Inter Press Service » Development & Aid http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 01 Jul 2016 09:29:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 The Shift from Social Development to Infrastructure – How to Build Greenerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-shift-from-social-development-to-infrastructure-how-to-build-greener/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-shift-from-social-development-to-infrastructure-how-to-build-greener http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-shift-from-social-development-to-infrastructure-how-to-build-greener/#comments Fri, 01 Jul 2016 08:41:39 +0000 Vinod Thomas http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145899

The author is Director General of Independent Evaluation at the Manila-based Asian Development Bank.

By Vinod Thomas
MANILA, Jul 1 2016 (IPS)

Across the world, the pendulum has swung from a focus on social development to infrastructure development. Recognizing that infrastructure is only one variable in the development equation, we must try to get the most value from this shift in priorities.

That entails ensuring that new investments are not just more of the same, but ones that contribute to sustainable progress. With trillions of dollars envisaged for constructing dams, bridges and roads, it is pivotal that new infrastructure is environmentally friendly.

To understand why this change is critical, consider the arithmetic of climate change.  At current rates of greenhouse gas production, global temperatures will likely, in a quarter century, rise above 2 C from pre-industrial levels, leading to
catastrophic impacts.

Vinod Thomas

Vinod Thomas

And Asia will be the hardest hit. To dodge this scenario, energy-related emissions alone will need to fall by 40 to 70 percent below 2010 levels worldwide by 2050.

Industrial countries were the primary source of the past carbon buildup. But developing Asia is now the source of some 37 percent of the emissions. Regardless of the history, Asia’s well-being hinges squarely on confronting climate change.

Energy and transport in Asia contribute two-thirds of the emissions. By one estimate, Asia requires $8 trillion of infrastructure investment during 2010-2020.

Multilateral lenders — established ones like the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank, as well as new ones like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the bank of BRICS (comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries — plan to increase funding for infrastructure.

The public sector has a vital regulatory and enabling role, while the private sector has more investible capital at its disposal. Public-private partnerships done right can help expand infrastructure.

But for infrastructure investments to have lasting value, all stakeholders in infrastructure programs must take to heart the priority for climate mitigation and adaptation. The crucial question is how official and private financing can make infrastructure climate-harmonic.

Here are seven ways to do it, as seen from Asia’s experience. First, renewable sources of energy supply need to expand vastly — solar, wind, wave, tidal, geothermal and biomass. But the variability in output  from solar and wind sources is much higher than from coal-fired generation plants. Solutions include battery storage, smart grids and demand measures.

Recent examples of disasters illustrate why safeguards are vital. In the industrial world, Volkswagen’s deliberate cheating on harmful emissions is a gigantic scandal. In the developing world, Indonesia’s man-made forest fires are a crime against the
environment and people
At the same time, integration of advanced weather forecast technology in renewable energy management is emerging, which can be used to enable the expansion of renewable energy.

Second, fossil fuel subsidies have to be reformed. Global subsidies for coal, the worst polluter, and for petroleum and natural gas are some $500 billion a year, and 10 times that amount when environmental damages are also considered.

Asia accounts for half of global fossil fuel subsidies. Eliminating them would promote cleaner energy, protect local environments and reduce the carbon footprint. India and Indonesia, for instance, have started to cut the subsidies and  adjust energy prices.

Third, a tax that sets a price on carbon would reduce the demand for carbon-emitting fossil fuels, and increase the demand for renewable sources and lower-emission fuels such as natural gas.

Fossil fuel producers have opposed carbon taxes, and Australia abolished one in 2014. On the other hand, China, based on seven pilot emissions trading programs,  intends to launch a national cap and trade program in 2017, which will make the country the world’s biggest carbon market. Recently, India levied a carbon tax on fossil fuels.

Fourth, this is the chance to deal with the unacceptable levels of city pollution and congestion, as seen in Beijing or Delhi. Asia added a billion people to its cities in the past three decades, and another billion is expected by 2040.

Fifteen of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in Asia. Fuel and engine efficiency can be improved, as shown by Busan, South Korea, where higher licensing fees are charged for trucks that do not comply with emission standards. City-operated bicycle shares, low-emission car rentals and sidewalk  widening can make cities more livable. Asian cities can be a booming market
for renewable power generation equipment and electric vehicles.

Fifth, there are options to address urban congestion. Intelligent transport systems, as in Seoul, inform passengers of the best routes for their commute. China’s Guangzhou bus rapid transit may be saving 30 million passenger hours a year.

Multi-modal public transport around hub stations, such as in Chennai and Bengaluru in India, can reduce congestion and pollution.

A glaring problem is municipal waste, which will require implementing the so-called 3R (reduce, reuse, recycle) approach and investments in disposal capacity such as conversion of waste to energy, anaerobic digestion, recycling and reduced waste disposal.

Sixth, infrastructure finance ought to aim for climate, environmental and social protection. This involves strengthening roads and embankments, building houses and businesses in safer areas, investing in rain harvesting, drainage and flood barrier structures, and applying forecasting and early-warning technology.

Retrofit technologies can be used for old structures, thus lowering maintenance costs. In addition to climate-smart agriculture, a top priority is to stop deforestation, whose damages are evident in Indonesia and others.

Seventh, regulation, compliance and monitoring should deflect risks to communities, habitats and livelihoods. Multilateral development banks must ensure that safeguards are improved, and not weakened under political pressures to lend for infrastructure.

Recent examples of disasters illustrate why safeguards are vital. In the industrial world, Volkswagen’s deliberate cheating on harmful emissions is a gigantic scandal. In the developing world, Indonesia’s man-made forest fires are a crime against the
environment and people.

The seven measures listed here promise socioeconomic gains to local societies.

They also, in varying measures, help slow atmospheric emissions and global warming. Contrary to the belief many people have held, environmental and climate actions are not a drag on economic growth. Quite the contrary, they are essential for ensuring that growth will be sustained.

When it comes to infrastructure investment, the intersection between global and local interests turns out to be a key dimension to identify and exploit.

This common space represents win-win possibilities for designing, implementing and maintaining infrastructure differently and innovatively. It is in our collective interest to consider this possibility and take action. Asia should be at the forefront of such action.

Finally, it would be strategic to run infrastructure investment in tandem with climate finance, which is expected to grow in the coming years. A global target since the Copenhagen and Cancun climate talks is $100 billion for climate finance, including private, by 2020.  For its part, the ADB announced in September that it would double annual climate financing to $6 billion by 2020.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) just approved a $31 million climate adaptation grant for a project financed by the ADB — the first multilateral development bank to gain accreditation to access GCF funding. More funding for infrastructure is good news for revitalizing economic growth in Asia. At the same time, this is not the time to do more of the same.

In the face of environmental catastrophes and runaway climate change, this is the moment to build low-carbon intensity and climate-resilience into infrastructure investment, and thereby improve the prospects for sustaining economic growth and people’s well-being.

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Suspend Saudi Arabia from Human Rights Council, Human Rights Groups Sayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/suspend-saudi-arabia-from-human-rights-council-human-rights-groups-say/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=suspend-saudi-arabia-from-human-rights-council-human-rights-groups-say http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/suspend-saudi-arabia-from-human-rights-council-human-rights-groups-say/#comments Thu, 30 Jun 2016 21:56:17 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145882 Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch brief the press. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch brief the press. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 30 2016 (IPS)

Saudi Arabia’s membership in the Human Rights Council (HRC) should be suspended by members of the UN General Assembly, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) said on Wednesday.

The two human rights groups have joined forces to make the exceptional call for action, noting that it is based on Saudi Arabia’s “gross and systematic violations of human rights” in Yemen and domestically.

“We believe that…Saudi Arabia does not deserve to sit anymore on the Human Rights Council,” HRW’s Deputy Director for Global Advocacy Philippe Bolopion said to press here Wednesday.

HRW and AI allege that they have documented 69 unlawful airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, which have killed at least 913 civilians including 200 children.

In total, the UN Human Rights Office estimates that there are more than 9,000 causalities since military operations began in Yemen in March 2015. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that the Saudi-led coalition is responsible for twice as many civilian causalities as all other forces put together.

In a recent report, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon found that the coalition was responsible for 60 percent of recorded child deaths and injuries, and nearly half of the 101 attacks on schools and hospitals.

However, the Secretary-General removed Saudi Arabia from a list of countries that have committed violations against children in that same report earlier this month, after the Gulf state reportedly threatened to withdraw funding from critical UN programs. HRW and AI called the list of countries the “list of shame.”

“I had to make a decision just to have all UN operations, particularly humanitarian operations, continue,” the Secretary-General said upon receiving criticism of the move.

“I also had to consider the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously if, as was suggested to me, countries would defund many UN programs,” he continued.

In response, the Saudi ambassador to the UN Abdallah Al-Mouallimi denied the use of threats and intimidation to remove the country from the list.

“It’s important to defend this very important mandate to protect children affected by armed conflict. Member states of the General Assembly ought to stand up and defend this mandate,” Bennett told the press.

In addition to the UN’s reporting, HRW and AI have also documented 19 attacks by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen involving internationally banned cluster munitions, many of which were in civilian areas such as Sana’a University.

Alongside the nine nation-strong coalition led by Saudi Arabia, Executive Director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa Division Sarah Leah Whitson also noted that the United States and the United Kingdom have “crossed the threshold to become a part of this war” by being principle suppliers of weapons including cluster munitions. In 2015, Saudi Arabia purchased $20 billion of weapons from the U.S. and $4 billion from the UK.

The two Western nations have also provided intelligence support and targeting assistance during the conflict.

This makes them legally responsible for crimes being committed on the ground, Whitson stated.

Meanwhile, the coalition’s naval blockade of Yemen’s ports have drastically limited the supply of food and medicine, leaving over 80 percent of the population in need of some form of humanitarian assistance. This barrier and starvation of civilians is “a method of warfare and a war crime,” Whitson said.

“Failure to act on Saudi Arabia’s gross and systematic human rights violations committed in Yemen and its use of its membership to obstruct independent scrutiny and accountability threatens the credibility of both the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly,” -- Richard Bennett

Saudi and U.S. officials could not immediately be reached for comment, but members of the coalition have repeatedly denied any violations of human rights.

Domestically, Saudi Arabia’s country’s crackdown on dissent has also persisted. In 2015, at least six people, including prominent writers and activists, were punished for the expression of their opinions. One was sentenced to death.

Even speaking to human rights groups such as HRW and AI is an offense, said Director of AI’s Asia-Pacific Program Richard Bennett.

Executions have also surged, Bennett noted.

Just in 2016, at least 95 people have been executed, higher than at the same point last year. Approximately 47 of them were killed in a mass execution in January. Many of these executions are for offenses which, under international law, must not be punishable by death.

Despite the well-documented violations in international humanitarian and human rights law, Saudi Arabia has used its membership in the HRC to shield itself from scrutiny and accountability, the two groups said.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia thwarted a resolution in the HRC that requested an investigation on alleged war crimes and other violations by all sides to the Yemeni conflict. Instead, the country drafted its own resolution that did not include a reference to an independent UN inquiry.

HRW and AI have also called on member states of the General Assembly (UNGA) to act in accordance to Resolution 60/251. The resolution states that the UNGA, with two-thirds of the vote, can suspend the rights of membership in the Council if a member commits human rights violations.

The rule has previously been invoked in 2011 when Libya’s membership was suspended due to human rights violations.

“We realize that the odds are against us,” Bolopion stated when asked about the likelihood of Saudi Arabia being suspended.

But Bolopion hopes the campaign will be a “wake-up call” for other countries to see that they cannot get away with conducting human rights abuses and to clean up their act.

HRW and AI also stressed that action is essential in order to maintain the UN’s integrity.

“Failure to act on Saudi Arabia’s gross and systematic human rights violations committed in Yemen and its use of its membership to obstruct independent scrutiny and accountability threatens the credibility of both the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly,” Bennett concluded.

In March 2015, Saudi Arabia, along with nine Arab states including Egypt and Kuwait, intervened in the Yemeni conflict and has since clashed with Houthi forces.

Despite UN-mediated peace talks which produced a ceasefire, there have been “serious violations” by both parties, the Secretary General said to Yemeni negotiators.

The negotiations are set to resume in mid-July following the Muslim Eid holiday.

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North and South Face Off Over “Right to the City”http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/north-and-south-face-off-over-right-to-the-city/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=north-and-south-face-off-over-right-to-the-city http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/north-and-south-face-off-over-right-to-the-city/#comments Thu, 30 Jun 2016 20:38:59 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145893 Panama City, one of the fastest growing metropolises in Latin America. The Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) will be held in Quito in October and will adopt the New Urban Agenda. Credit: Emilo Godoy/IPS

Panama City, one of the fastest growing metropolises in Latin America. The Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) will be held in Quito in October and will adopt the New Urban Agenda. Credit: Emilo Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Jun 30 2016 (IPS)

The declaration that will be presented for approval at the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in October has again sparked conflict between the opposing positions taken by the industrial North and the developing South.

The aim of the conference, to be held in Quito, Ecuador from October 17-20,  is to reinvigorate the global commitment to sustainable urban development with a “New Urban Agenda,” the outcome strategy of Habitat III.

Developing countries want the declaration to include the right to the city, financing for  the New Urban Agenda that will be agreed at the meeting, and restructuring of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) to implement the agreed commitments. “Long term goals must be put in place that will generate management indicators that can be measured by governments and civil society. Experience related to the social production of habitat should be taken into account, (like that of) people living in informal settlements who have built cities with their capabilities and skills.” - Juan Duhalde

Another bloc, headed by the United States, Japan and the countries of the European Union, is striving to minimise these issues.

In the view of representatives of civil society organisations, these issues should be incorporated into the “Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All,” the draft of which is currently being debated by member states in a several rounds of preparatory meetings.

Juan Duhalde, head of the Social Research Centre at Un Techo para mi País (A Roof for my Country), a Santiago-based international non governmental organisation, told IPS that these are “key” issues and must be included as part of the discussion and be reflected in a concrete action plan.

“They are the general guidelines that will inform national public policies. The only way forward is for these commitments to be translated into long term agreements for the future. Right now discussions are mainly political and may fall short when it comes to bringing about the progress that is required,” said Duhalde.

The Chilean researcher stressed that “the right to the city goes hand in hand with achieving a paradigm shift away from the present situation, which is biased in favour of profitability for an elite rather than collective welfare for all.”

Stark North-South differences were plainly to be seen at the first round of informal intergovernmental talks held May 16-20 in New York. They will continue to fuel the debate at further informal sessions, the first of which will last three days and is due to end on Friday, July 1.

In the run-up to Habitat III, to be hosted by Quito in October, Ecuador and France are co-chairing the preliminary negotiations. The Philippines and Mexico are acting as co- facilitators.

Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Mexico lead a bloc promoting the right to the city. Together with defined mechanisms to follow up the declaration, funding for the New Urban Agenda and implementation measures, the right to the city is major irritant at the talks. Among implementation measures is the creation of a fund to strengthen capabilities in developing countries.

The right to the city, a term coined by French philosopher Henri Lefebvre (1901-1991) in his 1968 book of the same title, refers to a number of simultaneously exercised rights of urban dwellers, such as the rights to food and housing, migration, health and education, a healthy environment, public spaces, political participation and non discrimination.

Household possessions dumped on the pavement: a family was evicted from the historic centre of Mexico City. The United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) will address the right to the city and the problems faced by people living in informal settlements. Credit: Courtesy of Emilio Godoy

Household possessions dumped on the pavement: a family was evicted from the historic centre of Mexico City. The United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) will address the right to the city and the problems faced by people living in informal settlements. Credit: Courtesy of Emilio Godoy

Lorena Zárate, head of the non governmental Habitat International Coalition (HIC) which has regional headquarters in Mexico City, advocates the inclusion of social production of habitat in the declaration. However, it is not explicitly mentioned in the draft declaration.

“We want it to be included, as otherwise it would mean turning a blind eye to half or one-third of what has been constructed in the world. But there is little room to negotiate new additions, because they are afraid of acknowledgeing them, and consensuses have to be built,” said the Argentine-born Zárate, who is participating in the New York meetings.

The concept recognises all those processes that lead to the creation of habitable spaces, urban components and housing, carried out as the initiatives of self-builders and other not-for-profit social agents.

The most recent version of the draft declaration, dated June 18, bases its vision “on the concept of “cities for all” recognises that in some some countries this is “understood as the Right to the City, seeking to ensure that all inhabitants, of present and future generations, are able to inhabit, use, and produce just, inclusive, accessible and sustainable cities, which exist as a common good essential to quality of life.”

States party to the declaration emphasise “the need to carry out the follow-up and review of the New Urban Agenda in order to ensure its effective and timely implementation and progressive impact, as well as its inclusiveness, legitimacy and accountability.”

Moreover they stress the importance of strengthening the Agenda and its monitoring process, and invite the U.N. General Assembly to “guarantee stable, adequate and reliable financial resources, and enhance the capability of developing nations” for designing, planning and implementing and sustainably managing urban and other settlements.

They also request that UN-Habitat prepare a periodic progress report on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, to provide quantitative and qualitative analysis of the progress achieved.

The process of report preparation should incorporate the views of national, sub-national and local governments, as well as the United Nations System, including regional commissions, stakeholders from multilateral organizations, civil society, the private sector, communities, and other groups and non-state actors, the draft declaration says.

A building being renovated in Havana, Cuba. Developing countries want the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development to provide the necessary funding to promote the New Urban Agenda, to be adopted by UN-Habitat. Credit: Courtesy of Emilio Godoy

A building being renovated in Havana, Cuba. Developing countries want the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development to provide the necessary funding to promote the New Urban Agenda, to be adopted by UN-Habitat. Credit: Courtesy of Emilio Godoy

The outline of the draft declaration report has section headings on sustainable and inclusive urban prosperity and opportunities for all; sustainable urban development for social inclusion and the eradication of poverty; environmentally sound and resilient urban development; planning and managing urban spatial development; means of implementation and review.

“It’s (like) a soap opera saga. Right now we are trying to contribute ideas to strengthen the proposal for the right to the city. In the draft, this issue is diluted out; we do not want it to be further diluted,” a Latin American official participating in the negotiations told IPS.

“The United States and China do not want the text to contain references to human rights,” the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

It is expected that the draft declaration will be finalised at the meeting of the Habitat III preparatory committee (PrepCom3) to be held July 25-27 in Indonesia, and be presented for approval by U.N. member states at the full Habitat III conference in Quito.

To avoid a repetition of the sequels to the 1976 Vancouver Habitat I conference and the 1996 Habitat II conference in Istanbul, which were not evaluated afterwards, Duhalde and Zárate both wish to see a comprehensive review and follow-up programme established.

“Long term goals must be included and management indicators must be created that can be measured by governments and social actors. The experience in social production of habitat acquired by people living in informal settlements who have built cities with their capabilities and skills must be taken into account,” said Duhalde.

“We are keen to see the generation of evidence and promotion of research into real problems on the ground, in order to generate practical solutions,” he said.

In Zárate’s view, progress cannot be made in debating a new agenda without having evaluated fulfillment of the previous programme goals.

“There must be a means of discerning what is new and what is still ongoing, what has been successfully done and what has not been achieved, why some things were done and why some were not, and what actors have been involved. There have never been clear mechanisms for review monitoring nor for prioritisation,” she said.

“We are adamant that this should not happen again. But they are not going to include goals or indicators, and there is not much clarity about review and monitoring mechanisms,” she said.

The Latin American official consulted by IPS downplayed the likely achievements of the summit. “Habitat III will only be a reference point. There will be no major changes overnight after October 21. National governments will do whatever they intend to do, with their own resources, their own political and social forces, and their own governance,” he predicted.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez. Translated by Valerie Dee.

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Post-War Truth and Justice Still Elusive in Bougainvillehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/post-war-truth-and-justice-still-elusive-in-bougainville/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=post-war-truth-and-justice-still-elusive-in-bougainville http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/post-war-truth-and-justice-still-elusive-in-bougainville/#comments Thu, 30 Jun 2016 13:24:25 +0000 Catherine Wilson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145886 Buildings gutted and scarred by the Bougainville civil war are still visible in the main central town of Arawa. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

Buildings gutted and scarred by the Bougainville civil war are still visible in the main central town of Arawa. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

By Catherine Wilson
ARAWA, Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, Jun 30 2016 (IPS)

Almost every family in the islands of Bougainville, an autonomous region of about 300,000 people in the Pacific Island state of Papua New Guinea, has a story to tell of death and suffering during the decade long civil war (1989-1998), known as ‘the Crisis.’

Yet fifteen years after the 2001 peace agreement, there is no accurate information about the scale of atrocities which occurred to inform ongoing peace and reconciliation efforts being supported by the government and international donors. Now members of civil society and grassroots communities are concerned that lack of truth telling and transitional justice is hindering durable reconciliation.

“I believe there should be a truth telling program here and I think the timing is right,” Helen Hakena, Director of the Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency, a local non-government organisation, told IPS.

“It is nearly twenty years [since the conflict] and some people have moved on with their lives, while there are others who have just cut off all sense of belonging because they are still hurting.”

Bernard Unabali, Catholic Bishop of Bougainville, concurs. “Truth is absolutely necessary, there is no doubt it is an absolutely necessary thing for peace and justice,” he declared.“People have been accused of killing others during the Crisis and that has carried on in the form of recent killings." -- Rosemary Dekaung

In these tropical rainforest covered islands it is estimated that around 20,000 people, or 10 percent of the population at the time, lost their lives and 60,000 were displaced as the Papua New Guinean military and armed revolutionary groups fought for territorial control. The conflict erupted in 1989 after indigenous landowners, outraged at loss of customary land, environmental devastation and socioeconomic inequality associated with the Rio Tinto majority-owned Panguna copper mine in Central Bougainville, launched a successful campaign to shut it down.

“There is a lot to be done on truth telling. When we talk about the Crisis-related problems our ideas are all mangled together and we are just talking on the surface, not really uprooting what is beneath, what really happened,” said Barbara Tanne, Executive Officer of the Bougainville Women’s Federation in the capital, Buka.

Judicial and non-judicial forms of truth and justice are widely perceived by experts as essential for post-war reconciliation. The wisdom is that if a violent past is left unaddressed, trauma, social divisions and mistrust will remain and fester into further forms of conflict.

Failure to address wartime abuses in Bougainville is considered a factor in resurgent payback and sorcery-related violence, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reports. A study of 1,743 people in Bougainville published last year by the UNDP revealed that one in five men had engaged in sorcery-related violence, while one in two men and one in four women had been witnesses.

Rosemary Dekaung believes that recent witchcraft killings in her rural community of Domakungwida, Central Bougainville, have their origins in the Crisis.

“People have been accused of killing others during the Crisis and that has carried on in the form of recent killings,” she said.

Stephanie Elizah, the Bougainville Government’s Acting Director of Peace, said that transitional justice is a sensitive topic with the ex-combatants due to the partial amnesty period which was agreed to apply only to the period of 1988 to 1995. However, she admits that many reconciliations taking place are not addressing the extent of grievances.

“From feedback from communities that have gone through reconciliation we know that it has not truly addressed a lot of the issues that individuals have….the victims, the perpetrators, those who have been involved in some form of injustice to the next human being; some of them have been allowed to just go and be forgotten,” Elizah said.

International law endorses the rights of any person who has suffered atrocities to know the truth of events, to know the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives and see justice done.

In 2014 the Bougainville Government introduced a new missing persons policy, which aims to assist families locate and retrieve the remains of loved ones who disappeared during the Crisis, but excludes compensation or bringing perpetrators to justice.

It is yet to be implemented with three years to go before Bougainville plans a referendum on Independence in 2019.

“A truth commission must be established so people can tell the truth before they make their choice for the political future of Bougainville. Because when we decide our choice, problems associated with the conflict must be addressed,” Alex Amon Jr, President of the Suir Youth Federation, North Bougainville, declared.

Hakena believes there are repercussions if transitional justice doesn’t occur.

“It is happening now. Elderly people are passing on their negative experiences to their sons, who have not experienced that, and who will continue to hate the perpetrator’s family. Years later some of these kids will not know why they hate those people and there will be repercussions,” she elaborated.

The government is planning a review of its peace and security framework this year during which there will be an opportunity to explore people’s views on transitional justice, Elizah said.

The benefits of establishing a truth commission include a state-endorsed public platform for everyone to have their stories heard, give testimony of human rights abuses for possible further investigation and for recommendations to be made on legal and institutional reforms.

At the grassroots, people also point to the immense potential of implementing more widely customary processes of truth telling that have been used for generations.

“We do have traditional ceremonies where everybody comes together, the perpetrators and the victims and all others who are affected and they will thrash and throw out everything. That is very much like a truth commission, where, in the end, they say this is what we did,” Rosemary Moses at the Bougainville Women’s Federation in Arawa said.

Unabali agreed that durable peace should be built first on traditional truth telling mechanisms, which had widespread legitimacy in the minds of individuals and communities, even if a truth commission was also considered.

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The Geography of Povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-geography-of-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-geography-of-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-geography-of-poverty/#comments Thu, 30 Jun 2016 08:20:40 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145878 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-geography-of-poverty/feed/ 0 Uganda Rolls Out Compulsory Immunization to Dispel Anti-Vaccine Mythshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/uganda-rolls-out-compulsory-immunization-to-dispel-anti-vaccine-myths/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uganda-rolls-out-compulsory-immunization-to-dispel-anti-vaccine-myths http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/uganda-rolls-out-compulsory-immunization-to-dispel-anti-vaccine-myths/#comments Wed, 29 Jun 2016 17:49:56 +0000 Amy Fallon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145876 Women wait to immunize their children at the Kisugu Health Centre in Kampala, Uganda, where free vaccinations take place. The nurse in the foreground is Betty Makakeeto. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

Women wait to immunize their children at the Kisugu Health Centre in Kampala, Uganda, where free vaccinations take place. The nurse in the foreground is Betty Makakeeto. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

By Amy Fallon
KAMPALA, Jun 29 2016 (IPS)

Patience*, a Ugandan maid, planned on taking her three-year-old son for polio immunization during the country’s mass campaigns a year ago, until her landlord’s wife told her a shocking myth.

“The medicine they are injecting them with means the boy when he’s an adult won’t be able to reproduce,” Patience, 32, recalled to IPS what she’d been informed. “She said: ‘Don’t even think about immunization’.”

Patience said that in her neighborhood, the Kyebando slum in Kampala, many families “lied to medical personnel” because they were “terrified” about what this woman had told them.

Earlier this year, the country’s president signed the Immunization Act 2016, prescribing fines, a jail term of six months or both, for parents who don’t vaccinate their children in the age bracket of five days to one year old.“They said the vaccines are made out of pigs, wild animals, (that) our children will behave like wild animals.” -- MP Huda Oleru

The Act also requires the production of an immunization card before admission to day care centres, pre-primary or primary education. It also aims to provide for compulsory immunization of women of reproductive age and other target groups against immunisable diseases.

According to the legislation, passed by Parliament last year, diseases for which immunization is compulsory include tuberculosis, whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B, polio and measles.

One in five African children still do not receive all of the most basic vaccines they need, including ones for three critical diseases—measles, rubella and neonatal tetanus – a report issued by WHO at the first ministerial on Immunization in Africa, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in February.

Uganda was ranked lowest in east Africa for immunization coverage, with one example being the country’s 2014 diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3) coverage which was at 78 percent compared to DRC (80 percent) Kenya (81 percent), Tanzania (97 percent) and Rwanda (99 percent).

According to outgoing female MP Huda Oleru, who tabled the private member’s bill in 2011, the biggest obstacle to vaccination in Uganda was the 666 cult made up of more 500 members but “growing” across the country, who refuse to immunize their children.

“They said the vaccines are made out of pigs, wild animals, (that) our children will behave like wild animals,” Oleru told IPS.

Oleru is continuing talks with the groups in eastern Uganda, and said she hoped “in the long-term” they would come around.

But for now the law was the “easiest way” of getting them to immunize their children.

“When I entered Parliament (ten years ago), I realised that we didn’t have an immunisation law, and a law is guidance or directive and it guides us in areas of impunity,” said Oleru.

At least ten members of a Christian group were detained over refusing to vaccinate their children against polio, the Daily Monitor reported last month.

Dr. Henry Luzze, the deputy program manager of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization, told IPS the government was currently vaccinating against ten diseases. It had submitted an application to GAVI ((the Vaccine Alliance) and received approval to introduce the rotavirus vaccine for diarrhea in children, a “big problem”. They were also looking at introducing a rubella vaccine by 2018 and a second measles vaccination to be given at 18 months.

Measles were still a huge threat, after outbreaks last year in western Uganda, he said.

“We still have some districts and communities that are still below what we want in terms of coverage in the eastern part of the country, areas where there are very high hills and no transport,” said Dr Luze.

Children were also not being vaccinated due to shortages in a number of facilities at a district level, but through recent support from GAVI, Uganda was able to procure solar powered fridges to keep the vaccines in areas prone to power cuts.

The influx of refugees from Burundi, DRC and South Sudan, where immunization rates are low, pose another challenge to Uganda. Late last month at least three cases of yellow fever were confirmed here, with scores of cases suspected.

According to the new Act, “the government shall provide free vaccines and other related services to every Ugandan required to receive vaccination”.

Dr Luzze said the law was good as it was balanced and compels the government to “make sure all the vaccination services are in place”.

“After that, then you commit the parents or the caretakers to make sure all their children are vaccinated,” said Dr Luzze, claiming the legislation “empowers CSOs to challenge the government”, who could be taken to court over shortages.

But there has already been some criticism from Ugandans that the law is too harsh, and during a recent mass polio campaign, held in March, there were reports that about 2,000 children below the age of five missed out on immunizations in Karamoja, northeastern Uganda, according to the country’s Daily Monitor newspaper.

The Act also creates the establishment of an Immunization Fund, house by the ministry of health, to “purchase vaccines and related supplies, cold chains, and funding of immunization outreach activities”.

Sources will be made of up monies appropriate by Parliament for the fund and donations.

“GAVI has been supporting this country so much and they’re still giving, but the challenge is GAVI has its criteria,” said Oleru. “Soon we might become a middle-income country, then we shall not be eligible (for support) under GAVI.”

Luzze said he believed the law would be easy to enforce because “the president, the ministers, the parliamentarians, religious leaders” all supported it.

President Yoweri Museveni was “aggressive” about promoting immunization because he believes it saves “families from spending too much money and time caring for sick members”, among other reasons, said his spokesperson Lindah Nabusayi.

Dr Moses Byaruhanga, the director of medical and health services for Uganda’s police, told IPS the authorities would go on radio talk shows to talk about the law, but would be strict on it.

“Police will be able to find out if (parents) did not take their kids for immunization,” he said, adding health workers, local leaders and schools would be the eyes and ears of the community.

International immunization experts such as Mike McQuestion, director of sustainable immunization financing at Sabin Vaccine Institute in the US, have praised the new legislation as a “textbook example of good governance”.

“The way the Ugandans created this law was itself impressive,” he told IPS. “Several public institutions had to work together to write it, vet it and push it through.”

In late March, about two weeks after it emerged the law had passed, Patience had her son immunized against polio, during a door-to-door mass campaign.

“It was very easy, they just put a drop in the mouth, then a mark on the finger,” she said, adding it took only three minutes.

Patience admitted she had been “partly” worried about going to jail under the new law, and that was the reason she’d chosen to vaccinate her son. But she said the nurse had told her “you shouldn’t not vaccinate him because you’ll be arrested, but because he can get sick”.

“I think now he is free from becoming sick,” said Patience.

*Patience’s name was changed for personal reasons.

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Let There Be Work: Italian Ministry of the Interior Announces Initiative on Employment of Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/let-there-be-work-italian-ministry-of-the-interior-announces-initiative-on-employment-of-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=let-there-be-work-italian-ministry-of-the-interior-announces-initiative-on-employment-of-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/let-there-be-work-italian-ministry-of-the-interior-announces-initiative-on-employment-of-refugees/#comments Wed, 29 Jun 2016 11:29:38 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145874 An exceedingly high death toll of refugees and migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean sea into Italy during the first five months of 2016 indicates the gravity of Europe’s current migrant crisis. For those who do survive the life-threatening journey, opportunities to establish themselves and progress in Italy are few and far between. The need for immediate governmental action is essential. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS.

An exceedingly high death toll of refugees and migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean sea into Italy during the first five months of 2016 indicates the gravity of Europe’s current migrant crisis. For those who do survive the life-threatening journey, opportunities to establish themselves and progress in Italy are few and far between. The need for immediate governmental action is essential. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS.

By Rose Delaney
ROME, Jun 29 2016 (IPS)

Thus far, 2016 has proved fatal for the thousands of migrants crossing the Mediterranean in a bid to find safety in Italy. Alarmingly, between January and March, a spiralling death toll was recorded among refugees and migrants attempting to reach Italy by boat from North Africa.

According to William Spindler of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)  “Some 2’510 lives have been lost so far, compared to 1’855 in the same period in 2015 and 57 in the first five months of 2014.” Ironically, many migrants would regard risking their lives on the exceptionally treacherous sea route as the easiest part of their journey to Italy. Upon arrival, they are, in most cases made subject to unemployment, homelessness, legal disenfranchisement, arrest, and detention in Centers for Identification and Expulsion (CIE).

In many ways, life appears bleak and opportunities limited for the thousands of displaced people willing to stop at nothing in their search for a peaceful home that will grant them the fundamental human right to safety and security.

Fortunately, after years of dispute over the rights of refugees and migrants in Italy, the Italian Ministry of the Interior (Ministero Dell’Interno) has drawn attention to the importance of providing migrants with sustainable, productive livelihoods by agreeing to an employment initiative for refugees in conjunction with the General Confederation of Italian Industry otherwise known as Confindustria.

“We were immigrants and we welcome immigrants, on the integration wager we must have vision and courage”. Minister of the Interior, Angelino Alfano
The agreed employment initiative for refugees and migrants is particularly critical at this juncture due to the increasing number of migrants determined to seek refuge on Italy’s shores. In late May, The Daily Mail of the U.K reported an arrival of over 1’000 illegal immigrants only permitted access into Italy after threatening to throw the babies aboard their ship into the ocean if they were forcibly turned back.

In the same month, at least 880 people were reported to have drowned in shipwrecks and boat capsizing in the Mediterranean. In this sense, desperate times really do call for desperate measures. The catastrophic incidents which threatened and took the lives of countless highlights the need for innovative measures and the failure of current migrant regulation in Italy.

When the European Commission presented options for reforming the Common European Asylum System, the Italian Council for Refugees (CIR) considered it unconvincing and lacking innovation. As Christopher Hein of CIR explained, “The approach adopted by the Commission is extremely limited and the basic principle to determine the state responsible for examining the asylum request remains substantially unchanged: it continues to strongly handicap, first of all, asylum seekers and secondly, the countries in which they arrive first.”

On a national level, there have also been significant setbacks presented to refugees and migrants from the Bossi-Fini law first implemented in 2002.  This law restricts the aiding and abetting of illegal immigrants. This is why in late May, migrants were willing to threaten the sacrifice of their own children rather than turn their ship back, the Bossi-Fini law requires authorities to dismiss and silence their pleas for protection and refuge.

The law also states that any immigrants found in international waters, formerly outside the patrolling power of Italy, can be sent back to their country or neighboring countries. It has been received with widespread criticism from international humanitarian organizations.

In fact, forced deportation in international waters not only contravenes Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 “Every man is free to leave his land”, it also defies the Geneva Convention of 1951 as the majority of refugees are sent back and offered no protection.

However, life is not any easier for those who succeed in their quest to secure refuge in Italy. As one refugee responded to a journalist from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting when asked on where he plans to be in a month, “I hope to be dead. When you are here there is no future.”

Undoubtedly, the situation has proved itself exceedingly difficult for displaced people in Italy over the past number of years. When scrutinized, the Italian Government has responded by stating its immigrant and refugee policies are combating terrorism. On the other side of the specter, human rights activists view this logic as nothing more than the creation of inhumane and undignified circumstances for refugees and migrants.

Luciano Scagliotti, Italian Coordinator for the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) has explained the consequences of the government’s “fight against terrorism” and how it has led to more and more refugees and migrants turning to the black market and facing exploitation. This includes working for mafia organizations to harvest produce in Turin’s countryside or in Italy’s southern provinces for two to four Euros a day.

In light of the increasing number of refugees arriving on a daily basis, recognizing the fundamental role Italy plays in Europe’s current migrant crisis is vital. On the 23rd of June, a significant development was achieved when the president of the General Confederation of Italian Industry, Vincenzo Boccia, and the Minister of the Interior, Angelino Alfano signed an agreement on inclusion in work for refugees.

The initiative aims to provide refugees and migrants with state-funded professional training, internships and employment by enterprises nationwide. It will initially be implemented for a three year period and renewed if successful.  Minister Alfano concluded the signing of the agreement by stating that “We were immigrants and we welcome immigrants, on the integration wager we must have vision and courage”.

The initiative led by the Italian government agency emphasizes the fact that the refugee crisis is not a one-time emergency, as seas of migrants flood into Europe, the Ministry of the Interior acknowledges that this is a long-term issue that needs to be dealt with through sustainable solutions.

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Preventable Child Deaths Not Always Linked to Poorest Countries: UNICEFhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/preventable-child-deaths-not-always-linked-to-poorest-countries-unicef/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=preventable-child-deaths-not-always-linked-to-poorest-countries-unicef http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/preventable-child-deaths-not-always-linked-to-poorest-countries-unicef/#comments Wed, 29 Jun 2016 02:01:10 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145867 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/preventable-child-deaths-not-always-linked-to-poorest-countries-unicef/feed/ 1 The Case for Cash in Humanitarian Emergencieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-case-for-cash-in-humanitarian-emergencies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-case-for-cash-in-humanitarian-emergencies http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-case-for-cash-in-humanitarian-emergencies/#comments Tue, 28 Jun 2016 22:23:50 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145860 Credit: Servaas van den Bosch/IPS

Credit: Servaas van den Bosch/IPS

By Phillip Kaeding
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 28 2016 (IPS)

Currently only six percent of humanitarian aid worldwide comes in the form of cash handouts, yet many aid organisations believe that cash transfers should be seen as the rule, not the exception.

Both the World Food Program (WFP) and World Vision International, who work together in Somalia, South Sudan and other crisis-ridden countries, stressed the advantages of cash instead of in kind allowances at a meeting held here Monday.

“There is no longer a question about ‘does cash work’ or ‘is cash the right tool’,” said Amir Mahmoud Abdulla, Deputy Executive director of the WFP.

George Fenton of World Vision explained:

“Digital humanitarian cash transfers are one of the most significant and most exciting innovations of today. They offer… a greater dignity, choice and flexibility for crisis-affected people.”

Due to increasingly widespread mobile phone ownership, cash transfers are now often made digitally. In some circumstances, including refugee camps, aid organisations may hand out cash directly.

The transfers are usually given unconditionally, since this is considered an effective way to provide assistance to a person in need. Whereas in-kind assistance such as food or materials, may not suit the specific needs of the recipient, cash transfers allow recipients to spend money on their most urgent needs, while also supporting local markets.

“Cash transfers turn notions of aid and charity on their head. Rather than the giver deciding that people need food or clothes, the choice is with the people themselves," -- Sarah Bailey.

However, while cash transfers have been considered successful in the settings where they have so far been rolled out, humanitarian organisations, such as the World Bank now want to work out how to make wider use of the concept. As Amir Abdulla put it: “How do we take it to scale?”

In order to do this, some obstacles need to be overcome, methods of delivery have to be streamlined and there has to be a response to the “need to marry cash and technology,” as Fenton puts it.

Colin Bruce, senior advisor to the World Bank President, told the meeting about upcoming challenges: “Until we can better coordinate those processes (needs assessments and response analyses), it’s going to be very difficult to get the kind of upstream thinking, funding and programming necessary to take cash to scale.”

Secondly, a “change in mindsets” has to take place, as Sarah Bailey told IPS this week. Bailey is a Research Associate at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and was on the High Level Panel on Humanitarian Cash Transfers which produced the report Doing Cash Differently. She explained to IPS that “cash transfers turn notions of aid and charity on their head. Rather than the giver deciding that people need food or clothes, the choice is with the people themselves.”

The desired shift to cash-based aid is closely linked to the fund-raising side of humanitarian programs. Charlotte Lattimer of the non-profit research organization Development Initiatives emphasized that although funding increased in the last year, there still exists “an enormous shortfall in terms of meeting humanitarian needs”.

Donors are increasingly asking for more transparency and more precise reporting on exactly how funds are spent, which is difficult if it is spent by the recipients instead of the aid organization.

Still “cash transfers are a tangible opportunity for more aid transparency because it’s easier to track the movement of money than the movement of food and buckets. Far from cash transfers being a risk to accountability, cash can be a vehicle for it,” Bailey told IPS.

Further research may help determine whether cash transfers can provide the transparency donors ask for. With innovations in the field of digital transactions and mobile banking and payment, the infrastructure for new aid delivery concepts improves year by year.

It is this development that aid organizations hope will catch the attention of donors. Bailey explained to IPS why she is convinced that cash transfers will become more and more important. At the end of the day, financial arguments decide financial questions: “Delivering cash is cheaper than delivering in-kind aid. You do not need to rent a warehouse and hire a driver to get money to people. As aid agencies use cash more it will become even cheaper with economies of scale.”

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Biogas Brings Heat and Light to Pakistan’s Rural Poorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/biogas-brings-heat-and-light-to-pakistans-rural-poor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biogas-brings-heat-and-light-to-pakistans-rural-poor http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/biogas-brings-heat-and-light-to-pakistans-rural-poor/#comments Tue, 28 Jun 2016 19:08:30 +0000 Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145856 Nabela Zainab prepares tea on the biogas stove in her home in Faisalabad, Pakistan. The stove has eased indoor air pollution and restored her health. Credit: Saleem Shaikh/IPS

Nabela Zainab prepares tea on the biogas stove in her home in Faisalabad, Pakistan. The stove has eased indoor air pollution and restored her health. Credit: Saleem Shaikh/IPS

By Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio
FAISALABAD, Pakistan, Jun 28 2016 (IPS)

Nabela Zainab no longer chokes and coughs when she cooks a meal, thanks to the new biogas-fueled two-burner stove in her kitchen.

Zainab, 38, from Faisalabad, a town 360 kilometers from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, is among the beneficiaries of a flagship pilot biogas project to free poor households and farmers of their dependence on wood, cattle dung and diesel fuel for cooking needs and running irrigation pumps.

She got the biogas unit, worth 400 dollars, at a 50 percent subsidised rate from the NGO Rural Support Programme Network under the latter’s five-year Pakistan Domestic Biogas Programme (PDBP).

In the past, Zainab had to collect wood from a distant forest three times a week and carry it home balanced on her head.

“Getting rid of that routine is a life-changing experience,” she told IPS.

The four-cubic-meter biogas plant requires the dung of three buffalos every day to meet the energy needs of a four-member family, including cooking, heating, washing and bathing for 24 hours.

It saves nearly 160 kg of fuelwood a day, worth 20 to 25 dollars every month for a four-member family.

The wife of a smallholder vegetable farmer, Zainab says she has suffered from a cough and sore eyes for the last 20 years. “We have no access to piped natural gas in our village. The rising cost of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) was not feasible either for us poor. However, we had no choice but to continue burning buffalo dung cakes or fuelwood,” she said.

Last January, cattle farmer Amir Nawaz installed a biogas plant of eight-cubic-meter capacity at a cost of 700 dollars under the PDBP. He got subsidy of nearly 300 dollars.

“I am now saving nearly 60 dollars a month that I used to spend on LPG,” he told IPS.

His plant is fueled by the dung of his six buffalos — enough to meet household gas needs for cooking and heating.

Nawaz also uses biogas to power wall-mounted lamps in his house at night, saving another 15 dollars a month.

“Above all, this has helped our children do schoolwork and for me to finish up the household chores in the evening hours,” Nawaz’s wife, Shaista Bano, said with a smile.

As many as 5,360 biogas plants of varying sizes have been installed in 12 districts of Punjab province over five years (2009-2015), ridding nearly 43,000 people of exposure to smoke from wood and kerosene.

Nearby, 500 large biogas plants of the 25-cubic-meter capacity each have also been introduced in all 12 districts of Punjab province under the PBDP, namely: Faisalabad, Sargodha, Khushab, Jhang, Chniot, Toba Tek Singh, Shekhapura, Gujranwala, Sahiwal, Pakpatan, Nankana Sahib and Okara.

Such plants provide gas for a family of 10 for cooking, heating and running irrigation pumps for six hours daily.

Rab Nawaz bought one of these large plants for 1,700 dollars. PBDP provided him a subsidy of 400 dollars as part of its biogas promotion in the area.

“I use the dung of 18 buffalos to produce nearly 40 cubic meters of gas every day to run my diesel-turned-biogas-run irrigation pump for six hours and cooking stove for three times a day,” he told IPS, while shoveling out his cattle pen in Sargodha.

The father of three says that after eliminating diesel — which is damaging to the environment and health, as well as expensive — he saves 10-12 dollars daily.

As a part of sustainability of the biogas programme, 50 local biogas construction companies have been set up. International technical experts trained nearly 450 people in construction, maintenance and repair of the biogas units.

Initiated in 2009 by the non-governmental organization National Rural Support Programme – Pakistan (NRSP-Pakistan), PBDP was financed by the Netherlands Embassy in Pakistan and technical support was extended by Winrock International and SNV (Netherlands-based nongovernmental development organisations).

“The biogas programme aimed to establish a commercially viable biogas sector. To that extent, the main actors at the supply side of the sector are private Biogas Construction Enterprises (BCEs) providing biogas construction and after sales services to households. At the demand side of the sector, Rural Support Programmes organized under the RSPN will be the main implementing partners, but will also include NGOs, farmers’ organizations and dairy organizations,” NRSP CEO Shandana Khan told IPS.

“The 5,600 biogas plants are now saving nearly 13,000 tons of fuelwood burning worth two million dollars and 169,600 liters of kerosene oil for night lamp use,” she said.

“Implemented at a total cost of around 3.3 million dollars, the biogas plants have helped reduce the average three to four hours a woman spent collecting fuel-wood and cooking daily. These women now get enough time for socialization, economic activity and health is returning to households thanks to the biogas plants… which provide instant gas for cooking, healing and dishwashing,” she said.

More significantly, the programme is helping avoid nearly 16,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, she calculated.

At present around 18 percent of households in Pakistan, mostly in urban areas, have access to natural gas. Over 80 percent of rural people rely on biomass (wood, cattle dung, dried straw, etc) for cooking, heating and other household chores, according to Pakistan’s Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB).

Chairman of the AEDB Khawaja Muhammad Asif said, “It is unviable for the large number of rural households to have access to piped natural gas. However, biogas offer a promising and viable solution to meet energy needs of the households in the country’s rural areas, which are home to 60 percent of the people live and 80 percent of over 180 million cattle heads.”

He argued that some 80 million cattle and buffaloes and an estimated 100 million sheep and goats and 400 million poultry birds in the country can also provide sufficient raw material for substantial production of biogas.

“This way, the biogas can be tapped to cope with a range of health, environmental and health and economic benefits,” he stressed.

Pakistan is home to over 160 million head of cattle (buffalo, cow, camel, donkey, goat and lamb). The dung of these livestock can feed five million biogas plants of varying sizes, according to energy experts at the National University of Science and Technology (Islamabad) and Faisalabad Agriculture University (Punjab province).

This can help plug the yawning gas supply gap. According to government figures, 73 percent of 200 million people (a majority of them in rural areas) have no access to piped natural gas. Such people rely on LPG gas cylinders and fuelwood.

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Drought Prompts Debate on Cuba’s Irrigation Problemshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/drought-prompts-debate-on-cubas-irrigation-problems/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drought-prompts-debate-on-cubas-irrigation-problems http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/drought-prompts-debate-on-cubas-irrigation-problems/#comments Tue, 28 Jun 2016 13:14:16 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145849 Low water in a nearby reservoir prevented the use of this central pivot machine for spray irrigation on the state-owned La Yuraguana farm for several days this year due to the severe drought affecting Holguín province and many other areas in Cuba. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

Low water in a nearby reservoir prevented the use of this central pivot machine for spray irrigation on the state-owned La Yuraguana farm for several days this year due to the severe drought affecting Holguín province and many other areas in Cuba. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

By Ivet González
HOLGUÍN, Cuba, Jun 28 2016 (IPS)

Five gargantuan modern irrigation machines water the state farm of La Yuraguana covering 138 hectares in the northeastern province of Holguín, the third largest province in Cuba. However, “sometimes they cannot even be switched on, due to the low water level,” said farm manager Edilberto Pupo.

“The last three years have been very stressful due to lack of rainfall. We take our irrigation water from a reservoir that has practically run dry,” Pupo told IPS. In 2008 La Yuraguana received new irrigation equipment financed by international aid.

Central pivot machines are a form of overhead water sprinkler that imitates the action of rain. The machinery is assembled in Cuba using European parts.

Since late 2014 Cuba has endured the worst drought of the past 115 years.

The extremely dry weather has sounded an alarm call drawing attention to the urgent need to modernise and change water management practices in response to climate challenges, and to other problems such as water wastage from leaky supply networks, inefficient water storage and conservation policies and absence of water metering at the point of use.

National reforms begun in 2008 have not yet achieved the hoped-for lift-off in agricultural production. Farming, however, is the main consumer of water in this Caribbean country, responsible for using 65 percent of the island’s total fresh water supply for irrigation, fish farming and livestock.

Future difficulties loom on the horizon, because droughts are becoming more seasonal in nature in the Caribbean region due to climate change, according to a new report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) published June 21. 

“Agriculture is the most likely sector to be impacted, with serious economic and social consequences,” the FAO report says. “Most of Caribbean agriculture is rainfed, and demand for fresh water is increasing with irrigation use becoming more widespread in the region.”

The Caribbean region accounts for seven of the world’s top 36 water-stressed countries, FAO said.

The eastern part of Cuba suffers most from droughts, and its population, alongside small farmers in Holguín province, has its own methods of addressing the problem of lack of rainfall. They say that in extreme droughts, irrigation equipment is of little use.

“At the most critical time we had to plant resistant crops like yucca (cassava) and plantains (starchy bananas that require cooking) that can survive until it rains,” Pupo said, speaking about the cooperative farm which sells vegetables, grains, fruit and root crops to the city of Holguín’s 287,800 people.

Julio César Pérez weeds a cassava (yucca) field on a farm owned by the Eduardo R. Chibás Credit and Services Cooperative in the eastern Cuban province of Holguín. An irrigation system installed in 2010 has increased the cooperative’s yields by 70 percent. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

Julio César Pérez weeds a cassava (yucca) field on a farm owned by the Eduardo R. Chibás Credit and Services Cooperative in the eastern Cuban province of Holguín. An irrigation system installed in 2010 has increased the cooperative’s yields by 70 percent. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

La Yuraguana employs  93 workers, 14 of whom are women. Its 2016 production target is 840 tonnes of food, for direct sale to markets in the city of Holguín, in the adjacent municipality.

“We hope Saint Peter will come to our aid, that the rains will come and fill the reservoir, so that we can water our crops and keep on producing,” said Pérez. Devout rural folk call on Saint Peter, whose feast day is June 29, to intercede on their behalf because they believe the saint is able to bring rain.

Cuba’s total agricultural land area is about 6.24 million hectares out of its total surface of nearly 11 million hectares. Only 460,000 hectares of arable land is under irrigation, mostly with outdated equipment and technology, according to the government report titled “Panorama uso de la tierra. Cuba 2015” (Overview of land use: Cuba 2015).

At present only about 11 percent of the land used to raise crops is irrigated, but FAO forecasts that by 2020 the area equipped for irrigation will nearly double, to some 875,600 hectares, through a programme launched in 2011 to modernise machinery and reorganise farm irrigation and drainage.

Use of irrigation increases average crop yields by up to 30 percent, experts say.

Cuban authorities want to boost local production in order to reduce expenditure on purchasing imported food to meet demand from the island’s 11.2 million people, and from the influx of tourists – there were three million visitors to Cuba in 2015. The bill for imported food is two billion dollars a year.

Agricultural scientist Theodor Friedrich, the FAO representative in Cuba, told IPS that “irrigation is not the answer to drought.”

This Caribbean island “should curb the use of irrigation rather than extend it,” he warned, because exploiting water sources, especially underground aquifers, could lead to “degradation and accelerated salinisation of water resources.”

A better course of action, he said, is to “implement water conservation measures at once, including the reduction of leakage losses throughout the piped water distribution network, avoidance of all forms of sprinkling irrigation, watering the soil directly and irrigating according to the particular needs of the crop, not forgetting to take into account long-range meteorological forecasts.”

In Friedrich’s view, sustainable solutions must be based “on soil management” and conservation techniques.He pointed out that eco-friendly organic agriculture “achieves greater production yields with less water and opens up the soil so that rainwater can infiltrate to the fullest depths and refill aquifers.”

This ditch for collecting rainwater in the rural outskirts of Holguín, a city in eastern Cuba, is used by small farmers to water their cattle. Now it is almost empty due to the drought. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

This ditch for collecting rainwater in the rural outskirts of Holguín, a city in eastern Cuba, is used by small farmers to water their cattle. Now it is almost empty due to the drought. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

Cuba is not blessed with any large lakes or rivers, and so is reliant on rainfall, captured in 242 dammed reservoirs and dozens of artificial minilakes.

Local experts agree with FAO’s Friedrich that over-exploitation of underground water reserves should be discouraged because of the risk of causing salinisation and losing fresh water sources.

The present drought in Cuba was triggered by the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate phenomenon, which has had devastating effects in Latin America this year. Shortage of water has affected 75 percent of Cuban territory, according to official sources, with the worst effects being felt in Santiago de Cuba, a province adjacent to Holguín.

In spite of steps taken to put the water consumption needs of people before agricultural and industrial uses, one million people experienced some limitation on their access to water in May, said the state National Institute of Water Resources. 

On June 20 the European Union announced an additional grant of 100,000 euros (113,000 dollars) to Cuba via the Red Cross, as disaster relief for 10,000 drought victims in Santiago de Cuba. The funds are intended to improve access to safe drinking water and to deliver transport equipment, reservoirs and materials for water treatment and quality control.

However, many of those responsible for the agriculture and small farming sectors still see irrigation as the key to boosting production.

“Yields under irrigation when necessary are much higher than when one just waits for nature to take its course,” said Abdul González, deputy mayor in charge of agriculture for the municipal government of Holguín. Unfortunately “80 percent of our land under crops lacks irrigation,” he told IPS.

“Small farmers from all forms of agricultural production (state, private and cooperative) are demanding irrigation systems. Some of them resort to home made tanks and ditches to mitigate the negative impacts of the drought,” he said.

At the Eduardo R. Chibás Credit and Service Cooperative, not far from La Yuraguana, Virgilio Díaz, one of the cooperative’s beneficial owners who grows garlic, maize, sweet potato, papaya and sorghum on his 22-acre plot, ascribed much of his success to the irrigation system bought in 2010 by the 140-member cooperative.

“Income went up by over 70 percent: we raised salaries; I was able to request a lease on more land and I built a new house,” Díaz said. He and five other workers between them produce 200 tonnes of food a year, when the climate is favourable.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez. Translated by Valerie Dee.

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Civil Society Under Serious Attackhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/civil-society-under-serious-attack/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-under-serious-attack http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/civil-society-under-serious-attack/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 22:51:25 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145847 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/civil-society-under-serious-attack/feed/ 0 Journalists Face Unprecedented Violencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/journalists-face-unprecedented-violence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=journalists-face-unprecedented-violence http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/journalists-face-unprecedented-violence/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 21:41:33 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145845 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/journalists-face-unprecedented-violence/feed/ 0 Will Brexit Have Political Ramifications at UN?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/will-brexit-have-political-ramifications-at-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-brexit-have-political-ramifications-at-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/will-brexit-have-political-ramifications-at-un/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 16:22:50 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145834 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/will-brexit-have-political-ramifications-at-un/feed/ 1 Women’s Cooperatives Ease Burden of HIV in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/womens-cooperatives-ease-burden-of-hiv-in-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-cooperatives-ease-burden-of-hiv-in-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/womens-cooperatives-ease-burden-of-hiv-in-kenya/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 10:52:16 +0000 Charles Karis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145829 Dorcus Auma weaving sisal fronds into a basket. Her Kenyan women's group has helped provide income to care for her grandchildren, orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Credit: Charles Karis/IPS

Dorcus Auma weaving sisal fronds into a basket. Her Kenyan women's group has helped provide income to care for her grandchildren, orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Credit: Charles Karis/IPS

By Charles Karis
NAIROBI, Jun 27 2016 (IPS)

Seventy-three-year-old Dorcus Auma effortlessly weaves sisal fronds into a beautiful basket as she walks the tiny path that snakes up a hill. She wound up her farm work early because today, Thursday, she is required to attend her women’s group gathering at the secretary’s homestead.

Except for their eye-catching light blue dresses and silky head scarfs, they would pass for ordinary village women. They are part of the Kagwa Women’s Group in the remotest part of Homa Bay County in Kenya’s lake region.

A recent county profile of HIV/AIDS prevalence by the National AIDS Control Council (NACC) revealed that Homa Bay County leads Kenya in HIV prevalence, standing at 25.7 percent.

Auma joined the group in 2008 when the care of her three grandchildren was thrust upon her shoulders.

“HIV/AIDS robbed me of my three children, leaving me with the burden of having to take care of three children left in a vulnerable condition,” says Auma.

With no steady income to provide for their basic needs, she joined other women who shared the same predicament.

UNAIDS says that microfinance can play a big role in helping households affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the women’s group at Homa Bay has proved this to be true.

Composed of 28 members, it started as a merry-go-round, which is a self-help group that helps women to save money. The group is supported by World Vision through an initiative to enhance target households through cooperatives.

“Within economic strengthening we are trying to help the families to get economically empowered through the locally available resources. This is a group of old women, they are all grandmas, and they had already started doing their own merry go-rounds. We came in with training on village savings and loaning, which is a simplified model of the savings at the rural level – it’s like a rural bank,” says Jedidah Mwendwa, a technical specialist with APHIA II Plus (pdf), one of the implementing organizations.

Most of the members are grandmothers whose children died from HIV/AIDS, and hence were left to fend for their grandchildren.

“Since the grannies cannot engage in vigorous economic activities, they were introduced into saving and loaning at their own level. They agreed to raise monies for saving and loaning among themselves through locally available resources like making ropes, baskets and mats,” says Mwendwa.

“When they meet on Thursdays, they collect all their material contributions. One of their members is sent to the nearby market, which is Oyugis, a distance of 61km, to go sell their products and the following week, the money that came from the market is what is saved for each specific member,” says Mwendwa.

The savings are rotated to individual members on an annual basis, and since they do not have a secure place to keep the money, they usually loan out the entire collected amount to members who return it with one percent interest.

“Since I joined this group, my life has changed. I have been able to engage in sustainable farming. My grandchildren have a reason to smile as they have nutritious food on the table,” says Auma, as she gives instructions to her eldest grandchild, a 16-year-old girl, on how to separate the sisal strands.

Initially, local people were a bit reluctant to attend the HIV caretaker training sessions because of the real stigma associated with the illness, but most have come around, and their efforts are paying off.

“We offer to the group and school clubs sensitization on adherence and nutrition,” says Rose Anyango, a social worker in the county. “The women and the children are responding well and the stigma no longer exists. Through village savings and loaning they are able to feed their children as well as educate them.”

The group has seen immediate successes in behavior, attitudes and practices regarding cultural dictates and inclusion of people living with HIV/AIDS in development activities. Women are now actively taking the lead in economic empowerment, enabling them to support their families.

The group now plans to increase to increase its impact by involving more members from the surrounding community, which will go a long way in not only empowering of locals but also reduce the stigma of HIV/AIDS.

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Making Sustainability Part of the Corporate DNAhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 17:26:44 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145814 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/feed/ 0 Can Better Technology Lure Asia’s Youth Back to Farming?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 13:38:29 +0000 Diana G Mendoza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145811 ADB president Takehiko Nakao speak at the Food Security Forum in Manila. Credit: Diana G. Mendoza/IPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President of ADB Takehiko Nakao - Credit: ADB

President of ADB Takehiko Nakao – Credit: ADB

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

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

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

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

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

DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman - Credit: ADB

DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman – Credit: ADB

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

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

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

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

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

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Least Developed Countries’ Vulnerabilities Make Graduation Difficulthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/least-developed-countries-vulnerabilities-make-graduation-difficult/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=least-developed-countries-vulnerabilities-make-graduation-difficult http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/least-developed-countries-vulnerabilities-make-graduation-difficult/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 02:25:40 +0000 Ahmed Sareer http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145797 An aerial view of the Village of Kolhuvaariyaafushi, Mulaaku Atoll, the Maldives, after the Indian Ocean Tsunami. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

An aerial view of the Village of Kolhuvaariyaafushi, Mulaaku Atoll, the Maldives, after the Indian Ocean Tsunami. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Ahmed Sareer
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 25 2016 (IPS)

Last month, over two thousand high-level participants from across the world met in Antalya, Turkey for the Midterm Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action, an action plan used to guide sustainable economic development efforts for Least Developed Countries for the 2011 to 2020 period. The main goal was to understand the lessons learnt by the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) over the past five years and apply the knowledge moving forward.

For my country, the Maldives, the past five years have been a chance to experience first-hand the realities of life after graduation from LDC status. In January 2011, the Maldives was officially removed from the list of LDCs, the culmination of decades of hard work and determined efforts of developing the country. The Fourth UN Conference on LDCs, held in May 2011, was the last for the Maldives as an LDC, but last month in Antalya, we went back because we believed it was important to share the lessons we had learnt since 2011.

While our graduation was naturally a moment of pride and cause for celebration for a country only 50 years old, it was accompanied by a sense of uncertainty about the challenges we would face following the withdrawal of the protections and special preferences afforded to LDCs.

Ultimately, we were able to forge ahead in spite of these difficulties and adapted to the new realities. We ensured that our economy, driven by a world-class tourism sector, and a robust fisheries industry, would continue to be competitive and dynamic. We focused on fostering a business-friendly climate, while making prudent investments for future growth.

However, we remain conscious of the degree to which the gains we have made are vulnerable to exogenous shocks. On 20 December 2004, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) decided to graduate the Maldives effective 1 January 2008. But just four days before the UNGA decision, a catastrophic tsunami swept across the Indian Ocean, claiming the lives of over 275,000 people in fourteen countries.

The 2004 tsunami was especially devastating in the Maldives. With the highest point in our country being just 2.5 metres high, virtually all of it was, for a few harrowing minutes, underwater.

Several islands were rendered uninhabitable; nearly one in ten people were left homeless.

Farms were destroyed, the fresh water lens corrupted, with large-scale loss to infrastructure. The economic cost of the destruction was equivalent to close to 70 percent of GDP, a blow from which it took us over a decade to recover.

The Maldives is not alone in facing such vulnerabilities. For many countries, particularly Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as our own, an end to LDC status does not necessarily herald the disappearance of structural barriers to growth—such as limited access to markets, geographical isolation, environmental pressures, or difficulty achieving economies of scale.

By 1997, the Maldives had already exceeded two of the three thresholds that determine LDC status—GNI per capita, and the Human Capital Index, measured in terms of undernourishment, child mortality rates, secondary school enrolment rates, and adult literacy.

But we did not exceed the threshold for the third criterion, the Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI), which measures the structural vulnerability of countries to exogenous economic and environmental shocks – we did not meet this threshold to date. It is not necessary to meet all three thresholds to in order to graduate—meaning we were considered ready for graduation.

As the tragedy of 2004 taught us, persistent vulnerabilities have the potential to undermine, if not reverse, gains made towards development. Despite meeting the formal requirements, we were not yet ready. The lessons of our own experiences have meant that the Maldives has been consistent in calling for a smoother and more holistic approach to the graduation process.

Firstly, the criteria for graduation must account for the structural vulnerabilities of developing countries. The fact that economic vulnerability can be disregarded in determining whether a country is ready to graduate from LDC status represents a critical oversight.

Second, the Economic Vulnerability Index itself must also be redesigned to better account for vulnerability. At present, the index fails to account for key considerations such as geographic and environmental vulnerability, import dependency, and demographic pressures.

With greater attention being paid to the effects of climate change on developing countries, most notably in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), evaluating vulnerabilities more comprehensively is a task that has acquired even greater importance.

Lastly, the extension of support and assistance to countries must be determined on the basis of their individual capabilities and challenges, rather than their mere place on a list. We would be remiss to overlook the role that development assistance, including that provided by the UN, has played in helping the Maldives progress—as it has for many others—particularly in regards to our work in disaster preparedness and climate change mitigation.

The withdrawal of such assistance—including preferential trade access and concessionary financing—following our graduation from the ranks of the LDCs has meant increased fiscal challenges. This disregards the unique challenges faced by countries like the Maldives due to their specific structural constraints—constraints ignored under the present graduation regime.

While efforts have been made to smooth the graduation process for LDCs—in 2004, and most recently in 2012—the process remains deeply flawed and in need of comprehensive reform. To this end, the Maldives has called for the World Trade Organization (WTO) to extend the application of TRIPS (trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights) for all LDCs, in addition to the exploration of a “small and vulnerable economy” category at the United Nations, which would recognize the particular needs of such countries.

Similarly, we must move towards devising measures of development that do more than just record national income, and instead provide a more meaningful assessment of national capability and capacity, for which GDP can often be a poor proxy.

No country wishes to be called “least developed”, much less remain in that classification indefinitely, but the factors driving underdevelopment must be meaningfully dealt with if we wish to attain genuinely sustainable development. It is for this reason that we believe that the desire by countries to eradicate poverty and achieve economic development must be met with commitment on part of the United Nations and other organizations to chart a realistic and holistic path towards that end.

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Cotton Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/cotton-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cotton-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/cotton-crisis/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 21:09:30 +0000 Zubeida Mustafa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145805 By Zubeida Mustafa
Jun 24 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Pakistan’s economy is in grave trouble. According to the Pakistan Economic Survey 2015-16, it failed to meet the growth target of 5.5pc in FY2016. GDP grew by 4.7 pc. This was mainly due to the ‘major setback’ (to use the finance minister’s words) in agriculture.

www.zubeidamustafa.com

www.zubeidamustafa.com

At the heart of the crisis was a massive decline of 27.8pc in cotton production. It should be remembered that cotton is the mainstay of our agriculture and textile industry. The cotton crisis has emerged as a very controversial issue. Well-informed farmers attribute this disaster to the widespread use of genetically modified seeds that were formally introduced in the country in 2010 but were being smuggled since 2005. Now BT cotton (a genetically modified variety) is grown in 88pc of the cotton-cultivated area.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been challenged all over the world as some giant seed multinationals have grown phenomenally thanks to their aggressive marketing. If unchecked, they could dominate global agriculture. GM seeds will undermine biodiversity as the manufacturers ensure their monopoly in the seed sector. Being vulnerable to pest attacks, GM crops need pesticides in large quantities that poor farmers cannot afford. It is no coincidence that the manufacturers of these seeds also produce pesticides which account for a big chunk of their revenues.

Farmers are predicting another year of difficulties

Some facts are indisputable. Cotton production has not increased as promised since BT cotton was introduced. The decline is not fully reflected in the data released by the government because it has changed the measure used to determine the output, which is counted in the number of bales. Previously, each cotton bale weighed 176 kilogrammes. Since 2011 it has been reduced to 150kg. Using the old measure we know that cotton production had hit a record figure of 14.6 million bales in 2004. That figure has never been reached again and last year it was less than 9m bales (by the old measure).

The per hectare yield as well as the area of cotton cultivation have been erratic. In FY2012, 2.8m hectares (about seven acres) were cultivated and the yield was 815kg per hectare. In FY2016, these figures were 2.91 hectares with a yield of 587kg per hectare respectively, which means the slight increase in acreage was offset by the lower yield.

The government blames the weather (frequent and excessive rains) and pest attack, mainly bollworms, for the fall in cotton output. In a recent notification, the Punjab government advised farmers to delay planting.

The farmers have another story to tell. They say it is the poor quality of seeds that has led to pest attacks and caused the decline in production. They are predicting another year of crisis. According to one media report this year, many farmers have switched to other crops and the area of cotton cultivation is considerably lower.

In spite of poor results, the government insists on approving GM cotton seeds. Thus in a meeting in February, the National Biosafety Committee (NBC) hastily approved the applications for nearly 100 GM seeds without following prescribed procedures. That is how Monsanto and Dupont were allowed commercialisation of GM corn without large-scale testing and biosafety risk assessment in open fields in Pakistan.

This was reconfirmed by the NBC in another meeting in April on the written orders of the prime minister. This is shocking to say the least. There has been a concerted effort to increase the private sector’s role and space in the seed market. Monsanto, an American biotechnology company, has been a big beneficiary of the changes in the government’s policies. In 2015, the Seeds Act 1976 was changed to “meet the requirements of the modern seed industry”.

Not surprisingly the pressure for change came from the US which wants Pakistan to meet its ‘obligations’ under WTO regulations and create a larger market for private seed producers. Previously, seed manufacturing and its price regulation was in the public sector. Now the private sector — mainly giant biotech companies — has entered the seed market in Pakistan.

WikiLeaks which brought into the open routine exchanges between US diplomatic missions in Pakistan and the State Department in Washington apparently revealed how Monsanto was in the picture in the formulation of cotton policies in the country.

To reject new technologies in a knee-jerk reaction is unwise. But it is worse to accept them indiscriminately without testing them rigorously under local conditions.

The Kissan Board has gone to court to get justice for the farmers. It filed a petition in 2014 challenging the NBC meeting that allowed the commercialisation of BT cotton that year. Its plea was accepted but the government went into appeal and the matter was put on hold. The government has proceeded as usual. Now another case has been filed challenging the government on constitutional grounds and for violation of the Cartagena Protocol. BT’s fate now hinges on the court’s decision.

www.zubeidamustafa.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Women’s Health Takes Center Stage at UN Population Awards   http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/womens-health-takes-center-stage-at-un-population-awards/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-health-takes-center-stage-at-un-population-awards http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/womens-health-takes-center-stage-at-un-population-awards/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 15:38:18 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145796 By Aruna Dutt
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 24 2016 (IPS)

Social Scientist, Carmen Barroso and Polish Organisation, Childbirth in Dignity received the United Nations Population Awards here Thursday for their outstanding work in population, improving individuals’ health and welfare, and specifically for their decades-long leadership in women’s rights.

“I dedicate this award to anonymous health providers everywhere, who day in and day out help women to exercise their rights and preserve their health,” said Barroso on accepting the award.

Barroso has been actively involved in reproductive health and population issues for more than forty years. She was selected for her leadership in developing programmes, funding and policies related to sexual and reproductive health and rights and for mobilising the voices of people in the South around those issues.

In 1966, Sao Paulo, Brazil, a country rising under the weight of a military dictatorship, Barroso was a 22 year old college student living off of her husband’s meagre salary. Committed to achieving social justice, they did not plan to start a family for many years, and had a very important vision of their future.

On birth control for a long time, she was becoming uncomfortable with the hormones she was putting into her body. A doctor offered her an alternative: IUDs. When she started, she began having copious periods of painful cramps, but she decided to wait in hope they would go away. But they didn’t. One day, she missed her period.

She froze with horror: “All of a sudden, the castle of my future came crashing down.”

At the time, abortion was a taboo subject. She never thought it was something that would happen to her, but now she knew that was what she wanted, and went to the doctor.

He performed the abortion, telling her to keep it secret and cover it up as a miscarriage.

“I would not be here today if it weren’t for the courage of a doctor operating under restrictive laws. Because of him, we were able to live the future we dreamed of.”

Later Barroso became a senior researcher with the Chagas Foundation, where she pioneered innovative evaluation methods and later created Brazil’s first and foremost women’s studies center, despite protest from colleagues who saw it as an “imperialistic import of feminist ideology.”

Dr. Barroso became the first non-American to be appointed as director in the US MacArthur Foundation, and she recently resigned from her tenure as Director of Planned Parenthood International, Western Hemisphere.

Childbirth in Dignity Foundation

Twenty years ago in Poland, pregnant women had little freedom to choose the environment in which they gave birth. Lack of privacy, loneliness and inadequate support were the rule, with women having to go through mandatory episiotomies, and other arcane procedures such as not having time with their newborn child immediately, or having their significant other in the room during childbirth, made the experience far from joyful, in fact, humiliating in many cases.

A nationwide campaign, “Childbirth with Dignity” which empowered women to share their stories, caught international attention, causing government legislative action like Perinatal and Postnatal Care Standards in line with World Health Organization (WHO) standards. Partners are now allowed in the delivery room, mothers can have visitors, and newborns are able to breastfeed, being placed in the mother’s arms to bond right after being born making childbirth an easier experience for mothers.

Childbirth in Dignity Foundation was awarded for their strong advocacy and support of the rights of women and newborns for over 20 years, and for empowering women, as patients, to demand their rights in relation to childbirth.

Both laureates were chosen from among several international nominees, by the Committee for the United Nations Population Award chaired by Paraguay, and including Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh, Benin, Gambia, Ghana, Haiti, Iran, Israel and Poland. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) serves as secretariat for the award.

Past laureates selected by the Committee included individuals and organizations, such as Bill and Melinda Gates, Dr. Allan Rosenfield, the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and the Population Council.

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