Inter Press ServiceHealth – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 17 Jan 2019 16:51:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 A New Spectre is Haunting Europehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/new-spectre-haunting-europe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-spectre-haunting-europe http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/new-spectre-haunting-europe/#respond Thu, 17 Jan 2019 10:16:26 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159673 Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jan 17 2019 (IPS)

After Theresa May’s defeat in the British parliament it is clear that a new spectre is haunting Europe. It is no longer the spectre of communism, which opens Marx’s Manifesto of 1848; it is the spectre of the failure of neoliberal globalisation, which reigned uncontested following the fall of the Berlin Wall, until the financial crisis of 2009.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

In 2008, governments spent the astounding amount of 62 trillion dollars to save the financial system, and close to that amount in 2009 (see Britannica Book of the Year, 2017), According to a US Federal Reserve study, it cost each American 70,000 dollars.

Belatedly, economic institutions left macroeconomics, which were until then used to assess GNP growth and started to look at how growth was being redistributed. And the IMF and the World Bank, (also because of the prodding of civil society studies, foremost those of Oxfam), concluded that there was a huge problem in the rise of inequality.

Of course, if the 117 trillion dollars had gone to people, that money would have led to a jump in spending, an increase in manufacturing, services, schools, hospitals, research, etc. But people were totally absent from the priorities of the system.

Under the Matteo Renzi government in Italy, 20 billion dollars went to save four banks, while in the same year total subsidies for Italian youth could be calculated at best at 1 billion dollars.

Then after the crisis of 2008-9, all went haywire. In every country of Europe (except for Spain, which has now caught up), a populist right-wing party came to life, and the traditional political system started to crumble.

The new parties appealed to the losers of globalisation: workers whose factories has been delocalised for the cheapest possible place to maximise gains; small shop owners displaced by the arrival of supermarkets; those made redundant by new technologies, by Internet like secretaries; retired people whose pensions were frozen to reduce the national deficit (in the last 20 years public debts have doubled worldwide). A new divide built up, between those who rode the wave of globalisation and those who were its victim.

Obviously, the political system felt that it was accountable to the winners, and budgets were stacked in their favour. Priority went to towns, where over 63% of citizens now live. The losers were more concentrated in the rural world, where few investments were made in infrastructure. On the contrary, in the name of efficiency, many services were cut, railway stations closed, along with hospitals, schools and banks.

In order to reach work, people often had to go several kilometres from home by car. A modest increase in the cost of petrol fuelled the rebellion of the ‘yellow jackets’. It did not help that out of the 40 billion that the French government obtains from taxes on energy, less than one-quarter went back into transportation infrastructure and services.

Universities, hospital and other services in towns suffered much less, were points of excellence, public transportation was available, and a new divide arose between those in towns and those from the rural world, those with studies and education and those who were far away and atomised in the interior.

A new divide had come about, and people voted out the traditional party system, which ignored them. This device brought Trump to power and led to the victory of Brexit in the United Kingdom. This divide is wiping the traditional parties, and bringing back nationalism, xenophobia and populism. It is not bringing back the ideological right wing, but a gut right and left with little ideology …

All this should be obvious.

Now, for the first time, the system is turning its attention to the losers, but is too late. The left is paying the dramatic illusion of Tony Blair who, considering globalisation inevitable, decided that it would be possible to ride its wave. So, the left lost any contact with the victims, and kept the fight on human rights as its main identity and difference with the right.

That was good for towns, where gays and LGBTs, minorities (and majorities like women), could congregate, but it was hardly a priority for those of the interior.

Meanwhile, finance continued to grow, become a world by itself, no longer linked to industry and service, but to financial speculation. Politics became subservient. Governments lowered taxes on the who stashed the unbelievable amount of 62 trillion dollars in tax havens, according to the Tax Justice Network. The estimated yearly flow is 600 billion dollars, double the cost of the Millennium Goals of the United Nations.

And the Panama Papers, which revealed just a small number of the owners of accounts, identified at least 140 important politicians among them from 64 countries: the prime minister of Iceland (who was obliged to resign), Mauricio Macri of Argentina, President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine, a bunch of close associates of Vladimir Putin, David Cameron’s father, the prime minister of Georgia, and so on.

No wonder that politicians have lost their shine, and are now considered corrupt, or useless, or both.

In the current economic order, Emmanuel Macron acted rationally by lowering the tax on the rich people to attract investments. But he totally ignored that for those French who have difficulty in reaching the end of the month, this was proof that they were being totally ignored. And sociologists agree that the real ‘Spring’ of the yellow jackets was their search for dignity.

Ironically, British parties, and especially the Conservative and Labour parties, should be thankful to the debate on Brexit. It is clear that the United Kingdom is committing suicide, in economic and strategic terms. With a ‘hard’ Brexit, without any agreement with the European Union, it could lose at least seven percent of its GDP.

But the divide which makes Brexit win with all towns, the City, the economic and financial sector, academics, intellectuals and all institutions has confirmed the fear of those of the interior. Belonging to the European Union was profitable for the elites, and not for them. Scotland voted against, because it has now a different agenda from England. And this divide is not going to change with a new referendum.

That the cradle of parliamentarian democracy, Westminster, is not able to reach a compromise is telling proof that the debate is not political but a clash of mythologies, like the idea of returning to the former British Empire. It is like Donald Trump’s idea of reopening coal mines. We look at a mythical past as our future. This is what led to the explosion of Vox in Spain, by those who believe that under Franco life was easier and cheaper, that there was no corruption, woman stayed in their place, and Spain was a united country, without separatists in Catalonia and the Basque Country. It is what Jair Bolsonari in Brazil is exploiting, presenting the military dictatorship at a time when violence was limited. Our future is the past …

So this divide – once in one way or another the United Kingdom solves its Brexit dilemma – will pass into normal politics, and will bring about a dramatic decline, like elsewhere, of the two main traditional parties. Unless, meanwhile, populist, xenophobe and nationalist parties take over government and show that they do not have the answer to the problems they have rightly identified.

In that sense, the Italian experience could be of significant help … look how the government has performed with the European Union.

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Excerpt:

Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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Why We Should Care about Vulnerable Coastal Communitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/care-vulnerable-coastal-communities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=care-vulnerable-coastal-communities http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/care-vulnerable-coastal-communities/#respond Wed, 16 Jan 2019 11:47:24 +0000 Nigel Brett http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159661 Nigel Brett is Director of the Asia and Pacific Division at the International Fund for Agricultural Development

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Meity Masipuang is a member of an enterprise group in Papusungan village, Lembeh island, Indonesia. Their women’s group purchases fish to smoke and resell. They are participants of the IFAD-funded Coastal Community Development project in Indonesia. Credit: IFAD/Roger Arnold

By Nigel Brett
ROME, Jan 16 2019 (IPS)

According to UN statistics, approximately 40 per cent of the world’s population lives within 100 kilometers of the coast, and overall the world’s coastal population is increasing faster than the total global population. At the same time, global warming is causing sea levels to rise and increasing extreme weather incidents on coastlines.

The impacts are well publicized and alarming. But what we may not realize is that the people who are the most vulnerable to climate change are often the poorest. It is essential that we act upon what we know in order to mitigate the effects of climate change and build resilience in the poorest communities. In all of our development work, we cannot regard climate change and the plight of vulnerable coastal communities as a niche issue.

A large portion of the world’s poor people live in Asia and the Pacific: 347 million people in the region live on less than US$1.90 a day, almost half of the 736 million people living in extreme poverty worldwide. Rising sea level exposes large areas of Asia and the Pacific to potential floods, coastline damage and increased salinity of agricultural lands. Climate change and environmental degradation (including in small island developing states, or SIDS) is harming the poor rural population’s ability to produce food and income, which calls for urgent action to help people safeguard their assets and fragile resources, while also diversifying their income base.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) works with people in vulnerable coastal communities across the world to build resilience and institute sustainable agricultural practices so that vulnerable people can make a living while also preserving the environment and the resources that are the foundation of their way of life.

Nigel Brett Credit: IFAD/Flavio Ianniello

Some livelihood practices are not sustainable and can exacerbate climatic vulnerability. For example, unsustainable fishing destroys corals and depletes fish stocks, and the cutting down of mangroves for firewood results in coastal land that cannot resist flooding, cyclones and coastal erosion. Since 66 per cent of the fish that is eaten worldwide is caught by small-scale fishers, it is in everybody’s best interest to help them to improve their ability to make a living while protecting the environment.

In over 180 villages in Indonesia, the IFAD-supported Coastal Community Development Project introduced aquaculture and supported initiatives to make fishing and processing techniques more efficient and sustainable. By providing rudimentary refrigeration techniques such as ice coolers, and by forming and training women’s groups to process some of the fish into fish paste and dried fish snacks, fishermen were able to fish less because they did not have to factor in the amount of fish wasted by lack of refrigeration or low market demand. These measures also had a substantial impact on food security and actually reduced acute child malnutrition in the areas by half. And through community-based coastal resource management groups, marine resources have been maintained or improved.

In the Asia and the Pacific region overall, vulnerable communities are a prominent focus of our investment portfolio. Just under one third of our current $2.7 billion portfolio in the region is invested in improving the lives of 15,360,000 poor rural people living within five kilometers of the coastline.

One thing we’ve learned is that there is no such thing as a one-size fits all approach in working with vulnerable coastal communities. Context matters. Bangladesh suffers from overcrowding on its limited land, while the Pacific Islands suffer from not only extreme weather but a remote and dwindling population. In Tonga the rural population is declining due to migration and a lack of incentives for youth to remain. It is also classified as the second most at-risk country in the world in terms of its exposure and susceptibility to natural hazards and the effects of climate change. Development approaches need to be different.

Up to 80 million people live in flood-prone or drought-prone areas in Bangladesh, and thousands of vulnerable families eke out a living on river islands known as chars. The Char Development and Settlement Project has developed roads that remain intact even after they have been repeatedly submerged in water. It has also helped communities (especially women) to develop small businesses that can withstand floods, such as raising ducks. But, one of the most important aspects of the project’s work is land titling—which is particularly important for women. With land as collateral, women can access credit and acquire labour-saving machinery, including small irrigation pumps and rice threshers, and build small storage sheds to protect harvested rice from rain and floods.

In Tonga, we are helping communities to develop high-value crops that can be exported in order to boost the rural export market. The project is also planting tree species that can protect the coastline from tornados and cyclones. The project is working with communities to identify where improved infrastructure is needed (such as weather-resistant roads and waterfronts), and get them directly involved in investing in and supervising construction and maintenance.

After 40 years of working with poor rural people around the world, IFAD has learned that no one can hope to face these challenges alone. In a rapidly changing world we need to work together to channel support where it is most needed. Rural transformation can increase production and incomes, reduce hunger, and at the same time protect natural resources. With the right support, vulnerable coastal communities can play a part in securing a sustainable future.

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Excerpt:

Nigel Brett is Director of the Asia and Pacific Division at the International Fund for Agricultural Development

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Shedding Light on Forced Child Pregnancy and Motherhood in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/shedding-light-forced-child-pregnancy-motherhood-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=shedding-light-forced-child-pregnancy-motherhood-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/shedding-light-forced-child-pregnancy-motherhood-latin-america/#respond Mon, 14 Jan 2019 08:35:45 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159601 Research and campaigns by women’s rights advocates are beginning to focus on the problem of Latin American girls under the age of 14 who are forced to bear the children of their rapists, with the lifelong implications that entails and without the protection of public policies guaranteeing their human rights. The Latin American and Caribbean […]

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Time for a new Paradigmhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/time-new-paradigm/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=time-new-paradigm http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/time-new-paradigm/#respond Tue, 08 Jan 2019 10:42:40 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159534 Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jan 8 2019 (IPS)

The person most qualified to write the foreword for the latest work by Riccardo Petrella, In the Name of Humanity, would actually be Pope Francis, who, using other words but speaking of values and making denouncements, has often argued what the reader will find in its pages.

I quote him, because words like “solidarity”, “equality”, “social justice” or “participation” – now used only by Pope Francis I – have now disappeared from today’s political vocabulary. I was called to this task because I have spent my life in favour of information that would give citizens the tools to be conscious actors. But the reason why from a “professional” I have become an “activist” in the campaign for world governance is precisely because I see information as directly responsible for the drift in which we find ourselves.

Roberto Savio

Riccardo Petrella is a central point of reference for those who have not yet given up on seeing the governance of globalisation in terms of values and ideals. Riccardo has behind him a long series of struggles for a different economy and has denounced the dangers of neoliberal globalisation from the outset.

We owe it to him if the theme of “commons” began to be debated, in particular that of water as a public good, at a time when the Italian government of Silvio Berlusconi was pushing for its privatisation.

He did so in an era – the period immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall – which today seems distant but which was of exceptional intellectual and political violence. Anyone who did not blindly adhere to the “single thought” introduced by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the U.S. Treasury (the so-called Washington Consensus) was seen as either a nostalgist of the Soviet era or a dangerous subversive.

Petrella, with few other economists, had the strength to oppose the Washington Consensus, deriding the general inebriation which reached levels that today seem impossible. I still remember a conference held by IPALMO in May 1991 in Milan, where the then director general of the World Trade Organization, Renato Ruggiero, described the world as still blocked by the concept of nation or regional agreements (such as the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement) now overtaken by the course of history.

Globalisation was to have eliminated all frontiers, we were to have had a single currency, there were to be no more wars and the benefits of globalisation were to have rained down on all the citizens of the world, something that the theory of development and redistribution had failed to do. It took a generation of disappointed and marginalised people for the truth to become evident.

This book is the result of forty years of study, research, and social and academic engagement by Riccardo, gathered here in an organic way. It is a holistic engagement, with a humanist vision of the economy, of society and of the consequences of the crisis that dominates us.

Reading it, faced with the wealth of data and reflections it offers, the African proverb comes to mind: “When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground”. But beyond the contents, what makes the book stimulating is that it communicates a moral engagement and a human empathy rare in this era of transition from a world that is unsustainable to one that is inevitable, but which we cannot yet see well. In his Letters from Prison, Antonio Gramsci wrote that “in the interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear”.

Petrella analyses these symptoms in a meticulous but clear way, and they are symptoms for which today’s politics and finance certainly have no answer. The book is an organic work, analysing each symptom on the basis of data and proposals, helping us to walk in the shadow evoked by Gramsci.

Finally we see that there are alternatives to the drift of a world of finance which – in the search for profit – comes into collision with the very productive economy of which it was only to have been a lubricant. And in turn politics, like the productive economy, is subject to the world of finance. Today, the production of goods and services, that is, the sphere in which men and women play a role, accounts for one-fortieth of financial transactions. Greed has led banks to engage in more and more criminal actions: since the Great Crisis of 2008, major banks have paid a total of 220 billion dollars in fines …

According to numerous historians, the course of history has been changed above all by two factors: Greed and Fear. After the fall of the Berlin Wall it even came to be said that history had ended, as Francis Fukuyama wrote, and that we were entering a post-ideological world.

The unification of the world into a single winning ideology, capitalism, was to have led to the end of clashes, in a united international reality dedicated to economic growth. What Fukuyama did not see is that capitalism without controls was to take the world back in time.

On this Petrella offers incontrovertible data and echoes Oxfam when it says that in 2020 social inequalities in Britain will be equal to those of the era of Queen Victoria, when an unknown German philosopher was writing some chapters of Das Kapital in the Reading Room of the British Museum … The statistics on inequality are known to all: in the last two decades, capital has become increasingly concentrated in a few hands and a large part of humanity sees its level of life, health and education decrease, to the point that the International Monetary Fund is even beginning to whisper that inequality is a brake on growth.

As for Fear, it took the Brexit to start seeing the rapidly growing nationalist, xenophobic and populist drift in European countries (and also in the United States with Donald Trump). Fear has transformed countries that once were a symbol of civic-mindedness and tolerance – like the Netherlands and the Nordic countries – into racist countries that even confiscate the few personal jewels of refugees (Denmark).

In just two years, the advance of the extreme right in Austria, France, Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary – until now considered a series of local coincidences – is finally creating a debate in traditional parties that have no concrete response to the causes of Fear.

Also because, as Petrella says, we are faced with a system that is a factory of poverty, which is not a natural phenomenon but a creation of the system itself. The challenges to be solved all derive from wrong answers.

Peace is being tackled with an increase in military engagement, the environment with ecological devastation, democracy with the privatisation of political power. Justice is witnessing an increase in injustice, the economy is in a financial and speculative drift, and the sense of life of citizens – who have lost the value of solidarity and accept the commodification of all that surrounds them – is crumbling. No concern is voiced that more is being spent per person on marketing in the world than on education …

The drift in which we find ourselves is affecting democracy, which has become a formal process, devoid of the conscious and active participation of citizens. In the Name of Humanity observes what should now be clear to all and is certainly not to the system in power: we are at a global impasse that no one, with the paradigms in place, is able to solve.

In an analytical but communicative way, this is the starting point for the list of Gramsci’s shadows: the lack of representation of humanity, the use of God, Nation and Money to transform into destroyers those who are still convinced of being constructors; and the data of the global impasse. Herein lies the importance of the book.

The analysis of the transitional era in which we find ourselves is roughly divided into two schools of thought. The first is that of those who believe that the current system is perhaps in crisis but that the answer may come from politicians – perhaps new ones – who, in every country, are able to give concrete and efficient answers with bold reforms. The second, and growing, school of thought argues that the current system is the cause of the problems to be solved and that without deep changes in vision and strategies the drift will continue.

This latter school of thought – which, moreover, is followed only by a small number of victims, many of whom are on the margins of society or are so frustrated as to take refuge in individual pessimism without hope – is a school strong in analysis and denunciation but poor in proposals.

And it is here that the book offers its own positive originality: an organic and holistic plan of proposals which invoke a pact for Humanity as the basis for the re-foundation of society. A re-foundation that declares poverty illegal, that leads to disarmament and the end of speculative finance … However, in order to achieve this re-foundation, it is necessary to return to talking about values and finding a consensus and world participation around them, because without common values it is not possible to build together and without a global response national or local actions serve little. This book, as well as being an analysis, is also a manual for action.

In this sense it is important that In the Name of Humanity sees the light in a moment of generational sacrifice. My generation, overwhelmed by Greed and Fear, by selfishness and the decline of politics, lives parameters of retirement and security that young people can only dream of.

The British referendum clearly demonstrated how the older generations are above all self-referential and feel no inter-generational responsibility. The elderly voted 65% for Brexit, deciding the future of young people, who were 75% in favour of Remain. This is the result of the absence of common values and the dramatic lack of policies for engaging young people, while those of fiscal rigour and priorities for the survival of the financial system abound – the most emblematic demonstration of current priorities.

To save banks from the 2008 crisis, it is estimated that so far the contribution to finance has amounted to eight trillion dollars. Youth policies do not exceed 500 million dollars.

It is no wonder that young people take refuge in a pessimistic individualism, creating their own communities only virtually on the Internet; that they lack representation and participation and, above all, for the first time in modern history, idols and points of reference.

Petrella’s book is an important instrument for young people because it transmits a message of hope that does not exist today. It is not inevitable that the world will continue like this. We have the instruments to change it. But to do that we have to go back to talking about values and going back to speaking with and understanding each other. In the Name of Humanity should be distributed free in schools …

Fifteen years have passed since the first meeting of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, where we – protagonists of different stories – gathered to denounce the unsustainability of neoliberal globalisation.

The scepticism and rejection that accompanied the WSF process have not prevented the Washington Consensus from today being just a discredited instrument of the past and the proponents of globalisation from admitting that the denunciations of the WSF had a real basis. As Petrella says, we can only emerge from the crisis with bold measures.

This book will be received as a utopia, or rather a chimera, by the beneficiaries of the current system. In 15 years time, it will be interesting to see how many will have been forced to admit that the analyses and the actions that Petrella proposes were not so far from the course of history.

Those who shoot at the stars can take heart from a Sri Lankan legend … there was a young boy who shot an arrow at the stars every night and was laughed at until one day the king organised an archery contest and that boy won because he was the one who shot furthest!

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Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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The Adolescent Girl Holds the Key to Kenya’s Economic Transformation and Prosperityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/adolescent-girl-holds-key-kenyas-economic-transformation-prosperity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=adolescent-girl-holds-key-kenyas-economic-transformation-prosperity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/adolescent-girl-holds-key-kenyas-economic-transformation-prosperity/#respond Mon, 31 Dec 2018 12:58:09 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159448
Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Dr Natalia Kanem, Chief of UNFPA, “We are steadfastly committed to our three goals: Zero preventable maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning, and the elimination of harmful practices including violence that affect women and girls”. Credit: UNFPA Tanzania

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 31 2018 (IPS)

Teenage pregnancy in Kenya is a crisis of hope, education and opportunity.

The countdown to a New Year has begun. Can 2019 be a year of affirmative action to ensure hope and opportunity for Kenya’s adolescent girl?

Consider this. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says that when a young adolescent girl is not married during her childhood, is not forced to leave school nor exposed to pregnancies, when she is not high risk of illness and death nor suffering maternal morbidities, when she is not exposed to informal work, insecurity and displacement; and is not drawn into an insecure old age-she becomes an asset for a country’s potential to seize the demographic dividend.

So what is the demographic dividend?

It means when a household has fewer children that they need to take care of, and a larger number of people have decent jobs, the household can save and invest more money. Better nutrition, education and opportunities and more disposable income at the household level. When this happens on a large scale, economies can benefit from a boost of economic growth.

One of the goals of development policies is to create an environment for rapid economic growth. The economic successes of the “Asian Tigers” during the 1960s and 1970s have led to a comprehensive way of thinking about how different sectors can work together to make this growth a reality. This helps explain the experience of some countries in Asia, and later successes in Latin America, and optimism for improving the economic well-being of countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Republic of Korea is the classic example of how its gross domestic product (GDP) grew over 2,000 percent by investing in voluntary family planning coupled with educating the population and preparing them for the types of jobs that were going to be available.

With over 70% of Kenya’s population less than 30 years of age, the country’s favorable demographic ratios could unlock a potential source of demand and growth, Kenya is currently in a “sweet spot”. Fertility levels are declining gradually and Kenyans are living longer. There is reason for optimism that Kenya can benefit from a demographic dividend within 15 to 20 years. It is estimated that its working age population will grow to 73 per cent by 2050, bolstering the country’s GDP per capita 12 times higher than the present, with nearly 90 percent of the working age in employment.

The key to harnessing the demographic dividend is enabling young people and adolescent girls in particular, to enjoy their human rights and achieve their full human potential. Every girl must be empowered, educated and given opportunities for employment, and above all is able to plan her future family, this is the very essence of reaping a demographic dividend.

Each extra year a girl stays in high school, for example, delivers an 11.6 per cent increase in her average annual wage for the rest of her life.

The UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem has said: “We are steadfastly committed to our three goals: Zero preventable maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning, and the elimination of harmful practices including violence that affect women and girls”.

So what can be done?

First, end all practices that harm girls. This means, for example, enforcing laws that end female genital mutilations and child marriage.

Second, enable girls to stay in school, at least through high school. Studies have shown the longer a girl stays in school, the less likely she is to become pregnant as an adolescent and the more likely to grow up healthy and join the paid labour force.

Third, reach the marginalized and impoverished girls who have traditionally been left behind.

Forth, make sure girls, before they reach puberty, have access to information about their bodies. Later in adolescence, they need information and services to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Finally, take steps to protect girls’ – and everyone’s – rights.

As we countdown to 2019, let us prioritize the development of every girl’s full human potential. Our collective future depends on it. We must do everything in our power to ignite that potential-for her sake and for the sake of human development and humanity.

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Excerpt:


Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Italy Has the ‘Greenest Agriculture’ in Europe, But it’s Not Sustainablehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/italy-greenest-agriculture-europe-not-sustainable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=italy-greenest-agriculture-europe-not-sustainable http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/italy-greenest-agriculture-europe-not-sustainable/#respond Sun, 23 Dec 2018 13:01:54 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159431 While Italian agriculture is in a leading position in terms of organic farming, sustainable agriculture and being at the forefront of biodiversity conservation; water scarcity, illegal workers and the role of women and combined ageing of its workforce remain pressing concerns. “The Italian agriculture is the greenest in Europe,” Lorenzo Bazzana, Economic Manager of Coldiretti, […]

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The New Agriculture Cooperative was founded in 1977 by a group of young unemployed, labourers and farmers with two main objectives: create employment in agriculture and prevent the construction of a vast area of high environmental value. In 1990 the conversion to organic farming began, followed in 1996 by the conversion of livestocks. In 2010 the Cooperative moved to biodynamic agriculture. Credit: Maged Srour/IPS

By Maged Srour
ROME, Dec 23 2018 (IPS)

While Italian agriculture is in a leading position in terms of organic farming, sustainable agriculture and being at the forefront of biodiversity conservation; water scarcity, illegal workers and the role of women and combined ageing of its workforce remain pressing concerns.

“The Italian agriculture is the greenest in Europe,” Lorenzo Bazzana, Economic Manager of Coldiretti, which is the leading organisation of farmers at Italian and European level, told IPS.

“Italy has also a leading position in terms of organics, with 72,000 organic operators,” continued Bazzana. Indeed, according to 2014 data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 10.5 percent of arable land is dedicated to organic agriculture.

“Our country is at the forefront of biodiversity conservation, with the decision not to cultivate genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and with 40,000 farms committed to keep and preserve seeds and plants at risk of extinction. Moreover, it has the primacy in terms of food security, with the highest number of agri-food products in compliance with irregular chemical residues [99.4 percent].”

Italy and the ‘Food Sustainability Index (FSI)’: top performer in sustainable agriculture

The positive data os confirmed by various studies, such as the Food Sustainability Index (FSI), developed by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN), a multidisciplinary think tank working for food sustainability. The FSI is an indicator on food sustainability that analysed 34 countries representing 87 percent of the world economy (Gross Domestic Product, GDP) and over two thirds of global population, It focused on three main pillars, in light of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

  • sustainable agriculture;
  • food loss and waste;
  • nutritional challenges.

When it comes to sustainable agriculture, Italy is the top performer among the 34 ranked countries. It scores high across the “environmental impact of water on agriculture, sustainability of water withdrawal, water scarcity and water management sub-indicators,” according to a report from the BCFN summarising the data unveiled by the 2017 FSI.

“Italy has pioneered new techniques to reduce water loss in domestic and agricultural contexts,” states the report.

However, water scarcity in central and southern Italy, for example during the summer of 2017, exposed criticality’s in terms of poor and inadequate water infrastructures. The country has positive scores across many other indicators such as organic farming and strong laws exist to protect smallholders’ land rights.

The illegal working issue in agriculture

However, according to the BCFN’s report, the participation rate of women in farming is only one percent and that of youth is only 3.1 percent, a minimal number compared with that of similar economies such as Spain which counts nearly one third of its agricultural workforce as having women and youth represented.

Also of strong concern is the employment of illegal workers. According to the Italian trade union for farmers, Flai-Cgil, there are a huge amount of farmers—some 400,000—who employ illegal workers.

According to the union, they farmers employ illegal workers through a black market that is exploited by criminal organisations, making the phenomenon of so-called ‘agromafia’ or ‘caporalato’, an economic and social scourge for the country.

The generational turnover in agricultural work is not happening

“I have been working here since 1981 and I have dedicated my life to this cooperative producing organic,” a 60-year-old member of ‘Cooperativa Agricoltura Nuova’ (‘New Agriculture Cooperative’), tells IPS. The cooperative extends for hundreds of hectares, only 10 km from the centre of Rome, and exclusively produces organic products.

“Our cooperative is a reality already on its feet, it does not need to be built from the ground up,” he adds. “What worries me – and worries us all in here – is in fact the generational turnover: for the most part we are old people – over 50-60 years old – working here. There are no young people working here, they don’t want to.”

The fear of the farmers, breeders and beekepers working there, is that this area will one day die, because there will be no one able to manage all the activities that the Cooperativa Agricoltura Nuova deals with today.

“I am terrified by this perspective,” Davide Pastorelli, one of the very few young people working in this cooperative, told IPS. Pastorelli is only 30 years old and has been working at Cooperativa Agricoltura Nuova for 10 years, managing the production of milk and cheese. He frequently has to train people who come to work, but who they usually only stay for a short time and leave.

“Many young people are simply not willing to work hard in the farmlands, this is the reality,” he said. “If there were not many migrants and many disabled, who stay here relatively for a long term working for us, I would not really know how we could move forward.”

Cooperativa Agricoltura Nuova is an ‘integrated cooperative’, which means that it promotes a policy of integration within it, and this explains the presence of migrants and disabled people with mental illnesses. “By law, we should have at least 30 percent of disabled people among our workers while instead there are many more,” explains Letizia, a member of the Cooperative.

Perspectives: “Italy still has a long way to go”

Based on the positive data raised above by the FSI, Italy is on track, but at the same time it should not underestimate any challenge, either in the short or in the long-term. For example, Italy’s score in the nutritional pillar of the FSI was only moderate, with some high scores within the ‘life quality’ and ‘life expectancy’ categories, let down by weak indicators within the dietary patterns category. In particular, indicators like ‘physical activity’, ‘number of people per fast food restaurant’ or ‘policy response to dietary patterns’, have not so enviable scores compared to other countries, making the nutritional pillar the one which surely Italy must keep the most under observation.

What should not be underestimated is also the goal of reducing food waste and raising awareness in terms of dietary patterns. Italy, through a deep-rooted attention to the quality of food and tradition linked to the ‘Mediterranean diet’ – identified as the most balanced by nutritionists around the world – is at the top of the world for longevity, scoring 89.10 out of 100 on the FSI. “However,” warned Bazzana, “it is true that, especially in the new generations, there is a risk that these good eating habits linked to the Mediterranean diet, will be lost to the advantage of less balance food models, borrowed from bad habits and imported behaviours.” 

“In the 130 researches attached to the ‘Manifesto for Food and Health’, a document edited by the Navdanya International organisation, and which aims to be a useful tool for all those who want to start a transition towards a more sustainable paradigm, many of the critical issues highlighted, closely concern Italy,” said Cavazzoni.

“The fact that today the food is bought canned and inundated by a “shrewd” marketing at the supermarket, has separated what is the knowledge about food from what is its nutritional function, which very often is poor,” said Cavazzoni. “And instead, we have to recover these steps”.

He said that the crucial point of the discussion is that biological consumption must become something ‘popular’, which means ‘of the people’.

“That does not mean massified and trivialised. “We must favour disintermediation, that is, to get producers close to consumers as fast as possible, along the food chain. And we must revive the farmers’ markets because industrial production and supermarkets not only are they damaging small producers, but they are also compromising the quality itself of our food,” said Cavazzoni.

“Connecting consumers and producers, without giving up on the issue of quality and on that of the maximum price of food. This is the crucial point on which we must work.”

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Human Trafficking – Hidden in Plain Sighthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/human-trafficking-hidden-plain-sight/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=human-trafficking-hidden-plain-sight http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/human-trafficking-hidden-plain-sight/#respond Fri, 21 Dec 2018 13:50:54 +0000 Romy Hawatt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159417 The media globally tends to have a bias to negative, sensational and headline grabbing stories and events and this certainly applies to reporting related to human trafficking in the third world. With the abundance of stories around sweat shops, massage parlours and organ trafficking networks happening ‘somewhere else’, the West is generally desensitised, lacks empathy […]

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By Romy Hawatt
DUBAI, Dec 21 2018 (IPS)

The media globally tends to have a bias to negative, sensational and headline grabbing stories and events and this certainly applies to reporting related to human trafficking in the third world. With the abundance of stories around sweat shops, massage parlours and organ trafficking networks happening ‘somewhere else’, the West is generally desensitised, lacks empathy and fails to fully appreciate the scale of the problem which sits right under their noses and in plain sight.

Romy Hawatt

It is a fact that for a variety of reasons, this insidious trade tends to be more hidden away in the West whilst it is generally conducted more openly in developing countries.

“Human trafficking is a global problem, but it’s a local one too,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in 2018 when the U.S. State Department released its 2018 Trafficking in Persons report, which assesses countries around the world based on how their governments work to prevent and respond to trafficking. “Human trafficking can be found in a favourite restaurant, a hotel, downtown, a farm, or in their neighbour’s home.”

Estimates vary depending on the agency reporting and also depends on specific categorisations. The International Labour Organization for example, estimates 21 million people are affected by forced labour whereas other reputable agencies estimate up to 48 million men, women and children are enslaved and trafficked around the world today.

According to the International Labour Organization, 68 percent are exploited in industry sectors like agriculture, mining, construction and domestic work creating profits of $150 billion annually.

There is therefore a gigantic financial motive for the maintaining and the growing of this illicit trade which sadly ‘has always been the way of the world’. The ideal of unalienable rights and universal liberty is actually still a relatively new concept in the history of time.

The proposition is diabolically simple in that some human beings will take advantage of and exploit other vulnerable categories of human beings unless there is a strong disincentive and a massive change in the contributing circumstances.

Whatever the cause and whatever the thinking, modern day slavery and human and human organ trafficking is now far more prevalent in the developed world than either the public knows about or was previously thought. Sadder is the fact that even with the best intent matched with state of the art resources, even the best law enforcement agencies do not appear to be able to keep up with the growing size and scale of the problem.

Even in the U.K., which after all gave the world the Magna Carta in the 13th century, a turning point in establishing human rights and arguably the most significant early influence on the extensive historical process that led to the rule of constitutional law today in the English-speaking world, the numbers of people trafficked is estimated to number in the tens of thousands of victims, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).

These victims in the UK are predominantly from places like Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa, with a roughly equal balance between men and women in other than the sex industry in which women and girls make up the vast majority of those exploited.

There are also trafficked people of all genders working in more prosaic roles like car washes, construction, agriculture and food processing. They receive very little pay and are forced to put up with poor living conditions.

As a result, the NCA says, it is increasingly likely that someone going about their normal daily life in the U.K., engaging in the legitimate economy and accessing goods and services, will come across a victim who has been exploited in one of those sectors but may never recognise them unless they are educated to the signs.

General indicators of human trafficking or modern slavery tend to be harder to spot in the developed world but can include signs of physical or psychological abuse, fear of authorities, no ID documents, poor living conditions and working long hours for little or no pay.

A 2018 report by the Global Slavery Index estimated that some 403,000 people are trapped in modern slavery in the U.S. – seven times higher than previous figures. In the UK, that figure is estimated at 136,000, nearly 12 times higher than earlier estimates. Andrew Forrest, founder of the Global Slavery Index, called the report “a huge wakeup call.” The report includes forced marriages, noting that women and girls make up 71 percent of people trapped in modern-day slavery today.

The pernicious persistence of modern day slavery is one of the reasons it is addressed by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 and these build off of many of the accomplishments achieved with the original Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) but which did not address human rights, slavery or human trafficking and were often criticized for being too narrow.

In particular, Sustainable Development Goal 8 of the 17 SDGs is the goal to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all, whilst Goal 8.7 specifically addresses modern day slavery and human trafficking. It is worth noting that SDG 8.7 is also supported by two other SDG goals. SDG 5 for example aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, while SDG 16 seeks to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

“Because modern-day slavery is a global tragedy, combating it requires international action,” said President Barack Obama, who in 2011 issued a Presidential Proclamation designating each January to be National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. “As we work to dismantle trafficking networks and help survivors rebuild their lives, we must also address the underlying forces that push so many into bondage. We must develop economies that create legitimate jobs [and] build a global sense of justice that says no child should ever be exploited.”

While progress has been made in addressing broader employment issues in some developed nations, such improvements remain overshadowed by the continuing scourge of human slaves being used in the supply chain at both a local and international level.

Whatever the future holds, what is constant is that human trafficking destroys lives, robs people of their dignity and basic human rights as it causes unfathomable misery to the immediate victims, their families and their communities.

Under the circumstances, there must be a seismic shift in awareness and a willingness to act no matter who you are or what community you live in. It is incumbent upon all of us to exercise a higher level diligence and situational awareness aimed at winning the freedom of anyone that is exploited and abused.

With individuals, educators, charity institutions, business and Government each taking incremental steps we can win.

Remember, to save one life is a step towards saving the whole of humanity.

The author, Romy Hawatt is a Founding Member of the Global Sustainability Network ( GSN ) pursuing the United Nations Sustainability Goal number 8 with a special emphasis on Goal 8.7 which ‘takes immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms’.

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Mercury Contamination Threat Gravitates into Outer Spacehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/mercury-contamination-threat-gravitates-outer-space/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mercury-contamination-threat-gravitates-outer-space http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/mercury-contamination-threat-gravitates-outer-space/#respond Fri, 21 Dec 2018 06:38:18 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159405 The dangers of mercury contamination have escalated from the dental chair to the realm of outer space. First, it was the hazardous use of mercury in dentistry, then in cosmetics, particularly skin-lightening creams, and now it is threatening to make its way into satellite propulsion systems. A coalition of over 45 civil society organizations (CSOs) […]

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By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 21 2018 (IPS)

The dangers of mercury contamination have escalated from the dental chair to the realm of outer space.

First, it was the hazardous use of mercury in dentistry, then in cosmetics, particularly skin-lightening creams, and now it is threatening to make its way into satellite propulsion systems.

A coalition of over 45 civil society organizations (CSOs) and environmental groups worldwide has warned against the use of mercury in satellite propulsion systems because it is “highly likely that most, if not all,” of the mercury emitted at the altitudes planned would find its way back– and eventually into the earth’s surface.

This has been demonstrated by many studies, including a UN report, on the long-range transport of mercury, says the coalition in a letter directed at Silicon Valley/satellite companies that are considering using mercury in thrusters to power satellites.

While details are hard to come by, it appears that because mercury is far less expensive than other propellants, there is considerable interest in its use in rocket thrusters for satellites, according to a recent article in Bloomberg.

“The bottom line is that if mercury is widely used to propel satellites, the resulting releases would significantly increase the global pool of mercury in the atmosphere and hydrosphere,” the coalition warns.

The letter, spelling out the dangers, has been addressed to Mike Cassidy, CEO and co-founder Ben Longmier, CTO and co-founder Apollo Fusion, Inc.; Greg Wyler, Founder and Executive Chairman, OneWeb; Will Marshall, CEO and Robbie Schingler, CSO, Planet Labs; and Gwynne Shotwell, President and CEO of Space X.

Michael Bender, International Coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group told IPS that while there maybe marketing ‘cost savings’ from mercury to propel satellites, Apollo fails to recognize the costs, risks and impacts of a new mercury source on human health and the environment.

“This flies in the face of not only U.S., but global efforts, to reduce mercury pollution,” he added.

The letter “strongly urges” the chief executive officers (CEOs) to publicly pledge to avoid mercury in satellite propulsion systems, as it poses a severe risk of contributing to a worsening global mercury crisis.

According to media reports, Apollo Fusion, Inc. is considering the use of mercury in its satellite propulsion systems and SpaceX, along with OneWeb and Planet Labs were mentioned as potential customers, although the latter two both deny it.

Over the past several decades, the U.S. and other governments around the world have spent billions to regulate and reduce mercury emissions from major sources and eliminate the use of mercury in products and processes where viable substitutes exist, says the letter.

“That’s because mercury circulates in the atmosphere and ultimately making its way into humans by moving up the aquatic food chain. Health agencies worldwide—including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and all 50 states (in the US) —warn pregnant women to avoid or limit consumption of certain fish primarily because of mercury exposure risks for the developing fetus.”

In a statement released December 20, Jane Williams, Executive Director of California Communities Against Toxics, said most of the mercury emitted from satellite propulsion systems will eventually find its way back to the earth’s surface according to numerous studies of the long-range transport of mercury.”

“If mercury is widely used to propel satellites, the resulting releases would significantly increase the global pool of mercury in the atmosphere and hydrosphere.”

“The Minamata Convention on Mercury seeks to reduce, and where feasible, eliminate all uses of mercury where technically-achievable mercury-free alternatives are available,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, ZMWG International Co-coordinator at the European Environmental Bureau in Brussels.

“In the case of satellite propulsion systems, mercury-free alternatives have been available and almost universally used for decades.”

The second United Nations Conference of the Parties for the Minamata Convention on Mercury met in Geneva last month to further the Convention’s objective “to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds.”

So far, over 100 countries (with the U.S. being the first) have ratified the Convention, which entered into force in August 2017.

Yet much more mercury reduction work is needed, because according to an upcoming UN report, global mercury emissions rose by 20% between 2010 and 2015.

There is already a global campaign against the use of mercury in dentistry.
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/global-coalition-seeks-ban-on-mercury-use/
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/global-campaign-mercury-free-dentistry-targets-africa/

Among other provisions, the Minamata Convention seeks to reduce, and where feasible, eliminate all uses of mercury where cost-effective, technically-achievable mercury-free alternatives are available.

In the case of satellite propulsion systems, mercury-free alternatives have been available and almost universally used for decades.

In the 1970s, NASA recognized the risks related to mercury propulsion systems in satellites and chose other options – even though NASA recognized mercury was cheaper to use, says the coalition.

“The mercury-driven propulsion technology developed and marketed by Apollo for satellites will have dire implications if widely applied.”

The letter also cites a recent media report which says ‘the amount of propellant in each [satellite] would depend on various factors…A case study on Apollo’s website that the company calls a “representative configuration” ideal for a low-orbit satellite would carry 20 kilograms of an unnamed propellant.”

“Multiply that by 1,000, and the constellation of satellites could use 20,000kg, or 20 metric tons of mercury, which would be released over the satellites’ estimated five to seven years in orbit. By comparison, the U.S. emits about 50 metric tons of mercury each year…”

As part of the upcoming review of Annex A and B to the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the coalition plans to raise the use of mercury as a propulsion fuel for possible inclusion in Annex A, the list of prohibited mercury-added products under the Convention.

“Therefore, we join with others in strongly urging the above aforementioned companies to pledge to avoid using mercury as a propellant in satellites,” the letter adds.

Meanwhile, there has also been a global campaign warning about the dangers of mercury use in the cosmetics industry – particularly in skin-lightening products.

http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/e-commerce-giants-fire-retailing-hazardous-mercury-based-cosmetics/

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Global Anti-Human Trafficking Coalitionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/global-anti-human-trafficking-coalition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-anti-human-trafficking-coalition http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/global-anti-human-trafficking-coalition/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 18:27:12 +0000 Vladimir Bozovic http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159316 Vladimir Bozovic is Advisor of Government of the Republic of Serbia

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Child labourers rescued in Delhi waiting to be sent back to their villages. Credit: Bachpan Bachao Andolan.

By Vladimir Bozovic
BELGRADE, Serbia, Dec 18 2018 (IPS)

Entire human history is one great struggle for freedom. To many, slavery is a synonym for something in the past, for transatlantic slave trade, but, unfortunately, slavery still exists in many different forms.

Records show that over twenty seven million men, women and children still live today in conditions that characterized social form of the slave ownership. They are trapped in forced labor and debt bondage, in domicile work and forced marriages, or they are being exploited by the human traffickers. We can easily speak of slavery as of great tragedy, and the fact that in this day and age still exists, is a downfall of human kind.

Modern slavery is a challenge for every democratic country. Suffering is the same as in the past, but methods are more sophisticated and perfidious, and most of those who suffer are the ones that should be protected the most – poor and socially excluded groups, who often live on the margins of our society, and young women and children. This is not an imaginary problem, it does not happen only to someone else and somewhere else; rather, it is a real threat and anyone can fall victim to.

The very first challenge in fight against slavery must be a cognizance: we must confess a bitter truth that slavery has been weakened, but still exists. Human trafficking is one of the growing forms of transnational crime, characterized by high profit and low risk, and it is followed by a grave statistics. It is crime of economic nature, and most efficiently organized, and we are currently fighting it on inconsistent and fragmented way. That is the dark side of globalization.

The issue of modern slavery is globally recognized by the UN in its millennium goals. Goal 8 is dedicated to increasing labor productivity, reducing the unemployment rate, especially for young people, improving access to financial services and benefits, fight against modern slavery and child labor. So many activities around this particular global goal prove that we don’t live anymore in a selfish world where we don’t consider other nations and their problems. No, the world of todays opens up to the misery of others, and everybody everywhere has to be good, for us to feel good. Employed, productive populations, sustainable economic growth, decent jobs with equal opportunities for fair salaries, safe working environments, social protection, these are all values that will ensure the progress of the entire world, and the whole world will benefit from the creativity, business and innovation of the free people.

Plenty has been done in delivering the Goal 8. UN reports that the average annual growth rate of real GDP per capita worldwide increased, the number of children from 5 to 17 years of age who are working has declined, access to financial services through automated teller machines increased… Plenty has been done, but also plenty has to be done. Child labor remains a serious concern with more than half of child laborers participate in dangerous work and 59% of them work in the agricultural sector; labor productivity has slowed down, the global unemployment rate hasn’t changed from 2016, with women more likely to be unemployed than men across all age groups. Youth were almost three times as likely as adults to be unemployed… It is clear that efforts provide results, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

There was a time we thought that the slavery is forever beaten, only to come back to us in new forms and shapes. That is why the solution must be fresh and brave. The only final answer to this problem is for every country, every government, every agency to work together, to unite and create an Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition that will engage entire society in fight against this crime, and combine all our efforts in protecting our citizens. It should be understood that eradicating the human trafficking is not solely a mission for the police or law enforcement agencies, this is a fight at all levels of society. We should campaign through media with the message that will define the problem, and develop the clear strategy that will unite countries and governments, churches and religious organizations, NGOs, youth, academic communities, media and all other important representatives of the society in one efficient and effective action with clear mechanisms of measuring the results. Everything should be designed in the way that those results are realistic and visible to the present victims, and to provide prevention and protection for potential victims. Time has clearly shown us, that this is one thing we can’t beat alone, nationally, rather, it’s a nick of time to do it globally.

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Excerpt:

Vladimir Bozovic is Advisor of Government of the Republic of Serbia

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United Towards Achieving Health For All in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/united-towards-achieving-health-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=united-towards-achieving-health-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/united-towards-achieving-health-kenya/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 08:45:34 +0000 Sicily Kariuki3 and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159303 Sicily Kariuki is the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Health in Kenya. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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President Uhuru Kenyatta signs the Universal Health Coverage charter during the launch of the UHC pilot programme in Kisumu on 13 December 2018. Photo courtesy: PSCU

By Sicily Kariuki and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 18 2018 (IPS)

According to Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, the implementation of UHC is “more a political than an economic challenge”.

Of all the Sustainable Development Goals, few would rival good health as the definition of a country that has a sustainable, inclusive, peaceful and prosperous future, and the launch this week of the pilot phase of Kenya’s journey towards Universal Health Coverage heralds a major step towards that future.

It was a fitting statement of national intent and unity to make UHC a success in Kenya to see President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto preside over the launch of the pilot programme in Kisumu county. They were joined by erstwhile political contenders, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka, united by a shared vision to improve health coverage in Kenya.

Ensuring that the pursuit of good health leaves no one in financial dire straits is a task that requires much more than good intentions. WHO estimates that to achieve SDG target 3.8 requires one billion more people to have universal health coverage by 2023.

In Kenya, health-related expenses are driving about one million into poverty every year, and health care is second only to food in family budgets. These are families that wake up every day to the reality that they could be within just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy and penury.

In demonstration of his commitment to keep health front and centre of the development agenda, President Kenyatta has identified health as one of the key pillars of his legacy.

The promise of UHC is based on real-life experiences of countries with whom we have much in common. The transformation of countries now known as Asian Tigers was largely driven by investments in the health of the citizens, with special focus on sexual and reproductive health.

When the health of the mother is provided for, the cyclical benefits in terms of physical and cognitive development of the subsequent generations is assured.

The Ministry of Health has been working with the United Nations (UN) in Kenya & various stakeholders to identify what interventions represent the most effective pathways for attaining UHC in Kenya. These partners include civil society and the private sector.

Our vision is for approaches that are not just affordable, but those that promote equity and effectiveness, ensuring that the rights of the most vulnerable are not forgotten, as the central tenet of universality.

Kenya also announced that UHC will involve scaling up immunization, prevention of water borne, vector borne, TB, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, improving maternal and child health as well as nutrition of women who conceive. Kenya will also focus on prevention of non-communicable diseases like diabetes and hypertension.

Our mission is to deliver a robust system that will reach out to those who have been left behind. Through community health workers and volunteers, we know that a few more vaccines will be delivered to children in a remote village; there might be new case of an infectious outbreak detected, reported and averted.

It is because of the primacy of these community volunteers as frontline workers and their role in the achievement of UHC that the Government has established a fund to provide a stipend as an incentive for the workers.

The partnership between the Ministry and the UN system in Kenya is steadily building the foundations for a responsive health system for communities, for whom health was inaccessible, unaffordable or altogether unavailable.

In the frontier counties of North-eastern Kenya, flagship programmes such as the Area-based joint programme with the county of Turkana are steadily delivering results. We are targeting not just dramatic, overnight success, but the incremental changes that for instance involve building the capacity of community health workers to deliver primary health care.

Investing in making progress towards universal health coverage, they lay the foundation for making progress towards all the other health targets and other goals – like ending poverty, improving gender equality, decent work and economic growth, and more.

With Kenya’s Vision 2030 ambition of providing a high quality of life to all its citizens, the most urgent need is to ensure that everyone stays healthy to participate in economic development.

The Government of Kenya and UN partnership is committed to make Kenya the blueprint for the rest of Africa on how Universal Health Coverage can be attained.

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Excerpt:

Sicily Kariuki is the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Health in Kenya. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Political Commitment Key to Health for Allhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/political-commitment-key-health/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=political-commitment-key-health http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/political-commitment-key-health/#respond Wed, 12 Dec 2018 13:46:45 +0000 Ban Ki-moon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159198 One of my proudest accomplishments as the former UN secretary-general was playing a part in the ambitious global agenda for sustainable development (SDGs), including the goal of universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030. Kenya’s leadership was key. To give momentum to the SDGs an Open Working Group was established in 2013. One of the co-chairs […]

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Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta (L) and former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations Offices in Nairobi, October 30, 2014. Credit: REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

By Ban Ki-moon
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 12 2018 (IPS)

One of my proudest accomplishments as the former UN secretary-general was playing a part in the ambitious global agenda for sustainable development (SDGs), including the goal of universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030.

Kenya’s leadership was key. To give momentum to the SDGs an Open Working Group was established in 2013. One of the co-chairs of the working group was Ambassador Macharia Kamau, who was the Permanent Representative of Kenya to the UN.

As the world celebrates UHC Day on 12 December 2018, more and more countries across Africa, including Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa and Senegal, are taking up the mantle of health for all and providing strong leadership to make the vision a reality.

Health is a fundamental human right. Good health helps people escape poverty, and provides the basis for long-term economic development.

The UN Secretary General Mr Antonio Guterres has said, “When we invest in health – particularly of women and adolescents – we build more inclusive and resilient societies.”

With 11 million Africans being pushed into extreme poverty each year because of high out-of-pocket expenses on health, there is an urgent need to explore innovative models that provide adequate care alongside financial protection.

One country which could provide a blueprint for others to follow is Kenya, where the president is personally invested in delivering UHC.

I forged a strong connection with President Uhuru Kenyatta over our shared commitment to maternal and child health. In 2015, at the UN General Assembly in our presence, a public-private partnership to improve the health of over 3.5 million women, newborns and children in Kenya was announced. Led by the Government of Kenya, it brought together the UN, the private sector and civil society to leapfrog improvements in maternal and child health.

We found a strong advocate in First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, whose Beyond Zero Campaign ensured the scale-up of proven interventions to improve maternal and child health. The government also moved to eliminate payments for primary and maternal health services in public facilities.

These were important first steps.

Now I am heartened by Kenya’s remarkable political commitment to expand UHC to include every man, women and child. Affordable health care is one of the top priorities of President Kenyatta’s “Big Four” development agenda for his second term in office.

To achieve progress at such a rapid pace, Kenya plans to increase health spending by nearly 20% between 2018 and 2021 and strengthen primary health care. The country has set out to design a model that provides quality health care while ensuring it remains affordable.

Approaches are being tested over one year in four counties – each with its particular health challenges. These pilots aim to identify gaps in delivering UHC before nationwide rollout so that lessons can be learned. The acid test will be how quickly the country can go to scale and ensure no one is left behind.

Big data, technology and innovation will be critical to achieve progress at scale. Eight countries in Africa, including Kenya, have committed to use data to identify priority areas for health systems improvement, track and trend progress over time, and enhance accountability by using a new Primary Health Care Performance Initiative tool.

According to a forthcoming analysis by McKinsey, Kenya will need an investment of US$6 billion over and above government resources and individual subscriptions in the next decade to reach government targets for primary health care.

The Government of Kenya and the UN family in Kenya have come together to form the Kenya Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Partnership Platform, which is bringing together civil society and the private sector to catalyze new models for quality, affordable health care delivery. They are seeking new ways to unlock health care financing, which has been identified by the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation as a best practice.

The reforms Kenya is pursuing will have a major impact on people’s lives and livelihoods and help stem poverty. Nearly 1 million Kenyans are being pushed below the poverty line every year as a result of catastrophic out-of-pocket expenses.

With such high-level political commitment, I am confident that Kenya will forge its own way with courage and resolve by ensuring the health and well-being of all its citizens.

Ban Ki-moon is a former UN Secretary General, and former South Korean Foreign Minister. He is the co-chair of the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens. The Centre was founded in 2017 and is co-chaired by Ban Ki-moon and by Heinz Fischer, President of the Republic of Austria from 2004 – 2016.

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‘Antimicrobial Resistance Knows No Boundaries’http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/antimicrobial-resistance-knows-no-boundaries/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=antimicrobial-resistance-knows-no-boundaries http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/antimicrobial-resistance-knows-no-boundaries/#respond Tue, 04 Dec 2018 15:27:23 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159011 European Union officials and global health bodies have called for help for poorer countries as growing resistance to antibiotics threatens to become a ‘global health tragedy’ and jeopardises Sustainable Development Goals in some parts of the world. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has risen by as much as two thirds in the last two decades, according to […]

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Community health worker Urmila Kasdekar performs a health check on a new born baby in Berdaball village of western India. In India, for example, where it is thought that as many as 120,000 babies alone die every year from sepsis caused by antimicrobial-resistant infections, doctors say two of the key factors behind rising AMR are pharmacies selling antibiotics without a prescription and poor infection control in overcrowded healthcare facilities. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Ed Holt
BRUSSELS, Dec 4 2018 (IPS)

European Union officials and global health bodies have called for help for poorer countries as growing resistance to antibiotics threatens to become a ‘global health tragedy’ and jeopardises Sustainable Development Goals in some parts of the world.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has risen by as much as two thirds in the last two decades, according to some studies, and is now responsible for an estimated 700,000 deaths annually worldwide.

But this is projected to rise to 10 million per year by 2050 and cost up to 100 trillion dollars unless governments ramp up efforts to tackle it.

The growing problem with AMR has been put down largely to inappropriate use of antibiotics for both humans and animals.

As antibiotics have been used more widely and more frequently in both humans and animals, bacteria have built up resistance to them, rendering them effectively useless in some cases. Doctors say this would make routine operations more dangerous and certain medical treatments, such as for some cancers, would disappear completely.

When antibiotic resistance emerges in one place it also quickly spreads to other locations, meaning it must be tackled on a global scale.

While all World Health Organization (WHO) member states signed up to a multi-sectoral Global Action Plan on AMR in 2015, progress on its implementation has been mixed.

Some countries, notably in Europe, have made good progress, in other parts of the world things have moved much more slowly, if at all, raising fears that in poorer countries the problem is worsening and SDGs may not be reached.

EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Dr Vytenis Andriukalitis, told IPS: “We need a global framework for tackling AMR in all regions, not just Europe. It needs to be dealt with because otherwise some countries won’t be reaching the SDGs.”

The size of the challenge presented by AMR in developing countries has been underlined in a slew of data and studies released during the World Antibiotic Awareness week last month (November).

An Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study showed that while AMR rates averaged 17 percent in OECD countries in 2015, rates in India, China and Russia averaged 42 percent and were as high as 90 percent for some antibiotic-bacteria combinations.

Meanwhile, it said, AMR is forecast to grow up to four to seven time faster in some low and middle-income countries than in OECD states and in countries where healthcare systems are financially constrained, AMR is likely to cause ‘an enormous’ death toll, mainly among new-borns, infants and the elderly.

Another study earlier this year by researchers at ETH Zurich, the University of Antwerp and Princeton University showed that while global use of antibiotics in humans was estimated to have risen 65 percent between 2000 – 2015, use in low- and middle-income countries increased 114 percent.

Developing new antibiotics is complex – it has been decades since new classes of antibiotics were invented – and much of the focus in fighting AMR is being put on prevention.

The Global Action Plan is based on a multi-sectoral approach to AMR and charges governments with adopting national action plans involving improved awareness, understanding, surveillance, stewardship and prevention and control measures.

But in many developing countries, lack of funds in both healthcare and animal industries as well as weak legislation and enforcement are major barriers to those measures being effectively implemented.

In India, for example, where it is thought that as many as 120,000 babies alone die every year from sepsis caused by antimicrobial-resistant infections, doctors say two of the key factors behind rising AMR are pharmacies selling antibiotics without a prescription and poor infection control in overcrowded healthcare facilities.

Supporters of over the counter antibiotic sales in India argue that it is vital that antibiotics are available without prescription as there is a severe shortage of qualified doctors in many areas.

The government has tried to limit the sale of at least so-called ‘last resort’ antibiotics which are used when all others fail. However, the measure – putting a red line on boxes of the medicines in pharmacies to alert people – has been largely ineffective.

There are also concerns over the use of antibiotics in livestock.

According to the European Commission, in Europe, 70 percent of antimicrobials are consumed in food-producing animals. The figure is similar in the U.S. and is over 50 percent in China.

But monitoring antibiotic use in the animal industry in poorer countries is often more difficult.

“[Use of antibiotics in animal farming] is extremely difficult to enforce unless you have very good legislation and a system for monitoring,” Dr Nedret Emiroglu, Director Programme Manager, WHO Europe, told IPS.

While legislation on animal antibiotic use exists and is closely checked in developed states, particularly in the EU, in poorer countries it is sometimes absent or adherence is impossible to monitor effectively because of a lack of resources.

Despite the Indian government’s approval of a national action plan on AMR a year a half ago, critics point out that legislation and networks to control use of antibiotics for animal growth and tracking the sale and use of antibiotics in food production are, in reality, non-existent or ineffective.

The WHO has said that many middle- and low-income countries may need long-term development assistance to implement their AMR plans effectively and sustainably.

“We need financial support for low and middle-income countries,” Emiroglu told IPS.

She added this was crucial to ensure progress in one region of the world was not undermined by a lack of progress elsewhere.

“AMR knows no boundaries. What happens in one part of the world affects people in another,” she told IPS.

But many experts on healthcare in developing countries say a one-size fits all approach for all developing states will not work.

“Measures need to be different for different countries, especially when we are talking about poorer states. You cannot compare somewhere like India and Liberia,” Andriukalitis told IPS.

“In some countries they have problems with access to simple antibiotics, but in others there are problems because people are self-treating with no proper controls. In some places there is a lack of any basic understanding of hygiene and sanitation. We need long-term local strategies for [different] countries,” he added.

Meanwhile, AMR is putting SDGs in jeopardy in some places. Although AMR alone is unlikely to stop an SDG being achieved, left unchecked it could contribute to health, poverty and sustainable economic growth SDG targets being missed.

Longer hospital stays because of slower patient recovery and greater risk of treatment complications would put a massive extra strain on already struggling healthcare systems and worsen mortality rates and quality of life. Economies would be hit hard with the cost of not dealing with AMR forecast to cause a drop of as much as 3.8 percent in global GDP by 2050.

Meanwhile, AMR makes illnesses more expensive to treat and, as universal health coverage is limited in many poor countries and people have to pay out of their own pockets for treatment, these increased costs – as well as potential loss of income from morbidity and mortality – could drive individuals and families with limited resources into even greater poverty.

Dr Andrea Ammon, Director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) which has been involved in monitoring AMR in Europe, told IPS: “​To achieve SDG3 [on health], AMR is not the only issue that needs to be addressed, but it is a crucial component.

“A high rate of AMR indicates that various elements in a health system may not be working satisfactorily because of a mix of factors. The factors causing high AMR rates could be cultural values, behaviour of healthcare providers and patients, regulatory issues such as OTC availability, or infection control. These factors may also prevent other targets included within SDG3 being achieved.”

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Asia-Pacific Takes Stock of Ambitious Development Targetshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/asia-pacific-takes-stock-ambitious-development-targets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=asia-pacific-takes-stock-ambitious-development-targets http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/asia-pacific-takes-stock-ambitious-development-targets/#respond Wed, 28 Nov 2018 05:16:58 +0000 Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana and Natalia Kanem 2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158909 Ministers and senior policymakers across Asia and the Pacific are gathered in Bangkok this week to focus on population dynamics at a crucial time for the region. Their goal: to keep people and rights at the heart of the region’s push for sustainable development. They will be considering how successful we have been in balancing […]

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By Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana and Natalia Kanem
BANGKOK, Thailand, Nov 28 2018 (IPS)

Ministers and senior policymakers across Asia and the Pacific are gathered in Bangkok this week to focus on population dynamics at a crucial time for the region. Their goal: to keep people and rights at the heart of the region’s push for sustainable development. They will be considering how successful we have been in balancing economic growth with social imperatives, underpinned by rights and choices for all as enshrined in the landmark Programme of Action stemming from the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, or ICPD.

In the Programme of Action, diverse views on population, gender equality, sexual and reproductive health, and sustainable development merged into a remarkable global consensus that placed individual dignity and human rights at the heart of development.

Truly revolutionary at the time, ICPD remains all the more urgent and relevant a quarter-century later, in this era of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its Sustainable Development Goals. Without ICPD we would not have the SDGs, and indeed they go hand in hand. The ICPD is a dedicated vehicle through which we can – and will – address, achieve and fulfill the SDGs.

How well have we responded to trends such as population ageing and international migration? How successful have we been in ensuring optimal sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights for all, including the right to choose when or whether to get married and when or whether to have children, and how many? How well have we done in strengthening gender equality and women’s empowerment, and upholding the rights of the most vulnerable among us? Where should our efforts be refocused to leave no one behind?

Asia and the Pacific has much to celebrate. The region remains the engine of global growth and at the forefront of the global fight against poverty. It is now home to half the world’s middle class. The share of the population living in poverty has dropped considerably although it is still unacceptably high. People are living, longer healthier lives. Rights-based family planning has contributed to considerable economic success and women’s empowerment. And we are on track to achieve universal education by 2030.

Yet for all this growth, considerable injustices remain. On its current trajectory, the region will fall short of achieving the 2030 Agenda. In several areas we are heading in altogether the wrong direction. Inequalities within and between countries are widening. Some 1.2 billion people live in poverty of which 400 million live in extreme poverty. Lack of decent job opportunities and access to essential services are perpetuating injustice across generations.

At the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), we are keen to shine the spotlight on three key issues where regional commitment is vital.

First, we need to respond to the unprecedented population changes unfolding across the Asia-Pacific region. Many countries are facing a rapidly ageing population. The proportion of people above the age of sixty is expected to more than double by 2050. Effectively meeting the needs of an ageing society and ensuring healthy and productive lives must be a priority. This requires a life cycle approach – from pregnancy and childbirth, through adolescence and adulthood, to old age – ensuring that all people are allowed to fulfil their socioeconomic potential, underpinned by individual rights and choices.

Equally, there is a strong case for strengthening Asia-Pacific’s response to international migration. Migrants can, when allowed, contribute significantly to development. However, we know that migrants are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. So, our ambition is for discussions this week to build further momentum in support of safe, orderly and regular migration to fully harness its development benefits.

Second, there is clear evidence the region must spend more on social protection, as well as on health care and education. Today, social protection is the preserve of a few, rather than a right for all. As a result, 60 per cent of our population are at risk of being trapped in vulnerability or pushed into poverty by sickness, disability, unemployment or old age, often underpinned by gender inequality. The “Social Outlook for Asia and the Pacific: Poorly Protected”, which ESCAP will publish later this week, sets out why expanding social protection is the most effective means of reducing poverty, strengthening rights and making vulnerable groups less exposed. Many women, migrants, older persons and rural communities would also benefit. Our evidence suggests it could even end extreme poverty in several countries by 2030.

Third, we need to invest in generating disaggregated data to tell us who is being left behind to ensure our response to population dynamics is targeted and credible. Availability of data on social and demographic issues lag far behind anything related to the economy. Millions of births remain unregistered, leading to the denial of many basic rights, particularly to women and girls. Of the 43 countries which conducted a census between 2005 and 2014, only 16 have reliable data on international migration. With the 2020 round of censuses upon us, we will be redoubling our efforts to close these data gaps by strengthening new partnerships for data capacity and working with governments and other partners to translate data into policy and action.

The Midterm Review of the Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Population and Development as well as the Committee on Social Development provide the region with an opportunity to speak with one voice on population and development issues. ESCAP and UNFPA stand united in their commitment to supporting their Member States to build and strengthen a regional response to issues that will shape the future for generations to come.

We look to this week’s discussions to galvanize countries behind the ambition and vision that link ICPD and the SDGs and accelerate work to leave no one behind in Asia and the Pacific.

Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

Dr. Natalia Kanem is United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

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Thailand First Asian Nation to Join Global Efforts to Control Tobaccohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/thailand-first-asian-nation-join-global-efforts-control-tobacco/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=thailand-first-asian-nation-join-global-efforts-control-tobacco http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/thailand-first-asian-nation-join-global-efforts-control-tobacco/#respond Tue, 20 Nov 2018 10:43:13 +0000 Wendell C Balderas http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158752 Wendell C Balderas is Media and Communications Manager, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA)

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Tobacco pickers carry leaves to one of the sheds where they are cured on the Rosario plantation in San Juan y Martínez, in Vuelta Abajo, a western Cuban region famous for producing premium cigars. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Wendell C Balderas
BANGKOK, Thailand, Nov 20 2018 (IPS)

Thailand is set to become the first Asian country to introduce standardized packaging of tobacco. On 14 November 2018, the Thai National Committee on Tobacco Control approved the Ministry of Health Regulation that requires cigarettes in Thailand to be sold in packaging stripped of the fancy, colorful and unique cigarette branding.

Instead, the packs will be in drab brown color, free of any logos or images with 85 percent pictorial health warnings on both sides. Tobacco brand names can only be printed in a standardized font type, size, color, and location. This regulation will be gazetted soon and implementation will be in 270 days.

Standardized packaging is the global best practice in packaging tobacco products as recommended in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article 11 (Packaging and labelling) and 13 (Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship) Guidelines and are designed to make smoking less appealing.

With this move, Thailand continues to be a leader in tobacco control in Asia joining seven other countries worldwide already implementing standardized packaging.

Standardized packaging’s promises to reduce the attractiveness of tobacco products, eliminate tobacco packaging as a form of advertising, and increase the noticeability and effectiveness of pictorial health warnings.

This will also reduce the tobacco industry’s ability to market to young people who have not started using tobacco, support adult tobacco users who want to quit, and help prevent ex-users from relapsing. But is there evidence to support this?

While the tobacco industry denies the evidence, studies done in Australia and the United Kingdom show standardized packaging works. A national survey measuring Australian smokers’ responses one-year post-implementation found that more adult smokers noticed graphic health warnings and attributed their motivation to quit to the warnings.

A year after implementation, another study showed sustained reduction in visible smoking. The sustained reduction suggests that plain packaging may be changing norms about smoking in public.

A global independent network, the Cochrane review, has reviewed, 51 peer-reviewed studies, investigating the impact of standardized packaging focusing on associations between the use of standardized packaging and changes in the prevalence of smoking, number of people starting smoking, the number of people stopping, or the number of people relapsing after attempting to quit.

This systematic review of the evidence points to the effectiveness of plain packaging.
The review also mentions evidence from eye-tracking studies that adults and teenagers pay more attention to health warnings on standardized packs compared to branded packs.

Tobacco from standardized packs has been rated as tasting worse than from branded packs by smokers, and as being lower quality. There is also evidence supporting the idea that teenagers who see standardized packaging are less likely to report wanting to start smoking than those who see branded packaging.

Thailand’s new regulation is part of a comprehensive set of measures in the Tobacco Products Control Act passed in March 2017 by the Thai National Legislative Assembly. Other important measures in the law include the ban on tobacco-related Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities, ban on single stick sales, requiring the tobacco industry to report its marketing activities, and increased penalty fee for smoking in prohibited areas from THB 2,000 ($60.89) to THB 5,000 ($152.23).

Earlier this November, Singapore announced its plans for standardized packaging and the domino effect has begun. Singapore’s Tobacco Control of Advertisements and Sale Act will be amended moving towards standardized packaging to come into effect in 2019.

Worldwide, Australia was the first country to mandate plain packaging in 2012. Since then, eight other countries, namely, France, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Uruguay, Slovenia, and Mauritius have also introduced plain or standardized packaging laws, and at least 16 other jurisdictions are formally considering the same.

Since plain packaging is effective and will reduce smoking, the tobacco industry countered by suing Australia, France, the UK, and the EU, but failed in all its legal challenges.

In June this year, a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute panel upheld Australia’s plain packaging law as being consistent with international trade and intellectual property laws.

The tobacco industry has a history of using the threat of legal challenges to intimidate governments, particularly in low and middle-income countries that have limited resources to fight the industry in court, but these latest announcements by Thailand and Singapore and the recent WTO ruling in favor of Australia should encourage more countries to adopt and implement this life-saving measure.

SEATCA is very delighted with this important development in the the history of tobacco control in Asia and we look forward to Thailand implementing this law and monitoring the compliance.

This new law will not only help the more than 10 million current smokers to quit but more importantly stop children from being addicted to tobacco and protect the Thai people from being exposed to secondhand smoke.

Stay tuned for the next country in Asia who will follow Thailand and Singapore’s strategic action to protect public health.

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Excerpt:

Wendell C Balderas is Media and Communications Manager, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA)

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Teenage Pregnancy in Kenya: A Crisis of Health, Education and Opportunityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/teenage-pregnancy-kenya-crisis-health-education-opportunity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=teenage-pregnancy-kenya-crisis-health-education-opportunity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/teenage-pregnancy-kenya-crisis-health-education-opportunity/#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 10:50:36 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158723 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Education CS Amina Mohamed chats with form four candidates of Mama Ngina Secondary School a few minutes before KCSE exams. Credit: Standard

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 19 2018 (IPS)

That almost one in five Kenyan teenage girls is a mother represents not only a huge cost to the health sector, but also a betrayal of potential on a shocking scale.

November 20, 2018 marks International Children’s Day. Perhaps a day we should use to reflect on a national crisis of underage pregnancies that confronts us.

Recent media reports of the high number of girls failing to sit their final secondary school examinations (KSCE) only reveal the extent to which we have continued to sweep under the carpet candid discussions about adolescent sexuality.

Kenya’s Education Cabinet Secretary, Amina Mohamed said that the country must confront this worrying trend. “We must have this conversation. We cannot bury our heads in the sand. It is happening to our children, our sisters, and even our young brothers. We will deal with it or it will not go away”. No doubt CS Mohamed has a tough job ahead.

Consider this. Statistics from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) indicate that between June 2016 and July 2017, 378,397 adolescents in Kenya aged 10 to 19 got pregnant.

The carpet’s edges are now too frayed to conceal our failure to act; we no longer can afford the blissful pretence about sexual activity among our teenagers. Nor can the responsibility for decisive solutions be shunted around.

Numerous studies have documented the fact that a high number of teens are already sexually active. These young girls are part of the four in ten women in Kenya aged between 15 and 49 who have unintended pregnancies. There can be no illusions about what they need: accurate, up-to-date information and access to effective contraception.

It is time to take a wholesome picture of the social and economic price society is paying when 15 percent of its teenage girls become pregnant. For virtually all of them – and statistics say majority are from poor families – it means an end to any dreams of coming out of poverty because they cannot continue with education.

Complications during pregnancy are the second cause of death for 15 to 19-year-old girls, therefore it means their already poor families have additional health care costs to meet. Children born to such young mothers are more prone to physical and cognitive development.

The overall effect is a perpetuation of the cycle of poverty that brings personal catastrophe while weakening social and economic development and adding strain to already stretched medical services.

In reproductive health, as in most things, knowledge is power. But across sub-Saharan Africa too many teenage girls lack knowledge of their bodies, their contraceptive options, and their rights. The notion of rights is central.

As the UNFPA report The Power of Choice states, in countries where rights to health, education and opportunity prevail, fertility rates tend to be lower. Through exercising their wider rights, people exercise choice about the timing and number of their children.

The 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey of 2014 that shows girls who have completed secondary education have an average of three children in their lifetimes compared to an average 6.5 for those with no education. Additionally, around 60% of girls who have completed primary and secondary school use some form of modern contraception compared to only 15% of those with no education.

That almost one in five Kenyan teenage girls is a mother represents not only a huge cost to the health sector, but also a betrayal of potential on a shocking scale.

“The girl child in this country is under threat from all manner of vices, including early pregnancy and female genital mutilation and many other kinds of nonsense that affect our communities. These things have no basis for the development of our country” said the Deputy President of Kenya, William Ruto.

The underlying drivers of teenage pregnancy are complex and include gender inequality, child marriage, poverty, sexual violence, and poor education and job opportunities. To be successful, efforts to reduce the incidence of teenage pregnancy must address all these elements through comprehensive programmes of behaviour change, social and economic development, health and sex education, reproductive rights, and gender equality.

Crucially, such efforts must also include boys and men, whose attitude to girls and women underpin many pervasive social problems in Kenya and across the world.

Reproductive rights and health are also central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 3 on ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being for all ages.

As the UN family in Kenya we are working in partnership with government, civil society, religious and youth groups to extend access to sexual and reproductive health information, counselling and services for young people. We intend to step this up.

Three years ago, Kenya launched the Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy. Unless bold decisions are made to implement that policy, pregnancies among our youth will continue to be a wrecking ball to the national development agenda particularly the Big Four and the SDGs.

In order for every girl to achieve her full human potential, how can the entire country be engaged to initiate a change in mindset in Kenya? How can a national conversation on this subject be leveraged into national action?

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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E-Commerce Giants Under Fire for Retailing Hazardous Mercury-Based Cosmeticshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/e-commerce-giants-fire-retailing-hazardous-mercury-based-cosmetics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=e-commerce-giants-fire-retailing-hazardous-mercury-based-cosmetics http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/e-commerce-giants-fire-retailing-hazardous-mercury-based-cosmetics/#respond Fri, 16 Nov 2018 11:18:28 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158706 A coalition of over 50 civil society organizations (CSOs), from more than 20 countries, have urged two of the world’s largest multi-billion dollar E-commerce retailers – Amazon and eBay – to stop marketing “dangerous and illegal mercury-based skin lightening creams.” The protest is part of a coordinated global campaign against a growing health hazard in […]

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By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK, Nov 16 2018 (IPS)

A coalition of over 50 civil society organizations (CSOs), from more than 20 countries, have urged two of the world’s largest multi-billion dollar E-commerce retailers – Amazon and eBay – to stop marketing “dangerous and illegal mercury-based skin lightening creams.”

The protest is part of a coordinated global campaign against a growing health hazard in the field of cosmetics.

So far, the groups have reached out to the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the United Nations, the World Health Organization (WHO) and INTERPOL, the Lyon-based international law enforcement agency whose mandate includes investigating the sale of illegal health products online.

Michael Bender, International Coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group, told IPS internet moguls must stop breaking the law with their toxic trade in illegal cosmetics.

“Amazon and eBay have the responsibility and resources to prevent exposing their customers to this dangerous neurotoxin,” he added.

At the same time, said Bender, the FDA must enforce the law— no matter how big the retailer, since no one is above the law.

The CSOs have identified 19 skin products sold by these two companies that contain illegal mercury levels—even as the use of these products are skyrocketing globally, and in the US, and used worldwide mostly by women in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.

In a letter to Jeff Bezos, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Amazon, the groups say: “We strongly urge Amazon to self-police its website to ensure that cosmetics found to have mercury levels over 1 part per million (ppm) are no longer offered for sale to your customers worldwide.”

Since 1973, the FDA has warned against using cosmetics with over 1ppm mercury and detailed the risks. And mercury is known to state, federal and international agencies as toxic and harmful to human health.

In a letter to Devin Newig , president and CEO of eBay, the groups say the products advertised for sale on the e-Bay website are “unpermitted and illegal”.

The protest has taken added relevance against the backdrop of the upcoming second meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP2) which will take place November 19-23 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Minamata Convention is an international treaty which has been signed by 128 UN member states and ratified by the legislatures of 101 countries.

Syed Marghub Murshed, Chairperson, Environment and Social Development Organization-ESDO, said “skin-lightening creams are pushing the youth towards a serious health risk and environmental havoc”.

He urged the government to take a regulatory and legislative step to protect future generations — and the environment.

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, European Environmental Bureau Project Manager “Zero Mercury Campaign” and International Co-ordinator, Zero Mercury Working Group, told IPS that toxic trade in illegal high mercury skin lighteners is a global crisis which is expected to only worsen with skyrocketing global demand.

“To combat this, it’s important for governments to quickly enact and/or enforce regulations and effectively warn consumers”, he added.

Sonya Lunder of the Sierra Club’s Gender, Equity and Environment Program, said internet sellers should be held to the highest standards for selling safe and legal cosmetics.

“Not only should they remove all illegal products from their websites immediately, but they must develop a system to ensure that toxic products remain out of their supply-chains,” declared Lunder.

The WHO says mercury is a common ingredient found in skin lightening soaps and creams. It is also found in other cosmetics, such as eye makeup cleansing products and mascara.

“Skin lightening soaps and creams are commonly used in certain African and Asian nations. They are also used among dark-skinned populations in Europe and North America.”

In Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Togo, 25%, 77%, 27%, 35% and 59% of women, respectively, are reported to use skin lightening products on a regular basis, says WHO.

In 2017 and 2018, 338 skin-lightening creams from 22 countries were collected by 17 NGO partners and tested for mercury, according to the group.

And 35 creams (10.4% of the samples) had mercury concentrations ranging from 260 – 16,353 parts per million (ppm).

These levels significantly exceeded not only regulations in many countries, but also new provisions in the Minamata Convention disallowing, after 2020, the “manufacture, import or export” of cosmetics with a mercury above 1 ppm.

The health consequences include damage to the skin, eyes, lungs, kidneys, digestive, immune and nervous systems.

The Mercury Policy Project, the Sierra Club and the European Environmental Bureau say they have purchased skin lighteners from eBay and Amazon websites.

The brands purchased included many previously identified as high mercury by New York City, the state of Minnesota, countries of the European Union, Singapore, United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Philippines, among others.

Of these, 19 products had illegal mercury levels, typically more than 10,000 times higher than the legal threshold of 1ppm.

In their letters, the groups are calling on Amazon and eBay to:

(1) Ensure the products they sell comply with government regulations; monitor lists of toxic skin lighteners identified US regulators; and keep them out of their inventory; and

(2) Add skin lightening cream products to a list of categories requiring prior approval before sale; and require that sellers provide documentation verifying that the products do not contain mercury and that the products are otherwise compliant with all applicable regulations.

Out of the 22 countries where the global cosmetics sampling took place, 14 have legislation or other requirements consistent with the Minamata convention provisions, the letter says.

Out of the 7 countries where high mercury samples were found, only 4 have legal requirements prohibiting creams with more than 1 ppm mercury content.

The Zero Mercury testing showed also that in:

–in Bangladesh, 50% of the creams sampled and tested had mercury content exceeding 1 ppm.

–In the Dominican Republic, one out of 3 samples had mercury above 1 ppm (33%), whereas in Indonesia it reached 31%.

— in Mauritius, one out of 15 creams was found to contain more than 1 ppm (7%).

— in the Philippines, 19% of the samples exceeded 1 ppm mercury content, while the Thai samples reached 63; and.

–in Trinidad and Tobago, 20% of the samples tested also exceeded the Minamata limits.

The Group’s research demonstrates that hazardous substance restrictions and accompanying risk communication strategies in many countries are incomplete and/or inadequately enforced.

”This thereby raises the risk of health effects, primarily to women.”

However, as the Minamata Convention on Mercury provision pertaining to cosmetics take effect after 2020, new opportunities for countries to reduce exposure to mercury from skin lighteners are emerging, including resources that may become available to Parties for the following, perhaps in collaboration with all levels of government and civil society:

1. Development and adoption of national government cosmetic regulations;

2. Continuously updated global government detention website listing of product violations, including product photo, manufacture, country of origin, seller identification, links, etc.

3. Enhanced harmonization and increased enforcement of by custom officials at borders;

4. Effective risk communication to consumers at risk and in particular pregnant and nursing mothers and woman of child bearing age;

5. Effective oversight of the marketplace;

6. Adoption of effective labeling guidelines to assure consumers are provided with the necessary information on hazardous substances, but also on alternatives, since they may contain other hazardous substances;

7. Effective cyber crime oversight of the internet, in global collaboration with Interpol, (since most lighteners are imported); and

8. Through national ad councils, assuring that non-discriminatory advertising guidelines do not reinforce negative social stereotyping on the basis of skin color.

Globally, mercury-based products are a big business. Demand is skyrocketing, especially in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, with sales of $17.9 billion in 2017, and projected to reach $31.2 billion by 2024, according to Global Industry Analysts.

Skin lightening products — also known as “bleaching creams,” “whiteners,” “skin brighteners,” or “fading creams” — work when inorganic Mercury salts (e.g. 1-10% ammoniated mercury) inhibit the formation of melanin, resulting in a lighter skin tone.

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Northeast Nigeria: Urgent Need to Combat Deadly Cholera Outbreakshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/northeast-nigeria-urgent-need-combat-deadly-cholera-outbreaks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=northeast-nigeria-urgent-need-combat-deadly-cholera-outbreaks http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/northeast-nigeria-urgent-need-combat-deadly-cholera-outbreaks/#respond Mon, 12 Nov 2018 14:07:40 +0000 Janet Cherono http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158642 Janet Cherono is Norwegian Refugee Council’s Program Manager in Maiduguri

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Overcrowding leading to poor sanitary conditions in IDPs camps and communities contributes to further cholera outbreak in Borno Nigeria.

By Janet Cherono
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, Nov 12 2018 (IPS)

The number of people who have been affected by cholera in northeast Nigeria has increased to 10,000. The disease is spreading quickly in congested displacement camps with limited access to proper sanitation facilities.

One of the major causes of the outbreak is the congestion in the camps that makes it difficult to provide adequate water, sanitation and hygiene services. The rainy season has also worsened the conditions.

NRC is calling on the local governments in Nigeria’s northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe to end the cycle of yearly cholera outbreaks.

If more land is not urgently provided for camp decongestion and construction of health and sanitation facilities, Nigeria is steering towards yet another cholera outbreak in 2019.

Over the last decade, northeast Nigeria and other areas of the Lake Chad Basin have been affected by cholera outbreaks almost every year, due to poor hygiene facilities in displacement camps and host communities. More than 1.8 million people are displaced in Nigeria, as a result of ongoing conflicts.

Maiduguri has the highest concentration of displaced people, with 243,000 displaced people cramped in camps, camp-like settlements and already crowded host communities, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration.

In Kagoni Sangaya displacement camp, the eight latrines that were built to cater for about 150 displaced people are now being shared by 500 people. Camp residents said they end up defecating in the open which causes cholera and other water borne diseases in the area.

More than 10,000 people have been afflicted by the ongoing cholera outbreak in Nigeria, according to the government. Of these, 175 were reported dead in the states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe as of early November 2018.

The number of deaths resulting from the disease is higher than would be expected in a situation where timely and efficient treatment is available. This indicates inexistent or insufficient access to clean water, sanitation, hygiene and health services.

We are calling on the authorities to provide more space in camps and host communities for the construction of new water and sanitation facilities, and for the international community to provide the necessary funding. Only this way can we prevent new cholera outbreaks.

NRC has responded to the cholera outbreak by transporting at least 180,000 liters of clean water daily from Maiduguri to communities around Tungushe and Konduga towns, constructing more latrines where there are space and by sharing information about hygiene and cholera prevention with affected communities.

Facts and Figures:

– By 7th November, the cholera outbreak in northeast Nigeria includes 1762 registered cases and 61 deaths in Yobe State, 2737 registered cases and 41 deaths in Adamawa State, and 5845 and 73 deathsin Borno State, according to figures from the World Health Organization and the Government of Nigeria.

– An estimated 7.7 million people in the three most affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe now depend on humanitarian assistance for their survival.

– NRC is currently providing life-saving assistance including food and livelihood support to help stabilize the living conditions of over 130,000 families displaced from their homes in northeast Nigeria.

– In 2018, NRC provided water, sanitation and hygiene services to over 56,000 people in Borno state.

– The humanitarian response plan for Nigeria is only 55% funded.

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Excerpt:

Janet Cherono is Norwegian Refugee Council’s Program Manager in Maiduguri

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Ambitious Agenda, Ambitious Financing? UNGA Shows a Long Way Still to Go for SDGshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/ambitious-agenda-ambitious-financing-unga-shows-long-way-still-go-sdgs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ambitious-agenda-ambitious-financing-unga-shows-long-way-still-go-sdgs http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/ambitious-agenda-ambitious-financing-unga-shows-long-way-still-go-sdgs/#comments Mon, 05 Nov 2018 14:06:42 +0000 John Garrett and Kathryn Tobin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158517 John Garrett & Kathryn Tobin, WaterAid

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Aregashe Addis in the water utility store where she works in Debre Tabor, South Gondar, Amhara, Ethiopia. WaterAid and the UK’s Yorkshire Water utility have provided funding and training to improve the capacity and operations of the Debre Tabor Water Utility, ensuring the community’s poorest and most vulnerable people now have access to water. Credit: WaterAid/Behailu Shiferaw

By John Garrett and Kathryn Tobin
LONDON / NEW YORK, Nov 5 2018 (IPS)

There was a much-needed focus on financing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the September 2018 opening of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

Three years on from the watershed 2015 conferences in Addis Ababa, New York and Paris, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has released a new Strategy for Financing the 2030 Agenda, covering the period of 2018-2021.

Whilst welcoming the UN Secretary-General’s new ideas and reaffirmation of core Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) priorities, the UN’s 193 member states need to show stronger resolve and political will to break from today’s business-as-usual financing trajectories.

Willing the end, but not the means

With one-fifth of the time available to deliver the 2030 Agenda already gone, a serious disconnect between the ambition of the SDGs and the means of their implementation is opening up. Intending to set the international community on a course to achieve the SDGs, Guterres’s strategy aims to align global financing and economic policies with the 2030 Agenda and enhance sustainable financing strategies and investments at regional and national level whileseizing the potential of financial innovations, technologies and digitalisation.

Discussions around the strategy’s launch revealed plenty of evidence recognising the urgency of transforming economic and financial systems to advance sustainable development. Research by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), launched on the morning of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Meeting, points to alarming trends in several of the SDGs.

Four hundred million people are likely to be living in extreme poverty in 2030; there is slow progress in reducing inequalities in wealth, income or gender; world hunger is on the rise; and access to safe water and sanitation is actually in decline in some countries.

These human development challenges combine with unsustainable pressures on the environment, reflected in the increasing threats of climate change, rising sea levels, biodiversity loss and degradation of fresh water resources.

UNGA discussions also provided a clearer picture of the costs of achieving key SDGs. New estimates from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of the costs for achieving the SDGs in the sectors of health, education, water and sanitation, energy and transport infrastructure found that US$520 billion a year is required in low-income developing countries (LIDCs).

A central role for raising revenue at home

The SG’s strategy emphasises how important domestic public finance is for sustainable development, and we agree that national ownership should be at the heart of financing solutions. The IMF estimates scope for developing countries to raise tax rates by on average 5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from current levels.

WaterAid research on public finance and the extractive industries (a dominant sector in many LIDCs) finds that weak tax regimes or corruption are undermining domestic resource mobilisation and the provision of essential services to people.

In Madagascar, the Government received only 6% of the production value of its minerals in 2015, and in Zambia, forensic audits of copper producers released hundreds of millions of dollars to the exchequer in unpaid tax.

But it’s clear that countries’ efforts to raise revenue at home won’t on their own be enough to reach the ambition of the SDGs. To meet this financing gap, the UN has emphasised the role of private finance, including public-private partnerships and blended finance.

As the latest encapsulation of this trend, the Secretary-General’s strategy drew criticism from the Civil Society Financing for Development (FfD) Group for its over-reliance on mobilising private finance. While private finance is an important part of the financing solution, it is no panacea.

In New York, lenders and investors highlighted some of the obstacles to prioritising private finance in low-income contexts: insufficient data, information gaps and unviable risk premiums. Debt vulnerabilities preclude significant volumes of external non-concessional finance in many LIDCs’ contexts – particularly concerning since 40 percent of LIDCs are now in or approaching a state of debt distress.

Aligning investment and lending decisions with environmental, social and governance concerns, as South Africa and the European Union are seeking to do, is essential. The Secretary-General’s strategy sends a clear message that progress is too slow in aligning markets with sustainable development imperatives.

Recent forecasts of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that oil and coal consumption will reach record levels over coming years is one example of the misalignment of public policies and financial markets with Agenda 2030 and the transition to a low- or zero-carbon economy.

Towards transformative financing and national ownership of the 2030 Agenda

How can the urgency expressed at UNGA lead to the actions required to break out from a business-as-usual financing trajectory? The answer lies in two sides of the same coin: increase money coming into, and reduce money coming out from, LIDCs. We suggest three vital areas for greater attention from the international community.

First, curbing tax evasion and avoidance, and stopping illicit financial flows are essential steps to enable the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. Reform and restructuring of the taxation paradigms around extractive industries and other corporate investment in developing countries is fundamental, to prevent the ‘race to the bottom’ and ensure countries have both policy space and public finance to pay for their development objectives.

Taking action on tax havens—estimated to store wealth equivalent to 10% of global GDP—addressing transfer mispricing by transnational corporations, and supporting improvements in governance and transparency to tackle corruption are prerequisites.

What prevents countries from allocating sufficient resources to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and to sustainable development in general is just as important as what enables them to do so.

Second, achieving the 2030 Agenda requires a much stronger emphasis on international public assistance in grant form, both Official Development Assistance (ODA) and climate finance, targeted to the poorest countries. ODI’s report indicates that 48 of the poorest countries in the world cannot afford to fully fund the core sectors of education, health (including nutrition) and social protection – even if they maximise their tax effort.

And, while the 2030 Agenda may be voluntary, commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change, once ratified, become binding. The same holds true for human rights commitments.

Industrialised countries, overwhelmingly responsible for global warming and climate change, must fulfil their climate finance commitments as an essential first step towards climate justice. Poor communities urgently need support to adapt to the impacts of climate change—compensation for a looming environmental crisis they have had least responsibility in creating.

We could even propose combining targets for ODA and climate finance into a new SDG target for high-income countries. Merging existing targets for ODA (0.7% of GNI) and climate funding ($100 billion a year by 2020) could promote coherence and consistency, and ensure additionality of climate funding.

It could become a mandatory grant-based contribution for sustainable development from high-income countries (as opposed to loans, which can push countries further into debt). An initial combined target of 1% of GNI could be set with a deadline of 2020, rising again in 2025 to 2.5% of GNI – essentially a new Marshall Plan for global sustainable development. Financial transaction taxes and carbon taxes can be important components of funding this increase, supporting financial stability and the transition to a zero-carbon economy.

Third, the international community needs to support institutional strengthening in LIDCs on a much greater scale. IMF research suggests that successful anti-corruption and capacity-building initiatives are built on institutional reforms that emphasise transparency and accountability: for example, shining a light on all aspects of the government budget to improve public financial management and efficient spending. In the water and sanitation sector we find that well-coordinated, accountable institutions with participatory planning processes are necessary to strengthen the sector to enable universal and sustainable access by 2030.

Time is running out

The discussions around financing the 2030 Agenda at UNGA 2018 reminded us that time is running out. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on staying below 1.5 degrees temperature increase adds a new urgency.

Three years into the SDGs’ implementation, where are the ambitious multilateral financing commitments required to ensure that the 2030 Agenda including SDG6 become a reality for everyone across the globe? Fewer than 12 years remain to take urgent action nationally and globally to achieve the 2030 Agenda and ensure all the world’s inhabitants can live in dignity and see their human rights fulfilled.

Between now and next year’s High-Level Political Forum for heads of state in September 2019, the international community must generate the political momentum required for equitable and ambitious financing, to reach the shared commitments of the SDGs.

The post Ambitious Agenda, Ambitious Financing? UNGA Shows a Long Way Still to Go for SDGs appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

John Garrett & Kathryn Tobin, WaterAid

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Cholera Threatens a Comeback Worldwidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/cholera-threatens-comeback-worldwide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cholera-threatens-comeback-worldwide http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/cholera-threatens-comeback-worldwide/#respond Fri, 02 Nov 2018 07:21:47 +0000 Anna Kucirkova http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158488 Cholera outbreaks across history regularly killed a hundred thousand or more. It isn’t well known today because it was essentially eliminated in the Western world. It last erupted in the U.S. in the 1800s, eradicated by water and sewage treatment systems that prevented it from spreading via contaminated water. However, cholera is making a comeback […]

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More than 400,000 cases of cholera are suspected in Yemen, and nearly 1,900 people have died from associated cases in the last three months alone.

Tents set up at Alsabeen hospital in Sana'a Yemen for screening suspected cholera cases.

By Anna Kucirkova
TEXAS, USA, Nov 2 2018 (IPS)

Cholera outbreaks across history regularly killed a hundred thousand or more. It isn’t well known today because it was essentially eliminated in the Western world.

It last erupted in the U.S. in the 1800s, eradicated by water and sewage treatment systems that prevented it from spreading via contaminated water. However, cholera is making a comeback around the globe, and it could again become a major killer.

Cholera is caused by eating or drinking something contaminated with the Vibrio cholera bacteria. Because it is waterborne, Western cases tend to occur when someone eats contaminated sea food.

In the developing world, people drinking water from rivers where others bathe and defecate contribute to its spread. That is why the World Health Organization (WHO) records around 150,000 cholera cases per year.

Cholera remains common in places with poor sanitation systems or where they do not yet exist. That is why cholera is considered epidemic in places like Africa, Latin America and South Asia.

Tropical climates that don’t get cold enough to kill the bacteria, wet soil that breeds it, and unsanitary groundwater that mixes with drinking water can cause one patient’s effluent to spread to an entire community.

The literal environment prevents the bacteria from being truly eradicated, resulting in it being found in overcrowded slums. Storms and flooding can interfere with local water supplies, bringing in contaminated water that people then drink.

It periodically erupts in active war zones and overcrowded refugee camps that cannot maintain a clean water supply. The lack of proper hygiene in these places certainly contributes to its spread. Yemen and Syria, both in the midst of civil wars, are the worst examples of this.

The cholera outbreak in Haiti has shown that cholera can come roaring back after other natural disasters that disrupt clean water delivery. Globalism contributes to cholera’s spread, as well.

For example, the Haiti outbreak was likely precipitated by U.N. peacekeepers that picked up cholera in Nepal, arrived in Haiti and then infected the local water supply through poor hygiene. The outbreak killed over ten thousand and infected hundreds of thousands more.

Now a country already struggling to deal with critically damaged infrastructure has to manage cholera, too. This is a tragic blow, since Haiti worked for years to eradicate the disease.

The infection and death rates were made worse by the under-developed medical system that the disaster rendered inoperable. In nations with underdeveloped medical systems, they can’t keep up with the load of the epidemic, spreading faster and killing many more than it would in a better equipped region.

Bangladesh struggles with endemic cholera. One of their solutions was vaccination against the disease. Vietnam, too, has set up a vaccination program to prevent humans from becoming a transmission vector. Both countries have set up programs to curtail their devastating effects, as well.

Globalization can take cholera to countries that have lived without it so long that doctors don’t know what they’re dealing with. This can lead to the disease spreading beyond what can easily be contained.

Within a few hours of symptoms appearing, patients can lose so much fluid that they’re rendered bedridden. This dramatically increases the risk of transmission to others. These few hours are also the ideal time to give someone a mix of fluids and antibiotics to prevent them from becoming dangerously dehydrated. If a patient is misdiagnosed, they could die of dehydration within two or three days.

In tropical countries lacking fully developed water and sanitation infrastructure, the soil and untreated groundwater hosts cholera bacteria that can contaminate public water supplies.

The outbreak is made worse by patients spreading it through bodily fluids to those who may have safe drinking water. And because patients can readily travel, the disease can spread rapidly through new vectors.

The ebola outbreak in Dallas, Texas was caused by a man, who knew he was exposed, booking a flight to Texas to visit family he hadn’t seen in more than a decade. He arrived knowing he might carry the disease and with the hope he’d be treated in the more advanced American hospitals.

Cholera periodically spreads to new areas for the very same reason; people who are sick board buses and planes to get help elsewhere. The less dramatic example is someone carrying cholera traveling by car to an urban hospital, spreading the disease as they travel.

This is the downside of globalization and has long been the basis of strong immigration controls – to make certain that immigrants didn’t bring diseases with them. Tuberculosis was routinely screened for in the 1800s and 1900s, but buses, trains and aircraft make it possible for cholera to go global despite its rapidity.

Overcrowded cities have always provided a place for cholera to claim many victims. One major difference today is scale. A cholera epidemic in London two centuries ago would claim tens of thousands in a city of perhaps a million.

Third world cities that are home to five to fifteen million, many of whom live in slums, could see a million or more deaths in a bad cholera epidemic. And the constant flow of people from the countryside to the city in the developing world creates a constant risk of an epidemic.

Thanks to our understanding of disease transmission, sanitation and treatment, cholera (https://connectforwater.org/cholera-is-becoming-a-serious-problem-heres-why/) outbreaks are rarely as catastrophic as the past. But we need to recognize that modern medicine is still in a war with this ancient foe that will continue to threaten humanity for the foreseeable future.

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“Governments are Starting to See that Organic Food Policy Works”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/governments-starting-see-organic-food-policy-works/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=governments-starting-see-organic-food-policy-works http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/governments-starting-see-organic-food-policy-works/#respond Wed, 31 Oct 2018 18:22:54 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158460 Many countries and farmers around the world are not readily making the switch to organic farming. But the small Himalayan mountain state of Sikkim, which borders Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan, is the first 100 percent organic farming state in the world.  Earlier this month, Sikkim, won the Future Policy Award 2018 (FPA) for being the […]

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According to ‘The World State of Agriculture 2018’, India is the country with the highest number of organic producers (835'000). This is a woman cultivating her tea plantation in the southwestern Indian state of Kerala. Credit: Ilaria Cecilia/IPS

By Maged Srour
ROME, Oct 31 2018 (IPS)

Many countries and farmers around the world are not readily making the switch to organic farming. But the small Himalayan mountain state of Sikkim, which borders Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan, is the first 100 percent organic farming state in the world. 

Earlier this month, Sikkim, won the Future Policy Award 2018 (FPA) for being the first state in the world to declare itself, in 2015, 100 percent organic.

Its path towards becoming completely organic started in 2003, when Chief Minister Pawan Chamling announced the political vision to make Sikkim “the first organic state of India”.

The FPA, also known as the ‘Oscar for Best Policies’ is organised every year by the World Future Council (WFC). The aim of the FPA is to investigate solutions to the challenges in today’s world. The WFC looks at which policies have a holistic and long-term outlook, and which protect the rights of future generations. And once a year the WFC awards showcases the very best of them.

This year, in cooperation with IFOAM-Organics International (IFOAM) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the FPA decided to focus on the best policies to scale up agroecology.

In 2004, one year after the vision was announced, Sikkim adopted its Policy on Organic Farming and in 2010, the state launched the Organic Mission, an action plan to implement the policy. In 2015, thanks to strong political coherence and strategy planning, the goal was achieved.

Among the noteworthy measures adopted by Sikkim during that decade, the fact that 80 percent of the budget between 2010 and 2014 was intended to build the capacity of farmers, rural service providers and certification bodies. The budget also supported farmers in acquiring certifications, and had various measures to provide farmers with quality organic seeds.

Best practices on agroecology: Denmark’s Organic Action Plan

The WFC has also rewarded other government policies with Silver Awards, Vision Awards and Honourable Mentions. Among the Silver awardees was Denmark’s Organic Action Plan, which has become a popular policy planning tool in European countries over the last decade.

Almost 80 percent of Danes purchase organic food and today the country has the highest organic market share in the world (13 percent).

“What has made Danish consumers among the most enthusiastic organic consumers [in the world], is that we have done a lot of consumer information and we have worked strategically with the supermarkets to place organics as part of their strategy to appeal to consumers on the value of food, putting more value into food through organics,” Paul Holmbeck, Political Director of ‘Organic Denmark’, told IPS.

The importance of being organic and agroecological

The policies of Sikkim and Denmark, as well as those of Ecuador and Brazil — countries that also received Silver Awards — are steps towards a world where agroecology becomes widespread and practiced globally. In fact, to conceive cultivated land as ecosystems themselves, in which every living and nonliving component affects every other component, is vital to obtain not only healthy and organic food, but also to preserve our environment.

Indeed, it would be a mistake to think that having organic products on our tables necessarily means having solved all problems related to intensive agriculture and to the damages on the environment.

“Agroecology is one approach that applies ecological concepts and principles to food and farm systems, focusing on the interaction between micro-organisms, plants, animals, humans and the environment, to foster sustainable agriculture development, in order to ensure food security and nutrition for all, now and in the future,” Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director General, told IPS. “It is based on co-creation of knowledge, sharing and innovation, combining local, traditional, indigenous practices with multi-disciplinary science.”

Emerging trends on organic

According to the report, The World of Organic Agriculture 2018 – Statistics and Emerging Trends, released earlier this year and authored by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) and IFOAM, 57.8 million hectares (ha) worldwide were farmed organically in 2016. This is an increase of 7.5 million ha (or 13 percent) compared to the previous year.

In 2016, the share of land dedicated to organic farmland increased across the globe: Europe (6.7 percent increase), Asia (34 percent increase), Africa (7 percent increase), Latin America (6 percent increase), North America (5 percent increase).

Australia had the largest agricultural area farmed organically (27.2 million ha), followed by Argentina (3 million ha), and China (2.3 million ha).

In 2016, there were 2.7 million organic farmers. Around 40 percent of whom live in Asia, followed by Africa (27 percent) and Latin America (17 percent).

According to the report, the total area devoted in Asia to organic agriculture was almost 4.9 million ha in 2016 and there were 1.1 million organic producers in the region, with India being the country with the highest number of organic producers (835,000).

So the success of Sikkim is not surprising considering that the Asian continent can be considered among the regions at the forefront of organic production.

Perspectives about the future

However, favouring the scale up of agroecology, which includes producing organic products, is unfortunately not that simple.

“To harness the multiple sustainability benefits that arise from agroecological approaches, as enabling environment is required, including adapted policies, public investments, institutions and research priorities,” said Semedo.  “However, this is not yet a reality in the majority of countries.”

Indeed, poverty, malnutrition, unfair distribution of wealth, decreasing of biodiversity, deterioration of natural resources like soil and water, and climate change are significant challenges in most countries.

Agriculture will become one of the greatest challenges, if not addressed properly. Therefore, moving towards more sustainable agriculture and food systems is certainly a potential part of the solution, not only for our health and wellness but for the planet itself.

“It’s vital for everyone to be organic [and] for every person to eat organic because otherwise people would eat poison and basically writing a recipe for chronic diseases. It could be cancer [as well as] neurological problems,” warned Vandana Shiva, a food and agriculture expert and member of the WFC, told IPS during the ceremony of the Future Policy Award 2018 at FAO headquarters in Rome this October.

“Organic is the only living solution to climate change. Chemical farming is a very big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions but organic farming takes the excess carbon out of the atmosphere and puts it in the soil,” she added.

However, there seems to be a large consensus with the fact that the planet needs to move towards a more sustainable way of living and this is a reason for optimism.

“I’m very optimistic about organics [because] we are creating new solutions for climate and animal welfare, sustainability and good soil every single day,” said Holmbeck. “Governments are starting to see that organic food policy works: it is good for farmers, for consumers and for the planet.”

The post “Governments are Starting to See that Organic Food Policy Works” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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