Inter Press Service » Humanitarian Emergencies http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 25 Apr 2017 23:41:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.17 Building resilient rural livelihoods is key to helping Yemenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/building-resilient-rural-livelihoods-is-key-to-helping-yemen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-resilient-rural-livelihoods-is-key-to-helping-yemen http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/building-resilient-rural-livelihoods-is-key-to-helping-yemen/#comments Mon, 24 Apr 2017 08:37:39 +0000 Jose Graziano da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150106 José Graziano da Silva is Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).]]> Al Hudaydah, Yemen.  Dairy cattle seek shade. Credit: FAO/Chedly Kayouli

Al Hudaydah, Yemen. Dairy cattle seek shade. Credit: FAO/Chedly Kayouli

By José Graziano da Silva
ROME, Apr 24 2017 (IPS)

People in Yemen are currently suffering from the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.

More than 17 million people around Yemen’s rugged landscape are acutely food insecure, and the figure is likely to increase as the ongoing conflict continues to erode the ability to grow, import, distribute and pay for food. 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.

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.

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO

Keep in mind that Yemen has a very young population, yet some 2.2 million children under the age of five are suffering from acute malnutrition. As inadequate nutrition in a child’s early years can permanently damage an individual’s lifetime potential, it is imperative to stop a generational doomsday loop.

To prevent the food security situation from worsening, immediate livelihoods support – mainly agriculture and fishing – must be an integral part of the humanitarian response. This year, FAO Yemen is appealing for USD 48.4 million in funding to reach 3 million people.

While Yemen is widely noted as being dependent upon imports for almost all of its wheat and rice demands, people can and do produce a lot of food on their own. This requires the provision of seeds, fertilizers and fuel for equipment and irrigation to the 2 million households who currently lack access to such basic agricultural inputs.

In 2016, agricultural production and area under cultivation shrank by 38 percent due to this lack of inputs. Livestock production fell by 35 percent. The situation in 2017 is not expected to improve without the international community’s intervention.

Al Hudaydah, Yemen. A female dairy farmer milks her cow.  Credit: FAO/Chedly Kayouli

Al Hudaydah, Yemen. A female dairy farmer milks her cow. Credit: FAO/Chedly Kayouli


FAO is on the ground in Yemen, working around the clock to deliver emergency livelihood assistance to kick-start food production. This assistance comprises inputs like quick turnaround backyard food production kits, which includes vegetable seeds, egg-laying chickens and rainwater storage tanks, solar pumps, feed, fertilizer, fishery boats, engines, fishing nets and continuous operational equipment and material support.

These home production kits, designed to help feed a household of 20 people for six months, constitute cost-effective humanitarian assistance that can be scaled up to reach more people more quickly. This is especially pertinent for internally displaced people – who now constitute more than 10 percent of the population, and the vast majority of whom traditionally relied on agriculture and livestock. They now live in camps, with relatives or on empty lots and helping them relieve pressure on host communities can pay a double dividend in terms of food and social cohesion.

The kits also have the virtue of being simple, and in the case of Yemen – enduring a combination of several worst-case scenarios at once – simple translates into being implementable.

Simplicity is especially essential to support isolated rural households, almost half of whom live more than six kilometres from any local market at a time when travel is dangerous and roads have been destroyed. For many of these families, these food production kits are their only lifeline to food.

In a bid to restore agricultural livelihoods, FAO is also offering starter kits for beekeepers, replacing fishing equipment that has been destroyed or lost, and giving rural households modern butter churns that enable the production to increase tenfold and help offset Yemen’s serious dairy deficit.

Al Hudaydah, Yemen. A livestock market. Credit: FAO/Chedly Kayouli

Al Hudaydah, Yemen. A livestock market. Credit: FAO/Chedly Kayouli


As many families have had to sell their animals, a key productive asset, and restocking has slowed down due to lack of access to fodder, FAO is also distributing vouchers to distressed households in order to purchase livestock. At the same time, FAO is bolstering veterinary networks to vaccinate and treat ailing livestock as well as monitor and contain potential transboundary livestock diseases, which pose an enormous risk both for households living in Yemen’s remote and isolated areas as well as livestock trade across the region.

Making Yemen’s food system more sustainable will be a long-term effort, requiring important changes to which crops are grown and the rebooting or creation of value chains and improved logistics for what is destined to be the country’s primary economic sector. Agriculture already employs more than half of the workforce and is the main source of income for around 60 percent of households.

Even in peacetime, Yemen will face huge challenges, as only 4 percent of its land is arable and water resources are extremely limited. However, its people can and must be enabled to create a viable and more sustainable food system. This requires a simultaneous approach of providing humanitarian assistance along with resilience-building initiatives.

There is no time to lose. The alternative is dismal and threatens to catalyse more conflicts in the future, for there can be no peace without food security.

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Middle East, Engulfed by a ‘Perfect Storm’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/middle-east-engulfed-by-a-perfect-storm/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=middle-east-engulfed-by-a-perfect-storm http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/middle-east-engulfed-by-a-perfect-storm/#comments Fri, 21 Apr 2017 13:35:21 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150079 In Mazrak, Yemen, a five year-old girl, diagnosed as malnourished, is given a pink wristband to wear to show she has not been getting enough to eat. Credit: UNHCR/Hugh Macleod

In Mazrak, Yemen, a five year-old girl, diagnosed as malnourished, is given a pink wristband to wear to show she has not been getting enough to eat. Credit: UNHCR/Hugh Macleod

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 21 2017 (IPS)

A perfect storm has engulfed the Middle East, and continues to threaten international peace and security.

Hardly anyone could sum up the Middle East explosive situation in so few, blunt words as just did Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.

Reporting to the UN Security Council on the “dire situation across the Middle East region, marked by the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War, fractured societies, proliferation of non-State actors and unbelievable human suffering,” Mladenov reiterated the need for a surge in diplomacy for peace to ease the suffering of innocent civilians.

The UN Special Coordinator also warned that “the question of Palestine remained a ‘potent symbol’ and a ‘rallying cry’, “one that is easily misappropriated and exploited by extremist groups.”“The question of Palestine remained a “potent symbol” and “rallying cry,” one that is easily misappropriated and exploited by extremist groups,” UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.

“Let us not forget that behind the images of savagery [there] are the millions [struggling] every day not only for their own survival but for the true humane essence of their cultures and societies,” he on 20 April 2017 told the Security Council.

“Today, a perfect storm has engulfed the Middle East, and continues to threaten international peace and security,” he said, noting that divisions within the region have opened the doors to foreign intervention and manipulation, breeding instability and sectarian strife.

“Ending the occupation and realising a two-state solution will not solve all the region’s problems, but as long as the conflict persists, it will continue to feed them.”

Mladenov also informed the 15-member Security Council of sporadic violence that continued to claim lives and reported on Israel’s approval of the establishment of new settlements and declaration of “State land” in the occupied Palestinian territory.

On the Palestinian side, he noted multiple worrying developments that are “further cementing” the Gaza-West Bank divide and dangerously increasing the risk of escalation.

Turning to the wider region, Mladenov briefed the Security Council members on the on-going crisis in Syria that continues to be a “massive burden” for other countries and called on the international community to do more to stand in solidarity with Syria’s neighbours.

“Strong, Loud Alarm”

“The statement that Mr. Mladenov has just made should sound a strong, loud alarm,” a retired Arab diplomat told IPS on condition of anonymity.

“We should always have in mind that the United Nations envoys and special coordinators use to be extremely careful when choosing their wording, in particular when it comes to reporting to the UN Security Council. This is why his words should be taken really seriously,” the diplomat emphasised.

Displaced families from Reyadeh and 1070 neighbourhoods take shelter at a kindergarten in western Aleppo city. Conditions are still extremely basic. Credit: UNICEF/Khuder Al-Issa

Displaced families from Reyadeh and 1070 neighbourhoods take shelter at a kindergarten in western Aleppo city. Conditions are still extremely basic. Credit: UNICEF/Khuder Al-Issa


According to this well-informed source, several Middle East analysts and even regional political leaders “harbour mixed feeling and even confusion about what some consider as “errant” foreign policy of the current US administration.”

“What is anyway clear is that a new Middle East is now “under construction”. Such process will not be an easy one, in view of the growing trend to embark in new cold war between the US and Russia,” the diplomat concluded.

Further in his briefing, the UN Special Coordinator spoke of the situation in Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen as well as of “social exclusion and marginalisation that tend to provide fertile ground for the rise of violent extremism.”

Recalling UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ call for a “surge in diplomacy for peace”, Mladenov urged UN Member States, especially through a united Security Council, to assume “the leading role in resolving the crisis.”

“Multilateral approaches and cooperation are necessary to address interlinked conflicts, cross-border humanitarian impacts and violent extremism.”

“Grave Danger”

Just one week earlier, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, told the UN Security Council in the wake of yet another dire turn in the Syrian crisis, that the United States and the Russian Federation “must find a way to work together” to stabilise the situation and support the political process.”

In his briefing on 12 April, de Mistura added that the previous week’s reported chemical weapons attack, the subsequent air strikes by the US and intensified fighting on the ground have put the fragile peace process is in “grave danger.”

A seven-year-old child stands in front of her damaged school in Idleb, Syria. October 2016. Credit: UNICEF

A seven-year-old child stands in front of her damaged school in Idleb, Syria. October 2016. Credit: UNICEF


“This is a time for clear-thinking, strategy, imagination, cooperation,” said de Mistura.

“We must all resolve that the time has come where the intra-Syrian talks move beyond preparatory discussions and into the real heart of the matter, across all four baskets, to secure a meaningful negotiated transition package,” he added.

Prior to the reported chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun area of Idlib, modest but incremental progress were made, the UN envoy noted, highlighting that though there no breakthroughs, there were also no breakdowns. The most recent round of talks, facilitated by the UN in Geneva, wrapped up three weeks ago.

However, the reported attack and subsequent events have placed the country between two paths: one leading more death, destruction and regional and international divisions; and the other of real de-escalation and ceasefire, added de Mistura.

The UN Special Envoy reiterated that there are no military solutions to the strife in the war-ravaged country.

“You have heard it countless times, but I will say it again: there can only be a political solution to this bloody conflict […] regardless of what some say or believe,” he expressed, noting that this is what Syrians from all walks of life also say and something that the Security Council had agreed upon.

“So, let us use this moment of crisis – and it is a moment of crisis – as a watershed and an opportunity perhaps for a new level of seriousness in the search for a political solution.”

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Civil Society: “Everyday Things Are Getting Worse” for Children in Yemenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/civil-society-everyday-things-are-getting-worse-for-children-in-yemen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-everyday-things-are-getting-worse-for-children-in-yemen http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/civil-society-everyday-things-are-getting-worse-for-children-in-yemen/#comments Thu, 20 Apr 2017 21:19:10 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150070 Water delivery in Yemen. Credit: UN photo

Water delivery in Yemen. Credit: UN photo

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 20 2017 (IPS)

Persistent attacks on health care in Yemen is severely impacting children’s well-being, civil society detailed at the launch of a report.

In the report, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, in collaboration with Save the Children, found a series of systematic attacks on medical facilities and personnel and families’ restricted access to health care across three of the most insecure governorates in the Middle Eastern nation.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), warring parties carried out at least 160 attacks against medical facilities and personnel between March 2015 and March 2017 through intimidation, air strikes, and impeded access to medical supplies.

In one incident, anti-Houthi forces raided and shutdown Al Thawra hospital for reportedly treating several injured Houthi-fighers. The hospital had also previously been shelled on numerous occasions.

In Saada, a missile struck the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)-supported Shiara Hospital which killed six and wounded ten. The hospital served an area of approximately 120,000 people and was established as a de facto emergency room to provide access to health care for patients that would otherwise need to travel four to five hours along insecure roads to receive. A few days later, the same hospital sustained another rocket attack by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition.

Many are now afraid because of the attacks, said Watchlist’s Research Officer Christine Monaghan.

“There is a real sense of fear in the country about not being able to access healthcare when needed, about what might happen to them if they are in a clinic or a hospital and it’s bombed at a time when they visit,” she told IPS.

Following the Shiara Hospital attack, an MSF doctor reported that maternity room deliveries have ceased. “Pregnant women are giving birth in caves rather than risk coming to the hospital,” they said.

This has compounded health challenges as access to life-saving treatment is limited.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than half of Yemen’s population including 8.1 million children lack access to basic health care—an increase of more than 70 percent since the conflict began in March 2015.

As of November 2016, there was 1 hospital bed for every 1,600 people and over 50 percent of medical facilities have closed.

One woman revealed the challenges of caring for her family in an interview with Save the Children, stating: “We cannot afford health care. If any of our children gets sick, we cannot do anything for them. We do not know where to go…two of my daughters, 5 and 3 years old, have persistent coughs, and I cant help them apart from giving them hugs.”

The ongoing blockade imposed by the Saudi-led coalition has further inhibited access to necessary supplies to run medical facilities such as fuel.

In one case, a child in an incubator died after a hospital lost power and lacked fuel to use its generators.

Due to the collapse of immunization programs, there is also an increased risk of vaccine-preventable diseases such as polio and rubella. According to the UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF), a child dies every 10 minutes from preventable causes in Yemen.

Meanwhile, only 15 percent of the country’s humanitarian response plan is funded.

In response, Watchlist and Save the Children have called on all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and cease attacks on medical facilities, allow unhindered access to aid, and cooperate with investigations on such attacks.

The organisations also urged Secretary-General António Guterres to list the Saudi-led coalition as responsible for attacks on hospitals and grave violations of children’s rights in conflict in the annual report on children and armed conflict.

In 2016, former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon listed the coalition in his report but subsequently removed it after pressure from Saudi Arabia and its allies. However, this does not have to be the case this year, Monaghan said.

“We are hoping the new Secretary-General uses his first months in office to make a strong statement that he will protect the mandate and hold perpetrators to account,” she told IPS.

Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien called the humanitarian crisis in Yemen as “one of the worst in the world.” The country is on the brink of a famine with over 14 million food-insecure people. Over 70 percent of Yemenis are in need of some form of humanitarian aid.

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Yemen, World’s Largest Humanitarian Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/yemen-worlds-largest-humanitarian-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yemen-worlds-largest-humanitarian-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/yemen-worlds-largest-humanitarian-crisis/#comments Wed, 19 Apr 2017 05:10:44 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150034 Yemen 2017 Humanitarian Needs Overview. Credit: Fragkiska Megaloudi / OCHA

Yemen 2017 Humanitarian Needs Overview. Credit: Fragkiska Megaloudi / OCHA

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 19 2017 (IPS)

With 18.8 million people –nearly 7 in 10 inhabitants– in need of humanitarian aid, including 10.3 million requiring immediate assistance, Yemen is now the largest single-nation humanitarian crisis in the world, the United Nations informs while warning that the two-year war is rapidly pushing the country towards “social, economic and institutional collapse.“

More worrying, the conflict in Yemen and its economic consequences are driving the largest food security emergency in the world, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has reported.

According to OCHA, over 17 million people are currently “food insecure,” of whom 6.8 million are “severely food insecure” and require immediate food assistance, and two million acutely malnourished children. The Yemeni population amounts to 27,4 million inhabitants.

“We can avert a humanitarian catastrophe, but need 2.1 billion dollars in funding to deliver crucial food, nutrition, health and other lifesaving assistance,” the UN estimates.

UN, Sweden, Switzerland

The world organisation plans to hold a high-level pledging meeting for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Co-hosted by the governments of Switzerland and Sweden, the conference will take place at UN in Geneva on 25 April 2017.

Credit: OCHA

Credit: OCHA

“The time is now to come together to prevent an “impending humanitarian catastrophe” in Yemen, the organisers warn.
OCHA has also reminded that even before the current conflict escalated in mid-March 2015, Yemen had faced “enormous levels” of humanitarian needs stemming from years of “poverty, under-development, environmental decline, intermittent conflict, and weak rule of law.”

Meantime, it has stressed the need to protect civilians. “The conduct of hostilities has been brutal. As of 31 December 2016, health facilities had reported nearly 48,000 casualties (including nearly 7,500 deaths) as a result of the conflict.” These figures significantly under-count the true extent of casualties given diminished reporting capacity of health facilities and people’s difficulties accessing healthcare.

Massive Violations of Human Rights

OCHA stressed the impact of this crisis in which “all parties appear to have committed violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.”

On-going air strikes and fighting continue to inflict heavy casualties, damage public and private infrastructure, and impede delivery of humanitarian assistance, it explains, adding that parties to the conflict and their supporters have created a vast protection crisis in which millions of people face tremendous threats to their safety and well-being, and the most vulnerable struggle to survive.

According to the UN humanitarian body, since March 2015, more than 3 million people have been displaced within Yemen. Roughly 73 per cent are living with host families or in rented accommodation, and 20 per cent in collective centres or spontaneous settlements. A substantial numbers of returnees live in damaged houses, unable to afford repairs and face serious protection risks.

Economy, Destroyed

The Yemeni economy is being wilfully destroyed, OCHA informs. Preliminary results of the Disaster Needs Assessment estimated 19 billion dollars in infrastructure damage and other losses – equivalent to about half of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2013.

“Parties to the conflict have targeted key economic infrastructure. Mainly air strikes – but also shelling and other attacks – have damaged or destroyed ports, roads, bridges, factories and markets. They have also imposed restrictions that disrupt the flow of private sector goods and humanitarian aid, including food and medicine.”

For months, nearly all-basic commodities have been only sporadically available in most locations, and basic commodity prices in December 2016 were on average 22 per cent higher than before the crisis, reports OCHA.

At the same time, Yemen is experiencing a liquidity crisis in which people, traders and humanitarian partners struggle to transfer cash into and within the country. Lenders have become increasingly reluctant to supply credit to Yemeni traders seeking to import essential goods.

Basic Commodities, Scarcer, More Expensive

On this, it informs that at the end result is an economic environment in which basic commodities are becoming scarcer and more expensive just as people’s livelihoods opportunities and access to cash are receding or disappearing altogether.

And that humanitarian partners face growing pressure to compensate for the entire commercial sector, which is beyond both their capacity and appropriate role. Essential basic services and the institutions that provide them are collapsing due to conflict, displacement and economic decline.

“Yemeni authorities report that Central Bank foreign exchange reserves dropped from 4.7 billion dollars in late 2014 to less than 1 billion in September 2016, and the public budget deficit has grown by more than 50 per cent to 2.2 billion dollars.”

In addition, salaries for health facility staff, teachers and other public sector workers are paid erratically, often leaving 1.25 million state employees and their 6.9 million dependents – nearly 30 per cent of the population – without a regular income at a time of shortages and rising prices.

“As a result, social services provided by public institutions are collapsing while needs are surging.” In August 2016, the Ministry of Public Health and Population in Sana’a announced it could no longer cover operational costs for health services, and by October, only 45 per cent of health facilities in the country were fully functional.

Absenteeism among key staff – doctors, nutrition counsellors, teachers, etc. – is reportedly rising as employees seek alternatives to provide for their families, according to the UN. On top of pressure to compensate for a faltering commercial sector, humanitarian partners are increasingly fielding calls to fill gaps created by collapsing public institutions.

90% of Food, Imported – 8 Million Lost Livelihoods

According to OCHA, Yemen relies on imports for more than 90 per cent of its staple food and nearly all fuel and medicine.

Authorities in Sana’a and other areas also at times deny or delay clearances for humanitarian activities, including movement requests for assessments or aid delivery. Restrictions on workshops, humanitarian data collection and information sharing have also been intermittently introduced and rescinded.

These restrictions are at times resolved through dialogue, but the time lost represents an unacceptable burden for people who desperately need assistance. Positive developments since November 2016 indicate that these restrictions may substantially improve in the immediate coming period.

An estimated 8 million Yemenis have lost their livelihoods or are living in communities with minimal to no basic services, the UN informs, adding that about 2 million school-age children are out of school and damage, hosting IDPs, or occupation by armed groups.

Yemen is an Arab country situated in the Southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is the second-largest country in the peninsula, with nearly occupying 528,000 km2, and its coastline stretches for about 2,000 kms.

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Financing Key to Reaching Everyone, Everywhere with Water & Sanitationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/financing-key-to-reaching-everyone-everywhere-with-water-sanitation-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=financing-key-to-reaching-everyone-everywhere-with-water-sanitation-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/financing-key-to-reaching-everyone-everywhere-with-water-sanitation-2/#comments Thu, 13 Apr 2017 17:30:03 +0000 John Garrett http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149958 John Garrett is Senior Policy Analyst, Development Finance at WaterAid]]> Credit: UN Photo

Credit: UN Photo

By John Garrett
LONDON, Apr 13 2017 (IPS)

Eighteen months ago, UN member-states pledged a new set of goals on eradicating extreme poverty and creating a fairer, more sustainable planet by 2030. This week, we have alarming evidence that at least one of those goals – Sustainable Development Goal 6, to reach everyone everywhere with access to water and sanitation – is already in peril.

The UN Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS) report produced by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed a huge gap in financing with over 80% of developing countries reporting that they have insufficient resources to meet their national targets.

Globally, the World Bank estimates that as much as £114 billion is required annually, around three times current levels – to meet the UN Global Goals’ ambitions to reach everyone, everywhere with safely-managed water and sanitation.

Some 663 million people in the world are without an ‘improved’ source of water and millions more are drinking water which may be contaminated after collection; nearly 2.4 billion people in the world are without access to decent sanitation, and the resulting health crises kill 315,000 young children each year.

Soberingly, new aid commitments from donors for water and sanitation have fallen by 21% since 2012, from US$ 10.4 billion to US$ 8.2 billion in 2015. Also of major concern is the continuing ineffective targeting of aid. GLAAS reported one country in Europe – Ukraine — received the equivalent of more than half of the aid commitment for water and sanitation to all of Sub-Saharan Africa in 2015.

Nearly 2.4 billion people in the world are without access to decent sanitation, and the resulting health crises kill 315,000 young children each year
Closing this financial gap will require increased levels of domestic and international finance for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), from both public and private sources.

However, given the scale of the financial challenge, there remains a strong need for international aid.

This is all the more important given the additional challenges faced by many developing countries from growing populations, rapid urbanisation, water scarcity and climate change.

Among other findings in this regular report card on water and sanitation financing:

• Sub-Saharan Africa is home to half of the world’s people living without access to clean water, yet they received only US$1.7 billion, or 20% of all water and sanitation aid, in 2015. This is down from 38% in 2012.

• Some 85% of the global population without access to improved sanitation or drinking-water from an improved source live in three regions: Central and Southern Asia, East and South-eastern Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. However, aid commitments to these three regions were only 48% of global overseas development aid for water and sanitation in 2015.

• Non-governmental projects and funding are greater than government spending on water and sanitation in many countries, demonstrating the critical need for continued international aid, as well as efforts to create greater domestic revenues and stronger government systems.

• Sanitation spending is still half that of spending on water, despite there being 2.4 billion people – or one in three of the world’s population – without access.

These are alarming trends. Water, sanitation and hygiene programmes are critical for good health, education and improved livelihoods, providing an essential building block for the eradication of poverty. For every £1 invested, an estimated £4 is returned through improved health and productivity.

Yet we see by the GLAAS report’s findings that the majority of developing countries do not have enough money to achieve their targets on water and sanitation access and that aid commitments are actually falling.

WaterAid has called for overseas development aid to water, sanitation and hygiene to at least double from current levels by 2020, with an emphasis on grant financing, and for it to be targeted to areas of greatest need.

We want to see the volume of development aid spent on water, sanitation and hygiene increased. But just as importantly, we want to see it spent well.

An essential component of aid is ensuring countries have support to plan for water and sanitation services today and in the long-term, with appropriate financing for maintenance and staff training. Without these changes, many countries will be seriously off track on SDG 6 even at this early stage.

The GLAAS report has been released ahead of the World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington D.C.

On 19-20 April, as part of the Spring Meetings, the Sanitation and Water for All partnership of more than 150 organisations will gather senior finance and water and sanitation ministers from around the world in high-level meetings, to monitor progress on delivering water and sanitation in their countries and call for further commitments.

The SWA partnership holds members accountable to delivering on four ‘collaborative behaviours’ required to successfully reach even a country’s poorest with sustainable access to water and sanitation: building sustainable financing strategies, strengthening country systems, enhancing government leadership, and using a common information and mutual accountability platform.

As a founding member of the Sanitation and Water for All partnership, WaterAid is calling on ministers from both developing and donor nations to join the High-Level Meeting and deliver on their promises to reach everyone, everywhere with clean water and sanitation by 2030.

Progress is possible: in 2000, around 18% of the world’s population, or one billion people, had no access to even a basic, improved source of water. By 2015, this number had fallen to below 10%, or 663 million.

But those still without access are often hardest to reach – marginalised by poverty, remote or rural locations, age, gender, ethnicity or ability. Going the last mile on water, and extending this progress to sanitation, requires high-level commitment, and the will to turn commitment into action.

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The Unbearable Cost of Drought in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/the-unbearable-cost-of-drought-in-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-unbearable-cost-of-drought-in-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/the-unbearable-cost-of-drought-in-africa/#comments Wed, 12 Apr 2017 13:51:01 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149928 People living in the Melia IDP camp, Lake Chad, receiving WFP food. Most of the displaced come from the Lake Chad islands, that have been abandoned because of insecurity. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini

People living in the Melia IDP camp, Lake Chad, receiving WFP food. Most of the displaced come from the Lake Chad islands, that have been abandoned because of insecurity. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 12 2017 (IPS)

Nearly 50 per cent of all emergency multilateral food assistance to Africa is due to natural disasters, with advancing droughts significantly threatening both livelihoods and economic growth, warns the African Union through its ground-breaking extreme weather insurance mechanism designed to help the continent’s countries resist and recover from the ravages of drought.

The mechanism, known as the African Risk Capacity (ARC) provides participating African states with quick-disbursing funds in the event of drought, and assists countries in developing drought response contingency plans to implement timely and effective responses.

“The result is significant economic and welfare benefits for participating countries and vulnerable households.”

As currently structured, ARC reports, the cost of responding to extreme weather events in Africa, particularly droughts, is borne largely by the international community.

To give an order of magnitude using World Food Programme (WFP) operations as a proxy for international aid flows, in 2012 WFP assisted 54.2 million people in Africa, spending US $2.7 billion –66 per cent of WFP’s global expenditure that year, it adds.

Droughts significantly threaten record Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in sub-Saharan Africa, ARC warned, while explaining that 1-in-10 year drought event could have an estimated adverse impact of 4 per cent on the annual GDP of Malawi for example, with even larger impacts for 1-in-15 and 1-in-25 year events.

“Such decreased productivity detracts from economic growth, causes major budget dislocation, erodes development gains and resilience, and requires additional emergency aid from the international community in the future.” One dollar spent on early intervention through ARC saves 4.40 dollars spent after a crisis unfolds.

Devastating Effects for Households

The African Union’s extreme weather insurance mechanism also informs that at the household level, the consequences of drought can be devastating in countries with low resilience where large sectors of population rely on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihood.

A mother holds up an empty cooking pot as she crouches alongside her daughter inside their makeshift home at a settlement near the town of Ainabo, Somalia, Thursday 9 March 2017. Photo: UNICEF/Kate Holt

A mother holds up an empty cooking pot as she crouches alongside her daughter inside their makeshift home at a settlement near the town of Ainabo, Somalia, Thursday 9 March 2017. Photo: UNICEF/Kate Holt

Experts from Oxford University and International Food Policy Research Institute conducted a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) to examine household coping actions when faced with a drought, and the likely long-term cost impacts of these actions, according to ARC.

The study estimated the economic benefits of early intervention and thus protecting a household’s economic growth potential –that is, intervening in time to prevent households’ negative coping actions such as reduced food consumption, livestock death, and distressed productive asset sales, which, in the absence of external assistance, have increasingly pronounced negative consequences.

“The CBA calculated that the economic benefit of aid reaching households within the critical three months after harvest could result in nearly 1,300 dollars per household assisted in terms of protected economic gains.”

A further analysis shows the potential benefit of ARC outweighs the 4.4 times compared to traditional emergency appeals for assistance, as a result of reduced response times and risk pooling.

Lake Chad Basin – Extreme Emergency

The ARC report about the impact of droughts in Africa came out shortly before the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) chief’s visit to some of the affected areas in North-Eastern Nigeria, where conflict has forced an estimated 2.5 million people to leave their homes and livelihoods.

The Sub-Saharan Lake Chad Basin, which is the main source of water in the region, between 1963 and 2013 lost 90 per cent of its water mass, with massive impact on the population, according to FAO.

Across the region, (encompassing parts of Nigeria, Cameroun, Chad and Niger), which is currently faced with one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world, some 7 million people risk severe hunger during the lean season and require immediate food and livelihood assistance.

“There are fifty thousand people on the brink of famine in the region, on a scale from 1 to 5, where 5 is famine, they are already at level 4”, FAO director general Graziano da Silva warned.
Following three years of drought, agriculture including livestock and fisheries can no longer be left unattended, he said.

Agriculture produces food and sustains 90 per cent of the local population. Many of the people in the area have already sold their possessions including seeds and tools and their animals have been killed by the armed groups.

“Pastoralists and fishers need to be supported as well for animal restocking. Otherwise if internally displaced persons don’t have their animals and their jobs back, they will remain in the refugee camps, “ the FAO DG emphasised.

Contribution to Long-term Resilience and Growth in Africa Low resilience households must grow by more than 3 per cent annually in real terms to withstand a 1-in-5 year drought.

For many countries in Africa, a small shock in terms of a rainfall deficit or elevated food prices can precipitate a call for a major humanitarian intervention and emergency response. The resilience in such countries is significantly low such that they struggle through most years, let alone during a drought.

For example, in a country such as Niger, where households currently display very low resilience, the ARC team has calculated that to event, the income of the most vulnerable households would have to grow by an annual average of 3.4 per cent over the next five years in real terms to build sufficient resilience in order to adequately cope without requiring external assistance.

In the meantime, insurance is not the ‘correct’ tool to deal with this chronic risk. In order to improve such countries’ resilience to natural disasters, thereby enabling sustained growth on the continent, two key elements are required: risk management and investment.

Drought, a complex and slowly encroaching natural hazard with significant and pervasive socio-economic and environmental impacts, is known to cause more deaths and displace more people than any other natural disaster, according to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

By 2050, the demand for water is expected to increase by 50 per cent, it reports, adding that as populations increase, especially in dryland areas, more and more people are becoming dependent on fresh water supplies in land that are becoming degraded.

“Water scarcity is one of the greatest challenges of the twenty-first century. The Global Risks report published by World Economic Forum ranks ‘water crisis’ as the top risk in the coming decade and it has a place in the Sustainable Development Goals where a specific goal has been dedicated to water.”

Drought and water scarcity are considered to be the most far-reaching of all natural disasters, causing short and long-term economic and ecological losses as well as significant secondary and tertiary impacts, UNCCD informs.

The African Risk Capacity was established as a Specialized Agency of the African Union to help Member States improve their capacities to better plan, prepare and respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters, therefore protecting the food security of their vulnerable populations.

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The Ebola Crisis: Lessons Learned for Developing Nationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/the-ebola-crisis-lessons-learned-for-developing-nations-3/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-ebola-crisis-lessons-learned-for-developing-nations-3 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/the-ebola-crisis-lessons-learned-for-developing-nations-3/#comments Tue, 11 Apr 2017 17:46:08 +0000 an IPS Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149911 ebola_11

By an IPS Correspondent
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 11 2017 (IPS)

The Group of 77 has pointed out that the Ebola crisis of 2014-2015 proved that “no country is immune from a disease outbreak, no matter where it emerges”

The Group has argued that the world is now a big village, where the borders between countries are crossed by millions every day for different reasons– a better life for some, a migration for others, all due to different factors, including climate change and the outbreak of fast-spreading diseases.

Speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, joined by China, Lourdes Pereira of the Ecuadorean Mission to the UN told the Fifth Committee that since the 2014 Ebola outbreak, it became quickly evident that one country alone, with limited capacities and resources, could not face singlehandedly a threat of that dimension spreading across the borders – particularly, if it was not contained with global efforts.

But it also became evident, she pointed out, that regional and international organizations in charge of health, in particular the World Health Organization (WHO), did not have the relevant mechanisms and resources in place for a rapid response to stem the tide of the crisis.

“Uncertainty, fear and a lack of capacity and preparedness contributed to an ineffective and delayed response.”

She expressed the Group’s appreciation for the establishment of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), the first-ever UN emergency health mission.

Despite serious challenges, the presence of UNMEER played a catalytic role in mobilizing the necessary financial and human resources to scale up the response to fight a disease which mostly affected West Africa.

The UN Mission contributed in bolstering national operational response capacity of the three Ebola affected countries, namely, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone where more than 11,000 died.

The Group underlines that, the availability of immediate funds in an emergency intervention, flexible enough to meet identified critical gaps, is every important and helps build synergies of the global response.

To this end, the Group commended the Office of the Special Envoy on Ebola for its role in mobilizing extra-budgetary resources to the Ebola Multi-Partner Trust Fund, the international institutions, in particular WHO, OCHA, the bilateral and multilateral partners, the African Union and sub-regional organizations, the civil society, and many others for their fundamental contributions during the Ebola outbreak.

She said the reports under consideration by the Fifth Committee highlighted the numerous challenges encountered in the fight against the Ebola virus disease.

These challenges included, but not limited to the lack of coordination, initial confusion on responsibility sharing; trained and experienced personnel; inefficiencies in the use of new mechanisms which led to the loss of time; ineffective community engagement; proper logistic coordination; information on the financial performance of the Mission and on the liquidation and disposal of assets.

In order to avoid future problems in such crisis situations, the Group underlined the importance of building on existing institutional and coordination mechanisms, working with entities already on the ground such as the WHO and the United Nations Country team and the African Union, so as to reduce confusion, especially in the midst of health crises such as the recent Ebola outbreak.

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World Must Act Now on Lake Chad Basin Crisis: FAO DG Graziano da Silvahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/world-must-act-now-on-lake-chad-basin-crisis-fao-dg-graziano-da-silva/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-must-act-now-on-lake-chad-basin-crisis-fao-dg-graziano-da-silva http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/world-must-act-now-on-lake-chad-basin-crisis-fao-dg-graziano-da-silva/#comments Tue, 11 Apr 2017 14:52:37 +0000 Eva Donelli http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149907 Lake Chad Basin: a crisis rooted in hunger, poverty and lack of rural development. Credit: FAO

Lake Chad Basin: a crisis rooted in hunger, poverty and lack of rural development. Credit: FAO

By Eva Donelli
ROME, Apr 11 2017 (IPS)

Food assistance is a priority and the only way to prevent the crisis from worsening in the Lake Chad Basin, is to support food production according to José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

“We need to take action now and there is no doubt that hungry people need food, but an emergency approach doesn’t tackle the roots”, he said in a press conference following his three day visit to some of the affected areas in northeastern Nigeria, where conflict has forced an estimated 2.5 million people to leave their homes and livelihoods.

Lake Chad, which is the main source of water in the region, between 1963 and 2013 lost 90 percent of its water mass, with massive impact on the population.

Across the region, (encompassing parts of Nigeria, Cameroun, Chad and Niger), which is currently faced with one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world, some 7 million people risk severe hunger during the lean season and require immediate food and livelihood assistance.

“There are fifty thousand people on the brink of famine in the region, on a scale from 1 to 5, where 5 is famine, they are already at level 4”, Graziano da Silva warned.

The FAO chiefexplained that this conflict cannot be solved only with arms. This is a war against hunger and poverty and rural development must be promoted and resilience built. A combination of food assistance and food production support is the only way to avoid further escalation of the serious humanitarian crisis.

Following three years of drought, agriculture including livestock and fisheries can no longer be left unattended. Agriculture produces food and sustains 90 percent of the local population. Many of the people in the area have already sold their possessions including seeds and tools and their animals have been killed by the armed groups. “Pastoralists and fishers need to be supported as well for animal restocking. Otherwise if internally displaced persons don’t have their animals and their jobs back, they will remain in the refugee camps, “ the FAO DG emphasized. “The region is approaching a critical time in the agricultural calendar, with the main planting season beginning in May/June 2017 and we need the money now to plant”, he stressed. There is a huge shortfall in international assistance to meet the emergency needs. Of the USD 62 million requested under the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan for Nigeria, FAO has so far received only about USD 10 million.

FAO Director-General meets Prime Minister of Chad, Albert Pahimi Padake. Credit: FAO

FAO Director-General meets Prime Minister of Chad, Albert Pahimi Padake. Credit: FAO


FAO has developed a Lake Chad Basin Response Strategy (2017-2019) to improve food security and nutrition and strengthen the resilience of vulnerable communities in the affected areas and more than 1.16 million people will receive assistance in the coming months across the region. Key activities will include the distribution of cereal seeds, animal feed and the provision of cash transfers and veterinary care.

In response to a question by IPS, Graziano Da Silva said he will soon be discussing with David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme about the crisis and work together with other organizations such as UNHCR, UNICEF and UNDP “to integrate their different mandates to tackle the crisis.

Graziano da Silva stated further that according to Kashim Shettima, Governor of Borno State, the current globally high levels of food insecurity reflect a sustained lack of investment in rural development over the last 30 years that has generated and exacerbated the conflicts, pushing millions of people into hunger. The FAO DG explained further that in addition to emergency assistance, there is a need to gradually move to higher investments, in particular for equipment and training of farmers in modern irrigation techniques. In reply to a question at the press conference , he noted, “the capital of Borno State is a secure city”. He pointed out that governors must ensure safe market environments.“Small markets are opening in the villages, even inside the camps, so giving them cash would stimulate the market”, he added. “What is crucial now for organizations on the ground is not to work independently but to have a good interaction with local governors, to face the challenge.”

In fact, Graziano da Silva concluded, “we are monitoring the crisis and we have a lot of detailed data; what we need is to raise awareness and inform donors on the dimension of the crisis”.

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Humanity and Social Justice, a Must for the Future of Work – Ryderhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/humanity-and-social-justice-a-must-for-the-future-of-work-ryder/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanity-and-social-justice-a-must-for-the-future-of-work-ryder http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/humanity-and-social-justice-a-must-for-the-future-of-work-ryder/#comments Mon, 10 Apr 2017 14:43:10 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149890 Credit: ILO

Credit: ILO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 10 2017 (IPS)

“The future of work must be inspired by considerations of humanity, of social justice and peace. If it is not, we are going to a dark place, we are going to a dangerous place,” said the head of the leading world body specialised on labour issues.

With a forecful call to make social dialogue between governments and the social partners a key instrument for building a world of work that leaves no one behind, Guy Ryder, director general of the International Labour Organization (ILO) summed up a landmark event on the future of work.

“We now need to transform our thinking into results, into concrete outcomes,” Ryder added at the conclusion of the two-day (April 6-7) Global Dialogue: The Future of Work We Want. “We need to address the concerns of that young person, wondering if there is a future of work for them.”

The event, which took place at ILO’s headquarters in Geneva, brought together leading economists, academics and representatives of governments and the social partners (employers’ and workers’ organisations) to discuss the profound changes sweeping the world of work. “The future of work must be inspired by considerations of humanity, of social justice and peace. If it is not, we are going to a dark place, we are going to a dangerous place,” ILO chief, Guy Ryder.

More than 700 participants attended the event in Geneva with several hundreds joining and participating via the Internet and social media.

“We Can’t Leave It All to the Market”

Among the participants was Lord Robert Skidelsky, from the University of Warwick in the UK, who as the keynote speaker at the event said that international solutions are needed to harmonise the process of adaptation to the future of work: “We can’t leave it all to the market. We can’t stop innovation but we can manage it.”

The Geneva meeting also featured a special session on how to shape the future of work for youth, with a particular focus on the transition from school to work, the organisation of the world of work and its regulation.

He reminded that the future of work was a global issue that merited a global response, but also one that requires “taking into consideration the diverse circumstances of our 187 member States” and the importance of sharing experiences among them.

The head of the ILO emphasised the need to promote innovation and development, at the same time as maintaining the Organization’s social objectives.

Work, Technologies, Climate Change, Migration…

The Global Dialogue was part of a broader ILO’s The Future of Work Centenary Initiative to investigate the future of work and better understand the drivers of unprecedented change, including technological innovation, the organisation of work and production, globalisation, climate change, migration and demography, among others.

The initiative is seeking to broadly canvas the views of key actors in the world of work on all of these issues, says ILO.

Guy Ryder, ILO Director General. Credit: ILO

Guy Ryder, ILO Director General. Credit: ILO

More than 167 countries have taken part in the ILO initiative so far, with 107 of them participating in national and regional dialogues that have been or are being held all around the world.

Their conclusions will help inform a High Level Global Commission on the Future of Work, to be established by the ILO later this year. The report of the Commission will feed into discussions on a Centenary Declaration at the 2019 International Labour Conference.

Around the world, profound changes in the nature of work are underway, ILO said, adding that the on-going transformations in the world of labour are disrupting the connection between work, personal development and community participation.

The future of work gains special relevance now that it is estimated that over 600 million new jobs need to be created by 2030, just to keep pace with the growth of the global working age population. That’s around 40 million per year.

Meantime, there is a pressing need to improve conditions for the some 780 million women and men who are working but not earning enough to lift themselves and their families out of just 2 dollars a day poverty.

Major Issues

On these major issues, which mainly affects the present and future of the youth, and in particular, the most vulnerable groups such as women, migrants, rural communities, and indigenous peoples, the world leading specialised body, had, ahead of the meeting posed the following seven key questions:

Credit: ILO

Credit: ILO

How will societies manage these changes? Will they bring together or pull apart developed, emerging and developed economies?; Where will the jobs of tomorrow come from and what will they look like?; What are the challenges and opportunities young people are facing as they make the transition into the world of work?; What do they see as the path forward to achieve sustainable inclusive growth for future generations?

Also: what are the new forms of the employment relationship and whether and to what extent that relationship will continue to be the locus for many of the protections now afforded to workers? And: what initiatives to revitalise existing norms and institutions and/or create new forms of regulation that may help to meet present and future governance challenges?

Around the world, in economies at all stages of development, profound changes in the nature of work are underway, the UN specialised body explained, adding that numerous and diverse drivers account for these: demographic shifts, climate change, technological innovation, shifting contours of poverty and prosperity, growing inequality, economic stagnation and the changing character of production and employment.

A Worrisome Picture

“We are facing the twin challenge of repairing the damage caused by the global economic and social crisis and creating quality jobs for the tens of millions of new labour market entrants every year,” said Guy Ryder ahead of the meeting.

Economic growth continues to disappoint and underperform – both in terms of levels and the degree of inclusion, he explained, adding, “This paints a worrisome picture for the global economy and its ability to generate enough jobs. Let alone quality jobs.”

According to ILO chief, persistent high levels of vulnerable forms of employment combined with clear lack of progress in job quality – even in countries where aggregate figures are improving – are “alarming.”
.
In fact, ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook – Trends 2017 shows that vulnerable forms of employment – i.e. contributing family workers and own account workers – are expected to stay above 42 per cent of total employment, accounting for 1.4 billion people worldwide in 2017.

Almost one in two workers in emerging countries are in vulnerable forms of employment, rising to more than four in five workers in developing countries, said Steven Tobin, ILO Senior Economist and lead author of the report.

As a result, the number of workers in vulnerable employment is projected to grow by 11 million per year, with Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa being the most affected.

Meanwhile, the global unemployment rate is expected to rise modestly from 5.7 to 5.8 per cent in 2017 representing an increase of 3.4 million in the number of jobless people, a new ILO report shows.

The number of unemployed persons globally in 2017 is forecast to stand at just over 201 million – with an additional rise of 2.7 million expected in 2018 – as the pace of labour force growth outstrips job creation.

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No U.S. Refuge for Syrians Even After Military Strikeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/no-u-s-refuge-for-syrians-even-after-military-strikes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-u-s-refuge-for-syrians-even-after-military-strikes http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/no-u-s-refuge-for-syrians-even-after-military-strikes/#comments Fri, 07 Apr 2017 23:31:19 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149866 Nikki Haley, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN holding up pictures of victims of the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria which prompted the Trump administration to launch an airstrike against the Assad government. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Nikki Haley, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN holding up pictures of victims of the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria which prompted the Trump administration to launch an airstrike against the Assad government. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 7 2017 (IPS)

U.S. President Donald Trump Thursday night described the deepening Syrian refugee crisis as partial justification for the first direct U.S. airstrike against the Syrian government, even though the United States still bans all refugees from Syria.

Several rights groups responded Friday, calling on Trump to repeal the ban, which applies to migrants from Syria and 5 other countries in Africa and the Middle East.

“Trump was using very strong words last night to describe the cruelty and the horrors that children and civilians in general are enduring (in Syria),” Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, co-director of the US Program at Human Rights Watch told IPS.

“To try to keep refugees out of the United States is cruel,”McFarland Sánchez-Moreno added. “It’s contrary to the values that the U.S. has traditionally claimed to hold dear and inconsistent with some of the words that President Trump himself used last night.”

Speaking from Palm Beach, Florida on Thursday night Trump described how “even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered” in the alleged chemical weapons attack which took place earlier this week.

“Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed, and failed very dramatically.  As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize…” Trump continued.

“If we truly want to help protect the people of Syria, we must also be willing to offer the Syrians assistance as they flee attacks in search of safety," -- Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America

However despite the airstrike marking a change in direction in Syria for the Trump Republican administration, there is no indication the administration is considering a similar shift in its policy towards Syrian refugees.

Reactions from the 15 member states of the UN Security Council to the airstrike on Friday were mixed, with some supporting the strikes even though the United States carried out the unilateral attack without the backing of the council. Others, including Bolivia, which called the meeting, strongly opposed the attack.

Lord Steward Wood of Anfield, Chair of the UN Association of the UK, a civil society organisation questioned the United States decision to take “unilateral action without broad international backing through the UN,”

He said that such action “without a clear strategy for safeguarding civilians, and through further military escalation risks further deepening and exacerbating an already protracted and horrific conflict, leaving civilians at greater, not lesser, risk of further atrocities.”

“In the meantime, if President Trump wishes to help the victims of Assad’s atrocities, he could pledge to play a leading role in resettling the survivors,” Wood added.

Meanwhile Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America’s Senior Humanitarian Policy Advisor called for the United States to “change course” on Syrian refugees following the airstrikes.

Gottschalk said that the “innocent families” that Trump referred to “who were killed in Idlib are no different than the people who are attempting to seek refuge in the U.S.”

“Oxfam is urging the President to change course on his discriminatory ban that blocks Syrian civilians from finding refuge in the United States,” he said. “If we truly want to help protect the people of Syria, we must also be willing to offer the Syrians assistance as they flee attacks in search of safety.”

Although this is the first time that the United States has directly targeted Bashar Al-Assad’s government, airstrike monitoring project Airwars reports that there have been 7912 US-led coalition strikes targeting the so-called Islamic State since 2014. Airwars has also reported a spike in civilian casualties related to coalition air strikes in March 2017, rating 477 civilian casualties reports as ‘fair’.

However Airwars also reported that the U.S. strike on Shayrat Airfield in Homs in the early hours of Friday 7 April destroyed “up to 12 aircraft” describing this result as “significant” considering that “the primary cause of civilian deaths by (the) Syrian regime remains airstrikes.”

Earlier this week spokesmen for the UN Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric said that the Secretary-General was “deeply disturbed by the reports of alleged use of chemical weapons in an airstrike in the Khan Shaykhun area of southern Idlib, Syria.”

“The Secretary-General expresses his heartfelt condolences to victims of the incident and their families.”

Guterres had not yet commented on the U.S. airstrike against the Syrian government as of Friday evening.

Almost five million people have fled Syria since the conflict began over six years ago. Many areas of Syria are besieged and inaccessible to humanitarian assistance as well as UN monitors. This makes it difficult for the UN to monitor attacks such as the alleged chemical weapons attack which took place this week. This is also why the UN no longer provides an official death toll for the conflict, however in April 2016, UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura said that it is likely more than 400,000 people had been killed.

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UN Strengthens Kenya’s Resilience to Disasterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/un-strengthens-kenyas-resilience-to-disaster/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-strengthens-kenyas-resilience-to-disaster http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/un-strengthens-kenyas-resilience-to-disaster/#comments Fri, 07 Apr 2017 00:09:50 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149845 Drought still accounts for at least 26 percent of all people affected by climate-related disasters. Millions in Kenya are currently relying on wild fruits and vegetables. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

Drought still accounts for at least 26 percent of all people affected by climate-related disasters. Millions in Kenya are currently relying on wild fruits and vegetables. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Apr 7 2017 (IPS)

Kenya’s lack of capacity to cope with wide-scale disaster has seen thousands of households continue to live precarious lives, especially in light of erratic and drastically changing weather patterns.

If millions are not staring death in the face due to the raging drought, they are fighting to remain afloat as their homes are swept away by surging waters.For every dollar spent on disaster risk reduction, a country is likely to save four to seven dollars in humanitarian response.

“Drought accounts for an estimated 26 percent of all disasters and floods for 20 percent,” warns the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

UNISDR serves as the focal point in the United Nations system for the coordination of disaster risk reduction and has been running various interventions to make the country more disaster-resilient.

Government statistics confirm that drought still accounts for at least a quarter of all people affected by climate-related disasters. The country is at the threshold of the 12th drought since 1975.

Against this backdrop, for seven months now Ruth Ettyang and her household of seven have continued to rely on wild fruits and vegetables to survive the deepening drought in the expansive Turkana County, Northern Kenya.

Temperatures are unusually high even for the arid area and the situation is becoming even more dire since people have to compete with thousands of livestock in this pastoral community for the scarce wild vegetation and dirty water in rivers that have all but run dry.

“When rains fail it is too dry. When they come it is another problem as houses are destroyed and people drown,” Ettyang explains.

Turkana is not a unique scenario and is reflective of the two main types of disasters that this East African country faces.

Additionally, Turkana is among two other counties – Nakuru and Nairobi – which account for at least a quarter of all people killed by various disasters, according to UNISDR.

There is no doubt that Kenya is a disaster-prone country and in the absence of a disaster risk management policy or legislation, the situation is dire.

“The pending enactment of Kenya’s Disaster Risk Management Bill and Policy, which has remained in a draft stage for over a decade, is a critical step in enhancing the disaster risk reduction progress in Kenya,” Amjad Abbashar, Head of Office, UNISDR Regional Office for Africa, told IPS.

Government’s recent call on the international community and humanitarian agencies to provide much needed aid to save the starving millions is reflective of the critical role that humanitarian agencies play in disaster response but even more importantly, in disaster risk reduction.

“Disaster risk reduction aims to prevent new and reduce existing disaster risk, while strengthening preparedness for response and recovery, thus contributing to strengthening resilience,” Abbashar said.

UNISDR supports the implementation, follow-up and review of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, adopted at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in March 2015 in Sendai, Japan, and endorsed by the UN General Assembly.

“The Sendai Framework is a 15-year voluntary, non-binding agreement that maps out a broad, people-centered approach to disaster risk reduction. The Sendai Framework succeeded the Hyogo Framework for Action that was in force from 2005 to 2015,” Animesh Kumar, Deputy Head of Office, UNISDR Regional Office for Africa, told IPS.

“This global agreement seeks to substantially reduce disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries,” Kumar added.

According to UNISDR, the disaster risk reduction institutional mechanism in the country is structured around the National Disaster Operations Centre, the National Drought Management Authority, and the National Disaster Management Unit. The UN agency works with these institutions.

Within this context, UNISDR has supported the establishment of a robust National Disaster Loss Database housed at the National Disaster Operation Centre.

“This database creates an understanding of the impacts and costs of disasters, its risks as far as disasters are concerned and to steer Kenya to invest in resilient infrastructure,” Abbashar said.

“Systematic disaster data collection and analysis is also useful in informing policy decisions to help reduce disaster risks and build resilience,” he added.

UNISDR is also assisting Kenyan legislators through capacity building and support in development of relevant Disaster Risk Management laws and policies.

Though the country is still a long way from being disaster resilient, UNISDR says that there have been some key milestones.

“We have collaborated towards ensuring that a National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction has also been instituted to monitor national disaster risk reduction progress,” Kumar observes.

A National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2018) has been developed to implement the Sendai Framework in Kenya.

At the county level, County Integrated Development Plans (CIDPs) have been undertaken, which have integrated some elements of disaster risk reduction and peace and security.

Due to UNISDR work in the Counties, Kisumu city in Nyanza region, is one of five African cities that are pioneering local-level implementation of the Sendai Framework in Africa.

“The establishment of the Parliamentary Caucus on Disaster Risk Reduction that was formed in 2015 with a membership of over 35 Kenyan parliamentarians with support from UNISDR is a key policy milestone,” Abbashar explains.

The Kenyan Women’s Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) is also advocating for the enactment of a Disaster Risk Management Bill and its establishment was the result of joint efforts between UNISDR and parliament.

UNISDR remains steadfast that the role of women as agents of change in disaster risk reduction must be emphasized.

But the work that this UN agency does in Kenya would receive a significant boost if just like women, children too were involved as agents of change.

“Incorporation of disaster risk reduction in school curricula can lead to a growing population that is aware of disaster risk reduction as well as a generation that acts as disaster risk champions in future,” Abbashar said.

Setting aside a sizeable amount for disaster risk reduction in the national budget is extremely important.

For every dollar spent on disaster risk reduction, “a country is likely to save four to seven dollars in humanitarian response and multiple times more for future costs of development,” he stressed.

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Work, What Future? Seven Big Questions Needing Urgent Responsehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/work-what-future-seven-big-questions-needing-urgent-response/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=work-what-future-seven-big-questions-needing-urgent-response http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/work-what-future-seven-big-questions-needing-urgent-response/#comments Thu, 06 Apr 2017 14:31:38 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149839 Credit: ILO

Credit: ILO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 6 2017 (IPS)

Around the world, profound changes in the nature of work are underway, that’s clear. So it is a fact that the on-going transformations in the world of labour are disrupting the connection
between work, personal development and community participation.

The future of work gains special relevance now that it is estimated that over 600 million new jobs need to be created by 2030, just to keep pace with the growth of the global working age population. That’s around 40 million per year.

Meantime, there is a pressing need to improve conditions for the some 780 million women and men who are working but not earning enough to lift themselves and their families out of just 2 dollars a day poverty.

On these major issues, which mainly affects the present and future of the youth, and in particular, the most vulnerable groups such as women, migrants, rural communities, and indigenous peoples, the world leading specialised body, the International Labour Organization (ILO), has posed seven key questions:

• How will societies manage these changes?
• Will they bring together or pull apart developed, emerging and developed economies?
• Where will the jobs of tomorrow come from and what will they look like?
• What are the challenges and opportunities young people are facing as they make the transition into the world of work?
• What do they see as the path forward to achieve sustainable inclusive growth for future generations?
• What are the new forms of the employment relationship and whether and to what extent that relationship will continue to be the locus for many of the protections now afforded to workers?
• What initiatives to revitalise existing norms and institutions and/or create new forms of regulation that may help to meet present and future governance challenges? “Economic growth continues to disappoint and underperform – both in terms of levels and the degree of inclusion. This paints a worrisome picture for the global economy and its ability to generate enough jobs. Let alone quality jobs.” - Guy Ryder, ILO Chief

These questions are at the top on the agenda of a two-day (6-7 April) symposium, The Future of Work We Want: A Global Dialogue, organised by ILO at its headquarters in Geneva.

The event is an important step to gain greater understanding of the changes the world is witnessing and to develop effective policy responses that can shape the future of work, says ILO.

Why?

Around the world, in economies at all stages of development, profound changes in the nature of work are underway, the UN specialised body explains, adding that numerous and diverse drivers account for these: demographic shifts, climate change, technological innovation, shifting contours of poverty and prosperity, growing inequality, economic stagnation and the changing character of production and employment.

“The transformations we witness now challenge us to imagine the future of work over the long term in order to steer this evolution in the direction of social justice. Rising widespread anxiety about whether the future will produce greater polarisation within and between countries brings urgency to this task.”

Recognising the pressing need to begin marshaling global expertise to make the future of work the one we want, the ILO launched the The Future of Work Centenary Initiative.

Under it, the symposium has been structured around four “centenary conversations” — work and society; decent jobs for all; the organisation of work and production, and the governance of work

The event has gathered international thinkers and actors who are at the forefront of debates on each topic.

A special session has been devoted to discussing the perspectives for and views of young people –including representatives of the social partners– in the future of work they will experience.

Economic Growth Both Disappoints and Underperforms

“We are facing the twin challenge of repairing the damage caused by the global economic and social crisis and creating quality jobs for the tens of millions of new labour market entrants every year,” said ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder.

Credit: ILO

Credit: ILO


Economic growth continues to disappoint and underperform – both in terms of levels and the degree of inclusion, he explained, adding, “This paints a worrisome picture for the global economy and its ability to generate enough jobs. Let alone quality jobs.”

According to ILO chief, persistent high levels of vulnerable forms of employment combined with clear lack of progress in job quality – even in countries where aggregate figures are improving – are “alarming.”

In fact, ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook – Trends 2017 shows that vulnerable forms of employment – i.e. contributing family workers and own account workers – are expected to stay above 42 per cent of total employment, accounting for 1.4 billion people worldwide in 2017.

In fact, almost one in two workers in emerging countries are in vulnerable forms of employment, rising to more than four in five workers in developing countries, said Steven Tobin, ILO Senior Economist and lead author of the report.

As a result, the number of workers in vulnerable employment is projected to grow by 11 million per year, with Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa being the most affected.

Meanwhile, the global unemployment rate is expected to rise modestly from 5.7 to 5.8 per cent in 2017 representing an increase of 3.4 million in the number of jobless people, a new ILO report shows.

The number of unemployed persons globally in 2017 is forecast to stand at just over 201 million – with an additional rise of 2.7 million expected in 2018 – as the pace of labour force growth outstrips job creation.

Unemployment Acute in Latin America, Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa

The report’s authors warn that unemployment challenges are particularly acute in Latin America and the Caribbean where the scars of the recent recession will have an important carry-over effect in 2017, as well as in Sub-Saharan Africa, which is also in the midst of its lowest level of growth in over two decades.

Credit: ILO

Credit: ILO


By contrast, unemployment should fall in 2017 among developed countries bringing their rate down to 6.2 per cent (from 6.3 per cent). But the pace of improvement is slowing and there are signs of structural unemployment.

In both Europe and North America, long-term unemployment remains stubbornly high compared to pre-crisis levels, and in the case of Europe, it continues to climb despite the receding unemployment rates.

Another key trend highlighted in the report is that the reductions in working poverty are slowing which endangers the prospects of eradicating poverty as set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The number of workers earning less than 3.10 dollars per day is even expected to increase by more than 5 million over the next two years in developing countries.

Social Unrest, Migration

At the same time, it warns that global uncertainty and the lack of decent jobs are, among other factors, underpinning social unrest and migration in many parts of the world.

Between 2009 and 2016, the share of the working age population willing to migrate abroad has increased in almost every region of the world, except for Southern Asia, South-Eastern Asia and the Pacific.

The largest rise took place in Latin America, the Caribbean and the Arab States.

Both regions are confronted with strong growth in the numbers of individuals entering working age.

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“Devastating Consequences” for Women, Girls as U.S. Defunds UN Agencyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/devastating-consequences-for-women-girls-as-u-s-defunds-un-agency/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=devastating-consequences-for-women-girls-as-u-s-defunds-un-agency http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/devastating-consequences-for-women-girls-as-u-s-defunds-un-agency/#comments Wed, 05 Apr 2017 22:38:25 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149823 Mothers and babies wait for health screening at a US funded health clinic in Uganda. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

Mothers and babies wait for health screening at a US funded health clinic in Uganda. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 5 2017 (IPS)

The U.S. has withdrawn all of its funding to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), an agency that works on family planning and reproductive health in over 150 countries.

The decision is based on what the UNFPA says is an erroneous claim that it “supports, or participates in the management of, a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation (in China).”

The claim was made by the U.S. State Department in a letter on Monday announcing the cuts, but has been described repeatedly as baseless, by those who know the UNFPA’s work.

According to the UNFPA, it does not promote abortions and instead “accords the highest priority to voluntary family planning to prevent unintended pregnancies to eliminate recourse to abortion.”

In a statement released in response to the funding cuts, the UNFPA said that “we have always valued the United States as a trusted partner and leader in helping to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.”

The U.S. is one of the largest contributors to UNFPA having provided over $75 million in 2015 alone, the third highest contribution from a government after the United Kingdom and Sweden. The U.S. is also the second largest funder of UNFPA’s humanitarian operations. Like other UN agencies, UNFPA is funded by governments voluntarily.

Though UNFPA does work in China, both Kowalski and Jalan told IPS that the accusation is baseless and is simply an “excuse” to stop funding an organization working on sexual and reproductive rights.

International Women’s Health Coalition’s Director of Advocacy and Policy Shannon Kowalski told IPS that the cuts will have “devastating consequences” for girls and women around the world.

“UNFPA has played a critical role in getting services to the most marginalised women…now their lives and health are at stake because of this,” Kowalski told IPS. 

She noted that the UN agency’s frontline work in crisis situations will be most affected, including the provision of sexual and reproductive health services to women who have been targeted by the Islamic State (IS) or other groups in the Middle Eastern region. 

According to the UN Foundation, the elimination of U.S. support threatens UNFPA’s ability to reach an estimated 48,000 women with safe childbirth in Syria and 55 women’s centers providing support for over 15,000 women and girl survivors of gender-based violence in Iraq, including one dedicated to more than 700 Yazidi sexual violence survivors.

Around the world, the UNFPA says that US funding in 2016 helped it to save the lives of 2,340 women from dying during pregnancy and childbirth, prevent 947,000 unintended pregnancies, ensure 1,251 fistula surgeries and prevent 295,000 unsafe abortions.

Executive Director of UN Foundation’s Universal Access Project Seema Jalan told IPS that the U.S. government is also the primary funder of the only maternity ward for Syrian women in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.   

“Pregnant Syrian women will have absolutely nowhere to go to deliver their babies,” she stated. 

Kowalski highlighted the larger implications of the U.S.’ decision, stating: “It will send a clear message that the world doesn’t care about responding to women in the most marginalized situations and in many respects, it will indulge in extremists that are looking to capitalize on this marginalization and abandonment of women.” 

This is not the first time that the UNFPA has experienced such cuts from the U.S. government. President George W. Bush previously withdrew $34 million from the agency between 2002 to 2008, similarly citing the agency’s involvement in coercive policies in China. 

Though UNFPA does work in China, both Kowalski and Jalan told IPS that the accusation is baseless and is simply an “excuse” to stop funding an organisation working on sexual and reproductive rights.  

“The Chinese government does still [violent women’s rights]… but because UNFPA is active in the country in supporting the implementation of voluntary sexual and reproductive health services, they link the two and say that UNFPA is directly supporting these coercive policies which is not true,” Kowalski stated. 

One such coercive policy is the East Asian Nation’s one child regulation which has been slowly phased out since 2015, a move that UNFPA helped the country make, Jalan said. 

“The main purpose of UNFPA in China has been to introduce the concept of quality of care and voluntary family planning that is rights-based,” Jalan told IPS. 

Jalan added that UNFPA in China did not even provide assistance to the Chinese government or its family planning agency in 2016, a claim that the State Department makes in its letter.  

However, due to the doubling in U.S. contributions since 2002 and the unprecedented humanitarian crises around the world, the global impacts of the recent decision is expected to be far greater than before. 

Kowalski urged Congress to revoke the Kemp-Kasten Amendment which was referenced to defund the UN agency.   

The amendment prohibits foreign aid to any organization, including U.S. organizations and multilateral organizations, that is involved in coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization. It is similar to the recently reinstated global gag rule, also known as the Mexico City policy, which forbids foreign groups receiving U.S. assistance to provide information about abortion or abortion services. 

Already, numerous U.S. politicians from New York and California condemned the decision, stating: “President Trump’s hypocrisy has reached new heights with his decision to halt U.S. assistance to the United Nations Population Fund. The President just recently claimed to have ‘tremendous respect’ for women and honored their role around the world, and yet within a month he has issued a decision to cut off funding for the UNFPA…To cut off this funding is a cruel decision that will not only hurt women and their children, but will also further damage the leadership role of the United States around the globe. We call on the President to put women over politics and reverse this decision immediately.” 

Jalan said that this was an “important” start, but urged for a more bipartisan initiative to reverse the decision. 

“Funding for women and girl’s basic healthcare, assuring that a Syrian refugee pregnant woman can actually have a safe delivery and that her child can survive that delivery, someone who has survived sexual violence and can have access to care and support—we believe that that is a bipartisan issue,” she told IPS. 

Kowalski also stressed the need for the international community to step up and increase their support to help close UNFPA’s funding gap.

Upon the reintroduction of the global gag rule, several countries raised approximately $190 million to help fill imminent funding gaps including Sweden, Canada, and Finland who each pledged $21 million towards global access to sexual and reproductive health services. 

“Without UNFPA being able to provide these services, the consequences for women will be devastating,” Kowalski said. 

The funds allocated to UNFPA for the fiscal year 2017 are to be reverted to the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to support family planning, maternal and reproductive health operations in developing countries. 

The decision marks the first of the Trump administration’s promised cuts to the UN.  

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Brazilian Capoeira Heals Wounds in the DRChttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/brazilian-capoeira-heals-wounds-in-the-drc/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brazilian-capoeira-heals-wounds-in-the-drc http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/brazilian-capoeira-heals-wounds-in-the-drc/#comments Mon, 03 Apr 2017 12:46:11 +0000 Fabíola Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149765 Capoeira for peace in DRC. Credit: Stefano Toscano

Capoeira for peace in DRC. Credit: Stefano Toscano

By Fabíola Ortiz
RIO DE JANIERO, Brazil, Apr 3 2017 (IPS)

On the earthen floor, to the sound of a single-string percussion instrument called a Berimbau, Congolese children stand in a circle practicing rhythmic movements with their arms and feet and chanting.

They are doing Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that merges the practice of sports, acrobatics, music and popular culture.This Afro-Brazilian cultural practice, simultaneously a fight and a dance, functions as an affirmation of mutual respect between communities.

It was started in Brazil by the descendants of African slaves, and in 2014 Capoeira was recognised by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This Afro-Brazilian cultural practice, simultaneously a fight and a dance, functions as an affirmation of mutual respect between communities and individuals promoting social integration and the memory of resistance.

Capoeira has been used as a powerful tool to help demobilized children and adolescents from armed groups and victims of violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). With the practice comes self-confidence, emotional strengthening, community-building, overcoming gender differences, and reducing inequalities.

Independent Brazilian journalist Fabíola Ortiz and photographer/videomaker Flavio Forner intend to visit in loco how Capoeira is being used with Congolese children in North Kivu.

Both media professionals recently launched an in-depth reporting project that aims to report on the benefits of this martial art to heal trauma. The duo plan to immerse themselves in the universe of Brazilian Capoeira in the DRC.

Forner and Ortiz are dedicated to the coverage of development and human rights. They believe in the role of independent in-depth journalism to promote public debate, encourage change and keep the UN Sustainable Development Goals on the global agenda.

Capoeira for peace in DRC. Credit: Stefano Toscano

Capoeira for peace in DRC. Credit: Stefano Toscano

“There is a need for groundbreaking and innovative storytelling approaches to report on conflict and trauma. Information has a powerful role in defusing tension, reducing conflicts, and contributing to the healing process of traumatic events,” said Ortiz.

Independent journalism may act as unifier in a polarized society and has a pivotal role in conflict prevention, management and resolution, they believe.

Capoeira in North Kivu

Twice a week, girls at the Heal Africa hospital in central Goma, North Kivu’s capital, are taught Capoeira. Boys at the Transit and Guidance Centre (CTO) run by the Concerted Action for Disadvantaged Young People and Children (CAJED) also learn this martial art. The CTO is a place for helping the reintegration into society of child victims of violence and who have been demobilized from armed gangs.

This centre for vulnerable children directs its efforts towards demobilizing, supporting and reintegrating children into their families. Partnering with UNICEF since 2003, CAJED has hosted more than 11,000 children removed from armed groups of the DRC.

Since August 2014, around 40 children join Capoeira classes on a weekly basis. With the support of UNICEF, the Brazilian Embassy in Kinshasa, AMADE-Mondiale and HSH Princess Caroline of Monaco, this initiative led by a Brazilian Master Flavio Saudade introduces children to the practice.

In a war-torn country with ethnic roots and embedded with commercial interests, it is crucial to rebuild community ties and restore a culture of peace.

“Capoeira is a social technology developed in Brazil from a cultural tradition of African origin. Its use in conflict zones to reduce violence is a recent phenomenon with encouraging results,” stressed the Brazilian Ambassador to the D.R.C Paulo Uchôa Ribeiro when the initiative started in 2014.

So far, the initiative has benefitted around 3,000 children, according to Flavio Saudade, a Child Protection Specialist at UNICEF and a Capoeira master.

“We are trying to address a serious problem: the forced child recruitment. Today I see that Capoeira has a great mission, the one of building a society free of so many violence. We hear testimonies from children who went through forced military trainings and were obliged to kill their parents and commit grave crimes,” said Saudade.

Instead of carrying an AK-47 rifle, Congolese children are now taught how to play a Berimbau. “How many lives we might save when we teach them how to play an instrument rather than shooting a weapon,” he said.

Political Instability

The conflict in the DRC officially ended in 2002 with a peace agreement, but this war-torn country with 77 million people in Central Africa still struggles to heal the wounds from armed clashes that perpetuate to the present day. Around six million people lost their lives. The current fighting continues to be characterized by violence and brutality against civilians, causing waves of internally displaced persons. The conflict generated a mass exodus of 1.7 million people.

Despite being one of the richest countries with diamond, gold, copper, cobalt and zinc, the DRC is among the world’s least developed nations. Its abundant land, water, biodiversity and minerals have fueled longstanding tensions. The legacy of years of atrocities, instability and widespread violence resulted in more than half of its population living below the poverty line.

The instability in the country has awaken recently with Joseph Kabila’s presidential mandate that came to an end last December 2016, after 17 years in power. Kabila was to lead a transitional government until elections due to be held by the end of this year. However, the opposition has accused the government of undermining efforts to offer a peaceful exit.

The discontentment arose in the face of the failure of political negotiations that was mediated by the Catholic Church in the DRC.

Last March 31, the Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations mission in the DRC for another year but reduced the number of troops. In a resolution unanimously adopted, the 15-member body decided to keep the UN Organization Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO) until March 2018.

*To learn more about the independent in-depth reporting project led by the Brazilian journalist Fabíola Ortiz and the photographer Flavio Forner, visit their website: www.capoeiracongo.com. They are also on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Two UN Experts Found Dead in DRC, Search Continues for Interpreter, Drivershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/two-un-experts-found-dead-in-drc-search-continues-for-interpreter-drivers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=two-un-experts-found-dead-in-drc-search-continues-for-interpreter-drivers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/two-un-experts-found-dead-in-drc-search-continues-for-interpreter-drivers/#comments Thu, 30 Mar 2017 21:05:47 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149727 The UN flag flying half-mast. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

The UN flag flying half-mast. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 30 2017 (IPS)

The bodies of two UN experts have been found in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) two weeks after their team went missing.

Among the remains found were American Michael Sharp and Swede Zaida Catalan who were members of the U.N. Group of Experts which reports to the Security Council on the Congolese conflict, arms trafficking, rights abuses, and crimes against humanity. The two experts along with their interpreter and 3 drivers went missing on 12 March while investigating violence and alleged human rights abuses outside of the city of Kananga in the Kasai-Central province.

Secretary-General António Guterres said that he was “deeply saddened” by the events, stating: “Michael and Zaida lost their lives seeking to understand the causes of conflict and insecurity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in order to help bring peace to the country and its people.”

DRC has been marred by insecurity since 1994 when the Rwandan genocide and an influx of refugees plunged the country into the deadliest conflict in African history, killing almost 5 million civilians. 

Though the country declared peace in 2003, there has been a resurgence in violence in recent months. According to Human Rights Watch, protests erupted across the country when President Joseph Kabila stayed in power despite the end of his constitutionally mandated two-term limit in December 2016. 

Government security forces have since repressed opponents, allegedly killing over 50 people and jailing hundreds of opposition leaders and supporters. 

Meanwhile, clashes between government forces and local militias escalated in various parts of the country, including in the Kasai region which has experienced some of the worst violence. 

Over 400 people have been killed and 200,000 displaced from their homes in the Kasai region since August. Security forces have purportedly used excessive force, “unnecessarily firing” on alleged militia members including women and children, said Human Rights Watch. Two dozen mass graves have also been reported.

While speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley expressed concerns over the country’s violence and human rights violations, stating that the Congolese government is “corrupt” and “preys on its citizens.” 

“The UN peacekeeping mission…is aiding a government that is inflicting predatory behavior against its own people. We should have the decency and common sense to end this,” she continued. 

The Congolese government has reportedly blamed the UN team’s deaths on the Kamuina Nsapu, a local insurgent group that has clashed with government forces since its leader was killed six months ago. 

DRC government spokesperson Lambert Mende stated that the remains of Congolese interpreter Betu Tshintela was also found alongside Sharp and Catalan. Three other local staff still remain missing, including the team’s driver Isaac Kabuayi.

“The search is ongoing,” UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq told IPS regarding the missing personnel.  

Secretary-General also called on a thorough examination on the deaths of the UN experts. “The United Nations will do everything possible to ensure that justice is done,” he stated. 

Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes Muthoni Wanyeki called on the DRC government to also conduct investigations, stating that the deaths should serve as a “reminder of the urgent need to end the violence in Kasai Province.” 

Human Rights Watch highlighted the need to ensure the implementation of a Catholic Church-mediated agreement signed at the end of 2016 which includes a clear commitment that President Kabila will not seek a third term and that presidential elections will be held before the end of 2017. 

“The [Human Rights Council’s] engagement now is critical to help protect civilians from further violence, press for accountability for serious abuses, and ensure that timely, credible elections are held to build a more democratic and rights-respecting country,” the organisation said. 

Sharp, 34, had been in the DRC for five years, first working as the Eastern Congo Coordinator for the Mennonite Central Committee. 

Catalan, 36, was a Swedish politician for the Green Party and later worked in the West Bank and Afghanistan prior to joining the UN Group of Experts.

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Slaveshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/slaves/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=slaves http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/slaves/#comments Mon, 27 Mar 2017 11:33:55 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149659 Young women in Colombia forced into sexual exploitation. Credit: UNICEF/Donna DeCesare

Young women in Colombia forced into sexual exploitation. Credit: UNICEF/Donna DeCesare

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Mar 27 2017 (IPS)

For over 400 years, more than 15 million men, women and children were the victims of the transatlantic slave trade, one of the darkest chapters in human history. Slavery is, nevertheless, far from being just a chapter of the past—it still there, with estimated 21 million victims of forced labour and extreme exploitation around the world–nearly the equivalent to of the combined population of Scandinavian countries.

According to the UN report 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, issued in late-December, victims of trafficking are found in 106 of 193 countries. Many of these are in conflict areas, where the crimes are not prosecuted. Women and children are among the main victims.

The legacy of slavery resounds down the ages, and the world has yet to overcome racism. While some forms of slavery may have been abolished, others have emerged to blight the world, including human trafficking and forced and bonded labour.

Add to all the above, the crime of human trafficking, which once more affects millions of women, and girls, who fall prey to sexual exploitation, another form of slavery.“79 per cent of all detected human trafficking victims are women and children,” UN

In fact, millions of women and girls are sold for sexual exploitation and slavery, according to this new report elaborated by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Just as tragically, 79 per cent of all detected trafficking victims are women and children.

From 2012-2014, UNODC estimates that more than 500 different trafficking flows were detected and countries in Western and Southern Europe detected victims of 137 different citizenships.

These figures recount a story of human trafficking occurring almost everywhere.

In terms of the different types of trafficking, sexual exploitation and forced labour are the most prominent.

The report also shows that trafficking can have numerous other forms including: victims compelled to act as beggars, forced into sham marriages, benefit fraud, pornography production, organ removal, among others.

A young woman from a fishing community in West Bengal in eastern India. She comes from a village that is known for high levels of trafficking of women and girls to other major cities. Credit: UN Women/Anindit Roy-Chowdhury

A young woman from a fishing community in West Bengal in eastern India. She comes from a village that is known for high levels of trafficking of women and girls to other major cities. Credit: UN Women/Anindit Roy-Chowdhury

The United Nations estimates the total market value of illicit human trafficking amounted to 32 billion dollars in 2005, a figure that most likely has doubled, or even tripled, in view of the massive waves of persons who have been forced to either migrating due to the growing poverty caused by climate change or the deepening inequality, or fleeing brutal armed conflicts.

Human Rights First, a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organisation based in New York, Washington D.C., Houston, and Los Angeles, says that human trafficking is a “big business”.

In a detailed report, Human Rights First informs that human trafficking earns profits of roughly 150 billion dollars a year for traffickers, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The following is a breakdown of profits, by sector:
– 99 billion dollars from commercial sexual exploitation
– 34 billion dollars in construction, manufacturing, mining and utilities
– 9 billion dollars in agriculture, including forestry and fishing
– 8 billion dollars is saved annually by private households that employ domestic workers under conditions of forced labour

While only 22 per cent of victims are trafficked for sex, sexual exploitation earns 66 per cent of the global profits of human trafficking, reminds Human Rights First.

And adds that the average annual profits generated by each woman in forced sexual servitude (100,000 dollars) is estimated to be six times more than the average profits generated by each trafficking victim worldwide (21,800 dollars), according to the Organization for Security and Co operation in Europe (OSCE).

OSCE studies show that sexual exploitation can yield a return on investment ranging from 100 per cent to 1,000 per cent, while an enslaved labourer can produce more than 50 per cent profit even in less profitable markets (e.g., agricultural labour in India).

A close-up from the memorial on the legacy of slavery. Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

A close-up from the memorial on the legacy of slavery. Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

Meanwhile, the United Nations marks every year on 25 March, the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade that, it says, offers the opportunity to honour and remember those who suffered and died at the hands of the brutal slavery system.

The Day also aims to raise awareness about the dangers of racism and prejudice today.

“We must never forget this dark chapter of human history,” UN secretary general António Guterres on March 24 told a General Assembly meeting to commemorate the abolition of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, ahead of the Day.

“We must always remember the role played by many of our countries – including my own country of Portugal – in carrying out the largest forced migration in history and in robbing so many millions of people of their dignity and often also of their lives,” Guterres said.

The legacy of slavery resounds down the ages, and the world has yet to overcome racism. While some forms of slavery may have been abolished, others have emerged to blight the world, including human trafficking and forced and bonded labour, he stressed.

And Peter Thomson, the president of the UN General Assembly, called for the protection of human rights and an end to racism, xenophobia and modern forms of slavery, including human trafficking, forced labour and child labour.

The consequences of slavery had not ended with emancipation, but continued to this day, he emphasised. Some were negative, but others positive, he said, underscoring the contributions made by descendants of slavery to shaping multicultural societies.

Shortly before, on March 21, the UN marked the InternationalDay for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination under the theme: Racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including in the context of migration.

Every person is entitled to human rights without discrimination, the UN reminds, while adding that the rights to equality and non-discrimination are cornerstones of human rights law.

“Yet in many parts of the world, discriminatory practices are still widespread, including racial, ethnic, religious and nationality based profiling, and incitement to hatred.”

Racial and ethnic profiling is defined as “a reliance by law enforcement, security and border control personnel on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin as a basis for subjecting persons to detailed searches, identity checks and investigations, or for determining whether an individual is engaged in criminal activity,” according to a recent report to the UN Human Rights Council by the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

“Refugees and migrants are particular targets of racial profiling and incitement to hatred.”

In the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants adopted in September 2016, United Nations member states strongly condemned “acts and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance against refugees and migrants, and committed to a range of steps to counter such attitudes and behaviours, particularly regarding hate crimes, hate speech and racial violence.”

This and so many other Declarations, treaties, conventions, etc., are systematically signed by most of world’s countries—not least the US and Europe. Are these countries seriously committed to honour them? When?

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Ending Gender-Based Violence Key to Health and Well-Beinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/ending-gender-based-violence-key-to-health-and-well-being/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ending-gender-based-violence-key-to-health-and-well-being http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/ending-gender-based-violence-key-to-health-and-well-being/#comments Fri, 24 Mar 2017 19:54:39 +0000 Natalia Linou http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149640 Survivors of gender-based violence need dignity for themselves and their families. Credit: Rebecca Murray/IPS.

Survivors of gender-based violence need dignity for themselves and their families. Credit: Rebecca Murray/IPS.

By Natalia Linou
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 24 2017 (IPS)

Physical injuries are some of the more visible, and at times most deadly, consequences of gender-based violence (GBV). But the long-term mental health consequences are often invisible and left untreated. Similarly, the reproductive and sexual health needs of survivors from rape and sexual violence – to reduce the risk of HIV and STIs, unwanted pregnancies and unsafe terminations, and long-term reproductive complications – are often unmet, stigmatised and under-reported.

But it is not only health needs which must be met. GBV is a consequence and reflection of structural inequalities that threaten sustainable development, undermine democratic governance, deepen social fragmentation and threaten peace and security. This week, UNDP and the Republic of Korea hosted an event at the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women on “Gender-based violence, health and well-being: Addressing the needs of women and girls living in crisis affected context” bringing together government officials, practitioners, and academics.

A common message emerged: survivors need dignity for themselves and their families, they need immediate health services and legal services, livelihood support and economic empowerment. Multi-sectoral approaches which can meet these distinct, but inter-connected, needs are often the most effective. Research has demonstrated co-benefits of combining economic and health interventions, including for the reduction of intimate partner violence. However, even where services are available, serious barriers to accessing them exist. As Ambassador Oh Youngju of Korea stressed: “survivors of violence are often deterred from seeking help or reporting the incidents due to stigma and a lack of accessible services or ways to report safely, receive help and be treated with dignity”.

A common message emerged: survivors need dignity for themselves and their families, they need immediate health services and legal services, livelihood support and economic empowerment.

And the data can be daunting. Deputy Minister Wardak of Afghanistan shared some sobering statistics from her country: almost one in two women age 15-49 reporting physical violence in the last 12 months, with the majority who have experienced physical or sexual violence (61%) not seeking help or telling anyone about the violence.

So is there any room for optimism?

Kelly, director of the Women and War program of Harvard’s Humanitarian Initiative, stressed that while conflict is a time of trauma, it is also a time of potential transformation. Changing social norms which perpetuate violence can be linked to peace and recovery processes. And successful initiatives can be scaled up. UNDP’s Dhaliwal, shared some good practices. In South Sudan, UNDP is working in partnership with the Government, the Global Fund and the International Organization for Migration to address gender-based violence as part of mental health and psychosocial support programmes. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, UNDP supported the establishment of multipurpose community centres, where survivors of GBV are provided with legal assistance and offered livelihoods training, after medical and psychosocial treatment is given by other partners. And in Afghanistan, efforts to increase the number of female healthcare workers, while not directly focused on survivors of violence, can offer culturally appropriate services and safe-spaces.

Tatsi, Executive Director in the Office for the Development of Women in Papua New Guinea shared both successes – strong alignment across civil society and government in bringing about a coherent strategy to end GBV, and challenges – the need for additional financial and technical support and called on donors to work with government for long-term, sustainable, and transformational change. And Devi of UNFPA stressed how a “continuum approach” is necessary across prevention and response efforts, as well as across the humanitarian-development nexus.

Ending GBV, and particularly violence against women and girls is an important end itself. It is also critical for the achievement of all the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG 3 -Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, and the commitment to ‘leave no one behind.’ While more evidence on preventing violence and supporting survivors is needed, the time for action is now.

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1 in 4 Children Worldwide Facing Extremely Scarce Water by 2040http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/1-in-4-children-worldwide-facing-extremely-scarce-water-by-2040/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=1-in-4-children-worldwide-facing-extremely-scarce-water-by-2040 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/1-in-4-children-worldwide-facing-extremely-scarce-water-by-2040/#comments Thu, 23 Mar 2017 14:30:33 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149588 Shown here in this 2016 photo from Siyephi Village, Bullilima District in Matebeland South Province, Zimbabwe, a 17-year-old girl is seen at the drying up dam where she and her family fetch water. Credit: UNICEF/Mukwazhi

Shown here in this 2016 photo from Siyephi Village, Bullilima District in Matebeland South Province, Zimbabwe, a 17-year-old girl is seen at the drying up dam where she and her family fetch water. Credit: UNICEF/Mukwazhi

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Mar 23 2017 (IPS)

Warning that as many as 600 million children – one in four worldwide – will be living in areas with extremely scarce water by 2040, the United Nations children’s agency has called on governments to take immediate measures to curb the impact on the lives of children.

In its report, Thirsting for a Future: Water and children in a changing climate, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) explores the threats to children’s lives and wellbeing caused by depleted sources of safe water and the ways climate change will intensify these risks in coming years.

“This crisis will only grow unless we take collective action now,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake announcing the report, which was launched on World Water Day on March 22.

“But around the world, millions of children lack access to safe water – endangering their lives, undermining their health, and jeopardizing their futures.”

According to the UN agency, 36 countries around the world are already facing extremely high levels of water stress.

Warmer temperatures, rising sea levels, increased floods, droughts and melting ice affect the quality and availability of water as well as sanitation systems, warns the report.

According to a recent UN-Water report, about two-thirds of the world's population currently live in areas that experience water scarcity for at least one month a year. Credit: World Water Development Report 2017

According to a recent UN-Water report, about two-thirds of the world’s population currently live in areas that experience water scarcity for at least one month a year. Credit: World Water Development Report 2017


These combined with increasing populations, higher demand of water primarily due to industrialization and urbanization are draining water resources worldwide.

“On top of these, conflicts in many parts of the world are also threatening access to safe water.”

According to a UN-Water: World Water Development Report, about two-thirds of the world’s population currently live in areas that experience water scarcity for at least one month a year.

All of these factors force children to use unsafe water, exposing them to deadly diseases like cholera and diarrhoea, UNICEF’s report reminds.

“Many children in drought-affected areas spend hours every day collecting water, missing out on a chance to go to school. Girls are especially vulnerable to attack and sexual violence during these times.”

However, the impact of climate change on water sources is not inevitable, noted the report, recommending actions to help curb the impact of climate change on the lives of children.

One of the points it raised is for governments to plan for changes in water availability and demand in the coming years and to prioritize the most vulnerable children’s access to safe water above other water needs to maximize social and health outcomes.

It also called on businesses to work with communities to prevent contamination and depletion of safe water sources as well as on communities to diversify water sources and to increase their capacity to store water safely.

“Water is elemental – without it, nothing can grow,” said Lake, urging for efforts to safeguard children’s access to water. “One of the most effective ways we can do that is safeguarding their access to safe water.”

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UN Facing Famines, Conflicts and Now U.S. Funding Cutshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/un-facing-famines-conflicts-and-now-u-s-funding-cuts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-facing-famines-conflicts-and-now-u-s-funding-cuts http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/un-facing-famines-conflicts-and-now-u-s-funding-cuts/#comments Fri, 17 Mar 2017 05:48:53 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149461 Snow falls outside of the UN headquarters Secretariat building in New York. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Snow falls outside of the UN headquarters Secretariat building in New York. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 17 2017 (IPS)

In the midst of responding to the worst humanitarian crisis since records began, the UN is now faced with potential funding cuts from its biggest donor, the United States.

On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump released “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” the first such budget proposal of his presidency. The blueprint’s biggest proposed cuts target the Department of State, which would lose 29 percent of its budget, and the Environment Protection Agency, which would lose 31 percent.

Although details of exactly how the proposed cuts – which still require approval of U.S. Congress – would be made, are yet to emerge, funding for the UN and the USAID which both fall under the State Department is at risk.

“If approved – and that’s a big “if” – the Whitehouse’s plans could slash several billions in UN funding,” Natalie Samarasinghe Executive Director of the United Nations Association of the UK, told IPS.

These billions of dollars of potential cuts come at a time when the United Nations is occupied responding to both acute and chronic crises around the world.

“Some 20 million people are facing famine in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen,” said Samarasinghe.

“The number of people forced to flee their homes is now the biggest since records began,” she said. “These are people for whom the UN is literally the difference between life and death,” she said.

“The total foreign aid of the U.S. is about one percent of the budget - not 10 or 15 percent as some people seem to think - it’s one percent.” -- Michel Gabaudan

Michel Gabaudan, President of Refugees International, told IPS that it is important to keep the United States contribution in perspective when assessing the potential cuts.

“The U.S. contribution is critical, it is generous, it is vital, but it is not unduly high compared to other countries of the western bloc – who are the main funders of humanitarian aid – and we must keep this contribution in perspective.”

“The total foreign aid of the U.S. is about one percent of the budget – not 10 or 15 percent as some people seem to think – it’s one percent.”

“The magnitude of the U.S. economy means that that one percent of money is critical to humanitarian relief and to development programs but if you compare this with what some European countries are doing, like Switzerland, like the Nordics, like the Dutch … they are certainly giving more in terms of dollar per capita of their citizens,” he said.

Samarasinghe also noted that the proposed cuts are “still a relatively small amount compared to, say, fossil fuel subsidies.”

She said that it would be “politically challenging for European countries to pick up the slack, especially with elections looming in a number of countries.”

As an example, said Samarasinghe, a recent appeal from the Netherlands to fund reproductive health and safe abortions has not yet reached its $600 million target. That appeal was set up after Trump re-instated the Global Gag Rule, which removes U.S. funding from non-governmental organisations that carry out any activities related to safe abortion, regardless of the funding source.

Meanwhile, Deborah Brautigam an expert on China in Africa told IPS that it is unlikely that China will increase its funding to the United Nations as the United States steps back, because China already feels “very comfortable” in its current position at the UN. This position includes a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and UN development policies, which align with China’s priorities, such as industrialisation, said Brautigam who is Professor of International Political Economy and Director of the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University.

Two UN agencies that receive the most funding from the United States are the World Food Program, which provides emergency food assistance, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

However Gabaudan said that both the more immediate humanitarian aid as well as long-term development assistance are needed to address the world’s crises:

“The state department funds UNHCR and USAID funds development programs which tie the humanitarian aid with longer term issues,” said Gabaudan.

“Most displacement crises are protracted, people don’t leave and get back home after a year or two,” he said, as is the case with the Syrian conflict, which just surpassed six year on March 15th.

The budget proposal also reinforces other aspects of the emerging Trump Republican administration policies, including sweeping cuts to environment programs and cuts to programs, which assist the poor in the United States.

Nikki Haley, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations said in a statement that the cuts reflected a desire to make the United Nations more effective and efficient.

“I look forward to working with Members of Congress to craft a budget that advances U.S. interests at the UN, and I look forward to working with my UN colleagues to make the organisation more effective and efficient.”

“In many areas, the UN spends more money than it should, and in many ways it places a much larger financial burden on the United States than on other countries.”

However that financial relationship between the UN and the host of UN Headquarters is not unidirectional. According to the latest New York City UN Impact Report, the UN community contributed 3.69 billion dollars to the New York City economy in 2014.

In response to the budget blueprint Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that “the Secretary-General is grateful for the support the United States has given to the United Nations over the years as the organisation’s largest financial contributor.”

“The Secretary-General is totally committed to reforming the United Nations and ensuring that it is fit for purpose and delivers results in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.”

“However, abrupt funding cuts can force the adoption of ad hoc measures that will undermine the impact of longer-term reform efforts,” said Dujarric.

Dujarric’s statement also addressed aspects of the proposed budget, which claim to address terrorism. The proposal, which significantly increases spending on the U.S. military appears to favour a “hard power” militaristic approach over a “soft power” diplomatic and humanitarian approach.

“The Secretary-General fully subscribes to the necessity to effectively combat terrorism but believes that it requires more than military spending,” said Dujarric. “There is also a need to address the underlying drivers of terrorism through continuing investments in conflict prevention, conflict resolution, countering violent extremism, peacekeeping, peacebuilding, sustainable and inclusive development, the enhancement and respect of human rights, and timely responses to humanitarian crises.”

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UN FARMS to Create One Million Days of Work for Mideast Migrantshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/un-farms-to-create-one-million-days-of-work-for-mideast-migrants/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-farms-to-create-one-million-days-of-work-for-mideast-migrants http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/un-farms-to-create-one-million-days-of-work-for-mideast-migrants/#comments Wed, 15 Mar 2017 17:18:40 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149437 Fedah sayah Irshaid (42 years old) tends to some of her grape vines with the help of her husband and daughter. Fedah is a recipient of a Revolving loan for her plant nursery and rabbit raising business. She received the loan from the Al Khaldiyah Cooperative for Military Retired. Copyright: ©IFAD/Ivor Prickett/Panos

Fedah sayah Irshaid (42 years old) tends to some of her grape vines with the help of her husband and daughter. Fedah is a recipient of a Revolving loan for her plant nursery and rabbit raising business. She received the loan from the Al Khaldiyah Cooperative for Military Retired. Copyright: ©IFAD/Ivor Prickett/Panos

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Mar 15 2017 (IPS)

The problem is rather complex and often not recognised: in one of the major regions of both origin and destination for migrants and refugees — the Near East and North of Africa, 10 per cent of rural communities is made up of forcibly displaced persons, while more than 25 per cent of the young rural people plan to emigrate.

This has a strong rural dimension, with large numbers of displaced people originating in rural areas, and now living in rural host communities within or outside their home countries.

In recent years, forced displacement has become a global problem of unprecedented scale, driven by conflict, violence, persecution and human rights violations.

While the total number of displaced people reached an all-time high of more 65 million people, global attention has focused on the Near East and North Africa (NENA) region, where continued conflict and violence most acutely affect Iraq, Syria, Yemen and neighbouring countries.

The total impacted population in the region is estimated at around 22 million people, a fact that generates additional pressure on both the host areas and the sending areas.

The UN, through its Rome-based International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), designed an innovative response to the on-going crisis: FARMS (Facility for Refugees, Migrants, Forced Displacement and Rural Stability), which was announced at the UN World Summit on Migration held in September last year at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

Internally Displaced, Migrants, Refugees

IPS asked Khalida Bouzar, Director, Near East, North Africa and Europe Division, who is in charge of FARMS at IFAD, if the Facility is meant for displaced rural persons within each country or if it also includes migrants and forcibly displaced persons fleeing conflicts and/or natural and man-made disasters?

Bouzar explains that in terms of displaced people, FARMS will cover both international refugees (people displaced across borders) and internally displaced people (forced to flee from their homes due to conflict or other extraneous factors but remaining within their country), she adds.

Khalida Bouzar greeting Sudan's Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Badr Al Din Mahmoud Abbas.  Credit: IFAD

Khalida Bouzar greeting Sudan’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Badr Al Din Mahmoud Abbas. Credit: IFAD

FARMS will also address the needs of host communities (the local population) to reduce the stress on natural resources and economic opportunities. In origin communities, it will create opportunities for the entire community.

Specifically, Bouzar said that in host areas, the local communities will be supported in coping with the influx of displaced people by making their agriculture more productive and sustainable. The displaced, in turn, will be better able to contribute to their host communities, and better prepared to return home when the situation improves.

Regarding the “sending areas”, economic opportunities will be created so that people who have left have something to return to, and those who remain have a chance to build their livelihoods. “With FARMS, we seek to deliver long-term peace and development dividends. It is paramount to create a healthy climate for economic opportunities, and enable displaced people to return to their communities,” says Bouzar.

So far, about USD 20 million has been identified for the facility, with the goal of reaching USD 100 million.

FARMS resources will be provided in the form of co-financing support for the on-going IFAD portfolio of about USD 1.2 billion in the NENA region as well as stand-alone grants or activities and communication products to raise global awareness of the issues.

According to Bouzar, FARMS will strengthen the resilience of rural host areas to the impacts of large inflows of refugees, and will also create resilient livelihoods in the origin areas to break the cycle of migration and incentivise the eventual return of migrants.

One Million Days of Work

FARMS will create one million days of work, including at least 20,000 opportunities for youth. “This will be achieved over the life of the projects, and therefore over the next 5 to 6 years,” says Bouzar.

Other objectives are to implement at least 500 community infrastructure projects, and to increase social resilience by strengthening community and local government capacity to manage their development, resolve conflicts, and address the needs of refugees.

FARMS also aims at improving governance and management of natural resources, particularly land and water, as well as to improve the policy and regulatory frameworks to address the needs of rural host and sending communities.

Regarding the main causes of displacement, the IFAD’s Director, Near East, North Africa and Europe Division explains that these could be conflict, natural disasters, or climate-change related vulnerabilities and pressures. Often the cause is a combination of different factors.

Ten Priority Countries

Bouzar informs that the initial priority countries include: Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Turkey and Yemen.

In the first phase, the facility will focus on the NENA region where the current crisis is most acute, with the possibility of scaling up globally in the future. In fact, says Bouzar, after the initial pilot of projects in the NENA region, FARMS could be scaled up to potentially include displacement in other regions.

Asked about the countries, which have been supportive of FARMS and about the amount of financial resources allocated to this project, Bouzar says the IFAD has received support from a wide range of IFAD members.

“Countries in the region have stepped up as crucial early partners, too. The Government of Jordan is collaborating with IFAD, and more partnerships are being designed with Iraq, Lebanon and Sudan.”

Why IFAD? According to Bouzar, the Fund is well positioned to be a key partner in bridging the gap between humanitarian and sustainable development responses in rural areas, and is already actively engaged in many of the most affected regions.

In fact, the 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda recognised IFAD’s comparative advantage as a major investor in poor rural people and affirmed that rural development could achieve “rich payoffs across the SDGs,” she adds.

IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since its creation in 1978, it has provided 18.5 billion dollars in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached about 464 million people.

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