Inter Press ServiceHumanitarian Emergencies – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 23 Oct 2018 09:14:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Q&A: Using Data to Predict Internal Displacement Trendshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/qa-using-data-predict-internal-displacement-trends/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-using-data-predict-internal-displacement-trends http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/qa-using-data-predict-internal-displacement-trends/#respond Tue, 16 Oct 2018 17:18:53 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158207 Carmen Arroyo interviews ALEXANDRA BILAK, director of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

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When isolated by floodwaters, families, like this one in Morigaon, India, have no choice but to use boats for transportation; even children must learn the survival tool of rowing. Credit: Priyanka Borpujari/IPS

By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 16 2018 (IPS)

This year the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) noted that 2017 saw the highest number of displacements associated with conflict in a decade-11.8 million people. But this is not a situation that is going to be resolved any time soon, says the organisation which has been reporting on displacements since 1998.

These numbers were published in the World Migration Report 2018, which was released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) last month. The report also stated that an average of 25.3 million people are displaced each year because of natural disasters. “This will only get worse with climate change,” said IDMC’s director Alexandra Bilak in an interview with IPS.

Bilak has over 15 years of experience with NGOs and research institutes working on African conflicts. She lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo from 2004 to 2008 and in Kenya for the next five years. In 2014, she joined IDMC. The biggest change for her, claimed Bilak, was “disconnecting from the field and connecting to high political levels of decision making.”

The IDMC, part of the Norwegian Refugee Council, is the leading international institution of data analysis on internal displacement. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the centre works towards creating dialogues on displacement and providing accurate metrics. IDMC, according to Bilak, takes data analysis to the next level: “We combine many methodological approaches to provide a databased to build research agendas. It is a very interest combination of quantitative and qualitative research, but not from an academic perspective.” She added: “The analysis wants to be practical and policy-relevant.”

Under Bilak, the institute has changed its focus. While three years ago the IDMC understood displacement as a human rights issue, now it treats it with a more comprehensive approach. “By doing that, it wasn’t having the right kinds of conversations,” claimed Bilak. Now, their employees are not only lawyers and political scientists, they are also anthropologists, geographers, and data analysts.

With a calmed voice, Bilak tells IPS that this shift was a team effort, and that she is very happy with the results. Excerpts of the interview below.

Inter Press Service (IPS): How did your interest on displacement start?

AB: I started my work in the Great Lakes region in Rwanda, but when I moved over to Eastern Congo I was exposed to the full scope of conflict impact. Displacement was a major issue. I was really struck with the capacity of communities to cope with the problem. That’s where my interest started.

Then I moved from one job to another and narrowed down on the issue of displacement. Now, at IDMC we are very interested in understanding the connections between internal displacement and wider migratory flows, cross border movements, and broader development challenges. At Geneva, you can bring the experience from the field to the higher level and see where it all ties in together.

IPS: What are your goals for the future of IDMC?

AB: I think we want to maintain this position as global authority and consolidate our expertise on data. We cannot rest on our laurels. We have to keep up our efforts. We need to continue building trust-based relationships with national governments. They are the change agents when it comes to finding solutions for internal displacement. You can’t achieve anything if you avoid them.

IPS: If national governments are the change agents, what’s the role of international organisations in displacement?

AB: Although it is a development issue for the national governments, there are many humanitarian implications that need to be addressed. International organisations provide that immediate protection and assistance that international displaced people need. This is the role they must continue playing, despite their reduced budgets. Also let’s keep in mind that there are many diplomatic efforts to prevent these conflicts.

This is the development, humanitarian and peace building nexus. They need to go hand in hand for a comprehensive approach. But yes, ultimately, it still boils down to political will.

IPS: What about natural disasters? How can we predict them to avoid their consequences?

AB: There are already models that project into the future and give a good sense of the intensity of natural hazards in the future. IDMC has actually developed a global disaster displacement risk model. There’s a way of having a sense of the scale and scope of what to expect in the future.

But our message has always been the same. This is only going to get worse with climate change, unless there is a significant investment in preventative measures like disaster-risk reduction and climate change adaptation.

We know which are the countries that are going to be most affected. The latest report from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) on climate clearly pointed out what communities are going to be more affected in the future. This will impact internal displacement.

IPS: So, what would be your recommendation to a national government to manage this situation?

AB: There are many recommendations for those countries that suffer from the impacts. They need better early warning systems and preparedness measures, so people can be quickly evacuated in the right way.

Our recommendation is also to build on the good practices governments that have already been implemented. For example, in the Philippines displacement figures are part of their disaster loss database. It would be great if every country could have the same kind of national data system in place.

Other recommendations come from processes of relocation. In the Pacific, entire communities that are at risk of climate change impact have to be relocated. How are these communities going to be moved in a dignified way respecting their cultural heritage?

Finally, there also needs to be a gender perspective to make sure that women and children can be consulted in the process.

IPS: What do you predict for the next 12 months in terms of displacement?

AB: Based on what we are monitoring, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East will continue to be areas of concern for us due to conflict. We are looking at a recent peak in displacement in Ethiopia. This is not a situation that is going to be resolved any time soon, so we will see a displacement crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria… also in Syria. We will look at high displacement figures next year.

In terms of disaster displacement, we will see massive hurricanes in Asia, which will have long-term consequences. There are pockets of displaced people that remain so for large periods of time, also in high-income countries like Japan.

The post Q&A: Using Data to Predict Internal Displacement Trends appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Carmen Arroyo interviews ALEXANDRA BILAK, director of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

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Water: a Private Privilege, not a Community Resourcehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/water-private-privilege-not-community-resource/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=water-private-privilege-not-community-resource http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/water-private-privilege-not-community-resource/#respond Tue, 16 Oct 2018 10:31:44 +0000 Shekhar Kapur http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158203 Shekhar Kapur* is director, actor and producer, who rose to international prominence with the 1998 Bollywood movie, Bandit Queen.

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By Shekhar Kapur
MUMBAI, India, Oct 16 2018 (IPS)

Water is becoming a private privilege rather than a community resource. It is also one of the world’s most precious resources. As vital to the survival of the human species as the air that we breathe.

Yet while many of us take water for granted, readily buying a pair of jeans that take 7,600 litres of water to produce or luxuriating in power showers, 844 million people across the world still live without access to clean water. What’s more, an estimated four billion people face severe water scarcity for at least one month every year.

That is why I have created short animation Brides of the Well, with international development charity, WaterAid, adapted from one of my short stories. It tells the tale of Saraswati and Paras; two teenagers living in Punjab, northern India, who are forced into child marriage and a life of servitude, centred round walking long distances to collect water for their aging husbands.

The story, while fictional, tells a universal truth; that we are a world divided between the haves and the have-nots. That while many think nothing of turning on the tap for a glass of clean, safe water, millions of others are forced to walk long distances for this most basic necessity, often from contaminated sources; their health, education, livelihoods and dreams curtailed as a result.

Growing up in India, I would wake between 4am and 5am every day to fill tankards of water for the household because that was the only time it was available. Today, in Mumbai, I see people living in slums struggling to find a safe, clean water source while across the road, wealthier homes have endless supplies on tap.

In India, Saraswati and Paras are typical of a staggering 163 million people – including roughly 81 million women – living without access to clean water close to home, meaning it has the highest population of people in the world without access.

A lack of clean water close to home affects women and girls disproportionately throughout their lives, with many bearing the burden of walking long distances to collect water, often from contaminated sources.

This means that often girls have no choice but to drop out of school from an early age, missing their education and opportunities and – in some cases – making them more vulnerable to early marriage.

Each year, more people gain access to clean water, but at the same time India is facing severe water shortages, with 600 million people affected by a variety of challenges including falling groundwater levels, drought, demand from agriculture and industry, and poor water resource management; all of which are likely to intensify as the impacts of climate change take hold.

According to a government think tank, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply by 2030. India is by no means alone. These rising demands mean that this life-giving resource is increasingly under threat across the globe.

In January, authorities in Cape Town, warned of an impending ‘Day Zero’; when they would be forced to turn off the city’s taps after three consecutive years of drought. While in China, the country’s first National Census of Water showed that in the past quarter century, 28,000 riverbeds have vanished and groundwater levels are falling by one to three metres per year.

Saraswati and Paras might be works of fiction but their story – of lives centred round collecting water from drying wells – is a daily reality for millions of people across the world.

My hope is that Brides of the Well will impress upon people the injustices that result from not having clean water; of lives curtailed and dreams left unfulfilled simply because an accident of birth has denied them this most basic human right.

I hope it will act as a rallying cry for action, encouraging people to think more about where our water comes from, and call for better access for everyone everywhere.

The global water crisis is not a problem for the next generation to tackle; it is a problem playing out across our television screens and in our newspaper headlines today.

We need urgent action, not just from our governments, private companies and the international community to help people currently living without access to this most basic resource. Only then will people like Saraswati and Paras truly be free.

*Shekhar Kapur went on to direct the hugely popular and multi-award winning historical biopics of Queen Elizabeth I, Elizabeth and its sequel Elizabeth: The Golden Age. He has been the recipient of the Indian National Film Award, the BAFTA Award, the National Board of Review Award, and three Filmfare Awards. His most recent project,Vishwaroopam II, is due for release this year.

Shekhar Kapur worked with WaterAid to create the animation Brides of the Well, which highlights the global water crisis. Watch it at www.wateraid.org/bridesofthewell.

The post Water: a Private Privilege, not a Community Resource appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Shekhar Kapur* is director, actor and producer, who rose to international prominence with the 1998 Bollywood movie, Bandit Queen.

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The Earthquake in Indonesia: How Collaboration Impacts the Global Water Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/earthquake-indonesia-collaboration-impacts-global-water-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=earthquake-indonesia-collaboration-impacts-global-water-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/earthquake-indonesia-collaboration-impacts-global-water-crisis/#respond Tue, 16 Oct 2018 09:57:31 +0000 George C. Greene http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158197 George C. Greene, IV is the President and Chief Operating Officer of Water Mission*, a nonprofit Christian engineering organization that designs, builds, and implements safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) solutions for people in developing countries and disaster areas

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By George C. Greene, IV
SOUTH CAROLINA, USA, Oct 16 2018 (IPS)

On Friday, September 28, the world first heard the devastating news out of Indonesia that a 7.5 magnitude earthquake had struck the island of Sulawesi. The quake caused substantial soil liquefaction — where the earth literally turned to liquid and started to flow — with entire homes sinking into the ground. It also triggered a tsunami, confirmed to be as high as 23 feet, that devastated the coastal areas.

The photos coming out of the impacted region are mind-numbing and include images of cars wrapped around poles and ships that were washed inland sitting on dry land. The stories are heartbreaking and range from reports of children away from their parents at camp being found dead to an older man who is now the only one left alive in his family of 14 people.

When a disaster strikes, safe water is usually the number one need. Water Mission mobilizes personnel and water treatment equipment to provide aid to affected people as quickly as possible. We build and preposition Living Water Treatment Systems — our patented, mobile treatment systems that utilize rapid sand filtration and chlorination.

Once onsite, one system can be set up and functional in two to four hours, providing enough safe water for up to 5,000 people daily. In Indonesia, we were fortunate to already have an established presence, dating back to 2005, with offices on the islands of Sumatra and West Timor.

With twenty staff members and ten Living Water Treatment Systems prepositioned in the country, we have been able to respond quickly and work with our indigenous team to reach the communities most in need.

Aware of the logistical unknowns related to moving our equipment from Sumatra and West Timor to the impacted island of Sulawesi, we also airfreighted equipment from our headquarters in North Charleston, South Carolina, to enable a diversified approach to delivering aid as fast as possible.

We are fortunate to have a unique relationship with FedEx, one of our corporate partners and sponsors, and they expedited a shipment of two additional Living Water Treatment Systems and approximately 1.1 million P&G Purifier of Water packets.

The P&G Purifier of Water packets will provide 11 million liters of clean water, enough to sustain approximately 75,000 people with 20 liters a day for one week. Each Living Water Treatment System can provide enough safe water for an entire community.

The majority of this work is being made possible by another corporate partner and sponsor, the Poul due Jensen Foundation, who offered a significant grant that is allowing us to provide safe water to more than 75,000 people in and around Palu — a large city on Sulawesi that was devastated by the disaster.

The death toll is now more than 2,000 people, and it is estimated that more than 5,000 people are still missing. Conditions are horrendous, and we feel compelled to raise awareness because the need for basic access to safe water and sanitation is critical for the survival of people in the impacted region.

Our goal is to meet this need and help bring stability to a tenuous situation — people are hanging on by a thread while simultaneously trying to process what happened and grieve the loss of loved ones.

Logistics remain challenging as the Palu airport was severely damaged. Our Indonesian team is making the journey to Palu from all across the country, and we are working to bring clean water as quickly as possible while building relationships with the government and local communities in need.

Our team in Indonesia is experienced and equipped with water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) best practices and sustainability methods. Having completed more than 150 safe water projects in Indonesia, serving more than 340,000 people, our indigenous staff will not only respond immediately, they will stay and work to help local communities rebuild with the goal of providing long-term access to safe water.

In the coming days, having access to safe water is imperative to ward off the threat of disease and continued loss of life. Unfortunately, more than 2.1 billion people around the world lack access to safe water and more than 4.4 billion lack access to adequate sanitation.

This is not a problem for any organization to face alone. Rather, through continued collaboration, we believe humanitarians, nonprofits, governments, and communities can come together and forge an alliance to address one of the world’s most basic needs: water.

Our hope is that, even after this disaster vanishes from the headlines, people will not forget but will unite and advocate to change the harrowing statistics. Every day, 2,300 people die from waterborne illnesses directly tied to a lack of access to safe water and compromised sanitation hygiene and each one of these deaths is preventable.

In disasters, conditions are infinitely worse, compelling us to respond as quickly as possible. We know that people need safe water to live, and we are working diligently on multiple fronts to address this need in Indonesia.

As we continue to respond, working with local communities to provide clean water to impacted people in the region, we are asking for your support. First, to raise awareness about the global water crisis. Second, to join us in prayer for all the families who are mourning loved ones and facing the daunting task of rebuilding.

And finally, to partner with us in our efforts. Everyone has the ability to create change, and I encourage people to think about what they have to offer in four different areas: time, talent, treasure, and influence. It can be overwhelming to read the reports and hear the staggering news that more than 2.4 million people have been impacted by this earthquake and tsunami. But by joining us in our efforts, you can help restore dignity and bring hope to the survivors.

It is encouraging to collaborate with the Poul due Jensen Foundation, the FedEx Cares Delivering for Good Initiative, and P&G, demonstrating our common bond and commitment to helping others when disaster strikes. When we work together and empower each other, we can make a bigger impact and tackle overwhelming problems like the global water crisis.

Our Indonesian team will continue to respond, and we are ready to deploy more resources as needed. If you are interested in updates on our relief efforts in the Palu region, you can follow online at watermission.org.

*Since 2001, Water Mission has used innovative technology and engineering expertise to provide access to safe water for nearly 4 million people in 55 countries.

Note: All photos can be attributed to Water Mission.

The post The Earthquake in Indonesia: How Collaboration Impacts the Global Water Crisis appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

George C. Greene, IV is the President and Chief Operating Officer of Water Mission*, a nonprofit Christian engineering organization that designs, builds, and implements safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) solutions for people in developing countries and disaster areas

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Mother Nature Can Help us Deal With Her Water Disastershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/mother-nature-can-help-us-deal-water-disasters/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mother-nature-can-help-us-deal-water-disasters http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/mother-nature-can-help-us-deal-water-disasters/#comments Thu, 11 Oct 2018 16:17:39 +0000 Vladimir Smakhtin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158116 Vladimir Smakhtin is Director of the UN University Institute for Water, Environment, and Health (UNU-INWEH), supported by the Government of Canada and hosted at McMaster University.

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When a natural disaster strikes, people are sometimes left with no choice but to leave the areas affected. Yet, for some, even this option might not exist. Cyclone survivors in Myanmar shelter in the ruins of their destroyed home. Credit: UNHCR/Taw Naw Htoo

By Vladimir Smakhtin
HAMILTON, Canada, Oct 11 2018 (IPS)

Almost every day we hear news about catastrophic flooding or drought somewhere in the world. And many nations and regions are on track for even more extreme water problems within a generation, the latest IPCC report warns.

Extreme floods and droughts have a profound impact on development, particularly in less developed parts of the world. About 140 million people are affected — displaced by the loss of incomes or homes — and close to 10,000 people worldwide die annually from these twin calamities. Global annual economic losses from floods and droughts exceeds US$ 40 billion; add in damages from storms like America’s recent Hurricanes Florence and Michael, and cost numbers balloon.

Flood and drought economic losses — comparable in dollar terms to all global development aid — strongly affect the water, food and energy security of nations.

To help cope with these problems, massive investments continue to be made in large reservoirs.

However, in certain regions it has started to make little engineering sense to build additional “grey (concrete and steel) infrastructure” due to a lack of suitable sites and / or rapid evaporation. In others, aging grey infrastructure may no longer provide their originally envisioned benefits because hydrological parameters and patterns are changing.

The appropriate response is to recognize the benefits of “green (natural ecosystems) infrastructure” and to design grey and green infrastructure in tandem to maximize benefits for people, nature and the economy.

Such “Nature-Based Solutions” were the theme of this year’s UN World Water Development Report.

Nature-Based Solutions include, for example:
• soil moisture retention systems, and groundwater recharge to enhance water availability
• natural and constructed wetlands and riparian buffer strips to improve water quality, and
• floodplain restoration to reduce risks associated with water‐related disasters and climate change

The role of green water storage infrastructure is particularly important. The enormous potential of such approaches are only now being fully understood but its clear that green infrastructure can directly improve the performance of grey infrastructure for disaster risk reduction.

Indeed, large-scale managed aquifer recharge efforts can, in certain conditions, alleviate both flood and drought risks in the same river basin.

Recent studies suggest that, in a river basin greater than 150,000 km2 in area, with only 200 km2 of land converted for accelerated groundwater recharge in wetter years, agricultural income could be boosted by about US$ 200 million per year. Not only is additional water made available to farmers in drier periods, downstream flooding costs can be eliminated. And the capital investment required could be recouped in a decade or less.

Such sustainable, cost-effective and scalable solutions may be especially relevant in developing countries, where water-related disaster vulnerability has risen to unprecedented levels and the impacts of climate change will be most acutely felt.

Nature-Based Solutions are not feasible everywhere and, where they would help, they alone are not the silver bullet solution for water risks and variability — they cannot be counted on to replace or achieve the full risk reduction effect of grey infrastructure.

Nevertheless, Nature-Based Solutions need to be considered in all water management planning and practiced where possible. Especially at river basin and regional scales, management planning should consider a range of surface and subsurface storage options, not just large concrete dams.

The challenges include:
• an overwhelming dominance of traditional grey infrastructure thinking and practices (and associated inertia against Nature-Based Solutions)
• the need for more quantitative data on the effects of Nature-Based Solutions
• a lack of understanding of how to integrate natural and built infrastructure for managing water extremes
• overall lack of capacity to implement Nature-Based Solutions; and
• a pre-dominantly reactive rather than proactive approach to water-related disaster management. Nature-Based Solutions have much greater potential if included in risk reduction planning and adopted before disaster strikes.

These challenges will take time to overcome, but there is hope.

The UN General Assembly has designated 13 October as the International Day for Disaster Reduction, which this year has taken the theme of reducing economic losses from disasters.

The theme corresponds to a target of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 – which underlines the need to shift from mostly post-disaster planning and recovery to proactive disaster risk reduction and calls for strategies with a range of ecosystem-based solutions.

Meanwhile, some 25 targets within 10 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of UN Agenda 2030 either explicitly or implicitly address various aspects of water-related disaster management.

The obvious synergies between all these targets will increasingly strengthen if Nature-Based Solutions are seen as a supporting concept to all of them.

The post Mother Nature Can Help us Deal With Her Water Disasters appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Vladimir Smakhtin is Director of the UN University Institute for Water, Environment, and Health (UNU-INWEH), supported by the Government of Canada and hosted at McMaster University.

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim: Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence remains a source of guidance for bringing peace to the Arab regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/dr-hanif-hassan-ali-al-qassim-gandhis-philosophy-non-violence-remains-source-guidance-bringing-peace-arab-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dr-hanif-hassan-ali-al-qassim-gandhis-philosophy-non-violence-remains-source-guidance-bringing-peace-arab-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/dr-hanif-hassan-ali-al-qassim-gandhis-philosophy-non-violence-remains-source-guidance-bringing-peace-arab-region/#respond Tue, 02 Oct 2018 07:21:37 +0000 Geneva Centre http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157918 The Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, HE Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, praised Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence in expressing concern about the current rise of extremist violence. Dr. Al Qassim made this statement to honour the legacy of the great Statesman of the Global South that […]

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By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, Oct 2 2018 (Geneva Centre)

The Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, HE Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, praised Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence in expressing concern about the current rise of extremist violence. Dr. Al Qassim made this statement to honour the legacy of the great Statesman of the Global South that is observed annually on 2 October on the occasion of the International Day of Non-Violence.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

In the context of the Arab region, the Geneva Centre’s Chairman deplored in particular the rise of violence in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Palestine owing to extremist violence and foreign interventions. He said that the proliferation of crisis and conflict have the potential to divide religious and ethnic groups in multicultural societies fostering hate, intolerance and animosity between religions and denominations. With more than 10 million people forcibly displaced from their home societies, the Arab region is witnessing one of the world’s worst humanitarian calamities, he remarked.

To address these ominous trends, the Geneva Centre’s Chairman recalled that non-violence and lasting peace are key to secure the long-term stability of the Arab region. Dr. Al Qassim noted that military victory over extremist violence in the Arab region will only bring a “short-term solution as building lasting and sustainable peace requires addressing inter alia the root-causes of conflict, injustice, inequality, poverty and lack of social development.”

He therefore stated that societies in the Arab region gripped by violence must seek reconciliation, dialogue, respect for human rights and non-violence. “We must foster dialogue, strengthen empowerment, scale-up faith engagement involving religious leaders, enhance religious teaching, and include mediation and peace building in addressing intolerance and the rise of violence,” said Dr. Al Qassim.

In this connection, he quoted Mahatma Gandhi who said that “Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.” He therefore asserted that the commemoration of the International Day of Non-Violence is a timely opportunity for world society to commemorate the non-violent ideology of a world Statesman who believed in promoting peace and justice through acts of kindness and compassion. “Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence Satyagraha remains a source of guidance for bringing peace to the Arab region,” Dr. Al Qassim concluded.

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Venezuela’s Surname Is Diasporahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/venezuelas-surname-diaspora/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=venezuelas-surname-diaspora http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/venezuelas-surname-diaspora/#respond Fri, 28 Sep 2018 21:49:10 +0000 Humberto Marquez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157885 They sell their houses, cars, motorcycles, household goods, clothes and ornaments – if they have any – even at derisory prices, save up a few dollars, take a bus and, in many cases, for the first time ever travel outside their country: they are the migrants who are fleeing Venezuela by the hundreds of thousands. […]

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Without Food Security, There Is No Peacehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/without-food-security-no-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=without-food-security-no-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/without-food-security-no-peace/#comments Thu, 27 Sep 2018 05:33:09 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157799 Reversing years of progress, global hunger is on the rise once again and one of the culprits is clear: conflict. A high-level side event during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly brought together, U.N. officials, governments, and civil society to assess and recommend solutions to the pressing issue of conflict-based food insecurity.  […]

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Two mothers and their children look to shore after arriving by boat to Mingkaman, Awerial County, Lakes State, South Sudan. In 2014 in less than a month close to 84,000 fleeing the fighting in Bor crossed the river Nile. South Sudan has been mired in civil conflict since December 2013. Some 2.8 million people, a majority of whom depend on livestock for their livelihoods, are now facing acute food and nutrition insecurity, according to FAO. Credit: Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 27 2018 (IPS)

Reversing years of progress, global hunger is on the rise once again and one of the culprits is clear: conflict.

A high-level side event during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly brought together, U.N. officials, governments, and civil society to assess and recommend solutions to the pressing issue of conflict-based food insecurity. “The use of hunger as a weapon of war is a war crime. Yet, in some conflict settings, parties to conflict use siege tactics, weaponise starvation of civilians, or impede life-saving humanitarian supplies to reach those desperately in need." -- Action Against Hunger’s CEO Veronique Andrieux

“Conflict-related hunger is one of the most visible manifestations to human suffering emerging from war…this suffering is preventable and thus all the more tragic,” said United States’ Agency for International Development’s (USAID) administrator Mark Green.

According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018, the number of hungry people increased to over 820 million in 2017 from approximately 804 million in 2016, levels unseen for almost a decade.

The Global Report on Food Crises found that almost 124 million people across 51 countries faced crisis-level food insecurity in 2017, 11 million more than the year before.

Conflict was identified as the key driver in 60 percent of those cases.

The report predicts that conflict and insecurity will continue to drive food crises around the world, including in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

Panellists during the “Breaking the Cycle Between Conflict and Hunger” side-event noted food insecurity is often a tell-tale sign of future potential conflict and can lead to further insecurity.

“Building resilience…is indeed fundamental for strengthening social cohesion, preventing conflict, and avoiding forced migration. Without that, there is no peace,” said Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO) director-general Jose Graziano da Silva.

World Food Programme’s executive director David Beasley echoed similar sentiments, stating: “If you don’t have food security, you’re not going to have any other security. So we have to address the fundamentals.”

In an effort to address conflict-based hunger and the worrisome reversal in progress, the U.N. Security Council for the first time recognised that armed conflict is closely linked to food insecurity and the risk of famine earlier this year.

The group unanimously adopted resolution 2417 condemning the use of starvation as a weapon of war and urged all parties to conflict to comply with international law and grand unimpeded humanitarian access.

While participants lauded the historic resolution, they also highlighted that it alone is not enough.

“Humanitarian action and technical solutions can mitigate the effects of food crises but we desperately need political solutions and we need to implement [resolution] 2417 if we are to reverse the shameful, upwards trajectory of hunger primarily resulting from conflict,” said Action Against Hunger’s CEO Veronique Andrieux.

In order to prevent food crises and thus conflicts from escalating, the international community must take a holistic, preventative approach and strengthen the humanitarian-development nexus.

Before the long-running war began, Syria faced a drought which caused a spike in prices and led to food shortages. Many theorise that it was these very conditions that set off the civil war in 2011. This is a picture dated August 2014 of the then rebel-held Aleppo city, Syria. The government has since taken control of the city. Credit: Shelly Kittleson/IPS

Beasley pointed to the case of Syria where a seven-year long conflict has destroyed agricultural infrastructure, local economies, and supply chains and has left over six million food-insecure.

“The cost for us to feed a Syrian in Syria was about 50 cents a day which is almost double the normal cost because it is a war zone. If that same Syrian was in Berlin, it would be euros per day,” he told attendees.

“It is a better investment if we address the root cause as opposed to reacting after the fact,” Beasley added.

Before the long-running war began, Syria faced a drought which caused a spike in prices and led to food shortages. Many theorise that it was these very conditions that set off the civil war in 2011.

“Early action response to early warning is critical. We cannot wait for the conflict to start. We know that it will start,” said Graziano da Silva.

And it is data that can help establish early detection and prevent such crises, Graziano da Silva along with the other panelists stressed.

The Global Network against Food Crises (GNFC), which publish the Global Report on Food Crises, brings together regional and national data and analysis to provide a comprehensive picture of food insecurity globally.

It was the GNFC that enabled agencies to mitigate food crises and avert famine in northern Nigeria and South Sudan.

Just prior to the side event, FAO and the European Commission partnered to boost resilience and tackle hunger by contributing over USD70 million.

Panelists stressed the importance of such partnerships in addressing and responding to the complex issue of conflict-based food insecurity.

“At the ground, when we work together, it’s not only that we do better…we are much more efficient,” Graziano da Silva said.

Andrieux highlighted the need to uphold respect for international humanitarian law and that the U.N. and member states must hold all parties to the conflict to account.

“The use of hunger as a weapon of war is a war crime. Yet, in some conflict settings, parties to conflict use siege tactics, weaponise starvation of civilians, or impede life-saving humanitarian supplies to reach those desperately in need,” she said.

“We believe this is failing humanity,” Andrieux added.

Green pointed to the conflict in South Sudan where fighters have blocked desperately needed humanitarian assistance and attacked aid workers.

The African nation was recently ranked the most dangerous for aid workers for the third consecutive year.

“All the parties to the conflict are culpable, all the parties to the conflict are guilty, and they have all failed themselves, their people, and humanity,” Green told attendees.

Though the task of tackling conflict-based hunger is not easy, the solutions are there. What is now required is commitment and collective action, panelists said.

“All of us working together with effective solutions—we can truly end world hunger,” Beasley said.

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Q&A: An Uncertain Future Ahead for Rohingya in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-uncertain-future-ahead-rohingya-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-uncertain-future-ahead-rohingya-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-uncertain-future-ahead-rohingya-bangladesh/#respond Wed, 26 Sep 2018 08:45:09 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157770 IPS Correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage talks to AMBASSADOR MASUD BIN MOMEN, permanent representative of Bangladesh to the U.N about the Rohingya' crisis.

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A Rohingya woman and her child at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 26 2018 (IPS)

Over one year ago, Bangladesh opened its doors in response to what is now the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. But questions still remain on how to rehabilitate the steadily growing population. 

After a military crackdown on suspected terrorists in August 2017, over 700,000 Rohingya fled from their homes in Rakhine State, Myanmar to Bangladesh, bringing with them stories of the horrors they have experienced.

The United Nations described the military offensive as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and a recent fact-finding mission called for the investigation and prosecution of top officials from Myanmar’s military for possible crimes of genocide.

However, recurring cycles of violence can be traced back to 1978 and now 1.3 million Rohingya reside in Bangladesh, leaving the small South Asian nation straining for resources to provide to grief-stricken refugees and overcrowded camps.

So far, only one third of the humanitarian appeal for refugees and local host communities have been met and still many challenges remain from environmental stress to trafficking to the lack of shelters.

Bangladesh’s prime minister Sheikh Hasina, who was in Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people of 2018, has been lauded for her humanitarian gesture and her government’s work in addressing the crisis.

Many international and national organizations are working to support the Rohingya refugees. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in particular and its head William Lacy Swing have worked relentlessly to not only provide support to the refugees but also to find a lasting solution to the crisis. Swing has worked closely with the prime minister and her government and engaged with the many parties involved to bring about an end to the tragedy.

In recognition of his untiring efforts, Inter Press Service (IPS) is honouring Swing with the Person of the Year Award at an event to be held at the U.N. headquarters on Sept. 27. The prime minster will receive the IPS U.N. North America’s Humanitarian Award for her decision to give shelter to the over one million Rohingya refugees who were driven out of their homes, tortured, burnt, raped and left stateless and hopeless.

Ahead of the Hasina’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly, which is expected to focus on the Rohingya crisis and call for international action to resolve the crisis, IPS spoke to ambassador Masud Bin Momen, permanent representative of Bangladesh to the U.N.about the ongoing challenges, support, and future action plans.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Inter Press Service (IPS): Could you talk about the situation in Bangladesh—are refugees still arriving? What conditions are Rohingya refugees arriving in and what conditions are they seeing and living with in Bangladesh?

Masud Bin Momen (MBM): The situation in Cox’s Bazar is terrible. Having to shelter more than 700,000 Rohingyas from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which is the fastest-growing crisis of its kind in the world, and provide them with humanitarian support is an onerous responsibility. It was the bold decision of our honourable prime minister to take up such a huge responsibility responding to humanity’s call. It takes a lot of courage and magnanimity of heart to make such a politically sensitive decision.

And the influx of Rohingyas has not stopped. It is continuing although in much smaller numbers. The freshly-arrived Rohingyas are still giving a grim picture of the ground situation in the Rakhine state. They are telling us about insecurity, threat, persecution, hunger, lack of livelihood opportunities, which is forcing them to leave Myanmar.

IPS: What has the government been doing as of late with regards to supporting Rohingya refugees there now? What have been some of the challenges to support these refugees?

MBM: The camp conditions in Cox’s Bazar may not be perfect and surely, one would understand how difficult it is for a developing country to cater to the humanitarian needs of such a huge population. But our government is trying its best to further improve the camp conditions to ensure basic necessities of the Rohingyas.

The challenges are manifold, I would mention only a few. Providing them with the basic amenities has been the biggest challenge.

For firewood, the Rohingyas have destroyed the forest and vegetation around the camps creating serious threat to the ecology of the area. The shelters that they have built on the slope of the hills are vulnerable to landslide during the monsoon.

For livelihood they are competing with the locals. This is reducing employment opportunities of the local population thus creating concern among the host communities. Their presence is affecting the local law and order situation. The possibility of radicalisation looms large. As their stay lingers, there is the possibility of mingling with the local population which could make their repatriation more difficult.

A Rohingya girl proudly holds up her drawing at a UNICEF school at Balukhali camp, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

IPS: Could you talk about the controversies surrounding repatriation? Why has it been stalled, and are conditions favourable or safe for Rohingya refugees to go back to Myanmar right now? 

MBM: Although Rohingyas want to return to their homes in Rakhine they would not return to Myanmar until and unless the ground condition in the Rakhine state is conducive for their return. This is the singular impediment to return. Improving ground conditions is entirely Myanmar’s responsibility. Since the ground condition is not yet conducive, the Rohingyas are not signing the declaration for voluntary return and hence repatriation is being delayed.

IPS: If refugees cannot return to Myanmar yet, what does Bangladesh plan to do with regards to support? Are there future actions planned to enhance camps and living conditions?

MBM: If they do not return in the foreseeable future we perhaps have no other option but to continue to give them refuge. We would not send them back against their will. As our prime minister said, we would share our meals with them (Rohingyas). There cannot be a more poignant message of our goodwill to the Rohingyas. Our government is relentlessly working to improve the camps and the living conditions therein. We are also developing an island for relocation of some of the Rohingyas.

IPS: What are your thoughts to the criticism that the island which you mentioned is not safe to live, particularly due to violent weather and high risk of floods? 

MBM: This is an entirely wrong perception. Keeping the entire Rohingya population in a geo-politically sensitive place like Cox’s Bazar is not feasible at all. Cox’s Bazar simply does not have the physical capacity or the infrastructure to sustain such a huge Rohingya population. So, they have to be relocated and the island you are talking about is one such place for possible relocation.

Initially about 100,000 Rohingyas are planned to be relocated. The criticism that you have referred to is baseless coming from ill-informed quarters. Our government is working hard to make the island livable with self-sustaining livelihood options. And until it is made entirely livable, Rohingyas are not going to be relocated there.

IPS: What are your thoughts on the International Criminal Court (ICC) launching a preliminary examination? 

MBM: We feel that this is a positive development in ensuring accountability of the perpetrators. If the ICC can come up with some concrete outcome, it might also serve as an important factor in building confidence among the Rohingyas which will facilitate their repatriation.

IPS: Do you have a response or message to Myanmar’s government regarding the crisis? And perhaps a message to the International community in addressing the situation? 

MBM: We would urge upon Myanmar to make ground conditions in the Rakhine state conducive for return and take back the Rohingyas as soon as possible. The comprehensive implementation of the Kofi Annan Commission’s recommendations would be able to address the root causes of the Rohingyarians.

We urge upon the international community is to take custodianship of the bilateral arrangements for return that Bangladesh and Myanmar have signed and impress upon Myanmar to take back the Rohingyas.

*Interview has been edited for length and clarity

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Excerpt:

IPS Correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage talks to AMBASSADOR MASUD BIN MOMEN, permanent representative of Bangladesh to the U.N about the Rohingya' crisis.

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Climate Change Undermining Global Efforts to Eradicate Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/climate-change-undermining-global-efforts-eradicate-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-undermining-global-efforts-eradicate-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/climate-change-undermining-global-efforts-eradicate-hunger/#respond Mon, 24 Sep 2018 14:27:25 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157737 The United Nations warned last month that the accelerating impacts of climate change—“already clearly visible today”– have triggered an unpredictable wave of natural disasters– including extreme heatwaves, wild fires, storms, and floods during the course of this year. “If we do not change course by 2020”, cautions UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, “we risk missing the […]

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Despite the UN goal to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger globally, Africa's senior citizens are finding themselves cornered with destitution. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo / IPS

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 24 2018 (IPS)

The United Nations warned last month that the accelerating impacts of climate change—“already clearly visible today”– have triggered an unpredictable wave of natural disasters– including extreme heatwaves, wild fires, storms, and floods during the course of this year.

“If we do not change course by 2020”, cautions UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, “we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us.”

Coincidentally, his warning was followed by the annual 2018 report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) which singled out climate change as one of the primary factors responsible for the rise in global hunger – and for the third consecutive year in 2017.

Along with military conflicts and global economic meltdowns, climate change is a driving force in the rise in global hunger while extreme weather, land degradation, desertification, water scarcity and rising sea levels—are collectively undermining global efforts to eradicate hunger.

As the UN continues to express concern over rising natural disasters worldwide, the world body is taking an active role in New York City’s “Climate Change Week” which is scheduled to conclude Sunday September 30—and takes place in the margins of the 73rd sessions of the UN General Assembly where more than 125 world political leaders are due to speak this week.

A primary focus of Climate Change Week will be the number of climate-related disasters, which have doubled since the early 1990s, with an average of 213 of these events occurring every year during the period of 1990–2016, according to FAO.

Asked about the severity of climate change on food security, Cindy Holleman, Senior Economist at FAO, told IPS the number of extreme climate-related disaster events has doubled since the early 1990s (extreme heat, droughts, floods and storms) – “which means we now experience on average 213 medium and large climate-related catastrophic events every year”.

She pointed out that climate-related disasters account for more than 80 percent of all major internationally reported disasters. Climate variability and extremes are already negatively undermining the production of major crops in tropical regions.

“So climate variability and extremes, are not only events that will happen in the future; they are occurring now and are contributing to a rise in global hunger,” she warned.

Holleman said droughts feature among the most challenging climate extremes in many parts of the world. Drought causes more than 80 percent of the total damage and losses in agriculture, especially for the livestock and crop production subsectors.

For almost 36 percent of the countries that experienced a rise in undernourishment since the mid-2000s, this coincided with the occurrence of a severe agricultural drought, she noted.

“Most striking is that nearly two-thirds of these cases (19 out of 28) occurred in relation to the severe drought conditions driven by El Niño in 2015–2016.

During the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event of 2015–2016, this change across so many countries contributed to a reversal of the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) trend at the global level, she noted.

In its latest 2018 report on “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World” (SOFI), FAO said the absolute number of undernourished people, i.e. those facing chronic food deprivation, has increased to nearly 821 million in 2017, from around 804 million in 2016. These are levels from almost a decade ago.

The share of undernourished people in the world population – the prevalence of undernourishment, or PoU – may have reached 10.9 percent in 2017, according to the report.

Persistent instability in conflict-ridden regions, adverse climate events in many regions of the world and economic slowdowns that have affected more peaceful regions and worsened the food security, all help to explain this deteriorating situation.

The situation is worsening in South America and most regions of Africa, FAO said. Africa remains the continent with the highest PoU, affecting almost 21 percent of the population (more than 256 million people).

The situation is also deteriorating in South America, where the PoU has increased from 4.7 percent in 2014 to a projected 5.0 percent in 2017. Asia’s decreasing trend in undernourishment seems to be slowing down significantly.

The projected PoU for Asia in 2017 is 11.4 percent, which represents more than 515 million people. Without increased efforts, the world will fall far short of achieving the SDG target of eradicating hunger by 2030.

The most recent Typhoon Mangkhut, on September 15, caused considerable devastation in the Philippines.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the typhoon affected 893,000 people, including over 280,000 farmers. Some 236,000 people were displaced — 70 per cent of whom are still in evacuation centres.

The typhoon damaged nearly 1,500 houses. It is also estimated that 1.22 million hectares of rice and corn have been damaged, with losses estimated at $267 million.

The United Nations said it is working closely with its partners and the Government of the Philippines to coordinate rapid assessment and response. Major needs include food, health care, water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as shelter. The United Nations said it stands ready to support the Government’s relief efforts as needed.

Still, there are some who are skeptical about climate change itself.

As Gail Collins, a columnist for the New York Times, pointed out last week the unpredictable US President Donald Trump does not believe in climate change.

“Who among us can forget the time he claimed the whole idea (of climate change) was a Chinese plot to ruin American manufacturing”,? she asked.

Guterres, meanwhile, is convening a Climate Summit in September 2019 to bring climate action to the top of the international agenda. The high-level gathering of world political leaders is scheduled to take place one year before countries are set to enhance their national climate pledges under the Paris Agreement.

“I am calling on all world leaders to come to next year’s Climate Summit prepared to report not only on what they are doing, but what more they intend to do when they convene in 2020 for the UN climate conference,” he said.

Kristen Hite, Oxfam International Climate Policy Lead, told IPS climate change is a factor leaders must take into account as we all collectively try to reach the milestones set by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

She said climate change is already compromising food security and food production, including hitting adaptive limits, with more people migrating because they cannot grow food anymore. And this is only the beginning. With every tick up on the thermometer, millions more are forced into poverty.

Hite said climate impacts on the poor happen through increased food prices, food insecurity and hunger, lost resource base for livelihoods and income, and displacement from flooding and heat waves.

“There is a big difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees, especially for crop production in Sub-Saharan Africa, West Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America. The poor are hit the hardest, and rain-fed agriculture is especially vulnerable.”

As climate emissions barrel on, she said, there is more pressure to displace food farming with carbon farming. It doesn’t have to be this way- if wealthy polluters can get their emissions in check and we all embrace the renewable energy revolution, there is still time to curb this crisis.

Meanwhile, at the upcoming climate change conference, COP24 in Poland in December, there will be an attempt to finalize the rulebook of the Paris Agreement and to deliver on its promises.

FAO’s Holleman told IPS the strongest direct impacts are felt on food availability, given the sensitivity of agriculture to climate and the primary role of the sector as a source of food and livelihoods for the rural poor.

Climate variability and extremes are undermining also the other dimensions of food security. Spikes in food prices and price volatility follow climate extremes and extend well beyond the actual climatic event.

Net buyers of food are the hardest hit by price spikes: these are the urban poor, but also small-scale food producers, agriculture labourers and the rural poor. Those whose livelihoods depend on agriculture and natural resources lose income but also assets and access to food, she pointed out.

The quality and safety of food is affected by more erratic rainfall and higher temperatures: crop contamination, outbreaks of pests and diseases because of rainfall intensity or changes in temperature, she explained.

Hollleman said that stability of production and access to food is also increased by climate variability and extremes. Changes in climate also heavily impact nutrition through impaired nutrient quality and dietary diversity of foods produced and consumed impacts on water and sanitation, with their implications for patterns of health risks and disease.

Prolonged or recurrent climate extremes lead to diminished coping capacity, loss of livelihoods, distress migration and destitution, she declared.

Asked if some of the countries, mostly in Asia, Latin America and sub Saharan Africa, will be able to meet the SDG goal of hunger eradication by 2030, Holleman said ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition is an ambitious goal, but it is one we strongly believe can be reached.

“We need to strengthen our common efforts and work to tackle the underlying causes of hunger and malnutrition, as well as to urgently address key drivers behind the recent rise in hunger,” she said.

“ We should strengthen political will and put hunger elimination and good nutrition as a fundamental goals in the development effort. Extreme poverty, inequality and marginalization is at the roots of hunger and need to be addressed. This is universal, almost a tautology.”

Fundamental entry points to the effort to eliminate hunger is agriculture, the food system in general and social protection. “We also have to deal with the additional challenges created by conflict, climate variability and extremes and economic slowdowns.”

Addressing the root causes of conflict will involve humanitarian, development and peace building strategies which meet immediate needs while making the necessary investments to build resilience for lasting peace and food security and nutrition for all, Holleman declared.

“Meeting the challenge posed by climate variability and extremes requires that we scale-up actions to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity of people and the agricultural and food systems.”

She added: “We need integrated—rather than dissociated—disaster risk reduction and management and climate change adaption policies, programmes and practices with short-, medium- and long-term vision.”

Meanwhile, in what was described as “an unprecedented global partnership”, the United Nations, World Bank, International Committee of the Red Cross, Microsoft, Google and Amazon Web Services have announced a plan to prevent future famines.

The international organizations are launching the Famine Action Mechanism (FAM) – the first global mechanism dedicated to preventing future famines.

In the past, responses to these devastating events has often come too late, once many lives have already been lost, incurring high assistance costs.

“The FAM seeks to change this by moving towards famine prevention, preparedness and early action – interventions that can save more lives and reduce humanitarian costs by as much as 30%. The initiative will use the predictive power of data to trigger funding through appropriate financing instruments, working closely with existing systems,” the coalition said in a press release September 24.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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25 years Since the Oslo Accords: Israeli Security Depends on Palestinian Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/25-years-since-oslo-accords-israeli-security-depends-palestinian-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=25-years-since-oslo-accords-israeli-security-depends-palestinian-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/25-years-since-oslo-accords-israeli-security-depends-palestinian-rights/#comments Fri, 14 Sep 2018 12:51:10 +0000 Jan Egeland http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157620 Jan Egeland is Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. He co-organized the secret talks between Israel and Palestine that led to the historic 1993 Oslo Accords.

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Jan Egeland is Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. He co-organized the secret talks between Israel and Palestine that led to the historic 1993 Oslo Accords.

By Jan Egeland
OSLO, Norway, Sep 14 2018 (IPS)

Twenty-five years ago, on 13 September 1993, I sat on the White House lawn to witness the landmark signing of the Oslo agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Diplomats around me gasped as Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shook hands with former foe, Chairman Yasser Arafat. But for some of us present, the handshake came as no surprise.

Jan Egeland, former UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs

Weeks earlier we watched the midnight initialing of the same accord in Oslo. It had been the culmination of an intense eight months of secret talks in Norway, a private back-channel we initiated to end hostilities.

Previous peace diplomacy efforts had failed. A triad of occupation, violence and terror had reigned for many years. The Oslo Accords led to a rare epoch of optimism in Israeli-Palestinian relations.

When our back-channel began, neither Israeli nor American officials were allowed to meet with the Palestine Liberation Organization. The signing momentarily changed everything. The two sides exchanged letters of official recognition, thousands of Palestinians secured jobs in Israel, joint industrial parks were planned, the Israeli stock exchange soared, and the country’s Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Gaza could become a “Singapore of the Middle East.”

Our optimism may seem naïve today. Hindsight can raise many worthwhile critiques about what that handshake missed. Importantly, the Oslo “Declaration of Principles” was no peace agreement, but rather a five-year time plan for how to negotiate peace through increased reconciliation and cooperation.

Peace antagonists took little time to tear down our efforts to facilitate agreements on Jerusalem, settlements, refugees, and the status and borders of a future Palestine. Israeli terrorists killed Prime Minister Rabin and Muslims at prayer in Hebron, while a terror campaign from Hamas and other armed groups targeted buses and marketplaces in multiple Israeli cities.

Before final status issues could be fleshed out, the tide of optimism gave way to more terror, violence and brutal crackdowns. The following years brought a second intifada, record expansion of illegal settlements, an increasingly entrenched military occupation, division among Palestinian factions, and the closure of Gaza. Instead of recognition and a commitment to sit at the same table, the political context devolved into extreme polarization and mutual provocation.

Twenty-five years later, it is time to learn from the past.

Too few concrete steps were made during the initial months when mutual trust existed. Political elites on both sides did too little to enable reconciliation, justice and security in their own backyards. We also made mistakes as international facilitators in underestimating the counterforces against peace. As in so many places where peace diplomacy fails, humanitarians had to step in to provide a lifeline. In the absence of a long-term solution, urgent needs only increased.

Today, I lead a large international aid organization assisting millions of people displaced across the world, including Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon and Syria. I have rarely seen, felt or heard as much despair as among Palestinian youth locked into hopelessness in camps and behind closed borders. Unemployment for Gaza’s youth sits at 58 percent, according to the World Bank.

In a time when peace efforts are at a standstill, it has been more difficult than ever to deliver humanitarian assistance to Palestinians. Relief funding is diminishing, while humanitarian needs are on the rise. Partisan lobby groups and politicians hostilely question aid agencies focused on protecting human rights, more than any time in recent years.

Young men and women I met recently in Gaza told me they feel betrayed: “You told us to study hard, stay out of trouble and believe in better days. Now we are further away than ever from finishing our studies, let alone getting a job, a home or an escape from this cage.”

As Palestinians increasingly struggle to meet basic needs, economic opportunity is stifled by endless occupation. This is bad news for Israelis and Palestinians. It is not in Israel’s interests to oppress future generations of Palestinians, contributing to increasing bitterness in its own neighborhood.

Despite the grim trends, there is still a way out of the vicious cycle of conflict. Perhaps precisely therefore, in this bleak hour, we may have the foundation for a genuine peace effort. It can only be a matter of time before Israeli leadership realizes its long-term security is squarely dependent on equal rights and dignity for millions of disillusioned Palestinian youth.

Bridging humanitarian funding gaps and allowing aid delivery would raise real GDP in the Gaza Strip by some 40 percent by 2025, according to the World Bank. Such short-term gains can be bolstered by long-term investments in employment and increasing connectivity between the West Bank and Gaza.

Financial aid and other forms of investment in the Palestinian economy are urgently needed, but they are stop-gap measures, not the solution itself. Without a final political agreement, there can be no end to the human suffering.

Only a “just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement” will lead to “peaceful coexistence and mutual dignity and security.” These principles remain as true now as they were 25 years ago. But they must be rooted in reverence for international law. Palestinians are as entitled to basic human rights as are Israelis or Americans. Any future positive gains are only sustainable when fortified by a commitment to a political solution that upholds the rights and security of all people in the region.

No external actor has more potential for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than the United States. Only Americans have real leverage on the parties and the ability to provide the security guarantees needed.

A new U.S.-effort is sorely needed as tensions build once again, humanitarian work becomes more difficult, and tens of thousands of youth take stock of their lack of options.

However, unless America’s “ultimate deal” delivers equal rights, justice and security, grounded in respect for international law, it will only serve to strengthen political extremism among Israelis and Palestinians, further destabilize a volatile region, and ensure that too many Palestinians will continue to live under seemingly endless military occupation.

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Excerpt:

Jan Egeland is Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. He co-organized the secret talks between Israel and Palestine that led to the historic 1993 Oslo Accords.

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International Law Experts Warn Europe’s ‘Pull Back’ of Migrants is Illegal – Part 2http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/international-law-experts-warn-europes-pull-back-migrants-illegal-part-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=international-law-experts-warn-europes-pull-back-migrants-illegal-part-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/international-law-experts-warn-europes-pull-back-migrants-illegal-part-2/#comments Mon, 10 Sep 2018 11:41:32 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157538 This is the second part of our series about migration to Italy.

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Even though fewer people are attempting irregular migration to Europe since the start of the year, the number of deaths that occur along the Mediterranean route has dramatically increased, according to International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Amnesty International estimates. Courtesy: International Organization for Migration (IOM)

By Maged Srour
ROME, Sep 10 2018 (IPS)

“The Italian and other European authorities are engaging – on the migration issue – in a policy which has the foreseeable results of numerous deaths.” It is a grim warning from expert on international law, refugees and migration issues, and member of the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), Itamar Mann.

In February 2017, Italy entered into an agreement with Libya to provide funds to Libyan authorities for the coordination of relief operations in the central Mediterranean. Since the agreement, the Libyan Coast Guard has returned migrants to Libya who attempted to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

However, according to a recent Amnesty International report both “Italy and the European Union (EU) are bolstering their policy of supporting the Libyan Coast Guard to ensure it prevents departures and carries out interceptions of refugees and migrants on the high seas in order to pull them back to Libya. This is also contributing to rendering the central Mediterranean route more dangerous for refugees and migrants, and rescue at sea unreliable.”

When IPS asked Mann if he thought there was a direct link between the “pull back” of migrants intercepted in the Mediterranean and the increased number of migrant deaths, Mann described this policy as “killing by omission.”

Even though fewer people are attempting irregular migration to Europe since the start of the year, the number of deaths that occur along the Mediterranean route has dramatically increased, according to International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Amnesty International estimates.

According to Amnesty International:

• From January to July 2018, 1,111 people were reported dead or missing along the central Mediterranean route,

• The death rate among those attempting the crossing from Libya has surged to 1 in 16 in the period June-July, 2018,

• This was four times higher than the rate recorded from January-May 2018, which was 1 in 64.

Migrants arriving at Lampedusa, Italy in this picture dated 2011. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS.

Moral responsibility lies not only with Italy, but Europe too

In May, GLAN filed an application against Italy with the European Court of Human Rights for a 2017 incident where the Libyan Coast Guard allegedly intervened in the rescue, by an non-governmental organisation, of a sinking dinghy. At least 20 people died, including two children, when the vessel sunk. But the Libyan Coast Guard is reported to have engaged in “pull back” and returned the survivors to Libya, where they reportedly endured detention in inhumane conditions and were beaten, starved and raped.“While Italy retains legal responsibility, the process has been facilitated in multiple ways by the EU, and [therefore] the moral responsibility is not exclusively Italian.” -- Itamar Mann, Global Legal Action Network (GLAN).

According to Violeta Moreno-Lax, a senior lecturer in law from Queen Mary University of London, and legal advisor to GLAN: “The Italian authorities are outsourcing to Libya what they are prohibited from doing themselves. They are putting lives at risk and exposing migrants to extreme forms of ill-treatment by proxy, supporting and directing the action of the so-called Libyan Coast Guard.”

Mann, however, pointed out that, “while Italy retains legal responsibility, the process has been facilitated in multiple ways by the EU, and [therefore] the moral responsibility is not exclusively Italian.”
“The EU, for example, has tried to advance migrant processing centres in Libya, engaged in training of Libyan forces, and turned a blind eye to continued violations. So beyond the legal case, simply blaming Italy and ignoring the larger context would be misleading,” he told IPS via email.

The Italian government is expected to respond in due course to the legal papers.

Italy’s response to irregular migration

Italy’s stance on migrants has been reported previously. The country’s interior minister Matteo Salvini was reported by the Telegraph as saying his country would no longer be “the doormat of Europe” as it had been left to largely deal with the migrant crisis on its own. The newspaper reported that in May he had called for Italy’s coast guard and naval ships to be pulled back from patrolling the Mediterranean and brought closer to home.

There have been a number of other reported incidents of alleged “pull back”.

At the end of July, Italian authorities reportedly rescued migrants at sea and returned them to Libya. Also in July, the story of how migrants on the Italian coast guard ship, the Diciotti, were reportedly blocked from disembarking by the country’s ministry of interior generated much criticism and gave rise to a heated debate in Europe. The migrants were eventually allowed to disembark in Trapani, Sicily, after intervention by Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella. 

“The repatriation of refugees to Libya is illegal, as international law prohibits the transfer of people, who encounter distress at sea, to ‘unsafe havens,’” Benjamin Labudda, an expert on migration issues and housing conditions of refugees in the European context and a PhD Scientific Assistant at the Institute of Sociology of University of Muenster, told IPS.

Non-refoulement’, a well-known fundamental principle of international law, no country receiving asylum seekers can expel or return them to territories where their lives or freedom could be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

Concern for migrants sent back to Libya

Flavio Di Giacomo, spokesperson for IOM, told IPS he was also concerned about the return of migrants to Libya.

“If a boat is rescued in international waters and returned to Libya, we are facing a ‘pull back’. The fact that we are referring relief operations in international waters to Libya is ambiguous because the migrants would probably be taken to an unsafe port,” he said.

He said the issue should be kept under close observation, as according to international law migrants rescued at sea should not be returned to Libya, which was “not a safe harbour.”

“We must promote legality, through more residence permits and integration policies,” said Di Giacomo. “A simple closure would be misunderstood by the countries of origin of these migrants. They would only see ‘the rich Europe that sends back the poor Africans.’”

Labudda added that agreements for the distribution of refugees among EU countries must be institutionalised and enforced, as many countries still refuse to welcome refugees.
“A solution regarding the structure of a process of distribution has to be found as soon as possible in the upcoming months,” he added.

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Excerpt:

This is the second part of our series about migration to Italy.

The post International Law Experts Warn Europe’s ‘Pull Back’ of Migrants is Illegal – Part 2 appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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“We Should Not Wait” — Action Needed on Myanmarhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/not-wait-action-needed-myanmar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=not-wait-action-needed-myanmar http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/not-wait-action-needed-myanmar/#comments Tue, 04 Sep 2018 08:57:23 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157443 After the release of a scathing report on Myanmar’s human rights violations, next steps to achieve accountability and justice remain elusive and uncertain.   A year after the re-escalation of violence that forced almost a million people to flee to neighbouring countries, a fact-finding mission found a “human rights catastrophe” in Myanmar. “The gross human […]

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Rohingya alight from a boat as they arrive at Shahparir Dip in Teknaf, Bangladesh in 2017. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 4 2018 (IPS)

After the release of a scathing report on Myanmar’s human rights violations, next steps to achieve accountability and justice remain elusive and uncertain.  

A year after the re-escalation of violence that forced almost a million people to flee to neighbouring countries, a fact-finding mission found a “human rights catastrophe” in Myanmar.

“The gross human rights violations and abuses committed in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States are shocking for their horrifying nature and ubiquity,” the report states.

“Many of these violations undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law,” it continued.“The U.N. system really failed the people of Myanmar particularly the Rohingya by treading softly.” -- Human Rights Watch’s U.N. Director Louis Charbonneau

Triggered by insurgent attacks on security forces, the report pointed a finger to Myanmar’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, for committing the gravest of crimes including indiscriminate killing, burning of houses, and sexual violence.

The investigators identified six generals, including the commander in chief of the Tatmadaw Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and recommended that they be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court (ICC) or at an alternative tribunal.

“There needs to be an unequivocal message sent that Myanmar’s military cannot act with impunity against ethnic minorities in Myanmar again,” Amnesty International’s Asia Advocacy Manager Francisco Bencosme told IPS.

“Never again has to mean never again – and the entire world is watching to see what the international community does,” he continued.

Like Bencosme, Human Rights Watch’s U.N. Director Louis Charbonneau also told IPS that the Security Council should refer the situation in Myanmar to the ICC or create a special criminal tribunal for prosecution.

But how did we get here?

Years of systematic oppression against Myanmar’s ethnic minorities made the crisis “foreseeable”—so what happened?

A System-Wide Failure

In 2008, the U.N. failed to heed warnings of increasing violence between the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and did not report evidence of widespread government violations and casualties.

A 2012 internal review found that various U.N. agencies including the Security Council failed at every level to protect civilians and meet their responsibilities in the last months of the civil war in the South Asian nation.

In the wake of the fiasco, the U.N. implemented the Human Rights Up Front Initiative to ensure a better system of monitoring and responding to international crises. Though Myanmar was identified as a situation requiring the Action Plan’s human rights response to crises, the approach was rarely, if ever, used, the report stated.

Instead, U.N. agencies continued to prioritise development goals, humanitarian access, and quiet diplomacy—an approach which “demonstrably failed.”

“The U.N. system really failed the people of Myanmar particularly the Rohingya by treading softly,” Charbonneau told IPS.

“Now instead of us saying ‘never again’ after Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Srebrenica—here we are saying well yet again it happened. The U.N. didn’t do what it was supposed to be doing, it didn’t raise the alarm bells to the extent that they could have,” he continued.

The Security Council’s response, or lack thereof, has been equally disappointing. The U.N. organ has had only a handful of meetings on Myanmar and none have resulted in any resolution.

In contrast, Syria has received special attention over the last seven years with numerous meetings in the “triple digits.”

“Given the scale of the crisis in Myanmar, it is difficult to reconcile the different responses of the Security Council particularly given a situation where the U.N. for sometime has been warning about the possibility of the ‘g’ word that is genocide,” Charbonneau said.

“It would be good to see an attempt to really push the Council to try something. We haven’t seen that yet and I don’t know if we will see it,” he continued.

China and Russia, Security Council members with veto power, have consistently pushed back on efforts to act on Myanmar’s crisis, stating that the crisis should only be resolved by the parties directly affected including Bangladesh where over 700,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to.

In the Security Council’s first open meeting on Myanmar in eight years, Russia’s ambassador Vasily Nebenzya warned against claims of ethnic cleansing and blaming Myanmar’s authorities as it “will make it more difficult to achieve lasting interethnic peace inside the country.”

Whether it is genocide or crimes against humanity, Bencosme highlighted the need for the international community to act with respect to Myanmar.

“We don’t need a legal diagnosis to understand that something desperately tragic and clearly unlawful has been happening in Myanmar. What matters most is that a civilian population is under attack because of its race or religion, and that these violations must stop immediately,” he told IPS.

Myanmar has repeatedly denied accusations of violations including those most recently published through the fact-finding mission’s report.

“Myanmar authorities have shown themselves to be both unable and unwilling to investigate and prosecute those responsible. As a result, the ICC is the appropriate route to deliver justice,” Bencosme said.

However, since Myanmar is not a member of the ICC, only a member of the Security Council can bring the case to the tribunal.

“The time for rhetoric is over – there needs to be action. There needs to be genuine accountability and justice. There needs to be an honest conversation about referring the situation to the International Criminal Court. We need to pursue all avenues of justice for these victims and their families who are the heart of the crisis,” Bencosme concluded.

Urgent Action Needed

While Charbonneau expressed hope that the new report will “reenergise” the U.N., he noted that we should not idly wait.

“I don’t think we should be waiting around for the Security Council—too often the Council doesn’t move on issues and it’s more deadlock than ever these days. We may have to keep using these work-arounds like the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council,” he told IPS.

Among the alternative avenues for action is the establishment of an impartial mechanism by the Human Rights Council or General Assembly to collect, analyse, and preserve evidence for future potential criminal proceedings in the ICC or another criminal tribunal.

The report also recommends that the U.N. urgently adopt a common strategy to address human rights concerns in Myanmar in line with the Human Rights Up Front Action Plan, as well as a comprehensive inquiry into whether the U.N. did everything possible to prevent or mitigate Myanmar’s crisis.

“The time has past for these feeble condemnations or expressions of concern that we are so used to from the U.N.—we just really need action,” Charbonneau said.

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The Plight of Women & Young People in the Rohingya Refugee Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/plight-women-young-people-rohingya-refugee-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=plight-women-young-people-rohingya-refugee-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/plight-women-young-people-rohingya-refugee-crisis/#respond Fri, 31 Aug 2018 12:37:46 +0000 Asa Torkelsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157424 Asa Torkelsson is the representative of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Bangladesh

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Young Rohingya girls are given life skills education in the camps of Cox's Bazar through modules adapted by UNFPA for the refugee camps. (Image: UNFPA Bangladesh/Allison Joyce)

Young Rohingya girls are given life skills education in the camps of Cox's Bazar through modules adapted by UNFPA for the refugee camps. (Image: UNFPA Bangladesh/Allison Joyce)

By Asa Torkelsson
DHAKA, Aug 31 2018 (IPS)

August 25, 2018 marked one year since violence erupted in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, triggering the massive Rohingya exodus to neighbouring Bangladesh. As the crisis continues with no immediate end in sight, it is crucial to expand and sustain health and life skills services for Rohingya women, girls and youth to locate opportunities amid challenges.

As humanitarian actors strategise a long-term response to this protracted crisis, there must be a strong emphasis on the interactions between the obvious pillars of aid – food, water, health, sanitation, shelter and protection – and the special needs of women, girls and young persons, including safer pregnancy and childbirth; the prevention of, and response to, gender-based violence; and education and life skills for children and youth who will, in all probability, become adults in the camps of Cox’s Bazar.

A year ago, renewed violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State ripped 14-year-old *Fathema’s family apart. Her father and brothers were killed, her widowed mother became the head of a household on the run, escaping with Fathema and her other daughters to the crowded Rohingya refugee camps in neighbouring Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Given the atrocities experienced by so many thousands of Rohingya women and girls, the immediate humanitarian response focused on providing urgent medical attention and health supplies, along with psychosocial counselling for traumatized survivors, including those who became pregnant through rape.

Much of this help came through Women Friendly Spaces in Cox’s Bazar – the “shanti khana” or “homes of peace” – which have long provided a safe space for women and girls to avail of essential services, or simply to bond with others, as they seek to heal. The help and information provided there have also inspired many Rohingya women to become community volunteers themselves.

40-year-old Zarina* recalls, “In Myanmar, I didn’t know child marriage was bad.  Here, through the caseworkers at the Women Friendly Space, I’ve learnt about it and other issues like domestic violence.  My eyes are now open, my brain is working. I realise that child marriage is bad for health, it robs a girl of her youth and her life.  I want to end child marriage.”

Zarina and other community volunteers are also seeking to improve a key health indicator.  Currently, only about one in five pregnant women in the refugee camps will give birth in a proper health facility, despite the availability of dozens of trained midwives and other personnel.

Sometimes they are prevented by their husbands – or, in the case of women who have been raped, they fear stigma and discrimination from the wider community.

“Giving birth is like a war, it can be so challenging,” said 35-year-old Nasreen*, another community volunteer. “Every month I help four to five women to the facility here for deliveries. If girls or women don’t willingly want to go to the delivery services, I convince them to access health points and ensure safer pregnancy and childbirth.”

Back in Myanmar, Fathema would probably have been married by now, and, at 14, may already have become a mother. But, just as Zarina and other women were provided with key information about life and love, a new youth-focused initiative at these Women Friendly Spaces is transforming them into learning centres for Fathema, her sisters and other young persons, teaching them about the spectrum of gender equality and rights through the prism of sexual and reproductive health and well-being.

The module – adapted from the global Gender Equity Movement in Schools (GEMS) prototype – underscores how crucial it is to impart life skills education as early as possible, to better equip young persons to navigate the often difficult choices faced during the transition from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, including issues such as gender equality, pubertal changes and hygiene, relationships and conflict management.

For young girls in particular, long constrained by the complexities of patriarchy and sexism, the sessions can be liberating, showing them how they should be in charge of making decisions about their own lives – including if and when to marry and to whom, whether to have children and how many, and how to better address and protect themselves from gender-based violence and child marriage.

 

UNFPA Bangladesh Representative Asa Torkelsson surveys monsoon preparedness in the Rohingya refugee camps of Cox's Bazar. (Image: UNFPA Bangladesh/Allison Joyce)

UNFPA Bangladesh Representative Asa Torkelsson surveys monsoon preparedness in the Rohingya refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar. (Image: UNFPA Bangladesh/Allison Joyce)

 

These concepts can be overwhelming for any young person, and all the more so for those raised in particularly conservative environments. But by bringing such issues to the forefront in a gentle, non-threatening way, multiple points of view can be discussed and debated openly and safely.

Fathema learnt so much from the sessions at the Women Friendly Space, she’s become a volunteer herself. “The first people I talk to are my parents,” she said. “And then I talk to other young people in my area. I knew nothing about the changes that happen to girls. Now I know how to cope, and I can help other girls as well.”

Putting all these lessons into practice will not be easy for Fathema and her peers, just as it hasn’t been for Zarina and older refugee women, but introducing them to these ideas is an important first step towards moving from disempowerment to empowerment, even in this challenging context.

As humanitarian actors strategise a long-term response to this protracted crisis, there must be a strong emphasis on the interactions between the obvious pillars of aid – food, water, health, sanitation, shelter and protection – and the special needs of women, girls and young persons, including safer pregnancy and childbirth; the prevention of, and response to, gender-based violence; and education and life skills for children and youth who will, in all probability, become adults in the camps of Cox’s Bazar.

“Initially I faced violence from my husband because I had four daughters which he wasn’t happy about,” Zarina said. “But I now teach my husband and others about gender equality.”

*Not their real names

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Excerpt:

Asa Torkelsson is the representative of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Bangladesh

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UN Seeks Probe into Saudi Bombing of Civilian Targetshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/157395/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=157395 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/157395/#respond Wed, 29 Aug 2018 13:56:30 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157395 Saudi Arabia, which has been accused of relentlessly bombing civilian targets in strife-torn Yemen and threatening executions of human rights activists, is fast gaining notoriety as a political outcast at the United Nations. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has not only condemned the continued attacks on civilians but also called for “an impartial, independent and prompt […]

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Security Council meeting on the situation in Yemen. 02 August 2018 United Nations, New York. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

Security Council meeting on the situation in Yemen. 02 August 2018 United Nations, New York. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 29 2018 (IPS)

Saudi Arabia, which has been accused of relentlessly bombing civilian targets in strife-torn Yemen and threatening executions of human rights activists, is fast gaining notoriety as a political outcast at the United Nations.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has not only condemned the continued attacks on civilians but also called for “an impartial, independent and prompt investigation” into some of the recent bombings in Yemen.

The bombings of civilians have also led to speculation whether the Saudis and their coalition partners could be hauled before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes.

In a report titled “44 Small Graves Intensify Questions About the US role in Yemen”, the New York Times said some members of the US Congress have called on the American military to clarify its role in airstrikes on Yemen “and investigate whether the support for those strikes could expose American military personnel to legal jeopardy, including for war crimes.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has not only condemned the continued attacks on civilians but also called for “an impartial, independent and prompt investigation” into some of the recent bombings in Yemen.

Guterres has described Yemen as “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”, with three in four Yemenis in need of assistance. So far, the UN and its partners have reached out to more than 8 million people with direct assistance this year.

The death toll alone amounts to over 10,000 people, mostly civilians, since 2014.

But any drastic action against the coalition—or even an independent UN investigation–  is most likely to be thwarted by Western powers, including three permanent members of the Security Council, namely the US, UK and France, which are key suppliers to the thriving multi-billion dollar arms market in Saudi Arabia.

According to Amnesty International, the Saudis are also seeking the death penalty for five individuals who face trial before Saudi Arabia’s counter-terror court, including Israa al-Ghomgham, who would be the first woman ever to face the death penalty simply for participating in protests.

With a woman activist being threatened with execution, who is next in line? Children?

Daniel Balson, Advocacy Director at Amnesty International, told IPS “The sad fact is that in Saudi Arabia, children and the mentally disabled are not exempt from execution.”

Abdul Kareem  Al-Hawaj was 16 when he took part in anti-government protests., Abdullah al-Zaher and Dawood al-Marhoon were arrested on 3 March and 22 May 2012, when they were 16 and 17 years old respectively. Ali al-Nimr was 17 when he was arrested in February 2012.

Balson pointed out that these cases have several things in common: All four are members of the minority Shi’a sect. All four claimed that their confessions were extracted under torture. All four are at risk of imminent execution. Unfortunately, Saudi authorities have proven their willingness to incur substantial political cost simply to put people to death.

In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed 47 people in a single day despite widespread international condemnation. Saudi Arabia is certainly no stranger to killing women – authorities executed two in 2017.

Asked about the continued strong military relationship between the Saudis and Western governments, Balson told IPS that U.S. government officials must, along with their Western allies ban the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, not just to dis-incentivize executions but because these weapons cause innumerable civilian deaths in Yemen.

“This isn’t conjecture, it’s a documented fact,” he said.

Late last year, Amnesty documented that a US-made bomb killed and maimed children in San’a. Media reports have indicated that a bomb that killed dozens of children this month was made in the U.S.

“The U.S. must communicate to Saudi authorities that the killing of children – whether by warplane or executioner – is abhorrent,” he declared.

Hiba Zayadin of Human Rights Watch (HRW) told IPS the public prosecutor is demanding the death penalty for five of the six activists currently on trial.

“We do not know of any other woman activist that has faced the death penalty before for her rights-related work and believe this could set a dangerous precedent. It goes to show just how determined the Saudi leadership is to crush any and all dissent, all the while claiming to be on a path towards modernization, moderation, and reform,” she said.

Zayadin said now is the time for the international community to speak up about the human rights abuses increasingly taking place in Saudi Arabia today, especially by allies such as the US, UK, and France.

“We believe Saudi authorities would be responsive to calls from allies and international businesses seeking to invest in Saudi Arabia to respect the rule of law and release all unjustly detained dissidents”

If the Saudi leadership is truly committed to reform, she said, it would change course, and as long as it does not, the international community has a responsibility to hold it accountable to its promises.

Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Campaigns, said Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s most prolific executioners and the world cannot continue to ignore the country’s horrific human rights record.

“We call on the international community to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian authorities to end the use of the death penalty, which continues to be employed in violation of international human rights law and standards, often after grossly unfair and politically motivated trials.”

Meanwhile, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock said that at least 22 Yemeni children and four women were killed in an air strike last Thursday (August 23) as they were fleeing the fighting in Al Durayhimi district in Hudaydah governorate.

“This is the second time in two weeks that an air strike by the Saudi-led Coalition has resulted in dozens of civilian casualties. An additional air strike in Al Durayhimi on Thursday resulted in the death of four children,” he added

Lowcock said he was also “deeply concerned” by the proximity of attacks to humanitarian sites, including health facilities and water and sanitation infrastructure.

The UN and its partners, he pointed out, are doing all they can to reach people with assistance. Access for humanitarian aid workers to reach people in need is critical to respond to the massive humanitarian crisis in Yemen. People need to be able to voluntarily flee the fighting to access humanitarian assistance too.

“The parties to the conflict must respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and those with influence over them must ensure that everything possible is done to protect civilians,” he added.

In a piece titled “US Commander Seeks Clarity in Yemen Attack”, the New York Times said since 2015, the US has provided the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen with mid-air refueling, intelligence assessments and other military advice.

The US air commander in the Middle East, Lt. Gen Jeffrey Harrigian, has also urged the Saudi-led coalition to be more forthcoming about an airstrike in early August which killed more than 40 children.

Harrigian was quoted as saying “There’s a level of frustration we need to acknowledge. They need to come out and say what occurred there.”

The conflict in Yemen began in 2014 when Houthi rebels, aligned with Iran, seized the capital and sent the government into exile in Saudi Arabia. The fighting intensified beginning 2015.

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14-Point Recommendation of UN Fact-Finding Missionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/14-point-recommendation-un-fact-finding-mission/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=14-point-recommendation-un-fact-finding-mission http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/14-point-recommendation-un-fact-finding-mission/#respond Tue, 28 Aug 2018 09:10:13 +0000 Editor Dailystar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157376 The UN fact-finding mission concludes on reasonable grounds that the following serious crimes under international law have been committed that warrant criminal investigation and prosecution:

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Excerpt:

The UN fact-finding mission concludes on reasonable grounds that the following serious crimes under international law have been committed that warrant criminal investigation and prosecution:

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Damning U.N. Report Outlines Crimes Against Rohingya As Children Suffer from Trauma One Year Laterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/damning-u-n-report-outlines-crimes-rohingya-children-suffer-trauma-one-year-later/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=damning-u-n-report-outlines-crimes-rohingya-children-suffer-trauma-one-year-later http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/damning-u-n-report-outlines-crimes-rohingya-children-suffer-trauma-one-year-later/#respond Mon, 27 Aug 2018 23:38:55 +0000 Farid Ahmed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157366 At 12, Mohammed* is an orphan. He watched his parents being killed by Myanmar government soldiers a year ago. And he is one of an estimated half a million Rohingya children who have survived and been witness to what the United Nations has called genocide. According to accounts in a U.N. fact-finding report released today, […]

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A damning reporting by the United Nations on the Myanmar’s army crimes against the Rohingya may come too late for these Rohingya children, many of whom remain traumatised as witnesses of the genocide. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

By Farid Ahmed
DHAKA, Aug 27 2018 (IPS)

At 12, Mohammed* is an orphan. He watched his parents being killed by Myanmar government soldiers a year ago. And he is one of an estimated half a million Rohingya children who have survived and been witness to what the United Nations has called genocide.

According to accounts in a U.N. fact-finding report released today, the children were likely witnesses to their homes and villages being burnt down, to mass killings, and to the rape of their mothers. As girls, they would have likely been raped themselves.

It has been a year since the atrocities in Myanmar’s Rakhine state led to the exodus of some 700,000 Rohingya—some 60 percent of whom where children, according to the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF)—into neighbouring Bangladesh and to the coastal Cox’s Bazar district were the refugee camps have been set up.

And life remains difficult for the children in these camps.

While some who live in the squalid camps find it hard to envision themselves returning to a normal life; others, like Mohammed, dream of justice.

“I want justice… I want the soldiers to face trial,” he tells IPS, saying he wants justice from the soldiers who “ruined his life”.

“They killed our people, grabbed our land and torched our houses. They killed both my mother and father. I am now living with my sister,” he says.


A year ago, on Aug. 25, Myanmar government forces responded to a Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attack on a military base. But, according to the report by the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, “the nature, scale and organisation of the operations suggests a level of preplanning and design on the part of the Tatmadaw [Myanmar’s military] leadership.”

The report outlines how  “the operations were designed to instil immediate terror, with people woken by intense rapid weapons fire, explosions, or the shouts and screams of villagers. Structures were set ablaze and Tatmadaw soldiers fired their guns indiscriminately into houses and fields, and at villagers.”

It also notes that “rape and other forms of sexual violence were perpetrated on a massive scale” and that “sometimes up to 40 women and girls were raped or gang raped together. One survivor stated, “I was lucky, I was only raped by three men.””

The report calls for a full investigation into genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, calling for Myanmar’s top generals to be investigated for genocide in Rakhine state.

Senior-general Min Aung Hlaing is listed in the report as an alleged direct perpetrator of crimes, while the head of state, Aung San Suu Kyi, was heavily criticised in the report for not using her position “nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events, or seek alternative avenues to meet a responsibility to protect the civilian population.”

While rights agencies have responded to the report calling on international bodies and the U.N. to hold to account those responsible for the crimes, local groups have been calling for long-term solutions to aid the surviving Rohingya children.

A Rohingya girl proudly holds up her drawing at a UNICEF school at Balukhali camp, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Since their arrival in Bangladesh many Rohingya children have not received a proper education, while the healthcare facilities have been strained by the large numbers of people seeking assistance.

While scores of global and local NGOs, aid groups, U.N. agencies and the Bangladesh government are working to support the refugees, aid workers are concerned as many of the children remain traumatised by their experiences.

While they are receiving trauma counselling, it is still not enough.

“Whenever there is a darkness at night, I’m scared and feel somebody is coming to kill us… sometimes I see it in my dream when I’m asleep… sometimes I see our room is filled with blood,” 11-year-old Ayesha Ali*, who was studying at a madrassa at Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, tells IPS.

UNICEF in an alert last week warned that denial of basic rights could result in the Rohingya children becoming a “lost generation”.

“With no end in sight to their bleak exile, despair and hopelessness are growing among the refugees, alongside a fatalism about what the future has in store,” the alert states.

It is estimated that 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are housed in Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh. Credit: Mojibur Rahaman Rana/IPS

A number of children in the camps have lost either one or both parents. Last November, Bangladesh’s department of social services listed 39,841 Rohingya children as having lost either their mother or father, or lost contact with them during the exodus. A total of 8,391 children lost both of their parents.

“Most of the children saw the horrors of brutality and if they are not properly dealt with, they might have developed a mind of retaliation. Sometimes the small children talk like this: ‘We’ll kill the army…because they killed our people.’ They are growing up with a sort of hatred for the Myanmar army,” aid worker Abdul Mannan tells IPS.

And while there are 136 specialised, child-friendly zones for children and hundreds of learning centre across Cox Bazar, UNICEF notes it is only now “developing a strategy to ensure consistency and quality in the curriculum.”

BRAC, a development organisation based in Bangladesh, points out current learning centres and other facilities for children are not enough for the proper schooling and future development of the children.

“What we’re giving to the children is not enough to stand them in good stead,” Mohammed Abdus Salam, head of humanitarian crisis management programme of BRAC, tells IPS.

Newly arrived Rohingya refugees enter Teknaf from Shah Parir Dwip after being ferried from Myanmar across the Naf River. Credit: Farid Ahmed/ IPS

Salam says that the children and women in the camps also remain vulnerable. “Especially the boys and girls who have lost their parents or guardians are the most vulnerable as there was no long-term programme for them,” he says, adding that many were still traumatised and suffered from nightmares. Cox Bazar is a hub of drugs and human traffickers, and children without guardians remain at risk.

Both the Bangladesh government and international aid officials say that they are trying hard to cope with the situation in Cox Bazar which is the largest and most densely-populated refugee settlement in the world.

But Salam says that it is urgent to formulate long-term plans for both education and healthcare if the repatriation process was procrastinated. “Otherwise, many of the children will be lost as they are not properly protected,” he says.

*Names changed to protect the identity of the children.

Additional reporting by Nalisha Adams in Johannesburg.

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UN report adds to mountain of evidence of Myanmar’s atrocities against ethnic minoritieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/un-report-adds-mountain-evidence-myanmars-atrocities-ethnic-minorities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-report-adds-mountain-evidence-myanmars-atrocities-ethnic-minorities http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/un-report-adds-mountain-evidence-myanmars-atrocities-ethnic-minorities/#respond Mon, 27 Aug 2018 14:47:12 +0000 Amnesty International http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157351 A blistering report released by the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (FFM) today brought yet more damning evidence of the Myanmar security forces’ atrocity crimes against the Rohingya and against ethnic minorities in northern Myanmar, Amnesty International said. The FFM – a body of independent experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council – […]

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Credit: Andrew Stanbridge / Amnesty International

By Amnesty International
Aug 27 2018 (Amnesty International)

A blistering report released by the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (FFM) today brought yet more damning evidence of the Myanmar security forces’ atrocity crimes against the Rohingya and against ethnic minorities in northern Myanmar, Amnesty International said.

The FFM – a body of independent experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council – released its key findings and recommendations today in Geneva, with a more detailed report to follow in the coming weeks.

“This report, which adds to a mountain of evidence of crimes under international law committed by the military, shows the urgent need for independent criminal investigation and is clear that the Myanmar authorities are incapable of bringing to justice those responsible,” said Tirana Hassan, Director of Crisis Response at Amnesty International.

“The international community has the responsibility to act to ensure justice and accountability. Failing to do so sends a dangerous message that Myanmar’s military will not only enjoy impunity but is free to commit such atrocities again.

“The UN Security Council must refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court as a matter of urgency. Until it does, it’s vital that countries establish a mechanism through the UN to collect and preserve evidence for use in future criminal proceedings.”

Background

Ahead of the shameful one-year anniversary of the Myanmar military’s ethnic cleansing campaign against Rohingya in northern Rakhine State, Amnesty International slammed the international community’s failure to hold those responsible to account.

More than 700,000 Rohingya women, men, and children were forced to flee from northern Rakhine State to neighbouring Bangladesh after 25 August 2017, when the Myanmar security forces launched a widespread and systematic assault on hundreds of Rohingya villages. The onslaught came in the wake of a series of attacks on security posts by a Rohingya armed group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

Amnesty International has documented extensively the military’s ethnic cleansing campaign, which included targeted burning of Rohingya villages, the use of landmines and the commission of crimes against humanity including murder, rape, torture, forced starvation and forced deportation as well as other serious human rights violations against the Rohingya.

Amnesty International has also documented war crimes and other human rights violations by the Myanmar Army against ethnic minorities in Kachin and northern Shan States, including extrajudicial executions, torture, forced labour, the use of landmines, and indiscriminate shelling. Serious violations against civilians remain ongoing in northern Myanmar, amidst the armed conflicts that continue to rage.

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The Rohingya influx: One year onhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/rohingya-influx-one-year/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rohingya-influx-one-year http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/rohingya-influx-one-year/#respond Mon, 27 Aug 2018 11:33:52 +0000 Sumbul Rizvi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157346 It is a tented city of nearly a million souls crammed in just 26sq km of undulating terrain. Plastic and bamboo sanctuaries perched upon clay mounds flap in the wind, succouring the hapless Rohingyas who fled horrific violence in Rakhine. Shrubs and trees gave way to settlements in Ukhiya and Teknaf Upazilas in the southernmost […]

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A Rohingya refugee finds an enterprising way to carry his belongings. PHOTO: NAYANA BOSE/ISCG

A Rohingya refugee finds an enterprising way to carry his belongings. PHOTO: NAYANA BOSE/ISCG

By Sumbul Rizvi
Aug 27 2018 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

It is a tented city of nearly a million souls crammed in just 26sq km of undulating terrain. Plastic and bamboo sanctuaries perched upon clay mounds flap in the wind, succouring the hapless Rohingyas who fled horrific violence in Rakhine. Shrubs and trees gave way to settlements in Ukhiya and Teknaf Upazilas in the southernmost district of Bangladesh sitting on the edge of the tumultuous Bay of Bengal.

As the monsoons descended, rainfall triggered mudslides and floods as the soft clay collapsed in heaps, bringing down some of the flimsiest shelters that form the world’s largest refugee camp—Kutupalong/KTP, or more popularly, the Mega Camp. In addition, smaller camps dot the southern tip of Teknaf between the Naf River flowing down in muddy torrents from the Arakan mountains. For a layperson, the sight of the camps in the monsoons is chilling, though experienced humanitarians will appreciate the massive effort it took to create this landscape. The UN Secretary General António Guterres has poignantly captured both sentiments when he called it “a miracle—on the edge.” Closely monitoring the Bangladesh Meteorological Department reports, we pray for the weather to be kind. While record-breaking rainfall has lashed the camps, the wind factor has been limited, though for how long? September storms and the October-November cyclone season are still to come—a daunting reality in the absence of cyclone shelters in the area.

Until it holds, the bit-by-bit efforts of building mud-track roads and bridges, digging drains, culverts and water channels, strengthening clay slopes with bamboo and sandbags have ensured some safety in a fragile environment. Shelter upgrade kits comprising ropes, bamboo and tools have been widely distributed to strengthen fragile homes. Efforts to improve safety continue, including through the Ministry of Disaster Management and Response-led Cyclone Preparedness Programme and its volunteers, training refugees on disaster response. Relocation of those at high risk continues as camps become more congested; vulnerable families uprooted from their homes and communities agonise about moving “yet again” away from their neighbours and village folk. Convincing the families of the risks of being on a 40-degree mud slope or at its bottom—sure to flood—challenges the persistent community volunteers. Latrines and water points jostle for space and, during heavy rains, merge into the other. The risk of disease is high and breaths are drawn as frequent water contamination tests determine results.

Amelioration

Amidst shoring up to survive an “emergency within an emergency”, little boys and girls play with their multi-coloured wrist strips attached to identify them in case of family-separation in a disaster. None of the prevention work would be enough on its own: in an emergency situation, it is the inspiring commitment demonstrated by government-assigned camp officials, military, United Nations staff, national and international NGOs and refugee volunteers who unhesitatingly wade through thigh-deep mud and slush to assess damage or conduct repairs even though it is pouring—this camaraderie has prevented casualties, helped move families to safety, repaired roads and bamboo bridges, as all joined hands with site maintenance teams to fix damage as rapidly as humanly possible so that the majority of refugees could retain access to food distribution and safer shelters.

Having worked for over three decades with forcibly displaced persons, I have rarely seen a refugee population as maligned and downtrodden, yet I am repeatedly amazed by their spirit. The Rohingyas, young and old, women and men, display an inner strength. Generations of statelessness and persecution have left them proudly resilient. They have so little, yet remain community-oriented. I can now begin to comprehend how orphaned children, single women, as well as injured and disabled individuals, all managed to flee from Rakhine. An overwhelming 80 percent of refugees in the camps are women and children who are eager and impatient for opportunities to live a full life. The vulnerability of this population is astounding—as is their tenacity. They manage to survive as community networks in the camps are strong, staying together, sharing and working hard. Their spirit is the backbone of this response.

 

Regional context

South Asia is not new to refugees. None of the states have signed the Refugee Convention, yet a strong tradition of asylum endures. The 1947 partition of India resulted in over 14 million people uprooted in the most violent manner. They could have become refugees overnight in the new dominions of India and Pakistan, if both states had not immediately absorbed them. The liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 displaced an estimated 10 million refugees to India. Like most refugees, nearly all chose to return to their liberated homeland once Bangladesh was created. It is perhaps this memory that guides the generosity of spirit in Bangladesh, despite its own constraints of population density and natural disasters.

 

Fulfilling basic needs

One year ago, the most recent influx of the Rohingyas began. They fled to Bangladesh at a staggering pace; some 500,000 refugees arrived within the first month. Undoubtedly, the main responder and largest donor have been the government and people of Bangladesh as the local community opened their homes and hearts. The world community has notably stood alongside Bangladesh, as evidenced by the rapid international response to the influx. Now, one year on, as the generosity of the local community risks being outpaced by the sheer scale of needs, the international community needs to continue their partnership and to walk the talk.

The Joint Response Plan (JRP) launched in March 2018 is a prioritised appeal for USD 951 million to assist 1.3 million individuals including 884,000 Rohingyas and 336,000 affected Bangladeshis. The JRP is just about one-third funded, at 34 percent. Urgent funding is critically required to meet life-saving humanitarian needs. More than half the appeal (54 percent) is for food, water, sanitation, hygiene, shelter and non-food items combined. Food alone is 25 percent of the overall appeal while just 18 percent of food security needs are funded. Some 850,000 refugees require food rations monthly; health care, both psychosocial and physical, as well as other basics for sustainable human life are needed. Camps remain dangerously congested, and most refugees lack adequate shelter from high winds and heavy rains. Children have lacked education for years: in Rakhine, they were denied, now we need funds and access to quality education to prevent a generation of lost children.

Protection needs are significant and the impacts of funding gaps are alarming. Through no fault of their own, the Rohingyas have been forced into near-complete dependency on aid compelled by inadequate attention to self-reliance initiatives. Humanitarian responders have maximised their available resources to the extent possible, but the needs far outweigh existing capacity. Important projects remain pending and the expanse of protection activities remains limited. Multiple government departments have stretched themselves in addressing the needs of not only an underdeveloped part of the country but of a million more in an area lacking previous infrastructure. Admirable progress is being made, however, including rapid establishment of governance systems marking the assertion of state authority through Camp-in-Charge officials and the Office of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner expanding their previous ambit.

Much is being achieved through fostering the innate strength of the Rohingya community, keen to overcome the traumas that forced their escape. This work is done every day by individuals in women’s groups, child-friendly spaces, as well as elderly and disabled support networks. This work is also done through more systemic changes, such as restructuring how camp representatives are elected to provide equal opportunity to the majority female population to contribute to social cohesion. But more is needed to support and mutually sustain a protection-sensitive environment.

What now?

The Rohingya crisis is the most globally compelling refugee situation in terms of the numbers of people affected. These numbers are exacerbated by location, terrain and climate, adding to the complexity of the response. The historic joint visit of the UN Secretary General and the World Bank President to Cox’s Bazar in July underscored the need for collaborative humanitarian and development action. Given remarkably early on in the crisis, the World Bank Refugee Grant to Bangladesh demonstrates the flexibility of an international community in addressing an unusual situation. The nimble response by the Asian Development Bank also echoes a similar approach. Quick and visible implementation is critical.

One year on, as we await improvements in Rakhine, one that will allow for a voluntary repatriation process, the here-and-now is more imminent. Will we continue to manage the situation as we have this past year? Or will we seize the initiative? Can we turn around a seemingly confounding situation to mutual advantage for both refugees and the local population? A well-planned common vision can boost an underdeveloped district in a country already on the fast path to growth, one that facilitates access to opportunities for both refugees and local communities alike. Plans are being tested in Cox’s Bazar to merge development opportunities with humanitarian work. These plans must deliver for the sake of the Rohingyas and for Bangladesh—a country that has bucked the global trend by demonstrating humanity in action. Their courageous leadership deserves all our support.


Sumbul Rizvi is Senior Coordinator of the Rohingya Refugee Response in Cox’s Bazar.

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Shared Humanity our Only Hope Against Hatredhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/mother-theresa-shared-humanity-hope-hatred/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mother-theresa-shared-humanity-hope-hatred http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/mother-theresa-shared-humanity-hope-hatred/#respond Sun, 26 Aug 2018 01:07:19 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157341 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya and was born in the city that was Mother Teresa’s home- Calcutta, India.

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Mother Teresa at Mji wa Huruma Elders' Home when she visited Nairobi in August 1981. Photo courtesy: The Standard.

Mother Teresa at Mji wa Huruma Elders' Home when she visited Nairobi in August 1981. Photo courtesy: The Standard.

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Aug 26 2018 (IPS)

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”   This profound statement was made by the late Nobel Peace Prize winner Mother Teresa, who was born on this day, August 26, 1910. An icon of love, tolerance, generosity and tremendous integrity and spirituality.

Recently, Archbishop Charles Chaput wrote in America’s National Catholic Register: “The reason the church names anger as one of the ‘seven deadly sins’ is because it’s simultaneously so poisonous, so delicious and so addictive. Anger congeals quite comfortably into hatred.”

Where ideas used to take years – and sometimes centuries – to spread around the globe, they now do so in seconds, thanks to the new communication technologies. While this is a force for good in countless ways, it has also facilitated and strengthened the rise of movements that are based on hatred rooted not in nation or state identity, but in extremist ideologies based on rancorous opposition to a particular faith or race, sexual orientation or to liberal democracy in general.

Across the world, politics of division and rhetoric of intolerance are targeting gender, racial, ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities, and migrants and refugees. From anti-Semitism to attacks on hijab-wearing women, racism to sexual assault, we are witnessing what words of fear and loathing can do, and the damaging consequences.

If we need proof that it often takes surprisingly what seems like simple gestures to reduce the levels of polarising animus in society, we only need to look at how the ‘handshake’ between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Honourable Raila Odinga has brought political reconciliation to levels that nobody would have predicted.

 

A handshake says a thousand words- President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader, Hon Raila Odinga at Harambee House on March 9, 2018. /Jack Owuor - “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” This profound statement was made by the late Nobel Peace Prize winner Mother Teresa, who was born on this day, August 26, 1910. An icon of love, tolerance, generosity and tremendous integrity and spirituality.

A handshake says a thousand words- President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader, Hon Raila Odinga at Harambee House on March 9, 2018. /Jack Owuor.

 

From just under a year ago, when political partisanship gridlocked this country and seemed destined to polarize Kenyans, we are now witnessing an important and urgent discourse on vital issues such as the fight against corruption.

These are hopeful signs; this is a demonstration of true leadership.  One must not, however, underestimate the challenge of combating hatred. If hatred is an epidemic, then we need to treat it as such and plan to contain and reverse it.  

So, what is the antidote to the rise of chauvinism, xenophobia, racism, bigotry and misogyny?

The human spirit is strong, and never stronger than when joining forces for justice. Around the world hatred has been met with purposeful love, and with actions engineered to counter the hatred. From the Women’s March in the United States to demonstrations against discrimination in many European countries, people have joined hands to fight hatred and discrimination.

First, incendiary speeches driving bigotry against any group based on religion, race, gender or sexuality must be reined in.

Second, citizens standing up against hate must continue to use and expand all available avenues to engage with others across the world who share their concerns and bolster their ability to affect change.

Third, meaningful change often comes from the bottom up, thus citizens must be educated on how they can change their leadership by voting with their conscience –in national, state, municipal and civic body elections.

Fourth, it is the duty of elected officials to reflect the will of the electorate. They must therefore support their citizens with actions and not merely words in the pursuit of social justice.

Fifth, the voices of moral and thought leaders from around the world who espouse tolerance must be amplified. The lessons of acceptance and mutual respect and equality must be heard, especially by the young, because if we teach them that it is unacceptable to hate and that it is their responsibility to speak up or stop hatred from spreading, we have the odds in favour of justice prevailing in the future.

To Kenya’s advantage, the growth of social media as an established influential platform used ubiquitously by the youth could be a persuasive avenue for mobilising them against all forms of intolerance.

There is a chance to change the world here – to counter hatred with love, anger with joy, and bigotry with acceptance – but it requires the deliberate coming together of concerned people around the world. It requires the understanding that, despite our different realities, we have common hopes for ourselves and for our children, as well as common destinies.

The UN Secretary General, Mr. Antonio Guterres has said, “Diversity enriches us.  But if we want diversity to be a success, we need to invest in social cohesion.”

Despite the forces of pessimism that have at times painted a picture of gloom, I am convinced that Kenya can harness the reality of a shared humanity, that they can overcome the fraying forces and bridge the chasms that nurture intolerance. And serve as a beacon of hope for the world.

That would be a real tribute to the memory of Mother Teresa.

 

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Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya and was born in the city that was Mother Teresa’s home- Calcutta, India.

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Rohingya Refugees Left in Limbo One Year Onhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/rohingya-refugees-left-limbo-one-year/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rohingya-refugees-left-limbo-one-year http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/rohingya-refugees-left-limbo-one-year/#respond Wed, 22 Aug 2018 16:05:44 +0000 Jan Egeland http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157318 Jan Egeland is Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council

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Rohingya refugees now cramped in hilly terrains of Ukhiya in southeastern regions of Cox’s Bazar along Bangladesh border with Myanmar. Credit: ASM Suza Uddin/IPS

By Jan Egeland
OSLO, Aug 22 2018 (IPS)

Aid funding for refugee relief is running out while conditions are still not in place for the safe return of over 700,000 people forced to flee Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh after violence broke out one year ago.

The mass human exodus of refugees from Myanmar to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, which started on 25 August 2017, was one of the fastest growing refugee crises last year. It then attracted huge international attention, but one year on only 34 percent of the United Nations aid appeal to help the refugees and the host community has been funded.

The Rohingya refugees are living in limbo. The safety of families returning to Myanmar cannot be guaranteed, yet they’re receiving scant international support in Bangladeshi camps.

We urgently need to scale up the support. The international community must shoulder more of the enormous responsibility that the Bangladeshi authorities and local communities have taken on, as well as show persecuted Rohingya refugees they are not forgotten.

Facts

Around 900,000 refugees from Myanmar are currently sheltering in Bangladesh. About 725,000 have arrived after 25 August 2017, according to UNHCR.

By 21 August the UN appeal for support to the Rohingya refugee crisis joint response plan was less than 34 percent funded, according to Financial Tracking Service.

NRC is working in Myanmar and through partners in Bangladesh.

NRC’s expert deployment capacity, NORCAP, has worked in Cox’s Bazar since the onset of the disaster last year. So far more than 40 experts have provided shelter, education opportunities, health, water and sanitation services.

Today, Cox’s Bazar is the world´s largest refugee settlement. Most of the displaced are Rohingya, a Muslim minority who have escaped extreme violence and persecution. In total, around 900,000 refugees from Myanmar are currently sheltering in Bangladesh, with the humanitarian aid system overwhelmed by the vast scale of needs.

“I have not cooked any food for my children today. I do not feel safe enough to go out and collect firewood, so I exchanged some food items for fuel, but now I do not have enough to eat,” Janoara, a single mother of two sons, told the Norwegian Refugee Council.

The humanitarian emergency was further compounded by the onset of the monsoon season in June, with heavy rain, flooding, landslides and high winds damaging or destroying refugees’ shelters. Despite ongoing relocations to safer land, the camps are still dangerously overcrowded, with the average usable space reported to be a mere 10.7 square meters per person.

Far more appropriate land is needed – a major challenge in one of the already most densely populated countries in the world. In Cox’s Bazar, rumours abound and people are worried about being expected to return to their villages before their own preconditions for repatriation are met.

“I will not return before Rohingyas get citizenship, equal rights, free movement and compensation for the houses they burned down and my land. I will not return with my family before we feel completely safe,” Nurul Amin (35) told the Norwegian Refugee Council. He fled Rakhine about one year ago and his demands are echoed by many others in the camps.

The Rohingya people have the right to return. One year after the start of this crisis, we urgently need to speed up efforts to ensure conditions for voluntary, safe and dignified return, in line with international standards.

Access for humanitarian agencies to people requiring assistance in northern Rakhine State is currently restricted and it is not possible to independently verify information about conditions in the locations of return. There are also no guarantees in place that returnees will be allowed to return to their original homes and land, or to a place of their choice.

Humanitarian agencies need full access to people in need in northern Rakhine State to make independent assessments, provide assistance and protect communities who want to return.

 

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Jan Egeland is Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council

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