Inter Press Service » Development & Aid http://www.ipsnews.net Turning the World Downside Up Tue, 02 Jun 2015 21:18:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.5 The Neglected Street Vendors of Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/the-neglected-street-vendors-of-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-neglected-street-vendors-of-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/the-neglected-street-vendors-of-india/#comments Tue, 02 Jun 2015 21:18:32 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140939 There are an estimated 10 million street vendors in India. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

There are an estimated 10 million street vendors in India. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Jun 2 2015 (IPS)

For the past nine years, 27-year-old Jignesh has been hawking bed sheets on the bustling pavements of Janpath, a major throughway in India’s capital, New Delhi, as kamikaze traffic swirls around him.

Illiterate and jobless, the young street vendor migrated from the western Indian state of Gujarat to eke out a living for his family of four, hoping that this metropolis would offer better prospects.

"It's a daily fight for survival. Sometimes I feel like just giving it all up and getting back to farming." -- Jignesh, a young street vendor who migrated from Gujarat to New Delhi to provide for his family
But local cops and members of the city’s mafia routinely harass the poor vendor to extort ‘hafta’ – a weekly bribe of one dollar that represents a significant chunk of his daily income of five dollars, which he earns after a 12-hour grind.

If he doesn’t comply, he is roughed up, or his wares confiscated.

“It’s a daily fight for survival,” Jignesh tells IPS, rolling up his sleeves to show bruises on his wizened arms, the result of a recent tussle with the police.

“Sometimes I feel like just giving it all up and getting back to farming.”

Despite passage of the path-breaking Street Vendors (Livelihood Protection and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill last year, which ordered local municipal authorities to set up designated vending zones for hawkers to enable them to practise their trade peacefully, few municipalities have honoured the law.

As a result the vast population of vendors in India – over 10 million people – continues to live in insecurity as they attempt to earn an honest day’s living. Many are economic migrants from the country’s rural heartland, where declining agriculture has left millions of smallholders or farm labourers in abject poverty.

Before the Act came into existence, vendors used to hawk their goods illegally, making them vulnerable to extortion, harassment, heavy fines and sudden evictions.

But in 2010, the Supreme Court declared hawking a fundamental right.

“Considering that an alarming percentage of the population in our country lives below the poverty line, and when citizens by gathering meagre resources try to employ themselves as hawkers and street traders, they cannot be subjected to a deprivation on the pretext that they have no rights,” the apex court ruled.

The recent bill provides for the establishment of a Town Vending Committee with representation from all stakeholders – street vendor organisations, civil society groups, traffic police and municipal authorities.

The committee is required to register vendors, providing them with identity cards to better regulate hawking activities in public areas.

Social security and insurance schemes are part of the ambit of the new law, which also promises bank loans to hawkers to keep them out of the clutches of unscrupulous moneylenders.

However, vendors rue that ground realities – like vested interests of political parties and local policemen as well threats from resident welfare societies – continue to make their lives miserable.

“Despite the law, vendors are still regarded as a public nuisance. They are accused of depriving pedestrians of their space and causing traffic jams while local residents blame them of having links with criminals,” says Anurag Shankar, project manager at the National Association of the Street Vendors of India (NASVI), a coalition of 762 vendor organisations that has been campaigning for vendors’ rights since 2004.

“The municipal authorities and housing societies frequently target vulnerable vendors to get them evicted,” Shankar tells IPS.

This results in hundreds of obstacles, including trouble securing a licence, uncertainty over earnings and insecurity over street space.

Hawkers and street vendors in India say they face routine harassment at the hands of the police, local thugs, politicians or municipal authorities. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Hawkers and street vendors in India say they face routine harassment at the hands of the police, local thugs, politicians or municipal authorities. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

According to Sharit Bhowmik, professor and chairperson of the Centre for Labour Studies at Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, the nub of the matter is that the new Act leaves too much to the discretion of local municipalities, thereby defeating the purpose of a Central legislation.

“The federal structure of the Indian government requires individual states to formulate their own policies and local urban bodies to come up with their own legislation, rules, and guidelines in the context of their local conditions,” he tells IPS.

Adding to the problem, explains the expert, who has written several international papers on street vending, is the fact that master plans for Indian cities rarely factor in space for vendors or pedestrians.

“Planners follow the western template of marketing, making provision for rich traders and big business, ignoring Indian traditions of street hawking. This adds to the space crunch and accounts for much of the current crisis,” he elaborates.

A study conducted by Bhowmik covering 15 Indian cities found that around 65 percent of street vendors took loans from moneylenders at exorbitant rates of interests ranging from 120 to 400 percent.

These loan sharks keep many vendors permanently in debt, retaining just 20-30 percent of their own income while doling out the rest in interest payments or on rent.

“The spiral of indebtedness erodes whatever little remuneration vendors earned,” says Bhowmik.

In April this year, vendors across India held massive rallies in the cities of Surat, New Delhi and Mangaluru to protest the non-implementation of the Street Vendors’ Act.

Agitated street vendors, who were evicted unceremoniously, demanded immediate government attention to the problem.

According to vendors’ representatives, city corporations neglect their interests while kowtowing to figures of authority.

“The vendors are invariably evicted without provision for a proper place for them to work,” Honorary President of the Centre for Indian Trade Unions Sunil Kumar Bajal tells IPS.

“In the process of eviction, they are physically assaulted and their wares destroyed. Often corrupt officials do not return the goods collected during eviction. We want the government to honour its commitment to vendors as directed by the apex court.”

Injustice to street vendors is compounded further by health hazards.

As this demographic spends its entire working day on open roads, its members are vulnerable to a range of health complications from chronic migraines to hyper-acidity, hypertension and high blood pressure due to pollution.

“Lack of access to toilets has an adverse effect on women’s health and many suffer from urinary tract infections and kidney ailments. Mobile female street vendors also face security issues,” explains Bhowmik.

Shankar says the new legislation entitles vendors to be included in the National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM), so that they can also receive skill-based training.

“The Act gives them the right to livelihood, but they are still deprived of facilities like health, housing and education, which people in other unorganised sectors are entitled to. Inclusion in the mission will cover this glaring lacuna.”

Recognition of street vendors ought to be an integral part of urban economies around the world according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), as they offer easy access to a wide range of goods and services.

“Their market base consists of a mass of consumers who welcome [access] to inexpensive goods and services that they provide,” says the ILO.

Currently India has the largest population of street vendors in the world and will likely see a rise in their numbers as rural-urban migration picks up speed in the coming decades.

The United Nation’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) estimates that the global urban population will grow from its current 3.9 billion people to 6.4 billion in 2050. Just three countries – India, China and Nigeria – will account for 90 percent of that growth.

Given that poverty and a lack of urban planning often results in ever-higher numbers of slum dwellers in this country of 1.25 billion people – with 51 percent of people in New Delhi already residing in informal settlements – both local and international development experts say India must prioritize improving the lot of its hawkers and vendors.

If the government fails to take necessary action, millions of people like Jignesh will have to muddle through these busy streets in misery.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Despite Setbacks, Global Sanitation Makes Progress, Says Fundhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/despite-setbacks-global-sanitation-makes-progress-says-fund/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=despite-setbacks-global-sanitation-makes-progress-says-fund http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/despite-setbacks-global-sanitation-makes-progress-says-fund/#comments Tue, 02 Jun 2015 21:10:44 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140940 An open drainage ditch in Ankorondrano-Andranomahery, Madagascar. Credit: Lova Rabary-Rakontondravony/IPS

An open drainage ditch in Ankorondrano-Andranomahery, Madagascar. Credit: Lova Rabary-Rakontondravony/IPS

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 2 2015 (IPS)

When the United Nations hosted a panel discussion last year urging its partners to “break their silence” on open defecation, Singapore’s deputy permanent representative Mark Neo was outspoken in his characterisation: “Open defecation is a euphemism. What we are talking about is shitting in the open.”

And over one billion people worldwide do so every day.“This is a crucial step towards achieving better health, reducing poverty and ensuring environmental sustainability for the most marginalized people in the world.” -- Chris Williams

In India alone, there are nearly 600 million people (out of a total population of over 1.2 billion) without access to sanitation, according to the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) based in Geneva.

Currently, about 35 countries, mostly in Africa and Asia, fall into that category, including Niger, Sierra Leone, Mali, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Guinea, Liberia, Bangladesh, Madagascar, Nepal, Angola, Pakistan, Myanmar, Cambodia, Congo, India and Laos, among many others.

A new study by the Geneva-based Global Sanitation Fund (GSF), released Tuesday, says 2.5 billion people, or 40 percent of the global population, lack access to decent sanitation, including more than a billion who defecate in the open.

Still there is progress: nationally-led sanitation programmes supported by the GSF have enabled 4.2 million people to have improved toilets; seven million people and more than 20,500 communities to be free of open-defecation; and eight million people with handwashing facilities.

“These results prove that we are moving closer to our vision of a world where everybody has sustained sanitation and hygiene, supported by safe water,” said Chris Williams, executive director of WSSCC.

“This is a crucial step towards achieving better health, reducing poverty and ensuring environmental sustainability for the most marginalised people in the world.”

The study says diarrheal disease, largely caused by poor sanitation and hygiene, is a leading cause of malnutrition, stunting and child mortality, claiming nearly 600,000 under-five lives every year. Inadequate facilities also affect education and economic productivity and impact the dignity and personal safety of women and girls.

The governments of Australia, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom have contributed to the GSF since its establishment by WSSCC in 2008.

Close to 105 million dollars has been committed for 13 country programmes, and aimed at reaching about 36 million people.

The GSF says the results have been achieved due to the work of more than 200 partners, including executing agencies and sub-grantees composed of representatives from governments, international organisations, academic institutions, the United Nations and civil society.

One of the strongest success factors in the GSF approach is that it allows flexibility for countries to develop their programmes within the context of their own institutional framework and according to their own specific sanitation and hygiene needs, sector capacity and stakeholders, says a press release.

This implementation methodology is used to reach large numbers of households in a relatively short period of time and is vital for scaling up safe sanitation and hygiene practices.

The GSF has been described as ” a pooled financing mechanism with the potential to further accelerate access to sanitation for hundreds of millions of people over the next 15 years.”

Between 2013 and 2014 alone, the GSF reported an almost 90 percent increase in the number of people living open-defecation free in target regions of 13 countries across Africa and Asia.

During this same period, the GSF also supported a 55 percent increase in the number of people with access to improved toilets in those same areas.

The United Nations system has identified global funds as an important tool to enable member countries to achieve their national development targets, including those for sanitation and hygiene.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Prolonged Drought Leaves Caribbean Farmers Broke and Worriedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/prolonged-drought-leaves-caribbean-farmers-broke-and-worried/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=prolonged-drought-leaves-caribbean-farmers-broke-and-worried http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/prolonged-drought-leaves-caribbean-farmers-broke-and-worried/#comments Tue, 02 Jun 2015 17:42:35 +0000 Kenton X. Chance http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140928 Cattle seek refuge from the searing heat among shrubbery in Union Island, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

Cattle seek refuge from the searing heat among shrubbery in Union Island, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

By Kenton X. Chance
CASTRIES, Jun 2 2015 (IPS)

St. Lucian farmer Anthony Herman was hoping that next year he’d manage to recoup some of the losses he sustained after 70 per cent of his cashew crop withered and died in the heat of the scorching southern Caribbean sun.

But on June 1, the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season which coincides with the rainy season, the 63-year-old man, who has been farming for four decades, received “frightening” news about weather conditions in the region over the next year or so.“More than 50 per cent of our agriculture is rain-fed. … So it is going to affect agriculture, particularly small farmers, who are the ones who cannot afford irrigation at this time." -- Leslie Simpson

The 2015 wet season in the Caribbean, which runs from June to November, has been forecast to be drier than normal and a similar prediction has been issued for the 2016 dry season. This follows on a drier than normal dry season in 2015.

“It is frightening,” Herman tells IPS on the sidelines of the Regional Climate Outlook forum for the 2015 hurricane season being held here June 1-2.

Herman, who is board secretary and project coordinator at the Bellevue Farmers Cooperative in Choiseul, in southwestern St. Lucia, says he will summon directors to devise a response plan.

“When we hear of the threat of drought that’s going to be lengthened this year and going into next year, this to me, is frightening,” Herman tells IPS.

“Frightening in the sense that I don’t think that we, as a government, we as a people have created the resilience that is necessary to combat drought. The water infrastructure that is necessary is not available, or where it is available, it is in patches,” he says.

At the two-day forum, organised by the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), climatologist Cèdric Van Meerbeeck puts the forecast into perspective by referencing 2009, a year when extreme dry conditions triggered widespread water rationing across the region.

Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia and Guyana recorded their lowest six-month rainfall totals (October 2009 to March 2010).

“It doesn’t mean it is going to be the same like 2009 and 2010, but if it is going to be a year, it is going to be this year,” Van Meerbeeck said of the forecast dry spell.

“Temperatures are going to feel hotter than usual and that is pretty much throughout the Caribbean,” Van Meerbeeck told the gathering of meteorologists, natural disaster managers and other stakeholders from 25 Caribbean countries and territories.

Climatologist Cèdric Van Meerbeeck of the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), says drier than normal conditions in the Caribbean will continue through the 2015 wet season and into 2016. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

Climatologist Cèdric Van Meerbeeck of the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), says drier than normal conditions in the Caribbean will continue through the 2015 wet season and into 2016. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

He said there is probably going to be less rainfall accumulating for much of the region, even as The Bahamas, Belize and The Guianas are expected to see higher rainfall as a result of El Nino.

“If we are going to get a wet season that is drier than usual, we are already starting to be worried about the next dry season,” Van Meerbeeck said.

“Why? The dry season is our tourism season. That is when most of our water is being used, not only by tourists but also extinguishing [bush] fires, also by the farmers if they want to irrigate.”

Herman shares Van Meerbeeck’s concern, telling IPS that the municipal provider of water for commercial and domestic consumers in St. Lucia is already “under pressure because, at the minute, a number of persons are using that water for farming purposes.

“It is expensive, but there’s not much choice. So it means that sitting here at this meeting and getting that information, it gives me a few months to go back, sit with my board about a risk reduction management plan as to how we, as a farmers organisation, can educate our members in the first instance, how best to deal with the issues of serious rain water shortages and what it is we can do with that information.”

Herman knows too well the importance of a risk reduction management plan, having been robbed by the dry conditions of almost three quarters of his cashew crop, some 5,500 dollars this year, a substantial amount for a small farmer.

“The flowers dried out and they were not able to be pollinated and even where they were actually pollinated, the small cashew literally burnt and that has caused me great economic loss,” he tells IPS.

The loss was not limited only to the cashew nut themselves, as the fruit is an important input on Herman farm, where he keeps about 40 goats.

“The cashew fruit is used for my goats as animal feed,” he tells IPS, adding, “It means I have to find the resources now, buy animal feed, whereas in previous years, between grass and cashew fruit, that sustained my livestock.”

St. Lucian farmer Anthony Herman lost 70 per cent of his cashew crop in 2015 as a result of a drought in his country. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

St. Lucian farmer Anthony Herman lost 70 per cent of his cashew crop in 2015 as a result of a drought in his country. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

“I didn’t get to sell cashew so it is less resources, so I have to dip into my other sources of revenue, which is vegetables,” he lamented.

Leslie Simpson, natural resources management specialist at the Caribbean Agricultural Research & Development Institute, sees the forecast as “serious news” for agriculture in the region.

“More than 50 per cent of our agriculture is rain-fed. … So it is going to affect agriculture, particularly small farmers, who are the ones who cannot afford irrigation at this time,” he tells IPS of the forecast.

“I operate out of Jamaica and last year we had a really serious dry spell in the rainy season itself and it affected agriculture to the point where the overall effect was felt in the whole economy. So to hear that we are in for a similar situation is very heartrending at this point,” Simpson tells IPS.

In 2014, the Jamaican economy lost nearly one billion dollars as a result of drought and brush fires caused by extreme heat waves.

But like Van Meerbeeck, Herman sees the early warning as an opportunity to take steps to mitigate against the severe weather, which climatologists say is as a result of human-induced climate change.

“What we really want in the long term is to be able to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change and use the benefits of climate change, because it is not all negative, but largely, we don’t know what the positive effects will be at this stage,” Van Meerbeeck tells IPS.

“When you build mitigation strategies on drought, on heat waves, on wet spells, etc., — those things that really impact us now — then we are automatically building the human capacity and the technological capacity to confront the challenges further down in time,” Van Meerbeeck says.

“Whether or not they are exacerbated by climate change, many of them will get worse with climate change, for instance, droughts will get more frequent by the end of the century. But if we already know how to respond to that now, it will be much, much easier and cost us much less to respond to them further down in time,” the climatologist says.

But with any cashew crops and a herd of goats at risk, Herman is already considering a short-term plan to process wastewater and use it for irrigation.

“I am not a pessimist, so I want to see this situation as an opportunity to do other creative things for the sector,” he tells IPS.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Growing Mobilisation Against Introduction of Fracking in Spainhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/growing-mobilisation-against-introduction-of-fracking-in-spain/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=growing-mobilisation-against-introduction-of-fracking-in-spain http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/growing-mobilisation-against-introduction-of-fracking-in-spain/#comments Tue, 02 Jun 2015 08:01:09 +0000 Ines Benitez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140916 Hundreds of demonstrators protest against fracking in Santander, the capital of the northern Spanish region of Cantabria. Credit: Courtesy of Asamblea Contra el Fracking de Cantabria

Hundreds of demonstrators protest against fracking in Santander, the capital of the northern Spanish region of Cantabria. Credit: Courtesy of Asamblea Contra el Fracking de Cantabria

By Inés Benítez
MALAGA, Spain, Jun 2 2015 (IPS)

Thousands of people in Spain have organised to protest the introduction of “fracking” – a controversial technique that involves pumping water, chemicals and sand at high pressure into shale rock to release gas and oil.

“We are all different kinds of people, local inhabitants, who love our land and want to protect its biodiversity,” activist Hipólito Delgado with the Asamblea Antifracking de Las Merindades, a county in the northern province of Burgos, told Tierramérica.

The company BNK España, a subsidiary of Canada’s BNK Petroleum, has applied for permits to drill 12 exploratory wells and is awaiting the environmental impact assessment required by law.

On May 3 some 4,000 people demonstrated in the town of Medina de Pomar in the province of Burgos, demanding that the government refuse permits for exploratory wells because of the numerous threats they claimed that hydraulic fracturing or fracking posed to the environment and health.

While no permit for fracking has been issued yet in Spain, 70 permits for exploration for shale gas have been granted and a further 62 are awaiting authorisation, according to the Ministry of Industry and Energy.

“Thanks to the fight put up by local inhabitants, “a permit for exploration in the northern region of Cantabria was cancelled in February 2014, activist Carmen González, with the Asamblea Contra el Fracking de Cantabria, an anti-fracking group mainly made up of people from rural areas in that region, told Tierramérica.

Critics of fracking say it pollutes underground water supplies with chemicals, releases methane gas – 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas – into the atmosphere, and can cause seismic activity.

“There are more and more negative reports on fracking,” geologist Julio Barea, spokesman for Greenpeace Spain, told Tierramérica. He said that in this country there is “complete social and political opposition to the technique, which no one wants.”

But Minister of Industry and Energy José Manuel Martínez Soria backs the introduction of fracking “as long as certain conditions and general requisites are fulfilled.”

A year ago, 20 political parties, including the main opposition party, the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), signed a commitment in the legislature to ban fracking when the government elected in December is sworn in, “because of its irreversible environmental impacts.”

Only four right-wing and centre-right parties, including the governing People’s Party, which is promoting unconventional shale gas development, refrained from signing the accord.

Thousands of protesters took part in a demonstration against fracking on May 3, 2015 in the northern municipality of Medina de Pomar, where 12 permits have been granted for shale gas exploration. Credit: Courtesy of Ecologistas en Acción

Thousands of protesters took part in a demonstration against fracking on May 3, 2015 in the northern municipality of Medina de Pomar, where 12 permits have been granted for shale gas exploration. Credit: Courtesy of Ecologistas en Acción

Fracking involves drilling a vertical well between 1,000 and 5,000 metres deep, down to gas-bearing layers of shale rock. Then the well is extended horizontally up to three km, and between 10,000 and 30,000 cubic metres of water, sand and chemicals are injected at high pressure to fracture the rock and release the oil and gas, which along with the additives is pumped up to the surface.

The companies interested in fracking in Spain downplay the dangers and stress this country’s shale gas potential, especially in Cantabria, the Basque Country and Castilla y León – where Burgos is located – in the north, although exploration permits have also been granted in other regions.

“Like any activity it involves risks, but the technological advances make it possible to minimise them,” said Daniel Alameda, director general of Shale Gas España, a lobbying group for prospectors in Spain.

In an interview with Tierramérica, Alameda said the companies “are totally aware that they have to respect the environment.”

He argued that it is “technically impossible” for fracking to pollute aquifers since the hydraulic fracturing takes place some 3,000 metres below the underground water reserves, and the wells are isolated with a protective barrier of steel and cement.

“It’s a load of eyewash to say fracking doesn’t pollute,” activist Samuel Martín-Sosa, international coordinator at Ecologistas en Acción, told Tierramérica.

He pointed out that a court sentence has already been handed down against fracking, in the U.S. state of Texas, where an oil company was ordered in 2014 to pay damages to a family who suffered numerous health problems because of the proximity of a number of natural gas wells.

Shale Gas España also denies any link between fracking and seismic activity. “We don’t cause earthquakes. We have all of the tools necessary to ensure that the activity does not pose a threat to local residents or to the companies themselves,” Alameda said.

But in a 2014 document, the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain warned that fracking could cause radioactivity in water, pollute aquifers and the atmosphere, and cause earthquakes.

Martín pointed out that most lawsuits never make it to trial because the companies reach out-of-court settlements containing confidentiality clauses that prevent those affected by the wells from speaking out.

The United States is the world’s leading producer of shale oil and gas, followed by Argentina. In July 2011 France became the first country in the world to ban fracking, and 16 other European Union countries have since followed suit, while Spain and 10 others permit the use of hydraulic fracturing, with the United Kingdom in the lead.

Alameda said shale gas would create jobs, reduce energy dependency and improve the country’s trade balance.

Spain imports around 80 percent of the energy it consumes, according to statistics from the 2011-2020 Energy Efficiency and Savings Action Plan. Those involved in the exploitation of unconventional gas estimate that their wells will make the country self-sufficient for 90 years – although that can only be proven through exploration.

But to reduce dependency, “the way forward is not the extraction of gas; we can’t allow the continued burning of fossil fuels,” said Martín-Sosa of Ecologistas en Acción.

The environmentalist criticised “the absolute promotion” of shale gas by the government, when what is needed, he said, is “a change in energy model” starting with the replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy sources.

But clean energy “faces more hurdles than ever” from the national government, he complained.

Shale Gas España, meanwhile, asserts that “the oil and gas industry is compatible with renewable energies.”

In 2013 and 2014, four of Spain’s 17 “autonomous communities” or regions passed laws banning fracking. But the central government introduced changes in the authority over the development of fracking, which allowed the regional laws to be revoked by the Constitutional Court.

Martín-Sosa said that what is needed is a national ban on fracking, rather than attempts to regulate it.

This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Indigenous Voices Ignored in Financing Panamanian Dam Projecthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/indigenous-voices-ignored-in-financing-panamanian-dam-project/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-voices-ignored-in-financing-panamanian-dam-project http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/indigenous-voices-ignored-in-financing-panamanian-dam-project/#comments Tue, 02 Jun 2015 07:38:18 +0000 Kwame Buist http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140922 By Kwame Buist
AMSTERDAM, Jun 2 2015 (IPS)

Indigenous people who would be directly affected by the impact of a hydroelectric project in Panama were not consulted despite national and international human rights obligations to obtain their free, prior and informed consent, according to a just-released report.

Acting on behalf of communities in Panama’s Ngöbe-Buglé indigenous territory, the Movimiento 10 de Abril (M-10) had filed a complaint with the Independent Complaints Mechanism (ICM) of the Dutch FMO and German DEG development banks alleging that the Barro Blanco dam project which the banks were financing would lead to the flooding of the communities’ homes, schools, and religious, archaeological and cultural sites.

The two banks were accused of failing to adequately assess the risks to indigenous rights and the environment before approving a 50 million dollar loan to GENISA, the project’s developer.

The independent panel’s report, released May 29, found that the “lenders should have sought greater clarity on whether there was consent to the project from the appropriate indigenous authorities prior to project approval,” adding that “the lenders have not taken the resistance of the affected communities seriously enough.”

“We did not give our consent to this project before it was approved, and it does not have our consent today,” said Manolo Miranda, a representative of the M-10.  “We demand that the government, GENISA and the banks respect our rights and stop this project.”

According to the ICM’s report, “significant issues related to social and environmental impact and, in particular, issues related to the rights of indigenous peoples were not completely assessed.”

The environmental and social action plan (ESAP) accompanying the project “contains no provision on land acquisition and resettlement and nothing on biodiversity and natural resources management. Neither does it contain any reference to issues related to cultural heritage.”

Ana María Mondragón, a lawyer at the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), said: “This failure constitutes a violation of international standards regarding the obligation to elaborate adequate and comprehensive environmental and social impact assessments before implementing any development project, in order to guarantee the right to free, prior and informed consent, information and effective participation of the potentially affected community.”

In February this year, the Panamanian government provisionally suspended construction of the Barro Blanco dam and subsequently convened a dialogue table with the Ngöbe-Buglé, with the facilitation of the United Nations, to discuss the future of the project.

The Barro Blanco project was registered under the Clean Development Mechanism, a system under the Kyoto Protocol that allows the crediting of emission reductions from greenhouse gas abatement projects in developing countries.

“As climate finance flows are expected to flow through various channels in the future, the lessons of Barro Blanco must be taken very seriously,” said Pierre-Jean Brasier, network coordinator at Carbon Market Watch. “To prevent that future climate mitigation projects have negative impacts, a strong institutional safeguard system that respects all human rights is required.”

The ICM will monitor the banks’ implementation of corrective actions and recommendations, while M-10 said that it expects FMO and DEG to withdrawal their investment from the project and ask that the Dutch and German governments show a public commitment to ensuring the rights of the affected Ngöbe-Buglé.

Edited by Phil Harris   

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Corporate Tax Dodging Cheats Africa Out of 6 Billion Dollars, Says Oxfamhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/corporate-tax-dodging-cheats-africa-out-of-6-billion-dollars-says-oxfam/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=corporate-tax-dodging-cheats-africa-out-of-6-billion-dollars-says-oxfam http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/corporate-tax-dodging-cheats-africa-out-of-6-billion-dollars-says-oxfam/#comments Tue, 02 Jun 2015 06:23:55 +0000 Sean Buchanan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140900 By Sean Buchanan
LONDON, Jun 2 2015 (IPS)

G7-based companies and investors cheated Africa out of an estimated six billion dollars in a year through just one form of tax dodging, according to a new Oxfam report ‘Money talks: Africa at the G7’, released Jun. 2.

This is equivalent to three times the amount needed to plug the healthcare funding gap in the Ebola-affected countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and at-risk Guinea Bissau.

According to an Oxfam briefing paper release in April this year, an estimated 1.7 billion dollars is required to close the healthcare funding gap to improve dangerously inadequate health systems in these countries. This figure is based on raising spending to the recommendation of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that 86 dollars per capita is required to achieve the minimum package of essential services.“Multinational companies, many with headquarters in the United Kingdom and other G7 countries, are cheating African countries out of billions of dollars in vital tax revenues that could help vulnerable people get decent healthcare and send their children to school” – Nick Brye, Oxfam’s Head of U.K. Campaigns

The new Oxfam report comes as G7 leaders prepare to meet their African counterparts at the annual summit in Bavaria, Germany from Jun. 8 to 9. African leaders from Ethiopia (Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn), Liberia (President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf), Nigeria (President Muhammadu Buhari) and Senegal (President Macky Sall) are scheduled to join an outreach session on Jun. 8.

Oxfam is calling for the leaders of the G7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and United States – to include action for ambitious tax reform in discussions about how the group can support economic growth and sustainable development on the continent.

In the United Kingdom, Oxfam is part of a coalition that has been calling on the recently elected new British government to show leadership by introducing a Tax Dodging Bill, which would make it harder for U.K. companies to avoid paying tax in the countries in which they operate – practices which currently cost some of the world’s poorest countries billions each year.

The coalition, which includes ActionAid and Christian Aid in addition to Oxfam, is currently running a Tax Dodging Bill campaign.

According to Oxfam, a well-crafted Tax Dodging Bill would also make it harder for big companies to avoid paying tax in the United Kingdom, and could bring in at least 3.6 billion pounds (5.4 billion dollars) a year to the U.K. Treasury, the equivalent of 600 pounds (910 dollars) for every household living below the poverty line.

“Multinational companies, many with headquarters in the United Kingdom and other G7 countries, are cheating African countries out of billions of dollars in vital tax revenues that could help vulnerable people get decent healthcare and send their children to school,” said Nick Brye, Oxfam’s Head of U.K. Campaigns.

“To fund the fight against poverty and to tackle worsening extreme inequality, we need action to ensure big companies pay their fair share, here and in the world’s poorest nations.”

Oxfam also notes that existing international efforts to tackle corporate tax dodging, such as the BEPS (Base Erosion and Profit Shifting) process, led by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation (OECD) for the G20 group of the world’s major economies, will leave gaping tax loopholes.

It warns that these loopholes can continue to be exploited by multinational companies across the developing world and that many African nations have been shut out of discussions on BEPS reform and will not benefit from them as a result.

Oxfam is also calling for British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne to attend July’s Financing for Development Conference in Ethiopia which will play host to heads of states and finance ministers from around the world.

The talks, which will focus on how the international community will fund development over the next two decades, are an opportunity for governments to work together to start shaping a more democratic and fairer global tax system.

In 2010, the last year for which data are available, Oxfam says that companies and investors based in G7 countries avoided paying tax on 20 billion dollars of income through a practice called trade mispricing – where a company artificially sets the prices for goods or services sold among its subsidiaries to avoid taxation.

With corporate tax rates in Africa averaging 28 percent, this equates to nearly six billion dollars in lost revenues. In addition, developing countries as a whole lose around 100 billion dollars a year through tax avoidance schemes involving tax havens, according to the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

“Reforming global corporate tax rules so that African governments can claim the money owed to them is vital to tackle extreme poverty and inequality and boost economic growth, said Brye. “That’s why Oxfam has been calling for a U.K. Tax Dodging Bill that would ensure U.K. companies do their bit to help poor families at home and in developing countries.”

Edited by Phil Harris   

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Garment Sweatshops in Argentina an Open Secrethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/garment-sweatshops-in-argentina-an-open-secret/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=garment-sweatshops-in-argentina-an-open-secret http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/garment-sweatshops-in-argentina-an-open-secret/#comments Sat, 30 May 2015 13:59:12 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140871 A clandestine textile sweatshop in the Flores neighbourhood of the Argentine capital that suffered two fires: one on Apr. 27 that killed two Bolivian boys, aged seven and 10, and the second on May 7, which gutted the building and was apparently intentionally set to eliminate evidence of illegal activities. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

A clandestine textile sweatshop in the Flores neighbourhood of the Argentine capital that suffered two fires: one on Apr. 27 that killed two Bolivian boys, aged seven and 10, and the second on May 7, which gutted the building and was apparently intentionally set to eliminate evidence of illegal activities. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
BUENOS AIRES, May 30 2015 (IPS)

The death of two Bolivian boys in a fire and the mistreatment and sexual abuse of a young Bolivian woman put the problem of slave-like labour conditions in clandestine sweatshops back in the headlines in Argentina.

The state, the textile and fashion industries, and consumers mutually blame each other for the problem.

The two brothers aged seven and 10 died on Apr. 27 in a fire in one of the numerous clandestine garment workshops in Flores, a Buenos Aires neighbourhood, where their parents, immigrants from Bolivia, were living and working.

A few days earlier, Rosa Payro, a 21-year-old from Bolivia, was rescued from another sweatshop on the outskirts of Buenos Aries after nearly three years of being raped, beaten, tortured and held captive by distant relatives she was working for.

These two cases reflect a complex situation, Juan Vásquez, a former sweatshop worker who now forms part of Simbiosis Cultural, a collective of Bolivian immigrants seeking to draw attention to the appalling conditions in the clandestine workshops, told IPS.

“When people talk about slave labour, they think of it as a ‘Bolivian’ thing and they don’t associate it with consumerism, with local working class people, with the connivance of the national and city governments,” said Vásquez. “We are merely the leftovers, the excluded, the exiled.”

According to the Alameda Foundation, there are some 3,000 sweatshops in and around Buenos Aires alone, with an average of 10 employees each. The majority of the roughly 30,000 workers are from Bolivia, South America’s poorest country. But there are also Peruvians, as well as workers from other Argentine provinces.

“They live in the same place where they are exploited, and they work over 16 hours a day,” said Lucas Schaerer, spokesman for the Alameda Foundation, which fights slave and child labour and the trafficking of persons for sexual exploitation. “They are completely under the control of their boss.”

He told IPS that “they’re forced to pay taxes, they eat in the same place they work, in inhumane conditions. Their meals, discounted from their wages, are skimpy, which is why they have a high incidence of tuberculosis. They live in concentration camp-style dormitories with bunkbeds and bathrooms shared by 30, 50, 60 people.”

In Argentina, a country of 41 million people, including 1.8 million foreign nationals, the law on immigration guarantees the right to work, education and healthcare for South American immigrants. But many of these modern-day slaves are undocumented. And according to estimates by non-governmental organisations, 90 percent of them work in agriculture or the textile industry.

“They often traffic them without documents or identification,” said Schaerer, referring to the sweatshop owners, who are sometimes relatives or acquaintances of the trafficking victims.

“Many don’t want to try to legalise their status because they think they’ll be deported,” Alfredo Ayala, the president of the Asociación Civil Federativa Boliviana, told IPS.

Schaerer said that the sweatshops are the last link in the garment industry chain, and that nearly 80 percent of the industry depends on them.

“It’s all part of a big scheme: people are trafficked, reduced to slavery conditions, and forced to work making clothes” for big and small brand names, street fairs, famous designers, fashion boutiques, counterfeit clothing markets, and even government departments, he said.

He cited a 2006 internal audit by the Defence Ministry, which found that the army procured supplies from clandestine workshops.

“Many different parties share responsibility for this criminal activity,” where national and municipal laws are violated, Schaerer said. “A large number of immigrants come into the country illegally in buses. They enter from Bolivia (over the northern border), and ride across nearly half of Argentina without running into any kind of controls,” he added.

He also said the racket is closely linked to drug trafficking, which uses the sweatshops to launder money.

Schaerer said the national government was responsible for failing to codify the Law on the Prevention and Punishment of Trafficking in Persons, and the Buenos Aires city government for failing to monitor and carry out inspections, and for protecting the clothing brands that have been denounced.

Ayala complained that members of the police “guarantee that the sweatshops will be safe from problems in exchange for bribes.”

One example was the workshop where the two boys died. Despite the police guard after the first fire, it was set ablaze on May 7, in an apparently intentional fire aimed at eliminating documents and evidence.

Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri blamed the sweatshop problem on the lack of jobs, “combined with illegal immigration,” and said the factories often do not let the city inspectors in.

In 10 years, the Alameda Foundation received some 5,000 complaints of slave and child labour, mistreatment and sexual abuse, as in the case of Payro.

But although 110 national and international brands – some of them famous – have been named in legal proceedings for allegedly buying from sweatshops, only one was found guilty.

“It’s a complex system…that is necessarily nourished by immigration” – in other words, a segment of the population without a social safety network or money, said Vásquez.

“When you come here you’re very vulnerable because you don’t know the place…they tell you ‘this is where you’ll work, and we’ll bring your meals,’ and you start to just accept the situation as normal. You don’t question anything because they’re giving you a solution after things were really hard back in your own country,” he said.

He was nine years old when he came to Argentina with his brother and his mother, who pawned their house to find a job. “The idea was to come here and not go back, because we didn’t have money. My last memory of Bolivia is being hungry. I remember her desperation to find some money,” he said.

After a complicated border crossing, they made it to the small factory where his father worked. For three months the family shared a single bunk.

These hardships were compounded by discrimination. At school Vásquez was teased and bullied for his accent and dark skin.

At the age of 16, he started to work in a sweatshop, and his parents opened their own.

“It’s all just seen as normal, and it doesn’t have to do with cultural characteristics,” he said. “When my mom opened up her workshop she didn’t think: now I’m going to exploit people and make money off of them. She had learned how the system worked. She saw working 16 hours, in those conditions, as something normal.

“It’s capitalism overlapping with the issue of immigration,” Vásquez said.

“My fellow Bolivians are often unfamiliar with the laws, and break them,” Ayala said. “They don’t know for example that what they’re doing is trafficking in persons. Sometimes they bring over a relative, thinking they’re doing them a favour, without knowing that they’re committing a crime.”

The Alameda Foundation proposes alternatives like textile cooperatives in workshops that have been confiscated or recovered by the workers.

They are also calling for an obligatory label to guarantee to consumers that what they’re buying was not made in a sweatshop, with slave labour. The governmental National Institute of Industrial Technology tried to adopt a voluntary label, but only one big clothing store accepted it.

Ayala is asking the government “to raise awareness about the laws so people don’t keep bringing people in” and to monitor the big clothing manufacturers, “because without them slave labour wouldn’t exist.”

For its part, the government encourages people to report sweatshops and cases of abuse to the special prosecutor’s office to fight human trafficking and exploitation.

“We say that instead of closing the workshops, we have to open them up, in order to find the solution together with the main actor: the textile worker,” said Vásquez.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Latin America’s Relative Success in Fighting Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/latin-americas-relative-success-in-fighting-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-americas-relative-success-in-fighting-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/latin-americas-relative-success-in-fighting-hunger/#comments Fri, 29 May 2015 23:35:52 +0000 Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140868 Food distribution in a town in the Mexican state of Tabasco through one of the many government programmes created in Latin America in the last 15 years to fight hunger. Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

Food distribution in a town in the Mexican state of Tabasco through one of the many government programmes created in Latin America in the last 15 years to fight hunger. Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, May 29 2015 (IPS)

The Latin American and Caribbean region is the first in the world to reach the two global targets for reducing hunger. Nevertheless, more than 34 million people still go hungry.

“This is the region that best understood the problem of hunger, and it’s the region that has put the greatest emphasis on policies to assist vulnerable groups. The results achieved have been in accordance with that emphasis,” FAO regional representative Raúl Benítez told IPS.

According to The State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI) 2015 report, released Wednesday by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), hunger affects 5.5 percent of the population of Latin America – or 34.3 million people.

That means the region has met the target of halving the proportion of hungry people from 1990 levels, established by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the international community in 2000, with a 2015 deadline.

These statistics also show that the region has lived up to what was agreed at the 1996 World Food Summit.

According to SOFI, 28 percent of the population of Latin America, estimated at a total of 605 million people, lives in poverty, compared to 44 percent in 2002. By contrast, the progress in reducing extreme poverty stalled two years ago.

With respect to the eradication of hunger, SOFI reports that South America made the greatest progress between the periods of 1990-1992 and 2012-2016. But South America, which accounts for 66 percent of the region’s total population, also has the largest number of undernourished people.

In that period, Central America also managed to reduce the number of hungry people, from 12.6 million to 11.4 million. However, the reduction in hunger has slowed down since 2013.

The Caribbean is lagging the most, with 7.5 million hungry people. That is mainly due to the situation in Haiti, the poorest country in the hemisphere, where 75 percent of the Caribbean’s malnourished people live, the report states.

Haiti’s problems are deep-rooted, Eve Crowley, FAO deputy regional representative, said Thursday during the launch of the report at the agency’s regional office in Chile. They date back centuries and are linked to colonialism and land distribution, she added.

“The recent problem of political instability is a very important factor that has had a negative impact on economic growth,” she said. “Historical problems take a long time to fix.”

On the other hand, more than 30 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean have overcome hunger in the last 20 years, “revealing in the process a valuable repertoire of public policies that can serve as a basis for other contexts and regions,” the report says.

FAO regional representative Raúl Benítez at his office in the agency’s regional office in Santiago. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

FAO regional representative Raúl Benítez at his office in the agency’s regional office in Santiago. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

According to FAO, the improvements in food and nutritional security in the region were largely due to the “positive macroeconomic backdrop in the region during the last decade as well as the political commitment to fighting food insecurity exhibited by the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.”

The most recent expression of this commitment, Benítez told IPS, was the approval of the Food Security, Nutrition and Hunger Eradication Plan of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

The plan, a pioneer at the international level, proposes eliminating hunger by 2025 – a goal that encompasses several challenges, like mitigating the effects of climate change that mainly affect small-scale family farmers and the poor, who live in more complex, fragile ecosystems, Benítez said.

The task then is adaptation to climate change to achieve sustainable food production systems.

The challenges also include successfully weathering the economic slowdown that is not only affecting this region.

“The dangers of backsliding are always latent,” the FAO representative warned. “We have to raise awareness about the fact that this continues to affect millions of women, men and children in the region.

“Hunger deprives people of education, of health, even of citizenship, but it principally deprives people of freedom, and this affects all of us: the hungry and those who have full stomachs. We can’t allow any one of our Latin American or Caribbean sisters or brothers to continue to go hungry,” he added.

Benítez pointed out that in Latin America and the Caribbean the problem is not a lack of food, but the fact that the poor can’t afford it.

“It’s a problem of access, not production,” he stressed.

“Hunger is much more than a plate of food on a table, and it’s still a problem that affects all of us. It’s a regional problem, which means it needs a regional-level solution.”

Benítez said that “while all countries have been reducing the proportion of people who have managed to overcome the problem of hunger, some have done so faster than others.

“That means countries with more experience or the richest countries in the region have to help other countries, in order for them to speed up the process of eradicating hunger.”

Francisca Quiroga, a public policy expert at the University of Chile, told IPS that this new stage must be spearheaded by a change in model, from the current “extractivist” model to a new one based on more suitable forms of development and higher-quality public policies.

“Many social policies implemented by countries in the region with the aim of meeting the MDGs were focused on improving indicators or reducing the gaps based on statistics, but they failed to focus on issues that are so important for this region, such as inequality,” she said.

New problems have also arisen, such as the impact of climate change or access to the development of natural resources, or the poor quality of food, which means the new model must be sustainable, the academic added.

At the end of this year the MDGs will be replaced by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), where the reduction of hunger is accompanied by other challenges involving food, such as the dangerous increase in obesity, which is becoming a major new global problem, Benítez said.

“The problem of obesity is something that we cannot stop analysing, because it has a severe impact on our populations,” she said. “It’s not as serious yet as the problem of hunger, but it threatens to become so.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Scores of Sri Lankan Tamils Still Living Under the ‘Long Shadow of War’http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/scores-of-sri-lankan-tamils-still-living-under-the-long-shadow-of-war/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=scores-of-sri-lankan-tamils-still-living-under-the-long-shadow-of-war http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/scores-of-sri-lankan-tamils-still-living-under-the-long-shadow-of-war/#comments Fri, 29 May 2015 23:14:27 +0000 Kanya DAlmeida http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140864 A youth who lost his leg during the conflict stands by his vegetable stall in the town of Mullaitivu in northern Sri Lanka. He has a small family to look after and says he finds it extremely hard to provide for them. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

A youth who lost his leg during the conflict stands by his vegetable stall in the town of Mullaitivu in northern Sri Lanka. He has a small family to look after and says he finds it extremely hard to provide for them. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Kanya D'Almeida
UNITED NATIONS, May 29 2015 (IPS)

In many ways, Jayakumari Balendran epitomizes the plight of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka’s northern and eastern provinces, both during and after the island nation’s 26-year-long civil conflict.

Her oldest son was shot dead in 2006 while working in the coastal town of Trincomalee, about 300 km east of the capital, Colombo, by ‘unidentified killers’.

“We are just trying to remind the government that there are people, communities, hundreds of thousands of families, waiting for justice." -- Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute
Abandoning her husband, she was forced to flee to Kilinochchi, a town in the north, which, at the time, served as the administrative nerve-centre for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the rebel group battling the government’s armed forces for an independent state for the country’s minority Tamil population.

Three years on, in May 2009, as the war dragged to a bloody finish, her second son was also killed – one of dozens who perished in the shelling of the Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital, an attack the army denies responsibility for.

Both boys were 19 years old at the time of their deaths.

Her third and final son, who was forcibly conscripted into the LTTE’s ranks as a child soldier, reportedly surrendered to government forces later that same month after the army overran LTTE-controlled areas and declared a decisive win over the rebels.

However, she has neither seen nor heard from him since, an ominous sign in a country where enforced disappearances are a common occurrence.

And her troubles did not end there. While protesting his disappearance, Jayakumari was arrested and imprisoned in the notorious Boosa prison, an institution that has become synonymous with torture.

Following presidential elections in January 2015 that saw the ouster of long-time president Mahinda Rajapaksa and the transfer of power to his former health minister Maithripala Sirisena, Jayakumari was released, in a move that activists took as a sign of safer and more just times to come.

But after returning to find her humble home ransacked and her possessions looted, Jayakumari was forced to place her daughter in an ashram for her own safety, while she herself move into a hut, the only place she could afford as a single mother – her husband died of cancer in 2012 – and where she now ekes out a rough living.

The converging issues that have defined her life over the past 10 years – war, disappearances, detention, displacement and abject poverty – are now the subject of an independent inquiry by a U.S. think-tank, the first of its kind to be released after the guns fell silent in 2009.

Titled ‘The Long Shadow of War’, the 37-page report by the California-based Oakland Institute (OI) details the unhealed wounds that still plague the former war zone, preventing civilians like Jayakumari from moving on with their lives.

During a press conference call Thursday, OI Executive Director Anuradha Mittal outlined some of the biggest hurdles to reconciliation, including continued heavy militarisation of the north and east, systematic erasure of Tamil history and culture, and the inability of the government to implement an effective mechanism to investigate alleged war crimes – for which both the government and the LTTE stand accused – committed during the last phase of the conflict.

Although Sirisena’s government has taken steps towards demilitarization, appointing a non-military civil servant as governor of the northern province in place of the former security forces commander who previously held the post, the presence of one soldier for every six civilians is a thorn in the side of many war-weary residents.

OI’s report quotes Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene as saying, as recently as February, that the government has no intention of removing or scaling down army formations in the Jaffna peninsula.

Furthermore, as Mittal pointed out Thursday, the army is not a passive presence. Rather, “it is engaged in property development, running luxury tourist resorts, whale-watching excursions, farming and other business ventures on land seized from local populations.”

Land and property have been major sticking points since 2009, with 90,000 of an estimated 480,000 people displaced during the last months of fighting still living in makeshift shelters, according to 2014 statistics published by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

The situation has been particularly difficult for war widows, who are thought to number between 40,000 and 55,000, now tasked with providing single-handedly for their families.

For women like Jayakumari, poverty and unemployment combine with uncertainty over missing relatives to create a culture of fear, and stillborn grief.

Citing data from the United Nations as well as religious institutions on the ground in the Vanni – a vast swathe of land in the north and east – OI estimates the number of missing people to be between 70,000 and 140,000.

“So many mothers like me are wandering from place to place in search of their children,” Jayakumari said in a statement to the press this past Thursday.

“We need answers. The government should at least arrange a place where we can go and visit our children. I want my child,” she asserted.

Her demand strikes at the heart of what could well be the defining challenge for the present government: implementing a national reconciliation process centered on a credible investigation into wartime abuses.

In March last year, the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) agreed on a resolution that would have launched a war crimes inquiry, but the then-government barred independent researchers from entering the country.

Despite these roadblocks, the world body was set to release its findings earlier this year, but agreed to the fledgling government’s request to delay publication for six months – leading to criticisms over a perceived watering down of U.N. mandates to suit the whims of electoral politics.

“Given the past records of government inaction, international pressure is critical for any decisive action,” Mittal asserted. “Instead of pursuing their geostrategic interests, the U.S., India and other countries should demand the release of the U.N. inquiry.”

She clarified that urgent tone of the report is not an attack on the new government, but should rather serve as a reminder of the severity of the situation for ordinary Tamil people.

“We are just trying to remind the government that there are people, communities, hundreds of thousands of families, waiting for justice,” she noted.

The death toll during the war’s last stages remains a hotly contested figure, both within Sri Lanka and among the international community. U.N. data suggest that 40,000 people died, but the previous government insisted the number of dead did not exceed 8,000.

Meanwhile, a new book by the eminent research body University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) says the true death toll could be closer to 100,000.

This is one of just many unanswered questions that could be put to rest by a just reconciliation process.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Bahamas Builds Resilience Against a Surging Seahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/bahamas-builds-resilience-against-a-surging-sea/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bahamas-builds-resilience-against-a-surging-sea http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/bahamas-builds-resilience-against-a-surging-sea/#comments Fri, 29 May 2015 17:20:23 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140851 Sea walls, like this one in the Bahamas, serve to protect areas of human habitation, conservation and leisure activities from the action of tides and waves. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Sea walls, like this one in the Bahamas, serve to protect areas of human habitation, conservation and leisure activities from the action of tides and waves. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
NASSAU, May 29 2015 (IPS)

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have championed the phrase “1.5 to stay alive” in demanding that global temperature increases be kept as far below 1.5 degrees C as possible to limit the anticipated devastating effects of climate change on the world’s most vulnerable countries.

But for the countries of the Caribbean, the challenge associated with the ongoing climate change negotiations is that even if the goal to limit global warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees C is achieved, they will still experience severe adverse impacts for which stronger programmes of adaptation would necessarily have to be implemented.“For the region, climate change magnifies the growing concerns regarding food security, water scarcity, energy security and the resource requirements for protection from natural disaster." -- Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie

In The Bahamas, if the sea level rises some five feet, 80 percent of the country would disappear.

To assist with ways to build resilience against this bleak possibility, the Inter-American Development Bank Multi-Lateral Investment Fund (IDB- MIF) and CARIBSAVE have given The Bahamas a grant of 100,000 dollars.

It’s part of the Climate Change, Coastal Community Enterprises: Adaption, Resilience and Knowledge (C-ARK) project that has a total budget of 2.5 million dollars.

Regional Director of CARIBSAVE Judi Clarke said The Bahamas was an easy pick for the grant because it is one of the most low-lying countries in the world.

“We’ve been working with the Bahamian government for nearly 10 years on climate change resilience and trying to strengthen the resilience of The Bahamas and the Bahamian people,” Clarke told IPS.

“We want to get through the tough times that have been happening in terms of climate change and the impacts of sea level rise, increased temperatures and degradation of the environment so that we can try to reduce the vulnerability of the tourism product.”

With a regional headquarters in Barbados, an office in Jamaica, and registered entities in Saint Lucia, Grenada and soon Guyana, CARIBSAVE’s work spans the wider Caribbean. They bring together specialist knowledge, project management expertise, convening power and innovation with the goal of achieving a sustainable future for all.

The Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie said the situation for his country and others in the region is rendered especially urgent in the face of information that ocean acidification, sea surface temperatures and sea levels are already rising.

“The region is not fully able to adapt or to mitigate the loss and damages associated with climate change induced upon us,” Christie told IPS.

“These, particularly sea level rise, will irreversibly change the geography and ecology of many coastal states and territories. It has been projected that responding to these factors can have particularly disastrous consequences causing a perpetual recession on each of the CARICOM member states for a significant period as our infrastructure-built environment, settlements and economic wellbeing are concentrated in coastal areas prone to flooding and inundation.

“For the region, climate change magnifies the growing concerns regarding food security, water scarcity, energy security and the resource requirements for protection from natural disaster,” he added.

The Bahamas’ grant will be used in micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) and community-based organisations (CBOs) in New Providence, Abaco and Andros.

The grant is expected to impact more than 3,000 local direct and indirect beneficiaries.

“The Bahamas is gaining the reputation of being at the forefront of environmental issues and looking at sustainable ways that we can protect this environment,” Director General of the Ministry of Tourism Joy Jibrilu said.

“We know that tourism is the cornerstone of our economy and so it is incumbent upon us to ensure that we protect the environment not just for our current use but for future generations. It is grants such as this that ensures that in fact takes place.”

The islands of the Bahamas are already experiencing some of the effects of climate variability and change through damage from severe weather systems and other extreme events, as well as more subtle changes in temperature and rainfall patterns.

Detailed climate modelling projections for the Bahamas predict an increase in average atmospheric temperature; reduced average annual rainfall; increased Sea Surface Temperatures (SST); and the potential for an increase in the intensity of tropical storms.

The CARIBSAVE regional director stressed that climate change isn’t just something to worry about in the future.

“It’s already happening and more and more, scientists are attributing some climate-related events to global climate change – because the science supports this conclusion,” she said.

“Even though small island and low-lying coastal states like those in the Caribbean are not historically responsible for the causes of climate change, we are some of the most vulnerable to the adverse impacts.

“Therefore we need to adapt (find long term solutions to present and future climate challenges). However, we must also play our part in the mitigation of climate change – hence do our utmost to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This makes economic sense anyway. In a region with so much sunshine, why aren’t we using it more?”

Serious adverse impacts are already being felt by island states at the current 0.8 degrees C of warming, including coastal erosion, flooding, coral bleaching and more frequent and intense extreme weather events.

The U.N.’s lead agency on refugees has already warned that some particularly low-lying island states are “very likely to become entirely uninhabitable”.

For the Caribbean, Clarke said the primary challenges as a result of climate change result from the physical and economic damage from extreme events such as tropical storms and hurricanes, which are expected to increase in severity and frequency as a result of climate change; and drought conditions which have been occurring more frequently throughout the region.

She said this trend is expected to continue and is of concern for the management of water resources and agricultural productivity.

Clarke also cited sea level rise, noting, even though this may appear to be mere increments per year, low-lying coastal areas are vulnerable from storm surge – which is magnified by sea level rise.

“Since much of the region’s population and critical infrastructure is located in coastal areas, this is of great concern. Storm surges associated with hurricanes can cause loss of life and much physical damage in coastal areas,” she added.

CARIBSAVE also plans to spread micro grants across other countries in the region including Barbados, Belize and Jamaica.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Relief Organisation Urges Mandatory Funding for Humanitarian Appealshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/relief-organisation-urges-mandatory-funding-for-humanitarian-appeals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=relief-organisation-urges-mandatory-funding-for-humanitarian-appeals http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/relief-organisation-urges-mandatory-funding-for-humanitarian-appeals/#comments Fri, 29 May 2015 13:47:37 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140848 UNICEF estimates that 3.5 million children in Pakistan suffer from acute malnutrition. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

UNICEF estimates that 3.5 million children in Pakistan suffer from acute malnutrition. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, May 29 2015 (IPS)

The United Nations is not only overwhelmed by a spreading humanitarian crisis, largely in Africa and the Middle East, but also remains hamstrung by a severe shortfall in funds, mostly from Western donors.

In conflict-ridden South Sudan, a major crisis point, about 40 percent of the country’s 11.4 million population is facing “alarming levels of hunger,” according to the Rome-based World Food Programme (WFP)."The system is overwhelmed and assistance often arrives too little and is too late." -- Shannon Scribner of Oxfam America

But lack of funding and shrinking access are compromising the agency’s ability to meet humanitarian needs.

Currently, the funding shortfall for WFP amounts to 230 million dollars for food and nutrition assistance.

Overall, the number of people requiring critical relief has more than doubled since 2004, to over 100 million today, according to the United Nations.

And current funding requirements for 2015 stand at a staggering 19.1 billion dollars, up from 3.4 billion dollars in 2004.

The United Nations considers four emergencies as “severe and large scale”: Central African Republic, Iraq, Syria and South Sudan.

And these crises alone have left 20 million people vulnerable to malnutrition, illness, violence, and death, and in need of aid and protection.

“Yet there is not enough funding to meet the needs,” Shannon Scribner, Humanitarian Policy Manager at Oxfam America, told IPS.

She said the current humanitarian system is led by the United Nations, funded largely by a handful of rich countries, and managed mostly by those actors, large international non-governmental organisations (including Oxfam), and the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement.

This system has saved countless lives over the past 50 years and it has done so with very little funding, she said, and less than what the world’s major donors spend on subsidies to their farmers.

“However, the system is overwhelmed and assistance often arrives too little and is too late,” she pointed out.

So strengthening the capacity of local actors to prevent, prepare and respond to emergencies in the first place makes sense, as well as increasing assistance to disaster risk reduction (DRR) that can have a high rate of return in saving lives and preventing damage to communities and infrastructure, as seen in South Asia, Central America, and East Africa.

However, between 1991 and 2010, only 0.4 percent of total official development assistance (ODA) went to DRR, Scribner said.

Last week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed a high-level U.N. panel to address the widening gap between resources and financing for the world’s pressing humanitarian efforts.

Oxfam has recommended the panel looks at having U.N. member states make mandatory payments to humanitarian appeals – similar to what is done for U.N. peacekeeping missions, in which funding is received by mandatory assessments charged to member states.

Currently, the United Nations and its key agencies are funded by assessed contributions from the 193 member states and based on the principle of “capacity to pay”, with the United States the largest single contributor at 22 percent of the U.N.’s regular budget. All of these are mandatory payments.

Additionally, U.N. agencies also receive “non core” resources which come from voluntary contributions from member states.

Over the last decade, Ban said, the demand for humanitarian aid had risen “dramatically” amid an uptick in water scarcity, food insecurity, demographic shifts, rapid urbanisation and climate change.

“All these and other dynamics are contributing to a situation in which current resources and funding flows are insufficient to meet the rising demand for aid,” he declared.

“Humanitarian actors expected to stay longer and longer in countries and regions impacted by long-running crises and conflicts.”

Over the past 10 years, the global demand for humanitarian aid has, in fact, risen precipitously, he pointed out.

Oxfam said 12.2 million people are in need of assistance in Syria, almost 4 million refugees and 7.6 million internally displaced people.

In Yemen, two out of three Yemenis needed humanitarian assistance before current crisis. And in both countries, the U.N. appeal is only 20 percent funded

Scribner told IPS one way to address the ongoing problem of assistance being too little and arriving too late is to invest more in humanitarian action led by governments in crisis-affected countries, assisted and held accountable by civil society, as it is often faster and more appropriate, and can even save more lives.

Yet, during 2007-2013, just 2.4 percent of annual humanitarian assistance went directly to local actors.

Meanwhile, the High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing will be co-chaired by the Vice President of the European Commission, Kristalina Georgieva of Bulgaria, and Sultan Nazrin Shah of Malaysia.

The Panel will also include Hadeel Ibrahim of the United Kingdom; Badr Jafar of the United Arab Emirates; Trevor Manuel of South Africa; Linah Mohohlo of Botswana; Walt Macnee of Canada; Margot Wallström of Sweden; and Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah of Sri Lanka.

The United Nations said the panel is expected to submit its recommendations to the Secretary-General in November 2015 which will help frame discussions at next year’s World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Humanitarian Crisis in South Sudan Continues to Worsenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/humanitarian-crisis-in-south-sudan-continues-to-worsen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-crisis-in-south-sudan-continues-to-worsen http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/humanitarian-crisis-in-south-sudan-continues-to-worsen/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 22:22:13 +0000 Ann-Kathrin Pohlers http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140844 Oxfam estimates that 800,000 people in South Sudan have reached “emergency levels” of hunger. Credit: Ann-Kathrin Pohlers/IPS

Oxfam estimates that 800,000 people in South Sudan have reached “emergency levels” of hunger. Credit: Ann-Kathrin Pohlers/IPS

By Ann-Kathrin Pohlers
MUNICH, Germany, May 28 2015 (IPS)

After peace talks failed earlier this month, the ongoing conflict in South Sudan between government forces and opposition forces that began at the end of 2013 is having a severe impact on the country’s food security and civilian safety.

While fighting continues, widespread burning, destruction, and looting of property have aggravated the efforts of both sides to gain control of the oilfields in the north of the country.

"South Sudan is locked in a horrible cycle of conflict and abuse and there has been absolutely no accountabillity whatsoever for any of these horrific abuses." -- Skye Wheeler, Human Rights Watch (HRW) Researcher for Sudan and South Sudan
“South Sudan is locked in a horrible cycle of conflict and abuse and there has been absolutely no accountabillity whatsoever for any of these horrific abuses,” Skye Wheeler, Human Rights Watch (HRW) Researcher for Sudan and South Sudan, based in Nairobi, told IPS.

To date, 10,000 people have been killed and two million forced to flee their homes.

Aid organisations are calling this a severe humanitarian crisis.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has decried the brutal violence against civilians and children, including the burning down of entire villages and the rapes and murders of women, and children as young as seven years old, over the past few weeks.

The states of Unity and Jonglei are the worst affected. It is unclear exactly who is responsible for the violence and destruction of property.

An estimated 13,000 children under 15 years of age have been recruited by both government and opposition forces, an act that constitutes a war crime, not only in South Sudan but also according to international law.

Another concern is the displacement of civilians and destruction of agriculture.

“People should be planting crops right now, instead they are fleeing,” Pawel Krzysiek, a staff member of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, told IPS.

With the rainy season fast approaching, farming communities in Unity State need to plant their crops now to ensure decent harvests, something they cannot do due to the fighting. Many people have little choice but to depend on food aid.

According to Oxfam,  two-thirds of the population is now food insecure, with 7.8 million people in “Phases 2, 3 and 4 of food insecurity.”

The number of hungry people is projected to rise to 4.6 million by the end of July, accounting for 40 percent of the population. The rights group further estimates that 800,000 people have reached “emergency levels of hunger, facing extreme and dangerous food shortages.”

An Oxfam statement released Wednesday cautioned that this latest analysis “was undertaken before the recent escalation of the war, so it is expected that for thousands of people in South Sudan, the outlook is now even worse.”

Hundreds of thousands of people in South Sudan have been cut off from food and medical supplies by fresh bouts of fighting. Credit: Ann-Kathrin Pohlers/IPS

Hundreds of thousands of people in South Sudan have been cut off from food and medical supplies by fresh bouts of fighting. Credit: Ann-Kathrin Pohlers/IPS

Children have been badly hit, with malnutrition at a “critical level” in 80 percent of all counties in the Greater Upper Nile, Warrap and Northern Bahr El Ghazal states.

Dependence on food aid will only increase now with worsening displacement – gaining access to those most in need is becoming increasingly difficult, aid workers say.

“ICRC is providing food and medicine for about 120,000 people. Many of them are displaced as a result of the fighting, which is challenging our aid workers,” Krzysiek says.

More than two million people are displaced, about 500,000 of them are completely cut off from services.

Besides civilians, aid organisation now find themselves affected, with ongoing violence limiting both the options and capacity of various humanitarian groups.

According to Krzysiek, medical facilities in Unity State and Jonglei State were attacked, targeted and detroyed. Aid organisations were forced to evacuate staff to ensure security.

ICRC was forced to move its base from the city of Kodok to Oriny to the disadvantage of civilians.

“The hospital of Kodok is the only one in its region and therefore very important. People now have even more limited access to health services and food because of the country‘s insufficient infrastructure,” Jean-Yves Clemenzo, based at the ICRC headquarters in Geneva, told IPS.

Humanitarian organisations putting their operations on hold could spell disaster for the roughly 50 percent of South Sudan’s 12 million who are almost entirely dependent on the delivery of aid supplies.

UNICEF estimates it will distribute aid to meet the humanitarian needs of children alone to the tune of 165 million dollars by the end of 2015.

Human Rights Watch is very concerned about the continous deterioration of the conflict. Over the last couple of months, dozens of cases have been documented in which civilians were arrested arbitrarily, beaten up or tortured by unidentified forces.

“It looks like we are seeing a repeat of late 2013, when government forces moved through these areas burning, looting and destroying large parts of it,” Wheeler told IPS.

South Sudan became an independent state in 2011, in a moment that marked the end of a two-decade-long war for independence, which claimed 2.5 million lives. But peace was short-lived.

In December 2012 a power struggle between South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his then-vice president Riek Machar escalated after Machar was accused of attempting to depose Mayardit.

War broke out once again on Dec. 15, 2013, and since then the world’s ‘newest country’ has been consumed by a tide of violence.

Back in March 2015, peace talks hosted by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa failed.

In response, the United Nations security council imposed sanctions on the country, in a resolution that threatened travel bans and asset freezes on individuals or entities “responsible for, complicit in, or engaged directly or indirectly in actions or policies threatening the peace, security or stability of South Sudan.”

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Opinion: Internet Should be Common Heritage of Humankind – Part IIhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-internet-should-be-common-heritage-of-humankind-part-ii/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-internet-should-be-common-heritage-of-humankind-part-ii http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-internet-should-be-common-heritage-of-humankind-part-ii/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 20:55:06 +0000 Branislav Gosovic http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140841 Srun Srorn, a trainer for the E-learning project, walks teachers at Koh Kong High School in Cambodia through a new online sexual education curriculum. Credit: Michelle Tolson/IPS

Srun Srorn, a trainer for the E-learning project, walks teachers at Koh Kong High School in Cambodia through a new online sexual education curriculum. Credit: Michelle Tolson/IPS

By Branislav Gosovic
VILLAGE TUDOROVICI, Montenegro, May 28 2015 (IPS)

The Internet – and the applications that it has spawned – is the single most important technological innovation that has brought together and interlinked humankind in a real, tangible and interactive way.

Among other benefits, it has:While having a universal presence in each country and in the life of the majority of humankind that enjoys its amenities, the Internet is untouchable, controlled by someone somewhere who is invisible and unknown.

  • Made possible instantaneous worldwide communication and interaction
  • Simplified and facilitated many previously time consuming, onerous and costly tasks
  • Enabled a networking that can serve as a means for building a global community, and developing understanding and cooperation
  • Created the “Internet dependence” for the well-being and functioning of society, economy, and daily life and existence of individuals, which has generated a common and shared interest in keeping the Internet functioning, in good order, and continuously improving it.

The Internet has meant a “great leap” forward for humankind and made it possible for it to “leap-frog” and “short-circuit” many of the obstacles and challenges that it had faced earlier on its road to a shared but uncertain future.

However, this great technological communication advance has not been accompanied by a corresponding socio-political leap of systemic change, and the Internet has been weighed down by the legacies of the past and the nature of the existing world order.

Rather than aiming to place the promise and capabilities of the Internet at the disposal of enlightened, common global objectives of humankind and to subject it to democratic multilateral governance, some of the key actors seem to view it primarily as their own property.

They want to be in charge of it and use it for their own strategic ends and objectives, for global expansion and dominance, and the exploitation of new technological possibilities to harvest the planet for what amounts to unlimited creation of wealth, including via virtual means, and massive “invisible” transfer of resources to the core countries of the North.

The resulting situation has been depicted aptly in the recent draft, “Tunis Call for a People’s Internet”, circulated at the Workshop “Organizing an Internet Social Forum – A Call to Occupy the Internet”, held at the April 2015 World Social Forum. It merits to be quoted:

“The Internet today has become an integral and essential part of our daily lives, more and more of our activities are organized through and around the virtual spaces, the networks, online services and the technology it comprises.  It has restructured the very way in which we live, work, play and organise our societies. In many aspects, this is so even for people who at present have no direct Internet access.

At the same time, we are alarmed to see how both our private and public spaces are being co-opted and controlled for private gain; how private corporations are carving the public internet into walled spaces; how our personal data is being manipulated and proprietised; how a global surveillance society is emerging, with little or no privacy; how information on the Internet is being arbitrarily censored, and people’s right to communicate curtailed; and how the Internet is being militarized. Meanwhile, decision-making on public policy matters relating to the Internet remains dangerously removed from the mechanisms of democratic governance.”

The Internet has become controversial not only because of the hegemonic attitude of the key country and because of the free hand given to its monopolistic global Internet-based corporations, but also because it is rooted in and fueled by larger controversies, including decades-old, unresolved development issues.

This includes the questions of transfer of science and technology, intellectual property regimes, and international regulation of transnational corporations, all of which have been on the international agenda for five decades without any visible progress having been made.

There is also the question of “ownership” and “participation”. There is a complete dependence on the Internet worldwide, an addiction that cannot be shaken off. While having a universal presence in each country and in the life of the majority of humankind that enjoys its amenities, the Internet is untouchable, controlled by someone somewhere who is invisible and unknown.

This dependencia when it comes to the Internet governance and control exercised by the interlinked centres in the North, which include military and security apparatus as well as cyber-corporations, produces a palpable feeling of discomfort, frustration, helplessness, exposure and loss of sovereignty, especially but not only in the developing countries.

Drawing on past experiences, principles of the U.N. Charter, and the developing countries’ initiatives for the establishment of a New International Economic Order (NIEO) and New International Information Order (NIIO), one can arrive at some conclusions and recommendations regarding a reform of the Internet and the bolstering of its usefulness to the international community and its common goals, including improved functioning of human society.

The aim should be to defuse the mounting conflict and discontent through political and conceptual liberation of the Internet by making it into a global public good and service within the U.N. framework, with specific objectives and functions directed at satisfying the needs of humankind and helping to overcome problems and challenges, including those stemming from past history and uneven progress and development of the international community.

The Internet should be declared as the common heritage of humankind, a global public good and service embedded within the framework of the United Nations.  This implies and requires, among other things:

  • That the Internet becomes part of the U.N. family by creating a UNINTERNET organization in the framework of the U.N. General Assembly, one inspired by democratic governance and solidarity of humankind
  • That the Internet management and innovation be shared and participatory, and that they involve both public and private entities in cooperative endeavours
  • That current international intellectual property regime undergoes a major review and fundamental modifications
  • That income generated by the Internet, including by global taxation of profits made by services that it enables, be used for global causes of public good within the framework of the United Nations and that in this manner the Internet becomes a major source of international funding for public purposes, including those related to overcoming poverty, sustainable development and climate change, food security, education and health, which now get a few drops from these massive global flows via philanthropic gestures of some who have become enormously wealthy thanks to the Internet
  • That the Internet global infrastructure be public property of the international community and that international non-profit enterprises be established under the U.N. auspices to provide Internet services, software and applications that would be in the public domain
  • That new modes of international accounting and regulation be evolved, as a means to obtain a global overview and control of the financial flows and services via the Internet
  • That a set of goals and objectives of the Internet be elaborated and adopted as the U.N. Declaration or Charter on the Internet, which would serve as the basic reference and guide for the Internet’s future development, management and operation.

Given the recent developments on the world scene, the overall context seems to be ripening for advocating the above approach, which implies a major departure from the present practices and would be a serious competitor to the existing North- and private corporations-dominated Internet.

It would also represent a return to the basic values embodied in the U.N. Charter and the decades-long U.N.-based efforts to evolve democratic and equitable world economic and political order.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Sri Lankan Women Stymied by Archaic Job Markethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/sri-lankan-women-stymied-by-archaic-job-market/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sri-lankan-women-stymied-by-archaic-job-market http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/sri-lankan-women-stymied-by-archaic-job-market/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 20:40:44 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140833 The few Sri Lankan women who seek employment find that the system does not work in their favour. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The few Sri Lankan women who seek employment find that the system does not work in their favour. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Amantha Perera
MIRIGAMA, Sri Lanka , May 28 2015 (IPS)

Wathsala Marasinghe, a 33-year-old hailing from the town of Mirigama, just 50 km from Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, once had high hopes that the progressive education and employment policies of this South Asian island nation would work in her favour. Today, she feels differently, believing that “an evil system” has let her down.

As a young girl, she attended one of the best schools in the area and was selected to attend a state university. “I went there with so much hope,” she tells IPS – but apparently with little knowledge of her true job prospects.

"Paternity leave, child care, crèche services at workplaces, and better and safer public transport facilities for women could be [provided] by the private and public sectors in order to incentivise women to join the labour market." -- Anushka Wijesinha, a consultant to Sri Lankan government ministries
As an undergraduate she studied Buddhism and her native tongue, Sinhala. Her plan was to secure a government job, possibly in teaching or in the public service, and preferably close to home.

But when it came time to job-hunt, she found herself coming up against one wall after another.

“I kept applying and going for interviews but never got a job except as a secretary at a small factory,” she says.

This post did not come close to her employment aspirations, and she was forced to quit after a month. “The salary was 8,000 rupees (about 59 dollars) – I had to spend half of that on traveling,” she explains. The average monthly income in Sri Lanka is about 300 dollars.

She continued to apply, but each time she found herself sitting among a crowd of applicants that seemed to get younger and younger.

The stark reality of the situation has now become clear to her, and she has given up going for interviews altogether, embarrassed to be in the company of other hopefuls who “look like my daughters.”

Marasinghe’s conundrum is not rare in Sri Lanka, despite the country’s purported efforts to achieve targets on gender equality and visible signs of progress on paper.

In 2012, the Gender Gap Report produced by the World Economic Forum ranked Sri Lanka 39th out of 135 countries surveyed, an unsurprisingly strong placement given that the country of 20 million people has a female adult literacy rate of 90 percent. This rises to 99 percent for female youth in the 15-24 bracket.

Furthermore, girls outnumber their male counterparts at the secondary level, indicating a dedication to gender equality across the social spectrum.

However this has not translated into equitable employment opportunities, or wage parity between men and women.

Government labour statistics indicate that 64.5 percent of the 8.8 million economically active people in Sri Lanka are men, while just 35.5 percent are women. Of the economically inactive population, just 25.4 percent are men, and 74.6 percent are women.

The female unemployment rate in Sri Lanka is over two-and-a-half times that of the male rate, and almost twice the national figure. According to government data, only 2.9 percent of men entering the labour market remain unemployed, while the corresponding figure for women is 7.2 percent. The national unemployment rate is 4.2 percent.

The same government figures indicate that education and skills do not necessarily help females secure employment – on the contrary, they could result in a lifetime of frustrations.

“The problem of unemployment is more acute in the case of educated females than educated males,” said the latest labour force survey compiled by the Census and Statistics Department.

Experts say there are a multitude of structural and social reasons behind the high rate of female unemployment.

For starters while nearly three in four males enter the job market, it is the reverse for women, with just 35 percent of working-age females actually seeking employment, resulting in a skewed supply chain.

Economist Anushka Wijesinha, who works as a consultant to international organisations, says that women who seek higher education also have higher job aspirations, but the job market has not grown fast enough to cater to such needs.

“Aspirations are shifting away from working in the industrial sector as before – more women are keen to work in services like retail […] but jobs in this sector haven’t grown fast enough to cater to the changing aspirations. So we are seeing ‘queuing’, women waiting for those jobs and not getting them,” he tells IPS.

Sri Lankan women say that improved transport, childcare and crèche facilities would create a more favorable employment environment. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Sri Lankan women say that improved transport, childcare and crèche facilities would create a more favorable employment environment. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Muttukrishna Sarvananthan, an economist who heads the Point Pedro Institute of Development, shares that analysis, but believes that female unemployment levels should be adjusted to include the roughly 600,000 Sri Lankan women working overseas, the bulk as domestic workers.

He is also an advocate of placing an economical value on women who are fully occupied with looking after households.

Currently, the single largest employer of women is the agricultural sector at 33.9 percent, while the services sector employs around 42 percent of women, while industries employ around 24 percent.

There are other reasons why women stay away from work. Nayana Siriwardena, a 35-year-old mother of two, used to work till she had her first child. After the government-stipulated three months’ maternity leave ran out, she had to return to work.

“What I found problematic was that the workplace could not be flexible enough to address my situation,” she said.

She worked in bookkeeping and tried to impress upon her employers that some of the work could be done from a remote location.

“But they did not understand that, which I found surprising because the company was quite progressive in other areas and also because young mothers are not a rare occurrence in any establishment.”

Wijesinha feels that maternal benefits themselves, which legally must be provided for three months, can act as a deterrent to some companies.

“Maternal benefits have to be paid in full by the employer. This means that employers may be deterred [from] hiring young women, because they know they likely have to pay maternal benefits,” he said.

Sarvananthan says that security for women – at the work place, during the commute, and for their offspring – could play a huge role in changing employment figures.

“In order to boost labour force participation by women, a carrot-and-stick approach could be pursued by the state. Paternity leave, child care, crèche services at workplaces, and better and safer public transport facilities for women could be [provided] by the private and public sectors in order to incentivise women to join the labour market,” he argues.

He also believes the government should ink an equal opportunities law that legally undermines discriminatory policies. Currently, the constitution stipulates that no one should be discriminated based on sex, but there is no law that provides for equal pay for the same work.

Having more women in the workplace is not only a current problem but could also be a future crisis, as Sri Lanka’s working population ages. Currently, 17 percent of the population is above the age of 55, while 25 percent is below 15 years, meaning only around 50 percent are believed to be in the working age group.

“Given that women comprise just over half of the population, and our working age population peak is beginning to wane, it is critical that we have maximum participation from women in the workforce,” Wijesinha states.

Many believe a higher portion of women in decision-making positions could right these imbalances.

Women’s political representation remains low, with less than 6.5 percent women in parliament, less than six percent in provincial councils, and fewer than two percent in local government.

As the country moves towards elections, activists and rights groups are calling for a 30 percent quota for women in the 20th amendment to the constitution.

If this goal is realised, it could spell change for people like Marasinghe, who, after a decade of searching for her elusive dream job, has all but given up hope.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Opinion: Let’s End Chronic Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-lets-end-chronic-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-lets-end-chronic-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-lets-end-chronic-hunger/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 16:43:36 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140834

Jomo Kwame Sundaram is the Coordinator for Economic and Social Development at the Food and Agriculture Organization and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
ROME, May 28 2015 (IPS)

At the 1996 World Food Summit (WFS), heads of government and the international community committed to reducing the number of hungry people in the world by half. Five years later, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) lowered this level of ambition by only seeking to halve the proportion of the hungry.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: Abdul Ghani Ismail

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: Abdul Ghani Ismail

The latest State of World Food Insecurity (SOFI) report for 2015 by the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Programme and International Fund for Agricultural Development estimates almost 795 million people—one in nine people worldwide—remain chronically hungry.

The number of undernourished people—those regularly unable to consume enough food for an active and healthy life—in the world has thus only declined by slightly over a fifth from the 1010.6 million estimated for 1991 to 929.6 million in 2001, 820.7 million in 2011 and 794.6 million in 2014.

With the number of chronically hungry people in developing countries declining from 990.7 million in 1991 to 779.9 million in 2014, their share in developing countries has declined by 44.4 per cent, from 23.4 to 12.9 per cent over the 23 years, but still short of the 11.7 per cent target.

Thus, the MDG 1c target of halving the chronically undernourished’s share of the world’s population by the end of 2015 is unlikely to be met at the current rate of progress. However, meeting the target is still possible, with sufficient, immediate, additional effort to accelerate progress, especially in countries which have showed little progress thus far.With high levels of deprivation, unemployment and underemployment likely to prevail in the world in the foreseeable future, poverty and hunger are unlikely to be overcome by 2030 without universally establishing a social protection floor for all.

Progress uneven

Overall progress has been highly uneven. All but 15 million of the world’s hungry live in developing countries. Some countries and regions have seen only slow progress in reducing hunger, while the absolute number of hungry has even increased in several cases.

By the end of 2014, 72 of the 129 developing countries monitored had reached the MDG 1c target — to either reduce the share of hungry people by half, or keep the share of the chronically undernourished under five per cent. Several more are likely to do so by the end of 2015.

Instead of halving the number of hungry in developing regions by 476 million, this number was only reduced by 221 million, just under half the earlier, more ambitious WFS goal. Nevertheless, some 29 countries succeeded in at least halving the number of hungry. This is significant as this shows that achieving and sustaining rapid progress in reducing hunger is feasible.

Marked differences in undernourishment persist across the regions. There have been significant reductions in both the share and number of undernourished in most countries in South-East Asia, East Asia, Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean—where the MDG target of halving the hunger rate has been reached.

While sub-Saharan Africa has the highest share of the chronically hungry, almost one in four, South Asia has the highest number, with over half a billion undernourished. West Asia alone has seen an actual rise in the share of the hungry compared to 1991, while progress in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Oceania has not been sufficient to meet the MDG hunger target by 2015.

Efforts need to be stepped up

Despite the shortfall in achieving the MDG1c target and the failure to get near the WFS goal of halving the number of hungry, world leaders are likely to commit to eliminating hunger and poverty by 2030 when they announce the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the United Nations in September.

To be sure, there is enough food produced to feed everyone in the world. However, hundreds of millions of people do not have the means to access enough food to meet their dietary energy needs, let alone what is needed for diverse diets to avoid ‘hidden hunger’ by meeting their micronutrient requirements.

With high levels of deprivation, unemployment and underemployment likely to prevail in the world in the foreseeable future, poverty and hunger are unlikely to be overcome by 2030 without universally establishing a social protection floor for all. Such efforts will also need to provide the means for sustainable livelihoods and resilience.

The Second International Conference of Nutrition in Rome last November articulated commitments and proposals for accelerated progress to overcome undernutrition. Improvements in nutrition will require sustained and integrated efforts involving complementary policies, including improving health conditions, food systems, social protection, hygiene, water supply and education.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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ACP Aims to Make Voice of the Moral Majority Count in the Global Arenahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/acp-aims-to-make-voice-of-the-moral-majority-count-in-the-global-arena/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=acp-aims-to-make-voice-of-the-moral-majority-count-in-the-global-arena http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/acp-aims-to-make-voice-of-the-moral-majority-count-in-the-global-arena/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 23:20:04 +0000 Valentina Gasbarri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140829 Opening Ceremony of the 101st Session of the ACP Council of Ministers, May 2015, with Secretary-General Dr Patrick I. Gomes (third from left) and President of the Council of Ministers Meltek Sato Kilman Livtuvanu (third from right). Credit: Valentina Gasbarri/IPS

Opening Ceremony of the 101st Session of the ACP Council of Ministers, May 2015, with Secretary-General Dr Patrick I. Gomes (third from left) and President of the Council of Ministers Meltek Sato Kilman Livtuvanu (third from right). Credit: Valentina Gasbarri/IPS

By Valentina Gasbarri
BRUSSELS, May 27 2015 (IPS)

“Four decades of existence is a milestone for the ACP as an international alliance of developing countries,” Dr Patrick I. Gomes of Guyana, newly appointed Secretary-General of the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of countries, said at the opening of the 101st Session of the group’s Council of Ministers.

“With the organisation currently repositioning itself for more strategic engagements with regards to its future, this is an opportunity not only to review the past, but also to project to the decades ahead, especially in terms of how to be effective and better respond to the development needs of our member countries in the 21st century,” he added.“From the viewpoint of the poor and vulnerable, we are the moral majority. Not only do we count, but we must continue to make our voice count in the global arena if we are to transform the ACP Group of States into a truly effective global player” – Meltek Sato Kilman Livtuvanu, President of the ACP’s Council of Ministers

The meeting, which opened May 26, brought together more than 300 officials from the ACP group who are determined to put an emphasis on re-positioning the ACP group as an effective player in a challenging global landscape.

At the group’s 7th Summit of Heads of State and Government held in Equatorial Guinea in December 2012, the group issued the Sipopo Declaration which noted that “at this historic juncture in the existence of our unique intergovernmental and tri-continental organisation, the demands for fundamental renewal and transformation are no longer mere options but unavoidable imperatives for strategic change”.

Meltek Sato Kilman Livtuvanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vanuatu and President of the ACP’s Council of Ministers, told the opening session of this week’s Council meeting that “from the viewpoint of the poor and vulnerable, we are the moral majority. Not only do we count, but we must continue to make our voice count in the global arena if we are to transform the ACP Group of States into a truly effective global player.”

A key focus of the 40th anniversary is how to enhance regional and intra-ACP relations in order to better position the ACP group to deliver on development goals in the post-2015 era, starting with playing a decisive role at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development to be held in July in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as well as at the U.N. Summit on the Post-2015 Development Agenda to be held in New York in September.

ACP Secretary-General Dr Patrick I. Gomes (left) and President of the Council of Ministers Meltek Sato Kilman Livtuvanu at the opening ceremony of the 101st Session of the ACP Council of Ministers, May 2015. Credit: Valentina Gasbarri/IPS

ACP Secretary-General Dr Patrick I. Gomes (left) and President of the Council of Ministers Meltek Sato Kilman Livtuvanu at the opening ceremony of the 101st Session of the ACP Council of Ministers, May 2015. Credit: Valentina Gasbarri/IPS

For ACP Secretary-General Gomes, the most critical meeting for the group will be the 8th ACP Summit, which had originally been scheduled to be held in November in Suriname before that country had to withdraw due to multiple commitments.

Inviting member countries to step forward and offer to host the event, Gomes said that the 8th Summit “must be a beacon that refines our strategic policy domains for the next decade and project a powerful political vision to serve the ACP in our engagement with the European Union.”

More importantly, that summit would provide the strategic direction and financial commitment necessary to build the capacity of the ACP group to address the development needs of its populations.

Viwanou Gnassounou of Togo, ACP Assistant Secretary-General for Sustainable Economic Development and Trade, told IPS that the group “will be fully engaged in 2015 in high-level negotiations not only calling for a strategic approach but also trying to raise our common voice in a more holistic manner.”

He said that the ACP is finalising a position paper to be presented in December at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris, as well as at the 10th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Nairobi in December.

Participants at the Council of Ministers meeting agreed that the plethora of priorities facing the ACP today calls for widening its partnership with the European Union and beyond, embracing the global South as well as emerging economies with greater determination, and promoting South-South and triangular cooperation.

The Cotonou Partnership Agreement which currently governs relations between the ACP and the European Union expires in 2020 and the ACP Secretariat has commissioned a consultancy exercise to formulate the ACP Group’s position future relations with the European Union.

The ACP-EU Joint Council of Ministers, which meets May 28, is expected to place a special focus on migration and discuss recommendations from an ACP-EU experts’ meeting on trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants following the unacceptable loss of thousands of lives in the Mediterranean Sea as people try to reach Europe.

The two sides are also expected to exchange views on the broad range of issues affecting the ACP-EU trade relations at multilateral and bilateral levels, as well as financing for development as a follow up to the ACP-EU Declaration on the Post-Development Agenda approved in June 2014, which called for “an ambitious financing framework to adequately tackle sustainable development issues and challenges.”

In this context, the declaration said that a “coherent response based on a global comprehensive and integrated approach, fuelled by traditional and innovative financing solutions and governed by principles for efficient resource use seems the most appropriate way to finance sustainable development.”

Edited by Phil Harris  

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The U.N. at 70: Drugs and Crime are Challenges for Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/the-u-n-at-70-drugs-and-crime-are-challenges-for-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-u-n-at-70-drugs-and-crime-are-challenges-for-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/the-u-n-at-70-drugs-and-crime-are-challenges-for-sustainable-development/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 21:25:27 +0000 Yury Fedotov http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140824 Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "The magnitude of the problems we face is such that it is sometimes hard to imagine how any effort can be enough to confront them. But to quote Nelson Mandela, 'It always seems impossible until it is done'. We must keep working together, until it is done" – Yury Fedotov. Credit: Courtesy of UNODC

Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "The magnitude of the problems we face is such that it is sometimes hard to imagine how any effort can be enough to confront them. But to quote Nelson Mandela, 'It always seems impossible until it is done'. We must keep working together, until it is done" – Yury Fedotov. Credit: Courtesy of UNODC

By Yury Fedotov
VIENNA, May 27 2015 (IPS)

With terrorism, migrant smuggling and trafficking in cultural property some of the world’s most daunting challenges, “the magnitude of the problems we face is such that it is sometimes hard to imagine how any effort can be enough to confront them. But to quote Nelson Mandela, ‘It always seems impossible until it is done’. We must keep working together, until it is done.”

The words are those of U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director Yury Fedotov, who was speaking at the closing of the 24th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (Crime Commission) held in the Austrian capital from May 18-22.

Earlier this month, IPS Editor-in-Chief Ramesh Jaura interviewed Fedotov on how the challenges facing the United Nations’ drugs and crime agency translate into challenges on the sustainable development front.“The share of citizens experiencing bribery at least once in a year is over 50 percent in some low-income countries. Many detected human trafficking movements are directed from poor areas to more affluent ones. Research also suggests that weak rule of law is connected to lower levels of economic development” – UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov

Q. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), established in 1997, understands itself as “a global leader in the fight against illicit drugs and international crime”. At the same time, you have taken up the cudgels on behalf of sustainable development. What role does the UNODC envisage for itself in achieving sustainable development goals to be agreed at the U.N. summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda in September?

A. Crime steals from countries, families and communities and hampers development while exacerbating inequality and violence, especially in vulnerable countries. Trafficking in diamonds and precious metals, for instance, diverts resources from countries that desperately need the income.

The share of citizens experiencing bribery at least once in a year is over 50 percent in some low-income countries. Many detected human trafficking movements are directed from poor areas to more affluent ones. Research also suggests that weak rule of law is connected to lower levels of economic development. These are just some of the many challenges that the international community faces around the world that are related to crime.

UNODC’s broad mandate includes stopping human traffickers and migrant smugglers, as well as tackling illicit drugs. It encompasses promoting health and alternative livelihoods and involves battling corruption, illicit financial flows, money laundering and terrorist financing. Our work confronts emerging and re-emerging crimes, including wildlife and forest crime, and cybercrime, among others, all of which hinder sustainable development.

Currently the United Nations is making the transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In Goal 16, the Open Working Group, responsible for identifying the development goals stressed the need to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, and to provide access to justice for all, as well as building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions. Justice is also one of the six essential elements identified by the Secretary-General in his own Synthesis Report on this subject.

Goal 3, which focuses on “ensuring healthy lives”, underlines the importance of strengthening prevention and treatment of substance abuse. These goals – justice and health – go to the very heart of UNODC’s mission. I am hopeful that when the U.N. Heads of State Summit on Sustainable Development in September 2015 takes place these goals will remain.

Q. UNODC organised its Thirteenth Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice from Apr. 12 to 19 in Doha, Qatar. The 13-page Doha Declaration contains recommendations on how the rule of law can protect and promote sustainable development. Is that the reason that you described Doha as a “point of departure”?

A. The Doha Declaration was passed by acclamation at the 13th Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, and contains crucial recommendations on how the rule of law can protect and promote sustainable development. The declaration is driven by the principle that these issues are mutually reinforcing and that crime prevention and criminal justice should be integrated into the wider U.N. system.

At the 24th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (May 18-22), there were nine resolutions before the Commission and they pave the way for the Doha Declaration to go before the U.N. General Assembly and ECOSOC for approval. The other resolutions, for instance on cultural property and standard rules on the treatment of prisoners, seek to implement the principles of the Doha Declaration.

It is for this reason that I described the 13th Crime Congress in Doha as a significant “point of departure”. Doha is the first, but not the last step in the process of implementing the Declaration and ensuring that we turn fine words into spirited and dedicated action in the areas of crime prevention and criminal justice – action that can benefit the millions of victims of crime, illicit drugs, corruption and terrorism.

If we do this, we have an opportunity to energise the 60-year legacy of Crime Congresses and give it the power to shape how we tackle crime and promote development for many years to come. Indeed, I see a strong, visible thread between the recent Crime Congress, September’s UN Summit on Sustainable Development and the 14th Crime Congress in Japan in five years’ time.

Q. The Doha Declaration also pleads for integrating crime prevention and criminal justice into the wider United Nations agenda. This suggestion comes at a point in time when the United Nations is turning 70. Are there some issues which the United Nations has ignored until now or is there a range of issues that have emerged over previous decades?

A. Member States are increasingly affected by organised crime, corruption, violence and terrorism. These challenges undercut good governance and the rule of law, threatening security, development and people’s lives.

Sustainable development can be safeguarded through fair, human and effective crime prevention and criminal justice systems as a central component of the rule of law. As stated by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “There is no peace without development; there is no development without peace; and there is no lasting peace and sustainable development without respect for human rights.”  We need to break down the walls between these activities and integrate the various approaches.

UNODC is well placed to assist. We work closely with regional entities, partner countries, multilateral and bilateral bodies, civil society, academia and the private sector to support the work on development. We can also offer our support at the global, regional, and local levels, through our headquarters and network of field offices.

Q. Do you find willingness on the part of all countries around the world to agree on national, regional and international legal instruments, to combat all forms of crime, and their willingness to pull on the same string when it comes to implementation?

A. Our work is founded on the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and its three protocols, the Convention against Corruption, international drug control conventions, universal legal instruments against terrorism and U.N. standards and norms on crime prevention and criminal justice.

Almost all of these international instruments have been universally ratified by the international community. Why? Because countries recognise that crime today is too big, too powerful, too profitable for any one country to handle alone. Countries recognise that, today, crime not only crosses country borders, but regional borders. It is a global problem that warrants comprehensive, integrated global solutions.

The UNODC approach to this unique challenge is threefold. First, we are building political commitment among Member States. Second, we deliver our activities through our integrated regional programmes across the world. Third, we are working with partners, both within and outside the United Nations, to ensure that our delivery is strongly connected to other activities at the field level.

In support of this action, and to give just one example, UNODC is networking the networks. Today’s criminals have widespread networks and vast resources; if we are to successfully confront them, we need to ensure greater cross-border cooperation, information sharing and tracking of criminal proceeds.  The initiative is part of an interregional drug control approach developed by UNODC to stem illicit drug trafficking from Afghanistan and focuses on promoting closer cooperation between existing law enforcement coordination centres and platforms.

Q. UNODC has assigned itself a wide range of tasks. Which are your priorities in the biennium ending this year, during which you have 760.1 million dollars at your disposal?

A. I would mention two matters that are of international importance. First, smuggling of migrants not just in the Mediterranean or the Andaman seas, but also elsewhere. We are witnessing unprecedented movements of people across the globe, the largest since the Second World War. People are leaving because of conflict, insecurity and the desire for a better life. They are falling into the arms of unscrupulous smugglers and many of them are dying, while trying to make the dangerous journey across deserts and seas.

Second, the nexus of transnational organised crime and terrorism is a major threat to global peace and security, and has been recognised as such in recent Security Council resolutions. Every extremist and terrorist group requires sustainable funding. The most reliable, and sometimes the only, means of achieving this is through illicit funds gained from transnational organised crime, including cybercrime, drug trafficking, people smuggling and many other crimes.

Information on the magnitude and exact nature of such relationships remains incomplete, and more research is needed. Based on data and analysis, however, for some regions, we can follow the funding in support of violent extremism and terrorism. In Afghanistan, for example, the Taliban could be receiving as much as 200 million dollars annually as a tax on the drug lords.

Edited by Phil Harris    

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Laissez Faire Water Laws Threaten Family Farming in Chilehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/laissez-faire-water-laws-threaten-family-farming-in-chile/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=laissez-faire-water-laws-threaten-family-farming-in-chile http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/laissez-faire-water-laws-threaten-family-farming-in-chile/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 07:44:19 +0000 Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140818 Cascada Barba de Abuelo, a waterfall in Aitken Park in the southern Chilean region of Aysén. Although the region has some of the world’s biggest freshwater reserves, local residents have to pay for the water they use for household needs and irrigation. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Cascada Barba de Abuelo, a waterfall in Aitken Park in the southern Chilean region of Aysén. Although the region has some of the world’s biggest freshwater reserves, local residents have to pay for the water they use for household needs and irrigation. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, May 27 2015 (IPS)

Family farmers in Chile are pushing for the reinstatement of water as a public good, to at least partially solve the shortages caused by the privatisation of water rights by the military dictatorship in 1981.

“Why should we pay for water rights if the people who were born and grew up in the countryside always had access to water?” Patricia Mancilla, a rural women’s community organiser in the southern region of Patagonia, remarked to Tierramérica.

That is a question echoed by small farmers throughout Chile.

This long, narrow country is rich in water, but it is unequally distributed: while to the south of Santiago annual freshwater availability per capita is over 10,000 cubic metres, it is less than 800 cubic metres per capita in the north, according to a 2011 World Bank study.

But the 1980 constitution made water private property, and the Water Code gives the state the authority to grant use rights to companies free of charge and in perpetuity. Water use is regulated by the Code, according to the rules of the free market.

The laissez-faire Code allows water use rights to be bought, sold or leased, without taking into consideration local priorities and needs, such as drinking water.

“Chile is the only country in the world to have privatised its water sources and water management,” activist Rodrigo Mundaca, secretary general of the Movement for the Defence of Water, Land and the Environment (MODATIMA), told Tierramérica.

Mundaca, an agronomist, added that Chile’s legislation “separates ownership of water from ownership of land, giving rise to a market for water,” which means there are people who own land but have no water, and vice versa.“Water is now, without a doubt, the most important environmental issue in this country. Small farmers have lost their land, and there are municipalities like Petorca, where more than 3,000 women live on their own because their husbands and partners have gone elsewhere to find work.” -- Rodrigo Mundaca

The 1973-1990 dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet created two categories of water use rights: consumptive and non-consumptive.

Consumptive water use refers to water that is removed from available supplies without returning to a water resource system.

In this category, 73 percent of water rights have gone to agriculture, nine percent to the mining industry, 12 percent to industry and six percent to the sanitation system, Mundaca said.

Non-consumptive use refers to water that is used but not consumed. This mainly includes water withdrawn for the purpose of generating hydroelectricity, and since 2009, 81 percent of these water use rights have been in the hands of the Italian-Spanish company Enel-Endesa, the activist said.

As a result, “today the communities of northern Chile are at loggerheads with the mining corporations, over water use; the communities of central Chile with agribusiness and agroexporters; and communities in the south with hydropower plants and forestry companies,” Mundaca said.

“Water is now, without a doubt, the main environmental issue in this country. Small farmers have lost their land, and there are municipalities like Petorca, where more than 3,000 women live on their own because their husbands and partners have had to leave to find work,” he added.

Latin America in general is one of the regions most vulnerable to the crises caused by climate change, according to the World Bank. But in Chile, small farmers are less vulnerable to climate change than to the “theft” of their water by large agroexporters, activists say.

Petorca, a case in point

“The water business reflects the conflicts of interest, influence peddling and corruption in Chile,” Ricardo Sanhueza told Tierramérica. Sanhueza is a small farmer who lives in the municipality of Petorca, 220 km north of Santiago, which illustrates the impact of the water management model put in place 34 years ago.

“I remember that even though we suffered from a major drought between 1987 and 1997, we always had clean drinking water,” he said.

The 70,000 people who live in Petorca, located in the province of the same name, depend on tanker trucks for their water supply.

“The problem here isn’t related to the climate,” he said. “The problem is the over-exploitation of the land and the abusive use of water….Political interests are undermining the foundations of small-scale family farming.”

According to a study by the National Human Rights Institute (INDH), a government body, the province’s water shortages are not only caused by drought but also by “business activities in that area.”

The report also states that the granting of rights to use water sources that have been exhausted has played a part in generating a water crisis that seriously affects the quality of life of the residents of the province of Petorca.

The prioritisation of the use of water for productive activities rather than human consumption has aggravated the problem, the study goes on to say.

Mónica Flores, a psychologist with the municipal Public Health Department, told Tierramérica with nostalgia that the Petorca river had completely dried up, putting an end to social activities and community life surrounding the river.

“The river emerged in the Andes mountains and flowed to the ocean,” she said. “But today you just see a gray line full of dirt and stones.”

“It marked a before and after,” Flores said. “My childhood revolved around the river: I played there with my friends, we would swim, we would flirt with each other. But my daughter’s life isn’t the same, it’s much lonelier.

“Many rituals played out by the river, which was the heart, the spinal column of the province,” she said, stressing the impact on the local population of the drying up of the river.

But Petorca is just one example of the water problem in Chile.

On Mar. 22, World Water Day, the INDH declared that “Chile’s development cannot come at the cost of sacrificing the water of local communities, or at the cost of mortgaging the future of coming generations.”

The hydric resources commission in the lower house of Congress is currently debating a reform of the Water Code, which would represent significant advances, such as giving a priority to water use for essential needs and replacing water use rights in perpetuity with temporary rights.

But the modifications will not be retroactive, and most water use rights have already been granted.

Moreover, the water use privileges enjoyed by the mining industry will not be touched by the reform. Nor has the question of water shortages for essential uses by small farmers and indigenous communities been addressed. And there is no talk of a constitutional amendment to make water a public good once again.

The constitution put in place by the dictatorship “states that all people are free and equal in dignity and rights,” Mundaca said. “However, vast segments of the population, deprived of water, depend on tanker trucks for drinking water, can only do a quick rinse around key areas instead of showering, and go to the bathroom in plastic bags.

“It’s shameful and wrong. People have to regain access to water one way or another,” he said.

This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Terror Groups May Be Winning Digital War on Extremist Ideologyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/terror-groups-may-be-winning-digital-war-on-extremist-ideology/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=terror-groups-may-be-winning-digital-war-on-extremist-ideology http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/terror-groups-may-be-winning-digital-war-on-extremist-ideology/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 21:10:07 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140813 Islamic State fighters pictured here in a 2014 propaganda video shot in Iraq's Anbar province.

Islamic State fighters pictured here in a 2014 propaganda video shot in Iraq's Anbar province.

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, May 26 2015 (IPS)

The United Nations is quick to point out the increasing pace at which digital technology is racing across the world.

Six out of every seven people are armed with mobile phones – and more than three billion, out of the world’s 7.1 billion people, have access to the Internet.In February, ISIL posted a polished, 50-page guide online called “The Hijrah to the Islamic State,” that instructs potential recruits how to make the journey to its territory – including everything from finding safe houses in Turkey, to what kind of backpack to bring, and how to answer questions from immigration officials without arousing suspicion.

Still, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warns that while advanced technologies are accelerating progress, there are also emerging threats.

“Extremist groups are using social networks to spread their hateful ideologies,” he told a Digital Forum in South Korea last week.

And despite the wide digital divide, he said, information and communication technologies (ICTs) are fast shaping the U.N.’s future sustainable development agenda.

“Our food agency uses mobile phones to help farmers set prices. Our relief operations communicate emergency information over online networks. And our messages go directly to the global public over Twitter and Facebook,” he said.

But there is also an increasing downside to the wide use of Twitter and Facebook: the world’s terror networks have been more adept at spreading their politically-loaded messages of hatred and religious extremism through the use of modern communication technologies – and keeping one step ahead of the governments pursuing them.

Ambassador Samantha Power, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, told the Security Council last month that groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and Al Shabaab are using the latest tools of modern technology to boost their cause.

“ISIL is showing increased sophistication in recruiting young people, particularly in virtual spaces,” Power said.

She said the group disseminates around 90,000 tweets each day, and its members and supporters routinely co-opt trending hashtags to disseminate their messages.

Nick Ashton-Hart, executive director of the Internet & Digital Ecosystem Alliance (IDEA), a Swiss non-governmental organisation (NGO), told IPS winning the digital argument, with those whose objective is the destruction of open, pluralistic societies, is a challenge.

“But online or offline it always has been,” he added.

Winning that argument requires demonstrating that secure, pluralistic societies have a better future to offer. “With respect to digital security, frankly, we are failing,” he said.

“Just look at basic international cooperation to protect people in their daily lives, from crime, fraud, and identity theft – as well as crimes like terrorism.”

The United States, he pointed out, has a backlog of more than 11,000 requests for legal assistance on all kinds of crime from the law enforcement officials of countries worldwide – and it is far from alone.

The international mutual legal assistance (MLAT) framework is simply not fit for digital purpose, said Ashton-Hart, the senior permanent representative of the technology sector to the U.N., its member-states, and the international organisations in Geneva.

Powers said ISIL even reportedly developed a Twitter app last year that allows Twitter subscribers to hand over control of their feed to ISIL – allowing ISIL to tweet from the individual subscriber’s account, exponentially amplifying the reach of its messages, Power said.

In February, ISIL posted a polished, 50-page guide online called “The Hijrah to the Islamic State,” that instructs potential recruits how to make the journey to its territory – including everything from finding safe houses in Turkey, to what kind of backpack to bring, and how to answer questions from immigration officials without arousing suspicion, she said.

“And it’s not just ISIL that is aggressively targeting children and youth – but al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, and other groups,” Power told delegates.

Last week, ISIL released a 34-minute video, purportedly from its recluse leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in which he appealed to Muslims to either join ISIL or carry out attacks in their home countries.

The online recording, the New York Times reported, was translated into English, French, German, Russian and Turkish, “an unusual move suggesting that the group was hoping for maximum exposure.”

According to the United Nations, some 600 million people were victims of cybercrimes two years ago.

And U.N. experts estimate these crimes will cost the global economy about 400 billion dollars every year.

Ashton-Hart told IPS the main global crime prevention treaty, the Convention on Transboundary Organised Crime, is starved of the funding necessary to fully implement it.

“Senior judges in the Hague tell me they cannot get the cooperation they need in basic digital evidence-gathering integral to prosecute monstrous crimes, in some cases the most grave crimes in existence.”

“If the international framework that ISIL want to tear down cannot manage these fundamentals, how can we expect to win the broader argument over extremism?” he asked.

He also said creating the practical measures that underpin trust between societies in basic law enforcement and baseline cybersecurity is not optional “and yet we still have more than 200 processes related to these issues without any structured, effective coordination between them to ensure sustainable, win-win outcomes.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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The U.N. at 70: A Glass Half Fullhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/the-u-n-at-70-a-glass-half-full/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-u-n-at-70-a-glass-half-full http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/the-u-n-at-70-a-glass-half-full/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 20:34:07 +0000 Dr. Palitha Kohona http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140810

Dr. Palitha Kohona is former Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

By Dr. Palitha Kohona
COLOMBO, May 26 2015 (IPS)

As the U.N. enters its 70th year, it is legitimate to ask whether it has been a success so far. Over the years, the media, in particular the Western media, has tended to highlight the U.N.’s failures.

Amb. Palitha Kohona. Credit: U.N. Photo/Mark Garten

Amb. Palitha Kohona. Credit: U.N. Photo/Mark Garten

The still unfinished business in the Korean Peninsula, the morass that was Congo, the impotency in Vietnam, it’s ineffectiveness during much of the cold war, the paralysis in Rwanda, it’s inability to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end, and many such unedifying instances have tended to garner the headlines.

But as Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold so succinctly proclaimed, the U.N. was not created to send humanity to heaven, simply to stop it from going to hell. Likewise, it has been said that if the U.N. did not exist we would have had to invent it.

Given the current global suspicions and rivalries, it is unlikely that we would succeed in creating a U.N. today from scratch. Despite all the criticisms for its failures, it has achieved much in its 70 years of existence. It could be described as the most successful and truly global political organisation ever created.

One of the key goals of the United Nations, created on the ashes of the devastating Second World War, was to prevent another world war. In this it has succeeded. The major powers have not battled each other militarily in the last 70 years. While innumerable regional, bilateral, and internal conflicts and proxy wars have caused millions of deaths and inestimable property damage, a global conflagration has been avoided.The end of the Cold War brought hope that the world body would be able to make useful progress on many fronts. But the rekindling of confrontational attitudes again among the major powers has introduced a new era of uncertainty.

The U.N. has been described as a private club. Its members decide what the club should do. Although the world at large may have other higher expectations, the U.N. is able to do only what it’s membership and the Charter would permit it to do. The most effective results are achieved where a consensus is obtained.

The way it’s constitution (the Charter) is formulated ensures that it’s powers are strictly constrained. (More about this later). At the same time the rights and privileges of those who won the Second World War are well and truly entrenched in a blatantly undemocratic manner, causing much disenchantment in a world where the political, economic and social power centres have shifted significantly.

Due to the manner it was designed, especially due to the power of veto conferred on the P5 in the Security Council, its freedom of action is limited to situations where the veto wielders agree. The Cold War paralyzed the U.N. substantially hobbling it during those dangerous years of East -West confrontation.

The end of the Cold War brought hope that the world body would be able to make useful progress on many fronts. But the rekindling of confrontational attitudes again among the major powers has introduced a new era of uncertainty.

Similarly, North South relations have always been clouded by suspicions traceable to the colonial experience. This constraint continues to influence attitudes and is not helped by an overbearing, “we know best” approach of the West. The Group of 77, originally intended to be the platform of developing countries on economic and social issues, is no longer 77. Taking in China (a P5 country), it has grown to 134. Not all of its members are poor developing countries.

Similarly, the Non Aligned Movement, originally intended to be the force not aligned to the East or the West, has tended to pull in different directions with no cohesive non aligned focus. Some have dropped out of this group. The growing tendency of the Security Council to adopt decisions binding on all member states on a range of issues that should properly be the responsibility of the General Assembly, has also come in for criticism.

The Security Council, dominated by the P5, has taken upon itself the task of legislating to the entire international community in certain situations, denying the vast majority of Member States any opportunity to influence such law making.

On the positive side, the human, social and economic rights standards of the world have improved substantially due to the work of the United Nations. From the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the Organisation has progressively adopted a range of multilateral conventions setting standards on civil and political rights, social, economic and cutural rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, indegenous rights, disabled persons’ rights, racial discrimination, etc.

With these globally agreed benchmarks in place, the world is certainly a better place today than it was in 1945. Admittedly, the conclusion of a multilateral treaty or becoming party to a treaty does not per se advance the condition of individual persons. But the very existence of these universally accepted standards, creates the incentive to strive for those higher goals. some times with a little bit of added pressure.

The U.N. has been mainly responsible for the unprecedented development of the international rule of law. The secretary-general’s office is the repository of over 550 multilateral treaties, the vast majority of them negotiated under the auspices of the U.N.. They cover almost every aspect of human interaction, including the environment, the oceans, aviation, trade, human rights, disarmament, terrorism, organised crime, the outer space, shipping, road rules, etc.

The complex network of rules encompassed in these treaties have established standards for the conduct of individual states as never before. The international rule of law thus established, seeps down to national level in many areas influencing the development of the rule of law within countries.

The U.N. and its agencies have been successful in mobilising the international community on various issues of common interest. As the scourge of terrorism surged across borders and became a threat to many countries, the U.N. was able to mobilize states and resources to address this threat.

Expertise was assembled, resources were mobilised, training was provided to countries that needed it, and awareness was raised to a high level. In the absence of the U.N. and it’s agencies, it is doubtful if these advances could have been achieved. Much more remains to be done.

Similarly, the global response to health threats such as the AIDS pandemic, the swine flu and avian flu threats that had the potential to cause havoc and the more recent Ebola epidemic were countered due to the existence of the U.N. and it’s agencies. The U.N. has developed an impressive ability to raise awareness rapidly and mobilise member states to respond quickly to threats of this nature.

The manner that the world body has responded to natural and man made disasters has saved countless lives and alleviated much misery. The U.N.’s ongoing work in the areas of the environment, the oceans and sustainable development will bring further benefits to humankind.

The U.N. has been successful in restoring normalcy to a number of global situations that threatened to continue causing untold violence and misery. Cambodia has emerged as a stable and increasingly prosperous country after a decade of conflict largely as a consequence of the U.N. brokered peace and the subsequent peacekeeping operation.

Timor Leste, after a quarter century of conflict, has established itself as a peaceful member of the international community. The U.N. prodded and cajoled Mozambique and Angola to a new era of peace.

South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy and majority rule was painstakingly facilitated by the U.N. The role of the world organisation in guiding the Former Yugoslavia’s successor states to peace, after the initial explosion of violence, was not insignificant. Even the complex legal question of succession was dealt with imaginatively by the world body.

This brings us on to a vital and expanded area of U.N. activity – peacekeeping. Since its first peacekeeping operations on the borders of Israel and between India and Pakistan, its peacekeeping role has expanded substantially, with peacekeepers being given multidimensional mandates.

Today the U.N. is actively engaged in peacekeeping operations in 16 countries. It has over 122,000 staff performing peacekeeping functions, including civilian, police and military personnel, contributed voluntarily by 122 Member States.

The cost of peace keeping exceeds 7.1 billion dollars, making it the costliest segment of U.N. operations. Now, U.N. peacekeepers may be permitted to play an offensive role to defend their mandates, including the protection of civilians.

While there are impressive success stories, peacekeeping related criticisms also abound. The U.N.’s peacekeeping efforts may meet with greater success if their mandates are formulated with better information originating at ground level and following more structured consultations, including with host governments, if the mandates are clearly defined and the peace keeping troops are better briefed, equipped and selected on the basis of experience and training, if operations are regularly reviewed and exit strategies are well defined. Unfortunately, there has been a tendency for some missions to be extended indefinitely.

As the world moves forward there is an increasing clamour to reform the United Nations to reflect contemporary political and economic circumstances. The most difficult challenge will be to reform the Security Council which substantially reflects the power structures of the post World War world. Two of the P5 are Europeans and members of the EU. It is quite likely that two elected members would also be members of the EU.

At the moment, the WEOG group in the Security Council with New Zealand has six members out of 15. Africa has three of the elected members, Latin America and the Caribbean two and Asia two plus the Permanent seat (China).

This imbalance in the Security Council structure can not be sustained. While an entity that reflects the privileges of the victors of a war concluded 70 years ago may not be modified by another war. But dramatically altered global socio-economic realities might help to introduce change.

Making the international civil service of the U.N. truly effective has been another challenge. Constantly criticised by the major contributors, it has chugged along for 70 years. While intermittent efforts have been made under different SGs to make it more dynamic and responsive to contemporary needs, it is probably the time to approach this task in a comprehensive manner. The Organisation must be able to deliver on its mandates efficiently to the satisfaction of member states.

By Kitty Stapp

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