Inter Press Service » Development & Aid http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 13 Feb 2016 08:49:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.10 ACP countries unite on empowerment of rural women and youthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/acp-countries-unite-on-empowerment-of-rural-women-and-youth-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=acp-countries-unite-on-empowerment-of-rural-women-and-youth-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/acp-countries-unite-on-empowerment-of-rural-women-and-youth-2/#comments Sat, 13 Feb 2016 08:49:07 +0000 Laurent Thomas http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143877 Laurent Thomas is the Assistant Director-General, for Technical Cooperation and Programme Management at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome. ]]>

Laurent Thomas is the Assistant Director-General, for Technical Cooperation and Programme Management at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome.

By Laurent Thomas
ROME, Feb 13 2016 (IPS)

Women make up, on average, over 40 percent of the agricultural labour force in the developing world and yet typically they do not have sufficient access to critical resources and services to become as productive as their male counterparts. In fact, across all regions, rural women and girls continue to face significant discrimination compared with men and boys, with women being more likely than men to hold poor quality jobs and benefit less from agricultural value chains.

Young people today constitute a staggering 1.8 billion of the world’s population and the vast majority of them live in rural areas of less developed countries. They also face enormous challenges in accessing knowledge and skills; technology and land; market and business services.

To tackle the root causes of poverty and hunger we must address the inadequacy of employment conditions and generate opportunities for young people, in particular, for young women in rural areas.

What we have learned and is now well documented is that when women and youth are empowered to earn more and have equal access to resources and opportunities, they can invest more in the health and nutrition of their families, which in turn makes for healthier rural communities, and a virtuous cycle of economic growth and development in rural areas.

Climate change, environmental threats, population growth and migration are putting additional pressures on livelihoods in rural areas where poverty is already widespread and resilience stretched to its limits. Creating more and better employment opportunities for women and youth is therefore crucial for achieving food security and driving forward economic and social progress for all, leaving no one behind.

That is why delegates from the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), together with experts from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) and the European Union (E.U.) as well as a wide range of development partners gathered this week in Brussels to discuss Integrated Rural Development solutions to Empower Women and Youth through Jobs and Entrepreneurship.
South-South Cooperation, as a cost effective means to accelerate progress through the replication of good practices is at the centre of the debates. South-South Cooperation as a complement to the much needed official development assistance (ODA) provided by more wealthy countries, is a cost effective instrument for delivering on the 2030 Agenda and its ambitious sustainable development goals. In a growing number of countries, South-South Cooperation is already demonstrating its efficiency in improving food and nutrition security, and bringing concrete and effective solutions to the challenges of youth unemployment and economic empowerment of women in rural areas.

Recent developments in South-South Cooperation indicate that countries such as Brazil, China, Mexico, Indonesia, or Morocco – among the most outstanding southern providers of expertise in food and agriculture, are already widely sharing their experience, knowledge and capacities with other developing countries. Developed countries such as Japan, Korea, the United Kingdom or Spain have also provided support, complementary resources and expertise to South-South Cooperation programs, in what is now commonly defined as “Triangular Cooperation”.

In Uganda, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and many other developing countries, the South-South Cooperation programme supported by China and facilitated by FAO, is driving change. The presence of experts and the introduction of new, low cost but very appropriate technologies in areas such as aquaculture, irrigation, crop production, livestock, aquaculture or agribusiness resulted in a large number of poor rural women and young people equipped with the skills and technologies they needed to increase their income and make a decent living from agriculture.

Over the past decade, Brazil has lifted millions of its citizens out of extreme poverty and hunger through a judicious mix of legislation, policies, social protection programmmes, the promotion of school feeding, as well as the targeted support to family farmers including through institutional procurement. The programme named “Fome Zero” (“Zero Hunger”) received widespread national acclaim . It remains an international model of achievement in the fight against hunger. Today Brazil, in partnership with FAO, is sharing its experience with many countries of Latin America, Carribean, Asia and Africa to help governments meet their commitment for a world free of hunger and malnutrition by 2030.

Another ongoing example of successful South-South Cooperation facilitated by the United Nations through a joint program aims to accelerate progress towards the economic empowerment of rural women with knowledge and good practices being shared between Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Nepal, the Niger and Rwanda. The programme’s top targets are to improve food and nutrition security, increase incomes to sustain livelihoods and create wealth, in addition to generating gender-responsive policy environments, through catalysing policy and legislative reforms.

The ACP represent a unique community with a huge potential for sharing development solutions amongst its members, with the potential to leverage European Development Funds (EDF) for this purpose in what could become one of the most innovative triangular partnerships for implementation of the 2030 Agenda in the spirit of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda for development financing.

All countries and organizations gathered at the symposium are committed to developing an expanded South-South Cooperation vision for the ACP, to explore how it can mobilize its constituency and partners and to harness the potential of tried and tested solutions for women and youth available amongst its membership. FAO is a longstanding facilitator of South-South and Triangular Cooperation and stands ready to help to turn this vision into concrete actions and results to serve the ACP community and the European Union’s development objectives.

You can contact Laurent Thomas at: TC-ADG@fao.org

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Radio rage in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/radio-rage-in-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=radio-rage-in-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/radio-rage-in-india/#comments Sat, 13 Feb 2016 07:45:59 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143875 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/radio-rage-in-india/feed/ 0 Costa Rica, UAE Cement Relations with Energy and Tourismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/costa-rica-uae-cement-relations-with-energy-and-tourism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=costa-rica-uae-cement-relations-with-energy-and-tourism http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/costa-rica-uae-cement-relations-with-energy-and-tourism/#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2016 23:23:10 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143870 Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís (centre-right) received United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (centre-left) in the presidential palace in San José on Friday Feb. 12. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís (centre-right) received United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (centre-left) in the presidential palace in San José on Friday Feb. 12. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSE, Feb 12 2016 (IPS)

A visit by United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Costa Rica paved the way for closer trade ties between the two countries, especially in the areas of tourism and sustainable energy.

During the first official visit ever to this Central American nation by a UAE foreign minister, Al Nahyan and his Costa Rican counterpart and host, Manuel González, signed two agreements.

One of them refers to air services, and will boost visits by Emirati tourists to Costa Rica.

They also agreed to immediately begin the process of negotiating and promoting investment in tourism.

“This agreement opens up opportunities to take better advantage of air services between the two countries,” Al Nahyan said in Costa Rica’s presidential palace, after an official meeting with this country’s president, Luis Guillermo Solis, at the start of his one-day visit to San José on Friday Feb. 12.

“I think you have a wonderful, beautiful country,” the minister said in a press conference at the end of his meeting with the president. “Of course, there is the problem of the distance between us, but I believe that after opening the air route between Dubai and Panama City, it will be easier to get back and forth between our countries.”

He was referring to the new Emirates airlines route that will begin to operate on Mar. 31 as the world’s longest flight – nearly 18 hours – according to the company.

Al Nahyan also announced that mechanisms would be sought to facilitate visas between the two countries, in order to expedite trade.

“We have a lot of work to do with my colleague, Costa Rica’s foreign minister, to talk to the airlines and make sure things work out,” he said.

A flight between Panama City and San José takes less than one hour, and more and more airlines are connecting the two cities.

United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (left) and his host, Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel González, in the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry after signing the agreements reached during the Emirati minister’s visit. Credit: Foreign Ministry of Costa Rica

United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (left) and his host, Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel González, in the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry after signing the agreements reached during the Emirati minister’s visit. Credit: Foreign Ministry of Costa Rica

“Emirates will fly from Dubai to Panama; this strengthens potential ties, not only between the UAE and Panama but with the entire Central American region, and particularly Costa Rica,” Foreign Minister González told IPS in an exclusive conversation about the visit.

The other agreement signed on Friday afternoon in Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry provides a framework for cooperation, accompanied by a mechanism for formalising bilateral political consultations, which will facilitate diplomatic relations between the federation of seven emirates and this Central American nation.

Costa Rica was the fourth and last country on Al Nahyan’s official Latin America tour, which began Feb. 4 in Argentina before taking him to Colombia and Panama.

The Emirati minister said a key area of cooperation between the two countries would be energy, where both countries are pioneers in complementary niches.

“I know Costa Rica wants and plans to use more renewable energy, and I know they have done a great deal in terms of legislating to strengthen that sector,” he said.

This country does not depend on fossil fuels for electricity, because 97 percent of its electric power comes from renewable sources. But the use of fossil fuels in transportation means they still represent around 80 percent of the total energy mix.

The UAE has committed nearly 840 million dollars to help other countries of the developing South produce clean energy.

“That’s why we’re in Costa Rica: to see what has been done in this area, and to create a legal foundation with respect to how we can cooperate,” Al Nahyan said in the news briefing.

Solís, of the centre-left Citizen Action Party, said the UAE invited this country to take part in an annual energy conference held early in the year in the Gulf nation.

“Costa Rica will be represented there with the highest-level technical teams, precisely to seek opportunities for cooperation in energy,” the president said.

In an opinion piece published by the La Nación newspaper, Al Nahyan explained that his country is “an important investor in a series of international commercial clean energy projects. And we are proud to be the host country for the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).”

The Emirati minister also stressed that “like Costa Rica, we recognise that turning to clean energies is the most promising solution. The United Arab Emirates has been a major investor in clean energy sources for many years, both within the country and abroad.

“Costa Rica has been one of the most ambitious and progressive-thinking countries in the issues of climate change and sustainable development at the international level,” the minister concluded in his article.

Minister González explained in his dialogue with IPS that there are three major areas where his country and the UAE find points in common: human rights, the fight against climate change, and the struggle against people trafficking and in favour of associated labour rights.

With respect to ties in the field of energy, he explained that the Emirates have “an economy very focused on oil and gas, and with the drop in prices of fossil fuels, they have seen the need to focus on other sectors of the economy.”

This new openness and their traditional leadership in renewable energy “opens up opportunities for Costa Rica, which does not depend on oil and gas,” González said.

The Costa Rican minister sees the UAE as a key actor in the Middle East, a region “with which we are seeking closer ties.”

González said his guest “has expressed interest in Latin America, as demonstrated by this tour,” and noted that he was one of the promoters of the Global Forum on the Relationships between the Arab World, Latin America and the Caribbean Region.

“I met with him in the context of the United Nations General Assembly, in September of last year, and suggested that he consider making a visit to the region, and specifically to Costa Rica,” González added.

Costa Rica has consulates in Lebanon and Jordan and an embassy in Qatar. But it does not yet have a consulate or embassy in the UAE.

“We hope to boost to their maximum expression our relations with the Arab world,” González said.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Women’s Empowerment in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/womens-empowerment-in-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-empowerment-in-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/womens-empowerment-in-bangladesh/#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2016 07:09:27 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143865 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/womens-empowerment-in-bangladesh/feed/ 0 Novel Joint Committee Enhances Relations between the UAE and Panamahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/novel-joint-committee-enhances-relations-between-the-uae-and-panama/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=novel-joint-committee-enhances-relations-between-the-uae-and-panama http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/novel-joint-committee-enhances-relations-between-the-uae-and-panama/#comments Thu, 11 Feb 2016 23:55:53 +0000 Iralis Fragiel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143862 The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the vice president and foreign minister of Panama, Isabel de Saint Malo, smile as they sign an agreement for the creation of a Joint Cooperation Committee, at the end of their meeting in the Panamanian capital on Thursday Feb. 11. Credit: Guillermo Machado/IPS

The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the vice president and foreign minister of Panama, Isabel de Saint Malo, smile as they sign an agreement for the creation of a Joint Cooperation Committee, at the end of their meeting in the Panamanian capital on Thursday Feb. 11. Credit: Guillermo Machado/IPS

By Iralís Fragiel
PANAMA CITY, Feb 11 2016 (IPS)

The visit by the United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to Panama ended Thursday Feb. 11 with the creation of a novel Joint Cooperation Committee on trade and investment.

The committee will serve as “the legal base for launching joint investment projects, including the participation of Emirati companies in the public tenders of this government’s five-year investment plan, especially in the areas of energy and shipping cooperation,” said the vice president and foreign minister of Panama, Isabel de Saint Malo.

Al Nahyan said the UAE is interested in getting involved in areas of common interest, such as banking, logistics, energy, airports and infrastructure.

In a joint press conference, the Emirati minister added that his country is not only interested in studying initiatives to carry out in Panama, but in pushing ahead with projects that would reach out to other markets from this Central American country.

As stated during the meeting, the new committee “will promote and coordinate programmes on the political, economic, trade, cultural, judicial, security, social, environment, tourism, technology and humanitarian aid fronts and in other areas of interest” to the two countries.

On Thursday Feb. 11, the Emirati minister visited Panama as part of a Latin America tour that took him to Argentina and Colombia and ends Friday Feb. 12 in Costa Rica.

Prior to the signing of the accord creating the committee, the two ministers held a private meeting in Panama’s foreign ministry, before presiding over a meeting with their delegations.

The UAE’s decision to open an embassy in Panama in 2017 was confirmed in the meetings, while this country will upgrade its consulate in the Gulf nation to embassy.

Al Nahyan’s visit was preceded, in November 2014, by a trip by Saint Malolto the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, where she was received by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and commander of the UAE armed forces, and where ties between the two countries were strengthened.

That same year, negotiations began on three bilateral agreements: the elimination of the visa requirement, investment protection and aviation.

In this last area, an agreement was reached to create a direct flight between the Panamanian capital and the Emirati city of Dubai.

The Emirates airline route will begin to operate on Mar. 31 and is the longest in the world – nearly 18 hours, the company reported. Panama will be the first Central American country with a flight to Dubai, where the Emirates is the largest airline hub in the Middle East, with connections to Africa, Asia and Europe.

According to a statement by Panama’s foreign ministry, the air link between the two countries is important because “it opens the doors to innumerable economic, trade and cultural opportunities…and lays the foundation for the possible establishment of the headquarters of multinational companies.”

Win-win alliance

Vice President Saint Malo said there are important similarities between Panama and the UAE, especially in logistics and the shipping business, in foreign direct investment, and as countries that promote peace and stability.

“With the opening of the two embassies, not only will these projects quickly take shape, but it makes us gateways to Latin America and the Middle East, respectively,” she said.

Lawyer and international consultant Rodrigo Noriega also welcomed the boosting of relations between this Central American country and the rich Gulf nation, although he noted that the benefits will not be seen in the short term.

“This visit is very productive and strengthens Panama’s reputation as an open country that is not xenophobic and is not anti-Muslim,” he told IPS.

The expert described it as a “win-win” relationship, but one that will begin to give fruit in five, 10 or 20 years.

“We are taking the first steps towards interregional diplomacy with a bloc of countries with which we have not normally had ties,” he said.

In his view, the fact that the UAE is looking to Panama “indicates that there are questions of common interest, such as the expansion of the canal and of the Tocumen international airport, the logistics hub, the dollarised economy and the Colon free zone.”

“They see possibilities for investment and see us as a platform for their products and services, as a strategic ally in the region,” Noriega said.

Saint Malo took advantage of the meeting to present to her guest the Regional Logistics Centre for Humanitarian Assistance in Panama, an initiative “that benefits all of Latin America and the Caribbean and is aimed at addressing the effects of climate change.”

As her office stated, the logistics centre brings together the emergency operations of different agencies in one single location, at the Panama Pacific International Airport, some 20 minutes from the capital.

Al Nahyan, meanwhile, stressed that the UAE’s hub offers aid to Southeast Asia and Africa, among other regions, and that its experience could support Panama’s hub. “Our experts will be exchanging ideas and will provide support for the third phase of this Panamanian initiative,” he said.

Noriega said Panama could take into account successful aspects of the UAE, such as its great experience as a logistics, financial and energy hub, as well as its heavy spending on education.

“They have sent their people to study at the best universities in the world. Universities like Massachusetts, Harvard and Cambridge have campuses in the Emirates, because they want to stop being a country that only produces raw materials, like oil, to become a producer of knowledge,” the analyst said.

Noriega said Panama must stop thinking only as an “exporter of water through the canal” and start thinking as “a country that produces knowledge,” a lesson in which it has a lot to learn from the UAE, which the world has stopped seeing as a mere oil exporter.

New energy mix

Another important issue discussed in the bilateral dialogue was energy.

In response to a question from IPS in the press conference, the vice president said that with respect to energy, the delegations discussed the shared aim of diversifying the energy mix and boosting the production of clean energy, to explore areas of cooperation in the future.

Al Nahyan, for his part, said there are international initiatives in which Panama and the UAE could participate, that move away from the traditional development of oil and gas.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Rise of Middle Class Undermined in East Europe & Central Asiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/rise-of-middle-class-undermined-in-east-europe-central-asia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rise-of-middle-class-undermined-in-east-europe-central-asia http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/rise-of-middle-class-undermined-in-east-europe-central-asia/#comments Thu, 11 Feb 2016 11:36:41 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143860 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 11 2016 (IPS)

The UN’s post-2015 development agenda, which was adopted by world leaders at a summit meeting last September, includes a highly ambitious goal: the eradication of extreme poverty by the year 2030.

The decline in poverty, as reflected in the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which ended last December, had one positive fallout: the rise of a new middle class graduating largely from the ranks of the poor.

But a new study by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) points out that the decline in poverty and the rise of the middle class are being undermined by several factors, including falling commodity prices and shrinking remittances – specifically in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The middle class in the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia swelled from about 33 million people in 2001 to 90 million in 2013, according to the latest available figures.

“In many ways, the story in this region is different from what is happening in other parts of the world. The share of people living on $10 and $50 dollars per day has actually increased in most of these countries”,(as against a poverty line of less than 1.25 dollar a day), said Cihan Sultanoğlu, the Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Over that same period, the number of people in the region living in poverty fell from at least 46 million in 2001 to about 5.0 million in 2013.

“But the region’s advances are under threat and the focus needs to be on improving its prospects for sustainable development”, she added.

With collapsing commodity prices, shrinking remittances and slow economic growth in Europe, the Russian Federation and much of the rest of the region, income-and-employment generating opportunities are disappearing, she said.

Sultanoglu told IPS: “The question really is: what impact inequality can have in reducing poverty. In this region, low or falling inequalities are central to prospects for poverty reduction, inclusive growth, and sustainable development.”

Addressing the UN Commission for Social Development (CSD) early this week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “Experience has shown that thriving economy is not enough to eradicate poverty and promote shared prosperity. Economies must be put at the service of people, through effective integrated social policies.”

“The widening gap between the rich and poor is marginalizing and alienating the most vulnerable in society,” he warned.

Ben Slay, Chief Economist, UNDP Eastern Europe and Central Asia, told IPS: “The middle class is unlikely to grow much in 2016 or 2017 because of the difficult overall growth environment.”

The UNDP study points out that the share of workers in vulnerable employment in Albania, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Tajikistan is already estimated at close to 50 percent, while many different groups are excluded.

Vinicius Pinheiro, Director of the UN Office of the International Labour Organization (ILO) told the CSD Monday that the number of unemployed people had increased in 2015 by more than 0.7 million, reaching 197.1 million globally: a one million increase over 2014 and more than 27 million before the pre-crisis levels.

According to UNDP, inequalities and exclusion are at the heart of the newly-inaugurated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

And the UN’s 193 member states have committed themselves to eradicating poverty, fighting inequalities, building peaceful, inclusive, and resilient societies, and securing the future of the planet and the well-being of future generations.

Almost 1.5 billion people live in poverty according to UNDP’s Multidimensional Poverty Index, and almost 800 million are vulnerable to slipping back into poverty. Eighty per cent of the world’s elderly lack basic social protection, making them a particularly vulnerable group.

“The challenge is not just to lift people out of poverty – it is to ensure that their escape is permanent,” says UNDP Administrator Helen Clark.

That is difficult, if there is no social protection, and where societies are vulnerable to relapses into conflict and to huge setbacks from natural disasters, she added.

“As dynamic emerging economies and stable societies move ahead, increasingly we will see extreme poverty co-located with zones of conflict and high disaster risk exposure, and where there is poor governance and little rule of law.”

It will therefore be idle rhetoric to talk about poverty eradication, said Clark, if the context in which it exists isn’t addressed.

“At UNDP, we look forward to the post-2015 global agenda taking on this challenges. We equally look forward to playing our full part in building the more inclusive, peaceful, and resilient societies which can advance human development.”

The battle against poverty is also being thwarted by military conflicts and the growing humanitarian crises.

The secretary-general told the CSD: “We are living in a world of turmoil and trouble.” He said there may be fewer wars between countries, but there is more insecurity.

“Inequality remains too high, affecting poverty reduction efforts and social cohesion in both developed and developing countries.”

He said too many people continue to face exclusion and are unable to realize their full potential. Too few economies have attained inclusive and sustainable growth and are unable to promote true social progress.

“People are frustrated. They are working harder and falling behind. Too often, instead of decisions, they see deadlock. And they wonder: are leaders even listening?”, Ban asked.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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The New Normal in Fatahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/the-new-normal-in-fata/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-new-normal-in-fata http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/the-new-normal-in-fata/#comments Thu, 11 Feb 2016 07:16:26 +0000 Ashfaq Yusufzai http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143858 Displaced people leave for their homes in Fata after a successful military operation. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

Displaced people leave for their homes in Fata after a successful military operation. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

By Ashfaq Yusufzai
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Feb 11 2016 (IPS)

A military operation by Pakistan’s army has been proving fatal for Taliban militants who held sway over vast swathes of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) for over a decade. They crossed over the border from Afghanistan and took refuge in Fata after their government was toppled by US-led forces towards the end of 2001. After a few years, when they got a toe-hold in the region, they extended their wings to all seven districts of Fata. Not any more.

During those fateful years, schools were targetted as the militants are opposed to education. “Taliban destroyed more than 750 schools, mostly for girls, in Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa between to 2005 to 2012,” Jaffar Ahmed, an official of Fata’s education department said. Fortunately, there was no incident of bombing of schools by the Taliban because the army campaign forced them to empty out of Fata. They have now lost the capability to operate freely due to the military offensive launched in early 2015.

Pakistan army launched operations against militants after the attack on the Army Public School in December 2014, killing 150 mostly pupils, This campaign was part of the National Action Plan approved by all political parties, which has now cleared 95 per cent of Fata of insurgents. Brigadier (retired) Mahmood Shah, former secretary security Fata, told IPS about the benefits of military action: “Taliban’s ruthlessness forced people to leave for safety. Now, the displaced have started returning to their ancestral areas.”

About 3 million had taken temporary refuge in adjacent Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, one of the Pakistan’s four provinces, out of which 500,000 people have returned as normalcy has returned to Fata. “We sighed with relief from the end of Taliban’s ruthlessness. We are overwhelmed by government’s announcement about our return,” said Muhammad Shabbir, a resident of Khyber Agency, one of Fata’s districts. “We left our native home when local Taliban destroyed schools and banned oral polio vaccine, he explained, adding that “Taliban are opposed to polio drops due to which they disallowed vaccinators in Fata. Likewise, they considered education against Islam and banned it.” He now hopes that children will get into schools very soon. Kids have also started receiving vaccination which was earlier completely banned by the Taliban.

On Feb. 5, shopkeepers resumed business activities in Bara Bazaar in Khyber Agency after seven long years. The bazaar was shut due to increasing militancy, which forced the people to stay away from businesses and take refuge somewhere else. “We have cleared the area of militants and have made elaborate arrangement for the security of the bazaar,” political agent Shahab Ali Shah informed IPS. Everyone entering the bazaar is thoroughly searched at the entry and exit points to ensure that militants don’t carry out acts of terrorism, he added. The bazaar would open at 8 am and close at 6pm. The government has installed closed-circuit television cameras at six points to monitor the people’s movements and ensure security, he added.

Shopkeepers are overwhelmed by the resumption of work. “We have suffered heavy economic losses due to terrorism and want complete peace. All the traders have given an undertaking to the government that the shopkeepers wouldn’t give donations to militants,” Abdul Jabbar, a trade leader said. We have also requested the government to give us soft loans to resume our businesses, he said. We desperately need financial assistance to be able to repair our damaged shops and start our businesses afresh, he said. “About 70 per cent of shops in the bazaar are in bad conditions for which we demand assistance to rebuild them,” he stated.

The government has also started repair work and reconstruction of the Taliban-damaged schools. “The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has rebuilt 200 of the total 250 schools destroyed by Taliban,” Education Minister Atif Khan told IPS. We have allocated $10m for rebuilding schools in the province, he said. “Committees at the community level have been set-up to safeguard the schools,” he said. About 15,000 watchmen have been trained in security-related matters to cope with the situation, he said.

According to Director Education Fata, Muhammad Nadeem, “about 40,000 students have missed their studies and efforts were being made to enable those who remained out of schools to get back. “There would be no summer vacation in schools opened after military action so students could catch up with studies,” he elaborated. Students aren’t only back in schools but they are also playing different kinds of sports. “We appeal to the army to continue the campaign till the Taliban militants are eliminated so that durable peace is established,” felt Jawad Shah, a student of grade 10 at a school in the North Waziristan Agency, which was hitherto the headquarters of the Taliban in Fata.

(End)

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UN Chief Focuses on World’s First Humanitarian Summithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/un-chief-focuses-on-worlds-first-humanitarian-summit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-chief-focuses-on-worlds-first-humanitarian-summit http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/un-chief-focuses-on-worlds-first-humanitarian-summit/#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2016 20:01:50 +0000 Valentina Ieri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143855 By Valentina Ieri
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 10 2016 (IPS)

As the global humanitarian crisis continues to devastate civilian lives in conflict zones, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to the international community to ensure “no-one in conflict, no-one in chronic poverty, and no-one living with the risk of natural hazards and rising sea levels, is left behind.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (second from left) briefs the General Assembly on his report for the World Humanitarian Summit, which is to take place on 23-24 May in Istanbul, Turkey. Also pictured (from left, front row): Stephen O'Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator; Mogens Lykketoft, President of the seventieth session of the General Assembly; and Catherine Pollard, Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management. Credit: UN PHOTO/Rick Bajornas

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (second from left) briefs the General Assembly on his report for the World Humanitarian Summit, which is to take place on 23-24 May in Istanbul, Turkey. Also pictured (from left, front row): Stephen O’Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator; Mogens Lykketoft, President of the seventieth session of the General Assembly; and Catherine Pollard, Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management. Credit: UN PHOTO/Rick Bajornas

Speaking to delegates during the launch of a new report, he said the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit is “the moment for us to come together to renew our commitment to humanity.”

The report, “One Humanity: Shared responsibility“, was released Tuesday three months ahead of the summit meeting of world leaders scheduled to take place in Istanbul, Turkey, on May 23-24.

The United Nations says it needs more than 20 billion dollars to feed and care for over 60 million people who are either displaced internally or who have fled their home countries becoming refugees virtually overnight.
And there are about 40 countries – out of the 193 UN member states – which are engulfed in “high-level, medium-level and low-level crises and violence,” according to Ban

“Given the current crises in our global political economy, along with climate change”, Ban warned, violent extremism, terrorism, transnational crime and persistent brutal conflicts are devastating the lives of millions of people and destabilizing entire regions.

“Today’s complex challenges cross borders and surpass the capacity of any single country or institution to cope,” the Secretary-General said.

“We need to restore trust in our global world order and in the capacities of our national and regional institutions to confront these challenges effectively.”

According to a senior U.N. official, who provided a background briefing last week, the report contains a personal plea from the Secretary-General to “restore humanity”, while guaranteeing dignity and safety to all people, in accordance with the U.N. Universal Declaration of Rights and the 2030 Agenda.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) with Mogens Lykketoft, President of the seventieth session of the General Assembly, at the meeting where the Secretary-General briefed the Assembly on his report for the World Humanitarian Summit. Credit: UN PHOTO/Rick Bajornas

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) with Mogens Lykketoft, President of the seventieth session of the General Assembly, at the meeting where the Secretary-General briefed the Assembly on his report for the World Humanitarian Summit. Credit: UN PHOTO/Rick Bajornas

As part of Ban’s five-year plan, the WHS will appeal to the international community to come together to re-discover “global unity and solidarity” and end human suffering and inequality, according to the official.

“Funding figures for humanitarians have totally mushroomed up to over 600 percent of what we required ten years ago… and almost 80 percent of humanitarian staff, but also peace-keepers, and staff of special political missions are now deployed in these protracted situations” the U.N. official remarked, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America, along with civil society, showed their positive response to Ban’s initiative.

Oxfam’s Humanitarian Representative, Charlotte Stemmer, said: “The humanitarian system is overwhelmed with the amount of rising needs in a world racked by crises. […] (World leaders) should not pay lip service to this, as concrete action is urgently needed. The World Humanitarian Summit’s greatest legacy would be a real commitment to change this.”

According to the new report, “the international community is increasing its response to crises while struggling to find sustainable political and security solutions to end them.”

In 2014, the economic and financial cost of conflicts was estimated to be around 14.3 trillion dollars (13.4 percent of the global economy).

The five core shared responsibilities are: One, political leadership to prevent and end conflicts. Rather than investing in humanitarian assistance, the international community should prioritize political solutions, unity, and create peaceful societies.

Two, enforcing and abiding to international laws in order to protect civilians, respect human rights, restrict the use and transfer of certain arms and ammunition, halt bombings and strengthen the global justice system.

Three, “leaving no one behind” — which is also the central theme of the U.N.’s 2030 Development agenda – and reaching out to the poorest and the most vulnerable men, women and children in war-torn areas or in case of natural disasters. It also includes the protection of women and girls and focuses on the right to education for all.

Data from the report highlights that in 2014, conflicts and violence forced around 42.500 people to flee their homes daily. This resulted in 60 million internally displaced peoples, refugees and asylum-seekers by the first half of 2015.

About half of the world’s refugee children are missing out on primary education and three quarters do not have access to secondary education, according to a UN report.

Four, changing people’s lives. Currently, nearly 1.4 billion people live in fragile situations, and figures are estimated to grow up to 1.9 billion by 2030, says the report.

Therefore, it is fundamental to develop coordinated actions to anticipate crises, reinforce local institutions and governments, build community resilience, and invest in data and risk analysis.

Five, investing in humanity. Ban highlighted the concept of “grand bargain” urging donors and national authorities to change their mindset “from funding to financing” local actors and local institutions, while increasing cost-efficiency and transparency.

Organised by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Relief (OCHA) the WHS summit offers for the first time the opportunity to reflect on a new humanitarian aid framework – explained Ban.

The summit also aims at bringing together the international community –- civil society, world leaders, private sector, peace-builders representatives, peace-keepers, and NGOs — to design new policies and set new strategies for humanitarian assistance and relief in affected countries.

In a preface to the report, Ban wrote: “I ask global leaders to come to the World Humanitarian Summit prepared to assume their responsibilities for a new era of international relations; one in which safeguarding humanity and promoting human progress drives our decision-making and collective actions.”

(End)

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Eight Cooperation Accords Strengthen Ties between Colombia and UAEhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/eight-cooperation-accords-strengthen-ties-between-colombia-and-uae/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=eight-cooperation-accords-strengthen-ties-between-colombia-and-uae http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/eight-cooperation-accords-strengthen-ties-between-colombia-and-uae/#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2016 18:53:12 +0000 Constanza Vieira http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143849 The foreign ministers of Colombia, María Ángela Holguín, and the United Arab Emirates, Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan, signed eight cooperation accords late Tuesday Feb. 9 during the Emirati minister’s visit to the South American nation, during a ceremony in the San Carlos Palace, the foreign ministry in Bogotá. Credit: Gloria Ortega/IPS

The foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyanolombia, and Colombia, María Ángela Holguín, signed eight cooperation accords late Tuesday Feb. 9 during the Emirati minister’s visit to the South American nation, during a ceremony in the San Carlos Palace, the foreign ministry in Bogotá. Credit: Gloria Ortega/IPS

By Constanza Vieira
BOGOTÁ, Feb 10 2016 (IPS)

“I am honoured to be in Colombia at a time when important steps towards peace are being taken,” the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said after meeting with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

In Havana, the Santos administration is holding peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, which have been fighting since 1964. Agreement has been reached on four of the six points on the agenda, including bringing in the United Nations Security Council to oversee any eventual ceasefire agreement.

“You have been caught up in a brutal civil war for a very long time,” said Al Nahyan. “Our region is also in the middle of a very difficult fight against terrorism.

“We would like to learn from your experience in dealing with terrorism and terrorists,” he added.

Late on Tuesday, Feb. 9, the first day of his two-day visit to Colombia, Al Nahyan and Colombia’s foreign minister María Ángela Holguín signed agreements in the areas of cooperation in infrastructure, tourism, trade and investment, renewable energies and culture.

“I’m convinced that through the United Arab Emirates we will be able to reach the Gulf countries, and get to know that region of the world better,” Holguin said during the ceremony held to announce the accords.

“We have all the tools needed to strengthen a very important relationship and continue along the road to generating more development for Colombia and greater opportunities for the UAE,” added Holguín, who described Al Nahyan’s visit as “very beneficial” for bilateral relations.

In the San Carlos Palace, Colombia’s foreign ministry, the two ministers signed four agreements, including a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), which offers investors legal security “and will give Emirati companies peace of mind,” said Holguín.

 Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos greets the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan, in the Casa de Nariño, the seat of the presidency, at the start of their Feb. 9 meeting in Bogotá during the Emirati minister’s visit to this South American country. Credit: Presidency of Colombia


Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos greets the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan, in the Casa de Nariño, the seat of the presidency, at the start of their Feb. 9 meeting in Bogotá during the Emirati minister’s visit to this South American country. Credit: Presidency of Colombia

They also signed a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA), which was negotiated in February 2014 during a visit to Colombia by a UAE Finance Ministry delegation, and was pending the ministers’ signatures. The first round of negotiations on the FIPA was also held at that time.

In addition, the foreign ministers signed a Framework Agreement in Cultural, Educational and Sports Cooperation and a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Environmental Protection, Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, an area in which the two countries have acted in a coordinated manner in global diplomatic forums.

Finally, they signed an agreement from a meeting held Monday Feb. 8 in Bogotá by the Colombia-UAE Joint Cooperation Committee, which is pushing for a strengthening of the growing trade relations between the two countries.

After a meeting in which 60 members of the business communities from both countries took part, the UAE Federation of Chambers of Commerce signed memorandums of understanding with Colombia’s National Industrial Association and Confederation of Chambers of Commerce.

Documents on bilateral cooperation in tourism and innovation in small and medium companies were also signed.

Holguín said the agreements would expedite progress on “more documents” in the near future.

Colombia and the UAE established diplomatic ties 40 years ago. But it was the opening of embassies, in Abu Dhabi in 2011 and in Bogotá in 2013, that basically launched bilateral relations.

Colombia, according to the Emirati minister, was among the first countries to support the UAE’s candidacy to host the World Expo 2020 in Dubai, the first that will be held in the Middle East.

Colombia was the second stop in Al Nahyan’s official Latin America tour, which took him first to Argentina. After visiting the colonial city of Cartagena on Wednesday Feb. 10, to see the port infrastructure, he will continue on to Panama and Costa Rica, before heading home.

An enthusiastic Holguín said her Emirati guest “wants to see the ports, and we hope he will get excited and bring hotel owners to Cartagena, which would also be very important for development in our country.”

“The news is that, first, closer bilateral ties were forged with this tour, which will of course translate into numbers,” Cecilia Porras, the president of the Colombian-Arab Chamber of Commerce (CCCA), told IPS.

“The Arab press is giving a great deal of coverage to this tour because relations with each one of the countries of Latin America are giving a major boost to two-way investment, technology transfer and trade,” she added.

According to the CCCA , Colombia’s exports to the UAE reached 97.6 million dollars in 2014 – the last year for which solid figures are available – nearly double the 50.6 million of the year before, and a far cry from the 11.6 million in exports in 2012.

The difference between 2012 and the following two years is explained by Colombia’s oil exports to the UAE. Although it might sound strange for one of the world’s leaders in oil production to be importing oil from Colombia, the viscosity of this country’s petroleum is useful for the UAE’s blends and for use in the petrochemical industry.

Besides oil, Colombia has exported a variety of goods to the UAE, amounting to between 12 and 14 million dollars, said Porras.

These exports include cut flowers, plants, coffee – although through intermediaries in other countries, such as the United States – gold, emeralds, leather goods such as saddles, designer clothing, knitted fabrics, furniture, sugar and confectionary products, while the UAE exports to Colombia construction materials, doors, windows, ceramics and tubing, as well as petroleum by-products.

Visits to the UAE by Colombian tourists grew 23 percent between December 2014 and December 2015, based on the number of visas arranged by the CCCA, which organises business trips.

In 2014, during a visit by Holguín to the UAE, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding for political consultation, aimed at facilitating dialogue on bilateral, regional or global issues.

The UAE and Colombia cooperated closely in the negotiations on the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda. Colombia has also played an active role in the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), based in Abu Dhabi.

In January, the Gabriel Plazas public school in the Colombian town of Villavieja, in the Tatacoa desert in the central department or province of Huila, was one of the eight 2016 winners of the Zayed Future Energy Prize, created in 2008 by the UAE government to celebrate innovation and leadership in renewable energy and sustainability.

The 100,000 dollar prize will enable the school to build a “bioclimatic” lunchroom using sustainable construction techniques from the past that keep the school cool in a natural manner, in a desert climate where temperatures remain between 22 and 38 degrees Celsius year-round.

The school will be equipped with solar energy and water extracted from deep wells by means of wind power.

According to data provided by local journalist Luisa Fernanda Dávila, from the Huila newspaper Opanoticias, the cafeteria will be used to serve a healthy lunch to the 539 students, who are the sons and daughters of poor farmers and families displaced by the armed conflict.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Kidneys Going Cheap in Poor Estate Communityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/kidneys-going-cheap-in-poor-estate-community/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kidneys-going-cheap-in-poor-estate-community http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/kidneys-going-cheap-in-poor-estate-community/#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2016 07:27:27 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143845 By Amantha Perera
TALAWAKELE, Sri Lanka, Feb 10 2016 (IPS)

One and half years ago, Johnson, a 20- something youth, hailing from Sri Lanka’s tea plantations, received an unusual request. The caller, someone Johnson knew casually, made an offer for his kidney. “It was for a half a million rupees (around US $3,500),” he said.

Rajendaran, a 24 year-old beggar at the Talawakele railway station who gets regular requests for his kidney but has so far refused. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Rajendaran, a 24 year-old beggar at the Talawakele railway station who gets regular requests for his kidney but has so far refused. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Johnson thought for a while and agreed. Mired in poverty and without a permanent job, half million was something he could only dream about till then. Soon he admitted himself into a private hospital in the capital city, Colombo, about 170 km from his native Talawakele. Neither did Johnson know anyone there nor was he familiar with the sprawling urban maze.

After several tests, his kidney was deemed compatible with a 41 year-old man from the north of Sri Lanka, the only detail Johnson knew of the man who now has his kidney. From the time he got admitted, Johnson was well taken care of by his initial caller, a middle man. To those who were curious, he was advised to tell them that he was a relative of the kidney patient. No one asked, Johnson said later.

Johnson stayed in the hospital for several days after the operation. When he returned home, he was provided a vehicle. But the benevolence ended there. For days Johnson went to the bank and checked his account. No monies had been credited. Nervous, he called the middle man; the number returned a message that said it had been disconnected.

He visited the man’s residence, only to be told that he had moved out and was now overseas. “I did not receive a cent for my kidney,” a desperate Johnson told IPS. He suspects that the middle man did in fact get the cash, but decamped with it.

Johnson’s story may be unusual in other segments of Sri Lanka society that are richer and savvier. But among the estate community in the central hills, selling a kidney has now become a frequent tale of woe.

Mahendran, a 53 year-old father of four, is also a victim of the same racket. He received a request for his organ while working as a helper at a rich household. It was the same modus operandi: a middle man, known a little but not that much, approached Mahendran, made the play for the kidney and got his consent.

Both thereafter travelled to Colombo, where Mahendran like Johnson was a fish out of water. At the hospital he was asked to pretend to be a relative of the patient. Mahendran also got played out after he had parted with his kidney. “I was promised Rs 150,000 ($1,050) and paid Rs 10,000 ($70).”

Mahendran told IPS that he initially balked at selling his organs, but finally gave way because of abject poverty. “I have four children to look after, that was why I did it,” he said.

Now with one kidney, he can’t work hard and earn as much as he used to. Two of his eldest kids, two boys have now dropped out of school.

Both men said that poverty was the main factor behind their decision. Sri Lanka’s plantations, where the island’s popular tea is grown, has been mired in poverty. According to the Government’s Census and Statistics Department, over 15 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line, in some areas the rate is close to 30 per cent.

However, there are no statistics on the large-scale trafficking racket. Officers at the Talawakele Police station say that they have heard about the sale of the kidneys but no complaints have been lodged.

There could be several reasons for the lack of police complaints. Both Mahendran and Johnson told IPS that they have now become the butt-end of village jokes. Another is that according to Sri Lanka’s Penal Code anyone who sells an organ faces a jail term of seven years.

Clearly, this issue warrants closer investigation. Prabash Karunanayake, a doctor at the Lindula hospital in Talawakele has had to regularly admonish villagers who have sought advice on parting with a kidney. “In recent days I have had to warn at least three persons on the dangers they court by doing this,” he added.

Another one who has had to deal with such offers is Rajendaran, a 24 year-old beggar, who lives and begs at the Talawakele railway station. He said that several people have made offers for his kidney which he says have now become routine. “I have refused all of them so far. I don’t want to make a complaint because these are dangerous people.”

Kanapathi Kanagaraja, a member of the Central Provincial Council, feels that before the sale of kidneys acquires larger proportions, the government should take decisive action to stem it. “We will take this up at provincial level, but it warrants national level attention.”

Prathiba Mahanama, the former head of the national Human Rights Commission said that till national level programmes are launched, the most effective deterrent is public awareness. That is a view that Karunanayake, the area doctor, also agrees on. “Right now because people don’t know the medical dangers, the sale of kidneys is purely a financial transaction. People are unscrupulously making such offers because they know that at the right price, a kidney can be bought.”

(End)

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UN Seeks Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/un-seeks-zero-tolerance-for-female-genital-mutilation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-seeks-zero-tolerance-for-female-genital-mutilation http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/un-seeks-zero-tolerance-for-female-genital-mutilation/#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 14:07:26 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143836 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 9 2016 (IPS)

The United Nations says it is determined to end female genital mutilation (FGM) – a ritual practiced mostly in Africa, the Middle East, parts of Asia and even among some migrant communities in Europe.

And the world body’s determination is being backed with facts, figures — and a global campaign by a Joint Programme against FGM initiated by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN children’s agency UNICEF.

As the world body commemorated International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “I am proud to be among so many champions in the cause of eliminating female genital mutilation.”

Since 2007, more than a dozen countries have enacted measures to tackle FGM and more than 950 legal cases have been prosecuted.

“And today, nearly all countries where it is prevalent outlaw the practice. We are working to extend that legal protection everywhere,” he said.

As of now, more than 110,000 doctors, nurses and midwives have received training on the need to eliminate the practice.

The number of women benefiting from valuable services supported by the UN’s Joint Programme more than doubled over the past year — to over 820,000.

And over the last ten years, budgeting to fight FGM has increased by 600 percent, according to the United Nations.

By 2011, the African Union led the way calling for a General Assembly resolution to eliminate FGM. By 2012, UN established an International Day (Feb 6) for Zero Tolerance for FGM.

The New York Times said last week that FGM – also described as female circumcision of mostly young girls — is not just an African problem but also a growing practice in Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population.

Virtually all countries that practice FGM say it is either a cultural or a religious ritual handed down over many generations.

But Rena Herdiyani, vice chair of Kalyanamitra, a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Indonesia, thinks it’s a myth.

She is not only lobbying against FGM but also wants the government to punish those who perform female circumcision.

“They think it’s a family or a cultural tradition, and an Islamic obligation, yet they can’t name any verses in the Quran about female circumcision,” she was quoted as saying.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), FGM includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. “But the procedure has no health benefits for girls and women”.

Ban said that in his 9-year tenure as Secretary-General, he has helped achieve impressive results.

“In my first year, 2007, we held a first-of-its-kind global consultation on FGM. Experts took a hard look at the problem – and came up with effective solutions.”

The next year, 2008, 10 UN agencies signed a statement on eliminating FGM. The Commission on the Status of Women and the World Health Assembly also took action.

At the same time, the UNFPA and UNICEF launched the Joint Programme to help communities quickly abandon this practice.

In 2009, Ban’s report to the General Assembly on the Girl Child called for social change to drive FGM abandonment.

The next year, the UN established a global strategy against harmful medicalization. “I also launched my ‘Every Woman Every Child’ movement which has mobilized partners who are getting concrete results,” Ban said.

And more than 15,000 communities where some 12 million people live are committed to ending FGM.

According to UNICEF’s new statistical report, at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries.

The report says half of the girls and women, who have been cut, live in three countries — Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia.

Moreover, girls aged 14 and younger represent 44 million of those who have been cut. In most of the countries the majority of girls were cut before reaching their fifth birthdays
Ban thanked the many religious leaders joining this cause. More and more men and boys are speaking out. Somali Men Against FGM has its own Facebook page. One wrote: “We say collectively: Don’t Do it FOR US”.

Let us make a world where FGM stands for Focus on Girls’ Minds, he said and posted the question: “How about this: FGM stands for Focus on Girls Minds.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Rural Youth Can Be Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/rural-youth-can-be-tomorrows-entrepreneurs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rural-youth-can-be-tomorrows-entrepreneurs http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/rural-youth-can-be-tomorrows-entrepreneurs/#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 10:36:27 +0000 Nteranya Sanginga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143835 Nteranya Sanginga is the Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture ]]>

Nteranya Sanginga is the Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture

By Nteranya Sanginga
Ibadan, Nigeria, Feb 9 2016 (IPS)

Bolstering widespread prosperity in Africa is a key necessity if the world is to achieve its commitments to eradicate poverty and hunger by 2030.

Nteranya Sanginga, Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Courtesy of IITA

Nteranya Sanginga, Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Courtesy of IITA

The sheer numbers indicate the scale of the challenge, and also strong hints as to the path to pursue.

The continent’s population has doubled in three decades, and while urbanization has moved at a blistering pace, it has not offset the number of people living in rural areas. Agricultural productivity has in fact increased faster than the global average, but not fast enough to resolve the paradox of the continent with a majority of the world’s unfarmed arable land remaining a net importer of food.

Those are the facts. And they highlight some basic principles: Africa has huge potential, but progress must include the rural and agricultural sectors. Smallholders contribute around 80 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s food supply, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and these are the critical enterprises that must be tapped to produce incomes, jobs and opportunities.

Much work is being done by governments and international organizations to shore up food security, through social protection and targeted agricultural development programs.

What we at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture think is essential is that people themselves have to be enabled to truly leverage their own and their continent’s potential.

While there is absolutely a role for public policies and large private-sector initiatives to make this happen, individual empowerment is also essential.

On the surface, that is obvious. While our core mandate is to be the lead research partner facilitating agricultural solutions for hunger and poverty in the tropics, our core vision is based on the idea that the connecting links for the broad array of initiatives around the land, not always perfectly coordinated, are entrepreneurs.

Family farmers are far and away the world’s largest investors in agriculture. Likewise, bottom-up business activity is the most efficient way to maximize efficiency.

That is why IITA is investing heavily in spreading our Business Incubation Platform, a model closely linked to our Youth Agripreneurs programs and aimed at accelerating the rollout of a series of useful services to be offered along the value chain. Our approach is particularly geared to fostering productive and profitable opportunities for youth, especially rural youth.

Not all youth, after all, can permanently migrate to cities; and if they were to do so, the countryside would suffer from an ageing work force.

Let me emphasize that the goal here is to make money, not just spend it! I jest, but only to hammer home the point that real sustainability requires viable networks that can carry research ideas to positive fruition.

Consider NoduMax, one of our Business Incubation Platform’s star developments. This is a legume inoculant for soybeans that allows them to access more nitrogen from the air – which ultimately also improves soil fertility – and thus lead to up to 450 kilograms of additional yield per hectare. It’s easy to use and affordable.

The technology was developed in our Business Incubation Platform in Ibadan. Now the time is ripe to produce it in larger quantities and for sales networks to spread the word. All of this is a form of sustainably intensifying agricultural production and creating greater food security, and its driving force does not involve touching a till or needing to own new land.

We’re also developing aflasafe strains to combat the aflatoxins that are such a scourge to major staple crops across Africa. Aflasafe is a natural biological control product developed by IITA and partners to fight aflatoxin contamination. Again, we incubate its development, but it can easily be transferred to the private sector and scaled up in multiple sites, meaning more jobs in construction, manufacturing and as laboratory analysts.

Both products also of course increase the food supply – through yields or reduction of losses – and thus catalyze further commercial opportunities.

Projects in the works include an innovative fish-pond system and food-processing activities for our mandate crops: cassava, soybean, cowpea, yam, plantain and banana.

Operating our business incubation platform also means individuals naturally network, meeting partners, potential funders and others useful to an array of enterprises, which may range from innovative risk-sharing or credit-supply services to the discovery and establishment of new markets for both inputs and specialty crops. These “externalities” are intrinsic to the whole idea that agriculture is not an ancestral destiny for the poor but an exciting frontier that can be conquered by Africa’s burgeoning demographic group: Youth.

While policy makers have a lot of work to do to create enabling environments for smallholder farmer families to prosper, those environments must also be populated, and that is what we are trying to do.

(End)

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Family Planning in India is Still Deeply Sexisthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/family-planning-in-india-is-still-deeply-sexist/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=family-planning-in-india-is-still-deeply-sexist http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/family-planning-in-india-is-still-deeply-sexist/#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 08:11:24 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143833 Rural Indian women are under enormous pressure from family to not go in for any oral contraceptive method or injections but opt for surgery instead. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Rural Indian women are under enormous pressure from family to not go in for any oral contraceptive method or injections but opt for surgery instead. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Feb 9 2016 (IPS)

The tragic death of 12 women after a state-run mass sterilisation campaign in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh went horribly wrong in 2014 made global headlines. The episode saw about 80 women “herded like cattle” into makeshift camps without being properly examined before the laparoscopic tubectomies that snuffed out their lives. In another incident in 2013, police in the eastern Indian state of Bihar arrested three men after they performed a botched sterilisation surgery without anaesthesia on 53 women over two hours in a field.

Deaths due to sterilisation are hardly new in India. According to records, over four million such operations were performed in 2013-14 resulting in a total of 1,434 deaths between 2003 and 2012. Between 2009 and 2012 the government paid compensation for 568 deaths resulting from sterilisation according to health ministry data.

Health activists point out that the primary reason for this mess is an overt focus on female
sterilisation in the government’s family planning programme and a woeful lack of birth-control choices for women. Other forms of contraception are not available on an adequate basis because of the lack of health-care facilities. Injectable and Progestin-only pills are on offer only in private hospitals which severely inhibits their usage by poor women.

Worse, male sterilisation is still frowned upon socially. This places the onus of birth control on women with limited participation from men. According to latest research by the global partnership, Family Planning 2020 (FP2020), female sterilisation accounts for 74.4 per cent of the modern contraceptive methods used in India.

As against this, male sterilisation is merely 2.3 per cent, while use of condoms is 11.4 per cent. The use of pills constitutes just 7.5 per cent of modern methods, whereas injectables and implants are almost absent. In the southern state of Karnataka, for instance, women account for 95 per cent of sterilisations conducted at family welfare centres.

Family planning experts attribute this sharp gender disparity to an entrenched patriarchal mindset and ingrained societal attitudes. This is the main reason, say activists, why despite vasectomy being a far less invasive and less complicated procedure as compared to tubectomy, more women are forced to undergo sterilisation. Doctors reckon that tubectomies are about 10 times more common in India.

“In male sterilisation, surgeons cut and seal the tube that carries sperm from the testicles to the penis. This is far less painful than female sterilisation that involves cutting, sealing or blocking the fallopian tubes which requires the entire abdomen of a woman to be cut open,” explains Dr. Pratibha Mittal, senior gynaecologist and obstetrician, Fortis Hospital, New Delhi.

The Family Planning Association of India (FPAI), Bengaluru chapter says it receives requests from 70 to 80 women for tubectomy every month. “Rarely, if ever, does a man enquire about vasectomy,” stated a doctor.

According to health activists, rural women are under enormous pressure from husbands and in-laws to not go in for any oral contraceptive method or injections. Hence, they’re left with no option but to opt for surgery. The women are also offered all kinds of petty inducements to undergo sterilisation surgery highlighting the risks women face in reproductive health in a country battling high rates of poverty. Everything from washing machines to blenders to cash incentives are used to lure women to opt for sterilisation.

Health workers say sterilisation targets set by the government also push women into surgery. It is due to regressive societal attitudes that even the government’s marketing and advertising campaigns for family planning programme emphasise promotion of contraceptive pills that are used by women, instead of condoms used by men to tackle the issue of population control. “The government’s overemphasis on female sterilisation is following the easy way out thereby avoiding the difficult task of educating a vast population about other options. Teaching poorly educated women in remote communities how to use pills or contraceptives is more expensive than mass sterilisation campaigns,” says Neha Kakkar, a volunteer for non-profit Family Planning Association of India that promotes sexual health and family planning in India.

What is worrisome, say experts, is that the number of men seeking sterilisation has plummeted in the last five years. Statistics released by Delhi government show that in 2009-10 men accounted for 20 per cent of all sterilisations. It reduced to 14 per cent in 2010-11, 13 per cent in 2011-12, 8 per cent in 2012-13, 7 per cent in 2013-14 and
5 per cent in 2014-15.

Sterilisation camps were started in 1970 under the family planning programme in India with the help of the UN Population Fund and the World Bank. However, they acquired infamy during the 22-month-old Emergency in the mid-1970s when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi suspended democratic rule and state-funded organisations unleashed a draconian campaign to sterilise poor men through coercive means. Hundreds of men — some as young as 16 or 17, some even unmarried — were herded into trucks and taken to operating theatres in makeshift camps. Those who refused had to face police atrocities.

Health activists say such coercion never works. “There needs to be a concerted campaign to educate men about sterilisation. Most men believe that they become sexually weak after getting sterilised which isn’t true. Wives, under pressure, then take on the onus of family planning on themselves forgetting the fact that their husbands are equally responsible for this,” explains Dr. Mittal.

Experts emphasise that a paradigm shift in attitudes is what’s needed to change sterilisation trends in the country. More so as India is all set to overtake China as the world’s most populous nation by 2030 with numbers approaching 1.5 billion. Worse, 11 per cent more male children are born every year as compared to
females, as against a benchmark of 5 per cent shows UN data deepening an already skewed sex ratio.

A 2012 report by Human Rights Watch urged the government to set up an independent grievance redress system to allow people to report coercion and poor quality services at sterilisation centres. It also said the government should prioritise training for male government workers to provide men with information and counselling about contraceptive choices. But there is little evidence that this has been implemented.

Be that as it may, there’s succour to be derived from the fact India’s population growth rate has declined significantly from 21.54 per cent in 1991-2000 to 17.64 per cent in 2001-11. According to government data, India’s total fertility rate has also plunged from 2.6 in 2008 to 2.3 in 2013.

With constant media pressure, besides sterilisation, the government is also trying to increase the basket of contraceptives and making them available under the national family planning programme. India has recently introduced injectable contraceptive as part of national family planning programme.

“Providing greater choice and improved access to modern contraceptives should become an inextricable part of India’s health and gender-equality programme,” advises Kakkar. “Public sensitisation campaigns about the benefits of family planning, and replacing coercive surgeries with access to a range of modern reproductive health choices, should form the bedrock of our health strategy.”

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Microcephaly Revives Battle for Legal Abortion in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/microcephaly-revives-battle-for-legal-abortion-in-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=microcephaly-revives-battle-for-legal-abortion-in-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/microcephaly-revives-battle-for-legal-abortion-in-brazil/#comments Mon, 08 Feb 2016 23:16:47 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143829 “Abortion shouldn’t be a crime” reads a sign held in one of the numerous demonstrations held in Brazil to demand the legalisation of abortion. Credit: Courtesy of Distintas Latitudes

“Abortion shouldn’t be a crime” reads a sign held in one of the numerous demonstrations held in Brazil to demand the legalisation of abortion. Credit: Courtesy of Distintas Latitudes

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb 8 2016 (IPS)

The Zika virus epidemic and a rise in the number of cases of microcephaly in newborns have revived the debate on legalising abortion in Brazil. However, the timing is difficult as conservative and religious groups are growing in strength, especially in parliament.

“We are issuing a call to society to hold a rational, generous debate towards a review of the law that criminalises abortion,” lawyer Silvia Pimentel told IPS.

Pimentel, one of the 23 independent experts who oversee compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), defends the right to abortion in cases of “severe and irreversible birth defects”.

In Brazil, a 1940 law makes abortion illegal with two exceptions: when it is necessary to save the mother’s life or if the pregnancy is the result of rape.

A third exception, in cases of anencephalic fetuses -which have no brain – was legalised in 2012 as the result of a Supreme Court ruling based on the fact that they cannot survive outside the womb.

“This is different – microcephaly is not like anencephaly, in terms of surviving outside the womb; for the anencephalic fetus, the uterus serves as an intensive care unit; many even die before they are born,” said Clair Castilhos, executive secretary of the National Feminist Network for Health and Sexual and Reproductive Rights.

Microcephalic children, who are born with abnormally small heads, often have some degree of mental retardation, but they can survive.

“In these cases, we should discuss a woman’s right to decide whether to continue with the pregnancy, once she and her partner have been informed that their child could be born with serious difficulties,” said Castilhos, a pharmacist and biochemist who specialises in public health.

If the Supreme Court rules in favour of the right to abortion in cases of microcephaly, as women’s rights activists are seeking, “it would be a fourth exception,” she said.

“Although it wouldn’t be what we’re working for, which is the right for all women to decide whether to continue with a pregnancy, in any circumstances, rather than have an abortion as a ‘permissible crime’ in some cases,” she said in an interview with IPS.

But the approval of this “fourth exception” is unlikely.

Those opposed to making abortion legal, led by religious groups, argue that it violates the most basic of human rights, the right to life. They even protested the decriminalisation of abortion in cases of anencephalic fetuses, arguing that life begins at conception.

In their campaign over the social networks, they are now arguing that abortion of microcephalic fetuses amounts to “eugenics” or selective breeding, and compare those who defend the right to abortion in these cases to Nazis.

But Débora Diniz, a researcher at the Anis Bioethics Institute and the University of Brasilia, has argued in interviews and opinion pieces that eugenics occurs when the state intervenes in decision-making in an authoritarian manner, exercising control over women’s pregnancies, and not when the idea is for women to be free to make their own family planning decisions.

The Bom Jardim neighbourhood in Fortaleza, one of the big cities in Northeast Brazil, the region hit hardest by the Zika virus. The lack of sanitation and huge garbage dumps on the banks of rivers and stagnant water in containers everywhere offer ideal breeding grounds for the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits Zika virus, dengue fever and the chikungunya virus. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The Bom Jardim neighbourhood in Fortaleza, one of the big cities in Northeast Brazil, the region hit hardest by the Zika virus. The lack of sanitation and huge garbage dumps on the banks of rivers and stagnant water in containers everywhere offer ideal breeding grounds for the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits Zika virus, dengue fever and the chikungunya virus. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Diniz forms part of a group of legal experts, feminists and other activists who plan to turn to the Supreme Court for a ruling on abortion in the case of microcephaly, in a repeat of the process they followed in the case of anencephaly, which began in 2004 and finally led to a verdict in 2012.

On Feb. 5, U.N. high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein urged Latin American governments to boost access to “reproductive health services,” including emergency contraception and abortion, given the spread of Zika virus in several countries of the region.

Between October – when the outbreak of microcephaly was identified as possibly linked to the Zika virus – and Jan. 30, there were 404 proven cases of microcephaly in newborns in Brazil. Another 3,670 cases are still being studied.

There have also been 76 infant deaths due to small brain size or central nervous system problems since October, but only five cases were confirmed as Zika-related while 56 are still under investigation.

Seventeen children were born with brain malformations proven to be linked to a mother’s infection with the Zika virus during pregnancy.

Zika virus, like dengue fever and the chikungunya virus, are spread by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito.

The main symptoms of Zika virus disease are a low fever, an itchy skin rash, joint pain, and red, inflamed eyes. The symptoms, which are generally mild, last from three to seven days, and most people don’t even know they have had the disease, which makes it difficult to assess the actual number of cases.

The government does not even have estimates of the number of victims of the epidemic, and only recently gave instructions for mandatory reporting of the disease.

There were 1,649,008 cases of dengue registered by the Health Ministry in 2015, with 863 deaths, 82.5 percent more than in 2014. This virus is more widespread and more lethal, but it does not seem to have caused such alarm among Brazilians as Zika virus.

Microcephaly, which is only a threat in the case of pregnant women, has had a much bigger public impact.

Its link to Zika was established by Brazilian researchers.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said a causal relationship between the virus and microcephaly has not yet been fully established.

Nevertheless, on Feb. 1 it declared the Zika virus and its suspected link to birth defects an international public health emergency.

In Brazil, only when unborn babies began to be affected was a decision reached to combat the spread of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. In late January, the government launched a campaign that mobilised 220,000 military troops and thousands of health ministry and other public employees, as well as the public at large.

Brazil will have “a generation of people who have been impaired” if the mosquito is not eliminated, said Health Minister Marcelo Castro, who has been criticised for making contradictory statements about the epidemic.

But a leading national voice on bioethics, Volnei Garrafa, complained to IPS that the government wants to hold society responsible for fighing the Aedes aegypti mosquito, without assuming its own responsibility for the lack of adequate sanitation and the “garbage and stagnant water everywhere,” which generate perfect breeding grounds for the mosquito.

He said that in the renewed debate on the right to abortion, it would be important to have a bioethics council, such as the ones that operate in Europe and in a few countries of Latin America, where abortion remains illegal except in Cuba, Uruguay and Mexico City, or under extremely limited circumstances (fetal malformation, rape, risk to the mother’s life) in most other countries.

Garrafa said that with the current composition of the national Congress, where evangelical and Catholic groups have a strong influence, the approval of measures moving – even gradually – in the direction of the legalisation of abortion is nearly impossible.

“Congress is no longer ‘national’, it is an inquisition tribunal, where religious beliefs prevail,” said Castilhos.

Proposals in parliament, rather than being aimed at easing abortion law, seek to restrict the right to legal abortion in cases of rape, creating humiliating requirements for the victims that make it practically impossible for them to obtain an abortion.

“The Supreme Court has been forced to fill the legislative vacuum, at the risk of eroding democracy through the mixing up of the branches of the state, with the judiciary legislating instead of parliament,” said Garrafa.

In the past few decades, the Supreme Court has handed down rulings on complex issues such as biosafety and stem cell research, where experts in jointly evaluating biological and ethical questions would help overcome or mitigate controversies, said Garrafa, the founder of several Brazilian and Latin American bioethics institutions.

In the current political context, the Supreme Court represents the hope for progress on sexual and reproductive rights, Pimentel, Castilhos and Garrafa all told IPS.

Against this backdrop, the outbreak of microcephaly is traumatic, but it also represents an opportunity for debate on abortion and the need for universal access to sanitation, they added.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Women and Girls Imperative to Science & Technology Agendahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/women-and-girls-imperative-to-science-technology-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-and-girls-imperative-to-science-technology-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/women-and-girls-imperative-to-science-technology-agenda/#comments Mon, 08 Feb 2016 12:14:12 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143822 Lakshmi Puri is UN Assistant-Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director UN Women]]> Lakshmi Puri

By Lakshmi Puri
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 8 2016 (IPS)

Can you imagine an entire day without access to your mobile phone, laptop, or even to the internet? In our rapidly changing world, could you function without having technology at your fingertips?

Unfathomable for most of us, but across the world—especially for many in developing countries–using and accessing technology is not readily available, and certainly not a privileged choice. This is particularly true for women and girls.

In low- to middle-income countries, a woman is 21 per cent less likely to own a mobile phone than a man, and the divide is similar for Internet access. The possibilities of scientific and technological progress is almost limitless, yet women and girls are sorely missing in these fields, particularly as a creators and decision-makers in spheres that are transforming our everyday world.

In September 2015 the UN General Assembly declared 11 February the International Day for Women in Science. Coinciding with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, or Agenda 2030, which are underpinned by science, technology and innovation (STI) and call for gender equality throughout, including under the standalone goal on gender equality, Goal 5, this Day has the potential to reverberate across the world.

Science and technology is not inherently elite, or about gadgets or toys. It is about our everyday. STI has the power to disrupt and shift trajectories as it increasingly influences all aspects of life today – from economic opportunity in STI sectors and the application of STI solutions within other productive sectors, including to help women grow business and social enterprise, to opportunity for greatly improving health outcomes (including sexual and reproductive health), energy, environment and natural resource management, and infrastructure development.

We see opportunity, particularly through information and communication technology, to enhance education, learning opportunities and skill development, for engagement with youth, for political participation and for women and girls to advocate for their interests, rights and social transformation.

Economic opportunities are abundant. The economic forecast in just a few STI sectors reveal staggering numbers. Estimates have shown that the value of climate change and clean technology sectors in the next decade amount to 6.4 trillion dollars, while the value of the digital economy in the G20 alone is 4.2 trillion dollars.

There is a huge opportunity gap in digitally skilled workers, amounting to 200 million workers, with estimates showing that up to 90% of formal sector jobs will require ICT skills. In energy and agriculture, 2.5 million engineers and technicians will be needed in sub-Saharan Africa alone to achieve improved access to clean water and sanitation.

Science and technology squarely underlie the enjoyment of human – and women’s – rights and are intrinsic to sustainable development, citizenship and personal empowerment. The SDG Gender Goal recognizes this reality by including a means of implementation indicator which directs the global community to “Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women.” (5b).

The ability of women to access, benefit from, develop and influence these sectors will directly impact whether we achieve our goals of Planet 50:50 by 2030. If women are left out of these 21st century revolutions, we will not achieve substantive gender equality.

The Financing for Development framework makes additional linkages between gender equality, women’s empowerment and science and technology. In establishing the Technology Mechanism – which will be guided by a High Level Panel, half of which are women – we have the opportunity to operationalize and promote learning and investment around these critical intersections.

The Commission on the Status of Women (2011, 2014) and the 20-year Review of the Beijing Platform for Action (2015) addressed this complex issue of girls and women in science and technology, and resulted in a series of recommendations on a path forward and needed investments. New, as well as established good practices were identified, but we face the urgent need to scale these success stories from all stakeholders and to connect ad hoc good approaches to each other to build more comprehensive pathways and solutions.

The 10 year review of the World Summit on the Information Society also resulted in increased commitments around gender equality and a role for UN Women. An Action Plan that synthesized priority gender and ICT commitments across a multitude of normative frameworks, including WSIS, was also presented to catalyze engagement of stakeholders. The urgent need for accelerated implementation of all of these commitments and recommendations cannot be understated.

Evidence shows, including in the recent World Bank Report on Digital Dividends, gains are not automatic. The number of women in STEM falls continuously from secondary school to university, laboratories, teaching, policy making and decision-making. There are great divides in women’s access to, participation and leadership within STI sectors, despite being on the frontlines of energy use, climate change adaptation, economic production, and holders of extensive traditional knowledge. In the formal sector of STI, women globally make up under 10 percent of those in innovation hubs and those receiving funding by venture capitalists, and only 5 percent of membership in national academies in science and technology disciplines.

There are similar low figures around women in research and development, publication, leadership in government and the private sector, and so on. The disconnect between women’s practical and regular interface with STI and their formal ability to take advantage of these sectors and in having their knowledge, perspectives and leadership valued is stark indeed.

The reasons for this disconnect are many, ranging from access to technology, to education and investment gaps, to unsupportive work environments, to cultural beliefs and stereotypes. Globally, girls start to self-select out of STEM courses in early secondary school. Societal attitudes and bias hinder girls’ participation, with science and technology often considered male domains.

But change is coming, slowly but steadily. On the ground, UN Women is working to further women and girl’s engagement in the field, with many programmes focused on leveraging the power of ICTs. We are running digital literacy and ICT skill development initiatives in countries including Jordan, Guatemala and Afghanistan, and we are supporting mobile payment and information systems for farmers and women in small business in Papua New Guinea and East Africa.

UN Women has also been supporting the development of mobile apps and games to raise awareness of violence against women and to support survivors in Brazil and South Africa. We have partnered with the International Telecommunications Union to launch a new global technology award that recognizes outstanding contributions from women and men in leveraging the potential of information technology to promote gender equality. At the policy level, we are engaged globally and nationally to promote girls and women in STEM.

On the International Day of Women and Girls in Science we must not only celebrate women’s incredible achievements in science, technology and innovation, but also galvanize the global community to do more to ensure that women’s participation in the formal sector is not the exception but becomes the rule, while in the informal sector where women’s ingenuity is the rule, that they are given recognition and support.

The International Day for Women in Science serves as an annual reminder and hold us to account on how we are advancing women in science, technology and innovation more broadly and critically for achieving gender equality and ultimately, all other development goals.

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Argentina and United Arab Emirates Open New Stage in Bilateral Relationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/argentina-and-united-arab-emirates-open-new-stage-in-bilateral-relations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=argentina-and-united-arab-emirates-open-new-stage-in-bilateral-relations http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/argentina-and-united-arab-emirates-open-new-stage-in-bilateral-relations/#comments Fri, 05 Feb 2016 23:42:58 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143816 The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and his host, Argentina’s foreign minister Susana Malcorra, outside the San Martín Palace in Buenos Aires at the start of their meeting on Friday, Feb. 5. Credit: Government of Argentina

The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and his host, Argentina’s foreign minister Susana Malcorra, outside the San Martín Palace in Buenos Aires at the start of their meeting on Friday, Feb. 5. Credit: Government of Argentina

By Fabiana Frayssinet
BUENOS AIRES , Feb 5 2016 (IPS)

With United Arab Emirates’ foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s visit to Argentina, the two countries launched a new stage in bilateral relations, kicked off by high-level meetings and a package of accords.

On Friday, Feb. 5 Al Nahyan and his host, Argentina’s foreign minister Susana Malcorra, signed five agreements on taxation, trade and cooperation in the energy industry, after a meeting with other officials, including this country’s finance minister, Alfonso Prat-Gay.

The meeting in the San Martín Palace, the foreign ministry building, addressed “important” aspects of ties with the Gulf nation made up of seven emirates, an Argentine communiqué stated.

Al Nahyan’s visit took the UAE’s contacts to the highest diplomatic level with the new Argentine government of Mauricio Macri, who received the minister Friday in Olivos, his official residence, less than two months after being sworn in as president on Dec. 10.

After the meeting in the foreign ministry, the Emirati minister also met with Argentine Vice President Gabriela Michetti, and visited the Senate.

The day before, Al Nahyan was named guest of honour in Buenos Aires by the city’s mayor, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, with whom he met after the ceremony.

In the meeting between Al Nahyan and Malcorra, a tax information exchange agreement was signed, along with an accord between the Argentine Industrial Union and the UAE Federation of Chambers of Commerce aimed at “establishing a joint business council.”

The foreign ministers of Argentina, Susana Malcorra, and the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, exchange tax agreements signed during their meeting in Buenos Aires on Friday Feb. 5. Credit: Government of Argentina

The foreign ministers of Argentina, Susana Malcorra, and the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, exchange tax agreements signed during their meeting in Buenos Aires on Friday Feb. 5. Credit: Government of Argentina

The governor of the southern Argentine province of Neuquén, Omar Gutiérrez, was also present at the meeting, where an agreement was reached to grant a loan to that region to finance the Nahueve hydroelectric project through the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), in the town of Villa del Nahueve.

A four-MW hydroelectric plant will be built in that town of 25,000 people in southern Argentina with an investment of 18 million dollars, through a soft loan, the secretary-general of the Argentine-Arab Chamber of Commerce, Walid al Kaddour, told IPS.

According to the Chamber, trade between the two countries stood at 228 million dollars in 2014, with Argentina exporting nearly 198 million dollars in mainly foodstuffs and steel pipe and tube products.

As Al Kaddour underlined, “there is a great deal of room to grow (in bilateral ties), especially taking into account that the United Arab Emirates is located at a strategic point linking the West with the East.”

He explained that products can be re-exported to all of Asia from the Emirati city of Dubai, because “it is a very important distribution hub.”

The population of the UAE is just barely over nine million, “but it can reach a market of 1.6 billion inhabitants, and it has major logistics infrastructure enabling it to re-export products,” he said.

Al Kaddour said the UAE’s chief interest is importing food, “which is what Argentina mainly produces,” although he said the Gulf nation could also buy raw materials as well as manufactured goods.

The UAE at one point imported up to 1,000 vehicles a year from Argentina, he pointed out.

According to Al Kaddour, another aim of the Emirati minister’s visit was “to meet Argentina’s new administration.”

Macri, of the centre-right “Cambiemos” alliance, succeeded Cristina Fernández of the centre-left Front for Victory, who had strengthened ties with the UAE during an official visit to Abu Dhabi in 2013, where an agreement on cooperation in nuclear energy for peaceful purposes was signed.

“The UAE has pinned strong hopes on the new administration in Argentina,” said Al Kaddour. “The last few years have also been positive in terms of building a friendlier relationship.

“The idea now is to move towards concrete things, such as investment projects in different areas, like renewable energy and agriculture,” he added.

In an article sent to the Argentine daily Clarín, Al Nhayan stressed that “the ties of friendship between Argentina and the United Arab Emirates are strong” and the two countries “are united by shared economic interests.”

He added that “we hope to be able to work with the president, and we believe that together we can bring many benefits to our two countries and our people.”

He also emphasised that his country is seen as “the future gateway for access to Argentine products to the Middle East.”

Emirati sources told IPS that the UAE minister and the Buenos Aires mayor discussed questions such as sustainable urban development and solar energy – an area in which the Gulf nation is interested in cooperating with Argentina.

Although it is a leading oil producer, the UAE is considered a pioneer in the development of unconventional renewable energies, which it is fomenting as the foundation of clean development that will curb climate change.

In Argentina, Al Nahyan kicked off his Latin America tour that will take him to Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica through Feb. 12.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Women of Haitian Descent Bear the Brunt of Dominican Migration Policyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/women-of-haitian-descent-bear-the-brunt-of-dominican-migration-policy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-of-haitian-descent-bear-the-brunt-of-dominican-migration-policy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/women-of-haitian-descent-bear-the-brunt-of-dominican-migration-policy/#comments Fri, 05 Feb 2016 02:49:07 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143793 Two women selling fruit, grains and vegetables in the Little Haiti street market in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. They allowed their picture to be taken but preferred not to talk about their situation. Fear is part of daily life for Haitian immigrants in this country. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

Two women selling fruit, grains and vegetables in the Little Haiti street market in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. They allowed their picture to be taken but preferred not to talk about their situation. Fear is part of daily life for Haitian immigrants in this country. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

By Ivet González
SANTO DOMINGO, Feb 5 2016 (IPS)

A middle-aged woman arranges bouquets of yellow roses in a street market in Little Haiti, a slum neighbourhood in the capital of the Dominican Republic. “I don’t want to talk, don’t take photos,” she tells IPS, standing next to a little girl who appears to be her daughter.

Other vendors at the stalls in the street market, all of them black women, also refuse to talk. “They’re afraid because they think they’ll be deported,” one woman whispers, as she stirs a pot of soup on a wood fire on the sidewalk.

That fear was heightened by the last wave of deportations, which formed part of the complicated migration relations between this country and Haiti – the poorest country in the Americas, with a black population – which share the island of Hispaniola.

According to official figures, the Dominican Republic’s migration authorities deported 15,754 undocumented Haitian immigrants from August 2015 to January 2016, while 113,320, including 23,286 minors, voluntarily returned home.

“This process has a greater impact on women because when a son or a daughter is denied their Dominican identity, the mothers are directly responsible for failing to legalise their status,” said Lilian Dolis, head of the Dominican-Haitian Women’s Movement (MUDHA), a local NGO.

“If the mother is undocumented then the validity of her children’s documents is questioned,” she told IPS.

“And in the case of Haitian immigrant women, it’s not enough to marry a Dominican man even though the constitution grants them their husband’s nationality,” said Dolis, whose movement emerged in 1983. “That right is often violated.”

The latest migration crisis broke out in 2013 when a Constitutional Court ruling set new requirements for acquiring Dominican citizenship.

The aspect that caused an international outcry was the fact that the verdict retroactively denied Dominican nationality to anyone born after 1929 who did not have at least one parent of Dominican blood, even if their births were recorded in the civil registry.

This affected not only the children of immigrants, but their grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.

Tens of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent were left in legal limbo or without any nationality, international human rights groups like Human Rights Watch complained.

In response to the international outrage, the Dominican government passed a special law on naturalisation that set a limited period – May 2014 to February 2015 – for people born to undocumented foreign parents between 1929 and 2007 to apply for citizenship.

Antonia Abreu, one of the few street vendors who agreed to talk to IPS about the harsh reality faced by Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic, at her street stall where she sells flowers in the Little Haiti neighbourhood in Santo Domingo. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

Antonia Abreu, one of the few street vendors who agreed to talk to IPS about the harsh reality faced by Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic, at her street stall where she sells flowers in the Little Haiti neighbourhood in Santo Domingo. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

But only 8,755 people managed to register under this law.

At the same time, the authorities implemented a national plan for foreigners to regularise their status, from June 2014 to June 2015.

Under this plan, 288,466 undocumented immigrants, mainly of Haitian descent, applied for residency and work permits. But only about 10,000 met all the requirements, and only a few hundred were granted permits.

Since August, the police have been carrying out continuous raids, and undocumented immigrants are taken to camps along the border, to be deported to Haiti.

“Most Haitian women work outside the home; very few can afford to be homemakers,” said Antonia Abreu, a Haitian-Dominican woman who has sold floral arrangements for parties, gifts and funerals in the Little Haiti market for 40 years.

Abreu, known by her nickname “the Spider”, said “women sell clothes or food, they apply hair extensions, they’re domestic employees and some are sex workers. Many are ‘paleteras’ (street vendors selling candy and cigarettes) who suffer from police abuse – the police take their carts and merchandise when they don’t have documents.”

“Those who work as decent people have integrated in society and contribute to the country,” she told IPS.

Among the unique mix of smells – of spices, open sewers, traditional foods and garbage – many women barely eke out a living in this Haitian neighbourhood market, selling flowers, prepared foods, fruit and vegetables, clothing, household goods and second-hand appliances.

The small neighbourhood, which is close to a busy commercial street and in the middle of the Colonial City, Santo Domingo’s main tourist attraction, has been neglected by the municipal authorities, unlike its thriving neighbours.

No one knows exactly how many people live in Little Haiti, which is a slum but is virtually free of crime, according to both local residents and outsiders.

Most of the people buying at the market stalls in the neighbourhood are Haitian immigrants, who work in what are described by international rights groups as semi-slavery conditions.

The street market is also frequented by non-Haitian Dominicans with low incomes, in this country of 10.6 million people, where 36 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, according to World Bank figures from 2014.

A Haitian immigrant in the rural settlement of Mata Mamón in the Dominican Republic, where she works as a ‘bracera’ or migrant worker in agriculture. Haitian women who work on plantations in this country are invisible in the statistics as well as in programmes that provide support to rural migrants, activists complain. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

A Haitian immigrant in the rural settlement of Mata Mamón in the Dominican Republic, where she works as a ‘bracera’ or migrant worker in agriculture. Haitian women who work on plantations in this country are invisible in the statistics as well as in programmes that provide support to rural migrants, activists complain. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

“Undocumented immigrants can’t work, study or have a public life,” Dolis said. “They go directly into domestic service or work in the informal sector. And even if they have documents, Haitian-Dominican women are always excluded from social programmes.”

In this country with a deeply sexist culture, women of Haitian descent are victims of exclusion due to a cocktail of xenophobia, racism and gender discrimination, different experts and studies say.

“They are made invisible,” said Dolis. “We don’t even know how many Haitian-Dominican women there are. The census data is not reliable in terms of the Dominican population of Haitian descent, and the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) survey is out-of-date.”

The activist was referring to the last available population figures gathered by the National Survey on Immigrants carried out in 2012 by the National Statistics Office with UNFPA support.

At the time, the survey estimated the number of immigrants in the Dominican Republic at 560,000, including 458,000 born in Haiti.

The lack of up-to-date statistics hinders the work of Mudha, which defends the rights of Haitian-Dominican women in four provinces and five municipalities, with an emphasis on sexual and reproductive rights.

The movement is led by a group of 19 women and has 62 local organisers carrying out activities in urban and rural communities, which have reached more than 6,000 women.

Mudha says the Dominican authorities have never recognised the rights of women of Haitian descent. “They’ve always talked about immigration of ‘braceros’ (migrant workers), but never ‘braceras’ – that is, the women who come with their husbands, or come as migrant workers themselves,” Dolis said.

Since the mid-19th century Haitians have worked as braceros in the sugarcane industry, the main engine of the Dominican economy for centuries. But today, they are also employed in large numbers in the construction industry, commerce, manufacturing and hotels.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Europe is disintegrating while its citizens watch indifferenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/europe-is-disintegrating-while-its-citizens-watch-indifferent/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=europe-is-disintegrating-while-its-citizens-watch-indifferent http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/europe-is-disintegrating-while-its-citizens-watch-indifferent/#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2016 12:53:07 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143786

Roberto Savio, IPS news agency founder and president emeritus and publisher of Other News

By Roberto Savio
Rome, Feb 4 2016 (IPS)

We are witnessing the slow agony of the dream of European integration, disintegrating without a single demonstration occuring anywhere, among its 500 millions of citizens. It is clear that European institutions are in an existential crisis but the debate is only at intergovernmental level.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

This proves clearly that European citizens do not feel close to Brussels. Gone are the 1950s, when young people mobilized in the Youth Federalist Movement, with activists from the Federal Movement led by Altiero Spinelli, and the massive campaign for a Europe that would transcend national boundaries, a rallying theme of the intellectuals of the time.

It has been a crescendo of crisis. First came the North-South divide, with a North that did not want to rescue the South, and made austerity a monolithic taboo, with Germany as its inflexible leader. Greece was the chosen place to clash and win, even if its budget was just 4 percent of the whole European Union. The front for fiscal discipline and austerity easily overran those pleading for development and growth as a priority and it alienated many of citizens caught in the fight.

Then come the East-West divide. It become clear that the countries which were under the Soviet Union, joined the EU purely for economic reasons, and did not identify with the so called European values, the basis for the founding treaties. Solidarity was not only ignored, but actively rejected, first with Greece, and now with the refugees. There are now two countries, first Hungary and now Poland, which explicitly reject the “European model and values”, one to defend an autocratic model of governance, and the other Christian values, ignoring any declarations emanating from Brussels.

At the same time, another ominous development emerged. British Prime Minister David Cameron used threats to get special conditions, or in order to leave the EU altogether. At Davos, he explicitly said that Britain was in the EU for the market, but rejects everything else, and especially any possible further integration. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been sending soothing signs, and all European countries are in the process of trying to recover as much sovereignty as possible. Therefore, whatever Britain may get in the end will serve as a benchmark for everyone else. It is revealing that in Britain, the pro-Europe lobby is run by the financial and economic sector, and there is no citizen’s movement.

All this is happening within a framework of economic stagnation that even unprecedented financial injections from the European Central Bank have not been able to lift.

The list of countries in trouble does not cover only countries from the South. Leaders of fiscal rectitude, like the Netherlands and Finland, are in serious difficulty. The only country which is doing relatively well, Germany, enjoys a positive trade balance with the rest of Europe, has a much lower rate of interest mainly due to its generally better performance; it has been calculated that over half of its positive budget comes from its asymmetric relations with the rest of Europe. Yet, Germany has stubbornly refused to use some of these revenues to create any pact to socialize its assets, like a European Fund to bail out countries, or anything similar. Hardly a shining example of solidarity….as its minister of finance, Wolfgang Schauble, famously said, “we are not going to give the gains that we have sweated for to those who have not worked hard the way we have…”

Finally, the refugee crisis has been the last blow to an institution which was already breathing with great effort. Last year, more than 1,3 million people escaping conflicts in Iraq, Libya and Syria, arrived in Europe. This year, according the High Commissioner for Refugees, at least another million are expected to find their way to Europe.

What has been happening, shows the European reality. The Commission determined that 40.000 people, a mere drop in the ocean, should be relocated from Syria and Ethiopia. This led to a furious process of bargaining, with the Eastern European countries flatly refusing to take part and in spite of threats by the Commission. As of today, the total number of people who have relocated is a mere 201.

Meanwhile Angela Merkel decided to open Germany up to one million refugees, mainly Syrians. But a smart interpretation of the Treaty on Refugees made clear that economic refugees (as well as climate) were excluded, and it was then declared that the Balkans were safe and secure, thereby excluding any Europeans coming to Germany by way of Albania, Kosovo and other countries not yet part of the EU.

It is interesting that, at the same time, Montenegro was invited to join Nato, which, by coincidence also serves to increase the containment of Russia, thanks to a standing army of 3.000. But of course, the flood of people made it difficult to process the paperwork required, and so each country was forced to resort to its own way of doing things, without any relation with Brussels.

Austria declared that it would admit only 37.500 asylum applications.

Denmark, besides creating a campaign to announce to refugees that they were not welcome, passed a law that delays family reunification for three years, and authorises the authorities to seize asylum seekers’ cash and jewels exceeding US$1.400.

Sweden announced that it would give shorter residence permits, and that strict controls will be imposed on trains coming from Denmark.

Finland and Holland have indicated that they will immediately expel all those who do not fit under strict norms as refugees. Great Britain, which was responsible together with the United States for the Iraq invasion (from which ISIS was born) has announced that it will take 27.000 refugees.

There has been a veritable flourishing of wall construction, constructed in Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia and Austria. Meanwhile Europe tried to buy the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with three billion euros, as a way to stop the flow of refugees but it didn’t work. Now Greece is the culprit, because it was not able to adequately process the nearly 800.000 people who transitted the country.

Austria has asked to exclude Greece from the Schengen agreement, and move European borders “further north” . This chapter is now being concluded by the German initiative to introduce, once again national border controls, for a period of two years. Last year, there were 56 million trucks crossing between countries, and every day 1,7 million people crossed between borders.

To eliminate the Schengen agreement for free movement of Europeans, would be a very powerful signal. But more critically are the imminent political changes which see anti-European and xenophobic parties all riding the wave of fear and insecurity crossing Europe.

In Germany, where Angela Merkel is increasingly losing support, the Party for an Alternative, which has been relatively marginal, could achieve representation in at least three provinces. Across Europe, from France to Italy, from Great Britain to the Netherlands, right wing parties are on the rise.

These parties all use some form of left wing rhetoric: Let us renationalize industries and banks, increase social safety nets, fight against neoliberal globalization…

Hungary has heavily taxed foreign banks to get them to leave, and Poland is using similar language. Their target is very simple: the unemployed, the under employed, retirees, all those with precarious livelihoods, those who feel that they have been left out of the political system and dream of a glorious yesterday. If it is working in the United States with the likes of DonaldTrump, it will work here.

Therefore, there is no doubt that at this moment a referendum for Europe would never pass. Citizens do not feel that this is ‘their’ Europe. This is a serious problem for a democratic Europe.

Will the European Union survive? Probably, but it will be more a kind of common market for finance and business rather than a citizen’s project. It will also hasten the reduction of European power in the world, and the loss of European identity, once the most revolutionary project in modern history.

(End)

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2 Billion Couples and 10 Relationship Challengeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/2-billion-couples-and-10-relationship-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2-billion-couples-and-10-relationship-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/2-billion-couples-and-10-relationship-challenges/#comments Wed, 03 Feb 2016 19:48:47 +0000 Joseph Chamie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143776 Joseph Chamie is an independent consulting demographer and a former director of the United Nations Population Division. ]]>

Joseph Chamie is an independent consulting demographer and a former director of the United Nations Population Division.

By Joseph Chamie
NEW YORK, Feb 3 2016 (IPS)

The relationship challenges that the world’s 2 billion couples confront vary considerably by circumstances, including age, sex, education, income, marital status, family size, length of relationship, urban-rural residence, customs, religion and region of the world. Nevertheless, 10 major challenges among married and cohabiting couples may be identified across countries.

First, despite international agreements, government policies and public information campaigns, forced and child-bride marriages unfortunately continue to take place in many less developed countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. For example, no less than two-thirds of the women aged 20-24 years old in Niger, Central African Republic, Chad and Bangladesh were married or in union before they were 18 years old (Figure 1).

Source: UNICEF. * The percent of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old.

Source: UNICEF.
* The percent of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old.

Typically the family coerces the girl or young woman into a marriage or union to an older man. In many instances, the family fears unwanted behavior, sexuality and undesired relationships with men outside their ethnic, cultural, religious or caste group.

Also, parents may have made a marital promise regarding their daughter, wish to strengthen family links, desire to protect and enhance their daughter’s standing, reduce household expenditures or ensure land, property and wealth remains within the family.

A daughter who is perceived to have violated the honor of her family or has an unintended pregnancy may be forced into marriage or in extreme instances killed by a family member. Forced marriages may be abusive and intended to be a punishment to as well as a means of restoring honor to the family.

Second, spousal abuse is not limited to forced marriages and constitutes a serious challenge to a couple’s relationship. Domestic disputes, including confinement, intimidation, psychological abuse and partner violence, is a worldwide problem happening among many both married and cohabitating couples.

Globally, nearly one out of three women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner. Although some 125 countries have outlawed domestic violence, it’s estimated that more than 600 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime.

Third, sexual relations, intimacy and love/affection constitute another area that is often challenging for couples. Dissatisfaction with sexual relations in many instances leads to emotional infidelity, extra-marital affairs, erosion of trust and separation or divorce.

One often-noted difficulty in a couple’s relationship is the woman complaining that her partner seems to want sex all the time with little attention to her wishes and the man being frustrated that his partner uses sexual intimacy strictly on a reward and punishment basis.

Those issues take on added salience as some contend that marriage implies automatic conjugal rights with a husband entitled to be intimate with his wife any time he wants and a wife duty-bound to oblige.

Fourth, decisions on whether and when to have a child, the number and spacing of children and how the children should be reared often present an important consequential challenge for many couples. Men and women may have differing views on having children, their respective roles and responsibilities in parenting and childcare and expectations and future goals for their children.

The use of contraception and abortion to limit as well as space childbearing remains a sensitive matter for couples in many parts of the world. While in many industrialized nations the woman typically has the final say in reproductive and pregnancy decisions, in many developing countries these issues remain a contentious issue for many couples.

Fifth, another major challenge encountered by couples is the broad issue of communication. Often it is not an inability or unwillingness to understand each other, but rather simply a stubborn refusal to allow or accept the existence of a partner’s positions or viewpoints.

The lack of effective communication frequently leads to recurrent arguments, habitual bickering, lack of appreciation, detachment, unwillingness to forgive, emotional stress, and in some cases physical violence. Two toxic forms of communication frequently reported are “nagging” – a widespread complaint of male partners – and “the silent treatment” – a common complaint of female partners.

Sixth, finances or money is an often-reported major challenge that couples face in their relationship. Many couples quarrel over budgeting expenses and savings, their partner’s income, differing spending styles and inheritance issues. Invariably, one person in the relationship, usually the male, tries to control the resources, restrict the spending of the other and make the major financial decisions.

Seventh, harmonizing employment, careers, togetherness and work-life balance is increasingly a difficult challenge for many couples. With the spread of the two-career couple and nuclear family, the roles and responsibilities of men and women in a marriage or relationship have changed, differing considerably from those even in the recent past.

The lack of equality in a relationship and mutual respect for each other’s work and career may lead to resentment, stress and unhappiness. While working wives reduce the financial burdens for spouses, their employment may weaken the husband’s traditional authority in the family.

Also, wives and female partners who work outside the home and have with husbands or partners who are frequently not around are likely to be dissatisfied with the usual division of labor in the household as they find themselves doing more than their fair share of domestic chores and familial responsibilities.

Eight, many couples are challenged by a partner’s personal shortcomings, misbehavior and dysfunctional habits. Addiction, substance abuse, alcoholism, promiscuity, jealousy, domineering, lying, and narcissism are some of the serious issues that jeopardize and weaken a couple’s relationship.

When one partner feels the other is immature, irresponsible or untrustworthy, the relationship or marriage is likely to suffer, undermining affection, attraction, cooperation and fidelity. The difficulties become exacerbated when the partner resists seeking outside assistance or heeding needed remedial measures.

Ninth, unfulfilled and differing expectations of marriage or an intimate relationship are another major challenge for couples. Women and men typically have different understandings, needs and priorities regarding marriage, love, romance and the nature of intimate relationships.

Unrealistic expectations when entering marriage and relationships are not uncommon, especially among the young and immature women and men. Disappointments, unmet promises and boredom can arise in a couple’s relationship, especially after a number of tedious and uneventful years.

Tenth, for many couples and marriages dealing with in-laws can be a burdensome challenge. Achieving the right balance and rapport with the parents of ones partner can have significant consequences on the stability and well-being of a couple’s marriage or relationship.

Given individual histories and personal viewpoints, couples may find themselves strongly disagreeing about the appropriate amount of time, care and assistance to be provided to in-laws. Those issues become even more complex in cases of second marriages, blended families, ex-spouses and the rearing of children and grandchildren.

In many instances difficulties with in-laws originate between with the wife and her husband’s mother. This is frequently the case, especially in patrilocal communities, because both are competing for the husband’s attention, dedication and support in family and domestic matters. As one wife has tersely noted, “Our marriage has three people … me, my husband and his mother.”

No doubt some will disagree with the above-enumerated ten major relationship challenges facing the world’s two billion couples and may propose different key challenges. However, nearly all would agree that couples in virtually every part of the world encounter significant challenges and difficulties with their spouses or partner at various times in their relationships.

Those challenges, which may range from minor annoyances to serious offenses, have generally been viewed as personal matters to be worked out by the couple. Modern societies, however, have vital interests in promoting strong and harmonious relationships of couples and marriages, supporting family formation and childrearing, ensuring the basic human rights, dignity and security of both women and men, and protecting the welfare of children.

As one adage has discerningly affirmed, “Peaceful family, prosperous country”.

(End)

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Small-scale Fishing Is About Much More than Just Subsistence in Chilehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/small-scale-fishing-is-about-much-more-than-just-subsistence-in-chile/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=small-scale-fishing-is-about-much-more-than-just-subsistence-in-chile http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/small-scale-fishing-is-about-much-more-than-just-subsistence-in-chile/#comments Wed, 03 Feb 2016 15:31:46 +0000 Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143772 Pedro Pascual, who has been a fisherman for 50 of his 70 years of life, prepares bait in the installations used by some 70 small-scale fisherpersons in a bay in the beach resort town of Algarrobo, Chile. This son, grandson and great-grandson of fishermen is worried because very few young people are fishing today. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Pedro Pascual, who has been a fisherman for 50 of his 70 years of life, prepares bait in the installations used by some 70 small-scale fisherpersons in a bay in the beach resort town of Algarrobo, Chile. This son, grandson and great-grandson of fishermen is worried because very few young people are fishing today. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
ALGARROBO, Chile, Feb 3 2016 (IPS)

“Fishing isn’t just for making a living, it’s also enjoyable,” said Pedro Pascual, a 70-year-old fisherman who has been taking his small boat out to sea off Chile’s Pacific coast in the early hours of the morning almost every day for the past 50 years, to support his family.

Impish and ebullient, he told IPS that he doesn’t like to eat much fish anymore, although he is aware of its excellent nutritional properties, which make it a key product in terms of boosting global food security. “The thing is, eating what you fish yourself is kind of boring,” he said.

“Sometimes my wife has to go out and buy fish, because I come home without a single fish – I sell all of them, so I don’t have to eat them,” he confessed, in a mischievous tone.

Pascual was born and raised in the beach resort town of Algarrobo, 100 km west of Santiago.“Artisanal fishers who used to have a quota, a share of extractive fishing activity, were left without rights, and many lost their work.” -- Juan Carlos Quezada

The son, grandson and great-grandson of fishermen, he stressed that fishing is everything for him and his family, as he prepared bait on counters built on the beach, which are used by some 70 local fishers.

He and the others will sell their catch in the same place the following day, at market installations built there by the municipal government.

“We used to catch a lot of meagre (Argyrosomus regius) in this area. Now we catch hake (Merluccius) in the winter and in the summer we catch crab and some red cusk-eel (Genypterus chilensis),” he said.

As he prepared the bait, tying fish heads with twine, Pascual explained that he and his fellow fishermen go out in the afternoon, lay their lines, return to land, and head out again at 6:00 AM to pull in the catch.

“I like crabs, because there are different ways to eat them. I love ‘chupe de jaiba’ (crab quiche). You can make it with different ingredients,” he said.

He repeated several times in the conversation with IPS how much he loved his work, and said he was very worried that there are fewer and fewer people working as small-scale fishers.

“At least around here, we’re all old men…young people aren’t interested in fishing anymore,” he said. “They should keep studying, this work is very difficult,” he said, adding that he is lucky if he makes 300 dollars a month.

In response to the question “what will happen when there are no more small-scale fishers?” he said sadly: “people will have to buy from the industrial-scale fisheries.”

This is not a minor question, especially since large-scale fishing has hurt artisanal fisheries in countries along the Pacific coast of South America, which have become leaders in the global seafood industry over the last decade.

Small-scale fisheries account for over 90 percent of the world’s capture fishers and fish workers, around half of whom are women, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) regional office for Latin America and the Caribbean, based in Santiago.

Boats anchored in a small bay in the Chilean town of Algarrobo, waiting for the local fishermen to head out to sea in the evening to put out their lines. They go out the next day at dawn to haul in their catch, in a centuries-old activity that is now threatened by overfishing and laws in favour of industrial-scale fishing.  Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Boats anchored in a small bay in the Chilean town of Algarrobo, waiting for the local fishermen to head out to sea in the evening to put out their lines. They go out the next day at dawn to haul in their catch, in a centuries-old activity that is now threatened by overfishing and laws in favour of industrial-scale fishing. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

In addition, they supply around 50 percent of all global fish catches, and fishing and aquaculture provide a livelihood for between 10 and 12 percent of the world’s population.

“Small-scale fishing makes key contributions to nutrition, food security, sustainable means of subsistence and poverty reduction, especially in developing countries,” FAO stated in response to questions from IPS.

Studies show that fish is highly nutritious, offering high-quality protein and a broad range of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A and D, phosphorus, magnesium and selenium, while saltwater fish have a high content of iodine.

Its protein, like that of meat, is easily digestible and complements protein provided by cereals and legumes that are the foundation of the diet in many countries of the developing South.

Experts say that even in small quantities, fish improves the quality of dietary protein by complementing the essential amino acids that are often present in low quantities in vegetable-based diets.

Moreover, fish oils are the richest source of a kind of fat that is vital to normal brain development in unborn babies and infants.

Chile, a long, narrow country between the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Andes mountains to the east, has 6,435 km of coast line and a broad diversity of marine resources.

Official figures indicate that 92 percent of fishing and fish farming activity involves fish capture, five percent seaweed harvesting, and the rest seafood harvesting.

The three main fish captured in Chile are the Chilean jack mackerel (Trachurus murphyi), sardines and the anchoveta, which bring in more than 1.2 billion dollars a year in revenues on average, but are facing an overfishing crisis.

Extractive fishing provides work for more than 150,000 people in this country of 17.6 million and represents 0.4 percent of GDP. Of the industry’s workers, just over 94,000 are small-scale fishers and some 22,700 are women, according to the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service.

About three million tons of fish are caught every year in this South American country. But fish consumption is just 6.9 kilos per person per year – less than eight percent of the 84.7 kilos of meat consumed annually per capita.

The low level of fish consumption in Chile is attributed to two main reasons: availability and prices.

With regard to the former, a large proportion of the industrial-scale fish catch is exported.

A controversial law on fisheries and aquaculture in effect since 2013, promoted by the right-wing government of former president Sebastián Piñera (2010-2014), has played a major role in this scenario.

The law grants fishing concessions for 20 years, renewable for another 20, and establishes that large companies can receive fishing rights in perpetuity, which can be passed from one generation to the next.

“Artisanal fishers who used to have a quota, a share of extractive fishing activity, were left without rights, and many lost their work,” Juan Carlos Quezada, spokesman for the National Council for the Defence of Artisanal Fishing (CONDEPP), told IPS.

The representative of the union of small farmers added that “ninety percent of artisanal fishers have been left without fish catch quotas, because concessions and quotas were only assigned to industrial fisheries and shipowners.”

While small-scale fishers are fighting for the law to be repealed, the government continues to support the Development Fund for Artisanal Fishing which, contradictorily, is aimed at the sustainable development of Chile’s small-scale fishing industry, and backs the efforts of organisations of small fishers.

Pascual sees things clearly: “Fishing is my life and it will always be. The sea will always give us something, even if it offers us less and less.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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