Inter Press Service » Health http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 26 May 2017 17:58:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.18 Asia: 260 Million Indigenous Peoples Marginalised, Discriminatedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/asia-260-million-indigenous-peoples-marginalised-discriminated/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=asia-260-million-indigenous-peoples-marginalised-discriminated http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/asia-260-million-indigenous-peoples-marginalised-discriminated/#comments Fri, 26 May 2017 17:27:58 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150611 Indigenous women join protests for land rights in Asia. Credit: IWGIA

Indigenous women join protests for land rights in Asia. Credit: IWGIA

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 26 2017 (IPS)

Asia is home to the largest number of indigenous peoples on Earth, with an estimated 260 million of a total of 370 million original inhabitants worldwide. In spite of their huge number-equaling half of the combined population of Europe– they are often victims of discrimination and denial of their rights.

With its 4.4 billion inhabitants, Asia is, in fact, one of the most culturally diverse regions in the world. “Indigenous peoples live in all the Asian countries,” said to IPS Signe Leth, Senior Advisor on women and land rights in Asia at the International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA).

However, Asian indigenous peoples face problems such as denial of self-determination, the loss of control over their land and natural resources, discrimination and marginalisation, heavy assimilation pressure and violent repression by state security forces, she explained.

Signe Leth

Signe Leth

“Several countries have legislations that to some extent protect the rights of indigenous peoples, like the Philippines, India and Nepal, Signe Leth said.

“These rights are, however, systematically watered down, often simply ignored or overruled.”

Asked about the Asian indigenous peoples knowledge and their contribution as custodians and protectors of nature, the IWGIA’s expert explained to IPS that they fight against forest degradation, protect biodiversity, and lead a sustainable life with respect for the surrounding nature.

“However, they are often fighting highly powerful forces trying to exploit their areas – even paying for it with their lives.”

The Copenhagen-based IWGIA on 25 April launched its report “The Indigenous World 2017,” which focuses on the state of indigenous peoples worldwide, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The IWGIA report, elaboration of which counted on over 70 contributors from all over the world, was released during the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues meeting (24 April—5 May).

India’s “Scheduled Tribes”

In India, 461 ethnic groups are recognised as “Scheduled Tribes.” They are considered to be India’s indigenous peoples, according to IWGIA‘s independent authors.

In mainland India, the Scheduled Tribes are usually referred to as Adivasis, which literally means indigenous peoples. With an estimated population of 84.3 million, they comprise 8.2 per cent of the country’s total population.

“There are, however, many more ethnic groups that would qualify for Scheduled Tribe status but which are not officially recognized. Estimates of the total number of tribal groups are as high as 635.”

The largest concentrations of indigenous peoples are found in the seven states of North-East India, and the so-called “central tribal belt” stretching from Rajasthan to West Bengal, according to the IWGIA Indian chapter’s independent authors.

“India has a long history of indigenous peoples’ movements aimed at asserting their rights”.

This Asian giant has several laws and constitutional provisions, such as the Fifth Schedule for mainland India and the Sixth Schedule for certain areas of North-East India, which recognise indigenous peoples’ rights to land and self-governance.

“The laws aimed at protecting indigenous peoples have, however, numerous shortcomings and their implementation is far from satisfactory.”

The International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs also reminds that the Indian government voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in the UN General Assembly in 2007.

“However, it does not consider the concept of “indigenous peoples”, and thus the UNDRIP, applicable to India.”

“Indigenous Peoples” in China

Meanwhile, China officially proclaims itself a unified country with a multiple ethnic make-up, and all ethnic groups are considered equal before the law, IWGIA notes quoting the independent authors of this chapter on China, adding that besides the Han Chinese majority, the government recognises 55 ethnic minority peoples within its borders.

According to China’s sixth national census of 2010, the population of ethnic minorities is 113,792,211 persons, or 8.49 per cent of the country’s total population.

“However, there are still “unrecognised ethnic groups” in China numbering a total of 734,438 persons (2000 census figure), according to the Copenhagen-based Group. Most of them live in China’s South-West regions of Guizhou, Sichuan, Yunnan and Tibet.”

The officially recognised ethnic minority groups have rights protected by the Constitution, remind the IWGIA China chapter’s independent authors, explaining that this includes establishing ethnic autonomous regions, setting up their own local administrative governance and the right to practise their own language and culture.

“Ethnic autonomous regions” constitute around 60 per vent of China’s land area.

The Term “Indigenous Peoples”

Anyway, IWGIA clarifies, the Chinese (PRC) government does not recognise the term “indigenous peoples”, and representatives of China’s ethnic minorities have not readily identified themselves as indigenous peoples, and have rarely participated in international meetings related to indigenous peoples’ issues, say the independent authors of the IWGIA’s chapter on China.

“It has therefore not been clearly established which of China’s ethnic minority groups are to be considered indigenous peoples.”

“The Chinese government voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) but, prior to its adoption, had already officially stated that there were no indigenous peoples in China, which means that, in their eyes, the UNDRIP does not apply to China.

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Time To Focus On ‘Hidden Hunger’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/time-to-focus-on-hidden-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=time-to-focus-on-hidden-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/time-to-focus-on-hidden-hunger/#comments Fri, 26 May 2017 16:13:05 +0000 Bev Postma http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150605 Bev Postma is the CEO of HarvestPlus. She has 25 years of experience as a policy expert in international food systems, nutrition and food security. ]]> Children, Kafue, Zambia. Credit: Brian Moonga/IPS

Children, Kafue, Zambia. Credit: Brian Moonga/IPS

By Bev Postma
WASHINGTON DC, May 26 2017 (IPS)

As World Hunger Day May 28 approaches, it is time for us all to redouble our efforts to reach the goal of Zero Hunger by prioritizing the battle against micronutrient deficiency. If the international community pulls together this year to incorporate proven solutions such as biofortifying crops into the UN framework for sustainable development, we could reduce malnutrition on a truly global scale.

Previous UN-led efforts, including the Millennium Development Goals, and the current Sustainable Development Goals set targets for countries to lift themselves out of poverty and hunger. With the support of multiple UN initiatives and partners, the number of undernourished people in developing countries has decreased by nearly half since 1990. This is encouraging.

However, one-third of the world’s population continues to suffer from ‘hidden hunger,’ caused by a lack of essential vitamins and minerals. Even if people have enough calories to eat, they can still suffer from ‘hidden hunger’ if their only food options do not contain the necessary micronutrients.

Zinc, vitamin A and iron are three of the more important micronutrients for health, according to the World Health Organization. Each of these nutrients play a critical role in normal body functions. A diet lacking in these nutrients presents a major threat to human health, potentially causing stunting, decreased cognitive ability, diarrheal disease, auto-immune deficiency, blindness and early child mortality. Around 375,000 children go blind each year as a result of a lack of vitamin A; and zinc deficiency causes 450,000 deaths annually.

More than 2 billion people suffer from hidden hunger globally, and there is a ripple effect that has consequences for the entire population. The World Bank estimates that in Pakistan malnutrition costs the country $7.6 billion, or 3 percent of its GDP annually. Likewise, the African Union estimates that Rwanda loses more than 11 percent of its GDP due to child undernutrition alone.

Countries with high levels of malnutrition must contend with these cumulative effects of high healthcare costs and lost productivity wherever they are in the world.

There are a number of solutions to address micronutrient deficiency, but crop biofortification can reach communities where traditional supplementation and food fortification potentially cannot. Growing more nutritious versions of everyday food crops is a simple, sustainable and cost-effective solution that does not place any undue burden on farmers. These biofortified crops are also widely accepted by consumers, as extensive research is done to ensure the crops look and taste similar to the traditional varieties.

HarvestPlus has spent the past 14 years working with leading research institutes to prove that biofortified crops, which contain greater quantities of vitamin A, iron and zinc than standard varieties, can reach communities that need them.

In India, iron-biofortified pearl millet provides children with 70 percent of daily iron requirements. More than a million Indian farmers have embraced the more nutritious variety, which is also high yielding and drought tolerant, providing farmers with a more stable income while simultaneously bolstering their family’s nutrition.

A study of iron-deficient women between the ages of 18 and 27 in Rwanda proved that eating biofortified beans high in iron reversed iron deficiency in just four-and-a-half months. In a region plagued by hot weather and drought, iron beans present the added benefit of being high yielding, drought resistant and heat tolerant.

Countries across the world are already embracing the science of biofortification. The government of Zambia launched a campaign to get schools to grow and feed their students vitamin A-biofortified orange maize, while Brazil is distributing biofortified crops to schools through its states’ school feeding programs.

In Uganda, five iron-rich bean varieties were released last year as part of the government’s strategy to tackle malnutrition and reduce anemia, especially in children and expectant mothers. These countries, among many others, have chosen to implement a proven, cost-effective solution to address micronutrient deficiency and they are relying on international organizations like the United Nations to provide additional support.

Earlier this year, HarvestPlus made a public commitment to work with UN agencies and member states to be part of the decade of action on nutrition. In line with our commitment, we are calling on all governments and institutions to help us scale up the introduction of biofortified foods by bridging the gap that exists between agriculture and nutrition.

If we can work with the UN, national governments and farming communities to encourage the adoption of this breakthrough innovation, we can help lift one billion people out of poverty and hidden hunger just by providing access to a diverse and nutritious diet.

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Formalising Informal Trade – Good for African Women?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/formalising-informal-trade-good-for-african-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=formalising-informal-trade-good-for-african-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/formalising-informal-trade-good-for-african-women/#comments Fri, 26 May 2017 10:25:40 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150602 Rural women sell mango and sweet potato jam at the food processing shop in Bantantinnting, Senegal. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Rural women sell mango and sweet potato jam at the food processing shop in Bantantinnting, Senegal. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By IPS World Desk
ROME, May 26 2017 (IPS)

Women constitute the largest share of informal traders in Africa–about 70 per cent in Southern Africa and more than half in other parts of this vast continent made up of 54 states, home to over 1,200 billion people.

Informal cross-border trading, in which transactions are not compliant with local tax and other rules, accounts for a large share – between 20 and a hefty 70 per cent– of employment in sub-Saharan Africa, says a new United Nations specialised report.

Africa’s vast but informal cross-border trade can contribute to improving livelihoods and increasing regional integration across the continent, according to the new report Formalization of informal trade in Africa.

Putting it on a regular footing can lift sustainable prosperity and markedly improve prospects for women, adds the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) report, which was released on 25 May coinciding with Africa Day.

“It is about harnessing rather than suppressing informal trade, it says, adding that which around half of all intra-African cross-border trade is classified as informal, indicating its large if officially invisible role.“

Simplifying the requirements for a business license, offering incentives to tax payers, and tackling official corruption are among the recommendations aimed to cut informal trade among African countries and boost economic prosperity, particularly for women, the study recommends.

Proactive policies that recognise such activity, tapping its potential with the aim of steering it towards proper regulatory status, are to be preferred over heavy-handed approaches to eradicate or seek rents from entrepreneurs, according to the UN specialised agency.

“Informal cross-border trade, often agricultural, is the result of poor access to government offices, a lack of administrative skills and improper understanding of import and custom-tax laws.

One of the main groups that would be affected by formalization is women, who constitute the largest share of informal traders – about 70 per cent in Southern Africa and more than half in other parts, says the report.

“Facilitating formalization is the only viable policy option for Africa’s transformation agenda to realize its objectives,” said Suffyan Koroma, FAO senior economist and lead author of the report.

The new report was presented at a conference in Kigali, Rwanda, which held as part of on-going FAO-supported work in the country, along with UN Women and other development partners, aimed at enabling women to benefit more from agri-food chains, a project geared to allowing women small traders access useful information as well as start-up capital.

Machakos District, Kenya - Kweka farmers group members display how seeds are stored between harvest and the next planting season to ensure food production will continue. Credit: FAO/Christena Dowsett

Machakos District, Kenya – Kweka farmers group members display how seeds are stored between harvest and the next planting season to ensure food production will continue. Credit: FAO/Christena Dowsett


The UN leading specialised agency in the fields of food and agriculture also reported that local agricultural produce and livestock account for two-thirds of Rwanda’s exports, most of which are informally traded, with the bulk going to neighbouring countries, notably the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda encourages informal small traders to form cooperatives as a step towards regularisation.

A Huge Role for Women

Women trading between the border posts of Kenya and Uganda and between Rwanda and Burundi prefer to use brokers who appear to shield them from what they perceive as unprofessional behaviour of customs officials, the report notes.

Informal cross-border trade activity is largely a second-choice option taken by people in the absence of clearly defined formal alternatives, says FAO. It consists of trade in goods and services, often agricultural in nature, and in times of food crises and other shocks has proven to be more responsible than legal channels.

“Off-the-radar economic activity, not all of it involving international trade, accounts for around 40 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Africa, higher than in Latin America or Asia.”

“The trade is rarely illegal,” the UN specialised body reports, adding that in most cases it is informal because practitioners have poor access to all the appropriate business licenses, administrative skills and knowledge of import and custom-tax laws to act otherwise.

Prey to Corruption

While such activity is an important source of household income, practitioners are often prey to corruption and their weak access to credit means their activities are rarely stable or sustainable.

Women constitute the largest share of such informal traders. In Tanzania, women dominate trade in manufactured products while men handle mostly raw or semi-processed agricultural products, whereas the opposite is the case in Cameroon, the FAO report found.

“Women and men tend to differ in which foodstuffs – fresh produce or commodity staples – they trade as well.”

Working with Catholic Relief Service, the UN agency has also organised open-door events on the Rwanda-Congo border where women cooperatives were invited to learn more about the cross-border tax regime directly from custom officials and government representatives.

“Rwanda has emerged as a model of best practice for cross border trade through its efforts to integrate the informal economy by easing trade channels for small-scale agricultural traders, “said Attaher Maiga, FAO’s Representative in Rwanda.

Key priorities to facilitate the formalisation of informal cross-border trading include the simplification of licensing requirements, tax incentives, fostering partnerships, radio, television and town-hall outreach to participants in the informal economy, and intensifying efforts to tackle official corruption, said the UN agency.

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In a “World of Plenty,” G7 Must Fight Faminehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/in-a-world-of-plenty-g7-must-fight-famine/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=in-a-world-of-plenty-g7-must-fight-famine http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/in-a-world-of-plenty-g7-must-fight-famine/#comments Fri, 26 May 2017 06:28:19 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150597 A child from drought-stricken southern Somalia who survived the long journey to an aid camp in the Somali capital Mogadishu. Credit: Abdurrahman Warsameh/IPS

A child from drought-stricken southern Somalia who survived the long journey to an aid camp in the Somali capital Mogadishu. Credit: Abdurrahman Warsameh/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 26 2017 (IPS)

World leaders must step up and take action in fighting famine to prevent further catastrophic levels of hunger and deaths, said Oxfam.

Ahead of the 43rd G7 summit, Oxfam urged world leaders to urgently address the issue of famine, currently affecting four countries at unprecedented levels.

“Political failure has led to these crises – political leadership is needed to resolve them…the world’s most powerful leaders must now act to prevent a catastrophe happening on their watch,” said Oxfam’s Executive Director Winnie Byanyima.

“If G7 leaders were to travel to any of these four countries, they would see for themselves how life is becoming impossible for so many people: many are already dying in pain, from disease and extreme hunger,” she continued.

In northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen, approximately 30 million people are severely food insecure. Of this figure, 10 million face emergency and famine conditions, more than the population of G7 member United Kingdom’s capital of London.

After descending into conflict over three years ago, famine has now been declared in two South Sudan counties and a third county is at risk if food aid is not provided.

In Somalia, conflict alongside prolonged drought – most likely exacerbated by climate change – has left almost 7 million in need of humanitarian assistance. Drought has also contributed to cholera outbreaks and displacement.

Byanyima pointed to the hypocrisy in a “world of plenty” experiencing four famines.

These widespread crises are not confined to the four countries’ borders.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, almost 2 million South Sudanese have fled to neighboring countries, including Uganda, Ethiopia, and Kenya, making it the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. Due to the influx of South Sudanese refugees, the Bidi Bidi refugee camp in Uganda is now the largest in the world, placing a strain on local services.

Escaping hunger and conflict, Nigerians have sought refuge in the Lake Chad region which shares its borders with Cameroon, Chad, and Niger only to once again face high levels of food insecurity and disease outbreaks.

Among the guest invitees to the G7 meeting are the affected nations, including the governments of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Nigeria.

Oxfam called on the G7 countries to provide its fair share of funding. So far, they have provided 1.7 billion dollars, just under 60 percent of their fair share. Meanwhile, only 30 percent of a 6.3-billion-dollar UN appeal for all four countries has been funded. If each G7 country contributed its fair share, almost half of the appeal would be funded, Oxfam estimates.

In 2015, the G7 committed to lift 500 million people out of hunger and malnutrition. Oxfam noted that they should thus uphold their commitments and focus on crisis prevention.

However, some of the G77 nations’ actions do not bode well for accelerated action on famine.

For instance, the U.S. government has proposed significant cuts to foreign assistance, including a 30 percent decrease in funding for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The proposal also includes the elimination of Title II For Peace, a major USAID food aid program, which would mean the loss of over 1.7 billion dollars of food assistance.

Former US Foreign Disaster Assistance chief Jeremy Konyndyk noted that the cuts are “catastrophic.” “So bad I fear I’m misreading it,” he added.

International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) President David Miliband highlighted the importance of continuing U.S. foreign assistance in order to alleviate humanitarian suffering abroad and protect the interests and security of the U.S. and its allies.

“Global threats like Ebola and ISIS grow out of poverty, instability, and bad governance. Working to counteract these with a forward-leaning foreign aid policy doesn’t just mean saving lives today, but sparing the US and its allies around the world the much more difficult, expensive work of combating them tomorrow,” he stated.

President Trump also called for the elimination of the U.S. African Development Foundation which provides grants to underserved communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, and has suggested cutting funds to climate change programs such as the UN’s Green Climate Fund which aims to help vulnerable developing nations combat climate change.

Meanwhile, UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May has already abolished its climate change department.

In addition to scaling up humanitarian funding, G7 nations must commit to fund longer-term solutions that build resilience and improve food security to avoid large-scale disasters, Oxfam stated. This includes action on climate change, “no excuses,” said Oxfam.

President Trump is expected to announce whether the U.S. will remain in the Paris climate agreement after the G7 summit.

“History shows that when donors fail to act on early warnings of potential famine, the consequence can be a large-scale, devastating loss of life….now clear warnings have again been issued,” Oxfam stated.

“The international community have the power to end such failures—if they choose to—by marshaling international logistics and a humanitarian response network to work sustainably with existing local systems to prevent famine and address conflict, governance, and climate change drivers,” Oxfam concluded.

The G7 summit is hosted by Sicily, Italy and will be held from 26-27 May.

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Why the G7 Must Fund Health & Nutritionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/why-the-g7-must-fund-health-nutrition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-the-g7-must-fund-health-nutrition http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/why-the-g7-must-fund-health-nutrition/#comments Thu, 25 May 2017 21:42:57 +0000 Grace Virtue http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150593 Grace Virtue, Ph.D., is a social justice advocate and senior communications advisor for ACTION global health partnership. ]]> flags_

By Grace Virtue
TAORMINA, Italy, May 25 2017 (IPS)

The G7 Summit, held annually among the leaders of the world’s most powerful economies (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the EU), plays an important role in shaping responses to global challenges—theoretically at least.

The format of the Summit continues to be modeled off the first one, held in 1975 when French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing invited his counterparts to an informal meeting in Rambouillet to discuss the economic crisis triggered by the oil shock of 1973–1974. Leaders adopt a relaxed approach, discussing candidly the main issues on the international agenda.

Their aides (the so-called Sherpas) draft a joint declaration which is signed by the leaders and enshrined as high-level political pledges. Before and during, the Sherpas are lobbied fiercely by civil society trying to get their issues of concern in the joint communiqué released by the Summit.

This year’s Summit begins May 26 in Taormina, Italy. It is arguably one of the most charged and uncertain atmosphere for a meeting of traditional western democratic political leaders. The United States, which normally plays a leading role, is hamstrung by its government, led by Republican President Donald Trump, who, among his many challenges, is currently under investigation by his own law enforcement agencies to determine whether his campaign was complicit in Russian interference in the general election of 2016, which landed him a shock victory over former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee.

Outside of ethical and perhaps legal challenges, Trump, since his inauguration in January, has unleashed a set of policy proposals deliberately targeted at rolling back social justice gains under Barack Obama, his predecessor and even before. From proposed cuts to signature programs like the Affordable Care Act and food stamps for needy families, and hostile policies toward immigrants, the administration’s programs are causing deep uncertainty and anxiety at home and abroad. Trump’s lack of interest and understanding of the outside world, rounds off a list of flaws that justifies completely questions about his capacity or suitability to lead the free world toward any progressive end.

This year’s summit also comes with the shadow of Brexit—the United Kingdom’s decision to exit the European Union; a French President, the youngest in the country’s history and a mere three weeks in his presidency; looming elections in the UK and Germany; a continued migrant crisis as desperate people flee wars and famines in Africa and the Middle East, and this week’s horrific terrorist attack in Manchester, England. Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity like we have not seen since the height of the Cold War, are the watchword of this G7 Summit.

So, when the leaders gather at their hilltop hideaway tomorrow, there is much that is new and worrying to be discussed and great energy will likely be consumed navigating these new and unpredictable dynamics. This does not augur well for those concerns that are so devastating but so old and entrenched, that they are not news anymore—no longer sexy enough grab the headlines, if they ever were. I speak here of diseases of poverty like tuberculosis and chronic starvation and malnutrition in parts of Africa.

In 2015, 10.4 million people were sickened with TB; 1.8 million of them died—more than HIV and malaria combined. Tuberculosis is the world’s only airborne drug-resistant epidemic and is responsible for one-third of the world’s antimicrobial resistance (AMR) deaths. By 2050, estimates show drug-resistant TB (DR-TB) will claim an additional 75 million lives at a global economic cost of US$16.7 trillion.

Since its establishment in 2002 by G7 countries, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) has saved more than 20 million lives through its support for AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria programs in countries and communities most in need. Vulnerable communities, including migrants and refugees, are at increased risk of diseases like TB and HIV/AIDS because of overcrowded living and working conditions, poor nutrition, and lack of access to care. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which all G7 countries signed on to, called for the eradication of HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria by 2030.

To achieve this, G7 leaders must continue to invest in the Global Fund. Concerned civil society groups like ACTION global health partnership in Taormina advocating to the end, are hoping they will. Other major ask of G7 leadership include accelerated efforts to eradicate malnutrition and ensure proper nutrients for every child, particularly in the first 1000 days of life. Coupled with the inability to access proper healthcare by the world’s poorest people, malnutrition is one of the greatest barrier to human development and global prosperity

It is obvious that there are many complicated issues facing the G7 leaders, but, investing in health and nutrition should not be controversial—it should be fundamental.

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Africa – More than Just Conflicts, Corruption, Disastershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/africa-more-than-just-conflicts-corruption-disasters/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-more-than-just-conflicts-corruption-disasters http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/africa-more-than-just-conflicts-corruption-disasters/#comments Thu, 25 May 2017 13:17:05 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150587 A woman in El Fasher, North Darfur, uses a Water Roller for easily and efficiently carrying water. Credit: UN Photo/Albert Gonzalez Farran.

A woman in El Fasher, North Darfur, uses a Water Roller for easily and efficiently carrying water. Credit: UN Photo/Albert Gonzalez Farran.

By IPS World Desk
ROME, May 25 2017 (IPS)

Natural and man-made disasters, armed conflicts, widespread corruption and deep social inequalities have been so far a dramatic source for most news coverage when it comes to Africa, the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent on Earth, which hosts 54 states spreading over 30 million square kilometres that are home to over 1.2 billion people.

Nevertheless, an often neglected fact is that this vast continent with huge natural resources –which have been systematically depleted by private –and also in cases, state-owned corporations— registered an economic growth of around 4 per cent in 2014, “creating one of the longest stretches of uninterrupted positive economic expansion in Africa’s history,” according to the United Nations.

As a result, a growing number of Africans have joined the middle class each year.

May 25 has marked Africa Day, an annual commemoration of the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on that very same date on 1963, when 32 independent African states signed the founding charter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In 2002, the OAU became the African Union.

Just three weeks ahead of Africa Day, a new UN atlas charting data from 54 African countries revealed the continent’s energy potential; showing that investment in renewable energy would strengthen its economic advancement.

Credit: United Nations

Credit: United Nations

“The Atlas makes a strong case that investments in green energy infrastructure can bolster Africa’s economic development and bring it closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” said Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, Director and Regional Representative of the Africa Office for the Nairobi-based UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

As such, she continued, it is an important policy guide for African governments as they strive to catalyse national development by making use of their energy resources.

The Atlas of Africa Energy Resources, released by UNEP and the African Development Bank at the World Economic Forum in Durban, South Africa, shows both the potential and the fragility of the continent’s energy resources, which are at the heart of Africa’s socio-economic development.

While Africa is richly endowed with both renewable and non-renewable energy resources, its current energy production is insufficient to meet demand, it says, adding that about a third Africa’s population still lacks access to electricity and 53 per cent of the population depends on biomass for cooking, space heating and drying.

According to UNEP, energy consumption on the continent is the lowest in the world, and per capita consumption has barely changed since 2000.

The poorest African households spend 20 times more per unit of energy than wealthy households when connected to the grid. A kettle boiled twice by a family in the United Kingdom uses five times as much electricity as a Malian uses in a year, UNEP reported.

The Big Challenges

According to the United Nations, climate change poses a significant threat to economic, social and environmental development in Africa. “There is strong evidence that warming in Africa has increased significantly over the past 50 to 100 years, with clear effects on the health, livelihoods and food security of people in Africa.”

Then comes corruption, which remains the “most daunting challenge” to good governance, sustainable economic growth, peace, stability and development in Africa, according to the international organisation.

Africa is richly endowed with energy resources, both renewable and non-renewable. The poorest African households spend 20 times more per unit of energy than wealthy households when connected to the grid. Credit: UNEP

Africa is richly endowed with energy resources, both renewable and non-renewable. The poorest African households spend 20 times more per unit of energy than wealthy households when connected to the grid. Credit: UNEP


“While corruption is a global phenomenon, the impact is felt more in poor and underdeveloped countries, where resources for development are unduly diverted into private hands, which exacerbates poverty. In many corruption perception surveys, Africa is perceived as the most corrupt region in the world, as well as the most underdeveloped and backward region…”

All this amidst the dramatic fact that Africa is also home to around half if the more than 4o conflicts worldwide, from South Sudan to Nigeria through Somalia.

The challenges posed by protracted conflicts and longstanding disputes on the African continent has been a major focus for the international community. In fact, already in 1960 the first peacekeeping operation in Africa was deployed in the Republic of the Congo to ensure the withdrawal of Belgian forces and to assist the government in maintaining law and order.

Since then thousands of peacekeepers have been deployed in nearly 30 peacekeeping operations to African countries, including Angola, Mozambique, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Burundi and Sudan, and the Central African Republic, among others.

Decolonisation, Women Advancement

Another often-neglected fact is that at the end of World War II in 1945, nearly every country in Africa was subject to colonial rule or administration. Following the founding of the UN in 1945 and its massive decolonisation effort, Africa is now virtually free from colonial rule. In 2011 South Sudan became Africa’s newest country when it gained independence from the rest of Sudan.

Meantime, it would be needed to remind that in 11 African countries, women hold close to one-third of the seats in parliaments. Rwanda has the highest proportion of women parliamentarians in the world, according to the UN. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest regional female entrepreneurial activity rate in the world, with nearly a third of businesses having some female ownership.

Africa’s Agenda 2063

An additional fact is that in January 2015 the heads of state and governments of the African Union adopted Agenda 2063, with visions and ideals aiming at serving as pillars for the continent in the foreseeable future.

“The Agenda is a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years. Its builds on, and seeks to accelerate the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development,” according to the Africa Union (AU).

The guiding vision for Agenda 2063 is that of “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in international arena,” the AU states.

The seven “African Aspirations”, which were derived through a consultative process with the African Citizenry, are: a prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development; an integrated continent, politically united, based on the ideals of Pan Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance, and an Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.

Also a peaceful and Secure Africa; Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics, an Africa whose development is people driven, relying on the potential offered by people, especially its women and youth and caring for children, and an Africa as a strong, united, resilient and influential global player and partner.

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Nutrition Key to Developing Africa’s “Grey Matter Infrastructure”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/nutrition-key-to-developing-africas-grey-matter-infrastructure/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nutrition-key-to-developing-africas-grey-matter-infrastructure http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/nutrition-key-to-developing-africas-grey-matter-infrastructure/#comments Wed, 24 May 2017 21:56:57 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150577 AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina adressing delegates at the nutrition event while Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, World Food Prize Foundation, listens. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina adressing delegates at the nutrition event while Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, World Food Prize Foundation, listens. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
AHMEDABAD, India, May 24 2017 (IPS)

Developing Africa’s ‘grey matter infrastructure’ through multi-sector investments in nutrition has been identified as a game changer for Africa’s sustainable development.

Experts here at the 2017 African Development Bank’s Annual Meetings say investing in physical infrastructure alone cannot help Africa to move forward without building brainpower.“We can’t say Africa is rising when half of our children are stunted.” --Muhammad Ali Pate

“We can repair a bridge, we know how to do that, we can fix a port, we know how to do it, we can fix a rail, we know how to do that, but we don’t know how to fix brain cells once they are gone, that’s why we need to change our approach to dealing with nutrition matters in Africa,” said AfDB President, Akinwumi Adesina, pointing out that stunting alone costs Africa 25 billion dollars annually.

Malnutrition – the cause of half of child deaths worldwide – continues to rob generations of Africans of the chance to grow to their full physical and cognitive potential, hugely impacting not only health outcomes, but also economic development.

Malnutrition is unacceptably high on the continent, with 58 million or 36 percent of children under the age of five chronically undernourished (suffering from stunting)—and in some countries, as many as one out of every two children suffer from stunting. The effects of stunting are irreversible, impacting the ability of children’s bodies and brains to grow to their full potential.

On a panel discussion Developing Africa’s Grey Matter Infrastructure: Addressing Africa’s Nutrition Challenges” moderated by IFPRI’s Rajul Pandya-Lorch, experts highlighted the importance of urgently fighting the scourge of malnutrition.

Laura Landis of the World Food Programme (WFP) said the cost of inaction is dramatic. “We have to make an economic argument on why we need action,” she said. “The WFP is helping, in cooperation with the African Union and the AfDB, to collect the data that gets not just the Health Minister moving, but also Heads of State or Ministers of Finance.”

The idea is to get everyone involved and not leave nutrition to agriculture and/or health ministries alone. And panelists established that there is indeed a direct link between productivity and growth of the agriculture sector and improved nutrition.

Baffour Agyeman of the John Kuffuor Foundation puts it simply: “It has become evident that it is the quality of food and not the quantity thereof that is more important,” calling for awareness not to end at high level conferences but get to the grassroots.

Assisting African governments to build strong and robust economies is accordingly a key priority for the AfDB. But recognizing the potential that exists in the continent’s vast human capital, the bank included nutrition as a focus area under its five operational priorities – the High 5s.

And to mobilise support at the highest level, the African Leaders for Nutrition (ALN) initiative was launched last year, bringing together Heads of State committed to ending malnutrition in their countries.

As a key partner of this initiative, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation foresees improved accountability with such an initiative in place. “ALN is a way to make the fight against malnutrition a central development issue that Ministers of Finance and Heads of State take seriously and hold all sectors accountable for,” said Shawn Baker, Nutrition Director at the Foundation.

However, African Ministers of Finance want to see better coordination and for governments to play a leading role in such initiatives to achieve desired results. “Cooperation and coordination are key between government and development partners,” said Sierra Leone’s Finance and Economic Development Minister Momodu Kargbo. “Development partners disregard government systems when implementing programmes whereas they should align and carefully regard existing government institutions and ways of working.”

Notwithstanding the overarching theme of Africa rising, Muhammad Ali Pate, CEO of Big Win Philanthropy, says, “We can’t say Africa is rising when half of our children are stunted.” He pointed out the need to close the mismatch between the continent’s sustained GDP growth and improved livelihood of its people.

With the agreed global SDG agenda, Gerda Verburg, Scaling Up Nutrition Movement Coordinator sees nutrition as a core of achieving the goals. “Without better nutrition you will not end poverty, without better nutrition you will not end gender inequality, without better nutrition you will not improve health, find innovative approaches, or peace and stability, better nutrition is the core,” she says.

Therefore, developing Grey Matter Infrastructure is key to improving the quality of life for the people of Africa. But it won’t happen without leadership to encourage investments in agriculture and nutrition, and more importantly, resource mobilization for this purpose.

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Mideast: Growing Urbanisation Worsens Water Scarcity, Food Importshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/mideast-growing-urbanisation-worsens-water-scarcity-food-imports/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mideast-growing-urbanisation-worsens-water-scarcity-food-imports http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/mideast-growing-urbanisation-worsens-water-scarcity-food-imports/#comments Wed, 24 May 2017 13:47:29 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150566 Egyptian countryside south of Luxor, Egypt. In the background: the village of Al Bayadiyah. Photo: Marc Ryckaert (MJJR). Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Egyptian countryside south of Luxor, Egypt. In the background: the village of Al Bayadiyah. Photo: Marc Ryckaert (MJJR). Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 24 2017 (IPS)

Conflict and insecurity remain the key barriers to development progress in the Middle East and North Africa. In Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, about half the population—around 40 million people—require humanitarian assistance. Across the region, countries depend heavily on food imports. As their populations urbanise and grow, the need for imports will increase.

These are some of the Middle East and North of Africa related key findings of the 2017 Global Food Policy Report, which was issued by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) on 24 May at an international experts meeting in Cairo.

Dealing with the major challenges facing the Middle East and North of Africa (MENA) social and economic development, the Cairo international experts seminar focused on food import dependency in a region rife with population growth, urbanisation and conflict.

Organised by IFPRI and the Faculty of Economics and Political Science of Cairo University under the theme “Rapid Urbanisation Challenges Food Security in Egypt” the meeting examined the situation in Egypt.

Clemens Breisinger

Clemens Breisinger

In an interview to IPS, Clemens Breisinger, economist and senior research fellow based in IFPRI’s Cairo office, said that rapidly growing populations and the related increase in food consumption are likely to increase MENA countries’ dependence on food imports.

Countries with sizable agriculture sectors, such as Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, and Tunisia, generally have a low food import dependency ratio of between 10 and 20 per cent—that is, food imports account for 10 to 20 per cent of food consumption, he said.

Food Imports Dependency

Nevertheless, the food imports dependency ratio of all other MENA countries exceeds 30 per cent, with Iraq, Mauritania, Oman, and Yemen reaching about 50 per cent, and Gulf countries such as Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates reaching up to 70 per cent, said Breisinger.

According to the researcher, scope remains for increasing agricultural output in the region—but additional land and water resources for crop production are limited; climate change is expected to reduce crop yields; and fast-growing cities are encroaching on (often fertile) agricultural land.

“To ensure future food security, MENA countries should be prepared to import more food from international markets in the near future.”

Asked about the growing water challenges in the region, Breisinger said to IPS that water scarcity is projected to get much more severe in MENA, but there are technical and policy options to avoid disaster.

The food security challenges place an added burden on the available water sources over and above the higher demand brought about by population increases, he said, while informing that by 2050, projections show that global per capita renewable water resources will fall by 25 per cent.

“These pressures vary greatly across different regions of the world. In the Middle East and North Africa, further declines, estimated from 778 m3 to 506 m3 per capita per year, are expected to severely constrain livelihoods and economic development.”

According to Breisinger, possible solutions to mitigate climate change impact on water scarcity include: increasing water use efficiency, and investing in alternative sources of water.

The former can be achieved through investing in improved irrigation schemes and improving wastewater reuse, while the latter includes investing more in desalination technology, water harvesting, groundwater extraction, he explained.

Breisinger added that the share of people living in urban areas is projected to overtake the share living in rural areas in most MENA countries by 2030—with the notable exceptions of Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

“In combination with population growth and rising incomes, urbanisation can be expected to increase the demand for processed foods. This likely trend provides an opportunity for agroindustry-led economic transformation in the MENA region to generate employment opportunities, improve food security, and reduce poverty.”

Credit: IFPRI

Credit: IFPRI

The Double Burden of Malnutrition

Asked about the “the double burden of malnutrition” in MENA, i.e. “over-and-under-nutrition,” he said this has been particularly prevalent in middle-income countries and especially those in the region.

“Egypt faces relatively more pronounced instances of the double burden of malnutrition than other developing countries. For instance, almost every third Egyptian child under five years of age is chronically undernourished, while 78 per cent of all (non-pregnant) ever-married women 15–49 years of age are overweight.”

According to the researcher, addressing these challenges through the reform of existing policies and programs can be expected to make a critical contribution to accelerating the country’s economic and social development.

Economic and Social Safety Net Reforms in Egypt

Many of the economic challenges that Egypt is facing today have for decades been deeply rooted in the country, he said. “To tackle these longstanding issues, such as slow progress in economic diversification and persistently high levels of unemployment and poverty, Egypt recently embarked on a historic economic reform process.”

The year 2016 witnessed several of these reforms, including the imposition of a value-added tax (in August 2016), the floatation of the Egyptian pound (in November 2016), and further reductions in energy subsidies (in November 2016, following the 2014 partial removal of the subsidy,) explained Breisinger.

The Egyptian government estimates current population growth rate of 2.4 per cent, which is double the average of other developing countries. Much of that growth is concentrated in urban areas, with the Cairo metropolitan area expected to grow by half a million people by the end of 2017, more than any other city in the world.

In addition, armed conflict and drought in the region are exacerbating the challenges high growth and urbanisation bring, by adding displaced migrants and refugees to some of the country’s most vulnerable populations, according to the report.

IFPRI was established in 1975 to identify and analyse alternative national and international strategies and policies for meeting the food needs of the developing world, with particular emphasis on low-income countries and on the poorer groups. It is member of CGIAR, a worldwide partnership engaged in agricultural research for development.

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Menstrual Health and Vitality: Breaking the Silence, Stemming the Floodhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/menstrual-health-and-vitality-breaking-the-silence-stemming-the-flood/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=menstrual-health-and-vitality-breaking-the-silence-stemming-the-flood http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/menstrual-health-and-vitality-breaking-the-silence-stemming-the-flood/#comments Tue, 23 May 2017 21:17:36 +0000 Archana Patkar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150541 Archana Patkar is Programme Manager on Equality & Non-Discrimination at the UN Water and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)]]> Students from Great Horizon Secondary School in Uganda's rural Kyakayege village pose proudly with their re-usable menstrual pads after a reproductive health presentation at their school. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

Students from Great Horizon Secondary School in Uganda's rural Kyakayege village pose proudly with their re-usable menstrual pads after a reproductive health presentation at their school. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

By Archana Patkarv
GENEVA, May 23 2017 (IPS)

Menstruation matters to everyone, everywhere. But it still matters so much more to women and girls, who have historically been asked to bleed in stoic silence so that no one even knows they have their period.

It is slowly but surely becoming socially acceptable to start talking about periods, a biological fact as old as womankind itself— even as the United Nations commemorates Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28.

Society is finally coming of age and suddenly everyone is coming out about their vaginas.

At the Women Deliver conference in 2016, Jessica Biel bemoaned the world’s reluctance to talk openly about women’s bodies. “[Body talk is] very shameful, and that’s the problem — why is it so shameful?” she asked. “I feel completely embarrassed talking about this stuff, even with my gynecologist, and why is that? It makes no sense. I am here because I want to pull the stigmas off female reproductive everything.”

For every celebrity willing to break the silence, slow and steady web chatter is successfully whittling down those deep prejudices and walls that we have built at the intersection of multiple biases. Take male sexual identity and preference and add a monthly period to it, and what do you get? Even transgender guys have to deal with their periods at some point or another. And yet, it’s not something we talk about — most of us are ashamed. This shows that silence and shame are not the prerogative of the feminine. Stigma and shame also creep into men’s worlds all the time and everywhere.

In order to truly break the silence and ensure that periods are moved from the shameful to the shared, we must do more than stem the flow, we can actually run with it, red with glory. Musician and activist Kiran Gandhi recently ran the London Marathon in 2015 while bleeding freely .

Fu Yuanhui, a Chinese swimmer who finished fourth in the women’s 4X100 metres medley relay at the Rio Olympics, made headlines for telling the world she was on her period. The more we are open about it, the more normal it will be, but it will take more than a handful of celebrities to spread the word.

So why this personal blood rush? In 2004, perplexed by the reluctance and deep resistance to speaking the ‘M’ word, I thought long and hard of a practical, action oriented entry point to simply take stock of who was finally talking about menstruation in their day to day work? What was preventing us from doing something about this shocking silence and injustice? How could we continue to see girls stay away from school, just because they had their monthly period?

I coined the term Menstrual Hygiene and Management as a practical mix of information and practices that would together could ensure a safe and dignified menstrual period. Fast forward to a fabulous confluence of evidence and action, champions, policies and practices, media, and businesses that have joined in to break the silence and stigma on periods.

United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore reminds us that the denial of rights is a learned behavior, and therefore can just as easily all be unlearned. This won’t be easy. Centuries of silence, shame, restriction, coercion and injustice will need to be banished from our psyches. Is every teacher, parent and peer listening? Can we make sure that we unlearn these stereotypes without building new silos in their stead?

The development community is used to working in strict boxes – some ‘do’ HIV; some do ‘gender’ and others ‘do’ WASH, health, education, jobs, or sexual reproductive rights. Instead, let’s do away with all prejudice, amnesia and blindness.

Human beings come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. Coming out of the ‘bloody closet’ is a pathway for us all to talk more about our bodies in all their glory and therefore with all the intendant travails. Maybe we can better acknowledge the leaky closet, together with the wonders of stress incontinence during pregnancy or post-menopausal leakages?

Maybe we can add a healthy dose of fresh, clean mindsets at home, and have open conversations around the intimate and the personal. And maybe, since this requires no special funding, no projects, no extraordinary professional training or academic rigour and since it is so super simple—maybe, just maybe we can embrace humanity in its glorious diversity for generations to come.

Whether in sign language or braille, Wolof or Mandarin, it is not difficult to take the pledge, break the silence, and make sure that we replace the stigma and shame of menstruation with dignity and pride.

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The ‘Public’ in Public Healthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/the-public-in-public-health/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-public-in-public-health http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/the-public-in-public-health/#comments Mon, 22 May 2017 22:08:43 +0000 Vani Kulkarni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150532 Vani S. Kulkarni teaches Sociology at University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia]]> hospital2

By Vani S. Kulkarni
PHILADELPHIA, May 22 2017 (IPS)

 

The discourse must move beyond a top-down approach to listen to the people and formulate best insurance practices

Much ink has been spilled in documenting the inadequacy of budgetary allocations for public health insurance, specifically for the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), the world’s largest publicly-funded health insurance (PFHI) scheme. Though the 2017-18 budget allocation has marginally increased from last year’s revised estimates, it has declined relative to last year’s budgeted amount by about ₹500 crore. However, higher budgetary allocation can only constitute a small part of the solution to the scheme’s mixed, if not lacklustre, performance.

Vani S. Kulkarni

Vani S. Kulkarni

Under the scheme, a Below Poverty Line (BPL) family of five is entitled to more than 700 treatments and procedures at government-set prices, for an annual enrolment fee of ₹30. However, even nine years after its implementation, it has failed to cover a large number of targeted families — almost three-fifths of them. Their exclusion has been due to factors like the prevalent discrimination against disadvantaged groups; a lack of mandate on insurance companies to achieve higher enrolment rates; and an absence of oversight by government agencies.

Increase in hospitalisation
True, there has been a substantial increase in hospitalisation rates. However, it is unclear if it has enabled people to access the genuinely needed, and hitherto unaffordable, inpatient care. Often, doctors and hospitals have colluded in performing unnecessary surgical procedures on patients to claim insurance money. For instance, hospitals have claimed reimbursements worth millions of rupees for conducting hysterectomies on thousands of unsuspecting, poor women. Indeed, in the absence of regulations and standards, perverse incentives are created for empanelled hospitals to conduct surgeries. It is thus not surprising that there is no robust evidence of an improvement in health outcomes.

Evidence on the financial protection front is conflicting as well. One study revealed that poorer households in districts exposed to the RSBY and other PFHIs recorded an increase in out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditures for hospital care, and a corresponding rise in incidence of catastrophic expenditure. There is near-consensus that the RSBY has resulted in higher OOP expenditures. Though it is a cashless scheme, many users are exploited by unscrupulous hospital staff.

So, what is the solution? There is a need to bring the ‘public’ back into the discourse on public health to highlight its present culture. The conversation needs to move beyond a top-down approach specifying budget allocation and administrative and technical efficiency. It needs to involve listening to the real public to deliberate on various health practices and policies.

My ethnographic study of the RSBY in Kalaburagi and Mysuru districts between 2014 and 2016 brought to light that a top-down approach on allocation and coverage was important but, by itself, did not translate to expected outcomes. What mattered more was the existing culture of health insurance — how it was perceived, practised and experienced in the everyday, local worlds of the enrolled households. Though they valued aspects like the money available and the number of illnesses covered, they were more deeply affected by how other actors — doctors, local officials, neighbours and even relatives — related to health insurance.

Card not accepted
The disillusionment of Savitri, one of the beneficiaries, after obtaining the plastic card said it all: “If public officials only give us the card without telling us how to use it, the card is just plastic material. Sometimes information is also not correct, making us feel that the card is of no real value if we do not know how to use it.” Further, many hospitals refused to acknowledge the card’s value. Shivakumar’s observation summed it well: “We went to the hospital with the card. Not only could it not be used but also the doctors did not even acknowledge us as patients… We just brought the card home and tossed it to the shelf.” Many bemoaned the absence of public debate on health issues and the RSBY card. Deva’s pithy response was illustrative: “If it is not talked about and debated, we can only think that there is no big value that we should pay attention to.”

Households clearly separated the economic value from social ones. A section saw health insurance as a bad omen, one that announced arrival of illness. Ramesh Kumar, among those in his neighbourhood who refused to enrol, explained: “This card is not a solution for illness, it is a cause of it. You see, when you people knock on our doors to give us the card, it feels like an illness is knocking on our doors. The farther away we are from the card, the further we are from health problems.”

Overall, while the discourse on a greater allocation to RSBY and enhancement of cost-effectiveness are important, a shift of emphasis is needed, bringing the ‘public’ back into the sphere of public health.

The oped first appeared in The Hindu.

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Africa and India – Sharing the Development Journeyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/africa-and-india-sharing-the-development-journey/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-and-india-sharing-the-development-journey http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/africa-and-india-sharing-the-development-journey/#comments Fri, 19 May 2017 06:40:13 +0000 Akinwumi Adesina http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150475 Akinwumi Adesina, is President of the African Development Bank]]> Djibouti Port. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Djibouti Port. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By Akinwumi Adesina
ABIDJAN, Côte d'Ivoire, May 19 2017 (IPS)

Africa, like India, is a continent of rich and compelling diversity. Both continents share a similar landscape, a shared colonial history, and similar economic and demographic challenges. This helps both India and Africa work especially well with each other.

This cooperation is both a mutual privilege and priority. At the end of the 2015 India-Africa Forum Summit, Indian Prime Minister Modi announced very substantial credits and grant assistance which benefitted our relationship. In addition to an India-Africa Development Fund, an India-Africa Health Fund and 50,000 scholarships for African students in India were established.

India’s bilateral trade with Africa has risen five-fold in the last decade, from $11.9 billion in 2005-6 to $56.7 billion in 2015-16. It is expected to reach $100 billion by 2018. This is attributed largely to initiatives by India’s private sector, and here again we are on the same wave length. We understand and appreciate that the private sector will be the critical element in Africa’s transformation.

African countries are targeted by Indian investors due to their high-growth markets and mineral rich reserves. India is the fifth largest country investing in Africa, with investments over the past 20 years amounting to $54 billion, 19.2% of all its total Foreign Direct Investment.

Akinwumi Adesina

Akinwumi Adesina

At the same time a transformed Africa is taking shape. Despite a tough global economic environment, African countries continue to be resilient. Their economies, on average, grew by 2.2% in 2016, and are expected to rise to 3.4% this year. But the average does not tell the true picture. Indeed, 14 African countries grew by over 5% in 2016 and 18 countries grew between 3-5%. That’s a remarkable performance in a period when the global environment has been impeded by recession.

By 2050, Africa will have roughly the same population as China and India combined today, with high consumer demand from a growing middle class and nearly a billion ambitious and hard-working young people. The cities will be booming, as the populations (and economic expectations) rise exponentially around the continent.

This is the busy and bustling future that Africa and India must shape together in a strategic partnership. And nowhere is this partnership more needed than on the issue of infrastructure.

At the top of the list is power and electricity. Some 645 million Africans do not have access to electricity. It’s why the African Development Bank launched the New Deal on Energy for Africa in 2016. Our goal is to help achieve universal access to electricity within ten years. We will invest $12 billion in the energy sector over the next five years and leverage $45-50 billion from the private sector. We plan to connect 130 million people to the grid system, 75 million people through off grid systems and provide 150 million people with access to clean cooking energy.

India’s bilateral trade with Africa has risen five-fold in the last decade, from $11.9 billion in 2005-6 to $56.7 billion in 2015-16. It is expected to reach $100 billion by 2018.
The African Development Bank is also in the vanguard of renewable energy development and the remarkable “off-grid revolution” in Africa. We host the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative, jointly developed with the African Union, which has already attracted $10 billion in investment commitments from G7 countries.

Universal access requires large financial investments. By some estimates, Africa needs $43-$55 billion per year until the 2030s, compared to current energy investments of about $8-$9.2 billion.

We must close this gap. And to do so, the mobilization of domestic resources will play a major role. Pension funds in Africa will reach $1.3 trillion by 2025. Already tax revenues have exceeded $500 billion per year. Sovereign wealth funds in Africa stand at $164 billion.

To attract significant investment by institutional investors, infrastructure should become an asset class. The African Development Bank has launched Africa50, a new infrastructure entity, now capitalized by African countries at over $865 million, to help accelerate infrastructure project development and project finance. Also, later this year, the African Development Bank will be launching the ‘Africa Investment Forum’ to leverage African and global pension and sovereign wealth funds into investments in Africa.

Moreover, the African business environment keeps improving, with easier regulations and more conducive government policies to attract the global investors. In 2015, Africa alone accounted for more than 30% of the business regulatory reforms in the world.

The fact is, we have already started to transform Africa. This is the territory of the High 5s: Light up and Power Africa; Feed Africa; Industrialize Africa; Integrate Africa; and Improve the Quality of life of Africans.

We can forge winning partnerships investing in power generation, energy, agro-aligned industrialisation and food processing. In doing so we can work on the synergies that exist between infrastructure, regional integration, the regulation of enterprises, employment, health and innovation.

In each of these areas I see the prospect for cooperation and collaboration with Indian partners. For example, we are partnering with the EXIM Bank of India and others to establish the Kukuza, a company based in Mauritius, to help develop and support public-private partnership (PPP) infrastructure project development and finance.

India is already one of the top bidders for Bank projects. This is a reflection of its immense expertise in a diverse range of areas from engineering to education; from ICT to railway development; skills development to regional integration; and from manufacturing to industrialisation.

It is our pleasure to partner with such an inveterate and committed investor in Africa. And may this investment be lucrative and justified, and may our mutual interest and cooperation continue for many years to come.

Dr Akinwumi Adesina is President of the African Development Bank. The 2017 AfDB Annual Meetings will be held in Ahmedabad, India, 22-26 May.

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Genetically Engineered Disappointmentshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/genetically-engineered-disappointments/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=genetically-engineered-disappointments http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/genetically-engineered-disappointments/#comments Tue, 16 May 2017 14:15:50 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Tan Zhai Gen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150437 Jomo Kwame Sundaram is a former economics professor who served as a senior UN official during 2005-2015. Tan Zhai Gen is an University of Oxford biochemistry graduate currently involved in research. Both are Malaysians.]]> While US agribusiness has long claimed that GMOs will “save the world”, there has been little compelling evidence to this effect after two decades. Credit: IPS

While US agribusiness has long claimed that GMOs will “save the world”, there has been little compelling evidence to this effect after two decades. Credit: IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Tan Zhai Gen
KUALA LUMPUR , May 16 2017 (IPS)

Advocates of genetically engineered (GE) crops have long claimed that genetic engineering is necessary to raise crop yields and reduce human exposure to agrochemicals. Genetic engineering promised two major improvements: improving yields affordably to feed the world, and making crops resistant to pests to reduce the use of commercial chemical herbicides and insecticides.

Genetic modification of crops through natural evolution or artificial crossbreeding has been happening for millennia, giving rise to more productive or resilient crop species. Thus, the term ‘genetic engineering’ more accurately refers to the artificial introduction of genetic material to produce new GE varieties.

Trans-Atlantic divide

A report by the United States National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine – picked up by the New York Times – found that US GE crop yield gains have slowed over the years, leaving no significant advantage in yield gains compared to non-GE plant varieties. Over two decades ago, Western Europe largely rejected GE crops while North America – the United States and then Canada – embraced them. More than twenty years later, US crop yield gains are not significantly higher than in Western Europe.

Since the adoption of GE crops, US use of herbicides has increased. In the US, decreasing use of some herbicides has involved large increases in the use of glyphosate, a key ingredient in herbicides used for GE crop cultivation. This is in contrast to France, which bans GE crop cultivation, where overall use of herbicides has been reduced due to EU efforts.

Glyphosate-resistant GE crops survive herbicide spraying while killing non-resistant weeds. However, rising weed resistance to glyphosate has led to the application of larger doses. For example, although land planted with GE soybeans has grown by less than a third over the last two decades, herbicide use has doubled. Herbicide use for maize production was declining before the introduction of GE crops, but has increased since 2002.

Glyphosate was assessed as carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) under the World Health Organization. Some glyphosate-based herbicides also contain other more toxic herbicides – such as 2,4-D, a key ingredient in Agent Orange, the infamous Vietnam War defoliant – to increase their efficacy against resistant weeds.

Diversity declining
GE crops, typically with traits which tend to result in monoculture, have been promoted as more productive than non-GE crops. As farmers adopt GE crop varieties, others varieties are abandoned, and access to such seeds are increasingly in the hands of giant transnational seed companies rather than government facilities.

But when farmers lose confidence in GE crops or wish to turn to non-GE varieties for other reasons, they are no longer able to simply revert to their old non-GE varieties or to crossbreed them. Instead, they now need to buy seeds from these very same monopolistic transnational seed companies.

Similarly, the impact on ecological diversity, important for maintaining fragile ecosystems, cannot be underestimated. Biodiversity reduction fundamentally transforms ecosystems. Rich, diverse traditional farmer knowledge – of the use of plants and other natural resources to maintain soil and plant health, and to conserve water and other natural resources – is also being ignored in favour of ‘hi-tech’, genetically-engineered, agro-chemical and other ‘industrial’ solutions, which invariably engender new problems. For example, pesticides are intended to be toxic only to pests, but not to others, but most are carcinogenic or otherwise dangerous to human health.

While GE crops offer some benefits, unclear productivity advantages and rising pest resistance are reducing the edge it once claimed over conventionally developed crops. GE crops seem to be harmless, but there is still much uncertainty over their longer-term effects, including increased pesticide resistance and reduced diversity. The scientific ethic advising precaution in the face of uncertainty seems to have been abandoned in favour of profitable expediency, ostensibly to increase productivity and reduce agro-chemical reliance, neither of which have been achieved.

Corporate power growing
As many of the same corporations or conglomerates sell both GE seeds as well as the agro-chemicals needed to increase yields, the potential for other types of innovation is inevitably diminished. Recent mergers and acquisitions have further consolidated oligopolies selling both seeds and agrochemicals, exemplified by the acquisition bid for Monsanto by Bayer. Not surprisingly then, companies have less incentive to develop new traits, or to invest heavily in tackling other problems when greater pest resistance increases sales of their pesticides and overall profits.

All this is often justified in terms of the urgent need to feed the hundreds of millions of hungry people in the world. However, although there already is enough food being produced to feed everyone in the world, the real problem is one of access, as most of the hungry do not have the means to buy or produce the food they need.

Therefore, while US agribusiness has long claimed that GMOs will “save the world”, there has been little compelling evidence to this effect after two decades. Proponents select evidence to support their exaggerated claims that GE varieties meet many needs in different parts of the world, although their actual track records are much more modest and chequered.

Much of the resistance against GE crops is due to the interests and methods of the agribusiness transnationals dominating food production, both directly and indirectly through their control and promotion of seeds, agrochemicals, etc.

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Kenya’s Drought: Response Must Be Sustainable, Not Piecemealhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/kenyas-drought-response-must-be-sustainable-not-piecemeal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenyas-drought-response-must-be-sustainable-not-piecemeal http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/kenyas-drought-response-must-be-sustainable-not-piecemeal/#comments Mon, 15 May 2017 10:11:55 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150415 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator and the UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya.]]> Dabo Boru, 21, is a mother of three who trekked with her family to Badanrero from her home village of Ambato, 38 km away. They were forced to move here in order to save their cattle from dying of thirst and hunger due to drought. Credit: @unicefkenya

Dabo Boru, 21, is a mother of three who trekked with her family to Badanrero from her home village of Ambato, 38 km away. They were forced to move here in order to save their cattle from dying of thirst and hunger due to drought. Credit: @unicefkenya

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 15 2017 (IPS)

 

A malnutrition emergency

Food security in Kenya has deteriorated significantly since the end of 2016. UNICEF reports a significant increase in severe acute malnutrition. Nearly 110,000 children under-five need treatment, up from 75,300 in August 2016.

Waterholes and rivers have dried up, leading to widespread crop failure and livestock depletion. At the height of the drought, surface water in most counties had either dried up or its level dramatically reduced.

Consequently, within a year, the price of maize flour has risen by 31 per cent, milk by 12 and sugar by 21 per cent. These food price increases have driven inflation up from 9.04 per cent in February to 11.48 per cent in April. Many families are making do with just one meal in a day.

Conditions are dire in half of Kenya’s 47 counties. Livestock and milk production has declined, adversely affecting food consumption levels for communities, particularly women and children.

Malnutrition is widespread among children. In the hardest-hit counties of Turkana, Marsabit and Mandera, a third of children under 5 are acutely malnourished – double the emergency threshold. High malnutrition, when combined with an outbreak of cholera or measles, can lead to a surge in deaths among children and other vulnerable groups.

A child suffering from severe acute malnutrition receiving therapeutic milk at UNICEF-supported clinic in Loiyangalani, Marsabit County in Kenya. UNICEF in collaboration with partners is responding to the drought by providing urgently needed therapeutic feeding supplies. Credit: ©UNICEF Kenya/2017/Knowles-Coursin

A child suffering from severe acute malnutrition receiving therapeutic milk at UNICEF-supported clinic in Loiyangalani, Marsabit County in Kenya. UNICEF in collaboration with partners is responding to the drought by providing urgently needed therapeutic feeding supplies. Credit: ©UNICEF Kenya/2017/Knowles-Coursin


Underfunded response

We must urgently respond to this malnutrition crisis through treatment and prevention. Blanket supplementary feeding for young children and pregnant and lactating women can avert a catastrophic spike in mortality in the months ahead.

The World Food Programme (WFP) and partners have developed a US$30 million plan to intervene with blanket supplementary feeding in nine northern hotspots, but only 10 per cent of the required funds have been committed.

By the time the Government had declared drought a national disaster, over 2.6 million Kenyans were in urgent need of food aid. This figure will increase unless an appeal for US$166 million to support the most vulnerable is met; less than a third of that amount is available so far.

Don’t be fooled by the news of floods in recent weeks, this has done nothing to alleviate drought-induced malnutrition among children. Flooding is an indicator of poor infiltration resulting from lack of vegetation and soil degradation. This means that much water is flowing off the soil and too little is seeping in. We will face drought again before the onset of the short rains later this year.

Government efforts

President Uhuru Kenyatta declared a national drought disaster in February 2017 and committed US$128 million towards the national drought response.

The Government of Kenya has allocated resources for food aid and monthly cash transfers through its Hunger Safety Net Programme.

Its Livestock Insurance Programme offers a lifeline to affected pastoralists, enabling them to purchase animal feed to keep their herd alive during drought. In addition, offtake programmes are helping farmers to sell of their herds and restock as necessary when conditions improve.

These are commendable efforts but the number of people accessing such support is not enough, and the needs are fast outpacing the response.

Sustainable, not piecemeal

Climate scientists predict that weather patterns will continue to change. This will bring about more frequent, intense and widespread droughts and flash floods.

The vast majority of smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa are dependent on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihoods and are subject to the vagaries of the weather.

We need long-term solutions to alleviate the adverse impacts of climate change and unpredictable weather patterns.

We must build the resilience of communities and invest in agriculture and rural infrastructure. This includes turning away from dependency on rain-fed agriculture towards large-scale water harvesting and innovative irrigation systems.

Due to traditional farming practices, crop yields on the continent have about one-tenth the average productivity of Western farms. Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region where per capita food production is sadly falling. Areas in Somalia and coastal Kenya affected by the current drought have registered crop failure of 70 to 100 percent.

In richer countries, drought-resistant crop varieties have been developed to cope with water scarcity and other climate-induced shocks, including varieties of maize, cowpea and sorghum. A major hindrance to their adoption in East Africa is the weak legislative framework for registration and the lack of appropriate technologies.

Soil moisture management is becoming an increasingly important aspect of crop production. In partnership with the EU, WFP, IFAD and the Government of Kenya, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has a developed programme to promote conservation agriculture, but this approach must be scaled up. UNDP has created capacities for food production in Turkana County, slowly building community resilience and food security through irrigation. This has the potential to reduce dependence on rain fed agriculture and create practical models for scaling up through the northern frontier development council in Marsabit, Mandera, Wajir, Lamu, Tana river, Garissa and Isiolo Counties.

With advances in mobile technology, smallholders now have better tools to forecast impending crises. The Kenyan Government should work closely with communities to build resilience and put in place mitigation measures before the onset of large-scale crises. County governments, created mainly to bring services closer to citizens, are particularly suited to mapping out priorities and matching them with viable solutions.

For example a county like Turkana has the potential of not only being the breadbasket of Kenya, but a source for fresh water for all of Kenya for the next 70 years.

Turkana women water their banana field from the nearby River Turkwel. Credit: UNDP Kenya

Turkana women water their banana field from the nearby River Turkwel. Credit: UNDP Kenya


The international community can contribute to these efforts by\supporting and partnering with policymakers, researchers and local communities on the effective uses of forecasting and early warning early response mechanisms.

Piecemeal responses to climate-related emergencies can no longer suffice. We need sustainable solutions to effectively tackle drought and its devastating impacts on Kenya’s most vulnerable communities, particularly women and children.

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World Lags on Clean Energy Goalshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/world-lags-on-clean-energy-goals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-lags-on-clean-energy-goals http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/world-lags-on-clean-energy-goals/#comments Sun, 14 May 2017 23:51:12 +0000 Stephen Leahy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150409 At the current pace in 2030 there will still be one person in ten without electricity. Credit: Bigstock

At the current pace in 2030 there will still be one person in ten without electricity. Credit: Bigstock

By Stephen Leahy
VIENNA, May 14 2017 (IPS)

It may be the 21st century but more than three billion people still use fire for cooking and heating. Of those, one billion people have no access to electricity despite a global effort launched at the 2011 Vienna Energy Forum to bring electricity to everyone on the planet.

“We are not on track to meet our goal of universal access by 2030, which is also the Sustainable Development Goal for energy,” said Rachel Kyte, CEO for Sustainable Energy for All and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General.“Indoor air pollution has a bigger health impact than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.” --Vivien Foster

“We must all go further, faster—together,” Kyte told more than 1500 delegates and government ministers at the 2017 version of the biannual Vienna Energy Forum this week, organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

Kyte reminded everyone that the 2015 Sustainable Development Goal for energy (SDG 7) was a unanimous promise to bring decarbonized, decentralized energy to everyone and that this would transform the world bringing “clean air, new jobs, warm schools, clean buses, pumped water and better yields of nutritious food”.

Moreover, to prevent catastrophic climate change the world committed to net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 under the 2015 Paris Agreement, she said. “Why are we not moving more quickly?”

At the current pace in 2030 there will still be one person in ten without electricity, according to the Global Tracking Framework 2017 report. Most of those people will be in Africa.

In Chad, Niger, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of the Congo only one person in ten currently has access and this is falling as populations increase, said Elisa Portale , an energy economist at the World Bank who presented the report’s findings.

Although renewable energy like solar and wind gets a great deal of press and attention, the world is failing to meet the SDG target of decarbonizing 36 percent the global energy system and will only get to 21 percent by 2030. Currently it is about 18 percent since renewables include hydropower and biomass. A few countries managed to increase their renewable share by 1 percent per year but some others like Canada and Brazil are actually going backwards, she said.

Decarbonizing electricity is going much faster than decarbonizing energy for heating and for transportation, which is seen to be more challenging.

Improvements in energy efficiency are also far behind. Investment in energy efficiency needs to increase by a factor of 3 to 6 from the current 250 billion dollars a year in order to reach the 2030 objective, the report concluded.

The biggest failure the Global Tracking Framework revealed was that the current number of people still using traditional, solid fuels to cook increased slightly since 2011 to 3.04 billion. Those fuels are responsible for deadly levels of indoor air pollution that shorten the lives of tens of millions and kill four million, mainly children, every year according to the World Health Organization.

This seems to be a low priority and by 2030 only 72 percent of the world will be using clean cooking fuels, said Portale. In other words, 2.5 billion people – mostly in the Asia-Pacific region and Africa – will still be burning wood, charcoal or dung to cook their foods.

Clean cooking is not a priority for most governments although Indonesia is doing quite well, said Vivien Foster, Global Lead for Energy Economics, Markets & Institutions, The World Bank. “Indoor air pollution has a bigger health impact than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined,” Foster told IPS.

One reason clean cooking is a low priority is that men are largely the decisions makers in governments and at the household level and they often are not involved in cooking. Environmental health issues generally get far less attention from governments she said. “Sadly, it’s often mobile phones before toilets,” Foster said.

However, the situation in India is dramatically different.

Green energy – decarbonized, decentralized energy — is no longer expensive or difficult. It is also the most suitable form of energy for developing nations because both access and benefits can come very quickly, said Piyush Goyal, India’s Minister of Energy.

Access to clean liquid propane gas (LPG) for cooking has increased 33 percent in the last three years, which is about 190 million homes. In the last year alone 20 million of the poorest of the poor received LPG for free, Goyal told IPS.

Although millions have no connection to electricity, Goyal said it was his personal belief this will no longer be the case by 2019, three years before India’s 2022 target.

“Prime Minister Modi is completely committed to universal access,” he said. “He grew up poor. He knows what it is like to not have electrical power.”

India is adding 160 gigawatt (GW) of wind and solar by 2022 and it may beat that target too as the cost of solar and wind are well below coal, the country’s main source of energy. The US currently has just over 100 (GW) in total. One GW can power 100 million LED lightbulbs used in homes.

On the energy efficiency front, India is also closing in on a target of replacing all of its lighting with LEDs, saving tens of millions in energy costs and reducing CO2 emissions by as much as 80 million tonnes annually.

“We are doing this even if no one else is. We have a big role to play in the fight against climate change,” Goyal said.

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The Very Survival of Africa’s Indigenous Peoples ‘Seriously Threatened’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/the-very-survival-of-africas-indigenous-peoples-seriously-threatened/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-very-survival-of-africas-indigenous-peoples-seriously-threatened http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/the-very-survival-of-africas-indigenous-peoples-seriously-threatened/#comments Wed, 03 May 2017 06:19:25 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150257 The Indigenous World 2017. Credit: IWGIA

The Indigenous World 2017. Credit: IWGIA

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 3 2017 (IPS)

The cultures and very survival of indigenous peoples in Africa are seriously threatened. They are ignored, neglected and fall victims of land grabbing and land dispossession caused by extractive industries, agribusiness and other forms of business operations.

These are some of the key findings of a major report “The Indigenous World 2017,” on the state of indigenous peoples worldwide, issued on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The report, launched on 25 April by the International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGI) during the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues meeting (24 April—5 May), emphasises that in spite of progress, there are still major challenges facing indigenous peoples in Africa.

Africa is home to an estimated 50 million indigenous peoples, that’s around 13 per cent of the total of 370 million indigenous peoples worldwide. They live in all regions of Africa, with large concentrations in North Africa where the Amazigh people live. In West Africa, there are large pastoralist populations in countries like Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Cameroon etc.

There are also large concentrations of indigenous peoples in East Africa with big pastoralist populations in countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Hunter-gatherers are found in many countries in central and Southern Africa, though they are smaller in numbers than the pastoralist groups.

In several African states, explains IWGIA, “indigenous peoples are yet to be recognised as such.” Arguments of all Africans being indigenous or that the concept “indigenous peoples” is divisive and unconstitutional are persistently expressed in political statements and continue to shape policies of a number of African countries.

Large-scale dispossessions of indigenous peoples’ lands remain a significant challenge in several African states, says the report, adding that the global drive for raw materials, agro-business and building major infrastructure projects are pushing indigenous peoples to their last boundaries.

A recent African Commission’s report on extractive industries and indigenous peoples reveals the negative impact several mining, agro business and logging projects are having on indigenous peoples’ land rights and access to natural resources, according to IWGIA.

In several cases, tensions with indigenous peoples have led to open conflicts, including loss of lives. In this regard, the African Commission has sent urgent appeals to a number of African governments on serious human rights violations affecting indigenous peoples.

Forced Evictions, Human Eights Violations

Marianne Wiben Jensen

Marianne Wiben Jensen

Marianne Wiben Jensen, IWGIA’ senior advisor on Africa and Land Rights, told IPS that Africa’s indigenous peoples are victims of land grabbing and other forms of land dispossession caused by extractive industries, agribusiness and other business operations.

“This leads to forced evictions and other forms of serious human rights violations,“ she said, adding that indigenous peoples in Africa are “marginalised economically and politically and are only to a very limited extent participating in decision-making processes.”

“So they have very limited possibilities of voicing their perspectives and priorities and influencing their own futures,” Wiben Jensen warned, explaining that they typically live in marginalised and remote areas with very limited and bad social infrastructure.

The issue of extractive industries is once again a recurrent and overarching theme in the Indigenous world. Numerous examples show that both states and industries are repeatedly ignoring the key principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

Mega infrastructure projects, investments in extractive industries and large-scale agriculture are increasingly posing a threat to the everyday life of indigenous peoples and their ability to maintain their land, livelihood and culture.

At the same time, Wiben Jensen added, indigenous peoples in Africa have proven to be very resilient, and despite the many problems they face and the lack of support they receive from their governments, they are still there and manage to survive in often very harsh environments based on their unique indigenous knowledge of the nature and the natural resources.

“All this is happening amidst an alarming rate of violence and discrimination of indigenous peoples and human rights defenders around the world.”

In the Ngorongoro district of Tanzania, indigenous women are getting organised. They don’t want to be kept out of decision-making processes - they want to be heard and respected. Credit: IWGIA

In the Ngorongoro district of Tanzania, indigenous women are getting organised. They don’t want to be kept out of decision-making processes – they want to be heard and respected. Credit: IWGIA

Violence against Indigenous Women, Girls

Wiben Jensen also warned that violence against indigenous women and girls continues to feature several indigenous communities in Africa, including harmful cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), early or forced marriage and inaccessibility of good standards on reproductive rights.

Overall, one could put African states into three categories as far as the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights is concerned.

First, some African states that have fully endorsed the concept “indigenous peoples in Africa” and have moved on to adopt legal or policy frameworks aimed at addressing the concerned communities’ particular human rights situation. “These states are still small in number but their potential impact is immense.”

Second, some African states recognise and are willing to redress the historical injustices and marginalisation suffered by certain sections of their national populations that self-identify as indigenous peoples, “but remain uncomfortable with the term “indigenous peoples” and therefore prefer using alternative concepts in their laws or policies.”

Third, there are African states that continue to contest the existence of indigenous peoples in the continent or the relevance of the concept in Africa. There are numerous reasons for this denial, including a misunderstanding of what the concept “indigenous peoples in Africa” means.

The Forgotten Peoples, Reported

The Indigenous World 2017 is IWGIA’s 30th report on the status of indigenous peoples and comes in a special edition on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

It provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide and a comprehensive overview of the main global trends and developments affecting indigenous peoples during 2016. It contains 59 detailed country reports and 12 articles on defining global processes in a total of 651 pages.

It also highlights that despite some encouraging national achievements, the country reports in this year’s edition continue to illustrate the great pressures facing indigenous communities at the local level.

Over 70 experts, indigenous activists and scholars have contributed to the Indigenous World 2017, which has been published with support from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs / Danida, Denmark’s development cooperation.

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Climate-Smart Agriculture – From Tanzania to Vietnamhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/climate-smart-agriculture-from-tanzania-to-vietnam/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-smart-agriculture-from-tanzania-to-vietnam http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/climate-smart-agriculture-from-tanzania-to-vietnam/#comments Fri, 28 Apr 2017 16:52:53 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150208 Farmers clear weeds from a trench, which retains water and prevents soil erosion during rains, as part of the FAO project to strengthen capacity of farms for climate change in Kiroka, Tanzania. Credit: FAO

Farmers clear weeds from a trench, which retains water and prevents soil erosion during rains, as part of the FAO project to strengthen capacity of farms for climate change in Kiroka, Tanzania. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Apr 28 2017 (IPS)

As part of efforts to move towards “climate-smart” agriculture, several countries have shared In a meeting in Rome new experiences on how to produce food in ways that help farmers cope with the impacts of climate change and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture.

The exchange took place at a special 26 April side-event during a session of the UN Food and Agriculture OrganizationFAO’s executive Council.

While countries are embarking on the implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions –the actions nations are taking under the Paris Agreement– the event provided an opportunity to learn from countries that have championed climate-smart agriculture in different regions, FAO informed.

Climate-smart agriculture is an approach aimed at transforming food systems. It involves pursuing sustainable productivity increases while implementing climate adaptation strategies and reducing greenhouse gas emissions where possible, to achieve food security in the face of increasing climate change.

Tanzania

In Tanzania, the UN specialised body reports, estimated loss in the agriculture sector due to climate change is about 200 million dollars per year.

To tackle this problem the government has brought the climate agenda in line with agriculture development and food security policies, and climate change considerations are now mainstreamed into national development planning and budget allocations, it added.

Tanzania also intends to invest more in research on climate-smart agriculture to inform decision-making and involve private partners to catalyse additional investment in the sector.

The national policy focus in Tanzania has hence shifted towards building resilience of agricultural and food production systems in the face of climate change and fostering adoption of climate smart agriculture, particularly among vulnerable, smallholder farmers, according to FAO.

For example, rice-farming techniques that use less water were introduced several years ago in five Tanzanian regions –Morogoro, Iringa, Lake Zone, Shinyanga and Mbeya– are used now by around 30 per cent of all rice producers in those areas.

The farmers have already seen their yields increase while using less water resources – which is particularly important for these drought-prone areas – and are eager to switch to new varieties of rice seeds.

Conservation agriculture practices, implemented in the Lake Zone, have also shown their efficiency, the UN agency said.

These have included the use of improved seed varieties of cassava, maize, sorghum and cotton, which are tolerant to droughts and water scarcity, and the use of organic fertilizers such as manure to increase soil fertility. As a result, the productivity in the areas practicing conservation agriculture has increased by about four times compared to the traditionally cultivated areas.

National researchers have also developed special breeds of high-yielding dairy cows and introduced them to livestock farmers in the field enabling them to cut down the number of cattle while increasing their income. This in turn has helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions in livestock production and prevent grazing damage to crops.

Vietnam

In Vietnam, about 700 000 hectares of rice and other food crops were heavily damaged by climate-induced natural disasters in 2016. As a result, rice production fell by 800 000 tons, and about 1.1 million people in affected areas were put at a greater risk of food insecurity.

To reverse the dire situation, numerous climate change adaptation and disaster-risk management measures have been implemented at national, subnational and local levels.

For example, rice cultivation area in several Central provinces has been converted to other crops such as fruit trees and grapes, which require less water for raising and can serve as an alternative source of income for farmers. When weather permits, the land can be easily switched back to rice production.

On sloping land areas of Vietnam’s Northern mountainous regions and Central provinces, annual food crops are intercropped with forests, fruit or industrial trees, reported FAO.

Such agro-forestry systems help farmers diversify their income, control soil erosion, and improve ecosystems and the environment. In addition, they help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon.

Integrating crops or forests with aquaculture is also widely practiced in Vietnam. For example, the ecological shrimp-mangrove forests in the country’s coastal provinces provide sustainable livelihoods for vulnerable coastal communities while protecting natural resources.

“Furthermore, organic farming products can fetch premium prices due to the high food safety standards employed in their production. With more than 180 000 hectares of the shrimp-mangrove forests having been cultivated to date, farmers are receiving a stable income of 1 600 dollars per hectare per year. Meanwhile, the coastal protection value is estimated at about 800 dollars per hectare per year.”

In household pig production, livestock farmers are being encouraged to use bio-digesters, which allow them to convert wastes into biogas used for daily cooking and lighting. They also create nutrient-rich slurry for fertilizing paddy rice fields. More than 35 000 bio-digesters have already been installed, which resulted in a 40 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

During the FAO-hosted event, the participants also highlighted the importance of embedding climate-smart agriculture in national policies and programmes, and promoting climate-smart practices in the field through trainings and farmer field schools in various ecological zones.

They also stressed the need to provide accurate climate information to farmers, and investing in evidence-based research on climate-smart agriculture.

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20 Million People Could ‘Starve to Death’ in Next Six Monthshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/20-million-people-could-starve-to-death-in-next-six-months/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=20-million-people-could-starve-to-death-in-next-six-months http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/20-million-people-could-starve-to-death-in-next-six-months/#comments Fri, 28 Apr 2017 15:49:49 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150200 A livestock owner in Yemen tends her goats. Livestock production fell by more than 35 per cent in 2016 compared to the pre-crisis period. Credit: FAO

A livestock owner in Yemen tends her goats. Livestock production fell by more than 35 per cent in 2016 compared to the pre-crisis period. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 28 2017 (IPS)

Urgent action is needed to save the lives of people facing famine in North Eastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, the UN leading food and agriculture agency’s chief on April 28 warned. “If nothing is done, some 20 million people could starve to death in the next six months.”

“Famine does not just kill people, it contributes to social instability and also perpetuates a cycle of poverty and aid dependency that endures for decades,” the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) the Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva added.

At a media briefing ahead of the conclusive session of the this UN specialised agency’s executive arm—the FAO Council, he launched a new appeal for voluntary contributions, that are “of vital importance to FAO, now more than ever.”

“I will be always committed to finding more savings and promoting more efficiency, as I have done over the last five years. But I have already cut to the bone. There is no more fat left.”

On this, Graziano da Silva emphasised the need to work with everyone on the basis of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development –“Leaving No One Behind”, in order to save all the affected people.

He also announced that agreement will be signed among FAO and the other two Rome-based UN agencies: the International Fund for Agriculture (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) on how to tackle the current famine in those 4 countries– Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

The FAO Council, which has met in FAO-headquarters in Rome on 24 – 28 April, convenes between sessions of the main Conference to provide advice and oversight related to programmatic and budgetary matters.

The Council’s 49 elected members have been briefed on the extent of the hunger crises, and the steps required to preventing catastrophe.

Making Funds Go Further

The organisation’s executive body has also approved FAO‘s Programme of Work and Budget 2018-2019, which prioritises areas where FAO can deliver the greatest impact to member countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including climate change mitigation and adaptation, sustainable agriculture production, water scarcity management, and building the resilience of poor family farmers.

Famine has officially been declared by the South Sudanese government for some parts of the country. Credit: FAO

Famine has officially been declared by the South Sudanese government for some parts of the country. Credit: FAO

Food and agriculture are central to the sustainable development agenda, and FAO’s work is projected to contribute to the achievement of 40 targets across 15 of the 17 goals.

Ahead of the FAO Council’s meeting, Graziano da Silva had on 25 April stated in Geneva that a combination of food assistance and food production assistance is the only way to avoid famine in conflict-ridden Yemen where two-thirds of the population –17 million people– are suffering from severe food insecurity.

“As the conflict continues, food security and nutrition will also continue to deteriorate,” he stressed in his address to a United Nations High-Level Pledging conference for Yemen organised in Geneva and co-hosted by the governments of Switzerland and Sweden.

“To put these figures into perspective, we are talking about the double of Switzerland’s population being unable to meet their basic daily food needs.”

He stressed how livelihoods support, especially for agriculture and fishing, must be an integral part of the international community’s response to the crisis in Yemen.

Over 17 Million Yemenis, Acutely Food Insecure

More than 17 million people around Yemen’s rugged landscape are acutely food insecure, and the figure is likely to increase as the on-going conflict continues to erode the ability to grow, import, distribute and pay for food, Graziano da Silva wrote on IPS.

“More than 7 million people are on the verge of famine, while the rest are marginally meeting the minimum day-to-day nutritional needs thanks to external humanitarian and livelihoods support. Large-scale famine is a real risk that will cast an awful shadow for generations to come.”

According to Graziano da Silva, only a political solution can end the suffering in Yemen, as there can be no food security without peace. And the longer the delay to draft an adequately funded recovery plan, the more expensive the burden will be in terms of resources and human livelihood.

In 2016, agriculture production in Yemen and the area under cultivation shrank by 38 per cent due to the lack of inputs and investments. Livestock production fell by 35 per cent.

“Agricultural assistance in a humanitarian crisis can no longer be an afterthought,” the FAO Director-General said. “We need to seize every opportunity to support communities in Yemen to continue producing food, even under difficult circumstances.”

In Geneva, Graziano da Silva met Yemen’s Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid Bin Daghr, for talks on FAO’s support to the country to deliver emergency livelihood assistance and kick-start food production, especially when resources pledged to tackle the crisis are concretely made available.

The Geneva pledging conference on April 25 mobilised half of the 2,1 billion dollars urgently required to rescue the starving Yemeni population.

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Indigenous Women: The Frontline Protectors of the Environmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/indigenous-women-the-frontline-protectors-of-the-environment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-women-the-frontline-protectors-of-the-environment http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/indigenous-women-the-frontline-protectors-of-the-environment/#comments Thu, 27 Apr 2017 13:23:04 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150174 The Bhumia tribal community practices sustainable forestry: these women returning from the forest carry baskets of painstakingly gathered tree bark and dried cow dung for manure. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

The Bhumia tribal community practices sustainable forestry: these women returning from the forest carry baskets of painstakingly gathered tree bark and dried cow dung for manure. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 27 2017 (IPS)

Indigenous women, while experiencing the first and worst effects of climate change globally, are often in the frontline in struggles to protect the environment.

A forum organized by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) brought together indigenous women from around the world to discuss the effects of climate change in their communities and their work towards sustainable solutions.

“This forum is very much dedicated to frontline communities around climate change issues…we really wanted to take the time to visibilise women’s leadership and their calls for action,” said WECAN’s Executive Director Osprey Orielle Lake.

She added that indigenous women are “drawing a red line to protect and defend mother earth, all species, and the very web of life itself.”

Among the forum’s participants was Executive Director of the Indigenous Information Network Lucy Mulenkei who works with indigenous communities in Kenya on sustainable Development.

She told told IPS how Kenyan indigenous women are bearing the brunt of climate change, stating: “We have been experiencing a lot of prolonged droughts…so it leaves women with added workload [because] getting water is a problem, you have to go father.”

In February, the Kenyan Government declared a national drought emergency which has doubled the number of food-insecure people, increased the rate of malnutrition to emergency levels, and left millions without access to safe water.

Because of climate change, the country also experiences heavy rains which lead to floods, impacting indigenous communities as a whole, Mulenkei said.

Such extreme weather is largely attributed to the fossil fuel industry whose greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to global warming. The United States is responsible for almost 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, making it one of the top emitters.

Despite being over 8,000 miles away from Kenya, Mulenkei told IPS that “whatever you do from far away impacts us here.”

The fossil fuel industry is also impacting indigenous communities within the U.S. through its mega infrastructure projects.

“You cannot imagine how much things changed when the oil came,” Kandi Mossett, Indigenous Environmental Network’s (IEN) Extreme Energy and Just Transition Campaign Organiser, said in reference to the discovery of oil in the Bakken Shale formation in North Dakota.

“The air is being poisoned, the water is being destroyed,” she continued.

Mossett is among the frontline indigenous women in the movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) which garnered international attention in 2016 after thousands of protestors were met with violence by security forces.

She told IPS that indigenous communities are disproportionately targeted for such projects. “You don’t see a frack well in Hollywood or in the White House lawn. You see it in low-income, minority populations.”

Women return from fetching water after the water in their homes was cut off during the water rationing. Credit: Charles Mpaka/IPS

Women return from fetching water after the water in their homes was cut off during the water rationing. Credit: Charles Mpaka/IPS

Mossett highlighted the importance of consent prior to the approval of such development projects as cited in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), adding that neither the company or government officials did as such in the case of DAPL.

“Consultation is not consent,” she told attendees.

Indigenous communities are facing similar issues as the economy and companies shift to renewable energy.

In Kenya, indigenous communities are seeing the construction of renewable energy projects on their land and without their consent, including the Ngong Hills and Kipeto wind power projects on Maasai territory.

“I feel neglected, I feel marginalized, I feel isolated,” Mulenkei told IPS regarding the lack of consent and consultation of indigenous groups on such projects, adding that the projects would be beneficial if only they were participatory.

Indigenous peoples at times face more extreme violations in the increasingly green economy including the displacement of Maasai communities following the expansion of geothermal energy production in Kenya. In Honduras, indigenous environmental activist Berta Caceres was shot and killed in her home in March 2016 after opposing the development of a hydroelectric dam.

According to a report by the Business and Human Rights Resource Center, five out of 50 renewable energy companies reported that they are committed to following UNDRIP.

Both Mossett and Mulenkei stressed the need to respect indigenous rights as a whole and urged for human rights-based collective actions to protect the environment.

“We have to do nonviolent direct actions on the ground and we have to take back the power in our communities because nobody is going to do it for us,” Mossett stated.

The Indigenous Women Protecting Earth, Rights, and Communities forum was hosted in parallel to the 16th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNFPII) being held from 24 April to 5 May at the UN Headquarters in New York.

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Long Way to Go for Indigenous Rights Protectionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/long-way-to-go-for-indigenous-rights-protection/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=long-way-to-go-for-indigenous-rights-protection http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/long-way-to-go-for-indigenous-rights-protection/#comments Tue, 25 Apr 2017 09:11:18 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150139 Tadodaho Sid Hill (shown on screens), Chief of the Onondaga Nation. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Tadodaho Sid Hill (shown on screens), Chief of the Onondaga Nation. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 25 2017 (IPS)

Despite progress, many gaps remain in international indigenous rights protection, said representatives during an annual UN meeting.

More than 1000 indigenous representatives from around the world have gathered at the UN for the 16th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). This year’s meeting focuses on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which was adopted 10 years ago by the General Assembly.

“On the day of the adoption of the declaration, there was a major change in the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples,” said this year’s UNFPII Chairperson Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine during the opening ceremony.

Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine (Mali). Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine (Mali). Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Ermineskin Cree Nation Chief Willie Littlechild echoed similar comments, stating that indigenous communities had no voice in the international arena until the 1980s when discussions first began on creating a special instrument to protect indigenous peoples worldwide.

Alongside the Declaration, the UN now has four mechanisms focused on indigenous communities, including UNPFII and a Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

“Coming from no voice to four mechanisms at the UN, I think that is a significant accomplishment,” Littlechild stated.

The 2030 Agenda for Development, adopted in 2015 by the international community, also directly involves and references indigenous issues unlike its predecessor the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

However, many challenges remain in implementing and enforcing UNDRIP.

Littlechild expressed concern to IPS over the lack of implementation mechanisms in Canada, stating: “[Justin Trudeau] was the first Prime Minister to even look at the UN declaration…but the task is now in the follow-up.”

After formally adopting UNDRIP in 2016, many have said that Prime Minister Trudeau has violated the document by approving several controversial pipelines without full consent from indigenous communities whose lands would be impacted. One such pipeline is the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline which received support from 40 out of 139 First Nations living along the planned route.

Tadodaho Sid Hill, Chief of the Onondaga Nation. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Tadodaho Sid Hill, Chief of the Onondaga Nation. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Article 19 of UNDRIP highlights the importance of such consent, stating: “States are required to consult and cooperate with indigenous peoples in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that affect them.”

The right to lands, territories, and resources is also among the most important provisions of the Declaration.

Both Aboubakrine and Littlechild highlighted the importance of inclusive discussions and decision-making at the international and state levels to ensure the protection of indigenous rights.

“Some of the traditional knowledge of elders is critical to making sure there’s safe development if that is what is agreed to or to protect the environment,” Littlechild told IPS.

Aboubakrine stressed the need for UN agencies to communicate and coordinate in order to effectively and meaningfully enforce UNDRIP.

“It’s moving along, but I’m just concerned we are not moving along with it,” Littlechild concluded.

Indigenous communities around the world face disproportionately high rates of poverty, poor health, and discrimination. According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), indigenous people constitute 5 percent of the world’s population but make up approximately 15 percent of the world’s poorest.

The 16th Session of UNFPII aims to address challenges and highlight progress in indigenous rights at the UN headquarters from 24 April to 5 May.

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Indigenous Peoples – Best Allies or Worst Enemies?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/indigenous-peoples-best-allies-or-worst-enemies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-best-allies-or-worst-enemies http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/indigenous-peoples-best-allies-or-worst-enemies/#comments Tue, 25 Apr 2017 07:23:39 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150134 Credit: FAO

Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 25 2017 (IPS)

It all happened on the very same day—4 April. That day, indigenous peoples were simultaneously characterised as fundamental allies in the world’s war on hunger and poverty, while being declared as collective victims of a “tsunami” of imprisonments in Australia. See what happened.

Australia must reduce the “astounding” rates of imprisonment for indigenous peoples and step up the fight against racism, on 4 April warned Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.“Traditional indigenous knowledge and the diversity of their food systems can provide solutions for healthy diets, and many areas such as nutrition, climate change or ecosystem management” – Graziano da Silva

“It is alarming that, while the country has adopted numerous policies to address the socio-economic disadvantage of Aboriginal peoples and those from the Torres Strait Islands, it has failed to respect their rights to self-determination and to full and effective participation in society,” she added at the end of an official visit to Australia.

Tauli-Corpuz said that the Australian government policies have failed to deliver on targets in the areas of “health, education and employment and have led to a growing number of people being jailed, and have resulted in an increasing number of children being removed from their homes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”

Astounding Figures

“High rates of incarceration were described to me as a “tsunami” affecting indigenous peoples. It is a major human rights concern. The figures are simply astounding. While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders make up only 3 per cent of the total population, they constitute 27 per cent of the prison population, and much more in some prisons,” she stressed.

“I visited Cleveland Youth Detention Centre in Townsville, Queensland, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children constitute 95 per cent of the children detained. Many have been going from out-of-home care into detention,” Tauli-Corpuz said, adding that aboriginal children are seven times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be in contact with the child protection system or to be subject to abuse or neglect.

Indigenous women from Panama design action plans to ensure food security. Credit: FAO

Indigenous women from Panama design action plans to ensure food security. Credit: FAO

“… I urge Australia to increase the age of criminal responsibility. Children should be detained only as a last resort… These children are essentially being punished for being poor and in most cases, prison will only aggravate the cycle of violence, poverty and crime. I found meeting young children, some only 12 years old, in detention the most disturbing element of my visit.”

The UN expert expressed criticism of the government programme known as the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, which was initiated in 2014 and involved a large budget cut in funding for support programmes. “The implementation of the strategy has been bureaucratic, rigid and has wasted considerable resources on administration.”

Tauli-Corpuz called on the government to forge a new relationship with the national representative body for indigenous peoples, the National Congress of Australia’s First People, and restore their funding.

She also expressed concern that the government would not meet targets to close the gap in areas such as “life expectancy, infant mortality, education and employment,” and called for a comprehensive approach including specific targets for the “reduction of detention rates, child removal and violence against women.”

Fundamental Allies

That very same day–4 April, the head of the United Nations body specialised in the areas of food and agriculture, was welcoming in Rome a group of indigenous youth representatives from the indigenous peoples’ seven socio-cultural regions of the world.

In his address to the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus meeting in the Italian capital (5-7 April), Graziano da Silva, director general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said that indigenous peoples are “fundamental allies” in the fight against hunger, food insecurity and poverty “because of their wealth of ancestral knowledge and good practices.”

Credit: FAO

Credit: FAO

In a world in which climate change brings new challenges and uncertainties, we cannot eliminate hunger without the participation of youth, said da Silva, noting that “they must participate in these issues that will affect their children and their children’s children. Let’s work together and do it right now.”

The Sustainable Development Goals provide an opportunity for countries, indigenous organisations and the United Nations to work together to make an impact starting now through to 2030, he added, while reminding that since the creation of its Indigenous Peoples team in 2014, FAO is strengthening its work with indigenous organisations based on a double approach:

“On the one hand, we consider indigenous peoples as fundamental allies in the fight against hunger, food insecurity and poverty because of their wealth of ancestral knowledge and good practices.

“On the other hand, “we are aware that the lack of recognition of their rights in the management of natural resources and the marginalization they suffer places them in a vulnerable position. I speak above all of your ancestral rights to land tenure.”

Traditional Indigenous Knowledge

Da Silva referred to the indigenous food systems, noting that traditional indigenous knowledge and the diversity of their food systems can provide solutions for healthy diets, and many areas such as nutrition, climate change or ecosystem management.

Working with indigenous women’s leadership schools, he added, has enabled fellow indigenous women to gain access to training on rights, food security and other areas of interest such as the use of local seeds, voluntary guidelines on land tenure, guides on artisanal fisheries, etc.

The Rome meeting of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus coincided with the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples.

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