Inter Press ServiceDevelopment & Aid – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 18 Aug 2017 18:02:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.1 Civilians Increasingly Bearing Burden of Armed Conflicts in Arab Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/civilians-increasingly-bearing-burden-armed-conflicts-arab-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civilians-increasingly-bearing-burden-armed-conflicts-arab-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/civilians-increasingly-bearing-burden-armed-conflicts-arab-region/#respond Fri, 18 Aug 2017 11:32:17 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151695 The author is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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World Humanitarian Day / Syrian boy brings bread back from underground bakery in severly damaged opposition-held area of Aleppo. August 2014. photo credit Shelly KittlesonIPS

Syrian boy brings bread back from underground bakery in severly damaged opposition-held area of Aleppo. August 2014. photo credit Shelly KittlesonIPS

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Switzerland, Aug 18 2017 (IPS)

The war in Syria has now entered its 6th year and is becoming the world’s worst man-made disaster.

The humanitarian calamity in Syria has affected millions of lives; more than half of Syria’s pre-war population has been forced to flee, including 6.3 million internally displaced persons and 5.1 million refugees living in refugee camps in the Middle East and in Europe. It is also estimated that approximately 465,000 people have lost their lives because of this enduring conflict with no immediate end in sight.

Arab civilians are also suffering in other major armed conflicts in the Middle East. According to UNHCR and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, at least 3 million Iraqis have been displaced as a result of the civil strife in Iraq.

Iraq Body Count estimates that more than 50% of the war-related deaths – following the 2003 Iraq invasion – were civilians.

In Yemen, the United Nations estimates that more than 10,000 civilians have perished from the fighting between Yemeni government forces and the Houthi rebels. On top of this, IOM and UNHCR estimates that around 3 million Yemeni civilians have been displaced from their homes since the beginning of the conflict.

World Humanitarian Day / Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim. Credit: United Nations Library at Geneva

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim. Credit: United Nations Library at Geneva

The high civilian tolls witnessed in these conflicts reveal that civilians are increasingly bearing the burden of armed conflicts in the Arab region.

The pattern of modern warfare has changed: battles that were once fought in the unpopulated shores of Normandie and in the desert of El Alamein are now being fought in the urban centres of Gaza, Mosul, Baghdad and Aleppo affecting the lives of millions of civilians.
The theme of the 2017 World Humanitarian Day – Civilians caught in conflict are not a target – reaffirm the vision expressed in the 10 May 2017 report of the United Nations Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict calling for “collective action to strengthen the protection of civilians in armed conflict.”

A “global protection crisis” has emerged – noted the Secretary General in the same report – owing to the rise of use of force of which civilians are ultimately the main victims. Since the end of World War II, it is estimated that between 60-90% of war-related deaths are primarily among civilians. Civilians have become the primary casualties of war in the 21st century.

The irregular and black market arms trade have fuelled the rise of violent and extremist groups in numerous countries in the Arab region.

The illicit arms trade has enabled terrorist groups to thrive in countries affected by conflict and violence. Disturbing images of civilian infrastructure such as schools and hospitals being bombed in Palestine, in Syria and in Iraq show that civilian infrastructure is increasingly being targeted by belligerents.

Although the Arms Trade Treaty sought to regulate the international arms trade, the flow of arms and weapons to violent and extremist groups continues to fuel bloody conflicts in the Arab region owing to the lack of ratification of the Treaty by the member states of the United Nations.

Warfare and armed conflicts are increasingly being fought in urban centres in the Arab region. It has brought the war closer to people. The pattern of modern warfare has changed: Battles that were once fought in the unpopulated shores of Normandie and in the desert of El Alamein are now being fought in the urban centres of Gaza, Mosul, Baghdad and Aleppo affecting the lives of millions of civilians.

World Humanitarian Day / Civilians are Not a Target

The use of heavy weapons, so-called strategic bombardments and the use of modern technologies such as drones have increased the likelihood of inflicting collateral damage on civilians during armed conflicts. The disproportionate use of force has caused immense suffering leading to abuse and to killings of civilians. Collateral damage has emerged as an acceptable term to justify errors and the indiscriminate use of force.

In order to respond to the need to provide protection to civilians in armed conflict, the world has a moral responsibility to end the illegal trade of arms and weapons fuelling the growth of violent and extremist groups.

States need to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty and comply with its provisions so as to end the illicit arms trade that is currently estimated to lie at around 10 billion US dollars per year. Weapons and arms should not end up in the hands of extremist groups such as DAESH that commit heinous and unscrupulous crimes on civilian populations in the Arab region.

I also appeal to the international community to ensure that all parties to conflict comply with their provisions to protect the lives of civilians in line with the provisions set forth in the Convention for the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War commonly known as the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Respect for international law must guide the actions of belligerents in armed conflicts. Widespread crimes against humanity affecting civilians must be condemned uniformly by world leaders regardless of where they take place. Civilians should not bear the burden of the devastating consequences of military conflicts.

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Women Slowly Break Barriers in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/women-slowly-break-barriers-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-slowly-break-barriers-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/women-slowly-break-barriers-bangladesh/#respond Fri, 18 Aug 2017 00:54:22 +0000 Mahfuzur Rahman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151717 When one thinks of Bangladesh, its political leadership naturally comes to mind as the leaders of the country’s major parties are women, including the Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader and the Speaker of the National Parliament. When it comes to gender equality in daily life, the reality is still different, but many women in Bangladesh […]

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Four women’s groups from Mohalbari, Surail and Damoir villages in Northern Bangladesh participated in a two-day leadership and mobilization training in Dinajpur to spread the initiative of successful women-led cooperatives improving the livelihood of the rural poor. Among the 51 participants, most were landless women coming from Hindu, Muslim and indigenous communities. Credit: IFAD

Four women’s groups from Mohalbari, Surail and Damoir villages in Northern Bangladesh participated in a two-day leadership and mobilization training in Dinajpur to spread the initiative of successful women-led cooperatives improving the livelihood of the rural poor. Among the 51 participants, most were landless women coming from Hindu, Muslim and indigenous communities. Credit: IFAD

By Mahfuzur Rahman
DHAKA, Aug 18 2017 (IPS)

When one thinks of Bangladesh, its political leadership naturally comes to mind as the leaders of the country’s major parties are women, including the Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader and the Speaker of the National Parliament.

When it comes to gender equality in daily life, the reality is still different, but many women in Bangladesh are breaking barriers by taking traditionally male jobs – once unthinkable. Take the case of six rural women working in a refueling station in the port city of Narayanganj near the capital Dhaka, a job that entails a degree of personal risk.A 2015 World Bank report said women in Bangladesh account for only 27 percent of the total labour force - a scenario the government and its development partners are determined to change.

Happy Akhter of Magura, Lippi Akhter of Moulvibazar and Rikta of Patuakhali districts are among the six women employees of the refueling station, set up by Saiful Islam, a former police officer, in 2001.

“It’s important to utilise the potential of everyone, including women. And the well-off section of society should come up to support them,” Islam told the Narayanganj correspondent of UNB, a national news agency.

Lippi Akhter added, “My satisfaction is that I can support my family — two daughters and one son — with what I get from this job. I’m not at all worried about myself but I want my children to be educated.”

Asked about their security as they are dealing with male motorists, Lippi said, “We’re safe here as our owner is an ex-police officer. We appreciate his concern about us. He has also made arrangements for our accommodation.”

Taking such a job, where the women have to deal with transport workers, is a matter of great courage as violence against women is widespread.

In the district where these women are working, a 15-year-old girl was raped a by a group of transport workers in a moving truck on the night of August 2. Police arrested the driver hours after the incident. During a preliminary investigation, he confessed to committing the crime with the other men.

In a press statement, Naripokkho, a women’s rights body, said, “The society is being affected due to the repeated incidents of violence against women and children. We’re aggrieved and concerned in such a situation.

“Some 280 women and children fell victims to rape from January to June this year,” Naripokkho said referring to a report of Ain o Shalish Kendro, a human rights body.  It said 39 more were the victims of attempted rape during the period, while 16 were killed after rape, and five committed suicide after rape.

Citing police data, Naripokkho said 1,914 rape cases were filed and 1,109 rape incidents took place between April and June, indicating 12 rape incidents every day.

As elsewhere in the world, women account for almost half of Bangladesh’s total population. Today, the country’s total population is 1.65 million, including 49.40 per cent women, according to the Bangladesh Election Commission.

However, a 2015 World Bank report said women in Bangladesh account for only 27 percent of the total labour force. Nepal has the highest female labour participation rate of 80 percent. “The labour market [in Bangladesh] remains divided along gender lines and progress towards gender equality seems to have stalled,” the World Bank said.

According to a 2014 study by Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), a civil society think tank of Bangladesh, “…the contribution of women to the national income has continued to remain insignificant when compared to men because of the under-representation of their contribution to the national income accounts.”

Worldwide, women account for about one-third of the workforce in the unorganised sector. But the International Labour Organization says in Bangladesh, only 3.25 percent of employed women are working in the public sector and 8.25 percent in the private sector. The remaining 89.5 percent are employed in the informal sector with varying and often unpredictable earning patterns – or as it so often happens, work without any payment at all.

Non-recognition of women’s unpaid activity, the CPD study says, also leads to undervaluation of their economic contribution.

The situation is slowly changing as the government takes on various projects with support from international partners. To give women’s empowerment a boost, particularly in the country’s impoverished north, the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) of Bangladesh in collaboration with International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has launched a project on Climate Resilient Community Development (CRCD) Project with a greater focus on gender parity.

The six-year project will be implemented in six districts, Gaibandha, Kurigram, Rangpur, Nilphamari, Lalmonirhat, and Jamalpur, which are known as poverty pockets.

The project seeks to achieve at least 33 percent of women in the overall labour market, and 15 percent in construction-related areas with relevant actions like subsidised courses for women, inclusion of informal sectors and incentives to employers to employ females, functional literacy, and skill development training.

The project follows a gender sensitive design, noting that 10 per cent of households in the project areas are headed by women, and most of these households are extremely poor.

As it does always, IFAD is promoting the active participation of ‘Labour Contracting Society (LCS).  Coastal Climate Resilient Infrastructure Project (CCRIP) is one of them.

CCRIP Project Director A.K.M. Lutfur Rahman said poverty alleviation, education, irrigation, agriculture, women’s empowerment and tree planting are the social aspects of the project apart from its engineering aspects, and women are participating.

The project is expected to contribute to the construction of gender sensitive infrastructure that meets the needs of both women and men. In line with national development policies and IFAD’s Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy, the goal is to empower women and men to ensure equal access to project benefits.

As security concerns prevail due to the growing violence against women, Professor Sharmind Neelormi of the Department of Economics of Jahangir Nagar University in Bangladesh stressed the importance of ensuring a gender-friendly working environment in the project areas, in addition to revisiting the wage rate.

Professor Sharmind came up with the suggestions on August 1 last in Dhaka while presenting the findings of a study she conducted with support from LGED and IFAD.

Talking to IPS, MB Akther, Programme Director & Interim Country Director of OXFAM Bangladesh, said women’s empowerment is a continuous process. A woman needs five to six years of multidimensional supports, he said. She also needs help in building market linkages for income-generating activities.

Akther said providing capital resources to women is not the only solution. They should also know how to invest resources for generating income and for that they need trainings, raising knowledge and cooperation to build market linkages.

“ICT, particularly the operation of mobile phones, is also an effective tool for women to search job markets or market prices for a product,” he said, adding that he is aware of the IFAD projects.

Talking about women’s contributions to both the household economy and the national one, Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, Chairman of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation, a public-sector apex development body, told IPS in October last year that women’s contributions come from their participation both in formal and informal sectors, and even those, who work outside home in formal or informal sectors, also take care of household chores.

“If women’s household-level activities and their works in informal sectors are economically evaluated and added to the national income, Bangladesh may already be a middle-income country,” he added.

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Soy Changes Map of Brazil, Set to Become World’s Leading Producerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/soy-changes-map-brazil-set-become-worlds-leading-producer/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=soy-changes-map-brazil-set-become-worlds-leading-producer http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/soy-changes-map-brazil-set-become-worlds-leading-producer/#respond Thu, 17 Aug 2017 17:22:11 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151713 “Our wealth lies in the climate, not in the land,” said Antonio Galván, president of the Rural Union of Sinop, a municipality created just 37 years ago, which has prospered due to the continued expansion of soy in Brazil. Sinop, population 133,000, is the biggest city in northern Mato Grosso, a state in west- central […]

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The soybean harvest this year in Brazil will hit record levels and reaffirm that the country is about to displace the United States as the world’s top producer of soy. Credit: Embrapa

The soybean harvest this year in Brazil will hit record levels and reaffirm that the country is about to displace the United States as the world’s top producer of soy. Credit: Embrapa

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 17 2017 (IPS)

“Our wealth lies in the climate, not in the land,” said Antonio Galván, president of the Rural Union of Sinop, a municipality created just 37 years ago, which has prospered due to the continued expansion of soy in Brazil.

Sinop, population 133,000, is the biggest city in northern Mato Grosso, a state in west- central Brazil which has experienced a major expansion of the agricultural frontier since the 1970s, and is currently the leading national producer of soy, accounting for 27 per cent of Brazil’s production.

“We have 14 to 15 million hectares of land available to expand soybean crops by 150 per cent in Mato Grosso, with no need to deforest,” Galván told IPS from Sinop.

For this reason, “it is a natural tendency,” he said, for Brazil to soon overtake the United States as the world’s leading producer of soy, as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predict, in the report “2017-2026 Agricultural Outlook”.

More or less regular rainfall from October to May is the main factor for the growth of agriculture in northern Mato Grosso, explained Galván.

Besides soy, which is planted at the start of the rainy season and harvested about four months later, other crops are also planted, but at the end of the rainy season – generally cotton and maize, of which Mato Grosso has also become the biggest producer in the country in the past four years.

State-owned lands, divided between the “Cerrado” ecoregion – the Brazilian savannah – and the Amazon forest, used to be undervalued for their low fertility, until they became the new agricultural frontier.

Galván, originally from the far south of Brazil, moved to Sinop in 1986, when land was still cheap. “Soybean was just starting in Sinop when I came, the local economy was only based on livestock and logging,” he recalled.

That year, Mato Grosso produced 1.9 million tons of soybean. But by 2016 the state’s soy crop reached 26.03 million tons, and this year it is expected to increase between 11 and 12 per cent, according to the Agriculture Ministry’s National Supply Agency.

Many of the migrants from southern Brazil who founded and settled in Sinop did not share that prosperity reflected in one of the highest human development rates in Brazil’s hinterland. “They went bankrupt and returned to their places of origin,” defeated by the harsh living conditions and lack of transport at the beginning, lamented Galván.

The city’s name comes from the initials (in Portuguese) of the company that “colonised” the area, the Real Estate Company of Northeastern Paraná (a southern state), buying lands, building the first houses and streets, and attracting families to an illusory El Dorado.

 Complex of soy and maize storehouses and processing plants in Lucas Rio Verde, in the heart of the state of Mato Grosso, the country’s main producer of soy, maize and cotton, in west-central Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS


Complex of soy and maize storehouses and processing plants in Lucas Rio Verde, in the heart of the state of Mato Grosso, the country’s main producer of soy, maize and cotton, in west-central Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

This is how Brazil’s Amazon region was populated, with the 1964-1985 military dictatorship promoting internal migration, which expanded the deforestation and provoked land conflicts, massacres of indigenous people and malaria epidemics.

The production of soy also expanded from south to northwest, although more slowly.

Soy began to be grown in Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state, in 1914, because it had the most temperate climate, the only one suitable at the time. The expansion began in 1970, when national output was just 1.5 million tons.

In a decade production rose tenfold, and it more than doubled again in the 1990s, advancing towards the north until Mato Grosso took the lead in production in 2000.

While production stagnated in the south, in Mato Grosso it tripled so far this century, and expanded to previously inconceivable areas, such as the Northeast, including the semi-arid parts, and the humid northern Amazon region.

Soy became the main national agricultural product, representing half of the production of cereals, pulses and oilseeds, and the largest export revenues: 25 billion dollars in 2016. The rural map and economy of Brazil changed radically in the process.

“The main obstacles for the expansion of soy are infrastructure and logistics. On the large agricultural estates technology continues to improve while productivity grows, with yields approaching the U.S. average of 3,730 kilos per hectare,” said Alexandre Cattelan, head of Technology Transfer in Embrapa Soy.

Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation), created in 1973 by the Agriculture Ministry, is a complex of 47 specialised units, including Embrapa Soy, scattered around the country.

It played a decisive role in the adaptation of soy to Brazil’s tropical climate, with increasing productivity. Output, using new seeds and techniques, increased 6.17 times, while the cultivated area grew 3.82 times since 1980.

“We have the land and know-how to overtake the U.S., but we lack proper roads, ports, railways and sufficient storage facilities,” Cattelan told IPS. This year, because of a record harvest, the storehouses are full and there is no space for the maize that is now being harvested.

Highway BR163, which crosses the most productive area in Mato Grosso and runs to the river ports in the Amazon, is the shortest way for exporting locally produced soy and maize. But it still has an unpaved 100-km stretch and is impassable during the rainy season.

Adequate seeds and the use of lime, fertilisers and micronutrients to improve the soil helped to expand the crop to the Cerrado savannah region, said Cattelan, an agronomist who has a PhD in soil microbiology.

Direct seeding, which excludes plowing of the earth and involves covering it with straw, the inoculation of bacteria which fix nitrogen in the soil, reduce costs and environmental damage, such as the contamination of the water table, he said.

A bottleneck for the production of soy could be a slowdown in the consumption of protein in China, from a 7.9 per cent increase in the last decade to a 2.3 per cent increase over the next decade, according to the FAO and OECD report.

The report also projects a lower level of growth of per capita consumption of food in the countries of the developing South, from 1.1 per cent against the previous 3.1 per cent, and the stabilisation of the use of vegetable oils for making biodiesel.

Moreover, the expansion of soy generates controversy, especially because of the intense use of genetically modified seeds and agrochemicals, sald Alice Thuault, associate director of the non-governmental Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV), which operates in northern Mato Grosso.

In 2011, a study identified toxic agrochemicals in the breastmilk of many women in Lucas do Rio Verde, a municipality next to Sinop.

The production of soy also drives the deforestation of the Amazon forest, although in a much lower proportion than livestock production, which “occupies 50 to 70 per cent of the recently deforested areas,” Thuault told IPS.

Furthermore, soybean growers, mostly producers with large extensions of land, dominate local politics and rule according to their interests, to the detriment of family farmers, the environment and public health. Former Mato Grosso governor Blairo Maggi is currently Brazil’s agriculture minister.

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When Policies Speak the Same Language, Africa’s Trade and Investment Will Listenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/policies-speak-language-africas-trade-investment-will-listen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=policies-speak-language-africas-trade-investment-will-listen http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/policies-speak-language-africas-trade-investment-will-listen/#comments Thu, 17 Aug 2017 11:21:24 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151709 The rising Maputo-Catembe Bridge is a hard-to-miss addition to Mozambique’s shoreline. The 725-million-dollar bridge – billed to be the largest suspension bridge in Africa on its completion in 2018 – represents Mozambique’s new investment portfolio and a show of its policy commitment to boosting international trade. But the country can improve on its trade and […]

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Mozambique is open for business. A new suspension bridge rises on Maputo Bay. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Mozambique is open for business. A new suspension bridge rises on Maputo Bay. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
MAPUTO, Aug 17 2017 (IPS)

The rising Maputo-Catembe Bridge is a hard-to-miss addition to Mozambique’s shoreline.

The 725-million-dollar bridge – billed to be the largest suspension bridge in Africa on its completion in 2018 – represents Mozambique’s new investment portfolio and a show of its policy commitment to boosting international trade.“African governments have identified policy incoherence as the elephant in the room." --Wadzanai Katsande of FAO

But the country can improve on its trade and investment if it can effectively align its national trade and agricultural policies to ensure sufficient coordination between trade and agricultural policymakers, experts say.

Initiatives to improve agricultural productivity, value chain development, employment creation, and food security are often constrained by market and trade-related bottlenecks which are a result of the misalignment between agricultural and trade policies.

This was part of findings discussed at a meeting convened by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in the Mozambican capital earlier this month. The high-level meeting attracted decision makers from the ministries of agriculture, finance, trade, industry and commerce, private sector representatives and donor groups.

To help address this challenge, FAO, in collaboration with Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) at the World Trade Organisation and the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), has piloted a regional project to help countries coordinate policy making processing, starting with agriculture and trade.

Mozambique is one of four countries in East and Southern Africa targeted in the pilot project aimed at developing a model for best practices in policy development and harmonization in enhancing economic development.

An assessment of the agriculture and trade policy framework and policymaking processes in Mozambique has been done to understand decision making in setting objectives and priorities for the country’s agriculture and trade sector.

The assessment also sought to contribute to the development of a coherent national policy framework on agricultural trade in Mozambique, said Wadzanai Katsande, Outcome Coordinator for the Food Systems Programme of the FAO.

Though listed as one of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) in the world, Mozambique is rich in natural and mineral resources including gas. The country is a bright investment destination in Africa.

Policy alignment is the key

“On paper, policies sound well and good, but in practice the story is different. There are still coordination and consistency issues in the policy formulation and implementation processes within and between agriculture and trade and these need to be addressed,” says Samuel Zita, an International Trade and Development Consultant, who recently led on an analytical study commissioned by the FAO on “Coordination between agriculture and trade policy making in Mozambique.”

“When agriculture and trade policies speak the same language that creates some predictability to investors, any disconnect between the two can have a negative effect on foreign direct investment,” Zita told IPS.

The study which focused on the country’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) processes also looked at the policy documents from these processes such as the CAADP National Agricultural Investment Plan (PNISA)] and the Diagnostic Trade Integration Strategy (DTIS). It recommended that Mozambique should improve the dissemination of policies, plans and strategies to stakeholders through various media. In addition, there should be an improvement in the description and publication of agricultural production and trade data.

Agriculture – defined by the national constitution as the basis of the country’s economic development – contributes 25 percent to Mozambique’s GDP of nearly 14 billion dollars. Raw aluminium, electricity, prawns, cotton, cashew nuts, sugar, citrus, coconuts and timber are major exports.

Policy cohesion can help facilitate trade development by simplifying the regulatory and policy environment for small businesses, so countries can attract private sector investment at local and international levels, says Jonathan Werner, Country Coordinator, Executive Secretariat of the Enhanced Integrated Framework at the WTO.

“We are facing many challenges for regional trade integration in Africa,” Werner Told IPS. “Our findings have shown that aligned policy processes can help create an enabling environment for trade and development.”

Policy cementing the SDGs

African governments have committed themselves to a multitude of agreements, protocols and declarations meant to promote greater agriculture productivity and trade which are major drivers of economic growth, but something is still missing in getting it all together: effective policies both at national and regional levels. Until the well-meaning policies trade and agriculture are aligned, Africa will continue to miss out on attracting the level of investment it should.

Mozambique has taken the first steps towards aligning its national agriculture and trade sector policies to boost economic development.

“African governments have identified policy incoherence as the elephant in the room and getting the policies in trade and agriculture to speak to each other is key to turning policies into action,” Katsande said noting that agriculture and trade development form the basis of key initiatives such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), the Malabo Declaration and African Union’s Agenda 2063.

A boost for Inter-Africa trade

Africa has no less than 14 regional trading blocs but inter-Africa trade is low at 12 percent of the continent’s trade, according to statistics from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). However, Africa’s trade with Europe and Asia is at nearly 60 percent. Some of the bottlenecks to Africa trading with Africa include trade policy harmonization, reducing export/import duties low production capacity, differing production quality standards and poor infrastructure.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimates that the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) set to be signed into operation by December 2017 will help double inter African trade. In 2012 African head of state endorsed the establishment of the free trade area by 2017. Trade is one of the pathways to unlocking economic growth in Africa to boost employment and foster innovation in a continent replete with opportunities.

Gerhard Erasmus, an associate at the Trade Law Centre, a trade law capacity building institution based in Cape Town, South Africa, said low inter-Africa trade was a real issue which has been blamed by some economists on the fact that African nations often produce the same goods (mostly agriculture and basic commodities) for which the intra-African export opportunities are limited.

“Unless we move up the ladder of value addition, industrialization and services we will remain stuck,” Erasmus said. “Thus domestic development plans need adjustment and targeted investments are necessary. There are many trade facilitation challenges, from long queues at border posts, corruption, uncoordinated technical standards and requirements, to red tape and inadequate infrastructure.”

Eramus said regional economic communities and even the African Union had policies and plans to address the many trade challenges, but implementation often encountered problems at national levels regarding political buy-in, lack of resources, technical capacity problems, and plain bad governance.

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Minamata Convention, Curbing Mercury Use, is Now Legally Bindinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/minamata-convention-curbing-mercury-use-is-now-legally-binding/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=minamata-convention-curbing-mercury-use-is-now-legally-binding http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/minamata-convention-curbing-mercury-use-is-now-legally-binding/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 10:47:56 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151690 The Minamata Convention — a legally-binding landmark treaty, described as the first new environmental agreement in over a decade – entered into force August 16. The primary aim of the Convention is “to protect human health and the environment” from mercury releases, which are considered both environmental and health hazards, according to the United Nations. […]

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Minamata Convention - Informal gold mining is one of the main sources of mercury contamination. An artisanal gold miner in El Corpus, Choluteca along the Pacific ocean in Honduras. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS.

Informal gold mining is one of the main sources of mercury contamination. An artisanal gold miner in El Corpus, Choluteca along the Pacific ocean in Honduras. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS.

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Aug 16 2017 (IPS)

The Minamata Convention — a legally-binding landmark treaty, described as the first new environmental agreement in over a decade – entered into force August 16.

The primary aim of the Convention is “to protect human health and the environment” from mercury releases, which are considered both environmental and health hazards, according to the United Nations.

So far, the international treaty has been signed by 128 of the 193 UN member states and ratified by 74 countries, which are now legally obliged to comply with its provisions.

The Minamata Convention joins three other UN conventions seeking to reduce impacts from chemicals and waste – the Basel Convention (1992), Rotterdam Convention (2004) and Stockholm Convention (2004).

The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG), an international coalition of over 95 public interest non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from more than 50 countries, has been calling for a legally binding treaty for over a decade and “welcomes the new protocol”.

The treaty holds critical obligations for all 74 State Parties to ban new primary mercury mines while phasing out existing ones and also includes a ban on many common products and processes using mercury, measures to control releases, and a requirement for national plans to reduce mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

In addition, it seeks to reduce trade, promote sound storage of mercury and its disposal, address contaminated sites and reduce exposure from this dangerous neurotoxin.

According to ZMWG, mercury is a global pollutant that travels long distances. Its most toxic form – methylmercury – accumulates in large predatory fish and is taken up in bodies through eating fish, with the worst impacts on babies in utero and small children.

In an interview with IPS, Michael Bender and Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Co-coordinators of ZMWG said despite its flaws, the new treaty presents the best opportunity to address the global mercury crisis.

‘’The ZMWG looks forward to effective treaty implementation and providing support, where feasible, particularly to developing countries and countries with economies in transition”.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: What would be the significant impact of the Minamata Convention entering into legal force on August 16? How will it advance the longstanding global campaign to end the widespread use of mercury which has long been declared both an environmental and health hazard worldwide?

A: The new treaty is a mixture of mandatory and voluntary elements intended to control the burgeoning global mercury crisis.  It holds critical obligations that affect global use, trade, emissions and disposal of mercury.  In the near term, such provisions include a prohibition on any new primary mining of mercury, and phasing out mercury added products (by 2020) and mercury bearing processes (by 2025).

Some of these steps were unthinkable several years ago.  Now, viable, available and cost effective alternatives exist for most all products containing mercury like thermometers, dental amalgam, thermostats, measuring devices and batteries, as well as processes using mercury (e.g. production of chlorine.)

Support for treaty implementation will be provided through a financial mechanism established in the Convention text. Furthermore, the treaty includes reporting provisions (also relevant to the question below) which entails the Convention Secretariat monitoring progress and, over time, having the Conference of the Parties address issues that may arise.

The treaty also includes other provisions which provide information and guidance necessary to reduce major sources of emissions and releases. Taken together, these steps will eventually lead to significant global mercury reductions.

However, while heading in the right direction, the treaty does not move far enough nor fast enough in the short run to address the spiraling human health risks from mercury exposure.

In the case of major emission sources, like coal-fired power plants, the requirements are for countries to follow BAT/BEP practices (best available technologies/best environmental practices) to curtail releases, but no numerical reduction targets were established. New facilities will not be required to have mercury pollution controls for 5 years after the treaty enters into force, with existing facilities given 10 years before they begin their control efforts.

The treaty also addresses artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM), which is both the largest intentional use and emission source of mercury globally.  However, while required ASGM national action plans (NAPs) will foster reduced use, the treaty fails to include a provision to require an eventual end to mercury use. It is envisioned, however, that NAPs will eliminate many of the worst practices that constitute the vast majority of mercury use in the sector.

While the Convention bans new primary mercury mining, it allows existing primary mining for 15 years (but does not allow supplying such uses as ASGM.)  From this source, mercury is only allowed in the manufacturing of mercury-added products and other manufacturing processes.

Q: What in your opinion are the key provisions of the Convention that could eventually lead to a worldwide ban on the use of mercury?

A: The Convention contains control measures aimed at significantly limiting the global supply of mercury to complement and reinforce the demand reduction control measures. Specifically, the Article 3 provisions limit the sources of mercury available for use and trade, and specify procedures to follow where such trade is allowed. Eventually, as mercury uses diminish, via the different Convention provisions – (e.g. the Convention’s 2020 mercury-added product phase out, and 2025 ban on the mercury use in the chlorine production)–  the production and exports from primary mercury mines will be reduced.

As discussed above, while the Convention does not ban its use, the provision to develop plans for curtailing mercury use in artisanal and small scale gold mining is important, since it is the largest mercury use and release sector, far surpassing emissions from coal fired power plants.

Q: With 74 ratifications so far, is there any mechanism that will help monitor the implementation of the convention by the 74 countries that are state parties and who are legally obliged to comply with the provisions of the convention?  Does the convention lay out any penalties against those who violate the convention or fail to implement its provisions?

A: The Convention establishes reporting requirements by the Parties, including reporting on “measures it has taken to implement provisions of the Convention and on the effectiveness of such measures…”   Further, no later than six years after the Convention enters into force, the Conference of the Parties (COP) is charged with evaluating the effectiveness of the Convention The evaluation shall be based on available reports and monitoring information, reports submitted pursuant and information and recommendations provided the Implementation and compliance committee.

This is why discussions during COP1 (scheduled to take place in Geneva September 24-29) regarding reporting forms are so important. The Article 21 reporting requirements will provide critical information on the global mercury situation and the effectiveness of the Convention in achieving mercury reductions and protecting human health.

Information Parties report on should be made publicly available. This should include information on emissions and releases; the quantities of waste mercury (i.e., commodity-grade mercury no longer used) that was disposed, and the method of final disposal; and the decisions on frequency of reporting.  Most importantly (at least for mercury production and trade) we recommend the data be provided annually in order to accurately monitor the changing global circumstances, and because of the problems with other data sources.

Finally, the Convention does not foresee penalties for noncompliance.  However, the Convention compliance committee will also focus on assisting countries come into compliance as well as also identifying areas where countries may need more assistance. In addition, individual country laws can enact penalties – (e.g. the EU regulation on mercury discusses penalties, and the Member States have to define these within their national laws.)

The NGOs will also play the watchdog role in monitoring progress, and ‘naming and shaming’ as relevant, as we follow the process in the COPs, etc.

Q: Are there any concerns that some of the leading countries, including UK, Russia, Germany, India, Italy, South Africa, Australia and Spain are not on the list of ratifiers of the convention? Have they given any indications of future ratifications?

A: For developed countries, it’s anticipated that they already have implemented many of the conference provisions, or are in a position to finance them in the future (unlike developing countries, which will rely on Convention funding.)

As far as South Africa, our partner NGO, Ground Work, has stated that ratification remains a challenge in South Africa because the industrial sector is very heavily driven by the coal industry, with almost 90% of the energy from coal. The large-scale mining sector is also not willing to declare the amount of mercury released from the ore that they mine.

All EU countries will eventually all ratify.  India has started the process toward ratification, as has Australia and also Russia- but it may take some time.

In the meantime, India has taken some affirmative steps in shifting out of mercury-cell chlor-alkali plants and regulating mercury.  However, emissions from thermal power plants is still a concern since almost 60 % of the energy generated is from coal and the cost associated with capturing mercury from coal emissions is viewed as a constrain.

Minamata Convention, Curbing Mercury Use, is Now Legally Binding

 

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Wonder Woman Should STILL be a UN Ambassadorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/wonder-woman-still-un-ambassador/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wonder-woman-still-un-ambassador http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/wonder-woman-still-un-ambassador/#respond Tue, 15 Aug 2017 17:22:38 +0000 Felix Dodds http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151687 Felix Dodds is Senior Fellow at the Global Research Institute University of North Carolina and Associate Fellow at the Tellus Institute Boston and City of Bonn International Ambassador

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Wonder Woman should STILL be a UN Ambassador - Cristina Gallach (centre), Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, poses for a group photo with, from left to right: Diane Nelson, Lynda Carter, Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins. Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton

Cristina Gallach (centre), Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, poses for a group photo with, from left to right: Diane Nelson, Lynda Carter, Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins. Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton

By Felix Dodds
NEW YORK, Aug 15 2017 (IPS)

I realize it’s a lot easier saying this now after the film of the same name has come out and has taken over $400 million in US box office receipts. It is at present taken the 8th most revenue for a super hero comic book ever.

But it does begin to look as though UNICEF and DPI – bowing to the significant number of staff whose unprecedented, outraged opposition prompted their reversal – made a mistake. A huge, global mistake.

Here’s the history –

UNICEF announced the comic book heroine Wonder Woman as a UN Ambassador last year on UN Day, the 21st of October. Her role was meant to empower young girls by seeing her as an example the original UN Press Release said:

“the iconic superhero, has been named an Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls by the United Nations and will be tasked with raising awareness about Goal 5 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which seeks to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030.”

And 2016 was a very important year for Wonder Woman it’s the 75th anniversary of her first appearance as a superhero.

The reaction on her becoming an Ambassador wasn’t very positive in UN circles and women’s organizations. There was an online petition against the decision which over 45,000 people signed and key UN staff and women’s groups were vocal about their opposition to the decision.   A group of staffers attending the launch meeting stood and pointedly turned their backs as the event started.

Their criticisms ranged from Wonder Women’s role as a figure promoting violence, as a sexual stereotype, and as a representative of US jingoism (her red, white and blue uniform indeed reflected American patriotism of the WWII era during which she was produced).

“The message to girls is that you are expected to meet a male standard in which your significance is reduced to your role as a sexual object,” said Anne Marie Goetz, a professor of global affairs at New York University and a former adviser on peace and security issues to the United Nations agency, U.N. Women.

It was a rather extraordinary rebellion. But it was also understandable. The fictional character’s ‘appointment’ had been announced just after the real-world selection of António Guterres as UN Secretary General, contrary to months of wide expectation was that the next SG would be a woman.

But historically and on substance, the reaction was in some ways surprising. The 1970s feminists including Gloria Steinem saw Wonder Woman as an inspiration. In fact, the first issue of the feminist magazine Ms. had Wonder Woman on its front cover.

Perhaps those criticizing actually hadn’t done a due diligence on who Wonder Woman was. Clearly none of them were comic fans.

William Marston who invented the Wonder Woman character, was a friend and great admirer of Margaret Sanger, the co-founder of Planned Parenthood. His description of the character was anything but stereotypical or belittling. In 1947 Marsten said:

‘You know, you need a female superhero because she will embody the nurturing values of womanhood. She will be about peace not war. The only hope for civilization is the greater freedom, development and equality of women in all fields of human activity. Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world.”

So now we come to the film itself. First it was one of the best films of 2017 so far. It was directed by a great director Patricia Lea Jenkins whose previous 2003 crime drama film Monster about serial killer Aileen Wuornos, a former prostitute who was executed in Florida in 2002 for killing six men in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Because of Wonder Woman success, Jenkins now holds the highest take for a film directed by a woman. It has become the highest-grossing movie directed by a woman, surpassing previous record holder Mamma Mia.

She achieved that as a director with a remarkable grasp of characterization and emotional depth. The film doesn’t present Wonder Woman as a sex symbol, but as friendly and very intelligent young woman. The choice of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was masterful. As an actor, she comes over as a real and accessible individual. While there has been some criticism of her being Israeli, I have to assume that no UN representative would support discrimination based on nationality or religion.

Besides, I thought it neatly complemented the fact that the lead individual who advanced the idea of Wonder Woman in the UN as a UN Ambassador was Mayer Naser – a Palestinian.

Here are some of the reviews:

“Wonder Woman embraces issues of female power and the need to turn from hate to love, war to peace in a mainstream delivery system. And the female lead is not solely a mother, sister, girlfriend or hooker, however gold her heart: wonder of wonders!”  Thelma Adams New York Observer

“Wonder Woman” is a tale of transmission, of wisdom passed down from generation to generation, from woman to woman, and from individual women to society at large—for those in society at large who are able to hear and heed it. It’s a visual tale of oral history, an allegory that cuts both ways: even as the segregation of women on Themyscira sends Diana into the world with a narrowed view of humankind, male-dominated human society at large, which keeps women largely out of power and cultural authority, keeps itself stultified, blinded, ignorant, oppressive, violent, warmongering. This, too, is part of the film’s exemplary present-day framework, both dramatic and ideological. Diana isn’t a warrior to end all wars, she’s a warrior to warn against wars—and against the parochial, self-enclosed island doctrines which are employed to justify them. In her work at the Louvre, she cultivates not just her own garden but a garden for humanity at large.” Richard Brody The New Yorker

“Yes, she is sort of naked a lot of the time, but this isn’t objectification so much as a cultural reset: having thighs, actual thighs you can kick things with, not thighs that look like arms, is a feminist act. The whole Diana myth, women safeguarding the world from male violence not with nurture but with better violence, is a feminist act. Casting Robin Wright as Wonder Woman’s aunt, re-imagining the battle-axe as a battler, with an axe, is a feminist act. A female German chemist trying to destroy humans (in the shape of Dr Poison, a proto-Mengele before Nazism existed) might be the most feminist act of all.

Women are repeatedly erased from the history of classical music, art and medicine. It takes a radical mind to pick up that being erased from the history of evil is not great either. Wonder Woman’s casual rebuttal of a sexual advance, her dress-up montage (“it’s itchy”, “I can’t fight in this”, “it’s choking me”) are also feminist acts. Wonder Woman is a bit like a BuzzFeed list: 23 Stupid Sexist Tropes in Cinema and How to Rectify Them. I mean that as a compliment.” Zoe Williams Guardian

As I publish this article Wonder Woman is $3.5 million short of overtaking the top grossing Spiderman movies. She may very well do that this weekend. She is also only $8 million short of overtaking the top Captain America movie and $9 million short of overtaking the top Iron Man movie. That will bring her to the 5th biggest domestic taking for a comic book adaptation with only Batman ahead of her as a movie about a single superhero – the other slots are Avengers movies.

Finally let’s go back to the original UN Press Release and reflect on it. It said:

“Wonder Woman’s strength and fight for justice and peace will help to focus the campaign’s attention in five key areas:

  • Speaking out against discrimination and limitations on women and girls;
  • Joining forces with others against gender-based violence and abuse;
  • Supporting full and effective participation and equal opportunity for women and girls in leadership in all spheres of life – including the workplace;
  • Ensuring all women and girls have access to quality learning, and:
  • Sharing examples of real life women and girls who are making a difference every day.”

All of the above were in one way or another reflected in the film and add to that the grace that Gal Gadot brought as Wonder Woman then perhaps the time is right for Wonder Woman to become again a UN Ambassador.

 

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Population Aging: Hallmark of the 21st Centuryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/population-aging-hallmark-of-the-21st-century/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=population-aging-hallmark-of-the-21st-century http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/population-aging-hallmark-of-the-21st-century/#respond Tue, 15 Aug 2017 10:36:07 +0000 Joseph Chamie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151682 Joseph Chamie is an independent consulting demographer and a former director of the United Nations Population Division.

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Population Aging: women sitting in front of an old age home in Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu, India. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS

Women sitting in front of an old age home in Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu, India. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS

By Joseph Chamie
NEW YORK, Aug 15 2017 (IPS)

While rapid population growth may be the defining feature of the 20th century, with world population nearly quadrupling from 1.6 to 6.1 billion, the hallmark of the 21st century is likely to be population aging.

The consequences of the population aging are reverberating across the globe. The evolving transitions to older populations are challenging the existing world order and impacting virtually every aspect of society, including economic activity, investments, politics, taxation, education, housing, household/family structure, retirement and healthcare services.

Throughout much of human history population age structures were comparatively young. In the past century, for example, the percent elderly, those aged 65 years and older, averaged around five percent. In striking contrast, the proportion elderly will more than triple during the 21st century, reaching close to one-quarter of the world’s population (Figure 1).

Population Aging: : Percent of World Population Aged 65 Years and Older: 1900-2100. Source: United Nations Population Division

Percent of World Population Aged 65 Years and Older: 1900-2100. Source: United Nations Population Division

Although substantial differences in national age structures are evident today, countries are heading to the same irreversible destination:  significantly older populations. For example, the G20 countries, which together represent more than 60 percent of world population, are well along in the process of momentous aging transformations of the 21st century.

Nearly all the G20 countries are expected to have no less than one-quarter of their populations aged 65 years and older by 2100. And eight of those countries, including China, Germany, Italy and Japan, are projected to have one-third or more of their population elderly by the close of the century (Figure 2).

Population Aging: Percent Aged 65 Years and Older for G20 Countries: 2000 and 2100. Source: United Nations Population Division

Percent Aged 65 Years and Older for G20 Countries: 2000 and 2100. Source: United Nations Population Division

As women make up the majority of the elderly in nearly all countries, population aging will affect women more than men. For example, in countries such as Japan, Portugal, Singapore and South Korea, the proportion of the female population aged 65 years and older is expected to reach 40 percent during the 21st century. Given that women typically survive their partners, many elderly women will need care and assistance, especially the growing numbers living alone.

Another clear indicator of the unprecedented population aging underway worldwide is the Historic Reversal, or the demographic turning point when children (0 to 14 years) in a population become fewer than its elderly (65 years and older). The Historic Reversal first occurred in 1995 in Italy.

Today some 30 countries have experienced the Historic Reversal, including Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, Spain and the United Kingdom.  In 2075, and for the first time in human history, the world’s population will go through the Historic Reversal with the elderly increasingly outnumbering children (Figure 3).

Population Aging: Global Percent of Children (0-14) and Elderly (65+ years): 2000 - 2100. Source: United Nations Population Division

Global Percent of Children (0-14) and Elderly (65+ years): 2000 – 2100. Source: United Nations Population Division

Lower mortality rates and living longer increase the numbers of elderly. But the primary driver of population aging is fertility. Low fertility results in age structures having relatively fewer children, a growing concern of many governments, and comparatively more elderly. In addition, the faster the decline from high to low fertility levels, such as has taken place in China, the more rapid the transition to older population age structures.

Fertility rates below the replacement level of about two births per woman also mean declining populations for many countries, especially those with limited immigration. Today more than 80 countries, accounting for nearly half of the world’s population, have fertility levels below replacement, including China, United States, Brazil, Russia, Japan, Viet Nam, Germany, Iran, Thailand and the United Kingdom.

The combination of declining birth rates, increased longevity and growing proportions of elderly are raising serious economic questions and fiscal concerns within many countries. In particular, population aging is resulting in growing financial stresses on government-sponsored retirement, pension and healthcare programs that are challenging the sustainability of those programs.

When Germany’s Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in 1889 and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 established their respective pay-as-you-go retirement programs, their countries had in excess of ten people in the working ages per elderly person. Today those ratios have declined to less than a handful of people in the working ages per older person. In short, fewer workers are supporting more retirees.

In addition to rising old-age dependency, declines in the proportions of young workers are believed to have negative consequences on innovation. Recent studies report that aging populations lead to declines in innovation activity. When combined with aging’s impact on savings and investment, declines in innovation have serious implications for the growth of GDP.

Governments with extensive social programs for the elderly, such as income support, healthcare services and social benefits, are experiencing escalating costs as the numbers of elderly grow rapidly and the duration of support lengthens. Loathe to raising taxes, governmental attempts to address the escalating costs of those programs have by and large focused on adjustments in retirement ages, benefits, contribution rates and savings plans.

Those adjustments alone, however, are likely to be insufficient to cover the rising costs. Shortfalls in many programs for the elderly will need to be financed by general tax revenue. This in turn may negatively impact economic growth and overall societal wellbeing if governments divert their current spending from education, infrastructure investments and social welfare to programs for the elderly.

As consumption varies over the human life cycle, population aging is also bringing about noteworthy changes in the demand for goods and services. The prevalence and overall costs for health services and care giving, for example, can be expected to increase as populations become older.

Housing and household structures are also being affected by population aging.  In the past and continuing in some developing countries, elderly persons generally lived with adult children and grandchildren. With rising levels of urbanization, increasingly neither the elderly nor their adult children are choosing to live together, but prefer separate households with proximity.

Population aging is certainly a significant human achievement, the result of smaller family sizes, lower mortality rates and increased longevity. However, this notable achievement comes with both challenges and opportunities for governments, businesses, organizations and private citizens. Those able to recognize and adjust to the 21st century’s demographic transformation are far more likely to benefit and prosper than those who ignore or dismiss the momentous consequences of population aging

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What Does “Climate-Smart Agriculture” Really Mean? New Tool Breaks It Downhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/climate-smart-agriculture-really-mean-new-tool-breaks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-smart-agriculture-really-mean-new-tool-breaks http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/climate-smart-agriculture-really-mean-new-tool-breaks/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 23:20:05 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151680 A Trinidadian scientist has developed a mechanism for determining the degree of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) compliance with respect to projects, processes and products. This comes as global attention is drawn to climate-smart agriculture as one of the approaches to mitigate or adapt to climate change. Steve Maximay says his Climate-Smart Agriculture Compliant (C-SAC) tool provides […]

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The base for a water catchment tank. Faced with severe droughts, many farmers in the Caribbean have found it necessary to set up catchment areas to harvest water whenever it rains. Credit: CDB

By Desmond Brown
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Aug 14 2017 (IPS)

A Trinidadian scientist has developed a mechanism for determining the degree of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) compliance with respect to projects, processes and products.

This comes as global attention is drawn to climate-smart agriculture as one of the approaches to mitigate or adapt to climate change.“It can be used as a preliminary filter to sort through the number of ‘green-washing’ projects that may get funded under the rubric of climate-smart agriculture...all in a bid to access the millions of dollars that should go to help small and genuinely progressive farmers." --Steve Maximay

Steve Maximay says his Climate-Smart Agriculture Compliant (C-SAC) tool provides a certification and auditing scheme that can be used to compare projects, processes and products to justify the applicability and quantum of climate change funding.

“C-SAC provides a step-by-step, checklist style guide that a trained person can use to determine how closely the project or process under review satisfies the five areas of compliance,” Maximay told IPS.

“This method literally forces the examiner to consider key aspects or goals of climate-smart agriculture. These aspects (categories) are resource conservation; energy use; safety; biodiversity support; and greenhouse gas reduction.”

He said each category is further subdivided, so resource conservation includes the use of land, water, nutrients and labour. Energy use includes its use in power, lighting, input manufacture and transportation. Safety revolves around production operations, harvesting, storage and utilization.

Biodiversity support examines land clearing, off-site agrochemical impact, limited introduction of invasive species, and ecosystem services impact. Greenhouse gas reduction involves enteric fermentation (gas produced in the stomach of cattle and other animals that chew their cud), soil management, fossil fuel reduction and manure/waste management.

“These subdivisions (four each in the five categories) are the basis of the 20 questions that comprise the C-SAC tool,” Maximay explained.

“The manual provides a means of scoring each aspect on a five-point scale. If the cumulative score for the project is less than 40 it is deemed non-compliant and not a truly climate smart agriculture activity. C-SAC further grades in terms of degree of compliance wherein a score of 40-49 points is level 1, (50-59) level 2, (60 -69) level 3, (70-79) level 4, and (80-100) being the highest degree of compliance at level 5.

“It is structured with due cognizance of concerns about how the global climate change funds will be disbursed,” he added.

The United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) describes climate-smart agriculture as agriculture that sustainably increases productivity, enhances resilience (adaptation), reduces or removes greenhouse gases (mitigation) where possible, and enhances achievement of national food security and development goals.

The climate-smart agriculture concept reflects an ambition to improve the integration of agriculture development and climate responsiveness. It aims to achieve food security and broader development goals under a changing climate and increasing food demand.

CSA initiatives sustainably increase productivity, enhance resilience, and reduce/remove greenhouse gases, and require planning to address tradeoffs and synergies between these three pillars: productivity, adaptation, and mitigation.

While the concept is still evolving, many of the practices that make up CSA already exist worldwide and are used by farmers to cope with various production risks.

Mainstreaming CSA requires critical stocktaking of ongoing and promising practices for the future, and of institutional and financial enablers for CSA adoption.

Maximay said C-SAC is meant to be a prioritizing tool with a holistic interpretation of the perceived benefits of climate-smart agriculture.

“It can be used as a preliminary filter to sort through the number of ‘green-washing’ projects that may get funded under the rubric of climate-smart agriculture…all in a bid to access the millions of dollars that should go to help small and genuinely progressive farmers,” he said.

“C-SAC will provide bankers and project managers with an easy to use tool to ensure funded projects really comply with a broad interpretation of climate smart agriculture.”

Maximay said C-SAC incorporates major categories of compliance and provides a replicable analysis matrix using scalar approaches to convert qualitative assessments into a numeric compliance scale.

“The rapid qualitative analysis at the core of C-SAC depends on interrelated science-based guidelines honed from peer reviewed, field-tested practices and operations,” Maximay explained.

“Climate-smart agriculture often amalgamates activities geared towards adaptation and mitigation. The proliferation of projects claiming to fit the climate smart agriculture designation has highlighted the need for an auditing and certification scheme. One adaptation or mitigation feature may not be enough to qualify an agricultural operation as being climate-smart. Consequently, a more holistic perspective can lead to a determination of the level of compliance with respect to climate-smart agriculture.

“C-SAC provides that holistic perspective based on a structured qualitative assessment of key components,” Maximay added.

The scientist notes that in the midst of increased opportunities for the use of global climate funds, it behooves policymakers and financiers to ensure projects are not crafted in a unidimensional manner.

He added that small farmers in Small Island Developing States are particularly vulnerable and their needs must be met by projects that are holistic in design and implementation.

Over the years, agriculture organisations in the Caribbean have been providing funding to set up climate-smart farms as demonstrations to show farmers examples of ecological practices that they can use to combat many of the conditions that arise due to the heavy rainfall and drought conditions experienced in the region.

Maximay was among the first agricultural scientists addressing climate change concerns during the Caribbean Planning for Adaptation to Climate Change (CPACC).

A plant pathologist by training, he has been a secondary school teacher, development banker, researcher, World Bank-certified training manager, university lecturer, Caribbean Development Bank consultant and entrepreneur.

Maximay managed the first Business Development Office in a Science Faculty within the University of the West Indies. With more than thirty years’ experience in the agricultural, education, health, financial and environmental sectors, he has also worked on development projects for major regional and international agencies.

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Will Renewable Energies Finally Get Their Chance in Argentina?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/will-renewable-energies-finally-get-chance-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-renewable-energies-finally-get-chance-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/will-renewable-energies-finally-get-chance-argentina/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 12:39:10 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151672 The first thing anyone who looks at any official document this year in Argentina will read is: “2017, the year of renewable energies.” This indicates the importance that the government gives to the issue, although translating the slogan into reality does not seem as easy as putting it in the headings of public documents. Renewable […]

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Will Renewable Energies Finally Get Their Chance in Argentina?

The solar farm in Arribeños, a locality in the province of Buenos Aires, which began to inject 500 Kw into the Argentinian power grid in August. Credit: Argentine Chamber of Renewable Energy

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Aug 14 2017 (IPS)

The first thing anyone who looks at any official document this year in Argentina will read is: “2017, the year of renewable energies.” This indicates the importance that the government gives to the issue, although translating the slogan into reality does not seem as easy as putting it in the headings of public documents.

Renewable sources of energy today make up an insignificant proportion of Argentina’s energy mix. But under a law passed in 2015, with the consensus of all political sectors, this scenario is to be reverted in the next few years.“The main driver of these initiatives is that Argentina has a large energy deficit and needs new power from all sources: from hydroelectric plants as well as the two new projected nuclear plants, while increasing its production of natural gas and also boost production from renewable sources.” -- Javier Cao

The objective is not only based on commitments of turning to clean sources of energy undertaken by Argentina within the framework of global agreements to combat climate change, but also on the need, imposed by the economy, to expand and diversify the energy mix.

For years, Argentina has been spending a fortune to import fossil fuels, although the amount has decreased, from seven billion dollars in 2014 to less than three billion dollars last year.

However, that did not happen due to increased productivity or a diversification of local sources, but because of a fall in international oil prices.

“Fossil fuels form an absurdly large portion of our energy mix. We have to change that,” Daniel Redondo, the government’s secretary of strategic energy planning, acknowledged in July in front of an auditorium of experts.

“We are going to live up to the law on renewable energies, which stipulates that 20 per cent of our energy should come from clean source by 2025,” he added.

According to official data, Argentina’s primary energy supply is based on 51 per cent natural gas and 33 per cent oil.

With respect to power generation, thermal plants which use fossil fuels cover 64 per cent of the supply, while 30 per cent comes from hydroelectric plants. The country’s three nuclear plants provide four per cent of the total.

Since 2016, the government has signed 59 contracts with private investors to develop renewable energy projects around the country. These initiatives, which should begin functioning next year, involve an overall investment of about four billion dollars, according to the Energy Ministry.

These projects will jointly add 2,423 megawatts (MW) to the energy supply, which the state has assumed the commitment to buy and incorporate into the national grid, which currently has some 30,000 MW of installed capacity.

China, a decisive player in the energy sector

Besides these projects, which form part of the government’s RenovAr Programme, the governor of the northern province of Jujuy, Gerardo Morales, announced that he signed a contract with the Power China company for the construction and financing of a 300-MW solar farm in the Salar de Cauchari, some 4,000 metres above sea level.

The contract was signed during President Mauricio Macri’s visit to China in May, when Morales was part of the official delegation. According to the governor, it will be “the biggest solar farm in Latin America.”

The first thing anyone who looks at any official document this year in Argentina will read is: “2017, the year of renewable energies.”

President Mauricio Macri signs contracts for renewable energy projects, together with members of his administration and representatives of the Buenos Aires city government. Credit: Argentine Presidency

During the visit, China consolidated its role as a key player in the renewal of the power industry in Argentina. In Beijing, an agreement was reached for the Asian giant to finance 85 per cent of the construction of two nuclear plants, with an investment of 14 billion dollars.

Before the visit, they had agreed for China to finance the construction of two hydroelectric plants in Argentina’s southern region of Patagonia, at a cost of nearly five billion dollars. But the two mega-projects are still on hold by a Supreme Court order, in response to a complaint filed by environmental organisations.

The government is keen on solving this situation, as the Chinese investors have threatened to apply a “cross-default” clause and block their investments in other projects.

Energy Ministry officials reiterate in every public forum in which they participate that the goal is for 20,000 MW of power to be added to the electric grid by 2025, and for half of this to come from renewable sources.

To finance this, the government created the Fund for the Development of Renewable Energies (Foder), which was endowed with 800 million dollars from the state, in addition to another 480 million approved by the World Bank to finance the projects.

The ones that are already underway are mainly wind and solar power projects, since Argentina has favourable conditions for the former in the windy southern region of Patagonia, and for the latter in the high plateaus of northwestern Argentina, where solar radiation is intense.

There are also small-scale hydroelectric and biogas projects.

“This is the first time that Argentina is really moving forward in the development of renewable energies. Today we have what we used to lack: financing,” said Javier Cao, an expert in renewable energies for the economic consulting firm Abeceb.

“The main driver of these initiatives is that Argentina has a large energy deficit and needs new power from all sources: from hydroelectric plants as well as the two new projected nuclear plants, while increasing its production of natural gas and also boost production from renewable sources,” he told IPS.

Will the third time be the charm?

Argentina’s dream of developing renewable energies is not new, but up to now all the efforts made had failed.

The first law that declared renewables a matter of “national interest” was passed by Congress in 1998. But the financial incentives created by that law were destroyed by the late 2001 economic and political crisis that led to the resignation of President Fernando de la Rúa.

In 2006 a second law was enacted, which set a target: eight per cent of the electric power consumed was to come from renewable sources by 2016. But once again, it failed, due to problems with financing.

The third, which will hopefully be the charm, was passed in 2015, with votes from lawmakers who backed then president Cristina Fernández (2007-2015) as well as members of the opposition, in a rare example of consensus.

This law created tax and customs incentives for investors and included among renewable sources hydroelectric dams up to 50 MW of capacity, in contrast to the ceiling of 30 MW set by the previous law.

In addition, it established the obligation to reach the target of eight per cent renewable energies in the electric grid by Dec. 31, 2017 – a deadline that will not be reached. However, the government hopes to meet the target by 2019.

The government does hope to reach the second target set by the law, on time: 20 per cent renewables by 2025.

“One of the challenges in this respect is decentralising production,” said Marcelo Álvarez, president of the Argentine Chamber of Renewable Energies, which represents companies in the sector.

Towards that end, Congress is expected to pass a new power distribution law this year, which will allow users who generate renewable power to sell their surplus to the grid, which would be a real innovation in Argentina.

“We already have achieved a unified text for the bill in the Energy Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, with the participation of technical advisers from all the parties and technicians from the executive branch,” said Juan Carlos Villalonga, a former Greenpeace environmental activist who is now a lawmaker for the governing alliance Cambiemos.

“The take-off of renewable energies will be one of the legacies of this government,” said Villalonga.

Within the Paris Agreement on climate change, signed by 196 member states in December 2015, Argentina committed itself to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent before 2030, a level criticised as low, but to which this country would add another 15 per cent if it receives special funds.

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Yemen: African Migrants Beaten, Starved, Sexually Violated by Criminal Groupshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/yemen-african-migrants-beaten-starved-sexually-violated-criminal-groups/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yemen-african-migrants-beaten-starved-sexually-violated-criminal-groups http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/yemen-african-migrants-beaten-starved-sexually-violated-criminal-groups/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 08:11:01 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151666 African migrants who arrive on Yemen’s shores –that’s if they are not forced into the sea to drown—risk to fall in the hands of criminal networks who hold them captive for several days to extort money in exchange for their “freedom,” according to UN sources. During captivity, the migrants are “horribly treated – beaten, starved, […]

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Yemen: African Migrants Beaten, Starved, Sexually Violated by Criminal Groups

Map of the Horn of Africa. Source: United Nations, Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Cartographic Section. Public Domain

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Aug 14 2017 (IPS)

African migrants who arrive on Yemen’s shores –that’s if they are not forced into the sea to drown—risk to fall in the hands of criminal networks who hold them captive for several days to extort money in exchange for their “freedom,” according to UN sources.

During captivity, the migrants are “horribly treated – beaten, starved, sexually violated, chained to the ground” so they are willing to pay, confirmed to IPS Chissey Mueller, from the International Organization for Migration’s Mission in Yemen.

The released migrants might go to IOM, or other organisations for help, or they might continue their migratory journey at the risk of being abducted and held captive again, informed Mueller, IOM’s Migrants Assistance and Protection Unit in Yemen.

“It truly is a terrible ordeal: crossing the sea is only part of the dangerous journey that the migrants are embarking on,” said Mueller. IOM provides humanitarian assistance, such as medical assistance, food, water, and non-food items, to the most vulnerable migrants.

The smugglers that sail  boats between the Horn of Africa profit easily because the distance is short (5 hours or less between Somalia and Shabwa), and the demand is high, said Mueller.

“In addition to the smugglers operating boats, there are smugglers and criminal networks in Yemen who facilitate the movement of migrants between the governorates and into Saudi Arabia.”

And for those who want to return to their home country, the UN specialised body tries to evacuate them by coordinating with the authorities in Yemen and the country of origin for safe passage, she added.

IOM staff assist Somali, Ethiopian migrants who were forced into the sea by smugglers. Photo: UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

IOM staff assist Somali, Ethiopian migrants who were forced into the sea by smugglers. Photo: UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

Dumped” in the Sea

Informing from Aden, Yemen, IOM on 10 August said that up to 180 migrants were reported to have been forced that day from a boat by smugglers off the coast of Yemen. Five bodies had been recovered so far and around 50 were reported missing.

This tragic incident came barely 24 hours after smugglers forced more than 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants into the sea as they approached the coast of Shabwa, a Yemeni Governorate along the Arabian Sea resulting in the drowning of over 50 migrants. The migrants had been hoping to reach countries in the Gulf region via war-torn Yemen.

According to IOM, a total of 300 migrants have reportedly been forced from boats over the past two days by smugglers off the coast of Yemen – many feared dead or missing. See: Smugglers Throw Hundreds of African Migrants OffBoats Headed to Yemen.

“The survivors told our colleagues on the beach that the smuggler pushed them into the sea when he saw some ‘authority types’ near the coast,” said Laurent de Boeck, the IOM Yemen Chief of Mission.

“It truly is a terrible ordeal: crossing the sea is only part of the dangerous journey that the migrants are embarking on”
“They also told us that the smuggler has already returned to Somalia to continue his business and pick up more migrants to bring to Yemen on the same route. This is shocking and inhumane. The suffering of migrants on this migration route is enormous. Too many young people pay smugglers on the false hope of a better future,” de Boeck added.

Migration Between Horn of Africa and Yemen, Not New

Migration of Africans to Yemen is not new. In fact, Mueller said to IPS that the migration trends between the Horn of Africa and Yemen are centuries old, and facilitated by the geographical proximity.

In 2014, there were an estimated 270,000 Somali refugees and several hundred thousand Ethiopian migrants in Yemen, she informed, adding that while the Somalis had sought refuge in Yemen, the Ethiopian migrants for the most part were focused on economic opportunities, either in Yemen or in Saudi Arabia.

‘There are large populations of Somalis along the southern and western coastal villages of Yemen, with significant communities in Aden and in Sana’a.  When the conflict engulfed Aden 2015 for three months, there was a mass exodus of the city.”

Somalis fled the area, and many of them headed east towards the Port of Mukallah, and eventually took boats to Somalia, said Mueller.  The Ethiopian migrants seemed to head north into Yemen, trying to avoid the conflict hotspots, with the intention of reaching Saudi Arabia.

Several Thousands Stranded in Yemen

Several thousand Ethiopian migrants have subsequently found themselves stranded in Yemen, trapped by the conflict’s frontlines, she added.

“Once the conflict in Aden ended by July/August 2015, and began to diminish in the southern part of the country, people – Yemenis and Somalis returned to their communities in Yemen. By the end of 2015, it was thought the Somali refugee community in Yemen still numbered 250,000, according to UNHCR estimates. “

According to Mueller, in 2016, despite the conflict’s continuation, but probably because it had begun to concentrate in the Taiz enclave, Hajjah, Sa’adah, etc., the number of Somali refugees and Ethiopian migrants estimated to have come to Yemen was over 117,000, according to the UN Refugee agency UNHCR.

Many More than 2,000 Migrants per Month

“IOM thinks that the trend of Ethiopian migrants coming to Yemen in 2017, most likely to transit through to Saudi Arabia, is still strong.”

For the first six months of 2017, we encountered almost 2,000 migrants per month when our mobile teams would patrol the coastal roads in Lahj and Shabwa, said Mueller, adding that is just two governorates that we cover, and we are just one agency.

“So imagine how many migrants are landing along other parts of Yemen’s coastal areas, where we are not present.  This is why we think that this year’s estimates of new arrivals are similar to last year’s trends. “

“Recently, smugglers have been pushing migrants out of the boats, fearing that the security forces might arrest them. This is what happened the past two days in Shabwa,” said Lina Koussa, IOM’s Emergency Response Officer in Aden.

Violently Forced into the Sea

Reporting from Aden, Yemen, IOM on 10 August informed that 160 Ethiopian migrants had been violently forced into the sea off Yemen’s coast in the morning of that day.

This tragic incident came one day after the presumed death of 50 Ethiopian and Somali migrants during a similar incident, the UN migration organisation informed, adding that as with yesterday (9 August), this tragedy took place off the coast of Shabwa, a Yemeni Governorate along the Arabian Sea – although in a different location and closer to the shore.

Every year, thousands of migrants risk their lives on this life-threatening route towards the Gulf countries through Yemen, a country in crisis. The journey and the situation in Yemen is extremely dangerous for migrants, IOM said.

“The psychological effect these experiences have on children can be enormous. This is why IOM has psychologists embedded in their patrolling teams on Yemen’s beaches. The deadly actions of the smugglers today bring the total number of presumed dead over the last two days close to 70. “

IOM is has information on 114 dead or missing in 2017 off the coast of Yemen (Gulf of Aden and in the Red Sea in route to Yemen) and 109 in 2016. “The actual total is likely to be higher.”

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One in 10 Displaced Syrians Returned Homehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/one-in-10-displaced-syrians-returned-home/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=one-in-10-displaced-syrians-returned-home http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/one-in-10-displaced-syrians-returned-home/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 07:07:37 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151662 This year alone, between January and July, 602,759 displaced Syrians returned home, according to reports from the UN Migration Agency and implementing partners on the ground. Around 6 million Syrians currently remain displaced within their own country. Findings indicate that the vast majority of  people returning (84 per cent) had been displaced within Syria, the Geneva-based […]

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IOM distributes hygiene kits in Damas, Syria last May 2017. File photo: UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

IOM distributes hygiene kits in Damas, Syria last May 2017. File photo: UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

By IPS World Desk
ROME/GENEVA, Aug 14 2017 (IPS)

This year alone, between January and July, 602,759 displaced Syrians returned home, according to reports from the UN Migration Agency and implementing partners on the ground. Around 6 million Syrians currently remain displaced within their own country.

Findings indicate that the vast majority of  people returning (84 per cent) had been displaced within Syria, the Geneva-based UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported.

The next highest number of people (16 per cent) returned from Turkey, followed by Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, it added. Those from Turkey and Jordan reportedly returned mainly to Aleppo and Al Hasakeh Governorates.

An estimated 27 per cent of the returnees stated that they did so to protect their assets or properties and 25 per cent referred to the improved economic situation in their area of origin.

Other factors people gave IOM and partners as their reasons for returning included the worsening economic situation in the place where they were seeking refuge (14 per cent), social or cultural issues such as tribal links, political affiliations or any obstacle preventing integration in their area of displacement (11 per cent), and the improvement of the security situation in their area of return (11 per cent).

Aleppo, Main Destination of Returnees

Half of all returnees in 2016 were to Aleppo Governorate, said IOM.

The report shows that similar trends have been observed in 2017. Consequently, an estimated 67 per cent of the returnees returned to Aleppo Governorate (405,420 individuals), 27,620 to Idleb Governorate, and 75,209 to Hama Governorate, 45,300 to Ar-Raqqa Governorate, 21,346 to Rural Damascus and 27,861 to other governorates.

Within the Governorates mentioned, Aleppo city, received the most returnees, followed by Al Bab sub-district in Aleppo Governorate, Hama sub-district in Hama Governorate, Menbij sub-district in the northeast of Aleppo Governorate, and Al-Khafsa sub-district also in Aleppo Governorate, the UN specialised body reported.

According to reports, almost all (97 per cent) returned to their own house, 1.8 per cent are living with hosts, 1.4 per cent in abandoned houses, 0.14 per cent in informal settlements and 0.03 per cent in rented accommodation.

The city of Zabadani in Syria taken last June 2017 during an IOM assessment. Photo: UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

The city of Zabadani in Syria taken last June 2017 during an IOM assessment. Photo: UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

Access to Food, Household Items

Access of returnees to food and household items is 83 per cent and 80 per cent respectively. Access to water (41 per cent) and health services (39 per cent) is dangerously low as the country’s infrastructure has been extremely damaged by the conflict.

The report indicates that an increasing number of Syrians displaced within the country appear to be returning home, informed IOM, adding that the total figure by end of July this year was already close to the 685,662 returnees identified in the whole of 2016.

However, of those returnees, an estimated 20,752 and 21,045 were displaced again in 2016 and 2017 respectively. This means that around 10 per cent of those who returned ended up as internally displaced persons (IDPs) once again.

Six Million Displaced Within Syria

While trends of returnees increase, Syria continues to witness high rates of displacement. From January to July 2017, an estimated 808,661 people were displaced; many for the second or third time, and over 6 million in total currently remain displaced within the country. This makes up to 1 in 3 inhabitants.

The figure is particularly relevant in view of the fact that the Syrian population is estimated to be slightly more than 21 million, i.e. one in three Syrians are still displaced.

IDP returns have mainly been spontaneous but not necessarily voluntary, safe or sustainable. As such, they cannot, at present, be considered within the context of a durable solutions framework.

These data have been collected by IOM’s implementing partners, who use a set of tools and methods to identify, assess and monitor different population categories throughout Syria, in relation to needs and mobility dynamics at a community level.

According to IOM’s Progressive Resolution of Displacement Situations, the number and scale of crises are forcing record numbers of people to flee their homes seeking relative safety within or across international borders.

“However, the growing complexity and unpredictability of these crises is resulting in increasingly protracted displacement situations which challenge the versatility of the three traditional durable solutions – voluntary return and sustainable reintegration, sustainable settlement elsewhere and sustainable local integration.”

Over 4.5 Million Syrians in Hard-to-Reach Areas

According to the United Nations Refugee agency UNHCR’s estimates, there are 6.3 million internally displaced persons in Syria, while 4.53 million people are in hard-to-reach and besieged areas.

UNHCR reported that over 5 million people have fled Syria since 2011, seeking safety in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and beyond. Millions more are displaced inside Syria and, as war continues, hope is fading fast.

It also estimates that 13.5 million people are in humanitarian need in Syria.

 

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Women Build Rural Infrastructure in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/women-build-rural-infrastructure-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-build-rural-infrastructure-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/women-build-rural-infrastructure-bangladesh/#respond Sun, 13 Aug 2017 11:45:13 +0000 Shahiduzzaman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151659 Breaking all the social barriers and taboos, poor women in Bangladesh are now engaged in rural development works across the country as labourers. The Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) of Bangladesh initiated the move in the early 1980s, a time when a section of the so-called local elite and influential people stood in their way […]

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Women laborers engage in a development project in Bangladesh. Credit: LGED

Women laborers engage in a development project in Bangladesh. Credit: LGED

By Shahiduzzaman
DHAKA, Aug 13 2017 (IPS)

Breaking all the social barriers and taboos, poor women in Bangladesh are now engaged in rural development works across the country as labourers.

The Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) of Bangladesh initiated the move in the early 1980s, a time when a section of the so-called local elite and influential people stood in their way to move forward.

The engineers of LGED walked a long way to make this happen. They brought the working women under a platform named ‘Labour Contracting Society’ or ‘LCS’. Most of the LCS members are poor women from local communities. The LGED in cooperation with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have been successful in formally shaping the LCS concept.

IFAD as an important development partner of Bangladesh, working with the government for the last four decades and supporting the country in alleviating poverty and strengthening the rural economy.

The participation of women in the LCS for rural development is on the rise and they are replacing formal business contractors who have no accountability once the work is done.

The LGED has laid out eligibility criteria for the LCS members, particularly for the women living within a 2-km radius of the work station to include those who are unemployed, divorced or separated from their husbands, widows, destitute, with physically challenged person/s in their families, those who do not have more than 0.5 acres of land, including the homestead, and who are adults and physically fit to take on construction work. There are also men in LCS but their numbers are insignificant.

These poor women have proven that they can build rural roads and markets, and maintain them in the long run better than the private contractors. They also own their own work as their community asset, which can never be expected from the business contractors.

IFAD is promoting the active participation of LCS members in most of their projects in the country, the Coastal Climate Resilient Infrastructure Project (CCRIP) being one of them. LGED considers CCRIP as a ‘Silver Bullet’ for eradicating rural poverty and unemployment.

CCRIP Project Director AKM Lutfur Rahman said apart from engineering aspects of infrastructure development, they consider its social aspects, too. “So, we call it ‘Social Engineering’, in a broader sense ‘engineering for poverty alleviation, education, irrigation, agriculture, women empowerment and tree plantation and so on’.”

LGED and IFAD are planning to further strengthen the LCS and diversify their effective involvement in the projects. As part of this, both the organisations recently supported a study conducted by Professor Sharmind Neelormi of the Economics Department of Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh, on the LCS.

The study found that the concept of a ‘Labour Contracting Society’ is a proven successful formula for reaching out to the target groups and implementation of their work. Higher quality of work coupled with an increase in daily labour income and skill development form a strong base for further strengthening and expansion of this model.

Earlier this month, Professor Neelormi presented the key findings of the study at an LGED seminar in Dhaka. She put forward a set of recommendations to further improve the LCS. The key recommendations include ensuring gender-friendly working environment in project areas; revising the wage structure in the schedule considering seasonality, location-specific requirements and inflation adjustment; exercising the practice of ‘Force Majeure’ as contractual agreement; ensuring life and injury insurance during road maintenance and market construction works; and ensuring the use of retro-reflective vests.

LGED’s engineers and IFAD staff from its project areas, experts and representatives from other partners such as the World Food Programme (WFP), German KFW, Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), and the Bangladesh Mahila Parishad (BMP)actively participated in the seminar.

Almost all the participants agreed with the study findings and the recommendations. Professor Sharmind drew attention of the project planners to the review some issues of LCS such as revising the wage structure to consider seasonality, location-specific requirements and inflation adjustment; and harmonisation of the daily wage rate and policy for profit-sharing across projects.

She said, “living in uncertain realities, no overnight change can be expected. Issues need to be challenged from the institution itself. It might not be possible for a local project implementing agency to ensure the safeguard.”

Jona Goswami of BMP said it is encouraging for rural women that job opportunities are created for them. She emphasised safety and security of female LCS members, saying they often become victims of violence, harassment and abuse either in their own houses or in workplaces. “So, the project authorities must ensure a gender-friendly working environment and they should be flexible about their personal issues,” Goswami said.

In an interview, Professor Md Shamsul Hoque of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) commended the initiative, saying, “It has proved through all projects that the LCS approach of constructing minor infrastructure has not only increased the income of the poor women and men but also enhanced their technical and management skills. The concept of LCS can now easily be embraced in the country’s other development programmes as well as other developing nations.”

Akond Md. Rafiqul Islam, General Manager of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation, commenting on the income sustainability of LCS members, said LGED can include more partner organisations (POs) of PKSF in the projects.

The POs are helping select the LCS members and provide financial services to them, which is an important tool for the members’ income sustainability, he said. “After receiving training, many LCS members have now turned into micro entrepreneurs and they are doing well.”

PKSF is an apex development organisation for sustainable poverty reduction through employment generation.
Rafiqul Islam suggested building up an effective linkage between LCS and POs for supporting the LCS members’ income-generating activities and building them as sustainable micro-entrepreneurs.

Meanwhile, Professor Hoque said different ministries and non-governmental organisations are now engaging LCS in different titles in their development activities. Some of them are the Bangladesh Water Development Board, Department of Forest, Department of Disaster Management, Department of Agricultural Extension, Cash for Work Program, World Food Program (WFP), CARE Bangladesh, BRAC and Oxfam International.

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Promise or Peril? Africa’s 830 Million Young People by 2050http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/promise-peril-africas-830-million-young-people-2050/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=promise-peril-africas-830-million-young-people-2050 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/promise-peril-africas-830-million-young-people-2050/#respond Fri, 11 Aug 2017 14:10:50 +0000 John Dramani Mahama and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151652 Honourable Mr John Dramani Mahama, is the former President of the Republic of Ghana, follow him on twitter. Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya, follow him on twitter.

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Refugees land at Lampedusa island in Italy. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS.

By John Dramani Mahama and Siddharth Chatterjee
ACCRA, Ghana / NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 11 2017 (IPS)

Last month, Spanish charity workers rescued 167 migrants arriving from Africa aboard a small boat.

2016 was the deadliest for migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean, with at least 3800 deaths recorded. Most know the dangers they face on the route, yet still choose the possibility of death in overcrowded and unseaworthy vessels over the hopelessness of life in areas they reside.

John Dramani Mahama

Consider this. Every 24 hours, nearly 33,000 youth across Africa join the search for employment. About 60% will be joining the army of the unemployed.

A report from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees released this month claims that seven in ten of those heading for Europe are not refugees fleeing war or persecution, but economic migrants in search of better lives.

12 August 2017, is International Youth Day.

Africa’s youth population is growing rapidly and is expected to reach over 830 million by 2050. Whether this spells promise or peril depends on how the continent manages its “youth bulge”.

According to the World Bank, 40% of people who join rebel movements are motivated by lack of economic opportunity. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres noted, “The frustration generated in young people that have no hope in the future is a major source of insecurity in today’s world. And it is essential that when Governments plan their economic activities, when the international community develops forms of cooperation, they put youth employment, youth skills at the centre of all priorities…”

Some estimates indicate that more than half a million Africans migrated to European Union countries between 2013 and 2016, adding to the millions flowing in from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghnistan and parts of Asia.

Siddharth Chatterjee

Many of Africa’s young people remain trapped in poverty that is reflected in multiple dimensions, blighted by poor education, access to quality health care, malnutrition and lack of job opportunities.

For many young people–and especially girls– the lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services is depriving them of their rights and the ability to make decisions about their bodies and plan their families. This is adversely affecting their education and employment opportunities.

According to UNDP’s Africa Human Development Report for 2016, gender inequalities cost sub-Saharan Africa US$ 95 billion annually in lost revenue. Women’s empowerment and gender equality needs to be at the top of national development plans.

Between 10 and 12 million people join the African labour force each year, yet the continent creates only 3.7 million jobs annually. Without urgent and sustained action, the spectre of a migration crisis looms that no wall, navy or coastguard can hope to stop.

10 to 12 million young people join the African labour force each year, yet the continent creates only 3.7 million jobs annually. Credit: Adapted from “Promulgation,” courtesy of flickr user ActionPixs (Maruko). Kenya

“The future of Africa’s youth does not lie in migration to Europe, but in a prosperous Africa”, the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, has said.

Africa’s population is expected to reach around 2.3 billion by 2050. The accompanying increase in its working age population creates a window of opportunity, which if properly harnessed, can translate into higher growth and yield a demographic dividend.

In the wake of the Second World War, the Marshall Plan helped to rebuild shattered European economies in the interests of growth and stability. We need a plan of similar ambition that places youth employment in Africa at the centre of development.

For example, one sector that Africa must prioritise is agribusiness, whose potential is almost limitless. Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for Africa Region has said, “We cannot overstate the importance of agriculture to Africa’s determination to maintain and boost its high growth rates, create more jobs, significantly reduce poverty….”. The World Bank says African agriculture and agribusiness could be worth US $1 trillion by 2030.

The demographic dividend wheels: Adapted from African Union Commission.

Agriculture can help people overcome poor health and malnutrition. Given the importance of agriculture for the livelihoods of the rural poor, agricultural growth has the potential to greatly reduce poverty – a key contributor to poor health and undernutrition.

In the meantime, the aging demographic in many Western and Asian Tiger economies means increasing demand for skilled labour from regions with younger populations. It also means larger markets for economies seeking to benefit from the growth of a rapidly expanding African middle class. Consumer spending in Africa is projected to reach US $1.4 trillion in the next three years and business-to-business spending to reach $3.5 trillion in the next eight years.

Whether the future of Africa is promising or perilous will depend on how the continent and the international community moves from stated intent to urgent action and must give special priority to those SDGs that will give the continent a competitive edge through its youth.

The core SDGs of ending poverty, ensuring healthy lives and ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education all have particular resonance with the challenge of empowering youth and making them effective economic citizens.

As we mark International Youth Day, there is hope. Many young people in Africa are taking charge of their futures. There is a rising tide of entrepreneurship sweeping across Africa spanning technology, IT, innovation, small and medium enterprises. They are creating jobs for themselves and their communities.

The African Development Bank is working on creating 25 million jobs and equipping at least 50 million youth to realize their full economic potential by 2025.

The African Union established the theme for 2017 as “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend Through Investments in Youth.” This will determine Africa’s enormous promise to realise its economic and social potential as well as reap a demographic dividend (video).

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Smugglers Throw Hundreds of African Migrants Off Boats Headed to Yemenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/smugglers-throw-hundreds-african-migrants-off-boats-headed-yemen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=smugglers-throw-hundreds-african-migrants-off-boats-headed-yemen http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/smugglers-throw-hundreds-african-migrants-off-boats-headed-yemen/#respond Fri, 11 Aug 2017 13:33:55 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151657 A total of 300 migrants have reportedly been forced from boats over the past two days by smugglers off the coast of Yemen – many feared dead or missing, the United Nations migration agency has reported. “The survivors told our colleagues on the beach that the smuggler pushed them into the sea when he saw […]

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IOM staff assists Somali and Ethiopian migrants who were forced into the sea by smugglers. Credit: UN Migration Agency (IOM)

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Aug 11 2017 (IPS)

A total of 300 migrants have reportedly been forced from boats over the past two days by smugglers off the coast of Yemen – many feared dead or missing, the United Nations migration agency has reported.

“The survivors told our colleagues on the beach that the smuggler pushed them into the sea when he saw some ‘authority types’ near the coast,” said Laurent de Boeck, the Yemen Chief of Mission of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

“They also told us that the smuggler has already returned to Somalia to continue his business and pick up more migrants to bring to Yemen on the same route. This is shocking and inhumane. The suffering of migrants on this migration route is enormous. Too many young people pay smugglers with the false hope of a better future,” de Boeck added. “There is something fundamentally wrong with this world if countless numbers of children can be deliberately and ruthlessly drowned in the ocean, when they are no longer an easy source of income, and nothing is done to stop it from ever happening again.” – IOM chief.

According to IOM, up to 180 migrants were reportedly thrown into the sea from a boat today by the smugglers. Five bodies have been recovered so far, and around 50 are reported missing.

This latest incident comes barely 24 hours after smugglers forced more than 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants into the sea as they approached the coast of Shabwa, a Yemeni Governorate along the Arabian Sea, resulting in the drowning of around 50 migrants, said IOM. The migrants had been hoping to reach countries in the Gulf via war-torn Yemen.

Shallow Graves

Shortly after 11 August’s tragedy, IOM staff found the shallow graves of 29 migrants on a beach in Shabwa, during a routine patrol. The dead had been quickly buried by those who survived the smuggler’s deadly actions. The approximate average age of the passengers on the boat was 16.

“The UN Secretary-General is heart-broken by this continuing tragedy,” his Spokesman Stéphane Dujarric told reporters at the daily briefing in New York.

“This is why he continues to stress that the international community must give priority to preventing and resolving a variety of situations which both generate mass movement and expose those already on the move to significant danger,” he added, underscoring the need to increase legal pathways for regular migration and offer credible alternatives to these dangerous crossings for people in need of international protection.

30,000 Under the Age of 18

Since January of this year, IOM estimates that around 55,000 migrants left the Horn of Africa to come to Yemen, most with the aim of trying to find better opportunities in the Gulf countries.

More than 30,000 of those migrants are under the age of 18 from Somalia and Ethiopia, while a third are estimated to be female, according to the UN specialised body.

IOM staff tend to the remains of a deceased migrant on a beach in Yemen. Credit: UN Migration

“This journey is especially hazardous during the current windy season in the Indian Ocean. Smugglers are active in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, offering fake promises to vulnerable migrants.”

IOM and its partners operate across the region to support these migrants and provide lifesaving assistance to those who find themselves abused or stranded along the route.

Forced into the Sea

Meantime, IOM reported that 160 Ethiopian migrants were violently forced into the sea off Yemen’s coast on 8 August morning.

This comes one day after the presumed death of 50 Ethiopian and Somali migrants during a similar incident, it adds.
“As with 9 August, this tragedy took place off the coast of Shabwa, a Yemeni Governorate along the Arabian Sea – although in a different location and closer to the shore.”

Staff from the UN migration agency found six bodies on the beach –two male and four female. An additional 13 Ethiopian migrants are still missing (unaccounted for).

IOM on 10 August provided emergency medical assistance to 57 migrants. The UN agency also provided food, water and other emergency relief assistance to the surviving migrants. 84 migrants (in addition to the 57) left the beach.

The UN migration agency has also reported that every year, thousands of migrants risk their lives on this life-threatening route towards the Gulf countries through Yemen, a country in crisis.

“The journey and the situation in Yemen is extremely dangerous for migrants. The psychological effect these experiences have on children can be enormous.”

This is why IOM has embedded psychologists embedded in their patrolling teams on Yemen’s beaches.

“The deadly actions of the smugglers on 10 August bring the total number of presumed dead over the last two day close to 70. IOM is aware of 114 dead or missing in 2017 off the coast of Yemen (Gulf of Aden and in the Red Sea en route to Yemen) and 109 in 2016. The actual total is likely to be higher.

Brutally Treated

Survivors from both incidents described their journey with the smugglers to IOM:

“Throughout the journey, migrants had been brutally treated by the smugglers. They were forced to squat down for the entirety of the trip from Ambah Shore in Somalia, which sometimes takes between 24-36 hours, so that the smugglers could increase the number of people in the boat…

“… The migrants were not allowed to move inside the boat. They were not allowed a private or separate space to use the bathroom and had to urinate on themselves…

“… In some cases, the smugglers tied their hands so if something did happen, they would not be able to run or swim or save their lives. If one of the migrants accidentally moved, he would be beaten or even killed…

“…The migrants were not allowed to take enough food or water on the journey to fulfil their basic needs. They were only allowed to take one to two litres of water and one small meal. They also faced many dangerous during the journey in the windy season.”

Migrant survivors from other smuggling journeys have told IOM that usually smuggler networks coordinate when migrants arrive in Yemen so that they would have a pick up location.

“Some migrants who are able to pay extra money are taken by car to unknown destinations. Others, who do not have money, walk for long distances, without knowing where they are headed.

Pushed Out of the Boats

Recently, smugglers have been pushing migrants out of the boats, fearing that the security forces might arrest them. This is what happened the past two days in Shabowa, said Lina Koussa, IOM’s Emergency Response Officer in Aden.

“We condemn the acts of smugglers off the coast of Yemen – 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants were forced from a boat yesterday, and another 160 today, the death toll is still unknown,” said William Lacy Swing, IOM Director General.

“The utter disregard for human life by these smugglers, and all human smugglers worldwide, is nothing less than immoral. What is a teenager’s life worth? On this route to the Gulf countries, it can be as little as 100 USD, “ said IOM chief.

Something Wrong in This World

“There is something fundamentally wrong with this world if countless numbers of children can be deliberately and ruthlessly drowned in the ocean, when they are no longer an easy source of income, and nothing is done to stop it from ever happening again.”

It should never have happened in the first place, he added.

“We should not have to wait for tragedies like these to show us that international cooperation must be enhanced to fight human smuggling – not just through policy but through real action along these smuggling routes.”

This is a busy and extremely dangerous smuggling route. Yemen is suffering one of today’s most dire humanitarian crises, said William Lacy Swing.

Countries experiencing conflict or crisis like Yemen need greater support to reinforce law enforcement and humanitarian border management with the aim of protecting vulnerable migrants like these 16-year-old kids, he said.

“My thoughts are with their families and loved ones in Ethiopia and Somalia. I am making a promise to them that IOM will not forget them and will continue to fight to protect the rights and dignity of future generations of migrants,” concluded Swing.

120 Somali and Ethiopians, Forced into the Pitching Sea

IOM on 9 August reported from Aden that early that morning, a human smuggler, in charge of the boat, forced more than 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants into the pitching sea as they approached the coast of Shabwa, a Yemeni Governorate along the Arabian Sea. The migrants had been hoping to reach countries in the Gulf via war-torn Yemen.

Shortly after the tragedy, staff from IOM, the UN Migration Agency, found the shallow graves of 29 migrants on a beach in Shabwa, during a routine patrol.

The dead had been quickly buried by those who survived the smuggler’s deadly actions. IOM is working closely with the International Committee of the Red Cross to ensure appropriate care for the deceased migrants’ remains.

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Conservation Agriculture Sprouts in Cuban Fieldshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/conservation-agriculture-sprouts-cuban-fields/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=conservation-agriculture-sprouts-cuban-fields http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/conservation-agriculture-sprouts-cuban-fields/#comments Thu, 10 Aug 2017 18:21:00 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151642 At the entrance, the Tierra Brava farm looks like any other family farm in the rural municipality of Los Palacios, in the westernmost province of Cuba. But as you drive in, you see that the traditional furrows are not there, and that freshly cut grass covers the soil. “For more than five years we’ve been […]

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Onay Martínez holds a sugar-apple on his farm, Tierra Brava, in western Cuba, where he practices conservation agriculture and has turned this sustainable system that minimally disturbs the soil into a model in his country. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Onay Martínez holds a sugar-apple on his farm, Tierra Brava, in western Cuba, where he practices conservation agriculture and has turned this sustainable system that minimally disturbs the soil into a model in his country. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Ivet González
LOS PALACIOS, Cuba, Aug 10 2017 (IPS)

At the entrance, the Tierra Brava farm looks like any other family farm in the rural municipality of Los Palacios, in the westernmost province of Cuba. But as you drive in, you see that the traditional furrows are not there, and that freshly cut grass covers the soil.

“For more than five years we’ve been practicing conservation agriculture (CA),” Onay Martínez, who works 22 hectares of state-owned land, told IPS.

He was referring to a specific kind of agroecology which, besides not using chemicals, diversifies species on farms and preserves the soil using plant coverage and no plowing.

“In Cuba, this system is hardly practiced,” lamented the farmer, who is cited as an example by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of integral and spontaneous application of CA, which Cuban authorities began to include in their policies in 2016.

This fruit tree orchard in the province of Pinar del Río, worked by four farmhands, is the only example of CA reported at the moment, and symbolises the step that Cuba’s well-developed agroecological movement is ready to take towards this sustainable system of farming. The Agriculture Ministry already has a programme to extend it on a large scale.

FAO defines CA as “an approach to managing agro-ecosystems for improved and sustained productivity, increased profits and food security while preserving and enhancing the resource base and the environment. CA is characterised by three linked principles, namely: Continuous minimum mechanical soil disturbance; Permanent organic soil cover; Diversification of crop species grown in sequences and/or associations.”

Because of the small number of farms using the technique, there are no estimates yet of the amount of land in Cuba that use the basic technique of no-till farming, which is currently expanding in the Americas and other parts of the world.

CA, which uses small machinery such as no-till planters, has spread over 180 million hectares worldwide. Latin America accounts for 45 per cent of the total, the United States and Canada 42 per cent, Australia 10 per cent, and countries in Europe, Africa and Asia 3.6 per cent.

The world leaders in the adoption of this conservationist system are South America: Brazil, where it is used on 50 per cent of farmland, and Argentina and Paraguay, with 60 per cent each.

And Argentina and Brazil, the two agro-exporter powers in the region, are aiming to extend it to 85 per cent of cultivated lands in less than a decade.

Sheep are raised for meat on the Tierra Brava farm, which also produces fruit, expensive and scarce in Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Sheep are raised for meat on the Tierra Brava farm, which also produces fruit, expensive and scarce in Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

“In conservation agriculture we found the basis for development because it allowed us to achieve goals in adverse conditions,” said Martínez, a computer specialist who discovered CA when in 2009 he and his brother started to study how to reactivate lands that had been idle for 25 years and were covered by weeds.

A worker operates a kind of mower characteristic of this type of agriculture to clear the paths in Tierra Brava, which has no electricity or irrigation system. The cut grass is thrown in the same direction to facilitate the creation of organic compost.

“There are places on the farm, such as the plantation of soursop (Annona muricata), where you walk and you feel a soft step in the ground,” Martínez said, citing an example of the recovery of the land achieved thanks to the fact that “no tilling is used and the soil coverage is not removed.”

Focused on the production of expensive and scarce fruit in Cuba, the farm in 2016 produced 87 tons, mainly of mangos, avocados and guavas, in addition to 2.7 tons of sheep meat and 600 kilos of rabbit.

Now they are building a dam to practice aquaculture and are starting to sell soursop, a fruit nearly missing in local markets.

Mandarin orange, canistel (Pouteria campechiana), coconut, tamarind, cashew, West Indian cherry (Malpighia emarginata), mamey apple (Mammea americana), plum, cherry, sugar apple (Annona squamosa), cherimoya (Annona cherimola) and papaya are some of the other fruit trees growing on the family farm, until now for self-consumption, diversification or small-scale, experimental production.

An assortment of fruit grown on the Tierra Brava farm in Los Palacios, in the western Cuban province of Pinar del Río. In the cooperative of which it forms part, farmers aspire to build a processing plant to sell “healthy fruit” to tourists. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

An assortment of fruit grown on the Tierra Brava farm in Los Palacios, in the western Cuban province of Pinar del Río. In the cooperative of which it forms part, farmers aspire to build a processing plant to sell “healthy fruit” to tourists. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

“Rotating crops is hard and requires a lot of training and precision, but CA is also special because it allows you time to be with your family,” said Martínez, referring to another of the benefits also mentioned by specialists.

FAO’s representative in Cuba, German agronomist Theodor Friedrich, is one of the staunch advocates of CA around the world, based on years of research.

“Agroecology, as it was understood in Cuba in the past, has excluded the aspect of healthy soil and its biodiversity,” he told IPS in an interview. “Now the government recognises that the move towards Conservation Agriculture fills in the gaps of the past, in order to achieve true agroecology.”

Friedrich said that in this Caribbean island nation of 11.2 million people, CA is new, but “several pilot projects have been carried out, and there is evidence that it works.”

In October 2016, Cuba laid out a roadmap to implement CA around the country, after an international consultation supported by FAO. And in July a special group was set up within the Agriculture Ministry to promote CA.

“CA has not been immediately adopted on a large-scale around the country,” said Friedrich. “But as of 2018, the growth of the area under CA is expected to be much faster than in countries where this system only spreads among farmers, without the coordinated support of related policies.”

A worker operates a low-impact mower, used in conservation agriculture to clear the land, on the Tierra Brava farm in Los Palacios, a municipality at the western tip of Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A worker operates a low-impact mower, used in conservation agriculture to clear the land, on the Tierra Brava farm in Los Palacios, a municipality at the western tip of Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Good practices that improve the soil, which form the basis of this system, have been promoted in Cuba for some time now by bodies such as the Soil Institute (IS). It is even among the few environmental services supported by the state in Cuba’s stagnant economy, to combat the low fertility of the land.

According to data from the IS, only 28 per cent of Cuban soils are highly productive for agriculture. Of the rest, 50 per cent is ranked in category four of productivity, one of the lowest, due to the characteristics of the formation of the Cuban archipelago and the poor management of soil during centuries of monoculture of sugarcane.

“In this municipality, the number of farms that use organic compost to improve the soils has increased. The payment for improving the soil has been an incentive,” said Lázara Pita, coordinator of the agroecological movement in the National Association of Small Farmers of Los Palacios.

“We have rice fields, where agroecology is not used, but where they do apply good practices for soil conservation such as using rice husks as nutrients,” Pita, whose association has 2,147 small farms joined together in 15 cooperatives, an agroindustrial state company and rice processing plant, told IPS.

Standing in a wide-roofed place without walls in Tierra Brava, Pita estimated that 40 farms qualify as ecological, and another 60 could shift to clean production techniques.

With the certification of a soil expert, a farmer like Martínez can earn between 120 and 240 dollars a year for offering environmental services, such as soil improvers, the use of live barriers and organic materials. This is an attractive sum, given the average state salary of 29 dollars a month.

Cuba, which depends on millions of dollars in food imports, has 6,226,700 hectares of arable land, of which 2,733,500 are cultivated and 883,900 remain idle.

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This Is How Indigenous Peoples Help Curb Gas Emissions, End Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/indigenous-peoples-help-curb-gas-emissions-end-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-help-curb-gas-emissions-end-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/indigenous-peoples-help-curb-gas-emissions-end-hunger/#respond Thu, 10 Aug 2017 11:55:42 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151639 A third of global forests, crucial for curbing gas emissions, are primarily managed by indigenous peoples, families, smallholders and local communities, according to the United Nations. Moreover, indigenous foods are also particularly nutritious, climate-resilient and well-adapted to their environment, making them a good source of nutrients in climate challenged areas, reports the UN Food and […]

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Indigenous Peoples can provide answers to food insecurity and climate change challenges. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Aug 10 2017 (IPS)

A third of global forests, crucial for curbing gas emissions, are primarily managed by indigenous peoples, families, smallholders and local communities, according to the United Nations.

Moreover, indigenous foods are also particularly nutritious, climate-resilient and well-adapted to their environment, making them a good source of nutrients in climate challenged areas, reports the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“Constituting only 5 per cent of the world population, indigenous peoples nevertheless are vital stewards of the environment. Traditional indigenous territories encompass 22 per cent of the world’s land surface, but 80 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity. “

According to this Rome-based UN specialised body, indigenous peoples ways of life and their livelihoods can teach us a lot about preserving natural resources, growing food in sustainable ways and living in harmony with nature.

“Mobilising the expertise that originates from this heritage and these historical legacies is important for addressing the challenges facing food and agriculture today and in the future,” it added on 9 August on the occasion of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

According to FAO, here are 6 of the many ways in which Indigenous Peoples are helping the world combat climate change:

1. Their Traditional Agricultural Practices Are Resilient to Climate Change

Throughout the centuries, indigenous peoples have developed agricultural techniques that are adapted to extreme environments, like the high altitudes of the Andes, the dry grasslands of Kenya or the extreme cold of northern Canada.

These time-tested techniques, like terracing that stops soil erosion or floating gardens that make use of flooded fields, mean that they are well-suited for the increasingly intense weather events and temperature changes brought on by climate change.

2. They Conserve and Restore Forests and Natural Resources

Indigenous peoples see themselves as connected to nature and as part of the same system as the environment in which they live. Natural resources are considered shared property and are respected as such.

By protecting natural resources, like forests and rivers, many indigenous communities help mitigate the impacts of climate change.

3. Indigenous Foods Expand and Diversify Diets

The world currently relies very heavily on a small set of staple crops. Wheat, rice, potatoes and maize represent 50 per cent of daily calories consumed. With nutritious, native crops like quinoa, oca and moringa, the food systems of indigenous peoples can help the rest of humanity expand its narrow food base.

4. Indigenous Foods are Resilient to Climate Change

Because many indigenous peoples live in extreme environments, they have chosen crops that have also had to adapt.

Indigenous peoples often grow native species of crops that are better adapted to local contexts and are often more resistant to drought, altitude, flooding, or other extreme conditions.

Used more widely in farming, these crops could help build the resilience of farms now facing a changing, more extreme climate.

5. Indigenous Territories hold 80 Per Cent of the World’s Biodiversity

Preserving biodiversity is essential for food security and nutrition. The genetic pool for plants and animal species is found in forests, rivers and lakes and pastures.

Living naturally sustainable lives, indigenous peoples preserve these spaces, helping to uphold the biodiversity of the plants and animals in nature.

6. Indigenous Peoples’ Lifestyles Are Locally Adapted and Respectful of Natural Resources

Indigenous peoples have adapted their lifestyles to fit into and respect their environments. In mountains, indigenous peoples’ systems preserve soil, reduce erosion, conserve water and reduce the risk of disasters.

In rangelands, indigenous pastoralist communities manage cattle grazing and cropping in sustainable ways that preserve rangeland biodiversity. In the Amazon, ecosystems improve when indigenous people inhabit them.

FAO considers indigenous peoples as “invaluable partners” in eradicating hunger and in providing solutions to climate change.

“We will never achieve long-term solutions to climate change and food security and nutrition without seeking help from and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.”

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Jordan Makes Strides Toward Inclusive Green Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/jordan-makes-strides-toward-inclusive-green-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=jordan-makes-strides-toward-inclusive-green-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/jordan-makes-strides-toward-inclusive-green-economy/#respond Thu, 10 Aug 2017 00:37:08 +0000 Safa Khasawneh http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151635 Jordan may be one of the smallest economies in the Middle East, but it has high ambitions for inclusive green growth and sustainable development despite the fact that it lies in the heart of a region that has been long plagued with wars and other troubles, says the Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute […]

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Safa Khasawneh interviews the Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Dr. Frank Rijsberman. Credit: Safa Khasawneh/IPS

Safa Khasawneh interviews the Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Dr. Frank Rijsberman. Credit: Safa Khasawneh/IPS

By Safa Khasawneh
AMMAN, Aug 10 2017 (IPS)

Jordan may be one of the smallest economies in the Middle East, but it has high ambitions for inclusive green growth and sustainable development despite the fact that it lies in the heart of a region that has been long plagued with wars and other troubles, says the Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Dr. Frank Rijsberman.

In a wide-ranging interview with IPS, Rijsberman stressed that Jordan has shown a strong commitment towards shifting to a green economy, and has made significant strides in the area of renewable energy.The demand for water and energy is increasing due to the influx of more than one million Syrian refugees.

Following months of intensive cooperation with GGGI, the government of Jordan – represented by the Ministry of Environment with contributions by line ministries and other stakeholders – launched its National Green Growth Plan (NGGP) in December 2016, Rijsberman said.

Highlighting GGGI’s key role in helping Jordan launch its NGGP and develop a clear vision towards green growth strategy and policy framework in line with the country’s vision 2025, Rijsberman said that his institute will also play a critical part in mobilizing funds and investments to enable green growth.

Rijsberman, who is currently visiting Amman to check on projects funded and implemented by GGGI and the German government, underscored Jordan’s accelerated steps towards preserving its natural resources, leading the country into a sustainable economy, fighting poverty and creating more jobs for young people.

Rijsberman told IPS that the NGGP, which was approved by the cabinet, lists 24 projects in six main sectors, including water, agriculture, transport, energy, waste and tourism, the most pressing of which are water and energy, two of Jordan’s most limited resources.

The demand for these two resources is increasing due to the influx of more than one million Syrian refugees, Rijsberman said, adding that the GGGI water projects take into consideration that Jordan is one of the world’s poorest countries in terms of water. According to World Bank data, the availability of water per capita stands now at 145 m3 /year but is projected to decline to 90 m3 /year by 2025.

“In terms of water, our projects in Jordan aim to preserve the country’s efficiency of water distribution system, provide clean drinking water, maximize the use of treated wastewater for agricultural and industrial purposes and prevent pollution by cleaning some of the polluted rivers,” he told IPS.

Rijsberman, who is also an expert in water issues, revealed that one of the GGGI’s important near future projects in Jordan is the “Master Plan for Cleaning and Rehabilitation of Zarqa River Basin,” a heavily polluted river located 25 kilometers east of the Jordanian capital Amman.

The GGGI also works to address Jordan’s energy challenges, Rijsberman said, adding that the Kingdom imports 97 percent of its energy needs, and its annual consumption of electricity rises by 5 percent annually.

“In the energy sector, our primary focus is on the efficiency of this resource, since Jordan has already made good progress in setting up solar energy plans, and the need lies on storing this energy,” he said.

During his visit to Jordan, Rijsberman said that he had talks with officials in the ministries of energy, environment and planning on ways to exploit solar energy for battery technology, another renewable technology that can store extra solar power for later use. This new technology, Rijsberman explained, will provide the country with the opportunity to shift to renewable energy and reduce imports of fossil fuels.

In transportation, Jordan has also made further progress by introducing eco-friendly hybrid cars with greater fuel efficiency and lower carbon emissions.

In order to move to a green economy, another step in the right direction was made by the Ministry of Environment, which established a “Green Economy Directorate (unit)”, he said, adding that the GGGI is truly impressed by the full support the unit is receiving from the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Energy.

As Jordan faces new geopolitical challenges and an unprecedented influx of refugees, Rijsberman revealed that GGGI is working with government on a Country Planning Framework (CPF), which is a five-year in-country delivery strategy that identifies and operationalizes the institute’s value additions to national development targets in partner countries.

As a strategic and planning document, the CPF aims at delivering in-country development targets that are in alignment with the overarching GGGI Strategic Plan and Corporate Results Framework. It also elaborates a clear and logical assessment of development challenges and enabling conditions, identifies GGGI’s comparative advantage in country and sets priority interventions, he explained.

In Jordan, he explained, there is political will and determination to create green jobs, green businesses, a healthy environment, and secure and affordable supply of energy for all. What the country lacks is the capacity and technical skills as well as adequate financing mechanisms to encourage the private sector to implement green growth projects.

“So a big part of our job is capacity-building to come up with bankable projects that are green and sustainable, and as we know that the government can’t fund projects by itself, therefore it is very important to build partnerships between the private and public sector to reach this end,” the DG told IPS.

According to official data, four workshops were organized in 2016 to enhance capacity among green growth stakeholders in Jordan. A total of 177 participants attended these workshops in Amman, Jordan, and Abu Dhabi, and the UAE. Eighty-two percent of participants responded to surveys conducted after the workshops, indicating an improvement in their knowledge and skills as a result of their participation.

Rijsberman stressed that although Jordan has made tremendous progress in its approach, there is still a long way to go and a lot of work to do.

Despite accelerating degrees of environmental degradation and depletion of resources in the region because of wars, poverty and high unemployment, the GGGI official said he was impressed by how rapidly some Arab countries such as the UAE and Qatar are shifting towards green growth.

The concept of green growth is starting to take hold in the region, Rijsberman said, adding that there is a sustainability week held annually Abu Dhabi, the GGGI has offices in Masdar city in UAE, Jordan started implementing its National Green Growth Plan and the Arab League has requested to share this plan be with its 22 members.

The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) is a treaty-based inter-governmental organization dedicated to supporting and promoting strong, inclusive and sustainable economic growth in developing countries and emerging economies.

Established in 2012 at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, GGGI is accelerating the transition toward a new model of economic green growth founded on principles of social inclusivity and environmental sustainability.

With the support of strong leadership and the commitment of stakeholders, the GGGI has achieved impressive growth over the last several years and now includes 27 members with operations in 25 developing countries and emerging economies.

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Leadership Failure Perpetuates Stagnationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/leadership-failure-perpetuates-stagnation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=leadership-failure-perpetuates-stagnation http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/leadership-failure-perpetuates-stagnation/#respond Wed, 09 Aug 2017 16:33:34 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151629 Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor and United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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Growing income inequality in most countries before the Great Recession has only made things worse, by reducing consumer demand and household savings, and increasing credit for consumption and asset purchases. Credit: IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR , Aug 9 2017 (IPS)

What kind of leadership does the world need now? US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s leadership was undoubtedly extraordinary. His New Deal flew in the face of the contemporary economic orthodoxy, begun even before Keynes’ General Theory was published in 1936.

Roosevelt’s legacy also includes creating the United Nations in 1945, after acknowledging the failure of the League of Nations to prevent the Second World War. He also insisted on ‘inclusive multilateralism’ – which Churchill opposed, preferring a bilateral US-UK deal instead – by convening the 1944 United Nations Conference on Monetary and Financial Affairs at Bretton Woods with many developing countries and the Soviet Union.

The international financial institutions created at Bretton Woods were set up to ensure, not only international monetary and financial stability, but also the conditions for sustained growth, employment generation, post-war reconstruction and post-colonial development.

Debt bogey
In resisting painfully obvious measures, the current favourite bogey is public debt. Debt has been the pretext for the ongoing fiscal austerity in Europe, which effectively reversed earlier recovery efforts in 2009. With private sector demand weak, budgetary austerity is slowing, not accelerating recovery.

Much has been made of sovereign debt on both sides of the north Atlantic and in Japan. In fact, US debt interest payments come to only 1.4 percent of annual output, while Japan’s very high debt-GDP ratio is not considered a serious problem as its debt is largely domestically held. And, as is now well known, the major problems of European debt are due to the specific problems of different national economies integrated sub-optimally into the Eurozone.

The international community has, so far, failed to develop effective and equitable debt workout, including restructuring arrangements, despite the clearly dysfunctional and problematic international consequences of past sovereign debt crises. The failure to agree to sovereign debt workout arrangements will continue to prevent timely debt workouts when needed, thus effectively impeding recovery as well.

Meanwhile, earlier international, including US tolerance of the Argentine debt workout of a decade and a half ago had given hope of making progress on this front. However, this has now been undermined by the Macri government’s recent concession, on worse terms and conditions than previously negotiated, to ‘vulture capitalists’.

Golden cages of the mind
Most major deficits now are due to the collapse of tax revenues following the growth downturn and costly financial bailouts. Slower growth means less revenue, and a faster downward spiral. While insisting on fiscal deficit reduction, financial markets also recognize the adverse growth implications of such ‘fiscal consolidation’.

Many policymakers are now insisting on immediate actions to rectify various imbalances, pointing not only to fiscal deficits, but also to trade and bank imbalances. While these undoubtedly need to be addressed in the longer term, prioritizing them now effectively blocks stronger, sustained recovery efforts.

Recent recessionary financial crises have been caused by bursting credit and asset bubbles. Recessions have also been deliberately induced by public policy, such as the US Fed raising real interest rates from 1980. Internationally, this contributed not only to sovereign debt and fiscal crises, but also to protracted stagnation outside East Asia, including Latin America’s ‘lost decade’ and Africa’s ‘quarter century retreat’.

Yet another distraction is exaggerating the threat of inflation. Much recent inflation in many countries has been due to higher international commodity, especially fuel and food prices. Domestic deflationary policies in response only slowed growth while failing to stem imported inflation. In any case, the collapse of most commodity prices since 2014 has rendered this bogey irrelevant.

Market vs recovery
Strident recent calls for structural reforms mainly target labour markets, rather than product markets. Labour market liberalization in such circumstances not only undermines worker protections, but is also likely to diminish real incomes, aggregate demand and, hence, recovery prospects. Nevertheless, these have become today’s priorities, detracting from the urgent need to coordinate and implement strong and sustained efforts to raise and sustain growth and job creation.

Meanwhile, cuts in social and welfare spending are only making things worse – as employment and consumer demand fall further. In recent decades, profits and rents have risen at the expense of wages, but also with much more accruing to finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) compared to other sectors.

The outrageous increases in financial executive remuneration in recent years, which cannot be attributed to increased productivity by any stretch of the imagination, have exacerbated problems of financial sector short-termism. Regulations are urgently needed to limit short-termism, including the ability of corporations to reap greater profits in the short-term while worsening risk exposure in the longer term, thus exacerbating systemic macro-financial vulnerability.

Growing income inequality in most countries before the Great Recession has only made things worse, by reducing consumer demand and household savings, and increasing credit for consumption and asset purchases – instead of augmenting investments in new economic capacities and capabilities.

Reform bias
Current policy is justified in terms of ‘pro-market’ – effectively pro-cyclical – choices when counter-cyclical efforts, institutions and instruments are sorely needed instead. Unfortunately, global leadership today seems held to ransom by financial interests, and associated media, ideology and ‘oligarchs’ whose political influence enables them to secure more rents and pay less taxes in what must truly be the most vicious of circles.

John Hobson – the English liberal economist in the tradition of John Stuart Mill – noted that ‘economic imperialism’ emerged from the inherent tendency for economic power to concentrate and the related influence of oligopolistic rentiers on public policy. Selective state interventions to bail out and protect such interests nationally and internationally, while not subjecting them to regulation in the national interest, must surely remind us of the dangers of powerful, but unaccountable oligarchies in a systemically unstable market economy and politically volatile societies.

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Why New US Cold War with Russia Nowhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/new-us-cold-war-russia-now/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-us-cold-war-russia-now http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/new-us-cold-war-russia-now/#respond Wed, 09 Aug 2017 15:54:16 +0000 Vladimir Popov http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151631 Vladimir Popov is a Research Director with the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute in Berlin. This op-ed is based on a recent DOCRI publication (https://doc-research.org/en/).

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Vladimir Popov is a Research Director with the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute in Berlin. This op-ed is based on a recent DOCRI publication (https://doc-research.org/en/).

By Vladimir Popov
BERLIN, Aug 9 2017 (IPS)

Even before the imposition of new sanctions on Russia by Donald Trump and the ongoing fuss over Russian hackers undermining US democracy, Russian-American relations had deteriorated to a level not seen since the 1950s. Why?

Vladimir Popov

Political ideology
After all, the US has fewer ideological disagreements with Russia than with the USSR. Russia now has a capitalist economy and is more democratic than the USSR. Russia is also much weaker than the USSR – its population and territory are about 60 to 80 percent of the Soviet Union, and its economic and military might has been considerably diminished, so it poses much less of a threat to the US than the USSR.
However, US rhetoric and actions towards Russia are much more belligerent now than during the 1970s, or in the 1980s, when the US imposed sanctions against the USSR after Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan. Even when President Reagan was calling the USSR ‘the evil empire’, relations did not deteriorate as much as in recent years.

Bilateral economic relations have taken a similar turn for the worse. Soviet-US trade expanded rapidly in the 1960s and 1970s, nominally increasing nearly a hundred-fold in two decades, before plateauing in the 1980s. There was some growth in the 1990s and 2000s after the USSR fell apart, but after peaking in 2011, trade has been falling.

Why did the fastest expansion of bilateral trade occur in the 1960s and 1970s? After all, the USSR was not a market economy, and also ‘communist’. By contrast, US trade growth with post-Soviet, capitalist and democratic Russia over the next two decades was modest, before actually shrinking in the last half decade.

Geopolitics?

One popular explanation is geopolitical considerations. It is argued that when a hostile power tries to expand its influence, the US, the rest of the West and hence, NATO respond strongly.

Examples cited include the Cold War in the 1950s and 1960s, and sanctions against the Soviet Union after it invaded Afghanistan in 1979. The same could be said about more recent Western sanctions in response to Russian advances in Crimea, Eastern Ukraine and Syria.

But the 1970s contradicts this argument. After all, the USSR was gaining ground at US expense in Indochina, the former Portuguese colonies, Nicaragua and other developing countries. Why then did détente and trade grow in the 1970s?

US as #1
The US position is not primarily determined by either ideology or geopolitics, but rather, by the changing US establishment view of the balance of power. After the devastation of the Second World War, the USSR was hardly a superpower, so the US expected to press the USSR, its erstwhile ally, into submission through the Cold War.

But the Soviet Union began closing the gap with the United States in terms of productivity, per capita income and military strength in the 1950s and 1960s. Even though its economy slowed from the mid-1960s, the USSR had caught up in many respects, enough to qualify as the other superpower. The result was détente. Although the USSR had been offering rapprochement after the Second World War, the US only accepted detente in the 1970s, as the military gap closed.

Today, the US establishment knows that the Russian economy have fallen far behind since the 1980s while its military is getting more obsolete. The strategic conclusion appears to be that Russia can be contained via direct pressure and sanctions, something unthinkable against the communist USSR in the 1970s or China today, even though China is less democratic than Russia and still led by a communist party.

Playing with fire
Economically and militarily, Russia is undoubtedly relatively much weaker today than the USSR was. But its capacity has recovered considerably in the new century from the 1990s, with modest growth reversing the economic devastation of the Yeltsin presidency.

And even if it is true that the US is now an unchallenged ‘number one’, and will remain dominant in the foreseeable future, while Russia is not only weak, but also getting relatively weaker, the current effort of pressing Russia into submission has risks.

US pressure on Russia can result in a stand-off comparable to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, which the USSR was willing to risk at that time, even though its military capability was well behind that of the US. Eventually, not only were Soviet missiles withdrawn from Cuba, a return to the status quo ante, but the US also promised not only not to invade Cuba, but also to withdraw its medium range missiles from Turkey.

True, Russia is relatively weaker today, but it still has tremendous destructive capacity. One only has to remember that North Korea, with much less military capacity, has successfully withstood US pressure for decades. However, as US economic dominance in the world has been eroding since the Second World War, and its military superiority is the main source of US advantage, the temptation will remain to use this superiority before it is eroded as well.

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Why Breastfeeding Is One of the “Smartest Investments” for All Countrieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/breastfeeding-one-smartest-investments-countries/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=breastfeeding-one-smartest-investments-countries http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/breastfeeding-one-smartest-investments-countries/#respond Tue, 08 Aug 2017 07:08:58 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151609 The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has released new findings on the economic gains—besides the obvious health benefits—of breastfeeding. Hailing the practice as an investment that ought to be supported by governments, the UN estimates that 4.70 dollars can push up rates of breastfeeding to 50 percent by 2025. Currently, only 23 countries can claim […]

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May 18, 2017. A combined group of South Sudanese refugees and Ugandans take part in a class about breast feeding. Nyumanzi Refugee Settlement, Adjumani District. Conflict and famine in South Sudan have led to an exodus of refugees into Uganda. Credit: JAMES OATWAY/UNICEF

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 8 2017 (IPS)

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has released new findings on the economic gains—besides the obvious health benefits—of breastfeeding.

Hailing the practice as an investment that ought to be supported by governments, the UN estimates that 4.70 dollars can push up rates of breastfeeding to 50 percent by 2025. Currently, only 23 countries can claim a rate above 60 percent. Overall, only 40 percent of children less than six months old are exclusively breastfed today.

In the world’s largest emerging economies—China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Nigeria—236,000 children die each year from a lack of investment in breastfeeding. Together, the countries lose more than 119 billion dollars annually.

A healthier workforce, nurtured from the very beginning of childhood, can add to a prosperous economy. Breastfeeding ensures ammunition against deadly diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia, which are two major causes of death among infants. Similarly, it reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancer among mothers.

“We need to bring more understanding to raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding—the baby should be fed with mother’s milk within the first hour of being born. Unfortunately, for many social and cultural reasons, this is not put to diligent practice. This is a sheer missed opportunity,” France Begin, a Senior Nutrition Adviser for Infant & Young Child Nutrition at UNICEF, told IPS.

The obvious benefits of breastfeeding, such as providing nutrition and bolstering development of the brain, are well known. Still, it is commonly mistaken as a woman’s job alone.

“Countries like Nepal and Kenya have done a wonderful job with policies to protect lactating mothers. In Kenya for example, all workplaces in the private sector have a room dedicated to mothers who have to breastfeed their children. In a way, this is our message too—you have to support women, and can’t simple leave it up to them,” said Begin. Indeed, providing lactation education classes and better paid maternity leave can go a long way.

Across all income levels, breastfeeding adds to an increase in intelligence, measured by a 3-point Intelligence Quotient (IQ) increase on average. Better academic performances, ensured by strong educational opportunities and programs, can lead to a better life for all members of the family.

“If you don’t make a strong commitment, it is a sheer drain to the child’s life, the families, and in the end, the economy,” resounded Begin.

This is why the report has deemed the practice as a “smart investment.” As the rate of breastfeeding remains stagnant in over two decades, it has become imperative to rally support and raise awareness. The UN has stepped up to do so by observing World Breastfeeding Week from August 1 until August 7.

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