Inter Press ServiceHumanitarian Emergencies – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 17 Jan 2019 16:51:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 Honduran Crisis Produces New Caravanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/honduran-crisis-produces-new-caravan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=honduran-crisis-produces-new-caravan http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/honduran-crisis-produces-new-caravan/#respond Wed, 16 Jan 2019 10:34:52 +0000 Jan Egeland http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159650 Jan Egeland, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), visited Honduras in December 2018.

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The first caravan of Central American migrants reached the town of Matías Romero in Oaxaca state on November 1, 2018. The Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs estimates that 4,000 people spent the night there. Credit: IOM / Rafael Rodríguez

By Jan Egeland
OSLO, Norway, Jan 16 2019 (IPS)

A new caravan heading towards Mexico and the United States was reportedly set to leave San Pedro Sula in Honduras on 15 January. The large number of people expected to leave Central America is a true testimony to the desperate situation for children, women and men in this poor and violence affected region.

Instead of talking about a crisis at the US-Mexican border, North Americans must wake up and address the real humanitarian crisis in Central America. The long walk north will be extremely dangerous and exhausting for the thousands of families from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala that will join the caravans planned in 2019.

Obstacles on the way are likely to increase, as there is fatigue and frustration from communities who supported migrants during last year’s exodus. There is rising xenophobia in both the United States (US) and Mexico and increasingly tough border regulations in every country on the way.

Border controls, guards or walls will never stop people who are hunted by gang violence and flee for fear for their lives. Youth who have lost all hope for a better future in Central America will try repeatedly to reach a better life in the US, Canada or Mexico.

To tackle the current crisis, the more affluent American nations need to understand their own neighborhood and invest much more in bringing hope, security and good governance for people who currently see no other option than to flee.

Having spoken to many desperate Honduran families who have been or will be on the caravans, I am convinced that the current policies from the US through Mexico and Central America will only deepen the crisis, the desperation and the exodus. Investment in education, livelihoods and violence prevention are better alternatives to detention and deportation back to places where there is only misery and violence.

Hondurans who have managed to reach Mexico during previous journeys have told NRC staff that they were held in shelters, forced to sign deportation papers and deported without a fair hearing of their asylum claims. In spite of the hardships and the dangers many are still planning on leaving again even though they know of the slim chances of reaching the US.

“Dying here or dying there, it doesn’t make much difference. At least there I have a small chance to see that my life improves,” said one person who is planning to leave again for the north with the caravan.

If a gang is extorting you, if you are a witness to a crime or if your neighborhood is taken over by organized crime you may have no other option than to flee. People will only stay if they are protected from violence, lawlessness and crime and provided with education and livelihood opportunities.

Thousands of people remain stranded and blocked on the border between Mexico and the US where processing is extremely slow. The US and Mexico recently signed the agreement ‘Remain in Mexico’ in which the US will be able to send people back to Mexico while they go through the refugee status determination process.

This process can take years due to a backlog in the system. The agreement comes on top of President Trump’s attempts to build a wall, migrant children dying in US custody and last summer’s family separations crisis. 75,279 people were deported from Mexico and the US in 2018, according to a Honduran centre for migration: Observatorio Consular y Migratorio de Honduras (CONMIGHO).

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Excerpt:

Jan Egeland, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), visited Honduras in December 2018.

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Walking Miles In Their Shoeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/walking-miles-shoes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=walking-miles-shoes http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/walking-miles-shoes/#respond Thu, 10 Jan 2019 09:42:23 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159574 In light of the millions of refugees escaping persecution in search of a safer, more prosperous future, a new campaign aims to raise awareness of the difficult journeys such populations take around the world. Launched by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the 2 Billion Kilometres to Safety raises awareness of the long, precarious journeys […]

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A Rohingya couple, Mohammad Faisal and his wife Hajera, pose for a photo with their child at their camp at Teknaf Nature's Park, Bangladesh. Some refugees had to walk 60 miles on foot to reach the safety of Bangladesh Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 10 2019 (IPS)

In light of the millions of refugees escaping persecution in search of a safer, more prosperous future, a new campaign aims to raise awareness of the difficult journeys such populations take around the world.

Launched by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the 2 Billion Kilometres to Safety raises awareness of the long, precarious journeys that many refugees take and calls on the public to amp up support.

“Every day, we are inspired by the acts of kindness from people who are doing their very best to improve life for refugees: the activists, the communities hosting refugees, businesses, donors, volunteers,’” said UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner Kelly T. Clements.

“This campaign will encourage people to support refugees through something they are already doing – walking, cycling, running,” she added.

According to UNHCR, people who are forced to flee travel approximately 2 billion km every year to reach the first point of safety.

In 2016, South Sudanese refugees travelled over 400 miles to reach Kenya while Rohingya refugees in Myanmar travelled up to 50 miles in search of safety in Bangladesh.

Later aided by the U.N. agency, Alin Nisa and her family were forced to flee from Myanmar to Bangladesh after an armed group attacked the village and abducted community members.

Crossing mountains and rivers, Nisa carried her two young children while her husband carried his mother who could not walk.

They travelled 60 miles on foot, finally reaching the Kutupalong refugee settlement in Bangladesh.

Similarly, Zeenab and her family fled Syria after their home was destroyed and travelled over 90 miles to Jordan’s za’atari refugee camp.

“We’re grateful. Winter here is difficult, but it’s still better than Syria,” she told UNHCR.

And how better to understand refugees’ plight than actually walking in their shoes and covering the same distance?

Clements highlighted the importance of remembering refugees’ very real and dangerous journeys, especially as misconceptions continue to be spread about them.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres echoed similar sentiments upon the adoption of the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) in December, stating: “There are many falsehoods about the world’s migrants. But we must not succumb to fear or false narratives. We must move from myth to reality.”

Such narratives have been most apparent in the United States which has seemingly shut the door on refugees.

The Trump administration first implemented a 120-day refugee ban, followed by a ban on refugees from “high-risk” countries including South Sudan and Syria.

In January 2017, the U.S. government cut the refugee quota by more than half, which led to only 22,000 refugees being resettled in the country in 2018, the lowest rate since 1980.

Most recently, the administration has deployed troops at the U.S.’ southern border in an effort to prevent refugees and migrants who have travelled across Central America from entering the country or seeking asylum.

Anti-refugee rhetoric has also been on the rise in Europe, including Belgium which has seen violent riots against the country’s participation in the GCM.

People across 27 countries will take part in the 2 Billion Kilometres to Safety campaign, and UNHCR hopes to raise over 15 million dollars to support refugees with registration, food, water, shelter, and healthcare.

UNHCR’s funding requirements for 2019 amount to a record 8.5 billion dollars and has thus far received 926 million dollars in pledges.

Though the GCM is a stepping stone towards awareness and action, there is still much left to do.

U.N. Special Representative for International Migration Louise Arbour expressed such views in her closing remarks at the GCM conference, stating: “To the millions who have left their homeland, either recently or a long time ago, most of them in full compliance with the law, we have much more to offer: whether an opportunity to return home, after years abroad, taking back with them their skills and the fruits of their labour, or whether an increased chance to see their children having a better future in a country that they will be proud to call their home.”

Globally, over 68 million have been forcibly displaced. Of this, 25 million are refugees, a figure that has increased by almost 3 million within just one year.

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The Rohingya – The Forgotten Genocide of Our Timehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/the-rohingya-the-forgotten-genocide-of-our-time/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-rohingya-the-forgotten-genocide-of-our-time http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/the-rohingya-the-forgotten-genocide-of-our-time/#respond Wed, 09 Jan 2019 12:56:44 +0000 Leila Yasmine Khan and Daud Khan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159560 The Rohingya are a minority community living in Rakhine State in Myanmar. The Muslim Rohingya are considered intruders into Buddhist Myanmar – illegal immigrants from bordering Bangladesh. They have been always discriminated against, looked down upon, ostracized, and denied any civil and judicial rights. In August of 2017, a small group of Rohingya militants launched […]

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A Rohingya girl goes to fetch water in Balukhali camp, Bangladesh. Credit: Umer Aiman Khan/IPS

A Rohingya girl goes to fetch water in Balukhali camp, Bangladesh. Credit: Umer Aiman Khan/IPS

By Leila Yasmine Khan and Daud Khan
AMSTERDAM/ROME, Jan 9 2019 (IPS)

The Rohingya are a minority community living in Rakhine State in Myanmar. The Muslim Rohingya are considered intruders into Buddhist Myanmar – illegal immigrants from bordering Bangladesh. They have been always discriminated against, looked down upon, ostracized, and denied any civil and judicial rights.

In August of 2017, a small group of Rohingya militants launched an attack against local police forces. This incident triggered the worst ever reaction against the Rohingya in which the local non-Rohingya population, Buddhist monks and the local police participated.

The official security forces then took over and undertook mass killings, abuses and abductions. Most of the Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh where about 900,000 refugees now live in camps where they receive essential assistance and basic medical care.  Efforts are being made to negotiate their return to Myanmar but these appear to have little chance of success.

The violence towards the Rohingya, and their displacement from their homes and villages, is likely to wipe out their traditions, culture and lifestyle as well as their mental and cultural constructs. This combination of physical and psychological violence is likely to lead to the elimination of the Rohingya’s identity.

These acts against the Rohingya constitute genocide as set out in the Convention of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide passed by the United Nations in 1948 – which define genocide as actions taken to “destroy, in whole and in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”.

The violence towards the Rohingya, and their displacement from their homes and villages, is likely to wipe out their traditions, culture and lifestyle as well as their mental and cultural constructs. This combination of physical and psychological violence is likely to lead to the elimination of the Rohingya’s identity.

The Rohingya Crisis has been subject to attention at international level; the international press has given the matter considerable coverage; and the UN Human Rights Council has recommended that the commanders responsible for the violence be brought to trial.

However, much more needs to be done given the number of people affected, the fact that the Rohingya, always a poor and vulnerable group, are being pushed into inhuman suffering; and that the brunt of refugee burden is being borne by a single country (Bangladesh).

Logistic and financial help is needed to address immediate needs, and political and diplomatic pressure is needed to help the Rohingya to return to their homes and to bring to justice those responsible for criminal acts.

This relative lack of attention reflects different factors in developed and developing countries. The rich countries, particularly the USA and European countries, are currently grappling with their own immigration and refugee crisis which largely emanates from problems in the Middle East, Africa and Central America.

Among the increasingly sovereignist governments in many countries, there is a limited appetite for addressing crisis that do not directly affect their economic or social interests. Another possible factor is that the Rohingya crisis, which involves Buddhists as oppressors and Muslims as victims, does not fit well with the current dominant narrative where Muslim fundamentalists are the root cause of terror and violence in the world and provide the political justification for repressive laws and large spending on security and on the military.

Given the lack of interest by the developed world, much responsibility falls on developing countries, especially large neighbors such as China, India, Pakistan and Thailand. These countries should be helping Bangladesh cope with the economic burden of dealing with the refugees and pressurizing Myanmar to take back the Rohingya, grant them civil rights and bring press charges against those that have committed crimes and atrocities.

However, little is being done and this reflects a misguided sense of solidarity among developing countries which results in a reluctance to criticize each other on human rights matters. This is unfortunate.

Bangladesh and its neighbors have experienced rapid economic growth that has raised average incomes and reduced poverty.  However, development is about much more than just increased economic wellbeing. It is also about upholding values, allowing citizens to lead dignified lives free from arbitrary violence, and having access to speedy and reliable justice systems.  This needs to be done domestically and internationally.

Some progress has been made on the domestic front. In India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the judiciary has taken the lead in establishing religious, personal or political rights. Recently high profile judgements by Supreme Courts in these countries include the case of Asia Bibi – a Christian lady accused of blasphemy in Pakistan where the Supreme Court threw out the baseless allegations against her; the ruling by the Supreme Court in India that stated that discrimination on the basis on sexual orientation was against the Constitution and those that felt discrimination could seek redress from a court of law; and the ruling by the Supreme Court in Sri Lanka against the recent constitutional coup and the dissolving of parliament.

In other countries, such as China and Viet Nam, social media activists are taking the lead on rights and justice issues addressing issues such as corruption, cronyism and human rights abuses.

These steps are excellent and timely.  However, there is a moral void in the global system with the traditional upholders of the rule-based international order – particularly northern Europe and the USA- taking a less proactive role.

The most glaring recent example relates to the limited political and economic fallout of the Kashoggi murder. As developing countries, especially in Asia, account for an increasing share of global GDP, they should also take up an increasing share of the task of creating a better and more just world.

Given the nature of what needs to be done, NGOs, social media or the national judicial systems which have played a critical role in the domestic sphere, cannot take the lead. The responsibility for this falls squarely on the shoulders of Governments – they must not fail.

Leila Yasmine Khan is an independent writer and journalist based in the Netherlands. She has Master’s Degrees in Philosophy and in Argumentation and Rhetoric from the University of Amsterdam; and a Degree in Philosophy from the University of Rome (Roma Tre).

Daud Khan has more than 30 years of experience on development issues with various national and international organizations. He has degrees in economics from the LSE and Oxford; and a degree in Environmental Management from the Imperial College of Science and Technology.  

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“No One Listened to Us!” The Ixiles of Guatemalahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/no-one-listened-us-ixiles-guatemala/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-one-listened-us-ixiles-guatemala http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/no-one-listened-us-ixiles-guatemala/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 13:32:06 +0000 Jan Lundius http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159268 According to the Mexican Interior Ministry more than 7,000 Central American migrants have during the last month arrived at the US-Mexico border. Despite warnings by officials that they will face arrests, prosecution and deportation if they enter US territory, migrants state they intend to do so anyway, since they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence. […]

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By Jan Lundius
Stockholm/Rome, Dec 17 2018 (IPS)

According to the Mexican Interior Ministry more than 7,000 Central American migrants have during the last month arrived at the US-Mexico border. Despite warnings by officials that they will face arrests, prosecution and deportation if they enter US territory, migrants state they intend to do so anyway, since they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence. This is not new, in 1995 I visited Ixil and Ixcan, two Guatemalan areas mainly inhabited by Ixiles. My task was to analyse the impact of a regional development programme aimed at supporting post-conflict indigenous communities. United Nations has estimated that between 1960 and 1996 more than 245,000 people (mostly civilians) had been killed, or “disappeared” during Guatemalan internal conflicts, the vast majority of the killings were attributed to the army, or paramilitary groups.

A rainy day I visited a camp for returnees. After living in Mexico, Ixiles were awaiting land distribution. Behind wire and monitored by soldiers, they huddled among their meagre belongings, sheltered by plastic sheets stretched across wooden poles. They expressed their hopes for the future. They wanted to be listened to, allowed to build up their villages, gain respect and become accepted as coequal citizens in their own country. While asked what they wanted most of all, several returnees answered: “We need a priest and a church.” I wondered if they were so religious. “No, no,” they answered. “We need to rebuild our lives, finding our place in the world, be with our ancestors. The priest will make us believe in ourselves and trust in God. That will give us strength. We need a church so we can build our village around it. We all need a centre and every village needs one as well.”

Ixil tradition emphasizes the importance of land and ancestry. A few days before my visit to the camp I had interviewed an aj’kin, a Maya priest. Aj means “master of” and kin “day”. Aj´kines perform rituals and keep track of the time – the past, the present and the future. Like many old Ixiles the aj´kin did not speak any Spanish and the Ixil engineer who accompanied me translated his words. The engineer suggested that I would ask the aj´kin to “sing his family”. The old man then delivered a long, monotonous chant, listing his ancestors all the way back to pre-colonial days. When I asked him what the singing was about the aj´kin explained: “The world belongs to those who were here before us. We only take care of it, until we become one of them. All the ancestors want from us is that we don´t abandon them, making them know that we remember them. Memory and speech is the thread that keeps the Universe together.”

In the camp, Ixiles told me they had been ignored for hundreds of years and that this was the main reason for the violent conflict. Uniformed men had arrived in their villages and first, people had assumed they were government soldiers, becoming enthused when the strangers declared that it was time for Ixiles to have their voices heard, their wishes fulfilled. However, the “liberators” could not keep their promises. They did not represent the Government, they were guerilleros, proclaiming they had “freed” the peasants, when all they had done was to “speak a lot” and create “revolutionary committees”, only to retreat as soon as the Government troops arrived. These were much stronger and more ruthless than the guerilleros and stated that Ixiles had become “communists”. They murdered and tortured them, burned their fields. What could they do? They asked their Catholic priests for help, but the Government accused the Church of manipulating them through its ”liberation theology”; by preaching that Jesus had been on the side of the poor. The soldiers even killed priests. One woman told me that she and her neighbours one morning had found the parish priest’s severed head laying on the church steps. Some peasants joined the guerrilla, others organized militias to keep it at a safe distance:

    “Some of the guerilleros were our own sons and daughters, but what could we do? As soon as guerrilleros appeared and preached their socialism, the army arrived, killing us. The guerrilleros were not strong enough to fight the soldiers. We were left to be slaughtered. The only solution we could find was to arm ourselves and with weapons in hand ask the guerrilleros to stay away from our villages. However, all over the world they declared that we were supporting a corrupt and oppressive regime. We found ourselves between two fires, solutions were almost non-existent. No one listened to us”

A Catholic priest living in the camp explained: “They tend to be very religious, but their faith is mostly about human dignity. Ixiles want to be masters of their lives. They need to be listened to. Every day I sit for hours listening to confessions. They talk and talk. It makes them content when someone is listening to them. This is one of the problems we Catholics face. Ixiles are abandoning our faith for the one of the evangelicals.”

For centuries the Church had told Ixiles what to do, but finally both Catholics and peasants had been persecuted. In 1982, under the presidency of Ríos Montt, violence reached its peak. A scorch earth campaign lasting for five months resulted in the deaths of approximately 10,000 indigenous Guatemalans, while 100,000 rural villagers were forced to flee their homes, most of them over the border, into Mexico. Ríos Montt was a “born-again Christian” and in the aftermath of the violence evangelical sectarians appeared in the Ixil areas. Many of the remaining Ixiles became evangelicals, stating this was their only way to avoid persecution and come in contact with the “High Command” of the unconstrained army forces.

The loudspeakers of evangelical churches amplified their voices, allowing Ixiles to confess their sins and praise the Lord. However, were their voices finally heard? Their well-being improved? Do they have a say in the governing of their country? Many Ixiles are once again leaving their homes, hoping to reach the US. Research indicates a difference between migration patterns of El Salvador and Honduras and Guatemala. In the former two countries migration decision is more often the result of immediate threats to safety, while in Guatemala it stems from chronic stressors; a mix of general violence, poverty, and rights violations, especially among indigenous people.

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

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Q&A: Many African Countries Already Live the Future of 2°C Warmerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-many-african-countries-already-live-future-2c-warmer/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-many-african-countries-already-live-future-2c-warmer http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-many-african-countries-already-live-future-2c-warmer/#respond Fri, 14 Dec 2018 11:01:50 +0000 Isaiah Esipisu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159249 As the United Nations climate conference nears an end, all eyes are on the negotiators  who have been working day and night for the past two weeks to come up with a Rulebook for implementation of the Paris Agreement. However, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), climate change is also a humanitarian issue. According […]

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Gernot Laganda, Chief of the Climate and Disaster Risk Reduction Programmes at the World Food Programme says that because of climate change the number of natural disasters in the world have doubled since 1990. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Isaiah Esipisu
KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 14 2018 (IPS)

As the United Nations climate conference nears an end, all eyes are on the negotiators  who have been working day and night for the past two weeks to come up with a Rulebook for implementation of the Paris Agreement.

However, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), climate change is also a humanitarian issue.

According to the humanitarian organisation, natural disasters such as droughts, storms and floods, have doubled since the 1990s.

“So nowadays there are so many people who require food assistance and other humanitarian aid after disasters than it was a few decades ago,” Gernot Laganda, Chief of the Climate and Disaster Risk Reduction Programmes at WFP, tells IPS at the sidelines of the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) in Kotowice, Poland.

“We are also concerned because with humanitarian aid, we cannot run fast enough as the problem of hunger in the world is running away from us,” Laganda says.

According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018, the number of hungry people increased to over 820 million in 2017 from approximately 804 million in 2016. And Laganda says the ‘trend is on the rise”.

“When we look into a future of 2 degrees Celsius warmer world, it means we will have over a billion people who are at risk of hunger and food security,” he says. Excepts of the interview follow:

Inter Press Service (IPS): How is climate change impacting on food security?

Gernot Laganda (GL): Climate change affects food security in two principle ways. First, there is the whole question around agriculture from production of crops, to the storage to the transport to the market. Climate change can affect each of these stages.

The other one is about extreme events that keep throwing people back into poverty. Each year, 28 million people fall back into poverty because of extreme weather events. That means no matter how much development progress we are making to achieve zero hunger by 2030, every year we slide back, and that is a concern.

IPS: Will women’s ownership of land be of good value especially for climate adaptation?

GL: Having ownership of land certainly increases sustainability of agriculture production because people look after their land. In many cases, development projects fail also because land ownership and who has the right to use the land for how long has not been considered. So it is a big factor in development.

Of course when you mention the issue of ownership of land, then the whole issue of gender comes in, in various ways. On one side, there is a discussion about women being vulnerable in general. But we see it in slightly a different way.  We see it as women being agents of change in many countries and in many communities, so when you want to invest in a sustainable manner, it is a very good idea to have women saving groups. They have very good experiences in building risk reserves. And whenever there are little problems for example when the rains come late, it becomes very efficient to go through such crises. But when it comes to catastrophic shocks, we look more at insurance based models.

IPS: Do you see this COP solving some of the climate problems in relation to food security?

GL: This COP is primarily about implementing the Paris agreement and maintaining the global average of temperature increases well below two degrees Celsius. I think in all the discussions about temperature ranges we tend to forget that many countries, especially in Africa, are already experiencing two degrees Celsius of temperature increase. So the reality in these countries look like what we are still discussing here. Indeed, many African countries already live the future that we are collectively still trying to avoid.

IPS: How has climate change contributed in terms of displacing families?

GL: Statistics from the last 10 years tell us that on average 22 million people are driven from their homes every year because of climate extremes. Migration is actually a traditional adaptation mechanism because people move to other places in search of greener pastures, job opportunities and so on. But we are talking about forced displacement due to climate related disasters. Climate related events can also aggravate conflicts at local levels between farmers and herders for example, or it can still happen between countries especially where we have large international river basins.

IPS: What does the latest  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report mean to Africa in terms of food security?

GL: All countries are affected by climate change but agrarian countries feel it the most. In Africa, many countries have a huge percentage of their GDP coming from agriculture. That makes such economies very vulnerable because agriculture is about climate sensitive resources such as water, crops, fish-stock, livestock among others. All poor countries that heavily depend on natural resources are the most impacted.

IPS: What are your expectations for COP24?

GL: Everybody’s expectation is that we will have a Rulebook by the end of the COP. But there is also a recognition that this is not an easy task because for one it is difficult enough to agree on what we want to do. But [the Rulebook] is about how we are going to hold ourselves accountable.

In the Rulebook, I expect to see a regime by which countries can track and report on the degrees of their progress against their self set targets or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

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70 Years since the Universal Declaration on Human Rights – Hope Against Hopehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/70-years-since-universal-declaration-human-rights-hope-hope/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=70-years-since-universal-declaration-human-rights-hope-hope http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/70-years-since-universal-declaration-human-rights-hope-hope/#comments Mon, 10 Dec 2018 09:41:01 +0000 Prince Al Hassan bin Talal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159109 “Save the Children estimates that 84,701 children under five have died in Yemen from untreated cases of severe acute malnutrition between April 2015 and October 2018.” “The grim analysis of United Nations data comes as intense fighting has again erupted in Yemen’s strategic port city of Hodeidah.” Meanwhile, the UN considers Yemen the world’s biggest […]

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By HRH Prince Al Hassan bin Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
GENEVA, Dec 10 2018 (IPS)

“Save the Children estimates that 84,701 children under five have died in Yemen from untreated cases of severe acute malnutrition between April 2015 and October 2018.”

“The grim analysis of United Nations data comes as intense fighting has again erupted in Yemen’s strategic port city of Hodeidah.”

Meanwhile, the UN considers Yemen the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis and warns that without an end to the fighting, the country, in which more than half the population is already at risk of famine, faces the worst famine in decades.

Such have been the headlines day after day since the start of the war in Yemen in 2015. The tragedy is that statistics, coupled with the sensationalism of news, swiftly lose their impact. We become inured to the human catastrophe unfolding before our eyes as we turn the pages of our newspapers or flick channels on our television sets in search of something less distressing (OR less demanding).

This year sees the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, proclaimed in Paris by the United Nations General Assembly on the 10th December 1948. Following the unmitigated horrors of the Second World War, it was a milestone in the history of human rights. Yet, seventy years on, the river of human history continues to be poisoned by injustice, starvation, displacement, fear, instability, uncertainties and politicised sectarian and ethnic divisions.

Today it seems we are moving further away from the concept of Universal rights, in favour of my rights, even if at the expense of yours (although the other may be you yourself), with a callous disregard for the Declaration’s two key ethical considerations: a commitment to the inherent dignity of every human being and a commitment to non-discrimination.

The schisms in the world today have become so numerous, the inequities so stark, that a universal respect for human dignity is something that must be brought back to the consciousness of the international community.

Recognition of religion and individual cultural identities are a crucial part of the mix. Unlike citizenship – the legal membership of a sovereign state or nation, identity encompasses the totality of how one construes oneself, including those dimensions that express continuity with past ancestry and future aspirations, and implies affinity with certain groups and the recognition of common ties. In brief, it demands the recognition of the totality of the self, of one’s human dignity, irrespective of background, ethnicity or financial clout. A call to be empowered to fulfil one’s potential, without kowtowing to a social construct or relinquishing any part of one’s heritage.

We need to be proactive in addressing the growing global hunger for human dignity for it goes to the very heart of human identity and the polarity / plurality divide, and without it, all the protections of the various legal human rights mechanisms become meaningless.

We have gone from a world of symmetries and political and military blocs, to a situation of fearful asymmetries and violent, armed non-state actors.

The polarity of hatred among people is corrosive, not only in the Mashreq/Levant, but across the globe. The retrenchment into smaller and smaller identities is one of the most striking paradoxes of globalisation. Binary fallacies lead nations to dead ends; to zero sum games.

Cross border themes of today, water, energy and human dignity, must be discussed at a regional level, as a creative common, rather than country by country. The neglect of these themes has meant that the West Asia area has become a breeding ground for rogue and extremist actors. The complex dynamics among the three greatest forces shaping our planet – man, nature, technology – require a whole new outlook. Yet there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

In drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, its proponents [OR the drafting committee] sought to underpin a shared ideal, a common standard for all peoples and all nations, a code of conduct of rights and responsibilities if you will.

I should like to pay tribute to my late mother-in-law, the Begum Shaista Ikramullah. When she, the first Muslim Indian (as she then was) woman to gain a PhD from the University of London, working in 1948 with Eleanor Roosevelt on the Declaration of Human Rights and Convention Against Genocide, declared:

It is imperative that there be an accepted code of civilized behaviour.

Adding later:

The ideas emphasized in the [Declaration] are far from being realized, but there is a goal which those who believe in the freedom of the human spirit can try to reach.

To date we have fallen far short. Nonetheless the UDHR, not only provided the first step towards the creation of the International Bill of Human Rights (completed 1966, came into effect 1976), but gave rise to numerous conventions and international agreements which should give us cause for hope. I would like to mention but a few.

Of personal interest is the 1948 Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide which was worked on and signed by the late Begum Ikramullah. She strongly supported the work of Professor Raphael Lemkin who lost 24 members of his family in the Holocaust. Raphael Lemkin defined genocide as “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves“.

Some years later, the Helsinki Final Act (1975) “provided a basis for creating conditions favourable to peace in Europe and made human rights a common value to be respected by all nations in a world which was divided into East and West camps in that period”. It gave rise to the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, a non-governmental organisation of people in Europe, dedicated to the promotion of fundamental rights and freedoms, peace, democracy and pluralism and to our own Middle East Citizens’ Assembly.

More recently I had the honour to serve on the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, whose fundamental purpose was to empower those living in poverty through increased protections and rights – thereby addressing simultaneously, exclusion, loss of dignity, and the link between poverty and lack of access to the law.

The basic premise of its report (published in 2008) was that the law should work for everyone, and included as a key underpinning, state/governmental investment in the conditions of labour.

Despite these positive steps, the three main challenges identified by the Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues (ICIHI): man against man, man against nature and man-made disasters, summarised in the title of our report: Winning the Human Race? continue to prevail (OR there is much much more to be done.)

In a world where nearly one person is forcibly displaced every two seconds as a result of conflict or persecution, and where 85% of the worlds’ displaced are being hosted by developing countries, ill-equipped to do so, of which Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, Jordan and Lebanon are in the forefront and in which 15% of all mankind live in areas somewhat euphemistically described as ‘fragile states’, the moral lobby that is still strong across the world must act in cohesion. Together we must ensure that equal citizenship rights and human dignity are at the forefront of all development efforts. Further that the shift towards viewing human dignity as an individual, and not collective attribute, is realised.

This means placing human welfare firmly and definitively, at the centre of national and international policy-making.

We continue to hear of a security order or an economic order, neither of which have succeeded in creating a Universal order from which all of humanity benefits. In the face of this disharmonious logic, it is time for an humanitarian order based on the moral and ethical participation of the peoples of the world, as well as an intimate understanding of human nature.

We have, in the reports mentioned above and in other projects, a well-honed tool box of critical issues and agendas which should form the multi-stakeholder platform of our commitment to the universal ideals we all cherish. As with the UDHR, these reports are a clarion call to action – it is up to us to ensure they also represent a continuation of imaginative thinking for a universally beneficial creative process.

It is time to take off the blinkers of thinking only of ourselves – of our tribe and of our nation against all others – and consider how much can be achieved by drawing on the whole pool of our talents and resources to address common concerns on the basis of our shared humanity. We need an inclusive approach to meeting challenges, one that accounts for both the natural and the human environment. Only thus can we attain the desired organic unity between man and nature and the ethics of universal responsibility. This may sound idealistic; it is, but whether we are talking about water scarcity, food security, poverty, education, the ability for everyone to fulfil their potential, we need to focus on human dignity both in its ontological dimension by virtue of our very humanity and in its operative dimension as enhanced by our self-accomplishment.

We were not put on this earth to go forth and multiply, desecrate and destroy, but to bring life as well as hope for future generations.

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South Sudan Faces one of the World’s Worst Displacement Criseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/south-sudan-faces-one-worlds-worst-displacement-crises/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-sudan-faces-one-worlds-worst-displacement-crises http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/south-sudan-faces-one-worlds-worst-displacement-crises/#respond Fri, 30 Nov 2018 15:34:42 +0000 Daniel Sullivan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158963 Daniel Sullivan is Senior Advocate for Human Rights at Refugees International

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Refugees in South Sudan. Credit: UN photo

By Daniel Sullivan
WASHINGTON DC, Nov 30 2018 (IPS)

South Sudan is facing one of the worst displacement crises in the world today. More than half of the population is food insecure and, if not for international humanitarian aid, the country would almost certainly have already faced famine.

A new peace agreement is bringing cautious hope to the displaced and is driving discussions of returns from both within and outside of South Sudan, particularly for those in UN-hosted Protection of Civilian sites (PoCs) within the country.

However, security concerns and humanitarian needs remain immense, and rushed returns risk fueling ethnic tensions and costing lives.

These challenges are amplified by the broader realities of ongoing instability in some pockets of the country and active manipulation of aid by the South Sudanese government and opposition authorities.

Aid manipulation takes many forms, from the use of instability as an excuse to block aid delivery to opposition areas, to the blatant diversion of aid away from civilians and into the hands of soldiers.

One of the most egregious ways that aid risks being manipulated is in reinforcing the dislocation of ethnic groups, or what some observers even have described as ethnic cleansing.

Ethnic minorities have been targeted with violence throughout South Sudan’s civil war, dramatically altering the ethnic makeup of some areas of the country by displacing their populations.

Several large towns and other areas have been depopulated of their traditional ethnic communities and are now being repopulated by members of the dominant Dinka ethnic group.

Returns of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and provision of aid that fails to consider this context risk reinforcing demographic shifts born of atrocities and the inequalities, impunity, and ethnic tensions that go with these shifts.

The UN, international donors, and international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) have played – and must continue to play – a vital role in providing protection and life-saving humanitarian aid to millions of people in South Sudan. INGOs and UN agencies have taken several measures to counter aid manipulation; such efforts must continue and be enhanced.

If aid is to be used to maximum effect, however, international actors must speak with a unified voice, backed by credible threats of consequences, against the worst instances of such manipulation.

Moreover, any returns, starting with those from the PoCs, must include measures that ensure they are truly safe, voluntary, and dignified, and do not inadvertently fuel the very suffering international actors seek to mitigate.

Ensuring the safety and dignity of returns from PoCs, avoiding aid manipulation, and preventing the forced dislocation of ethnic groups are critical issues that the government of South Sudan, international organizations, and donor governments must urgently address.

They are important in and of themselves but also will have far-reaching implications for the prospects of return and well-being of millions of South Sudanese displaced both within and outside of the country.

Recommendations

TO UN AGENCIES, INTERNATIONAL DONORS, AND INTERNATIONAL NONGOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS:

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the UN Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) should refrain from closure of PoC sites until transparent plans for safe, voluntary, and dignified returns are in place. The plans should include the following:
o Adherence to international guidelines on returns.
o Intentions surveys to ensure that IDPs are informed and willing to leave the PoCs.
o Security and conflict sensitivity assessments of the proposed areas of return.
o Facilitated “go-and-see” visits so IDPs can assess the conditions in areas of return.
o Measures to address housing, land, and property (HLP) issues.
o Programs to supply basic services and livelihood opportunities in the areas of return.
o Coordination of returns and PoC closures and sharing of lessons learned across the humanitarian community through a mechanism such as the National Durable Solutions Working Group, an existing but largely inactive body of UN agencies and NGOs working on PoCs and IDP issues.

UNMISS should focus its patrols on areas of potential return and areas with specific protection concerns. Such concerns should be identified through ongoing dialogue with humanitarian organizations and PoC residents and should include the ability of women to collect firewood and visit markets. UNMISS, with political support from the UN Security Council, should assert its right to patrol where and when risks are highest to civilians, including nighttime.
UNMISS should improve protection in PoCs through such measures as providing better lighting, securing border fences, and exploring ways to better address criminality.
• UN agencies, donors, and humanitarian groups should take strong, unified action in response to aid manipulation. Attacks or threats against aid workers, or aid diversion to armed actors should be met with diplomatic censure at the highest levels, targeted action against responsible officials, and, in the worst cases, withholding of aid to specific areas where continuing to provide aid would do more harm to civilians than good.
UN agencies, donors, and humanitarian organizations should take the following steps to combat aid manipulation:
o UN country leadership should empower the UN Office of the Coordinator of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA), and donors should further support OCHA with resources to track and record incidents of aid manipulation more comprehensively.
o UN leadership and donor representatives in country should address incidents immediately and directly at the highest levels of government.
o UN agencies, donors, and humanitarian organizations should support OCHA and groups like the South Sudan NGO Forum, the main NGO networking body in the country; and the Conflict Sensitivity Resource Facility (CSRF), a joint donor initiative to better inform programming decisions and strategies, to expand efforts in sharing information on aid manipulation.
o Humanitarian organizations should build stronger internal awareness of aid manipulation through the collection of lessons learned and rigorous handovers for new staff.
o UN agencies and humanitarian organizations should continue to strengthen risk management efforts, including through implementation of the Contractor Information Management System, a common system for agencies to screen contractors; and increased biometric registration.
Fully fund the humanitarian response in South Sudan at sustained levels.
Ensure that funding of resilience and recovery projects do not inadvertently reinforce ethnic dislocation in the country. The UN Development Program (UNDP), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and others involved with the Partnership for Recovery and Resilience should ensure that projects are informed by adequate conflict-sensitivity analysis.
The Commission of Human Rights on South Sudan, mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, should investigate the ethnic dislocation taking place in the country.
The United States should re-appoint a U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan. The envoy should have experience and stature in the region and enjoy the backing of the White House. The envoy should prioritize support for the peace process and combatting aid manipulation and ethnic dislocation.

TO THE TRANSITIONAL GOVERNMENT OF SOUTH SUDAN:

Pass the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Act, which would commit the government to focusing greater attention and providing more funding to IDP issues in line with global standards, and join the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of IDPs in Africa (the Kampala Convention).

Grant an official government body the authority and responsibility for addressing internal displacement and provide that body with dedicated funding.

Establish a Special Court for adjudicating housing, land, and property (HLP) issues arising in the context of ethnic dislocation taking place in towns like Malakal and Wau.

Ensure accountability for atrocities committed during the civil war by establishing the hybrid African Union–South Sudanese court called for in the September 2018 peace agreement to try those responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The post South Sudan Faces one of the World’s Worst Displacement Crises appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Daniel Sullivan is Senior Advocate for Human Rights at Refugees International

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Breaking Bread with Violence: Connecting the Dots Between Conflict & Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/breaking-bread-violence-connecting-dots-conflict-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=breaking-bread-violence-connecting-dots-conflict-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/breaking-bread-violence-connecting-dots-conflict-hunger/#respond Fri, 30 Nov 2018 12:18:19 +0000 Herve Verhoosel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158955 Herve Verhoosel is Senior Spokesperson UN World Food Programme (WFP)

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Fatima Shooie sits between her 85-year-old mother and 22-year-old daughter who are both receiving treatment for cholera at a crowded hospital in Sana’a. Credit: WHO/S. Hasan

Fatima Shooie sits between her 85-year-old mother and 22-year-old daughter who are both receiving treatment for cholera at a crowded hospital in Sana’a. Credit: WHO/S. Hasan

By Herve Verhoosel
GENEVA, Nov 30 2018 (IPS)

Last week I met with Aamir, a 29-year-old Yemenite, living in Geneva since October 2018 and waiting for his application for asylum to be finalized.

We met outside a café on a brisk, overcast autumn day, where I offered to treat him to a coffee or a tea in exchange for the chance to listen to his story, one that he was worried to share. Worried for his family back in Yemen.

We took a small table amongst the quiet chatter of the café. Although I insisted, he politely declined my offer for the coffee or the tea. He paused for a moment, shifted his eyes away from mine, and began to share his story. A 16-month journey from Yemen to Geneva, via Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Greece – for 14 months in a camp in the Island of Chios – and Italy.

In Yemen, before the conflict Aamir was an electrician by apprenticeship. Now, he is starting over again, beginning first with French classes. Only if his status is fully granted, he will start a 4-year program so he can eventually gain the credentials to practice his trade in Switzerland.

Aamir left the country that he loves. Alone. “People have no food, no job, no more money, and of course no security. The war created all this” he told me. “How can I stay without work, without food, and unsure each day if I will live to see the next. I decided to leave my country, to leave my family and take my chance, far away from that violence…”

Hundreds of millions of people around the world caught up in armed conflict are living stories similar or much worse, having been pushed into hunger because they are stuck in the middle of a fight that is not their own. Some, like him decide to leave the country. Many others stay hoping for help. Your help, our help.

The fact that conflict fuels hunger is no secret. Today, there are 815 million hungry people on the planet- roughly 100 times the population of New York City. 60% of these people (489 million) are living in conflict-stricken areas.

That is almost half a billion people that are more than twice as likely to be undernourished as those living in countries at peace are.

In 2018 conflict and insecurity were the primary drivers of hunger in 18 countries where 74 million people require urgent food aid (Africa: 11 countries (37m) Middle East: 4 countries (27m), Asia: 2 (8m), and the Ukraine).

There is a growing understanding that hunger may also contribute to conflict when coupled with poverty, unemployment or economic hardship. People who have no other options to earn money and thus nothing to lose may be more easily convinced to join armed groups that they otherwise may not have.

This is the reality in Somalia where a study by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) of why people joined Al Shabab found that economic reasons were the biggest single factor. For some people the financial incentives may be the only way they can feed themselves and their families.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram is reported to pay up to US$600 to recruit members to its movement and in recent studies by ISS, economic incentives have been demonstrated to be a stronger driver of recruitment than religious extremism.

I met some of these youths involved in armed groups or violence during my two years living in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic while working for the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA).

Most of these young people are, in fact, very positive and kind parents, sisters, brothers, who unfortunately reached a point where they have no other way to feed their families- a situation that can be exploited by armed groups.

At times, parties to a conflict may also exploit conflict-induced food insecurity, and attempt to leverage the threat of famine to their advantage – and target farms, markets, mills storage sites and other infrastructure needed for food production and distribution – an act that is condemned and may constitute a war crime.

Once this vicious cycle gains momentum, humanitarian agencies like the UN World Food Programme and partners face increased challenges in stopping it. As conflict-affected regions slip further into violence, access to deliver vital supplies is often severed, leading to more people suffering from hunger, disease, and societal collapse.

Prevention must be at the heart of development. Earlier and longer-term interventions to improve food security and invest in agriculture is one way to address the growing connections between conflict and hunger. In a world where we have the finances and technology to ensure that nobody goes to bed hungry, this goal is more realistic today than it has ever been before.

The final battle against hunger and conflict will occur in the minds of people – our political leaders – and involves tackling the fundamental factors that fuel hunger and conflict.

Until then, WFP will continue to operate every day in Yemen, Somalia, Central African Republic and many of the world’s toughest active conflict zones, delivering food and saving lives. However, it shouldn’t have to be this way.

The post Breaking Bread with Violence: Connecting the Dots Between Conflict & Hunger appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Herve Verhoosel is Senior Spokesperson UN World Food Programme (WFP)

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Why I Became a Disaster Experthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/became-disaster-expert/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=became-disaster-expert http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/became-disaster-expert/#respond Mon, 26 Nov 2018 11:48:58 +0000 Armen Grigoryan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158865 Armen Grigoryan is team leader for Disaster Risk Reduction at UNDP’s regional bureau for Eastern Europe and Central Asia

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A man in northern Armenia remembers the victims of the Spitak earthquake. Credit: Jodi Hilton

By Armen Grigoryan
Nov 26 2018 (IPS)

Thirty years ago, a powerful earthquake ripped through my home country of Armenia, leaving 25,000 dead, 500,000 homeless and annihilating an estimated 40 percent of the national economy.

The northern city of Spitak and many other villages around it were wiped out completely.

I was 20 and felt helpless, angry and at the same time eager to act. The police and army were clearly overwhelmed. Ordinary people tried to remove the rubble, while soldiers stood outside the central bank to prevent people from looting it.

Rescue teams and humanitarian cargo started to pour into Armenia three days after the earthquake. Cars blocked the incoming aid on some of the main arteries. There was no reception center at the airport and no available transport from Yerevan to the affected areas. The government came under heavy criticism for its lack of coordination of the aid response.

Two years earlier, Soviet authorities had been accused of covering up Chernobyl. This time around, they decided to publicly announce the disaster. The outspoken Armenian diaspora in the West also put pressure.

As a result, this was the first disaster within the Soviet Union where foreign aid was allowed to intervene. The entire world descended on the quake zone: Russians, Italians, French, Germans, Czechs and Georgians, all with their cranes and tractors, food and medical supplies.

I took the road with several university friends, most of us fresh out of military service. We didn’t take any bags with us.

We had to walk the last twenty kilometers to finally reach Spitak. What I saw there was unimaginable. An army friend of mine died in the rubble just within five days of returning, like us, from military duty. Fifty-three children died in that same building. “We cried and worked, hoping to find someone alive”, his family said.

After helping out for three days, I left as the French arrived. We had become a burden, needing food, water, shelter and clothes as temperatures plunged to minus 20 degrees at night. And though we thought of ourselves as strong young folks, physical and mental strength turned out to be very different things.

The aftermath

The earthquake in Spitak triggered the first wave of Armenian emigration in modern history. In total, 500,000 left, having lost their jobs, homes and in many cases friends and relatives.

The event brought seismology and earthquake preparedness in Armenia to new heights. The population also became intensely aware of its surroundings. For instance, the nearby town of Kirovakan was known for its chemical factory. While there were officially no major leaks, people felt insecure as the plant broke down and lay in disrepair.

Quickly, the cemeteries around Spitak outgrew nearby villages. There were villages built by the Italians, a hospital staffed by Norwegians, a residential block erected with money from Uzbekistan, schools and hospitals from Russia and Ukraine and even a street rebuilt by Georgia.

To make matters even worse, a conflict with neighboring Azerbaijan erupted that year. That and the collapse of the Soviet Union slowed down recovery efforts as Western teams departed. In the midst of war, Armenia prioritized security over reconstruction.

Preparedness and recovery

One of the by-products of the earthquake was the creation of a United Nations mechanism that immediately deploys national search and rescue teams to disaster sites. That system has served hundreds of disasters and saved thousands of people.

Having experienced a devastating earthquake at first hand and noticed how long-lasting its consequences were, I became a disaster expert at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), focusing on preparedness and long-term economic recovery.

Nowadays, preparing for natural disasters is not just a science and a practice. It is part of every international development framework: Because economic investments and living standards can be razed to the ground within a few minutes, as was the case in Armenia, then how do we limit the possible impact of such a disaster?

Governments, which are primarily responsible for protecting people, need to work on risk maps, early warning mechanisms, building standards, insurance mechanisms and many other important measures.

Today, Armenia has among the best seismic building codes and has all the laws in place to enable a quick emergency response. It even sends experts abroad.

These efforts cannot bring back the people we loved. But should the worse come to worst, they could protect many more down the line.

The post Why I Became a Disaster Expert appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Armen Grigoryan is team leader for Disaster Risk Reduction at UNDP’s regional bureau for Eastern Europe and Central Asia

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Rohingya Protest Against Return to Myanmar and Halt Repatriationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/rohingya-protest-return-myanmar-halt-repatriation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rohingya-protest-return-myanmar-halt-repatriation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/rohingya-protest-return-myanmar-halt-repatriation/#respond Fri, 16 Nov 2018 08:37:00 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158693 Thousands of Rohingya refugees in camps in Cox’s Bazar, the southern-most coastal district in Bangladesh, protested on Thursday, Nov. 15, against an attempt to send them back to Myanmar. The voluntary repatriation was scheduled to begin Thursday as per a bilateral agreement reached at the end of October between the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh. […]

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Rohingya refugees protested on Thursday, Nov. 15, against their voluntary repatriation to Myanmar. Credit: Mohammad Mojibur Rahman/IPS

By Naimul Haq
COX'S BAZAR/DHAKA, Nov 16 2018 (IPS)

Thousands of Rohingya refugees in camps in Cox’s Bazar, the southern-most coastal district in Bangladesh, protested on Thursday, Nov. 15, against an attempt to send them back to Myanmar.
The voluntary repatriation was scheduled to begin Thursday as per a bilateral agreement reached at the end of October between the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh. They had agreed to the repatriation of 2,260 people from 485 families at the rate of 150 people per day over 15 days. However plans for repatriations were postponed in the face of massive demonstrations which started Thursday in several of the 27 camps that now host over a million refugees.

Men, women and even children began protesting soon after midday at one of the smaller camps in Unchiprang near the Myanmar border and protests soon spread across other camps, including the biggest camp Kutupalong.

They chanted slogans and waved placards that read—‘We won’t go back,’ ‘We demand safety,’ ‘We want citizenship,’ ‘We demand justice,’—as rows of buses arrived outside Unchiprang camp. The buses were to transport refugees some 15km from Cox’s Bazar to the Bangladesh border of Gundum, from where they would have been taken to Tumbru in Myanmar.

Bangladesh officials in charge of repatriation waited outside the camp asking the families to board the buses but none were willing.

Since last August, more than 700,000 Rohingya—some 60 percent of whom where children, according to the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF)—fled atrocities in Myanmar’s Rakhine state into Bangladesh.

Many still carry fresh memories of their experiences, which include rape, sexual violence and the torching of homes with people still inside.

“Why should we return?” shouted Nahar, a 26-year-old mother of three who arrived last July. She said that returning to Myanmar means going to a death camp.
Yousuf Ali, a resident of neighbouring Shamlapur camp said, “You want us to commit suicide?” A fellow refugee from Jamtoli camp said, “There is no guarantee that we would survive once we return.”

The government of Bangladesh along with local and international aid organisations and U.N. agencies have been working together to provide shelter, medical services, schooling and food to almost one million people.

Mohammad Abul Kalam, Bangladesh’s Refugee, Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner, and also a magistrate attached with Cox’s Bazar district office, told IPS, “We were prepared for the repatriation. Earlier we had sought a voluntary decision and made informed choices on the return of the refugees. No one responded with the decision to return home in Myanmar and so we had to postpone the programme.”

On Tuesday, 50 of the identified families selected for return, were interviewed by the U.N. to find out whether families agreed to return. None agreed, according to Kalam.

“They refused to go now but we remain prepared to facilitate their return home. Our counterpart from Myanmar was also present on the other side of the border … So far we know Myanmar had also taken all preparations for the much-expected repartition [that was] to start today,” Kalam said.

The government of Bangladesh along with local and international aid organisations and U.N. agencies, have been working together to provide shelter, medical services, schooling and food to almost one million people. Credit: Mohammad Mojibur Rahman/IPS

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet this week urged Bangladesh to halt the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, saying the move would violate international laws. “With an almost complete lack of accountability — indeed with ongoing violations — returning Rohingya refugees to Myanmar at this point effectively means throwing them back into the cycle of human rights violations that this community has been suffering for decades,” Bachelet said.

In October chair of the U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar, Marzuki Darusman, said that the Myanmar government’s “hardened positions are by far the greatest obstacle” to repatriation. He had also said, “Myanmar is destined to repeat the cycles of violence unless there is an end to impunity.” The U.N. has called the full investigation into genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Rakhine State.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali briefed the media on Thursday evening in the capital Dhaka, saying that Bangladesh would not forcibly return Rohingyas to Myanmar.
“There have been campaigns [saying] that the Bangladesh government is sending them back forcibly. From the beginning we have been saying that it will be a voluntary return. There is no question of forcible repatriation. We gave them shelter, so why should we send them back forcibly?” he said.

Mia Seppo, U.N. resident coordinator in Dhaka, told reporters at the joint press conference that, “The U.N. actually welcomes the commitment of the government of Bangladesh to stick to the principle of voluntary repatriation, which has been demonstrated today.”

Abu Morshed Chowdhury, President of Cox’s Bazar Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of Cox’s Bazar Civil Society NGO Forum, told IPS, “There were some flaws in the plans for the Rohingya repatriation. How can the refugees return, even if it’s voluntary, without ensuring their citizenship? The U.N. agencies have the responsibility to ensure this.”
He added that U.N. should have “been more active in their roles to allow smooth repatriation.”

Rezaul Karim Chouwhury, Executive Director of COAST Bangladesh, one of the leading NGOs working to address the Rohingya crisis also echoed the same concerns.

“There were flaws in the plans too, because we know that sooner or later the Rohingyas have to return to settle back. The bilateral agreement paved the way for the initiation of the repatriation and rehabilitation but the key players (international) in my opinion have not been so active,” he told IPS.

Caroline Gluck, Senior Public Information Officer, U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Cox’s Bazar, told IPS that every refugee has the right to freely decide their own future and the right to return.  Their decisions should be based on relevant and reliable knowledge of the conditions within the country of origin.

“Access restrictions in Rakhine State currently limit UNHCR’s ability to provide such information. Only refugees themselves can make the decision to exercise their right to return and when they feel the time is right for them. It is critical that returns are not rushed or premature,” she said. She added that the UNHCR supported the voluntary and sustainable repatriation of Rohingya refugees in safety and dignity to their places of origin or choice.

“We will work with all parties towards this goal. However, we do not believe that current conditions are conducive to returns in line with international standards. The responsibility for creating these conditions lies with Myanmar.”

*Additional Reporting by Mohammed Mojibur Rahman in Cox’s Bazar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facts and Figures:

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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Empowering Women in Post-Conflict Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/empowering-women-post-conflict-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=empowering-women-post-conflict-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/empowering-women-post-conflict-africa/#respond Thu, 08 Nov 2018 10:43:25 +0000 Amber Rouleau http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158594 Amber Rouleau is with the communications office for African Women Rising

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African Women Rising AWR’s programs focus on providing people with access to capital to be able to invest in farming or businesses, working in partnership with farmers to sustainably improve yields and reduce vulnerability to environmental challenges, and providing adult and girls’ education to empower people to take action in their communities

This school was started by one of African Women Rising’s adult literacy groups. The government-run school is far away and children are not able to join until they are older as it is too far away for them to walk. Parents decided to take action, pool their resources and start their own school so their children would not fall behind. This demonstrates the power of community organizing. Credit: Brian Hodges Photography for African Women Rising

By Amber Rouleau
SANTA BARBARA, California, USA, Nov 8 2018 (IPS)

While its conflict ended in 2007, Northern Uganda struggles with its legacy as one of the most aid-dependent regions in the world.

Linda Cole, founder of African Women Rising (AWR), who has vast experience working in conflict and post-conflict regions, realized that programs don’t always reach the people who need it the most: those living in extreme poverty.

Couple this with the fact that most post-conflict programs are geared toward men, Cole created African Women Rising with the belief that there is a better way to impart meaningful and long-term change for women in these communities.

Rooted in the conviction that women should be active stakeholders in defining their own development strategies, AWR’s programs focus on providing people with access to capital to be able to invest in farming or businesses, working in partnership with farmers to sustainably improve yields and reduce vulnerability to environmental challenges, and providing adult and girls’ education to empower people to take action in their communities.

In order to become a better farmer, businesswoman, or simply a more productive member of society, women must know how to read, write and calculate. AWR is helping over 9,000 of the most vulnerable women and girls reclaim their lives, and empower future generations, building on initiatives which allow for self-sustaining solutions.

The majority of the women African Women Rising works with are widows, abductees, girl mothers, orphans or grandmothers taking care of orphans and other vulnerable children. For women who were forced to participate in the war against their own people, the return home is often a grim experience.

Many return to areas where access to primary health care, education or arable land to farm is tenuous at best. Accordingly, throughout the last twelve years, AWR has been working to break this paradigm of extreme dependency and create a foundation of self-sufficiency and sovereignty for women in these rural communities, with three foundational programs: micro-finance, education, and agriculture.

Brenda is 24 years old. She has 3 children, the two older ones go to school. Brenda is a participant in African Women Rising’s organic Field Crop program. Using local resources and simple methods for improving the soil and water conservation, she has been able to double her yield. Credit: Brian Hodges Photography for African Women Rising

In the last number of years, Northern Uganda has seen a dramatic increase in refugees coming from South Sudan. Over one million people have crossed the border, approximately 80% are women and children, some arriving into the communities where AWR is working. AWR is currently working with 6,600 refugees in Palabek settlement camp, helping them start and maintain permagardens to increase access to food and income.

Their micro-financing program is founded on proven Village Savings and Loan methodology, with an approach based on savings, basic business skills, and access to capital. AWR achieves this through rigorous capacity building and mentorship. The training classes focus on basic business knowledge and accounting to provide women with the tools to be successful.

The viability of AWR’s model lies in its use of community mobilizers who provide technical support and mentoring for each group over a three year period. This year, AWR groups will save over $2 million, all coming from women’s weekly savings of 25 to 75 cents.

“With the money I saved from the Micro Finance group in 2013 I hired a tractor to plow my land and plant simsim. With the income I bought cattle. I now have more than 80 cattle. African Women Rising has changed my life.” Credit: Brian Hodges Photography for African Women Rising

As the largest provider of adult literacy in Northern Uganda, AWR’s 34 adult literary centers provide education to more than 2,000 adults. However, they are more than a place to become literate. Participants identify issues that are relevant to them and discuss how to solve them.

For example, the lack of trustworthy candidates in a recent election made over 50 students to run for public office. Centers have also repaired boreholes, opened up new roads, started marketplaces and community schools for children.

African Women Rising is the largest provider of adult literacy in Northern Uganda. Their centers are more than a place to learn to read and write. Building upon the teachings of Paul Freire, they help communities organize, identify, and solve the challenges they are facing. Credit: Brian Hodges Photography for African Women Rising

Their education programs for girls focuses primarily on children of AWR members who participate in their livelihoods programs and are reaching a financial status where they can begin to sustainably afford school fees. In some of these regions, not a single girl graduates from primary school – and in Palabek refugee camp, AWR has built a structure, so teachers have a building in which to prepare and teach lessons.

Cole and her organization are working together with parents, caretakers, schools, and government officials to create sustainable change. The program provides academic mentorship and life skills to 1,150 girls in 11 remote schools in Northern Uganda, increasing access and removing obstacles to schooling.

This includes providing washable menstrual pads for girls, so they can stay in school when they are menstruating, one of the biggest barriers for girls in continuing their studies.

With each missed week, girls fall farther behind, often eventually dropping out entirely, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. AWR is building awareness and support for girls’ education in communities, and aims to have 55% of girls graduating their grade level this year.

The organization’s agricultural training program teaches community members how to create, manage, and maintain their gardens (allowing for not only food, but income), over a year’s seasonal cropping cycle, tracking 25 different agroecological based indicators (most agencies track 2 to 3 in a development setting).

Women learning how to use an A-frame to help dig swales to collect water for their Perma Garden. Credit: Brian Hodges Photography for African Women Rising

The Perma garden and Field crop programs increase soil fertility, water conservation, and crop yields, teaching farmers in a participatory approach designed to maximize exposure to practical lessons, ensuring year-round access to nutritious vegetables and fruit. A better diet and nutritional intake, means increased income for participants and increased access to healthcare and schooling.

Perma Gardens are designed to produce food year-round. This helps people through the hunger period and, for many, it is also a source of income. Credit: Brian Hodges Photography for African Women Rising

These programs are symbiotic, and while there are no quick fixes, simple, community-based solutions wholly learned over time changes lives. AWR believes in a just and equal world where all people have the opportunity and right to live their lives with dignity.

Through their programs they are working to break the cycle of poverty and dependence: as parents and caregivers are becoming financially stable they invest in the education of their children, and as children learn, a cycle of empowerment and self-sustainability begins. Like a seed planted in a garden, the cultivation of education provides opportunities for the entire community, for generations to come.

AWR depends on grants and donations. For more information on African Women Rising, or to donate, please visit http://www.africanwomenrising.org/

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Excerpt:

Amber Rouleau is with the communications office for African Women Rising

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

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

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

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

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

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

Willing the end, but not the means

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

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

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

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

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

A central role for raising revenue at home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Towards transformative financing and national ownership of the 2030 Agenda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time is running out

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

John Garrett & Kathryn Tobin, WaterAid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Is the United Nations in Kenya Fit For Purpose?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/united-nations-kenya-fit-purpose/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=united-nations-kenya-fit-purpose http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/united-nations-kenya-fit-purpose/#respond Wed, 31 Oct 2018 10:55:21 +0000 Yusuf Hassan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158454 The United Nations globally is witnessing some of the most ambitious reforms led by the UN Secretary General Mr. Antonio Guterres. Most relevant to us in Kenya is the entire reform of the development system and how the UN will adapt to a fast-changing development environment. The countdown to the ambitious SDGs is already on, […]

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President Uhuru Kenyatta and Siddharth Chatterjee the UN Resident Coordinator discuss youth unemployment in Kenya. Credit: State House Kenya

By Yusuf Hassan
NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 31 2018 (IPS)

The United Nations globally is witnessing some of the most ambitious reforms led by the UN Secretary General Mr. Antonio Guterres. Most relevant to us in Kenya is the entire reform of the development system and how the UN will adapt to a fast-changing development environment.

The countdown to the ambitious SDGs is already on, and the Agenda 2030 timeline implies we should already have gone one-fifth of the way towards all the targets. Kenya has been a champion of Agenda 2030 led by our own Ambassador Macharia Kamau, PS MFA, Kenya.

These include ridding Kenya of poverty and generally changing the narrative for those at the periphery of development and ensuring no one is left behind.

Kenya performed relatively well in the Millennium Development Goals, with that campaign being hailed for lifting more than one billion people out of extreme poverty and making inroads against hunger globally. However, Kenya was one of the countries that did not achieve MDG goals 4 and 5 which was about reducing maternal and child mortality.

Yusuf Hassan

Compared to the MDGs, Agenda 2030 is a doubling down, with global leaders having agreed on close to 170 targets summarized into 17 goals. Though countries will have to concentrate on those targets that are most urgent and of priority to them, the goals still mean greater challenges not only in financing programmes but in innovating for locally-applicable solutions.

One important transformation is in the operations of the Resident Coordinators(RC) System and new generation UN Country Teams. The Resident Coordinator’s Office is generally the engine of the UN development system on the ground, providing coordination, strategic policy, partnerships and investments around the SDGs.

In the reforms, the strengthened RC will be the representative of the UN Secretary-General on the ground and the most senior UN development officials at the country level and will be better positioned to ensure operational coherence and synergies in development, humanitarian and peace building action, according to the country context.

This takes effect on 01 January 2019.

Alignment of the work of UN in Kenya is expressed through the recently-launched United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF 2018-2022). The rigorous development process of UNDAF was led by the Treasury and Devolution ministries and coordinated with the UN Country Team.

More than 100 institutions were involved in the process to ensure the framework reflected priorities including Vision 2030, MTP III and the President Kenyatta’s bold Big 4 Agenda.

With Kenya being classified as a lower middle-income country, financial support to UN agencies has now undergone a considerable down-titration. Nevertheless, the current UNDAF has still committed up to 80% more resources towards finding solutions to the countries challenges between now and 2022.

Prime among those challenges include changing the narrative for the youth and advancing gender equality, but in that challenge lies an ideal common ground for joint programming not only between the development partners and UN but also bringing in the might of the private sector.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres is leading efforts to ensure that the UN is more effective, efficient, coherent, coordinated and a better performing United Nations country presence with a strengthened role of the UN Resident Coordinator.

The UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya, Siddharth Chatterjee at the launch of the UNDAF in June 2018 reiterated the fact that the UN agencies in Kenya have their shoulders squared to work with various partners to meet the challenges of our time. He emphasized that this will not be a “business usual” approach.

No doubt as a global body, the United Nations in Kenya is undertaking bold and innovative action that is required to deliver on the 2030 Agenda. This was acknowledged in an open letter by the Frontier Counties of Kenya to the UN stating, “The UN Kenya country team has demonstrated in action and words the principle of leaving no one behind and reaching the furthest behind first; as counties historically maginalised the ushers a new dawn of development”.

The President’s Big 4 agenda, the government’s keen interest to see rapid growth & progress and close working ties with the UN in Kenya, Kenya can become a model for the UN Delivering As One and ensuring “no one is left behind”.

Therein lies the UN “being fit for purpose.”

Hon Mr. Yusuf Hassan is a senior ranking Member of Kenya’s National Assembly and MP from Nairobi. He has served for over 18 years with the United Nations, including UNHCR & UNOCHA. He has also served as a senior adviser on refugees in the late UN SG Mr. Kofi Annan’s office. He is a graduate of the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy,Tufts University, USA.

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With Poor Human Rights Record, Repatriation Not Possiblehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/poor-human-rights-record-repatriation-not-possible/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poor-human-rights-record-repatriation-not-possible http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/poor-human-rights-record-repatriation-not-possible/#respond Fri, 26 Oct 2018 10:44:55 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158377 Policies that allow for impunity, genocide, and apartheid are “intolerable” and make repatriation of Rohingya refugees impossible, say United Nations investigators. While presenting an annual report to the member states at the U.N., Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee expressed disappointment in Myanmar’s government under State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, stating […]

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Rohingya after they fled Myanmar in 2017 arrive at Shahparir Dip in Teknaf, Bangladesh. Credit: IPS

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

Policies that allow for impunity, genocide, and apartheid are “intolerable” and make repatriation of Rohingya refugees impossible, say United Nations investigators.

While presenting an annual report to the member states at the U.N., Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee expressed disappointment in Myanmar’s government under State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, stating her hope that it “would be vastly different from the past, but it really is not that much different.”

“The government is increasingly demonstrating that it has no interest and capacity to establish a fully functioning democracy for all its people,” Lee said during a press conference.  

She also added that the Nobel peace prize laureate is in “total denial” about the mistreatment and violence against the Rohingya which forced over 700,000 to flee across the border to Bangladesh, and questioned her staunch support for the rule of law.

“If the rule of law were upheld, all the people in Myanmar, regardless of their position, would be answerable to fair laws that are impartially applied, impunity would not reign, and the law would not be wielded as a weapon of oppression,” Lee said.

The Chair of the U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar Marzuki Darusman, who also presented a report to the U.N., echoed similar sentiments, noting that the government’s “hardened positions are by far the greatest obstacle.”

“Accountability concerns not only the past but it also concerns the future and Myanmar is destined to repeat the cycles of violence unless there is an end to impunity,” he said.

One of conditions that contributed to the atrocities committed since violence erupted in August 2017 is the shrinking of democratic space, they noted.

While the arrests of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo gripped international headlines, the government has been increasingly cracking down on free speech and human rights defenders in the country.

Most recently, three journalists from Eleven Media—Nayi Min, Kyaw Zaw Linn, and Phyo Wai Win—were detained and are being investigated for online defamation. If charged and convicted, the journalists face up to two years in prison.

Lee and Darusman also expressed concern over the apartheid-like conditions in Myanmar that persist today including restrictions on movement and access to services such as healthcare and education.

While the government is building new infrastructure for both Rohingya still inside the country and those who fled, Lee noted they are usually segregated from Buddhist communities.

If a policy of separation rather than integration continues, atrocities will be committed yet again.

“It is an ongoing genocide,” Darusman said.

In the fact-finding mission report which looked into the past year’s events, investigators found that four out of five conditions for genocide were met: killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, and imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.

Of those, three conditions can still be seen in the country.

For instance, in 2015, Myanmar’s government imposed “birth spacing” restrictions on women, requiring a 36-month interval between children with forced use of contraception in the interim.

The Population Control Healthcare Bill was introduced in response to a 2013 government report that saw “the rapid population growth of the Bengalis [Rohingya] as an extremely serious threat.”

Prior to this, the government enacted a two-child limit on the Muslim community in Rakhine.

And it is because of these conditions that Rohingya refugees cannot go back.

“Repatriation is not possible now. Unless the situation in Myanmar is conducive, I will not encourage any repatriation. They should not go back to the existing laws, policies, and practices,” Lee said.

She urged for the civilian government to adopt laws that protect and advance human rights for all, and for Suu Kyi to use “all her moral and political power” to act.

“Myanmar now stands at a crossroads—they can respond as a responsible member of the United Nations and take up the call for accountability or they can be on the same self-self-destructive road,” Darusman said.

Of the actions that can be taken towards the path to accountability is the pardoning of human rights defenders and journalists who have been arbitrarily detained in order to restore democratic space.

Myanmar should also allow for unhindered access for humanitarian actors and U.N. investigators, Lee added.

“I think we are at a point where Myanmar and the international community both are at [a] juncture where the right choice to make will determine the future of not only Myanmar but peace and security in the region and the world,” she said.

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Q&A: Using Data to Predict Internal Displacement Trendshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/qa-using-data-predict-internal-displacement-trends/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-using-data-predict-internal-displacement-trends http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/qa-using-data-predict-internal-displacement-trends/#respond Tue, 16 Oct 2018 17:18:53 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158207 Carmen Arroyo interviews ALEXANDRA BILAK, director of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note: All photos can be attributed to Water Mission.

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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