Inter Press Service » Education News and Views from the Global South Thu, 26 Nov 2015 07:19:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Women Suffer Psychological Problems After Living Under Taliban Thu, 26 Nov 2015 07:19:14 +0000 Ashfaq Yusufzai Women being examined by female doctors in free medical camp held in North Waziristan, one of the seven districts of FATA.  Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

Women being examined by female doctors in free medical camp held in North Waziristan, one of the seven districts of FATA. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

By Ashfaq Yusufzai
Nov 26 2015

“My two sons were killed by Taliban militants mercilessly three years ago. My husband died a natural death two year back. Now, I am begging to raise my two grandsons,” Gul Pari, 50, told IPS.

Pari, who is waiting for her turn at a psychiatrist’s clinic in Peshawar, the capital of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, says she dreamed every night that her sons were alive and would return one day.

“I am waiting for them. They are martyrs and will come and take revenge from their killers,” she said.

While psychiatrist Dr Mian Iftikhar Hussain said that a majority of the women from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) suffer from psychological problems due to endless violence by Taliban militants.

“We have been receiving at least 200 people, mainly women, with post-traumatic stress disorders due to the human and financial losses.

FATA comprises seven districts, is home to 6 million people and has suffered immensely due to endless conflict,” he said.

Federally Administered Tribal Areas located on the border with Afghanistan is thick with militants since 2001 when the U.S.-led coalition forces toppled their government in Kabul in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington.

They took refuge in FATA from where they began targeting Pakistani forces, damaging schools and other government-owned buildings.

Towards the end of 2005, Pakistan, a U.S. ally in the war against terrorism, began military operation which displaced at least 3million people.

“Most of the displaced people have developed psychological problems because they have lost their near and dear ones in war between Taliban and the army, besides losing their trades, shops and agricultural productivity,” Mian Iftikhar Hussain said.

FATA near Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, one of Pakistan’s four provinces, has suffered immensely.

Muhammad Rafiq, a shopkeeper in North Waziristan, one of FATA’s districts told IPS that his daughter developed mental problems due to displacement. “We now live in a mud-built house which is without clean drinking water and sanitation facilities. There is no electricity, which makes my children face health problems,” he said.

Rafiq said he had better house back home and had earned an appropriate amount to lead prosperous lives but now they have become extremely poor and couldn’t get proper food.

Prof Syed Muhammad Sultan head of the psychiatry department at the Khyber Teaching Hospital Peshawar warns that residents of FATA would face more mental and psychological problems in the days ahead.

Most of the displaced population has taken temporary shelter in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in tiny houses or schools where they lacked basic amenities.

Women and children are vulnerable to psychological conditions, he said.

“They are destined to develop short as well as long term psychological disorders in addition to physical problems,” he said.

Most of the displaced persons have developed the problems of de-personalisation, a condition in which people feel change in their personalities, as well as de-realisation, a condition in which people feel a complete change in the other people’s personalities, he explained.

Professor Sultan said the burden of psychological disorders is unseen but it could go out of proportion if attention is not paid to control it early.

“Women are the worst victims of this mass displacement, which is likely to cause them anxiety disorders, panic disorders, mixed anxiety depression disorder and depression,” he said.

Psychologist Zeenat Shah said many displaced persons suffered from poor self-esteem as well as insecurity about future, while grief and bereavement were other issues faced by them.

“The people who have to flee homes, struggle to adjust to new environments and have a sense of insecurity. This is the result of loss of social structure as well as deaths of close relatives in the conflict and will cause permanent phobias, chronic depression and adjustment problems among displaced people,” she said.

Another psychologist has voiced concern about the mental health of displaced women and children.

“From childhood to adolescence, a child passes through a lot of dramatic changes in physical as well as mental health. During the transition, they gain their identity, grow physically and establish social interaction and relationship in home, in community and in society as whole,” she said.

The psychologist said children going through through the psychological ordeals as in FATA couldn’t progress academically.

She said the situation with regard to women would deteriorate if they (women) continued to stay in the conditions which they were currently in.

“Such women have to live in host communities with relatives or in small rented houses most of which don’t have proper water, electricity and sanitation system. It is very difficult for them to work and cook in the current fasting month in this hot weather, especially when they don’t have access to basic amenities,” she said.

Zainab Bibi, another psychologist from the hospital, has seen the situation as critical for the Waziristan people.

“They (the displaced) have left their homes in a hurry to save their lives. They are victims of decade-long war in their native areas.,” she said.

“It will be very difficult for them to face challenges. However, they could overcome some of them with the help of the government and welfare societies as well as relatives,” she said.

The incidence of psychiatric disorders among displaced persons would soar due to the protracted life difficulties.

Interventions like educational and recreational facilities for the displaced to help them fight mental health problems could help alleviate the problem, she suggested.


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

Cattle among drought victims. Credit: Kagiso Onkatswitse

By Baboki Kayawe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Analysis: Are Young People the Answer to Africa’s Food Security? Tue, 24 Nov 2015 07:41:28 +0000 Busani Bafana 0 Where Technology and Medicine Meet in Rural Zambia Fri, 20 Nov 2015 06:29:22 +0000 James Jeffrey 0 Solar Power Keeps the Midnight Oil Burning at the University of Dodoma Thu, 19 Nov 2015 13:14:34 +0000 Kizito Makoye 0 US Universities Home to Record Number of Foreign Students Mon, 16 Nov 2015 22:31:57 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

The number of international students in US colleges and universities has continued to increase, reaching nearly one million in the current 2014-2015 academic year, according to the latest figures released by the International Institute of Education (IIE).

The largest number of foreign students are from India, China and Brazil, with Latin America as “the fastest growing region” attracting students to US educational institutions.

International students’ spending in all 50 states contributed more than 30 billion dollars to the U.S. economy in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce

The 2015 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, released Monday, points out that the number of international students had the highest rate of growth in 35 years, increasing by ten percent to a record high of 974,926 students in the 2014/15 academic year.

“This strong growth confirms that the United States remains the destination of choice in higher education.”

The United States, which has total population of over 319 million people, hosts more of the world’s 4.5 million globally mobile college and university students than any other country in the world, almost double the number hosted by the United Kingdom, the second leading host country, according to the report.

The Open Doors ® report, which is published annually by the IIE in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, says there were 88,874 more international students enrolled in U.S. higher education in 2014-2015 compared to the previous year.

India, China and Brazil account for most of the growth in international students on U.S. campuses.

While China remains the top country of origin of international students in the U.S., increasing by 11 percent to 304,040, India’s growth outpaced China’s this year, with students from India increasing by 29.4 percent to a record high of 132,888.

This is the highest rate of growth for Indian students in the history of the Open Doors project, which spans back to 1954/55.

The last time India grew at a comparable rate (29.1) was in 2000/01 when the number of students from India exceeded 50,000 for the first time.

In 2014/15, China and India together accounted for 67 percent of the increase in international students, and they now constitute nearly 45 percent of the total number of international students in U.S. higher education.

“We are excited to see that record numbers of students are taking advantage of international education opportunities, and we applaud the efforts of U.S. higher education as we work together to increase the number of American students who study abroad,” said Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

“It is critical that we continue to make study abroad more accessible. These exchanges strengthen ties between the United States and countries around the world. By increasing accessibility to study abroad, we are investing in our future and providing a forum to solve global challenges.”

The report also found the number of U.S. students studying abroad increased by five percent in 2013/14, the highest rate of growth since before the 2008 economic downturn.

While study abroad by American students has more than tripled in the last two decades, reaching a new high of 304,467, still only about 10 percent of U.S. students study abroad before graduating from college.

Meanwhile, the report also said there were large increases in the number of students from Brazil, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, all countries whose governments are investing heavily in international scholarships for their students, sending tens of thousands of them abroad to develop a globally competent workforce.

Nigeria also ranked among the fastest growing international student populations in the United States.

Students from Brazil increased 78 percent to 23,675 this year, accounting for 12 percent of total growth.

According to the report, Latin America & the Caribbean was the fastest growing region of origin for international students in the U.S., increasing by 19 percent over the prior year, and benefiting from the support of 100,000 Strong in the Americas, a public-private partnership led by the U.S. State Department, as well as other initiatives launched by governments in the region.

The writer can be contacted at

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Opinion: China’s New South-South Funds – a Global Game Changer? Mon, 16 Nov 2015 22:02:16 +0000 Martin Khor

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

By Martin Khor
GENEVA, Nov 16 2015 (IPS)

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

Martin Khor

Martin Khor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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From Bangladesh to Bihar Wed, 11 Nov 2015 22:47:23 +0000 N Chandra Mohan

Chandra Mohan is an economics and business commentator.

By N Chandra Mohan
NEW DELHI, Nov 11 2015 (IPS)

Times are a-changing for Bihar, a state popularly described as a state of mind. The recent elections have brought back Nitish Kumar as the chief minister for the fifth time. Since his first innings as a developmental CM from 2005, he has transformed Bihar from being an archetype of India’s backwardness to one of its fastest growing states. Besides improving governance, he has also politically empowered women in that benighted state. Not surprisingly, the women’s vote was decisive for his electoral success. He now has the historic opportunity to shift gears towards sustainable gender-based development.

N Chandra Mohan

N Chandra Mohan

Towards this end, Bihar’s CM has to look only eastward towards Bangladesh to know the limits of the possible. The landslide vote in his favour has opened up possibilities that many thought didn’t exist before. Lawlessness, misrule and rampant corruption of successive regimes in the past that ensured a dismal track record in development have been banished for now. Stirrings of change will be felt, above all, in law and order. Better governance is bound to change the narrative of development, especially on what he wants to do in primary education, especially for the girl child. What about public health?

To encourage more girls to attend school, the state administration provided free bicycles for school-going children. This resulted in an uptrend in female literacy rates, rising over 20 percentage points between the two decennial census years, 2001 and 2011. This was much more than was observed in the case of males in that state or nationally, for that matter. Promoting greater gender parity in school enrolment thus has been a consistent objective of Nitish Kumar’s stints in office as CM. The priority must now include drastically reducing the numbers of girls without access to schooling.

Kumar’s thrust on education must continue with greater vigour as there is a vast unfinished agenda. When his government first took office in 2005, there were 2.4 million children out of school. This has now been halved to 1.2 million in 2014 according to the “National Sample Survey of Estimation of Out-of-School Children in the Age 6-13 in India” done for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, a flagship government scheme for the universalisation of elementary education. This works out to a higher percentage of 4.9 per cent than the 3 per cent of 204 million school-going children at an all-India level.

The fact that Bihar is still a poor state amidst potential plenty – it has a much higher percentage of its rural population in poverty – cannot be an argument for not pushing the limits of development. Bangladesh is also poor when compared to India, but that hasn’t prevented it from improving the socio-economic conditions of women. According to the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, due to the official focus on women in Bangladesh, a much higher proportion of workers such as school teachers, family planning workers, health carers, immunization workers and even factory workers are women as are in garments.

Bihar (and even India) of course has a long way to go to catch up with the higher rates of female labour force participation in Bangladesh. This measures the number of women above 15 years of age who are engaged or are willing to be engaged in economic activity as a share of women’s population above 15 years of age. In Bihar, this is a lowly 9 per cent as against 57 per cent in Bangladesh. A factor that makes it easier for Bihar to encourage more women to work is that the CM has already politically empowered them since 2006 to participate in decentralized administration at the panchayat or village level.

Despite the best agro-climatic conditions, this state is the bastion of semi-feudal agriculture and there is a preponderance of marginal holdings with low productivity. The relations of production act as barrier on technological change. While beefing up rural infrastructure is imperative, technological change will not take place unless the relations of production also change. The hope is that with better governance, a difference can be made on the poverty front that is essentially one of low agricultural productivity. To plug gaps in development works, the CM has made a beginning by appointing more teachers, doctors, engineers, policeman and officials. Tapping the latent energies of women can help him realise these objectives more efficaciously.

While Bihar no doubt has the advantage of faster growth to impact rural poverty, Bangladesh has managed to achieve much more on human development despite slower growth than India. In 1990, the life expectancy at birth was higher in India but that position rapidly reversed in the next couple of decades. Between 1990 and 2014, it rose by 12 years from 59 to 71 years in Bangladesh. They thus have a life expectancy that is four years longer than Indians or Biharis, for that matter. The huge gains in health are reflected in the dramatic reduction in infant, child and maternal mortality rates.

These are the prospects ahead of Bihar’s developmental CM. He needs to accelerate the pace of progress on education and health so that the workforce of the state has the best prospect of taking advantage of the so-called demographic dividend of a predominantly young population. All these possibilities have suddenly opened up with his fifth innings as CM. With a mandate for governance and development, he faces the challenge of converting these possibilities into probabilities and transforming lives of 108 million people in Bihar through improvements in gender-sensitive social sector spending.

The last thing the people of Bihar need is another regime that will trigger another caste war and plunge the state into darkness and anarchy as happened in previous decades. However, there is change in the air. There is hope that this state can economically empower its women as it has done politically. That it can also reap the dividends that its eastern neighbouring country has achieved in bringing about a many-sided improvement in human development in the fastest possible time. Bihar must leverage its faster growth to ensure better outcomes in sustainable development.


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Latin American Legislators, a Battering Ram in the Fight Against Hunger Wed, 11 Nov 2015 16:24:36 +0000 Marianela Jarroud A girl in traditional festive dress from Bolivia’s highlands region displays a basket of fruit during a fair in her school in central La Paz. Fruit is the foundation of the new school meal diet adopted in the municipality, which puts a priority on natural food produced by small local farmers in the highlands. The alliance between family farming and school feeding is extending throughout Latin America thanks to laws put into motion by the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

A girl in traditional festive dress from Bolivia’s highlands region displays a basket of fruit during a fair in her school in central La Paz. Fruit is the foundation of the new school meal diet adopted in the municipality, which puts a priority on natural food produced by small local farmers in the highlands. The alliance between family farming and school feeding is extending throughout Latin America thanks to laws put into motion by the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, Nov 11 2015 (IPS)

Lawmakers in Latin America are joining forces to strengthen institutional frameworks that sustain the fight against hunger in a region that, despite being dubbed “the next global breadbasket”, still has more than 34 million undernourished people.

The legislators, grouped in national fronts, “are political leaders and orient public opinion, legislate, and sustain and promote public policies for food security and the right to food,” said Ricardo Rapallo, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Food Security Officer in this region.

The members of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger also “allot budget funds, monitor, oversee and follow up on government policies,” Rapallo told IPS at FAO regional headquarters in Santiago, Chile.

A series of successful public policies based on a broad cross-cutting accord between civil society, governments and legislatures enabled Latin America and the Caribbean to teach the world a lesson by cutting in half the proportion of hungry people in the region between 1990 and 2015.“The Parliamentary Front Against Hunger is a key actor in the implementation of CELAC’s Food Security Plan, for the construction of public systems that recognise the right to food.”-- Raúl Benítez, regional director of FAO

But the 34.3 million people still hungry in this region of 605 million are in need of a greater effort, in order for Latin America to live up to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is aimed at achieving zero hunger in the world.

The Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger (PFH), to be held in Lima Nov. 15-17, will seek to forge ahead in the implementation of the “plan for food security, nutrition and hunger eradication in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) by 2025.”

The plan, which sets targets for 2025, is designed to strengthen institutional legal frameworks for food and nutritional security, raising the human right to food to the highest legal status, among other measures.

“The Parliamentary Front Against Hunger is a key actor in the implementation of CELAC’s Food Security Plan, for the construction of public systems that recognise the right to food,” the regional director of FAO, Raúl Benítez, told IPS.

The PFH was created in 2009 with the participation of three countries. Six years later, “there are 15 countries that have a strong national parliamentary front recognised by the national Congress of the country, which involves parliamentarians of different political stripes, all of whom are committed to the fight against hunger,” Rapallo said.

As a result, “laws on family farming have been passed, in Argentina and Peru, and in the Dominican Republic there are draft laws set to be approved. To these is added the food labeling law in Ecuador,” the expert said, to illustrate.

Bolivia sets an example

In Bolivia, the School Feeding Law in the Framework of Food Security and the Plural Economy, passed in December 2014, is at the centre of the fight against poverty in an integral fashion, Fernando Ferreira, the head of the national Parliamentary Front for Food Sovereignty and Good Living, told IPS in La Paz.

This model, which draws on the successful programme that has served school breakfasts based on natural local products in La Paz since 2000, is now being implemented in the country’s 347 municipalities.

The farmer “produces natural foods, sells part to the municipal government for distribution in school breakfasts, and sells the rest in the local community,” said Ferreira, describing the cycle that combines productive activity, employment, nutrition and family income generation.

The school breakfast programme has broad support among teachers because it boosts student performance and participation in class, Germán Silvetti, the principal of the República de Cuba primary school in the centre of La Paz, told IPS.

“They didn’t used to care, but now they demand their meals,” Silvetti said. “Some kids come to school without eating breakfast, so the meal we serve is important for their nutrition.”

In the past, students didn’t like Andean grains like quinoa. But María Inés Flores, a teacher, told IPS she managed to persuade them with an interesting anecdote: “astronauts who go to the moon eat quinoa – and if we follow their example we’ll make it to space,” she said to the children, who now eat it with enthusiasm.

Appealing to the appetites of the 145,000 students served by the school breakfast programme is a daily challenge, but one that has had satisfactory results, such as the reduction of anemia from 37 to two percent in the last 15 years, Gabriela Aro, one of the creators of the programme and the head of the municipal government’s Nutrition Unit, told IPS.

Authorities in Bolivia say the government’s “Vivir Bien” or “Good Living” programme will reduce the proportion of people in extreme poverty which, according to estimates from different national and international institutions, stands at 18 percent of the country’s 11 million people.

In the Mexican Congress, lawmakers with the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger are pushing through laws that boost food security and sovereignty, to guarantee “the right to sufficient nutritional, quality food” that was established in the constitution in 2011. Credit: Emilio Godoy/ IPS

In the Mexican Congress, lawmakers with the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger are pushing through laws that boost food security and sovereignty, to guarantee “the right to sufficient nutritional, quality food” that was established in the constitution in 2011. Credit: Emilio Godoy/ IPS

Mexico, another case

In Mexico, a nation of 124 million people, meanwhile, poverty has grown in the last three years, revealing shortcomings in the strategies against hunger, which legislators are trying to influence, with limited results.

“Legislators must be more involved in following up on this, one of the most basic issues,” Senator Angélica de la Peña, coordinator of the Mexican chapter of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger, told IPS in Mexico City. “Even if we define budgets and programmes, they continue to be resistant to making this a priority.”

There are 55.3 million people in poverty in Mexico, according to official figures from this year, and over 27 million malnourished people.

The increase in poverty reflects the weaknesses of the National Crusade Against Hunger, the flagship initiative of conservative President Enrique Peña Nieto, which targets undernourished people living in extreme poverty.

The Crusade is concentrated in 400 of Mexico’s 2,438 municipalities, involves 70 federal programmes, and hopes to reach 7.4 million hungry people – 3.7 million in urban areas and the rest in the countryside.

The Senate has not yet approved a “general law on the human right to adequate food”, which was put in motion by the Parliamentary Front and involves the implementation of a novel constitutional reform, which established in 2011 that “everyone has a right to sufficient nutritional, quality food, to be guaranteed by the state.”

The draft law will create a National Food Policy and National Food Programme, besides providing for emergency food aid.

But in spite of the limitations, Mexico’s social assistance programmes do make a difference, albeit small, for millions of people.

Since February, Blanca Pérez has received 62 dollars every two months, granted by the Pension Programme for the elderly (65 and older), which forms part of the National Crusade Against Hunger.

“It helps me buy medicines and cover other expenses. But it is a small amount for people our age – it would be better if it was every month,” this mother of seven told IPS. She lives in the town of Amecameca, 58 km southeast of Mexico City, where half of the 48,000 inhabitants live in poverty.

Pérez, who helps her daughter out in a small grocery store, is also covered by the Popular Insurance scheme, a federal government programme that provides free, universal healthcare. “These programmes are good, but they should give more support to people like me, who struggle so much,” she said.

Two urgent regional needs

Above and beyond the progress made, Rapallo said Latin America today has two urgent needs: reduce the number of hungry people in the region to zero while confronting the problem of overnutrition – another form of malnutrition.

Overweight and obesity “are a public health challenge, a hurdle to national development, and a moral requisite that we must address,” said Rapallo.

In that sense, he added, “parliamentarians are essential” to bring about public policies that contribute to good nutrition of the population and their growing demands.

“There are parliamentarians that are real leaders in their respective countries. But if all of this were not backed by a strong civil society that puts the issue firmly on the agenda, we wouldn’t be able to talk about results,” he said.

With reporting by Emilio Godoy in Mexico City and Franz Chávez in La Paz.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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School Meals Bolster Family Farming in Brazil Mon, 09 Nov 2015 21:04:38 +0000 Mario Osava Children between the ages of five and seven eating lunch in the João Baptista Cáffaro School cafetería in the impoverished Engenho Velho neighbourhood in the city of Itaboraí, 45 km from Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Children between the ages of five and seven eating lunch in the João Baptista Cáffaro School cafetería in the impoverished Engenho Velho neighbourhood in the city of Itaboraí, 45 km from Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
ITABORAÍ, Brazil, Nov 9 2015 (IPS)

“That law should have existed since the end of slavery, which threw slaves into the street without offering them adequate conditions for working and producing, turning them into semi-slaves,” said Brazilian farmer Idevan Correa.

The law he was referring to, which was passed in 2009, requires that at least 30 percent of the funds that municipal governments receive from the National Fund for the Development of Education go towards the purchase of food produced by local family farmers.

The formula is one of those discoveries that later seem obvious, self-evident, normal.

Besides guaranteeing small farmers an important market for their produce, “it improved the quality of the food,” the mother of two students, Jaqueline Lameira, who represents families on the Itaboraí School Feeding Council, which oversees the quality of school meals, told IPS.

Itaboraí, a municipality of 230,000 people in the southeast state of Rio de Janeiro, 11 percent of whose residents are rural, dedicates more than the required minimum.

Over 40 percent of school breakfasts and lunches served in the municipal schools are made up of food produced by local small farmers, said Inaiá Figueiredo, in charge of nutrition in the city government’s Secretariat of Agriculture, Supplies and Fishing.

That proportion was just seven percent when the current municipal administration took office in 2012, she told IPS.

The food offered in the school meals was diversified, with a larger proportion of fresh produce, including typical local vegetables that are highly nutritious but not widely consumed, she explained, adding that each meal includes at least three kinds of vegetables.

“For dessert there’s fruit, never candy, and the juice doesn’t have sugar, but locally produced honey,” she said.

School cook Penha Maria Flausina opens the bags of fresh fruit and vegetables recently delivered from local family farms in the João Baptista Cáffaro municipal school, which serves 500 primary students in a poor neighborhood in Itaboraí, a city in southeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

School cook Penha Maria Flausina opens the bags of fresh fruit and vegetables recently delivered from local family farms in the João Baptista Cáffaro municipal school, which serves 500 primary students in a poor neighborhood in Itaboraí, a city in southeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“The kids eat everything, they ask for seconds; there’s one who only comes to school because of the meals,” Penha Maria Flausina, the cook at the João Baptista Caffaro School in a poor neighbourhood of Itaboraí told IPS, laughing.

She showed IPS the maize, okra, squash and fresh fruit in the school pantry.

This is the result of a lengthy process that began in 1986 with the First National Conference on Food and Nutrition, further editions of which were held in 2004, 2007, 2011 and in the first week of November 2015 in Brasilia, with 2,000 participants.

The National Council on Food and Nutritional Security (CONSEA) was created in 1993, with representatives of civil society and the government. The Organic Law on Food and Nutritional Security was passed in 2006.

Three years later, under that legal framework, a new law linked the National School Feeding Programme (PNAE) and family farming, after overcoming stiff resistance in the legislature, economist Francisco Menezes told IPS.

“The enormous school meals market, today made up of 45 million students, was dominated by companies, some of them contracted by municipal governments for all of the schools,” said Menezes who, as president of CONSEA from 2004 to 2007, played a key role in the drafting and approval of the law.

“Higher prices and lower quality” are typical when suppliers enjoy a monopoly, he said.

It took the law three years to make its way through Congress, where it was blocked by legislators interested in that market themselves or financed by companies that supplied it, which in the end still had control of 70 percent of sales to school meal programmes, although that is a ceiling that was set.

Forging a new path

But in this huge country of 206 million people, the effectiveness of the law has been irregular. “There are municipal governments that comply with it, others don’t, and there are some in the south of Brazil that achieved 100 percent supplies from family farming,” said Menezes.

But there is also fraud, he admitted.

“Strong” municipal councils inhibit irregularities, but they are also subject to pressure, said the expert. Because of that, “everything depends on family farms organised in associations and cooperatives, so that if one producer fails, other members are there to step in to guarantee supplies,” he added.

But the law is essential, because “it turned the school meals programme into a state policy, making setbacks more unlikely to occur,” he said.

Rural leader Idevan Correa examines one of his new orange trees. He decided to plant an orange grove again thanks to a Brazilian law that requires that at least 30 percent of the food consumed in schools come from local family farms. The municipality of Itaboraí was famous for its oranges until a pest reduced production. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Rural leader Idevan Correa examines one of his new orange trees. He decided to plant an orange grove again thanks to a Brazilian law that requires that at least 30 percent of the food consumed in schools come from local family farms. The municipality of Itaboraí was famous for its oranges until a pest reduced production. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Correa, the farmer who would have liked the law to have been in place since slavery was abolished in 1888, told IPS it was smart to set the minimum quota for supplies from family farms at 30 percent.

“It’s a first, experimental step; small farmers can’t increase their production overnight, they have to do it gradually,” said Correa, the president of the Association of Rural Producers of the Fourth District of Itaboraí, who inherited a 100-hectare farm that his father received during the agrarian reform process in the 1950s.

He also agrees with the annual limit of 20,000 reals (5,200 dollars) for each farmer’s sales to the municipal government, although that was not ideal for him this year as he could have sold above that quota with his production of maize, beans, potatoes and fruit.

“It’s better this way, more farmers can sell; if the quota were to be expanded a lot, very few would be able to sell,” he said.

“At the start of the current municipal administration, in 2012, only nine or 10 farmers were taking part in the school feeding programme; now that number is 54,” agronomist Ana Paula de Farias, technical adviser to the local Secretariat of Agriculture, Supplies and Fishing in Itaboraí, told IPS.

There are some 300 farms in the municipality, but most of them raise cattle.

Another problem in expanding the number of suppliers for the school meals programme is that many of them do not have the required documents, she explained.

Furthermore, technical assistance was necessary to help farmers begin to grow organic products, or at least to significantly reduce their use of pesticides and herbicides, and to adapt to the specific needs of meals for children, such as guava fruits in small uniform sizes, in order to provide one for each child without having to cut them into pieces.

“The most important lesson in this learning process was planting without agrochemicals,” said Correa. “You learn as you go along, living up to the requirements of the programme. We used to plant more to earn more, since we weren’t in a position to compete with the big companies; now we try for better quality, and we’re more careful, because it’s food for local children.”

Sales to schools gave a boost to local small farmers, even though there is a quota, he said, because the programme pays retail “supermarket prices,” and there are no costs for transportation because the municipal government sends out its own trucks, while in the big agricultural market farmers have to deal with middlemen who pay less and charge to cover their own costs.

Exportable model

Brazil’s experience in linking family farms and school feeding programmes has already been exported to several countries in Latin America and in Africa, including Bolivia, Mali, Mozambique and Senegal.

It is also one of the models used by the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean, an initiative that emerged in 2009 with technical support from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

Brazil’s law will be studied during the Nov. 15-17 Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger, to be held in Lima with the participation of legislators from throughout the region as well as guest lawmakers from Africa and Asia.

Brazil’s Food Purchase Programme, based on an earlier law from 2003 and geared towards supplying social assistance networks, has also been replicated abroad, as an example of a public policy that has been doubly successful: in bolstering food security while strengthening family agriculture.

In addition, the area of food security has served to develop a multi-disciplinary approach involving various ministries, such as those of agriculture, health and education, which tend to act in an isolated fashion, said Menezes.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Opinion: Integrating Water, Sanitation and Health are Key to the Promise of the UN Global Goals Fri, 30 Oct 2015 22:46:44 +0000 Princess Sarah Zeid

HRH Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan is a global advocate for maternal, child and newborn health in fragile and humanitarian settings.

By H.R.H. Princess Sarah Zeid
AMMAN, Oct 30 2015 (IPS)

The 193 member states of the United Nations have adopted an ambitious 15-year sustainable development agenda, the 2030 Global Goals.

H.R.H. Princess Sarah Zeid

H.R.H. Princess Sarah Zeid

To understand the impact these Global Goals must have on our world, I need only remember my summer visit to a school in Basra, in southern Iraq.

To enter through the school gates, I had to negotiate a fetid stream of sewage, broken glass and garbage. The condition of the school building itself was terrible, and even worse were the bathrooms. You could see their appalling state because they had no doors, and thus, zero privacy. All this in a place where the temperature can reach above 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius) – it was so hot I felt as if my cheeks were frying.

I look back at this now through the eyes of a mother, and my horror is all the greater. No girl could go to this school, because no girl could go to the bathroom. No child could safely attend this school, because no child could do so without being exposed to disease.

With daughters denied education, confined to home and sons locked in a cycle of exposure to ill health, how can we expect women to participate in commerce, politics, peace and sustainability? How do we think the next generation is going to be educated, skilled and healthy enough to make a positive contribution?

The solutions to women’s and children’s dignity, health and wellbeing lie well beyond the health sector alone, and demand instead an integrated approach, including solutions that deliver water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in health and in education.

No one’s needs divide neatly into our professional sectors, and sustainable wellbeing and prosperity will not come from fragmented interventions. A holistic approach spanning across all these domains is urgently needed.

The linkages between WASH, health, education and nutrition for that matter are stark. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, more than half the cases of measles in the country are caused by lack of clean water, and poor WASH conditions are a leading cause of malnutrition.

Illness and death in childbirth, and in maternal and child health, are not only the result of the lack of access to quality medical care, nursing or pharmaceuticals. They also happen because nearly 40 per cent of health facilities worldwide have no source of water.

In low-income countries – where preventable mortality is at its highest – an estimated 50 per cent of health care facilities lack access to the electricity they need to boil water and sterilize instruments.

WASH also helps promote gender equality. If water, sanitation and hygiene are designed so that the practical burdens women carry daily are reduced, they will be able to play broader and more creative roles in their community’s development, paving the way towards equitable development in countries and globally. Everyone benefits from these contributions.

There is recognition of the importance of joining up. Last autumn, 16 researchers from the World Health Organization, Unicef, WaterAid and others came together to call for action on joining water, sanitation and hygiene to efforts on maternal and newborn health. The World Health Organization has launched an action plan to address the need for water, sanitation and hygiene in healthcare facilities.

This new sustainable development agenda and, quite frankly, the state of the world today, demands of us another dimension of this integration, too: an integration of our development and humanitarian efforts.

The renewed Every Women Every Child Global Strategy for Women and Children’s Health is working to make this happen. Headed by the Office of the UN Secretary General and supported by a global movement of governments, philanthropic institutions, multi-lateral organizations, civil society organizations, the business community and academics, the renewed Strategy gives new priority to humanitarian and fragile settings and pledges the needed integration to save more lives as life is given.

After all, the right to live life in dignity, the rights to health and to water and sanitation are human rights, universal and indivisible. They are rights to be upheld even in the toughest of situations and at the hardest of times. However, without joined-up pipelines of delivery to enable that flow of human dignity for everyone, everywhere, the promise of the Global Goals will just drain away.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Opinion: Food Loss & Waste Has Got to Do a Lot with Sustainable Development Thu, 24 Sep 2015 12:01:08 +0000 Brian Lipinski By Brian Lipinski
WASHINGTON DC , Sep 24 2015 (IPS)

More than 150 world leaders will meet in New York this weekend to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of global targets intended to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and curb climate change. The SDGs will help set the global development agenda for the next 15 years, focusing attention on the opportunities that will allow for more a sustainable future.

One such priority included is reducing global food waste. Specifically, SDG Target 12.3 will call for the world to cut per capita food waste in half by 2030. If met, this ambitious target will not only boost food security, but also improve livelihoods, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save land and water. In short, curbing food waste is both a goal in itself and a means of achieving other SDGs.

Globally, food worth USD750 billion is lost or wasted each year throughout the entire supply chain. Reducing food loss and waste could help to recover these economic losses and reduce financial burdens on the world’s most vulnerable people.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, one of the world’s poorest and most food-insecure regions, the World Bank estimates that just a 1 percent reduction in post-harvest losses could lead to economic gains of USD40 million each year. And out of that USD40 million, most of the benefits would go directly to the smallholder farmers growing the food.

From an environmental perspective, food loss and waste are an extremely inefficient use of resources. According to a study by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food loss and waste accounts for about 3.3 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. To put that in perspective, if food loss and waste were its own country it would be the world’s third-largest emitter, only exceeded by China and the United States.
Large amounts of water and fertilizer also go into the production of this food that never reaches human mouths. This is a big environmental cost to pay for food from which humans derive little to no use.

And from a food security perspective, reducing food loss and waste is a major opportunity to close the calorie gap between where the world is now and where it needs to be to sustainably feed the planet.

The world currently faces a roughly 70 percent gap between the crop calories produced today and those that will be needed to feed a projected population of more than 9.5 billion people in 2050. Recovering some of this lost and wasted food can help close that gap while strengthening livelihoods and improving food security – without requiring any additional environmental costs.
How to Cut Food Loss and Waste

The good news is that food loss and waste – a chronically overlooked issue – is starting to get the attention it deserves, both from the public and private sectors. Just last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Agriculture announced an ambitious goal in line with the SDGs to reduce food waste in the United States by 50 percent by 2030.

In just five years, the UK cut food waste by 21 percent, and Denmark achieved an impressive 25 percent reduction over the same time span. On the business side, the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), which represents more than 400 companies across 70 countries, recently adopted a resolution to reduce food waste among member facilities by half by 2025.

Here at WRI, we are working to reduce food loss and waste through the Food Loss & Waste (FLW) Protocol, along with our partners at the CGF, FAO, FUSIONS, UNEP, WBCSD, and WRAP. Working off the principle that “what gets measured gets managed,” the FLW Protocol is a multi-stakeholder effort to develop a global accounting and reporting standard for quantifying food loss and waste.

The Protocol’s forthcoming FLW Standard will allow companies and countries to quantify their own food loss and waste in a credible and consistent manner, identifying where and how much food is being lost and wasted. Companies and countries can then use that information to identify appropriate strategies for making reductions. This will lead to economic benefits, increased food security and reduced environmental impacts.

The FLW Standard will be available early next year, just in time to help companies and countries set baselines and start measuring progress against the SDG Target 12.3. This standard, along with loss and waste-reduction efforts from farm to fork, can help shift the world toward a less wasteful, more sustainable food future.

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

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Latin America to Adopt SDGs, Still Lagging on Some MDGs Wed, 23 Sep 2015 23:23:41 +0000 Marianela Jarroud Maternal care during the pregnancy, birth and post-partum period is essential to reduce the high maternal mortality rate in Latin America. Credit: Courtesy of the Tigre municipal government

Maternal care during the pregnancy, birth and post-partum period is essential to reduce the high maternal mortality rate in Latin America. Credit: Courtesy of the Tigre municipal government

By Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, Sep 23 2015 (IPS)

In the last 15 years, Latin America and the Caribbean have met several key targets included in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), such as reducing extreme poverty, hunger and child mortality, incorporating more girls in the educational system, and expanding access to clean water.

However, as the world is setting out on a new challenge, meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – the roadmap from here to 2030 – the region must make a bigger effort to fight, for example, maternal mortality and teen pregnancy, two of its biggest failures with regard to the MDGs, partly due to a patriarchal, sexist culture.

“We don’t have to wait for an analysis of the MDGs to understand that the region is lagging in these areas,” Chilean Dr. Ramiro Molina, founder of the Centre for Reproductive Medicine and Adolescent Development, told IPS.

“The spending needed on sexual and reproductive health is low,” he added. “It hasn’t been clearly understood that it is absolutely indispensable to invest more in this area.”

The eight MDGs, approved in September 2000 by 189 heads of state and government at a United Nations summit, were aimed at addressing development deficits in the first 15 years of the new millennium.

And on Sunday Sept. 27, at another summit in New York, leaders from around the world will approve the post-2015 sustainable development framework, which includes 17 SDGs that make up what is now called the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

With these new goals, the international community will continue to fight inequality and work towards sustainable and inclusive development.

“Latin America and the Caribbean: looking ahead after the Millennium Development Goals”, a regional monitoring report published this month by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), says the region has met the goal for reducing extreme poverty and hunger.

Between 1990 and 2015, this region more than cut in half the proportion of people living on less than 1.25 dollars a day: from 12.6 percent in 1990 to 4.6 percent in 2011.

The proportion of hungry people, meanwhile, was slashed from 14.7 percent in the 1990-1992 period to 5.5 percent in 2014-2016.

In addition, employment statistics are better today than at any other point in the last 20 years; access to and completion of primary education have increased; and the illiteracy rate among 15 to 24-year-olds fell from 6.9 percent in 1990 to 1.7 percent in 2015.

The region has also made significant progress in girls’ access to primary, secondary and tertiary education, and has narrowed the gender gap in politics.

But these advances stand in contrast to the lack of progress in other areas, especially with regard to MDG 5: reducing maternal mortality and achieving universal access to reproductive health.

The ECLAC report stresses that in 2013 the overall maternal mortality rate in Latin America and the Caribbean was 85 deaths per 100,000 live births, representing a 39 percent reduction with respect to 1990 – far from the 75 percent drop called for by the MDGs.

Adolescent pregnancy also remains a pressing problem in the region, with a live birth rate of 75.5 per 1,000 girls and women between the ages of 15 and 19.

Miriam Toaquiza and her daughter Jennifer in a hospital in Latacunga, Ecuador. She is the only girl in a special room for teenage mothers, thanks to public policies fighting the phenomenon. Credit: Gonzalo Ortiz/IPS

Miriam Toaquiza and her daughter Jennifer in a hospital in Latacunga, Ecuador. She is the only girl in a special room for teenage mothers, thanks to public policies fighting the phenomenon. Credit: Gonzalo Ortiz/IPS

“Adolescence, their development and fertility are based on ignorance in our countries,” said Molina.

Tamara, now 23, is an illustration of this. When she was 13, her 27-year-old boyfriend got her pregnant.

The unexpected pregnancy forced her to drop out of school, although she was later able to complete her primary education. She never went to high school. Three years later she had her second son, with the same father.

“I missed out on several things: of course, support from my mother and my father, but above all, sex education,” the young woman, who preferred not to give her last name, told IPS.

Tamara had a difficult life. Her mother did not finish primary school and her father was a drug addict and alcoholic. She was a witness to domestic violence throughout her childhood.

From a young age, she was raped by the oldest of her six brothers, who went to prison for 10 years for what he did, when she finally decided to go to the police, without her mother’s consent.

Today, about to have her third child – with a different man this time, but someone just as absent as the father of her first two – she said she is fighting to make sure her children get an education.

“I make an effort every day for my kids to study, I try hard to educate them, because I don’t want them to suffer like I did. I want to break the circle,” she said.

In Molina’s view, to address the gaps in sexual and reproductive health, political intentions should translate into spending on primary sexual and reproductive health care services for adolescents, training on these issues for health professionals, and effective sex education programmes.

“Mexico’s good sex education programmes are only partially functioning; the excellent programmes that Costa Rica had have been discontinued; and Colombia has made enormous efforts to come up with really good sex education teaching materials, but they have practically been doomed to fail by political and strategic questions,” Molina said.

“Something similar is happening in Peru, where there have also been good programmes but they don’t have strategic or political support from the government,” he added. “Argentina gets good results, but with strong support from the government in developing sex education programmes. The same is true in Uruguay.”

According to the doctor, the case of Chile “is the worst of all,” because “we are plagued with opprobrium and shame.”

“We were the last country in the region to have a law protecting young people with sex education, which was passed in 2010 but did not enter into force until July 2014. The situation here is embarrassing,” he said.

He added that in order to meet the Agenda 2030 target for preventing teen pregnancies, merely making birth control available is not enough, “because I could drop condoms and pills from a helicopter but it wouldn’t be an effective measure.”

The issue, he said, is that people have to actually use the contraceptives, and need to know when and how to do so – which requires education.

“The goal is preventing the first pregnancy, and to do that what is needed is education, education, and when everything else has failed, education and more education. And as part of that education – broad, in-depth sex education, without ideological bias,” he added.

Molina also stressed that both maternal mortality and adolescent pregnancy “are no longer technical, but political, problems” which require that states be responsible and implement effective public policies, without worrying about facing up to conservative power groups “who are ignorant traditionalists, and cause us terrible damage.”

As the region gets ready to sign on to the SDGs, the new challenges call for a more holistic, participative, interdisciplinary and universal approach.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Opinion: Kenya Cannot Rise If Its Women Are Left Behind Wed, 23 Sep 2015 19:24:38 +0000 Zebib Kavuma Foreign Affairs and Trade, Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed greets the Emir of Kuwait Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al Sabah as President Kenyatta looks on. (Photo:PSCU)

Foreign Affairs and Trade, Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed greets the Emir of Kuwait Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al Sabah as President Kenyatta looks on. (Photo:PSCU)

By Zebib Kavuma and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Sep 23 2015 (IPS)

Consider this. A young girl called Amina Mohamed who is the 8th of 9 children, from a modest Muslim home in Kakamega County in Kenya was encouraged by her parents to complete her education and pursue her dreams.

Amina Mohamed is Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade, the first woman to Chair the World Trade Organization and is credited for enhancing Kenya’s global image.

Through sheer grit, determination and a passion for the impossible, Amina a woman from ordinary circumstances went on to doing extraordinary things. Amina showed that women must persist in breaking down gender stereotypes and other barriers obstructing them from reaching their full potential.

On August 13, 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya celebrated thirty years since the fourth world conference on women that brought together gender and women affairs ministers from across the continent to take stock of the progress made in the African women movement since the conference.

“The Constitution imposes a duty on the State to use legislative and other measures, including affirmative action, to realize gender equality,” said President Kenyatta during the opening of the Nairobi +30 conference.

Kenya is involved in a healthy debate around gender and governance, primarily focusing on increasing the number of women not only in parliament but also in political parties.

The Constitution of Kenya 2010, in a bid to promote gender equality, provides that not more than two thirds of members of elective and appointed bodies should be of the same gender. The unsolved controversy in how to realize the Two-Thirds Gender Principle is still being debated well past the deadline set by the Attorney General and could bring Kenya on the brink of a constitutional crisis.

A Commonwealth report shows that Kenya also trails its neighbors in the share of women in Cabinet, parastatal directorships and top civil service jobs.

The global average of women holding parliamentary seats remains around 20 per cent, which is well below the thirty per cent target set in the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action and in the MDGs. Rwanda is the only country with the highest proportion of women parliamentarians in the world, currently at over 60 per cent.

Kenya has also drafted the National Action Plan for the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and related Resolutions. The Action Plan recommends enforcement of laws that promote gender equality, inclusion and engagement of women in mechanisms for prevention, management and resolution of conflict at all levels of decision making. The plan now needs to be launched and implemented.

As President Barack Obama said during his visit to Kenya, one half of the team has been left out of the game for too long. It is time to reconfigure power relations; it is time for us to transform traditional perceptions of manhood and it is time to engage fully the one half of the team that has been given only token participation.

How will we know that we are fully involving women? That will happen when women begin having equal rights, and equal access to justice, power, resources and opportunities; when women and girls live free from all forms of violence and discrimination; when women begin making decisions about their bodies, health, sexuality and reproductive rights; and when women begin working for equal pay with men doing the same jobs.

It will also be the time when harmful practices such as Female Genital Mutilation and child marriages are eradicated, in accordance with the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

The constitutional provision of devolved governance, with its emphasis on decentralized processes and principles of accountability and inclusiveness, has created a perfect opportunity for a country with better choices, opportunities, access to resources and life outcomes for women.

A much overlooked prerequisite to achievement of development, peace and sustainability is gender equality which will result in improved educational outcomes, better health and greater economic prosperity. It will help Kenya reap a demographic dividend, which could bolster the country’s GDP per capita 12 times higher than the present.

What is required now is committed identification and addressing barriers to gender equality in county-specific cultures and institutions. This information can provide entry points for transformation.

Women are half of Kenya’s demographic dividend and are the engines that will fuel Kenya’s economic growth. (END | COLUMNIST SERVICE)

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Opinion: Fifteen Years and Forever Wed, 23 Sep 2015 19:01:21 +0000 Jose Graziano da Silva

José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

By José Graziano da Silva
ROME, Sep 23 2015 (IPS)

The next 15 years will be decisive for our planet’s future.

During this period we will face some of the 21st Century’s greatest challenges, amidst an ongoing and profound transition in the global economy.

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO/Alessandra Benedetti

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO/Alessandra Benedetti

Overcoming hunger and extreme poverty are foremost among those challenges. Today nearly 800 million people do not have enough food to eat. Yet enough food is being produced in the world to feed everyone. Clearly we need urgent solutions to overcome the structural bottlenecks that prevent the hungry from accessing food.

In other words, social inclusion must become the backbone of development. Yet we will achieve neither social inclusion nor development, unless our choices are guided by sustainability.

We are the first generation that can end hunger and make food and nutrition security truly universal. And perhaps we are also the last generation in a position to avoid irreversible damage brought about by climate change.

The political framework needed to move us in the right direction requires an unprecedented degree of political commitment.

One critical step in that direction will be taken later this month, when the international community endorses the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, with an ambitious agenda to change the world for the better in the next 15 years.

This new global pact for the future crucially includes ending poverty and hunger by 2030, mitigating and adapting to climate change and finding more sustainable ways to make supply meet demand.

The choices we make as consumers have now become just as important for the future as the ones we make as producers.

In addition to the around 800 million people who are chronically undernourished, malnutrition is also a major problem with some two billion people suffering from micronutrient deficiencies and 500 million who suffer obesity, the latter a malady that is increasing in many medium- and high-income countries.

Paradoxically this is all happening in a world where nearly a third of all food produced is lost or wasted, generating even more pressure on production.

The world being envisaged through the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals is not an unattainable pipe dream. It is not utopia; we can make it real.

The solution lies in the problem. As wealth continues to gain distance from justice, survival depends more and more on the imperative of cooperation.

Either we build a future for all, or there will be no acceptable future for anyone. Any doubt in this regard pales before the exodus we are witnessing where desperate refugees attempt often deadly land and sea crossings in a desperate attempt to find a better life elsewhere.

More than 70 percent of the world’s food insecurity is concentrated in the rural areas of poor and developing countries. One of the solutions is to acknowledge and support the role that small-scale family farming can play to achieve zero hunger in a sustainable way. To achieve this we need public policies that build people’s capacities, support production, facilitate access to financial credit, technology and other services and promote international cooperation.

To eradicate hunger and poverty we must begin by moving beyond dealing with emergencies when they occur and instead direct our efforts at addressing the conditions that cause them.

The cost of failure is clear. If a business-as-usual approach prevails, by 2030 we will still have 650 million hungry people.

We have estimated that to end hunger by 2030 a combination of investments in social protection and agriculture/rural development of some USD 267 billion is required. This means some USD160/year for each person suffering hunger

This is more or less the price of a cell phone. It is a relatively small amount to pay to finally rid the world of the scourge of hunger and to do it in our lifetimes. (END/COLUMNIST SERVICE)

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

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

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

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

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

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

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

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

International inequality

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

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

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

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

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

Social protection

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Opinion: Women’s Major Role in Culture of Peace – Part Two Mon, 07 Sep 2015 21:31:47 +0000 Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury

Ambassador Chowdhury is Chair of the U.N. General Assembly Drafting Committee for the Declaration and Programme of Action on Culture of Peace (1998-1999).

By Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury

Another reality that emerges very distinctly in culture of peace is that we should never forget when women – half of world’s seven billion plus people – are marginalised and their equality is not established in all spheres of human activity, there is no chance for our world to get sustainable peace in the real sense.

Photo Courtesy of Ambassador Chowdhury

Photo Courtesy of Ambassador Chowdhury

I would reiterate that women in particular have a major role to play in promoting the culture of peace in our violence-ridden societies, thereby bringing in lasting peace and reconciliation. While women are often the first victims of armed conflict, they must also and always be recognised as key to the resolution of the conflict.

I believe with all my conviction that without peace, development is not possible, without development, peace is not achievable, but without women, neither peace nor development can be realised.

Integral connection between development and peace

In today’s world we continue to perceive an inherent paradox that needs our attention. The process of globalisation has created an irreversible trend toward a global integrated community, while at the same time, divisions and distrust keep on manifesting in different and complex ways.

Disparities and inequalities within and among nations have been causing insecurity and uncertainty that has become an unwanted reality in our lives. That is why I strongly believe that peace and development are two sides of the same coin. One is meaningless without the other; one cannot be achieved without the other.It is being increasingly realised that over-emphasis on cognitive learning in schools at the cost of developing children’s emotional, social, moral and humanistic aspects has been a costly mistake.

Education as the most critical element in the culture of peace

A key ingredient in building the culture of peace is education. Peace education needs to be accepted in all parts of the world, in all societies and countries as an essential element in creating the culture of peace.

The young of today deserves a radically different education –“one that does not glorify war but educates for peace, non-violence and international cooperation.” They need the skills and knowledge to create and nurture peace for their individual selves as well as for the world they belong to.

As Maria Montessori had articulated so appropriately, “Those who want a violent way of living, prepare young people for that; but those who want peace have neglected their young children and adolescents and that way are unable to organize them for peace.”

It is being increasingly realised that over-emphasis on cognitive learning in schools at the cost of developing children’s emotional, social, moral and humanistic aspects has been a costly mistake.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asserted at the very first High Level Forum on the Culture of Peace in 2012 that “…. We are here to talk about how to create this culture of peace. I have a simple, one-word answer: education. Through education, we teach children not to hate. Through education, we raise leaders who act with wisdom and compassion. Through education, we establish a true, lasting culture of peace.”

In this context, I commend the initiative of the Soka University of America located near Los Angeles in initiating in 2014 its annual “Dialogue on The Culture of Peace and Non-Violence” as an independent, unbiased, non-partisan, intellectual forum to outline avenues and direction for incorporating the culture of peace and non-violence into all spheres of the educational experience.

Never has it been more important for us to learn about the world and understand its diversity. The task of educating children and young people to find non-aggressive means to relate with one another is of primary importance.

As I had underscored at the conference hosted by the Hague Appeal for Peace on “Educating toward a World without Violence” in Albania in 2004, “the participation of young people in this process is very essential. Their inputs in terms of their own ideas on how to cooperate with each other in order to eliminate violence in our societies must be fully taken into account.”

Peace education is more effective and meaningful when it is adopted according to the social and cultural context and the country’s needs and aspirations. It should be enriched by its cultural and spiritual values together with the universal human values.

It should also be globally relevant. The Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice rightly emphasises that “…culture of peace will be achieved when citizens of the world understand global problems; have the skills to resolve conflicts constructively; know and live by international standards of human rights, gender and racial equality; appreciate cultural diversity; and respect the integrity of the Earth.”

Indeed, this should be more appropriately called “education for global citizenship”. Such learning cannot be achieved without well-intentioned, sustained, and systematic peace education that leads the way to the culture of peace.

The U.N. Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative’s essential objective is to promote global citizenship as the main objective of education. Connecting the role of individuals to broader global objectives, Dr. Martin Luther King Junior affirmed that “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

Let me conclude by asserting that to turn the culture of peace into a global, universal movement, basically all that is needed is for every one of us to be a true believer in peace and non-violence, and to practice what we profess.

Whether it is at events like the annual High Level Forums, in places of worship, in schools or in our homes, a lot can be achieved in promoting the culture of peace through individual resolve and action. Peace and non-violence should become a part of our daily existence. This is the only way we shall achieve a just and sustainable peace in the world.

Part One can be read here.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Q&A: “We Must Put Everything Aside and Just Focus on Water” Fri, 04 Sep 2015 21:18:56 +0000 Stella Paul The Water Man of India, Rajendra Singh, has spent 35 years reviving water bodies and bringing water to villages across India. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

The Water Man of India, Rajendra Singh, has spent 35 years reviving water bodies and bringing water to villages across India. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
STOCKHOLM, Sep 4 2015 (IPS)

Globally, more than 748 million people do not have access to safe drinking water. That is more than double the population of the entire United States.

United Nations data suggests that 1.8 billion people – that is 500 million more than the population of China – drink water that is faecally contaminated. Every year, over two million people die due to a lack of clean water.

"I am a seed of hope. I never lose hope. I restore what has been damaged – this is the philosophy of my life." -- Rajendra Singh, winner of the 2015 Stockholm Water Prize
According to the latest World Water Development Report, demand for water could rise by 55 percent by 2050, an increase driven primarily by the manufacturing sector.

As the international community shifts its poverty eradication framework from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to its highly ambitious sustainable development agenda, the issue of water has never been more critical.

Between the din of policymakers trapped in endless high-level debates and scores of citizens feeling the pinch of drought, thirst and water transmitted illness – some sources say that 5,000 children die every day as a result of water-borne disease – a few voices are making themselves heard, lending clarity to one of the world’s most complex and urgent problems.

Among them is Rajendra Singh, the winner of this year’s prestigious Stockholm Water Prize, sometimes referred to as “the Nobel Prize for water”, for his 35-year-long commitment to water management and conservation.

Singh himself has been affectionately nicknamed the ‘Water Man of India’ and is credited with reviving an ancient rainwater harvesting technique that has breathed new life into several rivers and returned clean, running water to over 1,200 villages in his home state of Rajasthan, located in the north-east of the country.

With its massive rivers and their countless tributaries making up one of the most complex freshwater systems in the world, India provides an excellent case study in water management.

Over 150 million people in this country of 1.2 billion currently live without access to fresh water, compounding widespread poverty and raising serious questions about energy, environmental degradation and sustainable development.

On the sidelines of the recently concluded World Water Week 2015, IPS correspondent Stella Paul sat down with the renowned Indian water activist to hear his views on the future of this scarce and incredibly precious resource.

Excerpts from the interview follow.

Q: You always say, “We do not need new policies. We need water action”. What do you really mean by that?

A: Let me speak of India.

In India, there is no dearth of policies and acts; there are many [laws] regarding water conservation, water management and water use. But these policies and acts are not executed properly, which is why there is no concrete action. Now we need to start clear, community-driven, decentralized work on water. And the role of the government in [this type of] water management is very important: providing adequate resources to communities and creating an environment that is conducive to taking action.

There should be joint action between the government and the community for water management. We need four things for that: water literacy, water conservation, water management and efficient use of water.

Q: You say the government should create the environment and provide the resources for water action. It is often thought that ‘resources’ means ‘money’, which comes from the private sector. How do you respond to that?

A: Change never comes from the private sector’s money. For real change, we need the government and the community. What we need is not corporatization, but communitization of democracy. If [the] corporate [sector] does everything, then, where is the democracy?

In Rajasthan, we have many corporations, but we also have a water parliament. We maintained the community’s rights here. We maintained a democratic environment. People rose up here. Wherever people rose for their rights, those robbing society had to run away. Corporations are here and they are here to stay – but it is important to see that they do not loot the people and that they do not pollute the system.

Q: We are entering the era of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In regards to water, what must the government do differently, compared to what it did during the MDGs?

A: Life, livelihood and dignity – all of these three are linked to water. In the SDG era, we have to give the highest priority to water. We have to put everything aside for a while and just focus on water. We shouldn’t get tangled [up in] projects, indicators and the LFAs (Logical Framework Approach), but stay focused on actual work.

Today there is massive encroachment of water bodies. To prevent this encroachment, we must conduct identification, demarcation and notification of the water bodies. In many cases, due to erosion, there is a lot of silt in the water and since there is no clear title of the water body, the real estate lobby encroaches upon it.

Encroachment on the river is a problem that is found across India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and other regions as well. Poverty in the [Asian] region is a result of a water crisis, because of disrupting people’s water rights. If we end this, we can make the entire region water adequate.

For instance, the [2005] National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) was originally created to revive and reshape the country’s water system. The then Minister of Agriculture in India, Raghunath Singh, came to us, saw my work and decided to design a programme through which action can be taken in regards to water.

The same should be done again. NREGA should be mandated to focus only on water.

Q: You were on the board of Mission Clean Ganga [the third-largest river in India]. Can the river be ever truly revived?

A: It’s difficult but not impossible. But the government is only engaging with engineers, technicians etc. The government has not engaged with the sons and daughters of the Ganga – the people. If the government truly involves people in the Clean Ganga Mission, it can take a maximum of 10 years to revive the river.

In fact, any of the country’s dead rivers – the Musi River, the Mithi River, etc – can be revived in 10-15 years. What we need is the political will of the government and the participation of common people.

I am a seed of hope. I never lose hope. I restore what has been damaged – this is the philosophy of my life.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Sustainable Settlements to Combat Urban Slums in Africa Thu, 03 Sep 2015 09:19:36 +0000 Busani Bafana Shanty town near Cape Town, South Africa. Credit: Chell Hill(CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Shanty town near Cape Town, South Africa. Credit: Chell Hill(CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

By Busani Bafana
LUANDA, Sep 3 2015 (IPS)

Slums are a curse and blessing in fast urbanising Africa. They have challenged Africa’s progress towards better living and working spaces but they also provide shelter for the swelling populations seeking a life in cities.

Rural Africans are pouring into towns and cities in search of jobs and other opportunities, but African cities – 25 of which are among the 100 fastest growing cities in the world – are not delivering the much needed support services, including housing, at the same rate as people are demanding them.

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) projects that nearly 1.3 billion people – more than the current population of China – will be living in cities in Africa in the next 15 years."We must encourage, identify ‎and celebrate the continent. Our schools need to train architects and city planners in no other way than to appreciate and promote African architectural culture" – Tokunbo Omisore, past president of the African Architects Association

Africa’s urbanisation rate of four percent a year is already over-stretching the capacity of its cities to provide adequate shelter, water, sanitation, energy and even food for its growing population.

Safe and resilient cities and human settlements is one of the aims of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be agreed on in New York next month. As the SDGs replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) launched in September 2000, UN-Habitat has largely succeeded in meeting the target of taking 100 million people out of slums by the time the MDGs expired in Asia, China and part of India … but not in Africa.

However, Tokunbo Omisore, past president of the African Architects Association, believes that Africa can solve its slums situation by planning and developing towns and cities that strike a balance in the provision of housing, water sanitation, energy and transport while luring investments to create jobs.

According to Omisore, the problem lies in the fact that so far settlements have been developed for people but not with people, and he asks if Africa wants the humane aspects of its cultural values and heritage reflected in its cities or has to replicate the cities of developed nations to become classified as developed.

“Slums and sprawls demand understanding the reasons and problems resulting in their existence and identifying the class of people living there,” says Omisore.

“African governments focus on the infrastructural development of developed nations without consideration for the human development of our different communities and ensuring creation of employment opportunities which is key to the sustainability of our cities. People make the cities, not the other way around.”

By redefining slums, policy-makers in Africa can work more on understanding the rural-urban links to arrive at African solutions for African problems, he argues, calling for a “campaign of marketing Africa and appreciating what is African.”

Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

“We must encourage, identify ‎and celebrate the continent. Our schools need to train architects and city planners in no other way than to appreciate and promote African architectural culture.”

At a time Africa is grappling with the issue of land tenure, particularly in agriculture, limited and often expensive land in urban settlements is posing the question of whether Africa should build up or build across, and there are those who argue that densification is the answer to Africa’s housing woes.

At the 2nd Africa Urban Infrastructure Investment Forum hosted by United Cities and Local Government-Africa (UCLG-A) and the government of Angola in Luanda in April,  Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat argued that densification is an avenue for the transformation of Africa and its cities.

“If urbanisation should be possible and if we are going to build landed housing without going up, it simply means it will be expensive, but if we have to densify then we need to go up,” said Kacyira.

“Yes, let us stick to our identity and culture, but let us stick to principles that make economic sense. We are not going to have vibrant cities by running away from the problem and spreading and sprawling.”

Kacyira also argued that by planning, reducing desertification and recycling waste, African cities can help reduce their carbon footprint, a key issue on the post-MDG agenda.

Meanwhile, a Kenya housing project could represent a model for the future of

Housing in Africa. Muungano Wa Wanavijiji, a federation of slum dwellers, has partnered with Shack/Slum Dwellers International to provide decent shelter for people living in slums by creating a low cost three-level house called  ‘The Footprint’, which costs 1,000 dollars.

The project has built 300 houses in two settlements this year. Dwellers pay 20 percent towards the structure and are given support to access a microloan covering 80 percent of the cost.

The UCLG-A network which represents over 1,000 cities in Africa, estimates that Africa needs to mobilise investments of 80 billion dollars a year for upgrading urban infrastructure to meet the needs of urban residents.

Edited by Phil Harris   

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