issues — be it the right to education, healthcare or employment or questions of access to resources through land reform — at all. Cases filed on these matters with the higher courts have been languishing for years.

Is it not a fact that the hold the upper classes have on society is very strong, not only in terms of managing access to resources but even over the power to start and sustain debate? The upper classes, the top five to seven per cent, the main beneficiaries of the current system, do not have an interest in starting a debate on rights and equality of opportunities: they stand to lose the most. But, in addition, it seems that the people who rise to middle-class level (the professionals), the subsidiary beneficiaries of the current system, also see their benefit in perpetuating the system rather than in challenging it. They are co-opted.

But if we feel we can address terrorism, extremism, ethnic strife, sustainable development, high growth, and income and employment generation without addressing the issue of opportunities for all, we live in la-la land. If we believe we do not have the resources to provide a basic level of services to all, we are wrong again. Kerala, an Indian state that boasts developed society level statistics on education, health and well-being, provided basic health and education services to all when it was a relatively poor state.

Many people also feel that there is a trade-off in growth and expenditure on basic services. They are wrong. Human development theories have shown that. Empirical evidence is also there. Kerala was not the fastest-growing state in India when it extended basic services to all, and many critics thought this extension would limit Kerala’s growth prospects even further. Today, Kerala stands at the top of the list of Indian states in growth and income terms.

If a poor girl from rural Balochistan does not get almost the same opportunities as a boy from the middle or upper class from Karachi, our dreams for a better Pakistan will remain just that: dreams. And, in reality, we will continue to live the nightmare that we currently face.

The writer is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives and an associate professor of economics at Lums, Lahore.
Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2
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This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Indigenous Villages in Honduras Overcome Hunger at Schoolshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/indigenous-villages-in-honduras-overcome-hunger-at-schools/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-villages-in-honduras-overcome-hunger-at-schools http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/indigenous-villages-in-honduras-overcome-hunger-at-schools/#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2016 16:14:53 +0000 Thelma Mejia http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146074 Students at the “República de Venezuela” School in the indigenous Lenca village of Coloaca in western Honduras, where they have a vegetable garden to grow produce and at the same time learn about the importance of a healthy and nutritious diet. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

Students at the “República de Venezuela” School in the indigenous Lenca village of Coloaca in western Honduras, where they have a vegetable garden to grow produce and at the same time learn about the importance of a healthy and nutritious diet. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

By Thelma Mejía
COALACA, Honduras, Jul 15 2016 (IPS)

Barely 11 years old and in the sixth grade of primary school, this student dreams of becoming a farmer in order to produce food so that the children in his community never have to go hungry. Josué Orlando Torres of the indigenous Lenca people lives in a remote corner of the west of Honduras.

He is part of a success story in this village of Coalaca, population 750, in the municipality of Las Flores in the department (province) of Lempira.

Five years ago a Sustainable School Feeding Programme (PAES) was launched in this area. It has improved local children’s nutritional status and enjoys plenty of local, governmental and international participation.

Torres is proud of his school, named for the Republic of Venezuela, where 107 students are supported by their three teachers in their work in a “teaching vegetable garden”. They grow peas and beans, fruit and vegetables that are used daily in their school meals.

Torres told IPS that he did not used to like green vegetables, but now “I’ve started to like them, and I love the fresh salads and green juices.”

Josué Orlando Torres, an 11-year-old student, dreams of becoming a farmer to ensure that children like himself have access to free high-quality food at this school in the indigenous community of Coloaca, where a sustainable school programme is beginning to overcome chronic malnutrition. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

Josué Orlando Torres, an 11-year-old student, dreams of becoming a farmer to ensure that children like himself have access to free high-quality food at this school in the indigenous community of Coloaca, where a sustainable school programme is beginning to overcome chronic malnutrition. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

“Here they taught us what is good for us to eat, and also to plant produce so that there will always be food for us. We have a vegetable garden in which we all plant coriander, radishes, cucumbers, cassava (yucca), squash (pumpkin), mustard and cress, lettuce, carrots and other nutritious foods,” he said while indicating each plant in the school garden.

When he grows up, Torres does not want to be a doctor, engineer or fireman like other children of his age. He wants to be “a good farmer to grow food to help my community, help kids like me to be well-fed and not to fall asleep in class because they had not eaten and were ill,” as happened before, he said.

The 48 schools scattered throughout Las Flores municipality, together with other schools in Lempira province, especially those located within what is called the dry corridor of Honduras, characterised by poverty and the onslaughts of climate change, are part of a series of sustainable pilot projects being promoted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and PAES is one of these.

The purpose of these sustainable school projects is to improve the nutritional status of students and at the same time give direct support to small farmers, by means of a comprehensive approach and effective local-local, local-regional and central government-international aid  interactions.

As a result of this effort in indigenous Lenca communities and Ladino (mixed indigenous-white or mestizo) communities such as Coalaca, La Cañada, Belén and Lepaera (all of them in Lempira province), schoolchildren and teachers alike have said goodbye to fizzy drinks and sweets, and undertaken a radical change in their food habits.

Parents, teachers, students, each community and municipal government, three national Secretariats (Ministries) and FAO have joined forces so that these remote Honduran regions may see off the problems of famine and malnutrition that once were rife here.

A family production chain was developed to supply the schools with food for their students, who average over 100 at each educational centre, complementing the school vegetable gardens.

Every Monday, small farmers bring their produce to a central distribution centre, and municipal vehicles distribute it to the schools.

View of Belén, a town that is the head of a rural municipality of the same name amid the mountains of western Honduras, in the department (province) of Lempira, where a programme rooted in local schools is improving nutrition among remote indigenous communities. Credit: Courtesy of Thelma Mejía

View of Belén, a town that is the head of a rural municipality of the same name amid the mountains of western Honduras, in the department (province) of Lempira, where a programme rooted in local schools is improving nutrition among remote indigenous communities. Credit: Courtesy of Thelma Mejía

Erlín Omar Perdomo, from the village of La Cañada in Belén municipality, told IPS: “When FAO first started to organise us we never thought things would go as far as they did, our initial concern was to stave off the hunger there was around here and help our children to be better nourished.”

“But as the project developed, they trained us to become food providers as well. Today this community is supplying 13 schools in Belén with fresh, high-quality produce,” the community leader said with satisfaction.

They organised themselves as savings micro-cooperatives to which members pay small subscriptions and which finance projects or businesses at lowinterest rates and without the need for collateral, as required by banks, or for payment of abusive interest rates, as charged by intermediaries known as “coyotes”.

“We never dreamed the project would reach the size it is today. FAO sent us to Brazil to see for ourselves how food was being supplied to schools by the families of students, but, here we are and this is our story,” said the 36-year-old Perdomo.

“We all participate, we generate income and bring development to our communities, to the extent that now the drop-out rate is practically nil, and our women have also joined the project. They organise themselves in groups to attend the school every week to cook our children’s food,” he said.

Rubenia Cortes, a mother and volunteer cook at the school in the remote village of La Cañada in the department (province) of Lempira, in western Honduras. They cook in a kitchen that was built by parents and teachers at the school. Credit: Courtesy of Thelma Mejía

Rubenia Cortes, a mother and volunteer cook at the school in the remote village of La Cañada in the department (province) of Lempira, in western Honduras. They cook in a kitchen that was built by parents and teachers at the school. Credit: Courtesy of Thelma Mejía

A 2012 report by the World Food Programmme (WFP) indicated that in Central America, Honduras had the second worst child malnutrition levels, after Guatemala. According to the WFP, one in four children suffers from chronic malnutrition, with the worst problems seen in the south and west of the country.

But in Coalaca, La Cañada and other nearby villages and small towns, the situation has begun to be reverted in the past five years. The FAO project is based on the creation of a new nutritional culture; an expert advises and educates local families in eating a healthy and balanced diet.

“We don’t put salt and pepper on our food any more. We have replaced them with aromatic herbs. FAO trained us, teaching us what nutrients were to be found in each vegetable, fruit or pulse, and in what quantities,” said Rubenia Cortes.

“Look, our children now have beautiful skin, not dull like before,” she explained proudly to IPS. Cortes is a cook at the Claudio Barrera school in La Cañada, population 700, part of Belén municipality where there are 32 PAES centres.

Cortes and the other women are all heads of households who do voluntary work to prepare food at the school. “Before, we would sell our oranges and buy fizzy drinks or sweets, but now we do not; it is better to make orange juice for all of us to drink,” she said as an example.

From Monday to Friday, students at the PAES schools have a highly nutritious meal which they eat mid-morning.

The change is remarkable, according to Edwin Cortes, the head teacher of the La Cañada school. “The children no longer fall asleep in class. I used to ask them, ‘Did you understand the lesson?’ But what could they answer? They had come to school on an empty stomach. How could they learn anything?” he exclaimed.

In the view of María Julia Cárdenas, the FAO representative in Honduras, the most valuable thing about this project is that “we can leave the project, but it will not die, because everyone has appropriated it.”

“It is highly sustainable, and models like this one overcome frontiers and barriers, because everyone is united in a common purpose, that of feeding the children,” she told IPS after giving a delegation of experts and Central American Parliamentarians a guided tour of the untold stories that arise in this part of the dry corridor of Honduras.

There are 1.4 million children in primary and basic secondary schooling in Honduras, out of a total population of 8.7 million people. Seven ethnic groups live alongside each other in the country, of which the largest is the Lenca people, a group of just over 400,000 people.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/ Translated by Valerie Dee

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Focus on the Supply Side of Terrorismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/focus-on-the-supply-side-of-terrorism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=focus-on-the-supply-side-of-terrorism http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/focus-on-the-supply-side-of-terrorism/#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2016 16:02:48 +0000 Shah Husain Imam http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146080 By Shah Husain Imam
Jul 15 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Clearly, this is a tipping point in our understanding of and approach to ideological terrorism so far as Bangladesh is concerned. Since we have been visited by a series of ‘firsts’ in so-called jihadi manifestations, perhaps a review is in order.

supply_side_of_terrorism_It is for the first time that young men from well-off families educated in secular institutions staged a bloodbath. They formed a ‘suicide squad’, so far unheard-of in Bangladesh, to carry out their killing mission. A global contagion effect is taking hold.

Bangladesh, however, is not a lone figure on the supply side. A story from Kerala has it that men and women mostly from affluent and highly educated families confided in their friends about an intent to abandon their wealth and go somewhere to lead “a true Islamic way of life”.

“Of the 21 missing youths from Kerala, with at least some suspected to have left in a bid to join Islamic State, The Indian Express spoke to the families of 10 from the Padanna and Trikkaripur region to piece together a story of rapid radicalisation and a common thread — most were followers of the ultra-conservative Salafi movement.”

Sometime ago, even Muslim youths in England including teenage girls left their families travelling to Turkey on way to Iraq and some ISIS strongholds in Syria. The British authorities obviously cried foul but with a major difference that they would approach the returnees from such misadventure debriefing and engaging them in de-radicalisation programmes.

Latest reports suggest that the viscera samples of the five deceased participants in the Gulshan killing spree is being preserved. This is for testing whether they had used Captagon, a terrorist drug, before the act. For five young men to have executed 20 individuals in such a brutal fashion has raised a suspicion about the influence of some kind of drug before carrying out the operation Reportedly, FBI and an organisation in Gujarat have asked for visceral samples to carry out forensic test along that line.

Captagon is an ‘ideal’ drug to facilitate inhuman acts. “During the Paris attacks on November 13, those who managed to flee the scene have since provided descriptions of the terrorists that could point to the use of Captagon: with empty stares, pallid, expressionless faces, the attackers are said to have looked like the ‘walking dead’.”

A huge gap in the mechanical surveillance structure has come to light. A Prothom Alo report titled ‘Police in the dark about planners’ reveals a deficiency in the CCTV camera coverage. They have closed circuit camera footage along Road # 79 showing the militants entering the Holey Artisan Bakery Restaurant, but they have little by way of the route taken to enter Gulshan or if any vehicle was used by them. So, the police don’t have a clear picture of their movement leading up to their barging into the restaurant.

Also importantly, the police and Rab have detected a serious precautionary flaw at the Holey Artisan Bakery itself. It is found that the restaurant’s CCTV cameras did not contain any recording device – they only showed the arrival and departure of customers. Without any sequential footage, investigators say that they are left to depend entirely on versions by 13 rescued persons including eyewitness accounts of Artisan employees.

All this is an eye opener to an imperative necessity for getting the basics right. The slack in the maintenance of CCTV cameras with many routinely going out of order and the inability to analyse the fragmentary images when the chips are down are patently unacceptable. Properly trained personnel should be put in charge and held accountable for each of the CCTV camera installations. It is common knowledge that many private business houses, commercial centres, real estate apartments, transport terminals, banks, hotels have CCTV cameras but a new level of coverage and operational efficiency is called for should the lurking terror threats be staved off.

When terror strikes, the priorities are clear cut: Thoroughly professional investigation into how it happened including relaying orders, training, arming, target fixing and colluding arrangements, if any, behind the act. The rest about financing, mentoring, networking is a grey area not privy to foot soldiers or even the sleeping cells of terrorist organisations. There, credible and focused intelligence exchanges are vital between countries having a common stake.

The overarching concern at this point is to prevent recurrence of a terror attack of the Holey Artisan Bakery type or the attempted one like in Sholakia. A fallout is seen through the postponement of some international conferences and events as hints of change of travel plans by buyers and tourists and a short-term fall in investment appear in the horizon.

We have been through rough patches before which proved transient as we would bounce back every time. This too will be a passing phase in ensuring which we must play our own part.

At any rate, we should view it as a new challenge that we share with the rest of the world requiring a new response to be had.

It is true that many a terrorist attack may have been prevented due to good police and Rab work. What is equally true is an ample room for improvement in their intelligence gathering, collation and analytical activities. Multiplicity of intelligence agencies could hinder coordination between them, even make them work at cross-purposes. The right balance will have to be struck in accordance with best practice methods.

Lest you have forgotten, here is a punchy quote from Theodore Roosevelt: ‘Nine-tenths of wisdom is being wise in time.’ – (Speech 14 June 1917)

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Fighting Violence Against Children as a Global Problemhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fighting-violence-against-children-as-a-global-problem/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fighting-violence-against-children-as-a-global-problem http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fighting-violence-against-children-as-a-global-problem/#comments Wed, 13 Jul 2016 04:06:02 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146020 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fighting-violence-against-children-as-a-global-problem/feed/ 1 Large-Scale Rainwater Harvesting Eases Scarcity in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/large-scale-rainwater-harvesting-eases-scarcity-in-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=large-scale-rainwater-harvesting-eases-scarcity-in-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/large-scale-rainwater-harvesting-eases-scarcity-in-kenya/#comments Tue, 12 Jul 2016 21:02:07 +0000 Justus Wanzala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146014 African Water Bank technicians put the final touches on a water storage tank at a homestead in the Duka Moja area of Narok County, Kenya. Credit: Justus Wanzala/IPS

African Water Bank technicians put the final touches on a water storage tank at a homestead in the Duka Moja area of Narok County, Kenya. Credit: Justus Wanzala/IPS

By Justus Wanzala
NAROK, Kenya, Jul 12 2016 (IPS)

Rainwater harvesting in Kenya and other places is hardly new. But in this water-stressed country, where two-thirds of the land is arid or semiarid, the quest for a lasting solution to water scarcity has driven useful innovations in this age-old practice.

The African Water Bank (AWB), an international nonprofit, has committed to providing and managing clean water using a much cheaper and efficient method.

The technology’s main focus is to harvest and store rainwater on a large scale. It has features such as an enhanced collection area, a guttering system and a storage system. Additional features include filters, water gauges and first flush devices.

A typical AWB rainwater harvesting system collects 400,000 to 450,000 litres of rainwater within two to three hours of steady rain. It has an artificial roof of 900 to 1,600 square metres and storage tanks. The largest tank ever constructed in Narok County has a capacity of 600,000 litres. All the units can be expanded per the owners’ needs.

This amount of water can serve a community of 400 people for approximately 24 months without extra rain. The capacity can be added at a rate of 220,000 litres per year. The system is low cost and can be 100 percent maintained locally. It also uses local skills, labour, materials and technology.A typical AWB harvesting system collects 400,000 to 450,000 litres of rainwater within two to three hours of steady rain.

Chip Morgan, AWB’s Chief Executive Officer, says their system collects huge volumes of rainwater and conserves it in large storage tanks. “This is akin to one earning money and saving it in a bank, the reasons we are called AWB,” he says.
He adds that the size of the system installed by households is dependent on their needs.

Currently, AWB focuses on the semiarid Narok County, in Kenya’s Rift Valley region, mainly occupied by the pastoral Maasai community. The technology has also been introduced in the semiarid Pokot, Machakos, Samburu and Kajiado counties in Kenya as well as in Zambia’s Chavuma district. Most of the clients are homes and institutions such as hospitals and schools.

Construction of tanks is funded by communities, donors and individuals who pay 50 percent up front before construction begins. Morgan says that despite growing demand, they are still in a phase where people are learning of the immense potential of the initiative. “This year we are fully booked. Our target is to build 50 units in a year,” he says.

The AWB CEO, who has worked for decades in the development sector starting in his native Australia, where water scarcity is a challenge to communities residing in remote areas, argues that one of the reasons why people are poor in many parts of the developing world is lack of water.

According to the 2012 Joint Monitoring Programme’s report, access to safe water supplies throughout Kenya was only 59 percent, while access to improved sanitation was 32 percent. The situation might have improved of late, but the challenge of access to water in both rural areas and urban areas still abounds.

Due to poor access to water and sanitation, says Morgan, water, sanitation and hygiene-related illnesses and conditions are the main cause of disease among children under five.

Meanwhile, just a small tank can irrigate a greenhouse on a one-third acre piece of land, thus promoting food security. As a result, AWB is keen to work with companies involved in the provision of greenhouse irrigation services to assist communities engaged in commercial farming.

Access to water and sanitation is also vital in reducing women and girls’ workload since culturally, fetching water is their job. This enables them to attend to other activities, such as school and homework.

Morgan notes that they use both skilled and unskilled local labour and continuously train their technicians. This is essential because the emergence of plastic tanks had killed demand for concrete ones, resulting in a decline of the number of concrete tank technicians. He says concrete/masonry tanks can last a lifetime.

AWB has two engineers. They offer training to technicians from outside Kenya. Four Ugandan community-based organisations have benefited from AWB’s skills transfer programme by sending their members to be trained on AWB rainwater harvesting technology.

Wataka Stephen, a trainee from Mbale, Uganda, says he was keen to acquire skills and transfer them to Uganda. “I intend to utilize the skills that I have acquired to employ myself,” says Wataka.

Swaga Jaberi, another Ugandan undergoing training at AWB, says his home region in eastern Uganda relies heavily on boreholes, but they are drying up as the water table decreases. Borehole digging is also expensive.

AWB’s rainwater harvesting technology is unique compared to the systems common in Uganda, he says. Jaberi intends to target hospitals, schools, and community centres as his potential clients.

The AWB rainwaters harvesting is indeed beneficial to communities in the semi arid Narok County. Apart from saving livestock during perennial droughts, it is also boosting education. Tonkei Ole Tempa, headmaster of the Ilkeek Aare mixed Day and Boarding Primary School, cannot hide his satisfaction. He says  that since the school completed construction of its 600,000-litre water tank in March, it has enough water to meet all its needs.

The system has a rainwater collecting roof of 400 square metres and was put up at a cost Kenya shillings 4.3 million (USD 43,000). Ole Tempa says the school, which has a total of 410 pupils with 180 pupils being boarders, now has enough water to last from one rainy season to the next.

Ole Tempa reveals that enrolment has gone up. “In 2013 the school had only 106 pupils but this year it has grown to 410,” says the headmaster. He adds that the availability of water has enhanced the school’s feeding programme. This has improved student health and performance. Hygiene standards in the school, adds Ole Tempa, have equally improved.

Indeed, various studies commissioned by Kenya’s ministry of education and other independent bodies in the past have indicated that in schools without clean water and toilets, pubescent female pupil’s absenteeism is rampant during days when they are menstruating. This affects their performance in school, with some dropping out altogether.

According to Ole Tempa, it is because of the vulnerability of girls that they offer boarding facilities to girls as matter of priority courtesy of availability of enough water. He adds that previously they used to spend 48,000 Kenya shillings (480 USD) every three months to buy water, but since they stared harvesting rainwater, the cost is zero.

The head teacher says that they intend to establish a vegetable garden through irrigation to supply fresh vegetables to the school and also rear two dairy cows to lower spending on milk for pupils. Funds for the construction of the roof and tank were provided by the Rotary Club in Kenya and the African Water Bank partners. Parents also chipped in by contributing Kenya shillings 5,000 each (USD 50). “The input by the parents was meant to ensure ownership of the project for sustainability purposes,” he says.

The government has equally recognized the impact of rainwater harvesting technologies in arid and semiarid areas on education. Speaking in Baringo County in June 2016, Fred Segor, Principal Secretary, Kenya’s ministry of water, urged schools to practice rainwater harvesting. He said the move will reduce incidences of water related diseases among pupils.

Apart from boosting access to water in arid and semi regions, rainwater harvesting contributes to water conservation thus reducing overexploitation of water resources. Moreover, rainwater harvesting reduces surface runoff during heavy precipitation which causes floods and erosion as water is harvested.

Morgan says AWB is keen to surmount challenges such as scarcity financial constraints by partnering with financial institutions. This will eliminate dependence on donors and lessen the burden on communities which lack funds to put up large scale rainwater harvesting units.

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Latin American Development Depends On Investing In Teenage Girlshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/latin-american-development-depends-on-investing-in-teenage-girls/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-american-development-depends-on-investing-in-teenage-girls http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/latin-american-development-depends-on-investing-in-teenage-girls/#comments Mon, 11 Jul 2016 15:23:23 +0000 Estrella Gutiérrez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145995 Two Mexican teenage girls at their school. Investing in education for teenage girls in Latin America is regarded as the way forward for them to become future drivers of sustainable develpment in their societies. Credit: UNFPA LAC

Two Mexican teenage girls at their school. Investing in education for teenage girls in Latin America is regarded as the way forward for them to become future drivers of sustainable develpment in their societies. Credit: UNFPA LAC

By Estrella Gutiérrez
CARACAS, Jul 11 2016 (IPS)

Latin America’s teenage girls are a crucial force for change and for promoting sustainable development, if the region invests in their rights and the correction of unequal opportunities, according to Luiza Carvalho, the regional head of UN Women.

“An empowered adolescent will know her rights and will stand up for them; she has tools for success and is a driving froce for positive change in her community,” Carvalho told IPS in an interview from the regional headquarters of UN Women in Panama City.

Adolescent girls and boys will have a leading role in their societies when the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development has been completed, she said. One of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is gender equality. Investing in today’s girls will have “a great transformative impact in future,” she said. “Investing in education and protection against violence are important tools for fulfilling the potential of teenage girls and young women,as wellas for promoting gender equality” -- Luiza Carvalho.

The world today has a higher proportion of its population aged between 10 and 24 years old than ever before, with 1.8 billion young people out of a  total population of 7.3 billion. Roughly 20 percent of this age group live in LatinAmerica and the Caribbean, Carvalho said.

According to data given to IPS by the regional office of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 57million of the region’s 634 million people are girls aged between 10 and 19, living mainly in cities.

The theme for this year’s World Population Day, celebrated July 11, is “Investing in Teenage Girls”, on the premise that transforming their present situation to guarantee their right to equality will not only eliminate barriers to their individual potential but will also be decisive for the sustainable development of their countries.

Women Deliver, an international organisation, has calculated the benefits of this investment in financial terms. For every additional 10 percent of girls in school, national GDP rises by an average of three percent; for every extra year of primary schooling a girl has completed, her expected salary as an adult grows by between 10 and 20 percent.

This is fundamental because, as Carvalho pointed out, “lack of economic empowerment, together with generalised gender discrimination and the reinforcemet of traditional stereotypes, negatively affects the capability of women in Latin America and the Caribbean to participate on an equal footing in all aspects of public and private life.”

Luiza Carvalho, regional director of UN Women for Latin America and the Caribbean. Credit: UN Women LAC

Luiza Carvalho, regional director of UN Women for Latin America and the Caribbean. Credit: UN Women LAC

That is why “investing in education and protection against violence are important tools for fulfilling the potential of teenage girls and young women,as well as for promoting gender equality,” she said.

Teenage women, she said, “are an especially vulnerable group who face special social, economic and political barriers.” Their empowerment in the region may come up against difficulties such as unwanted pregnancy, forced early marriage or union, gender violence and limited access to education and reproductive health services.”

As an example of these obstacles, the regional director of UN Women said that a Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) study of women aged 15-49 years in 12 countries of the region “reported that for a substantial proportion of these women, their first sexual encounter had been unwanted or coerced.”

Carvalho stressed that “early marriage or union imposed on girls is a major concern in the region, and it significantly affects the exercise of adolescent girls’ rights developing their full potential.”

“It is a form of violence that denies them their childhood, interrupts their education, limits their social development, curtails their opportunities, exposes them to the risk of premature pregnancy at too young an age, or unwanted pregnancy and its possible complications, and increases their risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, including HIV (human immuno-deficiency virus),” she said.

It also increases the girls’ exposure to “becoming victims of violence and abuse,” Carvalho said.

In Carvalho’s view it is very positive that all the countries inthe region have established minimum ages for marriage in their laws, but on the other hand, the laws fix different minimum ages for boys and for girls, and in certain cases such as pregnancy or motherhood, girls may legally marry before they reach the minimum age.

In Latin America, far from diminishing, teenage pregnancies have increased in recent years, due to cultural acceptance of early sexual initiation. As a result, the region ranks second in the world for adolescent birth rates, with an average of 76 live births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 years, second only to sub-Saharan Africa.

Furthermore, 30 percent of Latin American teenage girls do not have access to the contraceptive care services they need, according to UNFPA. Sexual and reproductive health face especially high barriers in this region because of patriarchal,culture, the weight of conservative sectors and the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church.

In Latin America, indigenous teenage girls, together with their rural counterparts, are the group most discriminated against in terms of opportunities and access to education. Credit: Rajesh Krishnan/UN Women

In Latin America, indigenous teenage girls, together with their rural counterparts, are the group most discriminated against in terms of opportunities and access to education. Credit: Rajesh Krishnan/UN Women

In contrast, the region has a good record on education. Over 90 percent of its countries have policies to promote equal access by teenagers to education. Ninety percent of teenage girls have finished their primary school education, although only 78 percent go on to secondary school, according to UNFPA.

The greatest educational access barriers are faced by rural and indigenous teenage girls, who have difficulties for physical access to some education centres. In the case of indigenous and Afro-descendant girls, this is added to inappropriate curricula or the absence of educational materials in their native languages (mother tongues). 

Carvalho highlighted as a positive element that education laws, especially those that have been reformed recently, “have begun to recognise the importance of establishing legal provisions that promote and disseminate human rights, peaceful coexistence and sex education.”

However, she regretted that “direct connections with prevention of violence against women and girls are still incipient.”

In her view, the school curriculum plays an essential role. Including contents and materials “related to human rights and the rights of women and girls, non-violent conflict resolution, co-responsibility and basic education about sexual and reproductive health,” will potentiate more non-violent societies, inside and outside of the classroom, she said.

Carvalho quoted a 2015 study carried out in 13 Latin American countries by UN Women and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which concluded that education systems are failing to prevent violence against girls.

“This is something that must be improved, because it is in the first few years of early childhood that egalitarian role modelling between girls and boys can occur and lay the foundations of the prevention of violence, discrimination, and inequality in all its forms,” she emphasised.

Carvalho said changes should start with something as simple as it is frequently forgotten: “Girls, teenagers and women are rights-holders and entitled to their rights.”

If girls are given “equal access to education, health care, sexual and reproductive education, decent jobs, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes, sustainable economies would be promoted and societies, and humanity as a whole, would benefit,” she concluded. 

Edited by Verónica Firme. Translated by Valerie Dee.

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Girls in Rural Bangladesh Take Back Their Futureshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/girls-in-rural-bangladesh-take-back-their-futures/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=girls-in-rural-bangladesh-take-back-their-futures http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/girls-in-rural-bangladesh-take-back-their-futures/#comments Sat, 09 Jul 2016 12:08:12 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145984 A group of girls attend a Shonglap session in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. The peer leader (left) is discussing adolescent legal rights. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

A group of girls attend a Shonglap session in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. The peer leader (left) is discussing adolescent legal rights. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By Naimul Haq
BHOLA, Bangladesh, Jul 9 2016 (IPS)

Four years ago, Farzana Aktar Ruma, now 18, was almost married off without her consent.

Her parents had settled on someone they considered a reasonably wealthy young man with a good family background, and did not want to miss the opportunity to wed their eldest daughter.

Farzana’s father, Mohammad Yusuf Ali, told IPS, “I thought it was a blessing when the proposal came to me from a family friend who said that the talented groom-to-be has his own business and ready home in the heart of a busy district town in Barisal, not far from where we live.”

No one defies Yusuf, an influential man in Char Nurul Amin village in Bhola, an island district in coastal Bangladesh, where most people depend on agriculture and fishing to make a living.

So, without consulting his daughter, Yusuf promised her as a bride and asked the family to prepare for the wedding."The power of knowledge is the key to success." -- Priyanka Rani Das, who quit school in 2012 due to extreme poverty but has since re-enrolled.

Farzana was only 14 years old and did not want to get married, but she didn’t know where to turn. Then Selina Aktar, who lives nearby, offered to help.

Aktar told IPS, “It was not surprising, but I was [still] shocked at how parents readily accept such marriage proposals without considering the age of their daughters.”

On the eve of the wedding, Aktar arranged a meeting with Farzana’s parents and asked them to call it off and let her stay in high school until she graduated.

Aktar is the facilitator of a seven-member Community Legal Services (CLS) organisation that advises students, parents and others on legal rights, including rights of adolescents.

“After several hours of discussions, we were able to convince Farzana’s parents that an educated girl was more precious than a girl thought to be a burden for her family at her early age,” Aktar said.

Abul Kaiser, a legal aid adviser with COAST, a leading NGO operating in the coastal regions of Bangladesh for more than three decades now, and whose work focuses mostly on social inequalities, told IPS, “The society is cursed with myths and most parents still biased on such medieval beliefs favour early marriage. A girl soon after her puberty is considered a burden to the family and parents look for opportunities to get rid her as soon as possible for so-called ‘protection’ of their daughters.”

To challenge the traditional beliefs that still haunt many communities in this modern age, COAST promotes informal learning through various programmes which they believe make a positive impact.

Executive Director Rezaul Karim Chowdhury told IPS, “The society needs to be empowered with information on the rights of such adolescent girls, and that is what we are facilitating. Most parents who may not have had opportunities of going to schools are expected to behave this way but our approach is to change this mindset so that a sense of acceptance exists.”

At Radio Meghna in south Bhola, Bangladesh, teenaged girls broadcast a programme aimed at preventing early marriage and staying in school. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

At Radio Meghna in south Bhola, Bangladesh, teenaged girls broadcast a programme aimed at preventing early marriage and staying in school. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

 

Radio Meghna, a community radio with limited broadcast frequency operating since February 2015 in south Bhola’s Char Fassion, has been at the forefront of such advocacy programmes.

The station broadcasts targeted programmes focused on dispelling myths through informal learning programmes.

Fatema Aktar Champa, a producer at the radio station, told IPS, “We have a large audience and so we take the opportunity to educate adolescents and also their parents on merits and demerits of early marriage. On various occasions we invite experts almost every day to talk about reproductive health, adolescents’ legal rights, need for education and the values, social injustices and many more allied issues linked to challenges of adolescents.”

Unlike other community radio stations, Radio Meghna is completely run by a team of about 20 adolescent girls.

Khadiza Banu, one of the producers, told IPS, “There is a general feeling that the radio team at Meghna has a wide range of acceptance in the society. On many occasions we broadcast programmes just to build trust on parents’ decisions to prevent early marriage and allow continuing education.”

Education is key to development, and girl’s education is especially important since it is undermined by patriarchal cultural norms.

In Cox’s Bazar district, COAST has taken a different approach to empowering adolescent girls to demand their rights and offering livelihood opportunities.

Despite traditional beliefs that devalue girls’ education, especially in poor, rural areas, adolescent girls in many regions of Bangladesh are getting help from a programme called Shonglap – dialogue that calls for capacity building and developing occupational skills for marginalised groups in society.

Priyanka Rani Das, who quit school in 2012 due to extreme poverty, has joined Shonglap in South Delpara of Khurushkul in coastal Cox’s Bazar district.

Part of a group of 35 adolescent girls, Das, who lost her father in 2009, has been playing a leading role among the girls who meet six days a week in the Shonglap session held at a rented thatched home in a suburb of Delpara.

Shy and soft-spoken, Das told IPS, “I had to drop out of school because I was required to work as a domestic worker and support my family of six.”

A neighbour, Jahanara Begum, who had been attending informal classes at a Shonglap session nearby, convinced Das that completing her education would help her earn a much better living in the long run.

Das told IPS, “I realized that girls are behind and neglected in the man-dominated society because of our lack of knowledge. So I left the job and joined Shonglap where they have demonstrated that the power of knowledge is the key to success.”

Das is one of about 3,000 teenagers in Cox’s Bazaar who returned to school after taking basic refresher classes and life skills training like sewing, repairing electronic goods, rearing domestic animals, running small tea shops, pottery, wood works and other activities that generate income.

Jahangir Alam, programme manager of the Shonglap Programme of COAST that runs the programme in Cox’s Bazar told IPS, “Those who graduate are also supported with interest-free loans to start a business – and so far over 1,600 such girls are regular earning members supporting their families.”

Ruksana Aktar, peer leader of the group in Delpara, said, “Shonglap is basically a platform for less privileged adolescent girls to unite and gather strength through common dialogues. Such chemistry for 12 months gives them the moral strength to regain lost hopes.”

Mosammet Deena Islam, 17, comes from a family of cobblers and had never been to school. Islam always dreamt of pursuing an education but poverty prevented her from going to school, even though schooling is free in Bangladesh.

She joined Shonglap in Delpara and after a few months in the group, she enrolled in a state-run school where she now attends grade 9 classes.

Rashed K Chowdhury, executive director of Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE), Bangladesh’s leading think-tank advocating for children’s education told IPS, “Educational exclusion for girls is a major problem, especially in socio-cultural context in Bangladesh. Girls are still married early despite stringent laws against such punishable acts.

“Adolescent girls are encouraged to stay home after puberty to ensure ‘security’ and the most common reason is girls are used as earning members to supplement family income.”

Chowdhury said, “I believe such an approach of building opportunities for youth entrepreneurship to poor girls (for income generating activities) who wish to continue education, can considerably change their lives.”

Shonglap, spread over 33 districts in Bangladesh through a network of over 4,600 such groups, aims to give voices to these neglected girls and enable them to negotiate their own rights for life.

The Shonglap programme is being implemented by COAST and other NGOs with funding from Stromme Foundation of Norway.

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Talking Openly – The Way to Prevent Teenage Pregnancyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/talking-openly-the-way-to-prevent-teenage-pregnancy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=talking-openly-the-way-to-prevent-teenage-pregnancy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/talking-openly-the-way-to-prevent-teenage-pregnancy/#comments Fri, 08 Jul 2016 18:39:09 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145981 A teenage mother and her toddler in Bonpland, a rural municipality in the northern province of Misiones in Argentina. Latin America has the second highest regional rate of early pregnancies in the world, after sub-Saharan Africa. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

A teenage mother and her toddler in Bonpland, a rural municipality in the northern province of Misiones in Argentina. Latin America has the second highest regional rate of early pregnancies in the world, after sub-Saharan Africa. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
BUENOS AIRES, Jul 8 2016 (IPS)

In plain and simple language, an Argentine video aimed at teenagers explains how to get sexual pleasure while being careful. Its freedom from taboos is very necessary in Latin American countries where one in five girls becomes a mother by the time she is 19 years old.

“For good sex to happen, both partners have to want it and this is as much about being sure they want it, as about being in the mood or ‘hot’ with desire,” said psychologist Cecilia Saia who made the video “Let’s talk About Sex” (Hablemos de sexo), aimed at adolescents and preadolescents and posted on social networks.

The video was produced by Fundación para Estudio e Investigación de la Mujer (FEIM – Foundation for Women’s Studies and Research) as part of a Take the Non-Pregnancy Test campaign. It was also distributed to teenagers so they “would be able to take free and informed decisions about becoming mothers and fathers.” “Keeping children in the education system or bringing them back into it would be effective interventions to prevent teenage pregnancy. In the same way, creating conditions within the education system to ensure that pregnant teenagers or adolescent mothers can continue their education, would be another intervention with a positive impact” - Alma Virginia Camacho-Hübner.

During the campaign, teenagers of both sexes were given boxes similar in appearance to pregnancy test kits, containing information about teenage pregnancy and the myths surrounding how it is caused, as well as condoms and instructions on how to use them, Mabel Bianco, the president of FEIM, told IPS.

The campaign was broadcast on YouTube and other social networks, with candid messages in the language used by adolescents. “This meant we could reach a large numbers of 14-to-18-year-olds, an age group that such campaigns usually find hard to reach,” she said.

According to FEIM, in Argentina 300 babies a day, or 15 percent of the total, are born to mothers aged under 19.

“This percentage has shown a sustained increase over the last 10 to 15 years, and the proportion of births to girls under 15 years of age has also risen,” Bianco said.

Argentina exemplifies what is happening in the rest of Latin America, which is the world region with the second highest teenage fertility rate, after sub-Saharan Africa. The national rate in Argentina is 76 live births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 years, according to United Nations’ demographic statistics.

In order to call attention to this problem and to the general need to promote the equal development of women, Investing in Teenage Girls is the theme of this year’s World Population Day, to be celebrated July 11.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) states that one in five women in the Southern Cone of South America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay) will become a teenage mother, in an area where over 1.2 million babies a year are born to adolescents.

“Early pregnancy and motherhood can bring about health complications for mother and baby, as well as negative impacts over the course of the lives of adolescents,” says a UNFPA report about fertility and teenage motherhood in the Southern Cone.

The report says that “when pregnancy is unplanned, it is a clear indication of the infringement of teenagers’ sexual and reproductive rights and hence of their human rights.”

Alma Virginia Camacho-Hübner, UNFPA sexual and reproductive health adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean, told IPS that teenage pregnancy has implications for individual patients, such as maternal morbidity and mortality associated with the risks involved with unsafe abortions, among other factors.

Prematurity rates and low birthweights are also several-fold higher, especially among mothers younger than 15.

For health services, the costs of prenatal care, childbirth, postnatal care and care of the newborn are far higher than the cost of interventions to prevent pregnancy and promote health education.

“For society as a whole, from a strictly economic point of view, in countries that enjoy a demographic dividend, early motherhood represents an accelerated loss of that demographic dividend,” Camacho-Hübner said from the UNFPA regional headquarters in Panama City.

This is because “instead of increasing economic productivity by having a larger economically active proportion of the population, a rise in early motherhood causes a rapid rise in the dependency ratio, that is the proportion of the population that is not economically active and requires support from family or society,”she said.

The Southern Cone study found that dropping out of school usually preceded getting pregnant.

“Therefore, keeping children in the education system or bringing them back into it would be effective interventions to prevent teenage pregnancy. In the same way, creating conditions within the education system to ensure that pregnant teenagers or adolescent mothers can continue their education, would be another intervention with a positive impact,” Camacho-Hübner said.

In her view, teen pregnancy and motherhood are an issue of inequality which mainly affects women in lower socio-economic strata.

“It is teenagers from the poorest families and with the least education, living in underprivileged geographical regions, that are most prone to becoming adolescent mothers,” she said.

“Becoming mothers at an early age reinforces conditioning and the inequalities in the process by which teenagers who are, and who are not, mothers, effect the transition into adulthood,” she said.

“The main consequence of pregnancy is the interruption of schooling, although in many cases they have already dropped out by the time they become pregnant. But they do not go back to school afterwards because they have to look after the baby,” Bianco said.

“This makes for a poorer future, as these girls will have access to lower-paid jobs and will be able to contribute less to the country’s development. On the personal level, they will have to postpone their adolescence, they cannot go out with friends, go dancing and other typical teen activities,” she said.

Federico Tobar, another UNFPA regional adviser, said that “in addition to strengthening health, education and social services, there must be investment to promote demand, with interventions to motivate young people to build a sustained life project.”

“This involves incorporating economic incentives as well as symbolic remuneration, and also concrete childcare support for teenage mothers so that they can finish school and avoid repeated childbearing, which is frequently seen in these countries,” he told IPS.

Among other positive experiences, Tobar mentioned the Uruguayan initiative “Jóvenes en red” (Young People’s Network) which includes returning to school and work, and promotion of sexual and reproductive health.

“I believe it is important to invest in the education of teenage women, including comprehensive sex education and the capacity to decide whether or not they wish to have children. It is not a question of eliminating all pregnancy in adolescence, but of making it a conscious choice rather than an accident,” Bianco said. 

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez. Translated by Valerie Dee.

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Unions of the Poorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/unions-of-the-poor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unions-of-the-poor http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/unions-of-the-poor/#comments Fri, 08 Jul 2016 16:28:33 +0000 Syeda Shehrbano http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145979 By Syeda Shehrbano Kazim
Jul 8 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

One of the greatest outcomes for development economic policy is, or should be, the reduction in poverty and unemployment, both in the rural and urban areas. Recent reports show that poverty in Pakistan, based on cost of basic needs, has come down from around 64.2pc in 2001-02 to 29.5pc in 2014. Based on food energy intake, poverty during this period has declined from 34.6pc to 9.31pc.

dawn_writerSimilarly, unemployment has also dropped from 6.2pc in 2012-13 to 5.9pc in 2014-15. This year the government will allocate Rs22.4 billion for vertical health programmes and continue to implement the Prime Minister’s National Health Insurance Programme. Meanwhile, the provinces have announced their own development budgets.

Nevertheless, that is only one side of the story. With a Human Development Index value of 0.538, Pakistan ranks 147th out of 188 countries and territories. In terms of the Gender Inequality Index it ranks 121st out of 155 countries: only 19.3pc women complete secondary education compared to 46.1pc men, while female participation in the labour market is 24.6pc compared to 82.9pc for men.

Rural poverty must be addressed.

Another dimension of the socioeconomic situation is that rural poverty has declined less than urban poverty while more than two-thirds of Pakistanis live in rural areas. Of these, more than two-thirds are employed in agriculture, accounting for about half of the employed labour force.

Agriculture thus constitutes the largest sector of our economy with the majority of the population — directly or indirectly — dependent on this sector, which contributes about 24pc to the GDP and is the largest source of foreign exchange earnings.

Recent trends in agricultural incomes have been less than encouraging due to a resurgence in rural poverty. While droughts, floods, changing rain patterns and the vagaries of nature have played a role in hobbling rural economies and bringing down agricultural incomes, vulnerability to disaster is an¬other dimension of poverty. The issues that face Pakistan’s rural population are varied. They include poorly functioning factor markets and constrained access to assets, inequality of land and resource ownership, diminishing water resources and poor management of existing water supply, and constraints to agricultural productivity — which include knowledge or information gaps, amongst other factors.

Equitable development, provision of adequate and appropriate social services to the rural sector and the structural shift from raw material agricultural production to value addition requires cohesive economic, social and human development. Considering the sheer size of the population — roughly 140 million of which is in the rural areas, no top-down approach will yield results.

Other than infrastructural gains, a benevolent government cannot bring development to poor households in the rural sector. Invest¬ments in infrastructure are integral to the process of development but the infrastruc¬ture — roads, electrification, tele¬com¬munication and irrigation — is only the most basic hardware.

The problems that the rural poor face are those of illiteracy, lack of awareness of options and opportunities, health and sanitation — in short, the problems of the software.

The development of human resources is vital to the uplift of rural society. This means enabling the rural populace to decide on the course of development they want to adopt for their households and communities, building their capacities and abilities, and developing linkages that allow them to access the funds, re¬sources and support they need, when they need it.

Unions of the poor — institutions of the poor through social mobilisation — much like trade unions, create cohesive participatory and representative social groups in communities that are able to speak for, work with and belong to the rural poor. Instead of an alien development agenda brought from an ‘authority’, the changes that such a union brings are organic and sustainable. It also ensures that the so-called improvements do not sever the social and cultural bonds of the rural communities, which differ widely across provinces and linguistic belts.

What is required is the redirection of priorities by mobilising institutional and human resources towards political, economic and civic dimensions. While the government should provide social, legal and economic safety nets, the real focus should be on empowering the people who should organise, plan and execute the programmes at the household and community level.

According to the Rural Support Programme Network outreach data, rural support programmes have a presence in 3,710 union councils in Pakistan, and the methodology they use is to economically empower households through social mobilisation and by organising the poor. This approach is an effective way to reach rural poor households without which poverty cannot be eliminated.

Luckily, pockets of Pakistan have experience of social mobilisation, with over six million households organised into 379,285 community organisations. This experience needs to be scaled up nationally to create unions of the poor that are able to chart their own course to development.

The writer is a development consultant. Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2016

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Malagasy Children Bear Brunt of Severe Droughthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/malagasy-children-bear-brunt-of-severe-drought/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=malagasy-children-bear-brunt-of-severe-drought http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/malagasy-children-bear-brunt-of-severe-drought/#comments Fri, 08 Jul 2016 10:39:53 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145975 Nearly half the children in drought-stricken South Madagascar are malnourished. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

Nearly half the children in drought-stricken South Madagascar are malnourished. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
AMBOVOMBE, Madagascar, Jul 8 2016 (IPS)

Voahevetse Fotetse can easily pass for a three-year-old even though he is six and a pupil at Ankilimafaitsy Primary School in Ambovombe district, Androy region, one of the most severely affected by the ongoing drought in the South of Madagascar.

“Fotetse is just like many of the pupils here who, due to chronic malnutrition, are much too small for their age, they are too short and too thin,” explains Seraphine Sasara, the school’s director.

The school has a total population of 348 – 72 boys and 276 girls – and they range from three to 15 years. Fewer boys stay in school as they spend most of their time helping on the farm or grazing the family livestock.

The tide, however, turns when the girls reach 15 years, at which point most are withdrawn from school and married off.

But in school or out of school, nearly half of the children in Southern Madagascar have not escaped malnutrition. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) says that stunting –  where children are too short for their age – affects at least 47 percent of children under five.“I feed my eight children on rice for breakfast and supper but for lunch, they have to eat cactus fruits." -- Mamy Perline

Compared to acute malnutrition, which can develop over a short period and is reversible, stunting has more far-reaching consequences.

“Stunting is a gradual and cumulative process during the 1,000 days from conception through the first two years of a child’s life,” Sasara told IPS.

It develops as a result of sustained poor dietary intake or repeated infections, or a combination of both.

“It is not just about a child being too short for their age, it has severe and irreversible consequences including risk of death, limited physical and cognitive capacities,” Sasara said.

Statistics show that two million children in this Southern African country are stunted, placing Madagascar fourth in the “Global Chronic Malnutrition” table.

In February this year, though the global acute malnutrition level reached an average of eight percent, it is much higher in many regions in Southern Madagascar where most districts have surpassed the critical threshold of 10 percent.

Rainfall deficit and recurrent drought in Southern Madagascar has led to the deterioration of household food security, which has had a significant impact on the nutritional status of children under five.

Sasara says that the situation has been worsened by the rice eating culture across Madagascar “where children eat rice for breakfast, lunch and supper.”

But Mamy Perline told IPS that even rice is not always available. “I feed my eight children on rice for breakfast and supper but for lunch, they have to eat cactus fruits,” she said.

According to the WFP, which runs a school feeding programme in affected districts, Tsihombe district in Androy region is the most affected, with an average of 14 percent of children under five presenting signs of acute malnutrition.

WFP estimates show that nearly 50 percent of the Malagasy children under five suffer from iron deficiency which causes anemia.

Consequently, of every 1,000 live births, 62 result in children dying before they reach five years.

The lack of clean water and proper sanitation has compounded the situation facing the South.

The education sector continues to bear the brunt of the severe drought, with statistics by various humanitarian agencies including WFP showing that the net primary education enrolment rate in Madagascar is on a downward spiral.

Though an estimated 96.2 percent of children were enrolled in 2006, the number had dwindled to 69.4 percent in 2012, with Sasara saying that the current enrolment is likely to be much lower as children are too hungry to stay in school.

This is the case in Tanandava village, Amboasary district, Anosy region, where hundreds of out of school children gather each day to receive a meal from the village canteen offered by Catholic Relief Services, a humanitarian agency working in the area.

WFP statistics further show that the number of out of school children between six and 12 years is estimated at 1.5 million, with regions such as Anosy, Androy and Atsimo Andrefana in the South of Madagascar which have high rates of food insecurity posting alarmingly low levels of school performance.

Since 2005 WFP has implemented a school feeding programme, providing daily fortified meals to nearly 300,000 children in 1,300 primary schools in the south of the country but also in the urban slums of Antananarivo, Tulear and Tamatave.

“The meals are fortified with micronutrients and are crucial in breaking the malnutrition cycle in this country,” Sasara said.

The school feeding programme is a joint community effort where parents are involved in the preparation of the food, therefore providing a platform for the implementation of other interventions geared towards improving the health and nutrition of vulnerable children.

These interventions access to water and sanitation, which are twin problems in this region.

“When it rains and water collects in potholes on the road, this is the water we collect in containers for drinking, cooking and washing. It does not matter how many cars or people have stepped into the water, it is the only source we have,” says Perline.

Given the increase in acute malnutrition, a contributing factor to child mortality, WFP supports the National Office for Nutrition through its Regional Office for Nutrition, which continues to provide supplementary feeding programs for the treatment of moderate acute malnutrition across villages in the South.

“Treating children affected by moderate acute malnutrition can reduce drastically the number of those affected by severe acute malnutrition and to restore an adequate nutritional status,” says Yves Christian, Head of Regional Office for Nutrition.

WFP is further providing technical assistance to the government at various levels that is expected to result in a nationally owned school feeding programme.

New modalities of school feeding will also be piloted at the start of the next school year later in September 2016.

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Closing the Gaps in Sexual Education for People with Disabilitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/closing-the-gaps-in-sexual-education-for-people-with-disabilities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=closing-the-gaps-in-sexual-education-for-people-with-disabilities http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/closing-the-gaps-in-sexual-education-for-people-with-disabilities/#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2016 20:27:20 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145967 Melody Kemp/IPS

Melody Kemp/IPS

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 7 2016 (IPS)

From forced sterilisation to sexual abuse, young women and men with disabilities are much more likely to have their sexual and reproductive health rights violated than other people.

However despite the increased risks they face, young people with disabilities are also much less likely to get the sexual health education that they need.

Sometimes this is because well-meaning caregivers fail to realise the sexual desires and needs of people with disabilities, Malin Kvitvaer who works for the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU) told IPS.

“They see only the deafness and forget that there is a young person there too,” said Kvitvaer who works on a special project aimed at improving sexual education in sign language and is herself deaf.

Parents and caregivers can forget that young people with disabilities also have questions about their bodies and thinks about sex, just like any other teenager, said Kvitvaer.

Even where young people with disabilities do have access to sexual health education, it can be incomplete or inadequate due to access barriers, Kvitvaer added.

“Young people with disabilities are at higher risk of experiencing sexual violence and face greater barriers when accessing sexual and reproductive health services and education,” -- Leyla Sharafi, UNFPA.

“There are many instances where the teacher, not being fluent in sign language, does not know how to teach sexuality education in sign language and either teaches a very compromised version, or skips it altogether,” she said.

Communication barriers can have an even greater impact, when abusers take advantage of the fact that it is harder for young Deaf people to report abuse.

“In the history of the Deaf community there is a history of young Deaf girls – boys too, but mostly girls – who were subjected to sexual abuse by the adult men around them, such as teachers, Deaf priests and so on.”

“Many times they also knew that the girls’ families did not speak Sign language and so they wouldn’t be able to tell (their families) about the abuse,” said Kvitvaer who was also the Swedish youth delegate to the United Nations in 2011.

We Decide, a new initiative launched last month by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) aims to address the gaps in sexual and reproductive health services, education and information which disproportionately effect young people with disabilities.

Leyla Sharafi. Gender and youth specialist at UNFPA told IPS that adolescents and youth around the world struggle to access appropriate sexual and reproductive health services and that for young people with disabilities the barriers are even greater.

“Young people with disabilities are at higher risk of experiencing sexual violence and face greater barriers when accessing sexual and reproductive health services and education,” Sharafi told IPS.

“UNFPA and the We Decide program is advocating that all young people with disabilities enjoy their human rights, including living a life free of violence and discrimination.”

Sharafi added that the program was designed in collaboration with young people with disabilities, taking into consideration their wants and needs.

To this end, Kvitvaer notes that sexual education should not just focus on the negative aspects of sex, but also the positive aspects.

“I also think it is important to not only focus on problems that sex can cause – such as unwanted pregnancies, STDs, but also that sex is a good thing when consensual and that is just as ok to want to have sex, as it is to not want to have sex.”

This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which Sharafi notes “is one of the only conventions that explicitly talks about access to sexual and reproductive health.”

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Is Federalism Pro-poor?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-federalism-pro-poor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-federalism-pro-poor http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-federalism-pro-poor/#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2016 15:25:27 +0000 Jeresa May http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145966 By Jeresa May C. Ochave
Jul 7 2016 (Manila Times)

Poverty, according to the United Nations, is “a denial of choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. It means not having enough to feed and clothe a family, not having a school or clinic to go to, not having the land on which to grow one’s food or a job to earn one’s living, not having access to credit. It means insecurity, powerlessness and exclusion of individuals, households and communities. It means susceptibility to violence, and it often implies living in marginal or fragile environments, without access to clean water or sanitation.”

JERESA MAY C. OCHAVE

JERESA MAY C. OCHAVE

Constitutional experts contend that our unitary system’s centralized form is the culprit for poverty in the country. The top-to-bottom approach (pinatulo governance, as we call it) limits the powers, authority and resources of its own local governments, impairing gravely the decision-making process. Planning and programs for the communities are divorced from the realties on the ground.

In effect, local governance are inefficient in providing even the public services that majority of Filipinos need and expect—health care, education, employment and housing; a state of affairs contrary to the promise of the 1987 Freedom Constitution, where framers have been mandated to create one that is “truly reflective of the aspirations and ideals of the Filipino people.”

A research by the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), in 2015, affirms that the Philippines remains one of the poorest in Southeast Asia despite robust economic growth in the past few years.

The current and slow increase of the minimum wage cannot partner with the rising prices of commodities; we have the highest income tax rate (32 percent) compared to our neighboring countries in the Asean: Singapore, 2 percent; Vietnam, 20 percent; Malaysia, 11 percent; Cambodia, 20 percent; Laos, 12 percent. We also are a highly corrupt country, ranked 85th out of 175 countries). “Leakages” in our country are far beyond normal—and we don’t prosecute. (The Napoles corruption cases involving senators and congressmen have barely gone up through our justice system and those nominal “name brands” incarcerated may be freed soon with the advent of a new administration).

Rogier van den Brink, of the World Bank (WB), says the perennial challenge is to channel economic growth toward the poor to make the economy inclusive, thus, ending poverty. Rogier adds this can be achieved if investments in infrastructure, health, and education are increased; including an enhanced competition to level the playing field; simpler regulations to promote job creation, especially for micro and small enterprises; and the protection of property rights.

Karl Kendrick Chua, senior country economist of the WB, says both tax administration and tax policy reforms are needed to generate the revenues required to finance the decades-old investment deficit in infrastructure, health and education.

While tax policy reforms can be implemented, however, under a unitary system, national taxes remitted to the center will still take away much of the wealth and revenues generated by agriculture and other industries in various local communities around the country. Major corporations, including banks, pay their taxes in Metro Manila whose cities benefit more from their activities than the provinces and other cities in which the branches of the corporations operate.

Local officials will continue to spend much of their energy and limited funds seeking the assistance and approval of national government officials in Metro Manila. Local dependence will continue to stifle local initiative and resourcefulness, and hamper local business and development.

Although new taxes and fiscal reforms have been initiated, the government lacks funds and is heavily in debt from too much borrowing.

Federalism, in contrast to our current unitary system (that only concentrates political powers and authority in the national government), emphasizes regional and local self-rule and self-reliance in governance based on the principle of subsidiarity. In short, the decisions are made at the lowest possible level where local problems can be solved. In addition, while regions or state governments are designed to be autonomous, the federal government will provide assistance to various regions and states, especially the less developed ones. In most federal governments this is called the “Equalization Fund,” designed to lift the less endowed states to a decent level, meeting the basic needs of its constituencies. This fund is raised by contributions from all the states in the federal republic and expensed by federal government.

As Atty. Josephus Jimenez emphasized in a Philippine Star column, “Once we are under a federal system, all component states collect their own taxes and contribute only a small fraction of their revenues to the federal or central government for only three centralized functions, namely: National Defense, including the National Police, Justice and Foreign Affairs. All the rest shall be left to each state, including health, education, labor and employment, trade, transportation, communication, agriculture, agrarian reform, justice, environment, natural resources. The states will manage mining and forest matters and shall control all natural resources.”

A federal republic will provide better policies and implementation that will enable the people to raise their standard of living. At the same time,

• Citizens will be more willing to pay taxes that will finance government programs and services for their direct benefits, as they see where their money goes;

• Equitable regional development will be promoted;

• Faster political, economic, social, and cultural development and modernization will take place; and

• There will be inter-regional competition in attracting domestic and foreign investments and industries, professionals, and skilled workers.

It is true that there will be inevitably some “leakages,” but corruption on a local level is much more transparent through a vigilant local community now empowered to run its own affairs.

Let us take note at how America has empowered its people and become the most powerful country in the world through federalism:

“So long as local affairs are reserved to the greatest possible extent for the localities themselves and so long as the people are both interested in and capable of understanding and handling their own problems, then the philosopher’s stone has indeed been discovered and a large measure of both freedom and order are possible.” – Dr. George Charles Roche III.

Ms. Jeresa May C. Ochave is communications director of the Centrist Democracy Political Institute (CDPI). A graduate of the Mass Communications program in Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU), she currently serves as secretary of Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) – Davao Chapter and was elected as regional chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) – Region XI. Ms. Ochave is also a part-time professor at the University of the Immaculate Conception, in Davao City, and is taking her masters in Public Administration, major in Public Policy, at the AdDU.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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When Kids Become Monstershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/when-kids-become-monsters/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=when-kids-become-monsters http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/when-kids-become-monsters/#comments Tue, 05 Jul 2016 21:44:15 +0000 Syed Mansur Hashim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145942 By Syed Mansur Hashim
Jul 5 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

We have been attacked as never before. The facts do not need to be repeated. The savagery with which 20 hostages were slaughtered need not be retold. Islamic terrorism has arrived in Bangladesh with a bang and it has shaken us to our foundations. The relative peace we lived in while the world around us disintegrated in the face of onslaught by extremist outfits such as the Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda and other similar outfits across the length and breadth of all continents is now not news anymore, merely a fact of life.

monster_What took many of us by surprise is that three of the dead terrorists turned out to be students of elite English medium educational institutions like North South University and Scholastica School (as identified by friends when pictures were released on social media). This blows apart our perception that the marauding hounds of hell who constitute Jihadi outfits in Bangladesh are all, essentially, products of madrasas. So, why on earth would the children of well-to-do parents end up wielding automatic weapons and other weaponry be on a suicide mission? What has happened in Dhaka is big news for us, but it is hardly news. The world has been witnessing young people of similar backgrounds from Europe signing up to fight the Jihadi fight in Syria and Iraq under the banner of the IS.

Things did not come to this state in a day. Although this article is not a lesson in history, we do have to look to the past in an effort to try and understand why bright young men decide to throw away their lives in the false belief that it is alright to take the blood of innocents to gain martyrdom. Every major religion has its zenith and its decline. Islam had its heyday. Hegel defined the rise of Islam as the revolution of the east. Following a few centuries of unparalleled growth that allowed space for rational debates that ushered in a glorious civilisation, rich in science and the arts, the Muslim world witnessed the creeping in of rigid orthodoxy by the 12th century. With strict indoctrination crept in corruption, ignorance and inept governance. The decay was many centuries in the making but by the time Europe entered into the industrial revolution in the 18th century; the Muslim world had fallen far behind.

Unable to match the West in terms of technology and challenged intellectually, it was impossible to stop the flow of ideas from an alien world that ushered in liberal thoughts that threatened the orthodoxy from which the Muslim world could not recover. New fangled ideas in the guise of nationalism and socialism attacked and overturned the set order of things in the Muslim heartland of the Middle East. Westernisation was inevitable and it ripped apart the spiritual and the cultural identity of the Muslim world as the young rose to challenge the old. Colonialism in its many manifestations threatened to engulf and perish the Islamic Order that had recoiled from learning from other civilisations and was stuck in the past. Modernism was frowned upon but could not be stopped. Nation States were carved out of the old Order by colonial powers and Muslims were relegated to second grade citizens in a world where they had wielded considerable influence and prestige.

In the midst of this onslaught orthodox Islam spread its wings in the form of “exporting” madrassas globally which taught young men a strict version that was known as the Wahabi school of thought. The world came to know of this when the United States and its allies sought to contain its erstwhile cold war adversary, the Soviet Union when it invaded Afghanistan. The Mujahideen were recruited from the madrasas in neighbouring Pakistan and fighters adhering to radical schools of thought globally flocked to the training camps to form an army to fight the “infidel” Soviets.The unpublished piece ‘Understanding Radical Islam’ by Ali Ahmed Ziauddin delves deeper into the issue.

With the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Afghan campaign, the world was left with thousands of battle-hardened fanatics with no war to fight. But there is always a war to fight and that came when Saddam was toppled and Iraq disintegrated into a battleground where the Sunnis lost overnight their right to rule. Saddam’s army was disbanded and thousands of former soldiers found that they had lost their purpose. The Sunni populace lost their homeland and were relegated to second class citizens by Baghdad where Shiites ruled supreme – and their country which they believed was theirs to rule turned into a wasteland. Reaction was inevitable. Insurgency crept in, as did radicalisation. Former officers merged with guerrillas from the Afghan campaign and beyond, birds of different feathers united in their common goal – fighting under a banner that promised death to “infidels” and the resurgence and re-emergence of Sunni dominance.

Post-invasion Iraq is the place where modern day radical Islam found a breeding ground for growth. A once proud nation that had been humiliated to the point that mass despair set in; millions unemployed and thousands dead – it provided the perfect setting for extremists to plan, organise, recruit and execute a long campaign that would give birth to outfits like the IS. A global Jihadi movement was born that would draw in the disaffected and the disenfranchised in their thousands, not just the madrasa students but the sons and daughters of the elite, educated in the best institutions, but radicalised by their perception of being relegated to 2nd class citizens for being Muslims – by the West.

One question that is not often asked is why distorted interpretation of Islam is able to draw in people from different backgrounds, with varying educational qualification. The answer simply is this: Islam in principle, allows for inclusivity. That is why over 14 centuries, Islam has spread to all continents and why today a Bangladeshi and an American Muslim can relate to each other on the basis of faith. The seeds of today’s scourge whether it is the IS or one of the several local extremist movements that exist in our country were laid by the West in the camps of Pakistan many decades ago. The use of Islamic zealots to fight their wars have now come back to haunt us all. Today thousands are perishing the world over for bad political decisions.

So what do now? We have chosen to ignore the warning signs despite repeated killings by such elements over the last year or so. Free thinkers, members of minority communities and other sects have been killed with impunity – all the while the State claiming that we are insulated from these forces. We have heard talk about uniting to defeat these forces of darkness who kill and maim in the name of religion. That is tall talk where political dissent has been effectively quashed to the point of extinction and the vacuum created has been filled up by Islamic radicals. These elements are drawing their “soldiers” from the disenfranchised, the millions of unemployed, but they are also drawing them from the elite – because at the end of the day, the success of IS in holding territory and fighting it out with global powers and surviving, sends a very powerful message, however distorted, to millions of young Muslims worldwide that there is a ‘fight’ worth fighting for.

In Bangladesh, we have to wake up to these realities. As radicals join a pan Islamic movement to propagate global jihad, there is a counterbalance to that in the form of other nations that have fought the scourge for decades. These countries have developed counterterrorism techniques and outfits that have tackled radical outfits which cannot be tackled by conventional law enforcement. When will we get our heads out of the sand and admit we have a problem and we need help from friendly nations?

The writer is Assistant Editor, The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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A Night of Terrorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/a-night-of-terror/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-night-of-terror http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/a-night-of-terror/#comments Mon, 04 Jul 2016 19:27:54 +0000 Adnan R Amin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145926 By Adnan R Amin
Jul 4 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

So, a night of absolute terror preceded the glorified Night of Power this Ramadan. And it has left Dhaka in a stupor; in a dazed state of disbelief and heartbreak. There is talk of vengeance in the air; and there is the call to patience. There are defenses of creed and vilification of entire traditions. There is evaluation of the response time and criticism of the PR spin on casualties. There are subtle attempts to claim some connection to the tragedy, by professing either geographic or personal proximity to the place, or the people involved. But what is missing is clarity. ‘Why did this happen? Why us?’

People help an injured person after gunmen attacked the Holey Artisan Café. Photo: AP

People help an injured person after gunmen attacked the Holey Artisan Café. Photo: AP

This is the intended effect of Terrorism.

This piece was written Saturday night, so by now new developments will have been reported. Defense analysts will have speculated without end and media will have ceaselessly eulogised victims for the extra click. Claims will have been made about the alien beliefs and social standing of the attackers. Perhaps, our national response, by next week, will have been ‘business as usual’. Either way, it does not matter – because a new reality has been revealed to us, which exists and will continue to exist regardless of how we react to it. As Bangladesh mourns the victims of this attack, it must also mentally and strategically prepare for the next one.

A condemnation of the perpetrators, though socially warranted, is meaningless. It is self-serving. It is a symbolic shield against a real, unsheathed cutlass. Then again, the audience too is a victim in this and its need for venting, pontificating and consolation must not be ignored. However, this should not preclude a social response strategy, be it through community-based counterterrorism or through reclamation of traditional values.

But the other party central to staging a bloody spectacle must not be beyond reproach. Mainstream media’s performance during the night of terror has been outrageous and outstanding at the same time. Outrageous because reporters demonstrated zero professional training, no respect for tactical response preparations and little empathy for those thrust in harm’s way. What self-respecting reporter tries to interview injured policemen? What kind of a human being prioritizes ‘breaking’ hostage identities over protecting their lives? What kind of intellectual institutions don’t understand why televising security positions and tactical equipment may jeopardize security forces?

Media performance was also outstanding because reporters sensed the irrepressible public demand for inside scoops and gory details. Perhaps, this unholy interest in violence and death is universal: there is no denying that a violent spectacle on this scale is as inherently addictive as it is repulsive; that it triggers a macabre voyeurism, a certain brand of schadenfreude. Remember: when a thousand security experts mushroom all over the screens, Facebookers peddle new details and conspiracy theories and op-eds like this one start to frame and reframe the event – it is spurred on by the popular demand for meaning-making.

This is the target market for Terrorism.

The fourth wheel, so to speak, is the formal response system: comprising of researchers, strategists, intelligence agencies, anti-terrorism units and tactical equipment. Bangladeshi security forces acted with valiance. While their failure to prevent a heavily-armed squad’s entry into the heart of Dhaka may be baffling, and their initial lack of readiness criticised – there is no question that members of security forces put themselves in harm’s way when it mattered. The tragedy that transpired wasn’t from a lack of effort or dedication, but it may have been helped along by a lack of preparedness.

What may have been underwhelming was the management of information flow during this national crisis. It is strange that the media was allowed to broadcast from the scene for as long as it was. Despite the blackout, videos of trucks hauling military landing crafts were being telecast till after daybreak. On international media, there seemed to be little monitoring of or control over who was speaking for Bangladesh and in what capacity. As a result, US media, for example, managed to paint Bangladesh as ‘a failed state’, ‘right next to Pakistan’.

It is now easier to place Bangladesh in the radicalisation map and the global Islamist Terrorism narrative. Doubtless, this broad shift has its roots in geopolitics. But when was there a scenario where an attack wouldn’t be politicised? Theories will fly. Political analysts will connect it to geopolitical ambitions of larger nations. Loyalists will find anti-liberation elements in the mix. The global audience will see a natural, geographic progression in terrorist tactics. The opposition will view it as a government failure and the voyeur horde will treat it as a juicy spectacle. There are those who will take it as a loss of this city’s innocence and breakdown of family structures, and yet others who will find in it the wrath of God. Each of these views is politically inspired and contributes something to the bearers’ individual/group interests.

For some years, we have seen the ‘War on Terror’ (WOT) manual being emulated in Bangladesh, where an ‘other’ is blamed for attacks on ‘us’ and the narrators retain exclusive right to the moral highground and legitimacy by controlling the interpretations. The tactic is to fight violence with greater violence, a questionable approach even when the enemy is an outsider. But could a Muslim majority country thus deal with violent radicalism? An important clue may have been revealed when RAB announced its intention to negotiate with the gunmen at Holey Artisan Bakery, a departure from WOT response protocol.

Perhaps, academics and security strategists should revisit if the Bush-administration’s tactics are adequate or even suitable for Bangladesh. To illustrate, there are cases where a single individual was connected (or separated by a degree) on social media to both victims and alleged terrorists. It would appear that the gunmen lived and breathed much closer than we expect(ed). Their socioeconomic status, social environment and operational tactics were also markedly different from that of ‘sleeper cells’ involved in recent targeted killings. These young men didn’t travel to Dhaka from far-flung districts, only to flee once they had struck. They grew up among us. They played with us on our fields. And then, something led them to that fateful night of terror. By then, they had crossed an invisible threshold and had no demands or statements left to make. Bloodshed was the only statement. This is not a language that we understand, but the gravity of the contents is lost on no one. Also not lost is that fact that such ideologies cannot germinate without nurturing.

Bangladesh is not a fertile breeding ground for radicalism. The key word here is ‘fertile’. There is no historical resentment or unjust wars, as there are in Iraq or Afghanistan. There are no ‘infidel rulers’ or sectarian conflicts. However, there are indeed young minds ready to be molded and influenced. And there is a glaring lack of exemplary role models. There seem to be social cracks, where tender emotions are being smelted into violent hatred. This is where social response must start.

Let me end with a little story. Family sources say that when one of the boys held hostage was spared his life, he refused to leave without his two friends. He demanded that the friends too be allowed to leave, and when refused, stayed back in that inferno. In the end, he paid the price with his life; but not before setting an example of and for us all. Let this boy remind us that at the end of the day, there’s no morality without courage, and no righteousness without mercy.

The writer is a strategy and communications consultant.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Preventable Child Deaths Not Always Linked to Poorest Countries: UNICEFhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/preventable-child-deaths-not-always-linked-to-poorest-countries-unicef/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=preventable-child-deaths-not-always-linked-to-poorest-countries-unicef http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/preventable-child-deaths-not-always-linked-to-poorest-countries-unicef/#comments Wed, 29 Jun 2016 02:01:10 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145867 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/preventable-child-deaths-not-always-linked-to-poorest-countries-unicef/feed/ 1 Can Better Technology Lure Asia’s Youth Back to Farming?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 13:38:29 +0000 Diana G Mendoza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145811 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 Campushttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/lords-of-the-campus/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lords-of-the-campus http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/lords-of-the-campus/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 16:11:39 +0000 Rafia Zakaria http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145775 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. rafia.zakaria@gmail.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Rethinking Fiscal Policy for Global Recoveryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/rethinking-fiscal-policy-for-global-recovery/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rethinking-fiscal-policy-for-global-recovery http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/rethinking-fiscal-policy-for-global-recovery/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 14:42:37 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145763 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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