Inter Press ServiceHumanitarian Emergencies – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 22 Aug 2018 01:30:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Let Food Be Thy Medicinehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/let-food-thy-medicine/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=let-food-thy-medicine http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/let-food-thy-medicine/#respond Tue, 14 Aug 2018 10:10:59 +0000 Adelheid Onyango and Bibi Giyose http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157204 Adelheid Onyango is Adviser for Nutrition at the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Africa and Bibi Giyose is Senior Nutrition and Food Systems officer, and Special Advisor to the CEO of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

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Health is more than the absence of disease: adequate nutrition is a critical part of the equation

Typical food store in Brazzaville, Congo. Credit: WHO

By Adelheid Onyango and Bibi Giyose
BRAZZAVILLE, Congo, Aug 14 2018 (IPS)

When faced with a crisis, our natural reaction is to deal with its immediate threats. Ateka* came to the make-shift clinic with profuse diarrhoea: they diagnosed cholera. The urgent concern in the midst of that humanitarian crisis was to treat the infection and send her home as quickly as possible. But she came back to the treatment centre a few days later – not for cholera, but because she was suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Doctors had saved her life but not restored her health. And there were others too, who like Ateka eventually succumbed to severe malnutrition.  

This scene could have taken place in any of the dozen or so African countries that have suffered a cholera outbreak this year alone. Experience from managing epidemics has shown that when the population’s baseline nutritional status is poor, the loss of life is high.

Beyond malnutrition’s damaging impact on bodily health, it weakens the immune system, reducing the body’s resistance to infection and resilience in illness.

Most of the diseases that entail catastrophic costs to individuals, households and national healthcare systems in Africa could be avoided if everyone was living actively and consuming adequate, diverse, safe and nutritious food. After all, a healthy diet not only allows us to grow, develop and prosper, it also protects against obesity, diabetes, raised blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

On the flipside, integrating the treatment of malnutrition in the response to humanitarian crises assures survival and recovery better than an exclusive focus on treating diseases.

As countries across the continent commit themselves to Universal Health Coverage (UHC), the same lessons need to apply. UHC is ultimately about achieving health and wellbeing for all by 2030, a goal that is inextricably linked with that of ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition.

With 11 million Africans falling into poverty every year due to catastrophic out-of-pocket payments for healthcare, no one can question the need to ensure that everyone, everywhere, can obtain the health services they need, when and where they need them, without facing financial hardship.

As wealth patterns and consumption habits change, the African region is now faced with the triple burden of malnutrition – undernutrition coupled with micronutrient deficiencies and increasing levels of obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases.

In 2016, an estimated 59 million children in Africa were stunted (a 17 percent increase since 2000) and 14 million suffered from wasting – a strong predictor of death among children under five. That same year, 10 million were overweight; almost double the figure from 2000. It’s estimated that by 2020, non-communicable diseases will cause around 3.9 million deaths annually in the African region alone.

Yet most of the diseases that entail catastrophic costs to individuals, households and national healthcare systems in Africa could be avoided if everyone was living actively and consuming adequate, diverse, safe and nutritious food. After all, a healthy diet not only allows us to grow, develop and prosper, it also protects against obesity, diabetes, raised blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

To tackle malnutrition, achieve UHC and ultimately reach the goal of health and wellbeing for all, governments need to put in place the right investments, policies and incentives.

As a starting point, governments need to assure the basic necessities of food security, clean water and improved sanitation to prevent and reduce undernutrition among poor rural communities and urban slum populations in Africa. For example, reduction in open defecation has been successful in reducing undernutrition in Ethiopia, parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Tanzania.

Then, to influence what people eat, we need to do a better job at improving food environments and at educating them about what constitutes a healthy diet. Hippocrates asserted that “all disease begins in the gut,” with the related counsel to “let food be thy medicine.”

Current research on chronic diseases is reasserting the health benefits of consuming minimally-processed staple foods which formed the basis of traditional African diets. This information needs to be communicated to the public through the health and education sectors and complemented by agricultural innovation to increase production of the nutrient-rich grains, crickets, herbs, roots, fruits and vegetables that were the medicine for longevity among our hardy ancestors.

But until that awareness is in place, policies and programmes are urgently needed to protect and promote healthy diets right from birth. This includes regulating the marketing of breast milk substitutes and foods that help establish unhealthy food preferences and eating habits from early childhood.

In South Africa, for example, the country with the highest obesity rate in Sub-Saharan Africa, the government has introduced a ‘sugar tax’ that is expected to increase the price of sugary soft drinks. The hope is that this will encourage consumers to make healthier choices and manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar in their products.

Finally, governments must create incentives – and apply adequately dissuasive sanctions when necessary – to help food manufacturers collaborate in promoting healthy diets through reformulation and informative labelling, for example. In cases of food contamination, we are very quick to take products off the shelves. Yet we are much slower to react to the illnesses caused by processed foods containing high quantities of salt, sugars, saturated fats and trans fats.

A shortcut to achieving Universal Health Coverage is to reduce the need for costly treatments. And there is no better way to do that than to ensure that everyone, everywhere, preserves their health and has access to safe and nutritious food: let food be thy medicine.

*name has been changed

 

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Excerpt:

Adelheid Onyango is Adviser for Nutrition at the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Africa and Bibi Giyose is Senior Nutrition and Food Systems officer, and Special Advisor to the CEO of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

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Peace & Equal Political Participation of Women in the DRChttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/peace-equal-political-participation-women-drc/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=peace-equal-political-participation-women-drc http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/peace-equal-political-participation-women-drc/#respond Fri, 27 Jul 2018 12:12:45 +0000 Justine Masika Bihamba http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156920 Justine Masika Bihamba is President of Synergie des Femmes, a women’s organization based in Goma, DRC, and partner of global women’s group Donor Direct Action.

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Congolese Women's Forum Meets in Kinshasa, DRC in Sept 2017

By Justine Masika Bihamba
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 27 2018 (IPS)

I am a women’s human rights defender and President of Synergie des Femmes, a platform of 35 organizations working for the improvement, promotion, defense, respect and protection of women’s rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

We offer particular support to women who are victims of sexual violence, and work towards the establishment of lasting peace in North Kivu in the east of the country.

On July 26th I briefed the United Nations Security Council on the current situation for women in the DRC in the areas of the UN mission (MONUSCO), the growth of insecurity and the increase of cases of sexual violence against women and girls, and the tense political climate following the failure to hold elections before the constitutional deadline.

The recent decision to close some bases of MONUSCO has exposed the civilian population in sensitive areas. We are left in a precarious position. Despite the rapid deployment, interventions often arrive too late, when irreparable damage has already been done.

Following a decrease in financial resources, the Joint Human Rights Office is no longer present on the ground and, as a result, can no longer effectively document the cases of serious human rights violations that are now reported.

We fear disorder during the proposed elections at the end of this year and really hope that MONUSCO will ensure that Congolese police are properly trained so that order can be maintained and that polling stations can be secured. This is extremely important as fair and transparent elections are at the core of ensuring a peaceful and prosperous nation.

Meanwhile, the situation of women – and particularly those victims of sexual violence – is worsening day by day. The increase in armed groups as part of the ongoing war here has meant that mass rapes have continued, while populations have been displaced. In North Kivu alone, cases of rape and violence have increased this year by more than 60%.

The political climate has also made things more dangerous. Things are very tense at the moment as elections were not held before the end of last year as expected. This goes against our constitution.

At the time various demonstrations were shut down by the police, civilian deaths occurred, material damage was extensive (especially convents and Catholic churches), arbitrary arrests took place of the leaders of the citizen movement, of human rights defenders and of opposition politicians.

With only five months to go before the elections are due to take place (again), the political environment continues to be extremely difficult.

In addition to this political instability and the brutal repression of dissident voices, several legal reform projects initiated by the Congolese government have further reduced Congolese freedom of expression and civic spaces. One of these aims to change how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are run here, which could have major ramifications.

Against this backdrop the participation of women in the electoral process – a tried and trusted way of increasing the chance of lasting peace – has remained very low. A problematic electoral law brought in at the end of 2017 is a serious obstacle to our rights and freedoms.

It imposes many constraints, including the requirement of candidates to reach a threshold of support of at least 1% of votes at the national level. As a result, no provincial election nomination file was filed by the deadline date in some constituencies.

This law also discriminates specifically against women in the electoral contest and doesn’t take into account their socio-economic conditions. It states that a deposit of $ 1,000 must be made by candidates. This is an astronomical sum for women and young people living for the most part on an income of less than $1 per day.

UN Security Council Resolution 1325, adopted in October 2000, calls for an increase in the participation of women in all peacebuilding and security efforts. In late 2017, I co-ordinated a group of over 60 women from all provinces of the DRC to make this a reality for Congolese Women.

We set up the Congolese Women’s Forum to be able to achieve this and have pleaded with the government to change this discriminatory law, which is likely to reduce rather than increase women’s political participation in the DRC.

The upcoming elections will also be problematic in terms of how they are likely to be run. The proposed use of the voting machines will cause significant challenges and may lead to fear of electoral fraud. The DRC currently has a population that is 65% illiterate – mostly women and young people – who would have enormous difficulties using these machines.

This is the environment in which we currently live in the DRC. Every day we have new obstacles to overcome but we are also hopeful for a better future. In my statement to the Security Council and Member States I recommended that five steps are taken.

We want them to put pressure on the DRC government to implement policies which truly promote women’s participation in decision-making and women’s candidatures for elections.

We want them to ask the government to respect the freedom of expression, the right to demonstrate and the civic space of the Congolese population, that the New Year’s Eve Agreement, the Constitution and the rule of law are all respected, that MONUSCO restore its bases in sensitive areas to ensure the effective protection of civilians, that it supports the ongoing electoral process and ensures that the Joint Human Rights Office effectively documents human rights violations.

Finally, we recommended that the Security Council really supports civil society organizations that work for the promotion and defence of women’s rights – particularly in training women in leadership to be able to access decision-making positions. This is a key component of ensuring we finally see lasting peace in this country.

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Excerpt:

Justine Masika Bihamba is President of Synergie des Femmes, a women’s organization based in Goma, DRC, and partner of global women’s group Donor Direct Action.

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Support of Influential World Leaders Not Enough to End Rohingya Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/support-influential-world-leaders-not-enough-end-rohingya-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=support-influential-world-leaders-not-enough-end-rohingya-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/support-influential-world-leaders-not-enough-end-rohingya-crisis/#respond Thu, 19 Jul 2018 21:04:56 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156793 Despite having the strong support of influential global leaders, Bangladesh has “missed” the opportunity to mobilise the world’s superpowers and place pressure on Myanmar to allow for the repatriation of the Rohingya refugees.  Experts specialising in international affairs expressed their disappointment to IPS that despite the recent joint visit by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres […]

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Over a million Rohingya refugees are 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 Naimul Haq
DHAKA, Jul 19 2018 (IPS)

Despite having the strong support of influential global leaders, Bangladesh has “missed” the opportunity to mobilise the world’s superpowers and place pressure on Myanmar to allow for the repatriation of the Rohingya refugees. 

Experts specialising in international affairs expressed their disappointment to IPS that despite the recent joint visit by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, the world’s biggest refugee crisis remains unresolved.

“No single event of such magnitude ever drew so much global attention and solidarity, not even the ethnic cleansing in the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina where tens of thousands of Muslims were killed in conflicts among the three main ethnic groups,” professor Tareq Shamsur Rehman, who teaches International Relations at Jahangirnagar University, told IPS.

Since the influx of over 700,000 Rohingya refugees from August last year, leaders from around the world have visited Bangladesh, travelling to the coastal Cox’s Bazar district were the refugee camps are. 

Foreign ministers from Japan, Germany and Sweden; a high-level delegation from 58 countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation; a delegation from the U.N. Security Council and the European Union; a United States Congressional fact-finding mission and Dhaka-based diplomats have all heard the recounts of the refugees. In February, Nobel Laureates Mairead Maguire, Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkol Karman travelled to Cox’s Bazar to highlight the plight of the Rohingya.

During his visit earlier this month, U.N. Secretary-General Guterres said he heard “heartbreaking” accounts of suffering from the refugees and expressed concern about the conditions in the camps ahead of the monsoon season.

The World Bank announced almost half a billion dollars in grant-based support to Bangladesh for health, education, sanitation, disaster preparedness, and other services for the refugees until they can return home safely, voluntarily and with dignity.

But the aid may have come too late. In Bangladesh some 63 million of the country’s 160 million people live below the poverty line. The influx of over one million refugees has impacted not only the country’s monetary resources, but natural resources also. The environmental impact is significant as over a million refugees are now cramped in hilly terrains of Ukhiya in southeastern regions of Cox’s Bazar along Bangladesh border with Myanmar. Trees on over 20 acres of land near the camps are being cut down daily for firewood for cooking.

And there has been a social impact too. Some locals have said that since the arrival of the refugees the crime rate in Ukhiya has increased, with many accusing the Rohingya of assault, murder, human trafficking and drug dealing.

“The solution to the Rohingya crisis is possible if two-way pressure on Myanmar is possible. The way the U.S. imposed sanctions on North Korea, like preventing remittance and imposing economic sanctions, it has really had the desired impact,” Mohammad Zamir, a former ambassador and international relations analyst, told IPS.

“If the world imposes a similar ban on Myanmar that there will be no foreign investment in Myanmar, I think they would then be under tremendous pressure and may bow to the demands to repatriate the Rohingya refugees. If the world adopts these preventive measures on Myanmar then there will be a possibility to solve the Rohingya problem.”

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

IPS visited Cox’s Bazar early this month and spoke to a number of people in the 21 Rohingya camps, including those in the largest camps of Kutupalong and Balukhali.

Mohammad Mohibullah, a spokesperson for the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, told IPS that while they welcomed the visit of U.N. and World Bank chiefs, “the money they pledged is for our survival and not for resolving our crisis.”

“We have not noticed any effective role of the leaders in pressurising Myanmar to repatriate the Rohingya,” Abdul Gaffar, another spokesman for the group told IPS. “They come and go but leave us with no hope of any permanent solution. We want to return to our ancestral home and not live in shambles like we are doing now.”

In January, the Myanmar government agreed with Bangladesh to take back Rohingya refugees. However, weeks after the agreement they allowed only about 50 families, mostly comprising Hindus, to return. Then the so-called repatriation process stopped after Myanmar demanded that a joint Bangladeshi/Myanmaris team first identify the Rohingya as their citizens.

The U.N. and other international agencies have previously been denied access to Rakhine State to assess the conditions for returning refugees, however, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi was allowed entry in May. Then in June the Myanmar government signed an agreement with the U.N. Refugee Agency and U.N. Development Programme as a first step in setting up a framework for the return of the refugees.

But the process is slow.

Just this week the country’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, urged U.N. Special Envoy to Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener to persuade Myanmar to take back the refugees.

Experts have pointed out the “misreading in diplomacy” by Bangladesh towards resolving the Rohingya crisis has resulted in the current deadlock.

“Instead of using influential powers like China and Russia, Bangladesh engaged itself in bi-lateral negotiation, which is a stalemate. They [Myanmar] have clearly demonstrated defiance once again. For instance, every demand we put forward, like the demand for fixing the start of repatriation date, Myanmar instead of complying with the bilateral agreement insisted on verifying their citizens – a tactic used to delay the process and ultimately enforce deadlock,” professor Delware Hossain from the International Relations Department at the University of Dhaka told IPS.

“What we really need is lobbying with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council who have the powers to impose economic, military and political sanctions. It is sad though that until now we have not seen our foreign ministers visiting Moscow, Beijing, London and Paris in mobilising them acting in favour of Bangladesh,” Rehman said, adding that in other international cases of genocide, military leaders have been identified, tried and punished because of the strong commitment and involvement of leading nations.

Others argue that despite such powerful political support, even from the United States, Myanmar remains unmoved continuing their mission of ethnic cleansing.

Human rights organisation, Fortify Rights, stated in a report released today, Jul. 19, that the lack of action by the international community against the 2016 attacks against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine State allowed Myanmar to proceed with genocide. The report is based on over 250 interviews conducted over two years with eyewitnesses, survivors of attacks, and Myanmar military and police sources, among others.

“The international community failed to act after the Myanmar Army killed, raped, tortured, and forcibly displaced Rohingya civilians in October and November 2016. That inaction effectively paved the way for genocide, providing the Myanmar authorities with an enabling environment to make deeper preparations for more mass atrocity crimes,” the report stated.

But professor Amena Mohsin who teaches International Relations at the University of Dhaka believes that there is significance to the recent visits of Guterres and Kim.

“Let us not forget that the 73rd session of the U.N. General Assembly will open in September next and their visits act as a pressure. We hope that the Rohingya issue will be discussed during the assembly and Myanmar will further feel the pressure,” Mohsin told IPS.

World Bank Group spokesperson in Washington, David Theis, responded to questions from IPS, saying they were collaborating closely with the U.N. and other partners to encourage Myanmar to put in place the conditions for “the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of refugees and to improve the welfare of all communities in Rakhine State.”

He said they would incentivise further progress through a proposed project focused on employment and economic opportunities for all communities in Rakhine State.

“This is part of our strategy to stay fully engaged in Myanmar’s economic transition, with a greater focus on social inclusion in conflict-affected areas.”

However, noted journalist Afsan Chowdhury told IPS that the U.N. had not been very effective since the Rohingya arrived in Bangladesh. “One of the reasons is that the U.N. is effective only when big powers are interested. The World Bank’s impact in this issue is very low end, not a high end impact, as I see it.”

Additional reporting by A S M Suza Uddin from Cox Bazaar.

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Immigration, Lot of Myths and Little Realityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/immigration-lot-myths-little-reality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=immigration-lot-myths-little-reality http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/immigration-lot-myths-little-reality/#comments Tue, 17 Jul 2018 16:03:25 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156748 Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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The Italian Navy rescues migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. Credit: Italian Coastguard/Massimo Sestini

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jul 17 2018 (IPS)

According to the latest statistics, the total flow of immigrants that reached Europe so far in 2018 is 50.000 people, compared with 186,768 last year, 1,259,955 in 2016 and 1,327,825 in 2015. The difference between reality and perceptions is so astonishing, we are clearly witnessing one of the most brilliant manipulations in history.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

The latest survey carried out of 23,000 citizens of France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States shows an enormous level of disinformation. In five of those countries, people believe that immigrants are three times higher than they actually are.

Italians believe they account for 30% of the population when the figure is actually 10%, an average which is lower than the media of the European Union. Swedes are those closest to reality: they believe immigrants account for 30%, when in fact the figure is 20%.

Italians also believe that 50% of the immigrants are Muslim, when in fact it is 30%; conversely, 60% of the immigrants are Christian, and Italians think they are 30%.

In all six countries, citizens think that immigrants are poorer and without education or knowledge, and therefore a heavy financial burden. Italians think that 40% of immigrants are jobless, when the figure is close to 10%, no different from the general rate of unemployment.

Meanwhile, the 7th report on the economic impact of immigration in Italy from the Leone Moressa Foundation, which based its research on Italian Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) data, has presented some totally ignored facts.

The 2.4 million immigrants in Italy have produced 130 billion euros, or 8.9% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) – an amount larger than the GDP of Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia. In the last five years, out of a total of nearly 6 million Italian companies, 570.000 – or 9.4% of the total – were started by immigrants. Tito Boeri, president of Italy’s national pension agency INPS, has told Parliament that immigrants give 11.5 billion euro to the system, more than what they cost. He also stressed that Italy is going through a demographic crisis, with only seven births for every eleven deaths.

The old right was not against immigrants, also because they provided cheap labor. It was mildly nationalist but was never xenophobic (Jews apart). The alternative right is not interested in statistics and economics. It is interested only in stirring fear, to get to power.

Well, Matteo Salvini, the emerging Italian leader, who has based all his political success on making immigrants the greatest threat facing Italy, answered on Twitter: Boeri lives on Mars. And that was the end of the story. For more than 50% of Italians, Salvini’s tweet was more conclusive than real statistics.

The same happened with the outgoing Director General of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), William Swing, who quoted a study conducted by the IOM and McKinsey Global Institute which “determined that although only 3.5% of the world’s population are migrants, they are producing nine percent of the global wealth measured in GDP terms, which is more than four percent than if they stayed at home”. This made no impact on Trump electors, white rural and red collars, who are convinced that immigration is a threat to the country, even though they all have immigrant roots.

In other words, facts are irrelevant. Perceptions count more.

Let us take Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel is being weakened by the immigration issue, barely escaping a revolt of her Minister of the Interior, Horst Seehofer, who is leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Merkel’s party.

The shy and timid Trump was glad to come to Seehofer’s help, tweeting that the people of Germany are “turning against” their government over the issue of migration, which has led to an increase in crime. The fact that Germany has witnessed a strong decrease in crime is, of course, irrelevant for someone who has made more than 3,750 false statements over his 38.187 tweets (as of July 14).

Now, Trump’s tweets have 53,111,505 followers (as of July 15). The total circulation of the 1,331 dailies newspapers in the United States is close to 62 million, but the total circulation of the 100 largest dailies is below 10 million copies. So, whatever they write is massively overwhelmed by Trump’s tweets.

Trump is not alone in his campaign … he has allies in Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Italy’s Matteo Salvini, Poland’s Jaroslaw Kazynscky, Austria’s Sebastian Kurz, Slovakia’s Peter Pellegrini and the Czech Republic’s Milos Zeman, all in power. Then, in the wings, we have Marine Le Pen in France, Nigel Farage in Great Britain and so on for nearly every European country, with the exception of Spain and Portugal. All together, they have been using immigration, nationalism and xenophobia as the tool of the new “alternative right” for success.

Let us go back to the case of Germany. Bavaria, which is threatening Berlin’s government, is the richest state in Germany, with a population of 12.2 million people. Munich is the third largest city, after Berlin and Hamburg, with 1.4 million people, is the second largest employer in the country, and has attracted immigrants, which are all together less than 200,000. The local daily, Suddeutsche Zeitung, estimates Muslims at 32.000.

Alternative for Germany (AfD), the extreme right-wing party that won 13% of the vote (and 92 seats in parliament) in the last elections, is essentially based on an anti-immigrant platform. In a poll in March it narrowly surpassed the centre-left Social Democrats for the first time in history. The poll, by INSA and commissioned by the newspaper Bild, showed AfD support at 16% compared with the SPD’s 15.5% – a  new low for what has traditionally been one of Germany’s largest parties.

In the last polls, AfD appears to win over CSU in Bavaria, where Muslim immigrants are rare. But the main base for AfD comes from the old East Germany, where immigrants are one-quarter of those in West Germany. So, there is no rational link between reacting to the presence of immigrants and votes. AfD wins more votes where there are fewer immigrants.

The CDU is now running frantically towards extreme right-wing, xenophobic positions in order not to lose out to the AfD. It will probably lose anyway since history shows that voters always prefer to vote the original than copies. But Germans, and Bavarians, are thought to be rational people.

The statistics are clear. Each year there are 300,000 less working people. Of the 80.6 million Germans, only 61% is of working age. In 2050, this will shrink to 51%, and those older than 65 will increase from 21% to 33%. The birth rate in Germany is 1.5%, while a birth rate of 2.1% is necessary to keep the population at the same level. The huge influx of immigrants has increased the birth rate to a modest 1.59%. Immigrants tend to imitate local trends and do not have many children.

Therefore, it is clear to all that within two decades productivity will decline dramatically (some say by 30%) because of less people working, and there will be not enough payers to keep the pension and social security systems going. It will be the end of the German locomotive.

The same consideration applies throughout Europe, which has a statistical birth rate of 1.6, meaning that it will lose close to one million people each year. The UN Population Division considers that Europe should have an influx of 20 million immigrants just to maintain its course. This is clearly impossible in today’s political system.

With impeccable observation, Spanish philosopher Adela Cortina has noted that football players, artists and rich people, even those who are Muslims, like princes are most welcome in Europe. Those who are not welcome are the poor. So, she wrote a book on why we are not faced with real xenophobia. What we face, she wrote, is aporofobia, a term she coined using the word ‘apora’, the Greek word for ‘poor’. In fact, this defence of European civilisation is an updated version of colonialism.

And yet we have plenty of data about the positive impact of immigration. The last is a very complex study over 30 years of immigration, carried out by the very respected French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and published by Science Advances, on the 15 European countries which received 89% of demands for asylum in 2015, the year of the great influx from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

After four years, partly due to the length of the bureaucratic process, GNP rises by 0.32%. Impacts on the fiscal system are also relevant. Prof. Hippolyte D’Albis, one of the authors, observes that initially immigrants are of course a cost, but this public money is reinvested in society, and for ten years they produce more wealth than the general population. After ten years they melt into the general statistics.

It is obvious that the dream of people who come in Europe to escape hunger or war is to find a job as soon as possible, pay taxes and contributions to ensure their stability and future, and work hard. At least for a decade.

And it is interesting to see the difference between the new right and the old right. The old right was not against immigrants, also because they provided cheap labor. It was mildly nationalist but was never xenophobic (Jews apart). The alternative right is not interested in statistics and economics. It is interested only in stirring fear, to get to power.

 

People gathered in the United States to protest against immigrant children being taken from their families last month. The protesters called for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be abolished. Officials estimate that up to 10,000 children are held in poor conditions in detention centres in the U.S. Credit: Fibonacci Blue

 

Reality is fake news. Trump has claimed that the 250,000 demonstrators opposed to his visit to Great Britain and kept him out of the centre of London, were in fact his supporters. You need not be only a narcissist, you also need to reverse reality.

The question, therefore, is what has happened to people? Trump’s changing the intention of 250,000 demonstrators would once have attracted ridicule. Not now: for Trump’s supporters, his tweets are undisputed truth.

His meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un brought the vaguest of results, He walked out of the Iran deal, which had several pages of agreement, saying it did not address issues. At the July NATO summit in Brussels, he attacked everybody, and then said that all had engaged to increase to their military budget  to 4% (the United States stands at 3.6%). In his visit to the United Kingdom, he scolded beleaguered Prime Minister Theresa May, defended a hard Brexit and saluted resigning Minister of Foreign Affairs and hard Brexiter Boris Johnson as his favorite. He told May that he had not come to negotiate, but to obtain what he wanted. He then met Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that the United States was responsible for the bad relations between the two countries, that Putin was to be believed when he said that there was no Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections, and that the intelligence agencies and the Department of Justice, with the probe into those elections by special counsel Robert Mueller, were an American disgrace. When in US history has a president scolding his allies and praising enemies of the United States raised not even an eyebrow from the Republican US electorate, which is now Trumpian over and above anything else?

The fact of the matter is that, as a survey released in June last year by Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) shows, the concept of democracy itself is in danger.

The survey asked more than 3,000 scholars and country experts to evaluate each of 178 countries on the quality of core features of democracy. At the end of 2016, most people lived in democracies. Since then, one-third of the world population, or 2.5 billion people, have gone through “autocratisation”, in which a leader or group of leaders begins to limit democratic attributes and rule more unilaterally.

Four of the most populous countries – India, Russia, Brazil and the United States – have been affected by autocratisation. Other large countries in democratic decline in the past !0 years include Congo, Turkey, Ukraine and Poland.

The United States fell from 7th to 31st place in just two years. The US Congress does not like to be able to put reins on the president, the opposition party appears unable to have any influence over the governing party, and the Judiciary is becoming much more partisan than balanced. The US Supreme Court looked like a counterweight to the Executive, but now its ranking has slipped to 48th place.

A poll by the McKinsey Institute found that today a full 41% of Americans would not mind not living in democracy if the leader they liked were to remain in power beyond the constitutional term.

It is fact that people elect those they like, and therefore any country has the leader its voters elect, be it Putin, Erdogan, Orban, Trump … and not centuries ago Mussolini and Hitler. If they want to listen to saviours sent by God, who care nothing about reality, that is their right. We can only mourn the growing somnambulism of people.

The serious problem is that this view of the world will only bring with a disaster in the not too distant future. It is really urgent, for example, to create an immigration policy, to establish criteria for those that the industrialised countries need to be able to to remain in global competition.

This will not happen. All immigrants are presented as a threat, just as a cynical road to power, regardless of reality. Africa’s population will double in the next few decades. Nigeria will grow to 400 million, the present population of Europe. Sixty percent of Africa’s population is now under 25, compared with 32 percent in the United States and 27 percent in Europe.

Are Europeans going to machine gun the immigrants, (as some xenophobes are already asking) and decline to a region of old people, with little if no pension and a non-existent social system? Is Europe going to lose its original identity, and the values that are enshrined not only in the European constitution, but also in those at national level?

The French Parliament has eliminated the term “race” from its constitution, and the Portuguese government will give Portuguese citizenship to immigrants who have a stable job after one year.

On the other hand, the government of the Netherlands, with the support of parliament, has decided that will refuse to allow children born by Dutch parents enrolled with ISIS to return on the grounds that those children have been born and raised in a climate of hate and violence, and thus constitute a danger for Dutch society.

The Netherlands was once a symbol of tolerance, and for centuries refugees went there, fleeing from religious or political conflicts. Today, the Netherlands has a population of 17.2 million people, with a high standard of living. How many such ISIS children are there? The astounding number of 145! Would it not be possible to find 145 families where those children – who have no responsibility for their situation – could forget the horrors they went through and enjoy the benefits of their nationality which, by international law, is considered non-waiverable? Meanwhile, the United States is separating more than 5.000 children from their immigrant parents.

Under this unprecedented face of the West, is this the new Europe and United States that their citizens want?

The post Immigration, Lot of Myths and Little Reality appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

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

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Mission Accomplished: 15 Years of Peacekeeping Success in Liberiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/mission-accomplished-15-years-peacekeeping-success-liberia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mission-accomplished-15-years-peacekeeping-success-liberia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/mission-accomplished-15-years-peacekeeping-success-liberia/#respond Thu, 12 Jul 2018 14:53:50 +0000 Kingsley Ighobor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156673 Kingsley Ighobor, Africa Renewal*

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Liberians wave goodbye to departing Ukrainian peacekeepers. Credit: UN Photo/Gonzalez Farran

By Kingsley Ighobor
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 12 2018 (IPS)

On a bright, sunny day in January this year, Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf turned over power to George Weah, a decorated soccer star, following peaceful and successful elections. This marked Liberia’s first democratic transfer of power in more than 70 years.

In his inaugural address, President Weah was quick to advise his compatriots to “not allow political loyalties to prevent us from collaborating in national interest.” He vowed to tackle inequality because “the absence of equality and unity led us down the path of destroying our own country.”

Weah was referring to the Liberian civil war from 1989 to 2003, which left the country in tatters politically and economically. The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was deployed in 2003 to help restore peace and security in the country.

After nearly 15 years in Liberia, the UN peacekeeping mission ended last March, having disarmed more than 100,000 combatants, secured about 21,000 weapons, enabled about one million refugees and displaced persons to return home and assisted in the holding of three peaceful presidential and legislative elections.

The UN’s secretary-general António Guterres in a statement issued in early April expressed his “respect to the memory of 202 peacekeepers who lost their lives” in Liberia.

“Peace is here to stay and our democracy is maturing. Now we need jobs,” Marwolo Kpadeh, head of the Liberian Youth Network, a leading youth organization, told Africa Renewal.

After the peaceful handover of power, Kpadeh is correct when he says that Liberia’s key challenge is now mostly economic. “Limited employment continues to undermine the welfare of Liberians in both urban and rural areas,” notes the World Bank.

UN’s engagement continues

While President Weah must deal with economic issues, the withdrawal of UNMIL peacekeepers will test the government’s readiness to perform public safety and security duties, writes FrontPageAfrica, a Liberian newspaper.

The UN has allayed concerns, promising to remain engaged even in the absence of a peacekeeping force.

The UN family will remain in the country “with a view to ensuring that the hard-won peace can be sustained and the country and its people will continue to progress and thrive,” Guterres added, in his statement.

The UN Country Team, including its agencies, funds and programmes, such as the UN Development Programme, UNICEF and the World Food Programme, will remain in the country.

A “strengthened Resident Coordinator” will lead the team and help the government achieve targets set in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Amina Mohammed, the UN’s deputy-secretary-general, said in March.

Mohammed, who visited Liberia in late March as the final batch of peacekeepers prepared to leave, praised UNMIL for being “at the forefront of establishing the key foundations for peace in Liberia.”

The UN’s promise of continuing engagement should be welcome news to Liberians, who have been dealing with the ubiquitous peacekeepers over the past 14 years.

How it began

The Liberian civil war began in 1989 when Charles Taylor started a military campaign to overthrow President Samuel Doe.

By 2003, with more than 205,000 people killed, the UN Security Council authorized the establishment of a peacekeeping force consisting of up to 15,000 military personnel and over 1,000 police officers, among others.

UNMIL began operations in October 2003, when about 3,500 troops of the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), who had arrived in Liberia a few months prior, were rehatted as UN peacekeepers. Guterres said that ECOMOG troops laid the foundation ahead of UN peacekeepers’ deployment.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed by President Taylor and leaders of all warring factions and political parties on August 18, 2003 in Accra, Ghana, provided the political cover for UNMIL’s deployment throughout the country.

UNMIL’s first force commander, now-retired Lieutenant General Daniel Opande, described the situation of the country at the time of deployment: “Nothing functioned, the government had collapsed, no security arrangement, the entire country was in turmoil. People were moving from place to place, looking for safety or for food. It was very bad.”

“When I arrived in Liberia, a thick cloud of uncertainty and insecurity hung over the country,” corroborates Patrick Coker, who joined UNMIL as a senior public information officer in October 2003. “There was no electricity, no water, fighters carried weapons around, thousands of internally displaced persons, hopelessness, poverty, anguish—we were on edge.”

UNMIL and its partners, including an interim government headed by Gyude Bryant, attempted but failed to begin disarmament on December 7, 2003. General Opande attributed the botched attempt to UNMIL’s ill-preparedness. There was a misunderstanding over money to be paid the fighters, and when they began firing in the air, the process ended abruptly.

Successful disarmament

Fighters of the rebel faction Liberians United for Reconstruction and Democracy (LURD) tested UNMIL’s resolve on Christmas Day of 2003 when they prevented the peacekeepers from deploying in Tubmanburg, northwest of Monrovia. Two days later, General Opande led heavy reinforcements of troops and weapons back to Tubmanburg. This time the fighters capitulated, even danced—and, bizarrely, set fire to their checkpoint.

“The Liberian people are tired of war. We too are tired,” said LURD’s deputy chief of staff, “General” Oforie Diah.

The mission had learned a lesson and so, when disarmament restarted in April 2004 after a robust communications campaign to educate combatants on the process, there were no serious hitches.

Coker recalls that “dealing with the ex-combatants, who had been in the bushes for more than a decade, was no easy task.” At the slightest provocation, such as a delay in payment of disarmament allowance, they rioted and threatened to torpedo the peace process. During such moments, UNMIL and partners often relied on Liberian women to bring the former fighters under control.

“If there is a group in Liberia that I, Opande, can give the biggest congratulations for bringing peace, it is the women,” says Lieutenant General Opande.

After a successful disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration process and peaceful elections, the mission’s attention shifted to providing security for the country, helping to midwife a new army and police force and extending civil authority throughout the country. As well, UNMIL provided technical and logistical support to various government departments.

Renewed hope

Former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf inherited an economy ruined by war; however, she mobilized foreign and domestic resources to kick-start development, including in the energy and transportation sectors.

In 2010, Liberia secured nearly $5 billion in debt relief from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, African Development Bank and other creditors. That was 90% of the country’s total foreign debt and 15% of its GDP.

As the economy was taking off, the Ebola epidemic hit in late 2014 and caused a negative 1.6% growth rate by 2016. The World Bank now forecasts modest but sustained positive growth after a 2.6% rise last year.

Fourteen years of war, bad leadership and the Ebola epidemic might have derailed Liberia’s socioeconomic development, but Weah’s inauguration—as much as Sirleaf’s 12 years in power—appears to be rekindling hope in the country’s future.

President Weah needs to build on Sirleaf’s successes, writes Benjamin Spatz in the New York Times. “She brought Liberia back from the dead. Now it’s his turn to nurture the country’s fledgling institutions by taking on its coercive, corrupt political culture.”

In sum: “Liberia is an important example of what sustainable peace means in practise,” reflected Mohammed, speaking for the UN.

Kpadeh’s hope of a better country depends on sustained peace. “Development is never possible without peace,” he said. “We should all be proud of UNMIL’s achievement.”

*Africa Renewal is published by the UN’s Department of Public Information.
The link to the original article: https://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/april-2018-july-2018/mission-accomplished-15-years-peacekeeping-success-liberia

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Excerpt:

Kingsley Ighobor, Africa Renewal*

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Europe Needs to Stop the Criminal Business Behind Immigrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/europe-needs-stop-criminal-business-behind-immigration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=europe-needs-stop-criminal-business-behind-immigration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/europe-needs-stop-criminal-business-behind-immigration/#comments Tue, 10 Jul 2018 09:03:35 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156618 Debating on migration as an emergency is a huge mistake and treating it as such opens the door for illegal and unfair activities, says a migration expert. Laura Verduci, a humanitarian officer who has worked with migrants both in Europe and Africa for more than 20 years, tells IPS that she has seen migrant emergency […]

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According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, about 42,000 migrants arrived in Europe this year as of Jun. 30. The number of migrants entering Europe have reduced in comparison to previous years. Courtesy: Laura Verduci/Doctors Without Borders.

By Maged Srour
ROME, Jul 10 2018 (IPS)

Debating on migration as an emergency is a huge mistake and treating it as such opens the door for illegal and unfair activities, says a migration expert.

Laura Verduci, a humanitarian officer who has worked with migrants both in Europe and Africa for more than 20 years, tells IPS that she has seen migrant emergency funds being squandered or embezzled.

Verduci, who currently works for Doctors Without Borders and is now based in the West African nation of Sierra Leone, says: “Once you consider it as an emergency, this implies the allocation of extra [financial] resources … I realised during my experience in Sicily, that they are subcontracted to private entities that bring the entire process into illegal and unfair activities.”

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, about  42,000 migrants arrived in Europe this year as of Jun. 30. It may still be early to compare this with last year’s figure of about 172 000 migrants, but if the overall migration in previous years is anything to go by the numbers seem to be decreasing from a high of just over one million migrant arrivals in 2015 to almost a third that in 2016. In comparison to Europe’s total population of about three quarters of a billion people, some see this as a drop in the ocean and not an emergency situation. 

The reduced numbers do not explain the long delays many migrants experience.

In Italy, most migrants are still trying to obtain political asylum or, in some cases, be included on official asylum lists.

A cultural mediator who works in a refugee centre in the north of Italy and wanted to speak anonymously, tells IPS that in some cases the bureaucratic procedures to obtain asylum in Italy are intentionally slowed by authorities in order to prolong the residence time of migrants in those centres, purely for the allocation of public funds. The International Press Foundation has previously reported on the issue.

Verduci has experienced the wasteful spending firsthand.

“I remember while I was working in Trapani, that we had to wait for slippers for migrants that were purchased from a supplier in Messina, which is on the other side of Sicily. We could buy slippers anywhere close to Trapani but the [purchase of the slippers] had been subcontracted to that specific seller,” she tells IPS.    

Last year, an Italian court convicted 41 people, including personalities and politicians both from right-wing and left-wing parties, for stealing money from public contracts. The Mafia-like system used intimidation to win contracts in Rome. 

The racket controlled many municipal services, such as rubbish collection and management, public spaces’ maintenance and refugee centres. The investigation revealed that most of those financial resources were never spent for what they were intended — to improve living conditions in the refugee centres — but were siphoned off.

“I can see clearly a link between criminality and some political parties in Italy,” says Verduci.

“There are criminal organisations are interested in prolonging the economic and social uncertainty of migrants who, if unemployed and isolated from society, risk to enter into illegal activities,” says Verduci.

Verduci refers not only to the alleged links between criminal organisations and Italian politics but also to the more transnational aspect of human trafficking that has been taking place between Libya and Italy.

There have been reports in the media accusing the previous Italian government of striking a deal with Libyan militias involved in human trafficking to stop migration flows to Italian shores. The government had denied the reports at the time. But it was reported that after the alleged agreements were made, migrants arrivals dropped significantly.

Analysts like Den Boer from the University of Kent and Valerie Hudson from Texas A&M University believe that it would be a mistake to consider only the benefits of migration, which also brings some negative effects if not addressed with the suitable policies.

There is also the risk that migrants could remain trapped in a limbo of inadequacy in European societies if countries do not offer suitable integration policies. 

Migrants, if forced to live in poverty, without the chance of gaining employment or an education, risk being exploited by criminal organisations.

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“We Have to Redefine Policies for Sustainable Development”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/redefine-policies-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=redefine-policies-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/redefine-policies-sustainable-development/#respond Mon, 09 Jul 2018 09:48:05 +0000 Jens Martens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156599 Jens Martens is Director of Global Policy Forum, and coordinates the Reflection Group on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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Conflict and Climate Change Challenge Sustainable Development. Credit: Sebastian Rich / UNICEF

By Jens Martens
BONN, Germany, Jul 9 2018 (IPS)

When UN Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda, they signaled with the title Transforming our World that it should trigger fundamental changes in politics and society.

But three years after its adoption, most governments have failed to turn the proclaimed transformational vision of the 2030 Agenda into real policies.

Even worse, the civil society report Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2018 shows that policies in a growing number of countries are moving in the opposite direction, seriously undermining the spirit and the goals of the 2030 Agenda.

Not a lack of resources

The problem is not a lack of global financial resources. On the contrary, in recent years we have experienced a massive growth and accumulation of individual and corporate wealth worldwide.

The policy choices that have enabled this unprecedented accumulation of wealth are the same fiscal and regulatory policies that led to the weakening of the public sector and produced extreme market concentration and socio-economic inequality.

The extreme concentration of wealth has not increased the resources that are available for sustainable development. As the World Inequality Report 2018 states, “Over the past decades, countries have become richer, but governments have become poor” due to a massive shift towards private capital.

But even where public money is available, all too often public funds are not allocated in line with the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs but spent for harmful or at least dubious purposes, be it environmentally harmful subsidies or excessive military expenditures.

The Un-Sustainable Development Goal

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), global military expenditure rose again in 2017, after five years of relatively unchanged spending, to US$ 1.739 trillion. In contrast, net ODA by members of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) was only US$ 146.6 billion in 2017, thus less than one tenth of global military spending.

“The world is over-armed while peace is under-funded,” states the Global Campaign on Military Spending. Particularly alarming has been the decision of the NATO member countries, to increase military spending to at least 2 percent of their national GDP.

Even just for the European NATO members, this decision would mean a minimum increase of 300 billion Euros per year, most likely at the expense of other parts of their national budgets. The 2 percent goal represents a kind of ‘Un-Sustainable Development Goal’ and is in sharp contradiction to the spirit of the 2030 Agenda.

Gaps and contradictions exist not only in fiscal policy and the provision of the financial means of implementation for the SDGs. The most striking examples are climate and energy policies.

Instead of tackling unsustainable production patterns and taking the ‘polluter pays principle’ seriously, action is postponed, placing hope on technical solutions, including research on geoengineering, i.e. dangerous large-scale technological manipulations of the Earth’s systems.

Need to address the ‘dark side of innovation’

Of course, major technological shifts are necessary to unleash the transformative potential of the SDGs and to turn towards less resource-intensive and more resilient economic and social development models.

But this must not mean an uncritical belief in salvation through technological innovations, whether with regard to climate change or to the potential of information and communications technologies.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently called on Member States to address the ‘dark side of innovation’. This includes the new challenges of cybersecurity threats, the intrusion into privacy by artificial intelligence, its impact on labour markets, and the use of military-related ‘cyber operations’ and ‘cyber attacks’.

The ‘dark side of innovation’ could also be the leitmotif characterizing the dominant fallacies about feeding the world through intensified industrial agriculture. While the prevailing industrial agriculture system has enabled increased yields, this has come at a great cost to the environment as well as to human health and animal welfare.

At the same time, it has done little to address the root causes of hunger or to deal with inherent vulnerabilities to climate change.

Alternatives to business as usual

But despite these gloomy perspectives, there is still room for change. Contradicting policies are not an extraordinary phenomenon. They simply reflect contradicting interests and power relations within and between societies – and these are in constant flux and can be changed.

Bold and comprehensive alternatives to business as usual exist in all areas of the 2030 Agenda, and it is up to progressive actors in governments, parliaments, civil society and the private sector to gain the hegemony in the societal discourse to be able to put them into practice. Some of the necessary political action and reforms can be summarized in the following four points:

1. Turning the commitment to policy coherence into practice.
To date, the mainstream approach to sustainable development has been one of tackling its three dimensions in their own zones, complemented by (occasional) coordination between them. This approach has not created a strong institutional basis for decision-making and policy change across the three pillars. There is a need for a whole-of-government approach towards sustainability. The implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs must not be hidden in the niche of environment and development policies but must be declared a top priority by heads of government.

2. Strengthening public finance at all levels. Widening public policy space requires, among other things, the necessary changes in fiscal policies. In other words, governments have to formulate Sustainable Development Budgets in order to implement the Sustainable Development Goals. This includes, for example, taxing the extraction and consumption of non-renewable resources, and adopting forms of progressive taxation that prioritize the rights and welfare of poor and low-income people.

Fiscal policy space can be further broadened by the elimination of corporate tax incentives, and the phasing out of harmful subsidies, particularly in the areas of industrial agriculture and fishing, fossil fuel and nuclear energy. Military spending should be reduced, and the resource savings reallocated, inter alia, for civil conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

3. Improving regulation for sustainability and human rights. Governments have too often weakened themselves by adopting policies of deregulation or ‘better regulation’ (which is in fact a euphemism for regulation in the interest of the corporate sector) and trusted in corporate voluntarism and self-regulation of ‘the markets’. With regard to the human rights responsibilities of companies there is still a need for a legally binding instrument.

The Human Rights Council took a milestone decision in establishing an intergovernmental working group to elaborate such an instrument (or ‘treaty’). Governments should take this ‘treaty process’ seriously and engage actively in it. The expected start of the negotiation process in October 2018 offers an historic opportunity for governments to demonstrate that they put human rights over the interests of big business.

4. Closing global governance gaps and strengthening the institutional framework for sustainable development. The effectiveness of the required policy reforms depends on the existence of strong, well-equipped public institutions at national and international levels. It is essential to reflect the overarching character of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs in the institutional arrangements of governments and parliaments. At the global level, the claim to make the UN system ‘fit for purpose’ requires reforms of existing institutions and the creation of new bodies in areas where governance gaps exist.

Governments decided in the 2030 Agenda that the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) under the auspices of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council should have the central role in overseeing follow-up and review, provide political leadership, and ensure that the Agenda remains relevant and ambitious.

However, compared to other policy arenas, such as the Security Council or the Human Rights Council, the HLPF has remained weak and with only one meeting of eight days a year absolutely unable to fulfil its mandate effectively.

The HLPF 2019 at the level of heads of State and government, the subsequent review of the HLPF, and the 75th anniversary of the UN 2020 provide new opportunities for strengthening and renewal of the institutional framework for sustainable development in the UN.

The post “We Have to Redefine Policies for Sustainable Development” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jens Martens is Director of Global Policy Forum, and coordinates the Reflection Group on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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United Nations Compact Must End Child Detentionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/united-nations-compact-must-end-child-detention/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=united-nations-compact-must-end-child-detention http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/united-nations-compact-must-end-child-detention/#respond Sat, 07 Jul 2018 06:17:28 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156589 World leaders must commit to ending child migrant detention during United Nations negotiations next week, a human rights group said. Leaders from around the world are due to convene to discuss the Global Compact on Migration (GCM), an intergovernmental agreement on managing international migration which is in its final stage of negotiations. As images and […]

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People gathered in the United States to protest against immigrant children being taken from their families last month. The protesters called for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be abolished. Officials estimate that up to 10,000 children are held in poor conditions in detention centres in the U.S. Credit: Fibonacci Blue

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 7 2018 (IPS)

World leaders must commit to ending child migrant detention during United Nations negotiations next week, a human rights group said.

Leaders from around the world are due to convene to discuss the Global Compact on Migration (GCM), an intergovernmental agreement on managing international migration which is in its final stage of negotiations.

As images and stories of children trapped in detention centres in the United States continue to come out, Amnesty International (AI) has called on negotiation participants to end child detention. “Many world leaders have expressed their outrage at the Trump administration’s recent horrendous treatment of children whose parents have arrived in the USA irregularly. Now is the time to channel that outrage into concrete action.”

“The appalling scenes in the U.S. have illustrated why an international commitment to ending child migration detention is so desperately needed – these negotiations could not have come at a more crucial time,” said AI’s Senior Americas Advocate Perseo Quiroz.

“Many world leaders have expressed their outrage at the Trump administration’s recent horrendous treatment of children whose parents have arrived in the U.S. irregularly. Now is the time to channel that outrage into concrete action,” he added.

As a result of the Trump administration’s family separation policy, over 2,000 children have been separated from their parents and detained since May after crossing the country’s southern border.

Officials estimate that up to 10,000 children are held in poor conditions in detention centres in the U.S.

“At the U.N. next week there is a real opportunity for states to show they are serious about ending child migration detention for good by pushing for the strongest protections possible for all children, accompanied or otherwise,” Quiroz said.

The current draft of the GCM does mention the issue including a clause to “work to end the practice of child detention in the context of international migration” and to “use migration detention only as a last resort.”

However, AI believes the language is not strong enough as there is no circumstance in which migration-related detention of children is justified.

While U.S. president Donald Trump has signed an executive order reversing the family separation policy, he has replaced it with a policy of detaining entire families together.

This means that children, along with their parents, can be detained for a prolonged and indefinite period of time.

“Now is not the time to look away,” said Brian Root and Rachel Schmidt from Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“Family separation and detention policies are symptoms are a much larger global issue: how receiving countries treat migrants, who are often fleeing unstable and/or violent situations,” they added.

Recently, Oxfam found that children as young as 12 are physically abused, detained, and illegally returned to Italy by French border guards, contrary to French and European Union laws.

Over 4,000 child migrants have passed through the Italian border town of Ventimiglia between July 2017 and April 2018. The majority are fleeing persecution and conflict in countries such as Sudan, Eritrea, and Syria and are often trying to reach relatives or friends in other European countries.

Children have reported being detained overnight in French cells without food, water, or blankets and with no access to an official guardian.

In Australia, over 200 children are in asylum-seeker detention centres including on Nauru and are often detained for months, if not years.

“The Global Compact on Migration…offers some hope, but it will not work if many countries continue to see the issue purely in terms of border control,” HRW said.

“In addition, this compact will have little effect on an American president who seems to hold contempt for the idea of international cooperation,” they continued.

Last year, the U.S. withdrew from the U.N. Global Compact on Migration, just days before  a migration conference in Mexico, citing that the document undermines the country’s sovereignty.

Though the GCM itself is also not legally binding, AI said that it is politically binding and establishes a basis for future discussions on migration.

“Recent events have shone a spotlight on the brutal realities of detaining children simply because their parents are on the move, and we hope this will compel other governments to take concrete steps to protect all children from this cruel treatment,” Quiroz said.

Starting on Jul. 9, leaders of the 193 U.N. member states will meet in New York to agree on the final text of the GCM.

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Peace “Only Way Forward” For Yemenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/peace-way-forward-yemen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=peace-way-forward-yemen http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/peace-way-forward-yemen/#respond Wed, 04 Jul 2018 08:12:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156531 Tackling the relentless conflict in Yemen has never been more urgent as it has pushed the Middle Eastern nation “deep into the abyss.” However, much can be learned from recent and ongoing initiatives. While a recent humanitarian conference on Yemen attempted to address the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis, Norwegian Refugee Council Europe’s Director Edouard […]

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Peace “Only Way Forward” For Yemen - A young boy runs with his tyre past buildings damaged by airstrikes in Saada Old Town. UNICEF says health facilities in the country have been cut by more than half, thousands of schools have been destroyed, and over 2,000 children have been killed. Credit: Giles Clarke/OCHA

A young boy runs with his tyre past buildings damaged by airstrikes in Saada Old Town. UNICEF says health facilities in the country have been cut by more than half, thousands of schools have been destroyed, and over 2,000 children have been killed. Credit: Giles Clarke/OCHA

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

Tackling the relentless conflict in Yemen has never been more urgent as it has pushed the Middle Eastern nation “deep into the abyss.” However, much can be learned from recent and ongoing initiatives.

While a recent humanitarian conference on Yemen attempted to address the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis, Norwegian Refugee Council Europe’s Director Edouard Rodier told IPS that it was a “failed opportunity.”

“We didn’t have the right people because those who are in a position to make political decisions, the kind of decisions that we need, were not there,” he said.

The conference was co-chaired by Saudi Arabia, one of the parties to the Yemeni conflict, and France, who has long backed the Saudi-led coalition, raising concerns over the event’s credibility.

“We all know that the main problem is man-made and if you really need to find a solution, you need the two parties around the table…we cannot expect from a conference that is only representing one party to the conflict that is supported by allies or countries that have interest on the one-side of the conflict to reach a significant political gain,” Rodier told IPS.

An Escalation of Violence

Since violence broke out three years ago, 22 million Yemenis are now dependent on aid and over eight million are believed to be on the verge of starvation.Health facilities have been cut by more than half, thousands of schools have been destroyed, and over 2,000 children have been killed, according to UNICEF.

After a four-day visit, United Nations Children Agency’s (UNICEF) Executive Director Henrietta Fore observed what was left of children in the war-ravaged country.

“I saw what three years of intense war after decades of underdevelopment and chronic global indifference can do to children: taken out of school, forced to fight, married off, hungry, dying from preventable diseases,” she said.

Approximately 11 million children — more than the population of Switzerland — are currently in need of food, treatment, education, water and sanitation.

Health facilities have been cut by more than half, thousands of schools have been destroyed, and over 2,000 children have been killed, according to UNICEF.

“These are only numbers we have been able to verify. The actual figures could be even higher. There is no justification for this carnage,” Fore said.

Violence has only escalated in the past month after a Saudi-led offensive in Hodeidah, which has already displaced 43,000, left three million at risk of famine and cholera, and provoked an international outcry.

Fore said that basic commodities such as cooking gas has dwindled, electricity is largely unavailable, and water shortages are severe in most of the western port city.

Prior to the war, Hodeidah’s seaport was responsible for delivering 70 percent of Yemen’s imports including fuel, food, and humanitarian aid.

“In Hodeida, as in the rest of the country, the need for peace has never been more urgent,” Fore said.

“Parties to the conflict and those who have influence over them should rally behind diplomatic efforts to prevent a further worsening of the situation across the country and to resume peace negotiations,” she added.

However, the struggle for control over Hodeidah forced Paris’ humanitarian conference to downgrade from a ministerial-level event to a technical meeting, preventing any political discussion on the crisis.

“It became a very technical meeting with different workshops to discuss things that really then would have needed the presence of people who have a knowledge of what is happening on the ground. It is good to have workshops and technical discussions with the right people at the table,” Rodier said.

But who are the right people?

A New Hope?

Many are now looking to new U.N. Envoy to Yemen’s Martin Griffiths whose recent efforts have sparked some hope for a possible ceasefire and peace deal.

“The U.N. Special Envoy is in the best position to lead this process. He should receive all the backing from all the countries that are presenting good will and that want to see progress,” Rodier told IPS.

Griffiths has been meeting with both parties to the conflict who have agreed to temporarily halt the assault on Hodeidah and have expressed a willingness to return to the negotiating table after two years of failed attempts.

While control over the port city was a point of contention that led to the failure of previous talks, Griffiths said that the Houthi rebels offered the U.N. a lead role in managing the port — a proposal that both parties accepted and a move that could help restart negotiations and prevent further attacks.

He expressed hope that an upcoming U.N. Security Council meeting will result in a proposal to be presented to the Yemenis.

However, political commitment and international support is sorely needed in order for such an initiative to be successful.

For the past three years, the Security Council has been largely silent on the crisis in Yemen and the U.N. continues to be lenient on Saudi Arabia’s gross violations of human rights.

The U.N.’s recent Children and Armed Conflict report noted that the Saudi-led coalition was responsible for more than half of child deaths and injuries in Yemen in 2017. The report also accused both Houthis and the Saudi coalition of recruiting almost 1,000 child soldiers — some as young as 11 years old.

However, the Secretary-General failed to include the coalition in his report’s list of shame.

Instead, the coalition was put on a special list for countries that put in place “measures to improve child protection” despite a U.N. expert panel having found that that any action taken by Saudi Arabia to minimise child casualties has been “largely ineffective.”

Rodier urged for the international community to maintain a sense of urgency over Yemen.

“We need to have another kind of conference with the ambition to have political gains that is U.N.-led and it has to happen soon,” he told IPS.

“We need some kind of mediation…there will be no military solution to the humanitarian crisis today in Yemen. It has to be a political solution,” Rodier added.

Fore echoed similar sentiments, highlighting the need for a political solution to the conflict.

“We all need to give peace a chance. It is the only way forward,” she said.

It is now up to the international community to step up to the plate to prevent further suffering and violations. If not, peace will continue to remain elusive with repercussions that will last generations.

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Overly Bureaucratic Procedures and Long Waits Cuts off Support to 22 Million Yemenishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/overly-bureaucratic-procedures-long-waits-cuts-off-support-22-million-yemenis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=overly-bureaucratic-procedures-long-waits-cuts-off-support-22-million-yemenis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/overly-bureaucratic-procedures-long-waits-cuts-off-support-22-million-yemenis/#respond Thu, 28 Jun 2018 14:41:38 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156445 As Yemen’s people struggle to survive amid what has been described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the stranglehold by both government coalition forces and rebels over the country’s main ports of entry and distribution is cutting off a lifeline of support to 22 million people. Amnesty International, in a report published on Jun. 22 […]

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Sana'a backstreet, Yemen. Credit: Ahron de Leeuw

By Maged Srour
ROME, Jun 28 2018 (IPS)

As Yemen’s people struggle to survive amid what has been described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the stranglehold by both government coalition forces and rebels over the country’s main ports of entry and distribution is cutting off a lifeline of support to 22 million people.

Amnesty International, in a report published on Jun. 22 after seven months of extensive research, said that the Saudi-led government coalition are blocking the entrance of essential humanitarian aid, including food, fuel and medicines. And any distribution of this aid is slowed by Houthi rebels within the country.

“The core aspect highlighted by the report is that humanitarian aid finds it extremely difficult to reach destinations inside the country,” Riccardo Noury, communications director and spokesperson for Amnesty International in Italy, told IPS.

Aid workers described to Amnesty International the extent of delays, with one saying that it took up to two months to move supplies out of Sana’a, the country’s capital.

“The most difficult part was getting the aid out of the warehouse once it is in Yemen,” the aid worker was quoted as saying.

World’s worst humanitarian crisis

Yemen’s war began after Houthi rebels took control of the country’s capital at the end of 2014, forcing the government to flee. In support of the government a coalition of states, led by Saudi Arabia, launched an offensive against the rebels. At least 10,000 Yemenis have been killed in almost three years of fighting, with the overall injured numbering 40,000.

The conflict has pushed Yemen, which was already known as the Middle East’s poorest country before 2014, to the verge of a total human, economic and social collapse.

Save the Children, an international non-governmental organisation that promotes human rights, estimates that 130 children in Yemen die every day from extreme hunger and disease.

It is estimated that three quarters of Yemen’s 27 million people are in need of assistance.
A third require immediate relief to survive and more than half are food insecure – with almost 2 million children and one million pregnant or lactating women being acutely malnourished, the Amnesty International report said. About 8.4 million people face severe insecurity and are at risk of starvation, the report noted quoting figures from the World Food Programme and the United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).

Overly bureaucratic procedures and long waits for clearance

Amnesty International examined the role of the two major parties in the conflict. On the one hand there is a blockade imposed by the Saudi-led coalition on the country’s air, road and harbour ports, while and on the other hand the slow bureaucracy and corruption of Houthi rebels compromises the flow of aid within Yemen.

Last November, the Saudi-led coalition blocked all Yemen’s ports after rebels fired missiles on neighbouring Saudi Arabia. The ports where opened weeks later but only to allow humanitarian aid into the country.

“However, humanitarian aid alone is not sufficient to meet the needs of the Yemeni population, who also rely on commercial imports of essential goods such as fuel, food and medical supplies,” the Amnesty International report said. It noted the restriction on commercial imports “impacted Yemenis’ access to food and exacerbated existing food insecurity.”

Whereas prior to the blockade more than 96 percent of the country’s food requirements were being met, as of April, “food imports were half (51 percent) of the monthly national requirement.”

Exacerbating the matter is the fact that this year Yemen only received 53 percent of required aid funding. According to the Financial Tracking Service database, which tracks humanitarian aid flows in areas of crisis, in 2018 Yemen received only USD1.6 billion against a request of USD2.9 billion. According to UNOCHA, Saudi Arabia has donated over half a billion dollars towards this aid.

While humanitarian aid is allowed into the country, the government coalition forces are accused of forcing aid vessels to wait for coalition clearance before being allowed to proceed to anchorage. This leads “to excessive delays and unpredictability that have served to obstruct the delivery of essential goods and humanitarian aid.”

However, even when aid eventually enters Yemen, its distribution is hindered by rebel forces.

Houthi rebels have to approve authorisation of movement of aid in the country. It is meant to take, at the most, two days. But sometimes it can take up to five days because of a shortage of officials.

“However, [aid workers] complained that overly bureaucratic procedures have caused excessive delays. They gave the example of the fact that permits provided to humanitarian organisations confine authorisation for movement to the specific day, time, and geographic location that was mentioned in the application.”

The consequence is that if aid workers “are not able for some reason to proceed to the operation on that day [they] have to put a request for a new permit and wait again,” the report said.

Houthi forces have been accused of extortion and interference in the distribution of aid and of “using their influence to control the delivery of aid, to influence who receives aid, and in which areas, and which organisations deliver it.”

One aid official told Amnesty International that they were “often told by Houthi forces to hand over the aid and that they [Houthi forces] would distribute it.”

The delays by both sides is against international humanitarian law, said Noury.

“All warring parties must facilitate the rapid distribution of impartial humanitarian assistance to all civilians in need. They also must ensure freedom of movement for all humanitarian personnel,” he added.

Human rights in Yemen

Noury expressed deep concern for the human rights situation in the country.

“First of all, you have all this situation linked to violations of international humanitarian law, that deals with the conflict itself. This is a very dirty conflict, in which warring parties have used arms that are forbidden by international law, such as cluster bombs. Then, you have the countless attacks against civilians that were committed by the Saudi-led coalition, and then, obviously the issue of humanitarian aid flows,” he said.

Noury stated his concern over the freedom of expression in Yemen as activists from local NGO, Mwatana for Human Rights, are being arrested by both Houthi rebels or Saudi forces as they attempt to impartially report on crimes perpetrated by both warring parties.

Amnesty International have called for the U.N. to “impose targeted sanctions against those responsible for obstructing humanitarian assistance and for committing other violations of international humanitarian law.”

It’s called on the government coalition forces and rebel forces to end delays and allow prompt delivery of aid and the allowance of commercial flights into the country.

Additional reporting by Nalisha Adams

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Mideast Faces Tragic Shredding of its Diverse Religious, Ethnic & Cultural Fabrichttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/mideast-faces-tragic-shredding-diverse-religious-ethnic-cultural-fabric/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mideast-faces-tragic-shredding-diverse-religious-ethnic-cultural-fabric http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/mideast-faces-tragic-shredding-diverse-religious-ethnic-cultural-fabric/#respond Tue, 26 Jun 2018 15:31:14 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156407 António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, in an address to the Security Council on the Situation in the Middle East & North Africa

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Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the UN Security Council. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

By António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 26 2018 (IPS)

I thank the Russian Federation Presidency for convening this debate at a crucial juncture for the people of the Middle East and North Africa.

The region faces profound divisions, troubling currents and a tragic shredding of its diverse religious, ethnic and cultural fabric.

Decades-old conflicts, together with new ones, as well as deep-rooted social grievances, a shrinking of democratic space and the emergence of terrorism and new forms of violent extremism, are undermining peace, sustainable development and human rights.

The territorial integrity of countries like Syria, Yemen and Libya is under threat. Millions of people have been forcibly displaced from their homes. The impacts of this instability have spread to neighbors and beyond.

In addressing these challenges, we would all do well to recall the series of Arab Human Development Reports issued by the UN Development Programme starting in 2002. Those studies identified significant deficits in education, basic freedoms and empowerment, especially of the region’s women and young people.

Among the findings of the first report, in 2002, was, and I quote:

“Political participation in Arab countries remains weak, as manifested in the lack of genuine representative democracy and restrictions on liberties. At the same time, people’s aspirations for more freedom and greater participation in decision-making have grown, fueled by rising incomes, education, and information flows. The mismatch between aspirations and their fulfilment has in some cases led to alienation and its offspring – apathy and discontent. Remedying this state of affairs must be a priority for national leaderships.”
Many such shortfalls continue to bedevil societies across the region.

Let us also recognize that many of today’s problems are being compounded by the legacy of the past, including the colonial era and the consequences of the First World War, notably the dissolution of the Ottoman empire. The well-known “peace to end all peace” did unfortunately achieve that aim.

It was in this broad context that the Arab Spring reverberated widely as a call for inclusion, opportunity and the opening of political space.

Here I would like to pay tribute to the people of Tunisia, where the call began. They have achieved considerable progress in consolidating their young democracy, including through a new constitution and a peaceful transition of power.

But the Tunisia promise did not materialize everywhere in the region.

Today, in a region once home to one of history’s greatest flowerings of culture and coexistence, we see many fault-lines at work, old and new, crossing each other and generating enormous volatility. These include the Israeli-Palestinian wound, resurgent Cold War-like rivalries, the Sunni-Shia divide, ethnic schisms and other political confrontations.

Economic and social opportunities are clearly insufficient. As such difficulties rise, trust in institutions declines. Societies fracture along ethnic or religious lines, which are being manipulated for political advantage.

At times, foreign interference has exacerbated this disunity, with destabilizing effects.
And the risk of further downward spirals is sky high.

Our most pressing peace and security challenges in the Middle East are a clear reflection of the rifts, pressures, neglect and long-term trends that have brought us to today’s crossroads.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains central to the Middle Eastern quagmire.

Achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting two-state solution that allows Palestinians and Israelis to live side-by-side in peace, within secure and recognized borders, is essential for security and stability in the entire region. The recent tensions and violence in Gaza are a reminder of the fragility of the situation.

International support is critical to create an environment conducive to launching meaningful direct negotiations between the two parties. I remain deeply committed to supporting efforts towards this end.

Later today, I will preside over a pledging conference to address severe funding gaps facing the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees.

In Syria, civilians have borne a litany of atrocities for more than seven years of conflict: sieges, starvation, indiscriminate attacks, the use of chemical weapons, exile and forced displacement, sexual violence, torture, detention and enforced disappearances.

Syria has also become a battleground for proxy wars by regional and international actors. Violence is entrenched, amid a fractured political landscape and a multiplicity of armed groups. In the absence of trusted state institutions, many Syrians have fallen back on religious and tribal identities.

I continue to call on the parties to the conflict to engage meaningfully with my Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura in the UN-facilitated political process in Geneva. I urge progress in the establishment of the constitutional committee. Security Council resolution 2254 remains the only internationally agreed avenue for a credible and sustainable end to this conflict.

More than ever our aim is to see a united and democratic Syria, to avoid irreparable sectarianism, to ensure full respect for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to enable the Syrian people to freely decide on the country’s future.

Yemen is suffering a prolonged and devastating conflict with clear regional dimensions.

My Special Envoy Martin Griffiths has been actively engaged in order to avoid an escalation that could have dramatic humanitarian consequences at the present moment. One week ago, he presented to this Council elements of a negotiation framework that he has been discussing with various interlocutors inside Yemen and in the region. Our hope is that this framework would allow for a resumption of badly needed political negotiations to put an end to the conflict.

In Gaza, Syria and Yemen, the international community must remain mobilized in order to ensure a strong humanitarian response to millions of people in dire need.

In Libya, the United Nations is committed to supporting national actors to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

The national conference process organized as part of the UN Action Plan is delivering a clear message: Libyans are longing for an end to the conflict and an end to the transition period. All stakeholders must continue lending their support to my Special Representative Ghassan Salamé, as he leads the political process.

Political success in Libya will also hopefully allow the country to play its role in addressing the dramatic plight of migrants and refugees who have been suffering so much in attempting to cross the Mediterranean.

In the past few years, we have witnessed numerous examples of Iraq’s resilience, including overcoming the risk of fragmentation and achieving victory over ISIL. Iraq’s endurance as a stable, federal state is a testament to the enormous sacrifices of the Iraqi people, from all communities. I strongly hope that the Iraqi institutions will be able to ensure an adequate conclusion of the electoral process in a way that fully respects the will of the Iraqi people.

In this context, the reconstruction of areas destroyed in the retaking of territory from ISIL is a priority, as is the safe, dignified and voluntary return of Iraq’s displaced people to their homes, including those from religious minorities. It is also important to complement such efforts by ensuring that those who committed atrocity crimes are held accountable for their actions, in accordance with international standards.

Let us remember that what look like religious conflicts are normally the product of political or geo-strategic manipulation, or proxies for other antagonisms.

There are endless examples of different religious groups living together peacefully for centuries, despite their differences. Today’s artificial divides therefore can and must be overcome, based on respect for the independence and territorial integrity of the countries concerned.

In this context, it is important to value the experience of respect for diversity that Lebanon today represents.

In Lebanon, parliamentary elections — the first since 2009 — were held peacefully in May, underscoring the country’s democratic tradition. We look forward to the formation of the new Government, to further strengthen state institutions, promote structural reforms and to implement the dissociation policy.

Heightened regional tensions could threaten Lebanon’s stability, including at the Blue Line. Steadfast international effort remains critical in supporting Lebanon to consolidate state authority, safeguard the country from regional tensions and host refugees until durable solutions are found, in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions.

I remain particularly concerned with the risks of destabilization around the Gulf.

That is why I have always supported the efforts of the Kuwaiti mediation to overcome divisions among Arab states in the area.

On the other hand, it is important to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which should remain a valuable element of peace and security, independently of the wider discussion about the role of Iran in the region.

During the Cold War, ideological rivals still found ways to talk and cooperate despite their deep divides, for example through the Helsinki process. I do not see why countries of the region cannot find a similar platform to come together, drawing experience from one another and enhancing opportunities for possible political, environmental, socio-economic or security cooperation.

Regional and sub-regional organizations also have a key role to play in supporting preventive diplomacy, mediation and confidence-building.

The region needs to ensure the integrity of the state, its governance systems and the equal application of the rule of law that protects all individuals.

Majorities should not feel the existential threat of fragmentation, and minorities should not feel the threat of oppression and exile.

And everyone, everywhere, should enjoy their right to live in dignity, freedom and peace.

I call on the members of the Security Council to find much-needed consensus and to act with one strong voice.

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Excerpt:

António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, in an address to the Security Council on the Situation in the Middle East & North Africa

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Countries are Using Domestic Laws to Criminalize Health Carehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/countries-using-domestic-laws-criminalize-health-care/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=countries-using-domestic-laws-criminalize-health-care http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/countries-using-domestic-laws-criminalize-health-care/#respond Thu, 21 Jun 2018 06:01:00 +0000 Dainius Puras http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156333 Dr. Dainius Pūras is UN Special Rapporteur on “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”.

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Dr. Dainius Pūras is UN Special Rapporteur on “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”.

By Dr. Dainius Pūras
GENEVA, Jun 21 2018 (IPS)

Ambulance drivers attacked, nurses detained, doctors tortured, pharmacists arrested, dentists facing more than a decade in prison—all for delivering healthcare to people considered enemies of the state.

There is a disturbing global phenomenon of governments using domestic laws, policies, and practices to punish health professionals for doing their job to treat those in need. Whether it’s vague counter-terrorism legislation, misguided domestic laws and policies, or harsh administrative sanctions, states are often turning to domestic laws to criminalize health care.

Dr. Dainius Pūras

I have been privileged to be part of the medical profession for more than three decades. In recent years, I have seen the ways in which laws provide a pretext for states to enact violence and punitive sanction against my fellow health workers. These alarming trends undermine the ethical foundation of medicine and the human rights of communities we have pledged to serve.

Health professionals have a duty to care for the sick, wounded and injured, regardless of their patients’ political affiliation or which side of a conflict they are on. The core human rights principle of non-discrimination is not only a key component of medical ethics, but an essential part of our humanity: every human being has a right to medical care. Whether a foe or an ally, a patient is a patient.

For more than half a century, governments have recognized this concept, enshrining the protection of healthcare in international humanitarian and human rights instruments, as well as their national constitutions. Just two years ago, 80 states adopted a resolution specifically condemning attacks on health providers and their patients.

As the UN special rapporteur on the right to health, I have examined this issue during my country missions and engaged directly with governments as cases of medical professionals under threat have come to my attention.

Regrettably, health professionals continue to be harassed, fired, arrested, prosecuted and even killed for caring for those in need. I am convinced that these egregious human rights violations against health professionals and the communities they seek to serve emerge from a systemic failure to explicitly safeguard healthcare in law and policy at the national level.

These practices in countries around the world do not occur in a vacuum, but emerge from embedded legal systems that ensnare health workers in a widening punitive net.

I recently requested a review of the role domestic laws play in fostering the criminalization of healthcare to understand how health workers experience extraordinary violence, harassment or sanctions. The findings are alarming: of the 16 countries analyzed in the report, authorities in at least 10 of them could interpret the provision of healthcare as supporting terrorism.

The implication of this general state of legal affairs is dire. If nurses, doctors and paramedics are afraid to treat people because they may be prosecuted, whole communities could suffer.

Some countries have begun to understand how these laws and practices undermine healthcare and are taking steps to safeguard it. But much more needs to be done. Everyone must be able to access healthcare—it is an obligation under the right to health and incumbent upon states to secure.

States must review and amend their laws to ensure they explicitly shield the sick and wounded and those who care for them. Military, police and security forces must be instructed that patients cannot be denied care, regardless of their affiliation.

This requires both a normative as well as a cultural shift in how state structures uphold everyone’s basic dignity and rights. The international community must elevate this issue to ensure the protection of healthcare permeates the entire UN family.

In times of unrest and conflict, accessing medical care can mean the difference between life and death. Laws must be there to protect those providing that essential medical care, not be used as weapons against them.

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Excerpt:

Dr. Dainius Pūras is UN Special Rapporteur on “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”.

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Three Countries Protect Half the World’s New Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/three-countries-protect-half-worlds-new-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=three-countries-protect-half-worlds-new-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/three-countries-protect-half-worlds-new-refugees/#respond Wed, 20 Jun 2018 04:41:55 +0000 Jan Egeland http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156304 Jan Egeland is Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council and former United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator

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Refugees on the move. Credit: UNHCR/Ivor Pricket

By Jan Egeland
OSLO, Norway, Jun 20 2018 (IPS)

Turkey, Bangladesh and Uganda alone received over half of all new refugees last year. Never before has the world registered a larger number of people displaced by war and persecution.

International responsibility-sharing for displaced people has utterly collapsed. Rich countries are building walls against families fleeing war, at the same time as less money is available for aid to people in conflict areas.

The number of people forced to flee reached 68.5 million at the start of 2018, according to figures from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and NRC’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. This is as many people as there are living in the United Kingdom.

International cooperation and peace diplomacy are in deep crisis. The number of people displaced worldwide is increasing for the sixth year in a row, and fewer people are safely returning home.

Forty million people are displaced within their own countries, and another 28.5 million have crossed a border and become refugees.

Turkey was the country that received most new refugees last year – 700,000 people. It now houses over 3.8 million refugees, most of them from Syria. In comparison, the rest of Europe as a whole received about half a million refugees last year, and the US received about 60.000.

When so few asylum seekers are arriving in Europe and the US, we have the responsibility to increase our support to less rich countries that are currently hosting a large number of refugees, like Bangladesh, Lebanon and Uganda, and increase the number of people we receive for resettlement.

The safety net we put in place after Second World War and which has provided millions of refugees with protection, is now being upheld by an increasingly small number of countries.

If these countries do not receive sufficient support, the whole protection system will unravel. If so, this will have dramatic consequences not only for the people affected, but also for the stability and security in many parts of the world.

By May this year, Uganda had only received 7.0 percent of the money needed for UN and other organisations to be able to provide necessary support to the large number of refugees from South Sudan and DR Congo. In Bangladesh the equivalent figure was 20 percent.

In addition to economic support to countries receiving a large number of refugees, 1.2 million refugees need to be resettled in a new country, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). These are people that are not safe where they currently are. Last year the UN member countries only received about 103.000 resettlement refugees.

The consequences of the lack of responsibility sharing were evident this month when the rescue vessel Aquarius with 629 refugees and migrants was denied entry to Italian ports.

When people in need at sea become pieces in a political game, it is a grotesque symbol of the current lack of a proper system for international responsibility sharing.

NRC is concerned to see new border barriers raise in front of people fleeing war and persecution, and the refugees’ rights being under threat.

In many of the countries NRC work, people in power are referring to how European countries are closing their borders, when they want to defend their decision to close their own borders.

We have to end this race to the bottom, and rather let us inspire by generous recipient countries like Uganda, where vulnerable refugees are being protected.

Facts:

• 68.5 million people were displaced at the entry of 2018.
• 40 million people are displaced within their own country, according to NRC’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC)
• 28.5 million people have fled their country and are refugees or asylum seekers, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
• In 2017, 3.6 million sought protection in another country, either by themselves or through resettlement programs. Turkey received close to 20 percent of all new refugees in 2017, Bangladesh 18 percent, Uganda 15 percent and Sudan 14 percent.
• 667,000 refugees returned to their home country last year. Most returned to Nigeria (283,000)

Sources: UNHCR, NRC’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

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Excerpt:

Jan Egeland is Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council and former United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator

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2.5 Million Migrants Smuggled Worldwide, Many Via Social Mediahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/2-5-million-migrants-smuggled-worldwide-many-via-social-media/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2-5-million-migrants-smuggled-worldwide-many-via-social-media http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/2-5-million-migrants-smuggled-worldwide-many-via-social-media/#comments Tue, 19 Jun 2018 15:43:09 +0000 Emily Thampoe and Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156291 At least 2.5 million migrants were smuggled worldwide in 2016, generating an income for smugglers which ranged between $5.5 billion and $7.0 billion, according to a newly published report “2018 Global Study On Smuggling Of Migrants” by the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Coincidentally, the release of the report followed the arrival […]

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The Italian Navy rescues migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. Credit: Italian Coastguard/Massimo Sestini

By Emily Thampoe and Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 19 2018 (IPS)

At least 2.5 million migrants were smuggled worldwide in 2016, generating an income for smugglers which ranged between $5.5 billion and $7.0 billion, according to a newly published report “2018 Global Study On Smuggling Of Migrants” by the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

Coincidentally, the release of the report followed the arrival in Spain, over the weekend, of more than 600 stranded migrants, initially rejected by Italy’s new populist government which followed through on its anti-immigration campaign policies.

During the launch of the report, many member states’ representatives were also concerned with the rising role of social media in the illegal smuggling of migrants. The report concluded that many social media platforms are used to advertise smuggling services.

This promotion can be seen through published advertisements on Facebook or other platforms that migrants themselves make use of to share their opinions and experiences with smuggling services.

On the one hand, smugglers will often gander the attention of those thinking to migrate through the creation of enticing advertisements with very nice photos and also provide logistical information such as payment options and methods of getting in contact with them.

While migration has long been an issue handled by member states; since 2016, they decided to work together to produce the Global Compact for Migration through the UN. Intergovernmental negotiations are still ongoing and the states will meet next December in Morocco for the final Intergovernmental Conference.

The report, launched at the meeting, described as the “New York Launch of the First Global Study on Smuggling of Migrants” at the UN Headquarters June 13, discusses the topic of smuggling migrants in great lengths, but specially highlights the use of social media by both migrants and smugglers.

The researchers Kristiina Kangaspunta and Angela Me presented the report and discussed its results with the member states’ representatives attending the meeting.

According to the study, smuggling processes vary widely, depending on the area and the type of routes they follow. The duration of the journey, for example, depends on the travel -which can be through sea, air or land- and the organization.

The fastest journeys can last between 15 and 20 days, when smugglers give contacts to the migrants for the different steps of the route. This method is used specially to move migrants from South Asia into Greece.

Once again, this report raised the question of how to handle the migration crisis; and different individuals provided different answers. From UNODC the general claim, held by Kangaspunta and Me, was to encourage member states to share their information on migrants.

On the other hand, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) urged the international community to act faster in order to prevent the refugee crisis.

María Jesús Herrera, leader of the Mission at IOM Spain, told IPS: “Stopping one boat or more in the Mediterranean Sea is not an answer to Europe’s migration challenges. A comprehensive approach to migration governance is needed, combining opportunities for safe and orderly movement, humane border management and countering migrant smuggling and trafficking. Saving lives should always be our top concern. We must urgently find a means to help these rescued migrants and work for a comprehensive method of supporting migrants and States throughout Europe.”

Asked what IOM is proposing, she added: “IOM urges the EU to re-consider a revision of the Dublin regulation based on the European Parliament’s proposal, and to reach agreement in Council to ensure solidarity among member states fully respecting the provisions of the Treaties”.

However, for some non-profit organizations, member states act too slow to stop the migrant crisis. “European governments and institutions have not always coped well with this crisis and have struggled to provide safe, humane options and adequate care and support for those affected by the trauma of conflict and displacement”, Chelsea Purvis, Mercy Corps Policy and Advocacy Advisor, told IPS.

The Mediterranean is not the only area of concern when talking about the migrant crisis, as some nonprofit organizations emphasize.

David Kode, who leads campaigns and advocacy for global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, urged member states to rethink their approach to the Palestinian refugees: “There are currently about 7.0 million Palestinian refugees across the world including the approximately 1.3 million refugees in the Gaza strip. If some states continue to support Israel’s actions and other states remain silent in the face of the atrocities committed against Palestinians, very little will change as Israeli forces continue to use unnecessary, indiscriminate and disproportionate force against protesters”.

The role of social media

The smuggler’s key to success, says the report, depend on building trust with migrants. That’s why, often times “they have the same citizenship as the migrants they smuggle”, and they target the youth in small villages -which are more eager to believe them.

Other tactics used by smugglers may be deceptive and manipulative. Sometimes they use Facebook to pose as employees for NGOs or personnel who are involved with fake European Union organizations.

Some smugglers, especially in relation to Afghan migrants, have made themselves appear to be legal advisors for asylum on various social media platforms. Herrera, from IOM, shares her concern with IPS: “Criminal organized groups show unfortunately great capacity in exploiting new technologies to expand their benefits. Social networks are obviously a great leverage of coercion and may result into the trafficking of human beings as observed in Libya”.

On the other hand, migrants also take advantage of social media to discuss the specifics of migrating and using the services of smugglers. In some cases, social media may be used as a sort of “consumer forum” to share experiences with specific smugglers with fellow migrants; akin to a research tool.

For example, Syrians use social media extensively to research the smugglers, asking other migrants for information through Skype, WhatsApp or Facebook.

When asked how the UN, member states, and NGOs can use social media to counter illegal smuggling, Kangaspunta and Me replied that they must harness the power of social media in creating communities, in the same way that migrants warn each other of the risks of hiring a smuggling service.

Sharing her insights with IPS, Purvis said: ”Mercy Corps’ focus is on using technology and social media to help refugees on the move find safety, and our Signpost programme operates in Europe and Jordan. Using an online platform provides refugees with accurate and factual information in their own language about their options and how they can access services in the country they are in.”

Herrera shared with IPS what seems to be IOM’s goal: “The desired future outcome is that states, international organizations, and other actors work towards a situation where migration systems, at a minimum, do not exacerbate vulnerabilities but rather guarantee protection of the human rights of migrants irrespective of status, while migration takes place within the rule of law, and is aligned with development, social, humanitarian and security interests of states”.

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Now is Not the Time to Give up on the People of DRChttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/now-not-time-give-people-drc/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=now-not-time-give-people-drc http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/now-not-time-give-people-drc/#respond Fri, 15 Jun 2018 14:33:56 +0000 Jean-Philippe Marcoux http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156251 Jean-Philippe Marcoux is Mercy Corps Country Director, Democratic Republic of Congo

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Displaced women at the Simba Mosala Site in Kikwit, Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Badylon Kawanda Bakiman/IPS

Displaced women at the Simba Mosala Site in Kikwit, Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Badylon Kawanda Bakiman/IPS

By Jean-Philippe Marcoux
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Jun 15 2018 (IPS)

After more than 20 years of brutal conflict, few might believe that things could get worse in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). And yet they most dishearteningly are.

In the last year, we have witnessed a continuous escalation of violence that has spread to half of the country, endangering millions. Some 2 million children suffer from acute hunger, and the DRC is home to the largest number of displaced people in Africa.

Political instability has sparked a flare-up of militia violence that has pockmarked eastern and central Congo, forcing tens of thousands to flee in recent months and stirring fears the African nation could plunge back into civil war. Now is the time for the international community to recognize the threat and to finally address the root causes of DRC’s seemingly endless cycle of conflict.

Yet many donors are forced to pick and choose which disasters to respond to in a world grappling with an unprecedented number of humanitarian crises. Budget constraints make it is easy to justify diverting funds to meet emergency needs.

However, the value of long-term development projects, which too often get short-shrift in the face of ongoing crisis, cannot be underestimated.

We know that humanitarian responses mostly serve to alleviate the symptoms of larger issues and are not solutions themselves. So, my organisation, Mercy Corps, and other agencies are working to address what drives conflict in the DRC: the grievances stemming from the lack of access to services and economic opportunities in a country where two-thirds of the population is under the age of 25.

As insecurity and violence in DRC has forced people out of the traditional rural and farming areas and into towns and cities where they feel safer, urban services are struggling to keep up with the new demand.

Currently, three-quarters of the population lack access to safe drinking water. Without access to clean water, people are more susceptible to disease, and women and girls are disproportionately impacted as they often have to take responsibility for the collection of water. As Justine, one of the women we work with says: “Water is life. So there is nothing we can do without water.”

This is why Mercy Corps is undertaking one of our largest-ever infrastructure programmes to provide safe drinking water to approximately 1 million people in the cities of Goma and Bukavu.

The IMAGINE programme, delivered with support from the U.K. government, involves nine local organisations, six health zones, five districts, two cities, two provincial water ministries and the public water utility.

All of these different parts form an integrated water governance initiative working in partnership to ensure that neighbourhoods have access to safe, clean water, as well as the means to provide feedback to improve water-delivery service. IMAGINE is proof that development gains can be made, even while chaos reigns in other parts of the country.

To be sure, Mercy Corps and other aid groups must and do respond to the most pressing needs that arise from violence in the DRC. Since the beginning of 2018, we have doubled our humanitarian response and set up the Kivu Crisis Response for newly displaced Congolese.

This programme allows us to coordinate with other organisations to respond in a smarter more rapid way to the most urgent needs of displaced people, providing lifesaving assistance in a way that maintains their dignity.

Ultimately, the Congolese people hold the power to decide their own futures. This includes choosing their own leaders through elections that are scheduled for this year. Development programmes like IMAGINE are tools that the Congolese people can use to build safer and healthier futures for themselves and future generations. Maintaining, and where possible, increasing development programming is central to this effort.

Home of to some of Africa’s most majestic national parks, this is a nation whose almost boundless natural beauty and potential eludes most newspaper headlines. Despair often eclipses the energy and determination of its inhabitants after so many years of war. But there are seedlings of hope. Now is not the time to give up on the people of DRC.

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Excerpt:

Jean-Philippe Marcoux is Mercy Corps Country Director, Democratic Republic of Congo

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Europe, Sharing the Love?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/europe-sharing-love/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=europe-sharing-love http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/europe-sharing-love/#respond Fri, 15 Jun 2018 12:42:42 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156249 Even if arrivals of migrants into Italy by sea have decreased between 2017 and 2018 so far, recent events in the Mediterranean rim have strongly drawn attention to the migration issue and a fierce debate is now underway among European countries. On June 10, Italy’s new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, barred the ship Aquarius, jointly […]

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Mediterranean waters in Spain. Credit: Photo by David Aler on Unsplash

By Maged Srour
ROME, Jun 15 2018 (IPS)

Even if arrivals of migrants into Italy by sea have decreased between 2017 and 2018 so far, recent events in the Mediterranean rim have strongly drawn attention to the migration issue and a fierce debate is now underway among European countries.

On June 10, Italy’s new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, barred the ship Aquarius, jointly operated by the NGOs‘SOS Mediterranée’ and ‘Doctors Beyond Borders’ (MSF), from docking at Italian ports. There were 629 migrants on the ship. Among them where 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 children and seven pregnant women.

The Italian coastguard coordinated the rescue operation but after moving the migrants to the Aquarius, the new Italian government denied access to Italian harbours. Malta, similarly when asked by Italy to accept the boat and take care of the relief, denied responsibility.

In recent years Italy has been at the forefront of a constant wave of migration from North Africa and has provided a huge amount of support by allowing the vessels into Italian ports. Malta also, with its relatively small population has accepted a large number of migrants despite its fewer than 450 000 inhabitants and small land size.

While public opinion, activists, policymakers, local officials and news agencies have criticised the latest decision by the Italian Government, the Government has also given to understand that it is working towards a solution with other European governments, given the very real humanitarian concerns involved in migration to its shores and those of other Mediterranean countries.

Similarly several local officials in Italy have condemned the hardline stance, such as the mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando and the Mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, the latter stating that “…the port of Naples is ready to welcome” the migrants. “We are humans, with a great heart. Naples is ready, without money, to save human lives” he tweeted on June 10.

A breakthrough in the situation occurred only when Spain’s newly elected Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, decided to welcome the 629 migrants after the mayors of Valencia and Barcelona both offered to take the boat in at their ports. “It is our duty to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a safe port to these people” Sánchez’s office said.

As of 15 June, 792 migrants have either died or gone missing while crossing the Mediterranean, says the UN Migration Agency (IOM). This number represents a decrease compared to the last three years, as deaths in the same period, were 1,836 in 2017, 2,899 in 2016 and 1,806 in 2015.

However, this situation is still represents a shameful paradox in our century. In 2017, migrants dead or missing while crossing the Mediterranean waters were 3,116 and the EU initiatives and allocations of funds have not been able to avoid these tragedies. In 2018 alone, of the 52,389 people who attempted to cross the Mediterraneam rim, 792 died, making the death rate 1.5%. The deadliest route in 2018 is – as of June 15 – the central route (503 deaths), as opposed to going by the western route (244) or the east (45).

 

 

The timing of the Aquarius’ events may not be completely coincidental, as there is an EU meeting at the end of June that will consider changing the rule that asylum must be claimed in the country of first entry.

That is the rule that has put Italy on the frontline of Europe’s migration crisis. If considered in this light, the latest Italian decision, could be viewed as a bid for a domestic political win, as dissatisfaction of Italian public opinion towards migration flows has been steadily increasing in recent years. It remains to be seen what will be the political outome at the EU level.

While France’s government deeply criticized Italy’s decision to deny Aquarius’ docking, other countries, such as Hungary, praised Rome’s decision. Viktor Orban, the anti-migration prime minister said that Salvini’s decision is a “great moment which may truly bring changes in Europe’s migration policies.”

After being abandoned for four days, those migrants feared they were going back to Libya, a nightmare that obviously any of them wanted to consider. On November 2017, a CNN report on slave auctions in Libya had prompted international outrage over a slave market operating in the country.

Ben Fishman, an analyst from The Washington Institute, has highlighted what are the root causes of the growth of this general abuse of African migrants in Libya. “First” he wrote in a policy paper right after the CNN report was published, “many traffickers exploit migrants’ desperation to reach Europe, often trapping them in Libya. These traffickers enjoy free rein in Libya exploiting the country’s lawlessness in the same manner that the Islamic State did in 2015-2016 when it took control of Sirte.

Smugglers and gangs overlap with the militia landscape, making it extremely difficult to curtail the activities of one group without impacting the overall profit stream”. Fishman also added that “the main push factors that compel migrants to risk these treacherous journeys – namely, poverty, and lack of opportunities […] have not been adequately addressed”. In 2015 the EU had established a 3.2 billion euros fund to facilitate migration management at the point of origin in Africa but this EU-led initiative clearly needs to be greatly expanded.

Many analysts and activists urge the EU to address the migration crisis in an adequate and sustainable manner. Migration flows will continue, especially if policy responses remain as weak as they are at the moment. The EU needs to implement a comprehensive framework that deals both with the situation in Libya and with the points of origins in Africa, as well as with the welcoming policies implemented by the receiving countries in Europe.

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Stop Neglecting African Conflictshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/stop-neglecting-african-conflicts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stop-neglecting-african-conflicts http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/stop-neglecting-african-conflicts/#respond Wed, 13 Jun 2018 12:27:32 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156207 Conflicts have uprooted millions across several African nations and we must not forget them, said a human rights group. Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) timely message was published through their annual list of the worlds most neglected displacement crises. “It’s a sad pattern that we are once again seeing that the crises on the African continent […]

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A group of displaced men, women, and children find refuge at a church on the outskirts of Nyunzu village in eastern Congo. Pastor Mbuyu (pictured) looks after them. Credit: NRC/Christian Jepsen

By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 13 2018 (IPS)

Conflicts have uprooted millions across several African nations and we must not forget them, said a human rights group.

Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) timely message was published through their annual list of the worlds most neglected displacement crises.

“It’s a sad pattern that we are once again seeing that the crises on the African continent seldom make media headlines or reach foreign policy agendas before it is too late,” said Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland.

This year’s results found that six of the worlds 10 most neglected conflicts are found in Africa.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – where years of civil war have displaced more than 5 million people – topped the list.

South Sudan, Central African Republic, Burundi and Ethiopia rounded out the top five.

But why are such conflicts so neglected?

Lack of political and diplomatic will is among the NRC’s major concerns.

“We – the West – are good at turning a blind eye when there is little geopolitical interest for us,” NRC’s spokesperson Tiril Skarstein told IPS.

“The countries on the list are often considered less strategically important, and that’s why there’s no international interest in finding a solution,” she added.

Skarstein explained that in some countries, the opposite is the case, where there are many actors with conflicting political interests taking part in the conflict. Such are the cases of Yemen and Palestine, where political gains are put before the lives of civilians.

The lack of political will to work towards a solution is one of three criteria on which a crisis is measured in order to be included on the list.

Media Turns A Blind Eye

According to the NRC, the plight of African refugees is also consistently too far removed from the ‘consciousness of the west’ as their stories fail to be told in Western news and media.

If they are, they certainly are not being covered as as much as other humanitarian conflicts in the world.

Expanding on this point, Skarstein drew comparison between Syria and the DRC where the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in both conflicts is approximately 13 million.

“Many people wouldn’t know that. Why? Because the two have had vastly different levels of international exposure,” she told IPS.

Since many of the refugees from the Syria have fled the Assad regime via Europe, many in the West have been forced to “confront and come to terms with their plight.”

“We are literally seeing these people arrive on our doorsteps. In the media, their story in chronicled, tv, online, on social media. And when people get to see others and know their situation people have a tendency to care and act,” Skarstein noted.

Meanwhile, conflicts in the DRC and other African nations often see displaced people flee to neighboring countries.

“They are not arriving on tourist beaches. Crossing one African border to another doesn’t generate the same level of exposure,” Skarstein said.

Less Money, More Problems

Because of the lack of political will and media attention, many of African crises also end up struggling to access humanitarian funds.

“Crises that are given little international attention and are seldom mentioned in the media, are also often declined the financial support needed to meet severe humanitarian needs,” Skarstein told IPS.

DRC is currently the second lowest funded of the world’s largest crises with less than half of the US$812 million aid appeal met.

A further problem is ‘donor fatigue’, a phenomenon whereby the longer a conflict goes on, the harder it is to attract the necessary funding from donors.

“You have conflicts raging for years, sometimes even decades – you get people thinking it’s a hopeless case, it’s all over. We need to fight that,” she said.

So what can get these African conflicts off the most neglected list?

The NRC says the most important thing is for donor states to provide assistance on a needs basis rather than a political one.

The human rights group also highlighted the role of media in bringing attention to overlooked humanitarian disasters.

“Exposure is so critical, that people be heard and listened too is key. The more we speak up about these crises and the more we see of them, the more that can be done,” Skarstein said.

And this list should serve as a reminder to all.

“Just because we do not see these people suffer, it does not make their suffering any less real…importantly, it does not absolve us from our responsibility to act,” Skarstein concluded.

Violence escalated in several parts of the DRC in 2015, forcing almost 2 million people to flee their homes in 2017 alone.

Among the other countries to make this year’s “World’s Most Neglected Displacement Crises” list is the Palestinians territories, Myanmar, Yemen, Venezuela and Nigeria.

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Universities & Their Duty to Help Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/universities-duty-help-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=universities-duty-help-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/universities-duty-help-refugees/#respond Wed, 13 Jun 2018 11:29:17 +0000 Mark Charlton http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156200 Mark Charlton is Head of Public Engagement, De Montfort University (DMU)*

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Mark Charlton is Head of Public Engagement, De Montfort University (DMU)*

By Mark Charlton
LEICESTER, UK, Jun 13 2018 (IPS)

A global network of universities is helping to create positive change for the experiences of refugees and migrant families. On June 7, scholars and students travelled to the United Nations HQ in New York to share how they are supporting refugees – and how small actions can make a big difference.

Mark Charlton

Having run support projects for local Leicester refugees through our community engagement program #DMUlocal, De Montfort University was asked by the UN to coordinate a global network of universities committed to encouraging a positive attitude on migration, share strategies on supporting refugees on campuses and most importantly – take action.

We have taken the lead in the higher education sector as advocates of the UN’s Together campaign, which aims to create a global support network for refugees worldwide. Our goal? To involve universities and encourage them to use their ample resources to support refugees in their local areas.

To launch the work, De Montfort University held a summit at the UN headquarters back in January with over 600 students and representatives from universities around the world. Here, we discussed the small-scale ways students and their universities could begin to support refugees in their own communities. Nine other universities from countries including Germany, China, America and Cyprus made the trip and shared their inspiring stories.

All universities involved in our campaign commit to working with refugee communities in their local regions to solve a particular issue that has been highlighted, such as access to legal advice and opportunities for work.

Their projects are then shared through the #JoinTogether network, resulting in successful ideas being replicated worldwide – a powerful demonstration of how higher education institutions can be a force for good, not only in their respective communities, but globally as well.

On June 7, Universities #JoinTogether held its first six-month progress meeting at the United Nations headquarters in New York to share success stories and ideas – with leaders voting for the projects they want to bring to their campuses.

This conference focused on the campaign’s evolution to champion the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, with a specific emphasis on SDG 16 to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

We welcomed new universities and have now expanded to include 38 universities and a number of international university associations – creating a global conversation of more than 200 higher education institutions.

The conference voted to implement two programs: one conceived by The University of Pennsylvania promoting high-quality job opportunities for refugees at its institution and with partners, and another from Amsterdam University College, aiming to provide better access to education for refugees. Additional programs highlighted were:

• Universidad de Jaén (Spain): Here, academics and students have been able to support those who are vulnerable not only as refugees, but also because they belong to at-risk ethnic groups, or because of their sexual orientation or religion.
• Every Campus A Refuge at Guilford College (US): By welcoming refugees to their new homes, participating students learn about forced displacement, refugee resettlement and the lives of immigrants. They help organise housing, transport, translation services and meals for new arrivals.
• Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece): The university runs a programme of psychological support and help in accessing health and legal advice.
• The University of Massachusetts in Boston’s Refugees Welcome: This non-profit organization focuses on bringing together refugee service providers. Its mission is to provide a platform for refugee organizations, advocate for the expansion of refugee services, and fill any financial gaps.

I am proud of the work accomplished so far and optimistic about the difference it will make in the days and years to come. Changing the narrative around those who have been displaced is a key part of our action charter and one campus, with its resources and brainpower, can make a big difference.

The #JoinTogether network has already grown considerably in a short span of time, but there is still much work to be done. Through organized efforts, higher education truly can make a difference to those who most need it.

*Mark Charlton is responsible for leading DMU’s work with the community and has overseen the university’s leadership of the #JoinTogether campaign.

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Excerpt:

Mark Charlton is Head of Public Engagement, De Montfort University (DMU)*

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Beyond Hurricanes: How Do We Finance Resilience in the Caribbean?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/beyond-hurricanes-finance-resilience-caribbean/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=beyond-hurricanes-finance-resilience-caribbean http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/beyond-hurricanes-finance-resilience-caribbean/#respond Fri, 08 Jun 2018 17:40:50 +0000 Deodat Maharaj http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156122 Deodat Maharaj is UNDP Senior Advisor for the Caribbean

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A woman walks in the street of Roseau, capital of Dominica, which has struggled to overcome the severe impact of two category 5 hurricanes which tore through the region in September 2017. Credit: UNICEF/Moreno Gonzalez

By Deodat Maharaj
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 8 2018 (IPS)

As a new hurricane season approaches in the Caribbean, I attended last week’s dialogue focused on “Financing Resilience in SIDS” held in Antigua and Barbuda and sponsored by the host government and Belgium.

The gathering sought to identify the main risks facing Small Island Developing States (SIDS), especially in terms of financing and innovative solutions to the countries’ challenges.

These vastly different SIDS have much in common. There was a clear recognition that the splendor of their beauty, wealth of their culture and vibrancy of their people mask a deep vulnerability to both natural disasters and economic shocks, which are further exacerbated by climate change.

This is true for Caribbean countries and beyond. In addition to the Caribbean, participants at the event last week also included representatives from Africa, Indian Ocean and the Pacific, from their Permanent Missions to the UN.

The hurricanes of last September 2017 that devastated our host, Antigua and Barbuda, and other Caribbean countries provided a compelling testimonial to this “new normal”. Dominica lost 226 percent of its GDP and a generation of development gains in a matter of hours with the passage of Hurricane Maria.

In our host country, the island of Barbuda endured a similar fate just 10 days earlier after Hurricane Irma left a path of destruction. The story is very much the same in other SIDS, such as Vanuatu and Fiji, which suffered massive losses from Cyclones Pam and Winston in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Notwithstanding the compelling narrative of adverse weather events, there are also other challenges, which hamper the ability to build resilient Small Island Developing States. As a UNDP presenter, I emphasized that resilience in the context of SIDS should be holistic and not exclusively associated with hurricanes and natural disasters.

The outcome document, “The St John’s Call for Action” clearly recognized that building resilience in the Caribbean is about managing the risks associated with natural disasters, but this entails much more than hurricanes, as our Human Development Report for the Caribbean also stressed.

One big challenge is accessing finance. SIDS are largely classified as middle or high-income countries with limited access to concessional financing and Overseas Development Assistance (ODA).

This is compounded by high levels of debt in places such as the Caribbean, which is one of the world’s most highly indebted regions. Indeed, its debt burden stands at an estimated $52 billion with a debt to GDP ratio of more than 70 percent. In some countries, debt levels are more than 100 percent of GDP.

At the same time, due to the small geographical and population size, SIDS invariably have a narrow tax base, limiting the ability to mobilize resources domestically. Mindful of these constraints, the St John’s Call to Action made some specific recommendations.

The role and importance of innovation was placed at the forefront on the way forward. Peter Thomson, the UN’s Special Envoy for Oceans made a compelling case for the blue economy—or boosting sustainable use of the ocean’s resources for gains in the social, economic and environmental realms—as a viable policy option.

The example of Seychelles and the launch of the World’s first Blue Bond was cited. Such Blue Bonds will help mobilize public and private resource to advance the Blue Economy, including through sustainable fisheries.

It was also noted that UNDP has started preparatory work to help Grenada launch a Blue Bond as well, which will be the first in the Caribbean. The outcome statement was clear on the importance of focusing on the green economy and transition to renewables.

Recognizing that innovation is required in financing, a call was made to rethink the role the diaspora plays in building resilience and providing the financial resources. In the Caribbean, remittances exceed foreign direct investment and ODA combined.

I made the point that the region needs to facilitate approaches that orient remittances toward investment instead of almost exclusively on consumption. Based on the experience of SIDS and the huge costs of recovery post disasters, the importance of new insurance products to help manage the risks faced by SIDS is a key issue.

The ”St John’s Call for Action”spoke to the need for sustained global advocacy for the recognition of SIDS’ vulnerability as a criterion to access concessional financing. At the same time, there must be a clear recognition that to attract the financing to build resilience and reach the SDGs, private capital is essential.

Attracting it is hard work; and creating an enabling environment is a necessary first step. Caribbean SIDS must work hard to improve the ease of doing business and lower energy costs, which represent major obstacles to attracting foreign direct investment. SIDS representatives also agreed on the importance not only of getting additional financing but also on the value of intensifying collaboration between and among the countries. UNDP with its global expertise and access has key role to play.

Therefore, teaming up, building partnerships and sharing innovative experiences, including through the UNDP-backed Aruba Centre of Excellence Sustainable Development of SIDS is a crucial and urgent step. There is no magic pill or easy solution.

The “St John’s Call for Action” by its very nature emphasized that the time to talk is over; the time to act is now. UNDP will continue to be a strong partner of SIDS, together, in the same boat.

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Excerpt:

Deodat Maharaj is UNDP Senior Advisor for the Caribbean

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Greece: SDGs a Way to End Economic Crisis?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/greece-sdgs-way-end-economic-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=greece-sdgs-way-end-economic-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/greece-sdgs-way-end-economic-crisis/#respond Fri, 08 Jun 2018 16:50:43 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156119 Seven years after being on the verge of a financial collapse, Greece is now seeing better times. Its economic accounts have clearly improved but what is not under the spotlight is how the Greek people are still paying for the effects of the crisis. During these past years, the country has achieved some partial gains. […]

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Greece is now seeing better times: its economic accounts have clearly improved but the Greek people are still paying for the effects of the crisis

A Greek flag waving in the locality of Oia, Greece. Credit: Matt Artz on Unsplash

By Maged Srour
ROME, Jun 8 2018 (IPS)

Seven years after being on the verge of a financial collapse, Greece is now seeing better times. Its economic accounts have clearly improved but what is not under the spotlight is how the Greek people are still paying for the effects of the crisis.

During these past years, the country has achieved some partial gains. It is the first time, since 2011, that economic accounts of Greece are so encouraging that the country is looking with some optimism to the month of August 2018 when the last phase of European aid will be over definitely.

The purchasing power of the people has fallen by approximately 29% and unemployment has reached 23% for adult workers and, a stunning 40% for young people

The surplus during the first nine months of 2017 was 2.2% higher related to the 1.75% imposed by the European Union. The GDP growth was 1.9% in 2017 and estimates show it will reach 2.5% in 2018.

Among the most significant levers of the Greek recovery is the increase of its exports. In particular, the production and sale of liqueurs, as well as the car industry are both stimulating growth. Tourism remains a pillar of the Greek economy. In 2017, it was 17% higher than the year before.

However, despite these positive signs, the reality on the ground is bitter sweet. The purchasing power of the people has fallen by approximately 29% and unemployment has reached 23% for adult workers and, a stunning 40% for young people. Greece might not risk that default that was feared a few years ago but the ordinary people are facing tough challenges even to meet some basic needs such as covering rents and paying bills.

The people in general are far from being out of the crisis. However, while living this situation of high unemployment and uncertainty about their future, the Greeks have started, during these past few years, to turn back to the land in order to earn money.

Agriculture is the main sector that has not suffered in a substantial way and, has been constantly showing (relatively) positive signs. According to the Panhellenic Confederation of Unions of Agricultural Cooperatives, during the first years of the crisis, between 2008 and 2010, agriculture created 32,000 new jobs and the majority of these jobs were taken up by Greek nationals.

Those who owned a plot of land, in some cases inherited, on a small island or in the countryside, decided to leave the dramatic situation in Athens and return to their lands to work on ecotourism or farming.

Greece is now seeing better times: its economic accounts have clearly improved but the Greek people are still paying for the effects of the crisis

Credit: Vesela Vaclavikova on Unsplash

Additionally, many young people started to show interest in the faculties of agriculture, as applications for such courses tripled in the past few years. However, among those who decided to abandon the urban areas to live and work in the rural ones, the majority are aged between 40 and 60 years old. The majority of these people had lost their jobs just before retirement, waiting to receive their pension.

According to the Food Sustainability Index (FSI) 2017, which was developed in collaboration between the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) and the Economist Intelligence Unit with the objective to “promote knowledge on food sustainability”, Greece earned a positive score in sustainable agriculture.

The FSI ranks 34 countries according to their food system sustainability. It aims to highlight issues across three pillars: food loss and waste, sustainable agriculture and nutritional challenges. Despite having only a mid-level score for food loss and waste, and minimal scores for the policy response to food loss, “Greece earned a high score for sustainable agriculture, with a strong performance for the air category (GHG emissions), and for sub-indicators such as diversification of agricultural system, land ownership and sustainability of water withdrawal serving to bring up the score in the land and water categories”.

When considered in conjunction with the water scarcity situation of the country, this high score in the agricultural sector gains an additional prize. Indeed, according to the FSI, the average number of months of freshwater scarcity in Greece is six and despite that, the country has been able to maintain a high level of performance in the sector.

Not surprisingly, Greece has recently showed interest in sharing its high expertise and level of innovations in agro-technology with Qatar in a bid to develop and support the tiny Gulf country’s agriculture sector and self-sufficiency initiatives.

Greece’s third bailout is due to expire in August 2018 and the Hellenic country aims to return to a path of growth after years of crisis and uncertainty. During the Fourth Agricultural Business Summit, which took place in Larissa on May 3, 2018, organized by The Economist under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food, experts and policymakers gathered to discuss the priorities and challenges that need to be resolved as of 2018 and beyond in the field of agriculture in relation to business.

The analysts discussed if Greece could play a leading role in South-East Europe and whether the Greek Agribusiness sector will be able to transform uncertainty into stability, competitiveness and growth.

It is hard to forecast with accuracy the outcome of the next following months and years but, the fact that the Greek establishment (academia, businesses, policymakers, etc.) is showing its willingness to act and implement a concrete roadmap to end the crisis through the SDG Agenda, means that the country strongly believes in Agenda 2030which is the driving force to start growing again.

In addition, a study, published by SEV Business Council for Sustainable Development and conducted by the Climate Change and Sustainability Services Practice of Ernst & Young in Greece highlighted “to identify the current status in Greece, regarding the level of awareness, readiness and willingness of Greek companies towards integrating the SDGs in their strategy”. One of the key findings of the study brings some optimism for the future of Greece.

For example, regarding awareness and readiness on SDGs among Greek companies, the study revealed that “senior executives, regardless of company size, have a high level of knowledge of sustainable development issues related to the Goals. The engagement and awareness of middle management executives on sustainable development issues related to the Goals constitute a crucial factor for their successful implementation”.

Beginning in August 2018, the economic system of Greece will once again have to walk on its own legs. Many analysts believe that the commitment of Greek authorities in the past few years in planning and implementing a sustainable agenda will help Athens to develop in the next future without the support of the EU and IMF.

By the end of 2018, we will undoubtedly have the first answers to this dilemma and the 2019 elections will also tell us if the Greek people view the government’s efforts of the past few years as the best it could do and achieve.

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