Inter Press ServicePopulation – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 21 Sep 2018 15:51:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Ethiopian Domestic Workers Battle for Survival in Saudi Arabiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/ethiopian-domestic-workers-battle-survival-saudi-arabia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ethiopian-domestic-workers-battle-survival-saudi-arabia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/ethiopian-domestic-workers-battle-survival-saudi-arabia/#respond Fri, 21 Sep 2018 13:08:47 +0000 Rabiya Jaffery http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157714 Marjani F, 44, spent 8 years in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital working as domestic help. “My husband was killed by the military after being accused of organizing a protest. I have four children and there was no way I could pay the bills staying there,” she says. For nearly a decade, she lived and worked […]

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African refugees await news of their work and residency visa applicatiosn in Lavinsky Park near the Tel Aviv, Israel. Credit: Zack Baddorf/ZUMA Press / IPS

By Rabiya Jaffery
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Sep 21 2018 (IPS)

Marjani F, 44, spent 8 years in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital working as domestic help. “My husband was killed by the military after being accused of organizing a protest. I have four children and there was no way I could pay the bills staying there,” she says.

For nearly a decade, she lived and worked as an undocumented domestic worker employed by a Saudi family until she was deported in 2017.

“The rules on keeping workers who don’t have their papers are getting stricter and the family I worked for were scared they would have to pay heavy fines,” she explains. “They knew someone who had to pay penalty for keeping undocumented help and I guess they got scared – but didn’t want to pay for my sponsorship either so they sent me back.”

Marjani is now living in Bahir Dar, a city in Ethiopia, and describes her life back home as “hopeless”.

“My children aren’t even close to me anymore – I was just someone who would send them money and speak on the phone every now and then for so long,” she says. “And most of my family has been killed in political protests or are in military camps now – it is all futile.”

Marjani was one of the reportedly 5 million undocumented migrants living in Saudi Arabia – a country with an official population of 33 million.

“For the most part – the authorities had turned a blind eye to them,” says Abdullah Harith, a migrant lawyer working in the Gulf countries. “Every few years there would be a couple of crackdowns and some people would be deported back – but overall for decades, the millions of undocumented migrants – some who have been living in the country for generations at this point – were just overlooked.”

But this leniency have changed radically recently as the Kingdom is now actively seeking to deport them as part of its new economic reforms agenda.

A campaign called “Nation Without Violators” was launched in 2017 that was to “progress to deport foreign workers illegally staying in violation of residence, labor, and border regulations of the Kingdom”.

“A 90-day amnesty began in March 2017 that allowed undocumented migrants to finalize their status and leave the country without any penalties,” says Harith.

The amnesty was extended twice and, according to official statistics, at least 800 violators per day were voluntarily deported during the 9 month period.

By the end of the amnesty period, reportedly 45,000 Ethiopians – including Marjani – had registered with the Saudi government and voluntarily returned home.

The remaining estimated 500,000 Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia are continuing to live in fear as security authorities are actively continuing to deport undocumented migrants in the country. Violations can result in deportation, a prison sentence, and fines ranging between SR15,000 ($4,000) and SR100,000 ($26,700).

“There are concerns over the humanitarian impacts of returning hundreds of thousands of people back to endemic poverty and potential harm,” says Ayda Gebre , an aid worker for RATSON – Women, Youth and Children Development Programme, a community development NGO based in Ethiopia. RATSON has been working on assisting Ethiopian migrants settle back in the country.

While the role Ethiopian migrants play in helping the country’s economy is significant – in 2015, Ethiopians abroad sent back nearly $4 billion to the country coping with crippling poverty. And while many Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia come for economic reasons, a significant number arrived after fleeing serious abuses at the hands of their government.

During crackdowns on undocumented migrants in 2013 in Saudi Arabia, over 160,000 Ethiopians were returned. Most of the Ethiopians interviewed by Human Rights Watch who were part of the 2013 Saudi expulsions were detained within a week of their return to Ethiopia.

“Most of them were tortured in detention and had, in fact, originally left because of Ethiopian government human rights violations,” says Gebre.

Ethiopia has long been criticized for its human rights violations including its harsh prison conditions, brutality of security forces, lack of freedom of speech, and forced displacement.
“In many other countries, Ethiopians just might be able to claim asylum and potentially be entitled to international protection,” says Gebre.

“But Saudi Arabia has no refugee law and is not a party to the United Nations Refugee Convention, which means that, should expulsions be carried out, many thousands of Ethiopians could be forcibly returned home to face the persecution they fled.”

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Recognising the Debilitating Nature Conflict Has on Food Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/157707/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=157707 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/157707/#respond Fri, 21 Sep 2018 09:00:54 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157707 Nyalen Kuong and her daughters fled to safety after an attack on their village in South Sudan in which Kuong’s husband and two sons where killed and the family’s cattle lost. Kuong, her daughters and other families from their village fled to islands surrounded by swamp land. There, she had little to eat. And soon […]

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For many people affected by conflict, agriculture is their only means of survival, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Sep 21 2018 (IPS)

Nyalen Kuong and her daughters fled to safety after an attack on their village in South Sudan in which Kuong’s husband and two sons where killed and the family’s cattle lost. Kuong, her daughters and other families from their village fled to islands surrounded by swamp land. There, she had little to eat. And soon began suffering from diarrhoea, brought on by acute malnutrition.

Eventually she was taken to a hospital camp where she was treated and was placed on an intravenous feeding drip. This is Kuong’s story as told by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). When she recovered she was given fishing equipment by FAO, which she now uses to supply her own food.

South Sudan is Africa’s newest state, but it has been mired in civil conflict since December 2013. Some 2.8 million people, a majority of whom depend on livestock for their livelihoods, are now facing acute food and nutrition insecurity, according to FAO.

The debilitating nature of conflict

Kuong’s experiences continue to be replicated in conflict zones around the world. Conflicts cost livelihoods and drive hunger and malnutrition, some of the most pressing development challenges today.

In May 2018, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2417 (2018), explicitly acknowledging the link between conflict and hunger and calling on all partners to protect civilians as well as their means to produce and access food.

Hunger has been on the rise for three years in a row, the U.N. found in a new report published this September. The global body says 821 million people are now hungry and over 150 million children stunted, putting the goal of hunger eradication at risk.

FAO is using its mandate to end hunger and malnutrition and to cultivate peace. This will ultimately enable food and nutritional security, which are linked to the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Agenda 2030.

“Agenda 2030 clearly links sustainable development and peace and calls for improved collaboration on conflict prevention, mitigation, resolution and recovery,” Enrique Yeves, director of communications at FAO, told IPS. “Sustaining peace encompasses activities aimed at preventing outbreak and recurrence of conflict.”

Yeves emphasised that interventions in support of food security, nutrition and agricultural livelihoods for conflict prevention and sustaining peace, are fundamentally important as they address not only the symptoms but also the root causes of conflict.

As the world marks the International Day of Peace on Friday, Sept. 21, the impact of conflict on humanity is a call to build a peaceful world. Sustainable Development Goal #16 underscores promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

“It is time all nations and all people live up to the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognises the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human race,” said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, in a message ahead of the International Day of Peace. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Food after the fight

For many people affected by conflict, agriculture is their only means of survival, according to FAO.

The U.N. body says agriculture accounts for two-thirds of employment and one-third of GDP in countries in protracted crises. Since 2000, 48 percent of civil conflicts have been in Africa where access to rural land underpins the livelihoods of many. In 27 out of 30 interstate conflicts in Africa, land issues have played a significant role.

In 2018, FAO partnered with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development to facilitate peaceful livestock movement between Kenyan and Ugandan cross-border areas.

In 2017, FAO signed a USD 8.7 million agreement with Colombia’s Rural Development Agency to help boost agricultural competitiveness and restore rural areas affected by armed conflict between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the government of Colombia.
FAO believes promoting food security and livelihoods can help address some of the conflict drivers.

“In conflict and post-conflict situations the humanitarian agenda takes the place of states that have failed, including welfare issues such as food, but also to some extent security functions in refugee camps. For example, thus the driving forces for it become global rather than local, with all the problems that it will entail,” David Moore, a researcher and political economist at the University of Johannesburg, told IPS.

Moore noted that conflicts are complications that a simplistic “helping hand” cannot resolve — but where there are local actors influencing and acting with global agencies, like FAO, some issues can be addressed and perhaps alleviated.

Strengthening government and private sector engagement for food and peace

Recognising that food security can support peace building, the FAO-Nobel Peace Laureates Alliance for Food Security and Peace was established by the director general of FAO Jose Graziano da Silva and currently there are 10 Nobel Peace Laureates as members, said Yeves.

He added that the aim of the Alliance is not only to raise awareness and champion the links between food security and peace building, but also highlight the leadership of FAO in agricultural and food security policies and actions that promote peace, rural development and food security.

The Alliance members include Muhammad Yunus, Oscar Arias Sánchez, Tawakkol Karman, Betty Williams, Juan Manuel Santos, Frederik Willem de Klerk, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Jose Ramos-Horta and Mairead Maguire.

This year, on Sept. 24, the Alliance is inducting a new member from Africa during the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit, a U.N. General Assembly high-level plenary on global peace

Graça Machel, humanitarian and widow of former South African president Mandela, will be named an honorary member of the Alliance this month in recognition of her late husband’s struggle for freedom and peace.

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Freezing Inside UAE’s High Rise Buildings While Temperatures Soar Outsidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/freezing-inside-uaes-high-rise-buildings-temperatures-soar-outside/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=freezing-inside-uaes-high-rise-buildings-temperatures-soar-outside http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/freezing-inside-uaes-high-rise-buildings-temperatures-soar-outside/#comments Thu, 20 Sep 2018 13:43:52 +0000 Amna Khaishgi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157691 “Look at these tall, beautiful buildings. I have worked as a mason during the construction and was one of those who laid [the brickwork] brick by brick,” says Mohammed Akhtar* who has been working as mason for over a decade in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). Akhtar has seen the evolution of Dubai’s skyline over […]

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The United Arab Emirates is also paying the price of rapid economic development in terms of climate change. Air-conditioning has proved to be a major challenge to climate change mitigation and because of the rise in temperatures in Dubai, most new buildings have air-conditioning. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Amna Khaishgi
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Sep 20 2018 (IPS)

“Look at these tall, beautiful buildings. I have worked as a mason during the construction and was one of those who laid [the brickwork] brick by brick,” says Mohammed Akhtar* who has been working as mason for over a decade in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Akhtar has seen the evolution of Dubai’s skyline over time. “It has been an overwhelming journey.”  When asked what has changed in the last 10 years, Akhtar smiles and says the weather.

“Temperatures outside have been increasing so fast that it drains our energy quickly. We cannot fight with nature. But at least we could play our role in protecting the environment,” the 45-year old Pakistani tells IPS. For him, sitting under the shade of a tree during his work break is the best form of relaxation.

While the rise in temperatures is certainly a concern, this Gulf state has a high level of awareness and government response when it comes to climate change mitigation.

The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) has referred to the UAE as the most responsible country in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) when it comes to green growth, and as one of the best-performing countries across the globe.

“The kind of initiatives the UAE is taking is very encouraging and we expect things will improve with the passage of time,” GGGI Director General Dr. Frank Rijsberman tells IPS. The institute has a mandate to support emerging and developing countries develop rigorous green growth economic development strategies and works with both the public and private sector.

Rijsberman gives credit to the country’s leadership, who embraced green growth and sustainability much earlier and faster than many countries in the world.

Rijsberman adds also that the UAE was quick to realise the challenges of water scarcity and installed desalination plants at a time when other countries were only planning, theirs. A GCC report shows that Kuwait was the first country in the region to construct a desalination plant in 1957, with the UAE constructing its first plant two decades later.

Rijsberman, however, says that a lot remains to be done.

“Right now, the challenge is how to run a plant with energy efficiency. Now is the time to move green energy options to run these huge plants, which are a major source of water supplying to the country,” says Rijsberman.

Like many countries, the UAE is also paying the price of rapid economic development in terms of climate change.

“Rapid economic development and population growth in the UAE has led to the challenges like greenhouse gas emissions, extreme weather conditions, water scarcity and habitat destruction. All these issues are interlinked,” Rijsberman tells IPS.

According to the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment; direct impacts of extreme weather events, as well as slow-onset phenomena such as sea level rise, could disrupt the daily functioning of transport and infrastructure, impact the value of real estate, affect environmental assets, and damage the tourism industry.

“The effects of climate change are likely to be felt most severely in coastal zones, where marine habitats will suffer from rising water temperatures and salinity, whereas infrastructure will be tested by storm surges and sea level rise. Other risks include weakened food security and health damages from extreme weather events,” the report further says.

The UAE’s National Climate Change Plan 2017-2050, which was released early this year, notes that climate change impacts increase national vulnerability and, if left unmanaged, will affect the growth potential of the country.

“Potential impacts of climate change on the UAE include extreme heat, storm surge, sea level rise, water stress, dust and sand storms, and desertification. Even small variations in weather patterns could significantly affect the country’s economic, environmental, and social well-being,” the report states.

According to the report, the most vulnerable areas to climate change in the UAE include water, coastal, marine, and dry land ecosystems; buildings and infrastructures; agriculture and food security; and public health.

“Based on the analysis of past and present anthropogenic drivers, future projections using climate models suggest an increase in the UAE’s annual average temperature of around 1°C by 2020, and 1.5-2°C by 2040.

“The effects of climate change are likely to be felt most severely in coastal zones, where marine habitats will suffer from rising water temperatures and salinity, whereas infrastructure will be tested by storm surges and sea level rise. Other risks include weakened food security and health damages from extreme weather events.”

In addition, climate change could have implications on the UAE’s development objectives. “Direct impacts of extreme weather events, as well as slow-onset phenomena such as sea level rise, could disrupt the daily functioning of transport and infrastructure, impact the value of real estate, affect environmental assets, and damage the tourism industry,” the report further says.

But plans are already in place. “They have seen the storm coming and they are preparing themselves to fight it,” says Rijsberman.

However, there are many challenges that remain to be tackled.

According to the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, the country  has a relatively low share, less than 0.5 percent, of global emissions. For this reason, the voluntary adoption of measures to control and limit domestic GHG emissions would have a negligible impact in solving the global problem of climate change.

However, the country’s capital, Abu Dhabi, has very high per capita CO2 emissions, 39.1 tonnes in 2012 an increase of 4.4 percent compared to 37.44 tonnes in 2010more than triple the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) average of 10.08 tonnes.

The main contributors to CO2 emissions in 2012 were the production of public electricity and water desalination (33 percent), oil and gas extraction and processing activities (25 percent), transport (20 percent) and industry (12 percent).

Rijsberman was in Dubai to launch a joint initiative with the World Green Economy Organisation (WGEO). Both organisations have signed a partnership agreement to fast track green investment opportunities to develop bankable smart green city projects across the world.

“The UAE has been a leader in green growth. It is not only investing within the country but also helping other states to promote green cities,” Rijsberman says.

Lack of awareness and insufficient resources are also hindering the UAE’s green growth momentum.

Khawaja Hasan has been working as an environmentalist with both public and private sectors in the UAE for about a decade and tells IPS that while government is serious about promoting green growth initiatives across the board there are several challenges that slow down implementation.

“The private sector suffers with lack of awareness, lack of technology and above all cost are major issues that [hinders] the green growth.

“They [private sector] believe in short term goals. They don’t want to invest extra to benefit long term. Moreover there is no major direct monetary incentives from the government side to acquire and implement green approach.”

He also says that a lack of affordable green technology is also a major factor for mid level and small companies.

Green growth is not a luxury. It is a necessity, says Rijsberman.  He urged governments, including the UAE, to develop policy and introduce incentives that reach the grassroots. “If the green policy and initiatives are not reaching the people then it is not going anywhere.”

For instance, Rijsberman says air-conditioning, is a major challenge to climate change mitigation.

“It is directly related to how the buildings are constructed. If we contract close boxes without any air ventilation, air-conditioning or artificial cooling is inevitable. However, if we work on building style and work on structural changes, dependency on air-conditioning would decrease.

“Today, the situation in Dubai is, inside the building, we are shivering with the lowest temperature and outside, our local environment temperature is becoming unbearable due to the hot air that millions of air-conditioning are throwing out in the environment. The whole cycle becomes artificial and imbalance,” he said.

Though Akhtar is doing his little bit to address the balance.

“If we are building beautiful air-conditioned buildings, we should also plant trees too,” says Akhtar who, each year on his daughter’s birthday, plants a tree in his residential compound in Dubai. “This is my gift to this city who has given me an opportunity to earn decent money for my family back in Pakistan.”

*Not his real name.

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Levelling the Playing Field for Persons with Disabilities in the United Stateshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/levelling-playing-field-persons-disabilities-individuals-united-states/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=levelling-playing-field-persons-disabilities-individuals-united-states http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/levelling-playing-field-persons-disabilities-individuals-united-states/#respond Wed, 19 Sep 2018 12:10:55 +0000 Emily Thampoe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157676 This article is part of a series of stories on disability inclusion.

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According to the United Nations “sport can help reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with disability because it can transform community attitudes about persons with disabilities by highlighting their skills and reducing the tendency to see the disability instead of the person.” Courtesy: United Nations

By Emily Thampoe
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 19 2018 (IPS)

When it was time for Joe Lupinacci to graduate from his high school in Stamford, Connecticut, he knew he wanted to go to college. While other students were deciding which college to apply to, the choice required more thought and research on Lupinacci and his parents’ part. Lupinacci, who has Down Syndrome, needed a college that would meet his needs.

“I wanted to go to college and be like my older brother and have the college experience. I wanted to meet other people like me and learn how to be more independent,” the now 22-year-old tells IPS via email.

While it is common in the United States for public school districts to have special education programmes that offer educational support to disabled individuals, many universities only meet the minimum requirements of the country’s Disabilities Act. But there are currently at least 50 universities that go further and offer programmes and/or resources for students with disabilities.“I turned from a unfocused player who would skate around the rink touching every pane of glass to a player who got into the game and played like a man. Daredevils has helped me gain friendship." -- former New Jersey Daredevils player, Ryan Griffin.

The College Experience Programme (CEP) at the College of St. Rose in Albany, New York is one of those programmes.

The CEP is a two-year residential, non-credit certificate programme hosted in partnership with Living Resources, a local organisation that helps people living with disabilities. While the programme is not a traditional one—it does not end in students earning a bachelor’s or associate’s degree—it allows students to focus on a career area that interests them. It also teaches students valuable skills that they can apply to their life, in parallel to the educational classes they take.

Lupinacci and his family learned of it through their own research and when CEP staff visited his high school’s college fair. After visiting the College of Saint Rose on several occasions, he and his family found it a great fit.

Colleen Dergosits, the coordinator of student life and admissions for the programme, tells IPS via email that its objective is to, “give students with developmental disabilities opportunities similar to their siblings and high-school peers.”

“Life skills are not taught in traditional college experience, these are often the skills people without disabilities take for granted in knowing. For those with a disability, when life skills are not naturally developed, it can hold back a person from being able to transition into a natural college atmosphere away from their family members or furthermore an independent life,” Dergosits says.

The CEP provides finance classes that help students understand how to make purchases in an effective way, how to split a bill between friends, and the importance of paying bills on time.

For Lupinacci, who entered the programme in 2015 and graduated in 2017, the CEP has given him skills and so much more.

“After going through the programme I made good friends. I learned to cook, clean and make decisions on my own,” he says. He also gained a new-found sense of independence.

With the programme’s “community involvement” component, students learn how to navigate their neighbourhood and attend off campus activities, and how to save money for those activities. These are all skills that many students on the programme may not have been exposed to before.

Learning through experience is imperative. Dergosits says that the CEP’s vocational courses are “invaluable.” “When the foundation of employment is broken down and taught, then supervised in a real world setting, our students are better prepared to hold employment on their own post-graduation,” she says. Students can learn what the workforce is like through interning and/or working at local businesses with assistance from an on-site job coach.

Dergosits and the rest of the staff have seen progress from the growing number of students they have worked with since the programme’s beginnings in 2005.

Students who previously kept to themselves and were reliant on familial support, have developed. They now have friends, can do household chores, travel independently and even have part-time jobs.

Lupinacci says he ended up going out quite often with his friends without adult supervision. “It was fun planning and going out with my friends with no adults. I went to many campus and off site sporting events that were really fun,” he shares.

Recreation is Key

While equal educational opportunities are important in the lives of disabled people, balance is also imperative.

Steve Ritter, a coach for the New Jersey Daredevils, a special needs ice hockey team for players of all ages, believes in the power of sports for disabled people.

“Sports helps them with social skills, which is lacking in this community. We make sure when we travel to places to play games that there is a place where they can get together and hang out,” he tells IPS.

According to a United Nations publication entitled Disability and Sports, “Sport can help reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with disability because it can transform community attitudes about persons with disabilities by highlighting their skills and reducing the tendency to see the disability instead of the person.”

The team practices pretty much every Saturday during the year and also plays matches with other teams from all over the east coast. They also make an effort to have outside opportunities for the players to bond and create long-lasting friendships.

Ryan Griffin first joined the Daredevils in 2001 after trying several options to stimulate his mind. He was diagnosed as being on the Autism spectrum when he was three and a half years old, and feels he has benefited from his involvement with the team.

“I turned from a unfocused player who would skate around the rink touching every pane of glass to a player who got into the game and played like a man. Daredevils has helped me gain friendship.

“I’ve learned about sportsmanship too, it’s not just about winning. Once I got to know all my teammates, we quickly bonded together as friends and we always will be there for each other like family,” Griffin, who is now 23, shares with IPS via email.

Griffin feels as though the experience he has had with the team has given him valuable life skills.

“Most importantly, Daredevils has taught me leadership. As team captain, I learned that leaders, like captains, should always lead by example. That means, trying to stay as positive as possible, even when things are not going the way they should be,” Griffin says.

In a world that has excluded disabled people from partaking in basic human needs such as education, the workforce, and being a part of a community, it is clear that programmes that encourage mental and social growth can be important in the life of a disabled person.

So while the CEP in Albany and the New Jersey Daredevils in New Jersey are both different localised experiences, they are examples of what communities should be doing in order to promote the inclusion and development of people with disabilities.

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Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories on disability inclusion.

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The Cambodian Port City on China’s 21st Century Silk Road That’s Becoming the New Macauhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/cambodian-port-city-chinas-21st-century-silk-road-thats-becoming-new-macau/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cambodian-port-city-chinas-21st-century-silk-road-thats-becoming-new-macau http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/cambodian-port-city-chinas-21st-century-silk-road-thats-becoming-new-macau/#respond Wed, 19 Sep 2018 10:17:25 +0000 Kris Janssens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157639 Kris Janssens is a Belgian reporter based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. His goal is to tell extraordinary stories about ordinary people throughout Southeast Asia.

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The little shop owned by Leean Saan, close the monument with the lions. "Business is going down, Chinese people don't buy from me," she says. Credit: Kris Janssens/IPS

By Kris Janssens
SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia, Sep 19 2018 (IPS)

The new Macau. That’s what the Cambodian coastal city Sihanoukville is called nowadays. Chinese investors are building casinos there on a massive scale.

The southern port city lies on the new Silk Road (the so called ‘One Belt, One Road’) and is therefore interesting for China.

The Cambodian government is happy to accept the money. And Beijing never asks difficult questions.

“Things are happening so fast in Sihanoukville; the city has changed completely in only a few months time,” a friend tells me.

My last visit there was in December.

And so I wanted to see these ‘spectacular changes’ with my own eyes.

My friend was right. When you enter the city, you see casinos everywhere. There could be about a hundred by now, and new ones are constantly being built. Some of them are big showy palaces, but there are also obscure gambling houses.

Alongside those casinos you still find the typical Cambodian shops, where people drink tea and where food is skewered and cooked on the barbecue.

Tourists at the beach enjoy their cocktails or take a dip in the gulf of Thailand.

But all those elements are in disharmony with one another.

There is clearly no urban planning here.

It seems the builders got carte blanche to satisfy the hunger for gambling.

Gaudy lions

The statue of two golden lions, at a roundabout close to the sea, is a beacon in the city. Leean Saan (76) has a tiny little shop close to the lions. She sells soda water, cigarettes and fuel for motorbikes.

Ten years ago, when the tourists came, she started selling drinks. “But the business is going down,” she says. “There are more and more Chinese people and they don’t buy in my shop.”

“They are gangsters!” says a tuk-tuk driver who comes to buy fuel. “They promise for example to pay three dollars, but when we get to the destination they only give two. And when I complain, they threaten me with violence. They always travel in groups, so they feel superior.”

Making good money

I walk down the street and see some Cambodian youngsters who are queuing to buy coffee. They are more positive about the recent developments.

Rath (22) has been working for five years as a receptionist in a hotel casino. “My first salary was 80 dollars a month. Two years ago it was raised to 200 dollars and since last year I make 500 dollars a month. They need experienced staff.”

But there is a flip side to the coin: prices have gone up in a short period of time. “I used to pay 30 dollars a month to rent a room, nowadays they ask up to 250. But at the end of the day I still earn more than before.”

O Fortuna

It is time to get an inside look into one of those casinos, ‘Golden Sand’. I am the only white person and the security staff watches me closely.

At the entrance of the hall the song ‘O Fortuna’ taken from ‘Carmina Burana’ is being played repeatedly. A screen shows an animated movie with Chinese dragons and philosophers.

The game room is big but feels cold, in spite of the wall-to-wall carpet and the leather and fabric seats. There are Chinese wall ornaments.

Croupiers in red costumes are sitting at big card tables. You see a lot of security agents here as well. Young girls in blue outfits wander down the hall carrying fly swatters to kill annoying insects.

Remarkable: Cambodians are not allowed to gamble, by law. So all customers are Chinese.

Also remarkable: they don’t come dressed in suits and ties, but are dressed in shorts and t-shirts.

“Most customers here are builders,” says Wu, who works himself at one of the numerous construction sites in Sihanoukville. “They come here to spend the money they just earned.”

Wu is here for six months. He earns 700 dollars a month. He could make as much money in China, but here he has more job security.

Recruiting

Srun (28) works as a recruiter. He’s Cambodian but has Chinese roots and works as a tour guide for Chinese tourists. “They often asked me where they could go to gamble.” So Srun went to talk to several casino managers and he has an agreement to work on commission.

“You have to talk face to face to Chinese people,” he says. “I understand some Cambodians think they are gangsters, because they always talk so loudly. But that is simply their way of negotiating.”

Srun gets one percent of the money customers spend on gambling. “That doesn’t seem much, but in some cases we are talking about 10,000 dollars for a group of four people. The casino opens a special VIP-room and I get a 100 dollars.”

Rental prices

It is lunchtime. I decide to go for a noodle soup in a…Chinese restaurant.

“We only have Chinese people,” says manager Zong, “I don’t even speak Khmer.” She followed her husband about one year ago, coming from Hangzhou, in the eastern part of China. “Customers pay about seven times more here for the same dish. So the decision was easily made.”

She pays 3,000 dollars in rent for her restaurant. “That’s a lot of money, but it still is an interesting deal. That also goes for the owner. He could never get this amount of money from locals. So everyone is satisfied.”

This house owner is actively helping the Chinese settlement in Sihanoukville. His fellow citizens, who might have been born here, have no other option than to leave the city and try to find affordable business premises elsewhere.

As long as money talks here, the Chinese population will continue to grow.

Maybe I should make the same trip in another six months from now, to document the new changes to this area.

*The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of IPS. 

The post The Cambodian Port City on China’s 21st Century Silk Road That’s Becoming the New Macau appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Kris Janssens is a Belgian reporter based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. His goal is to tell extraordinary stories about ordinary people throughout Southeast Asia.

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An Urgent Need to Turn Down Rhetoric Against Migrants & Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/urgent-need-turn-rhetoric-migrants-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=urgent-need-turn-rhetoric-migrants-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/urgent-need-turn-rhetoric-migrants-refugees/#respond Tue, 18 Sep 2018 15:02:29 +0000 Carl Soderbergh http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157666 Carl Soderbergh is Director of Policy & Communications, Minority Rights Group International

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Sub Saharan Africans - Israel
Female African asylum-seekers during a protest march where they called on the government to recognise African migrants as refugees, and for the release of Africans who are held in detention facilities.

By Carl Söderbergh
LONDON, Sep 18 2018 (IPS)

Migration has become a focus of debate in recent years. From United States President Donald Trump’s vehemently anti-migrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric to Denmark’s new ‘ghetto laws’, the language has become increasingly heated.

The Danish government adopted these measures in 2018, specifically targeting low-income immigrant districts and including compulsory education on ‘Danish values’ for children starting at the age of one. In the United Kingdom, while still Home Secretary, Prime Minister Theresa May instituted a ‘hostile environment’ policy in 2012 that was intended to catch undocumented migrants whenever they came into contact with public services.

The policy particularly affected members of the so-called ‘Windrush generation’, the tens of thousands of Afro-Caribbean men, women and children who came over to the UK after World War Two and settled there legally. It is thought that the number of those deported runs into the hundreds, while many thousands more have had to live for several years in considerable uncertainty.

While a public outcry led to an official apology by the UK government, other leaders and governments have been resolutely unapologetic. Indeed, Trump’s travel ban for citizens of several Muslim-majority countries was approved as constitutional by the US Supreme Court in June 2018.

Such policies – and the often vitriolic language accompanying them – have had a direct and negative impact on migrant and refugee communities. According to data released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the annual number of hate crimes against US Muslims recorded by the organization rose 15 per cent in 2017, following on from a 44 per cent increase the previous year – an increase it attributed in part to Trump’s divisive language and the discriminatory measures put forward by his administration.

Muslim woman – Thailand
A Thai policeman checks the papers of a Muslim woman at a checkpoint in Pattani.

On 11 September 2018, Minority Rights Group International launched its annual Minority and Indigenous Trends report by hosting a seminar for journalists in Krakow, Poland. This year, we focused the report on migration and displacement. We chose the theme for two reasons.

One is what I have outlined above – the casual disregard that we have repeatedly witnessed by people in power for the immediate impact of their actions and their words on minority and indigenous communities. Whenever politicians chase voters or news outlets seek to increase their readerships and advertising revenues by targeting migrants, they ignore the very real consequences in terms of increased hatred towards those same communities.

The other reason is that we sought to reflect the lived realities of migrants and refugees themselves – in particular, how discrimination and exclusion drive many people to make the very hard choice to leave their homes. It remains very difficult to arrive at a total percentage of minorities and indigenous peoples among the world’s migrants and refugees.

This is partly due to lack of interest – after all, much of the reporting on migration remains fixated on overall numbers rather than on the individual stories. More particularly, migrants and refugees who belong to minorities or indigenous peoples may well feel a need to remain silent about their ethnicity or religious faith, for fear of further persecution in transit or upon arrival in their new homes.

However, there are many clear indicators from around the world of an immediate causal link between marginalization and movement. The horrifying targeting of Yezidis by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, as well as more recently of Rohingya by the military and its allies in Myanmar, are by now well-documented. In both cases, the overwhelming majority of the communities have been displaced.

Migrant workers – Russia

But there are many other examples of membership in minority and indigenous populations and displacement. In Ethiopia, the government’s crackdown on political dissent, aimed particularly at the Oromo population, contributed directly to an upsurge in migration from that community. Data collected by the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat (RMMS) showed that by the beginning of 2017 as many as 89 per cent of arriving Ethiopian migrants in the key nearby transit country Yemen stated that they belong to the Oromo community. In Colombia, displacement by armed groups has continued despite the 2016 peace accord.

This disproportionately affects Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities who made up more than a quarter (26 per cent) of the more than 139,000 forcibly displaced in the country between January and October 2017, double their share of the national population as a whole.

In fact, the Colombian example is important as it highlights how, while global attention shifts away from a particular situation, the plight of minorities and indigenous peoples continues. Here, the distinction governments and UN agencies seek to make between refugees on the one hand and migrants on the other becomes blurred and even unhelpful.

The US government denies asylum to victims of Central American gang violence. However, much of the brutal gang-related violence in Guatemala, for instance, has affected indigenous communities disproportionately: decades of conflict and discrimination have left them impoverished and marginalized, with little recourse to protection from police or the judiciary. Indeed, in many cases their situation has been aggravated by official persecution.

The discrimination that caused many migrants and refugees to leave their homes often follows them while in transit. While the abusive treatment of asylum seekers and their families crossing into the US has been widely reported, the crackdown within Mexico on Central American migrants, particularly indigenous community members, has received less coverage.

Significantly, it has resulted not only in the targeting of foreign nationals, including many women and children, but also the arrest and intimidation of indigenous Mexicans by police. Over the past year, reports have emerged from Libya of sub-Saharan Africans trapped by the containment policies of the European Union, who now find themselves targeted by security forces, militias and armed groups. There have been widespread reports of torture, sexual assault and enslavement of migrants, many of whom are vulnerable not only on account of their ethnicity but also as non-Muslims.

The situation is further complicated for groups within minority or indigenous communities, such as women, children, persons with disabilities and LGBTQI people, who contend with multiple forms of discrimination and as a result face heightened threats of sexual assault, physical attacks and other rights abuses – in their places of origin, whilst in transit and upon arrival at their destinations.

What then is needed?

Firstly, all those participating in national and international debates on migration need to tone down their rhetoric. The Danish government could, for instance, have devised policies supporting marginalized urban districts without resorting to the historically loaded term, ‘ghetto’, which immediately stigmatizes residents while giving a green light to racists.

Secondly, governments need to abide by fundamental human rights principles, including the basic right to live with dignity. And finally, all those who are contributing to the debate – including media – must get past the numbers and reveal the individual stories. In order to discuss migration, one needs to understand it fully.

While the way forward may appear challenging, I was inspired by the many Polish journalists who attended our launch event in Krakow and who are already rising to the challenge by seeking out the stories that migrants and refugees have to tell us.

The post An Urgent Need to Turn Down Rhetoric Against Migrants & Refugees appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Carl Soderbergh is Director of Policy & Communications, Minority Rights Group International

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Crisis Drives Nicaragua to an Economic and Social Precipicehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/crisis-drives-nicaragua-economic-social-precipice/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=crisis-drives-nicaragua-economic-social-precipice http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/crisis-drives-nicaragua-economic-social-precipice/#respond Mon, 17 Sep 2018 18:07:02 +0000 Jose Adan Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157649 Five months after the outbreak of mass protests in Nicaragua, in addition to the more than 300 deaths, the crisis has had visible consequences in terms of increased poverty and migration, as well as the international isolation of the government and a wave of repression that continues unabated. Álvaro Leiva, director of the non-governmental Nicaraguan […]

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Between Drought and Floods, Cuba Seeks to Improve Water Managementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/drought-floods-cuba-seeks-improve-water-management/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drought-floods-cuba-seeks-improve-water-management http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/drought-floods-cuba-seeks-improve-water-management/#respond Sat, 15 Sep 2018 15:48:23 +0000 Patricia Grogg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157631 If you enjoy a good daily shower and water comes out every time you turn on the taps in your home, you should feel privileged. There are places in the world where this vital resource for life is becoming scarcer by the day and the forecasts for the future are grim. A study by the […]

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A medium-density polyethylene (MDPE) pipe is set to be installed on a centrally located avenue in the municipality of Centro Habana, which will be part of the new water supply grid for residents of the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A medium-density polyethylene (MDPE) pipe is set to be installed on a centrally located avenue in the municipality of Centro Habana, which will be part of the new water supply grid for residents of the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Patricia Grogg
HAVANA, Sep 15 2018 (IPS)

If you enjoy a good daily shower and water comes out every time you turn on the taps in your home, you should feel privileged. There are places in the world where this vital resource for life is becoming scarcer by the day and the forecasts for the future are grim.

A study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which covers the period 2003-2013, shows that the world’s largest underground aquifers are being depleted at an alarming rate as a result of more water being withdrawn than can be replenished.

“The situation is quite critical,” NASA scientist Jay Famiglietti has said, when discussing the subject in specialised publications in the U.S. In the opinion of this expert the problems with groundwater are aggravated by global warming due to the phenomenon of climate change.

Far from diminishing, the impact of climate variations is also felt in greater changes in rainfall patterns, with serious consequences for Caribbean nations that are dependent on rainfall. In Cuba and other Caribbean island countries, in particular, periods of drought have become more intense.

“There is a gradual decrease in water availability due to reduced rainfall, deteriorating water quality and greater evaporation due to rising temperatures,” Antonio Rodríguez, vice-president of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INRH), told IPS in an interview.

Hurricane Irma, which in September 2017 tore almost through the entire Cuban archipelago, contributed to the relief of a drought that kept the country’s people and fields thirsty for nearly four years. The current rainy season, which will last until November, began in May with Subtropical Storm Alberto with high levels of rainfall that will continue.

“We have been able to show that climate change is real. We lived through 38 months of intense drought and then we had rains well above average,” said Rodrìguez.

A team of workers from the Aguas de La Habana water company work on the replacement of the sewage system in the Vedado neighbourhood in the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A team of workers from the Aguas de La Habana water company work on the replacement of the sewage system in the Vedado neighbourhood in the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The intense rains associated with Alberto, which hit Cuba in the last week of May, caused eight deaths due to drowning and serious economic damage in several provinces, but at the same time considerably increased the reserves in the 242 reservoirs controlled by the INRH, the government agency in charge of Cuba’s water resources.

Tarea Vida, the official plan to deal with climate change in force since last year, warns that the average sea level has risen 6.77 cm to date, and could rise 27 cm by 2050 and 85 by 2100, which would cause the gradual loss of land in low-lying coastal areas.

In addition, there could be “a salinisation of underground aquifers opened up to the sea due to saline wedge intrusion.” For now, “of the 101 aquifers controlled by the INRH, 100 are in a very favourable state,” Rodríguez said.

These sources also suffered the impact of the drought, but recovered with the rains after Hurricane Irma.

In this context, the inefficient use of water, due to the technical condition and inadequate functioning of the water system, causes the annual loss of some 1.6 billion cubic metres of water in Cuba.

In 2011, a strategic plan outlining priorities to address this situation began to be implemented in 12 cities from Havana to Santiago de Cuba in the east.

Two workers from the Aguas de La Habana company replace water pipes and install water meters in homes to measure drinking water consumption in the Vedado neighbourhood in Havana. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Two workers from the Aguas de La Habana company replace water pipes and install water meters in homes to measure drinking water consumption in the Vedado neighbourhood in Havana. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

When the programme began, losses amounted to 58 percent, both in the water grid and inside homes and other establishments. So far, the loss has only been reduced to 48 percent.

Since 2013, however, work has been underway on a comprehensive supply and sanitation plan that covers more than a solution to losses in distribution.

From 2015 to 2017, sewerage coverage has improved by 0.6 per cent and an additional 1.6 million people have benefited from the water supply.

Currently, only 11 percent of the country’s population of 11.2 million receive piped water at home 24 hours a day, and 39 percent at certain times of the day. In the remaining 50 percent of households, water is available only sporadically, and sometimes they go more than a week without water.

“I live in downtown Santiago de Cuba and we have two large elevated tanks and a cistern. We get piped water from the grid more or less every seven days and it is enough for us, even for our daily shower,” a worker from the telephone company Etecsa told IPS from that city, asking to remain anonymous.

Part of the historical water deficit in Santiago and other cities in the eastern-most part of the country has been alleviated through the transfer of water from regions with a greater supply. But during times of drought the supply cycles slow down. “That’s why in my house we are careful with our water,” she said.

One study found that of the 58 percent of water lost, 20 percent is lost in homes.

Another priority is to increase wastewater treatment. “Although in the country sewage coverage is more than 96 percent, only 36 percent of the population receives the service through networks, the rest is through septic tanks and other types of treatment,” said INRH vice-president Rodrìguez.

Among these challenges, he also mentioned poor hydrometric coverage.

Alexander Concepción Molina, a worker at Aguas de La Habana, supervises the thermofusion process of a high-density polyethylene pipe, which is part of the installation of new water gridsin the Peñas Altas neighbourhood of Habana del Este, in the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Alexander Concepción Molina, a worker at Aguas de La Habana, supervises the thermofusion process of a high-density polyethylene pipe, which is part of the installation of new water gridsin the Peñas Altas neighbourhood of Habana del Este, in the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

“We were able to get 100 percent of the public sector and all major consumers to be controlled by water metres, although in the residential sector this coverage reaches just over 23 percent of the population. From 2015 to 2017, more than 227,000 water meters have been installed, but the plan is to reach total coverage,” Rodríguez said.

“Without a doubt, water meters reduce consumption and allow us to measure the efficiency of our system,” he added.

Like other services, residential water supply is subsidised by the state and has a very low cost. “There are four of us and we pay 5.20 pesos a month (less than 0.25 cents of a dollar),” said María Curbelo, a resident of the Havana neighbourhood of Vedado.

The national hydraulic programme extended until 2030 includes works for water supply, sanitation, storage, diversion and hydrometry, as well as the necessary equipment for investment and maintenance.

“We are also working on the construction of seawater desalination plants,” Rodriguez said.

These plans include not only works to supply the population, but also everything necessary for agriculture, hotel infrastructure and the housing programme.

Rodriguez explained that to carry out the programme there is both state and foreign funding, which has made possible a subsidised home supply.

“We have benefited by foreign loans from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Spain’s development aid agency and Chinese donations,” among others, he said.

These are soft loans with a five-year grace period, two or three percent interest and to be paid in 20 years, with the Cuban State as guarantor.

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‘Women Not Speaking at the Same Table as Men’ Means a Widening Digital Gender Gap in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/women-not-speaking-table-men-means-widening-digital-gender-gap-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-not-speaking-table-men-means-widening-digital-gender-gap-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/women-not-speaking-table-men-means-widening-digital-gender-gap-africa/#respond Fri, 14 Sep 2018 10:48:41 +0000 Mercedes Sayagues http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157613 ‘Think Bigger’, urge the colourful posters on the walls of Ideario, an innovation hub in Chamanculo, a modest neighbourhood in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital. The message is right on target for the new female trainees, eager eyes glued to laptop screens as they learn internet and computer skills. Three times a year Ideario runs a free, three-month-long […]

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Marcia Julio Vilanculos brought her baby to the digital literacy training at Ideario innovation hub, Maputo, Mozambique. Women’s caregiving responsibilities must be factored in by training programmes. Credit: Mercedes Sayagues/IPS

By Mercedes Sayagues
MAPUTO, Sep 14 2018 (IPS)

‘Think Bigger’, urge the colourful posters on the walls of Ideario, an innovation hub in Chamanculo, a modest neighbourhood in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital. The message is right on target for the new female trainees, eager eyes glued to laptop screens as they learn internet and computer skills.

Three times a year Ideario runs a free, three-month-long course on digital literacy for 60 poor young women, selected among 500 candidates from Chamanculo.“Our survey highlights the gendered barriers to internet access and use in particular contexts - urban, peri-urban and rural women, with low income levels.” -- Chenai Chair, evaluations adviser at ICT Research Africa.

Ideario’s operations manager, Jessica Manhiça, tells IPS many girls initially fear using computers. Nine in 10 do not have one at home.

“I was afraid of erasing other people’s documents,” Marcia Julio Vilanculos, 25, tells IPS. In high school she paid a classmate to type her handwritten assignments.

“Overcoming fear opens the door to thinking bigger,” says Manhiça. “Girls are raised to be afraid of technology, of making mistakes, of being ill-judged as different, unconventional or masculine.”

The course starts by reinforcing self-esteem and unpacking the myth that tech is for men.

“Many parents discourage the girls from the course, worrying they will become independent, delay marriage, or exchange sex for jobs,” says Manhiça. “The young women internalise their families’ negativity.”

Not surprisingly, less than three percent of jobs in Mozambique’s booming tech sector are filled by women, reports a market survey by Ideario’s partner, MUVA Tech. MUVA Tech is a programme that works for the economic empowerment of young urban girls.

Among Mozambique’s 28 million people, less than 10 percent are internet users and only less than one in 10 users are women, according to a recent After Access survey by Research ICT Africa.

According to Research ICT Africa:

  • 30 percent of all women own cellphones,
  • 15 percent of these women own a smartphone (but not all use it for internet for a number of factors),
  • and 6.8  percent of all Mozambican women, with or without owning a cellphone, use the internet. 

Of the seven African countries surveyed, only Rwanda has lower internet penetration and greater gender disparity.

“Our survey highlights the gendered barriers to internet access and use in particular contexts – urban, peri-urban and rural women, with low income levels,” says Chenai Chair, researcher at Research ICT Africa. “The findings reflect the gendered power dynamics that people live with daily.”

The digital gender gap is widening in Africa, warns the International Telecommunications Union.

Even Kenya, celebrated for its digital innovation and a relatively low overall digital gender gap of 10 percent, shows vast disparity among the urban poor. A digital gender audit in the slums of Nairobi by the World Wide Web Foundation (WWWF) in 2015 found that 57 percent of men are connected to the internet but only 20 percent of women are.

In poor areas of Kampala, Uganda, 61 percent of men and 21 percent of women use the internet, and 44 percent of men and 18 percent of women use a computer.

When women go online, they may find harassment. In Uganda, 45 percent of female internet users reported online threats, as did one in five in Kenya. The gender stereotypes and abusive behaviour found in daily life continue online.

“It is still believed in many cultures in Uganda that women should not speak at the same table as men and that includes discussions on social media,” Susan Atim, of Women of Uganda Network, tells IPS.

 

 

The WWWF research identifies the root causes of the digital gender divide: high costs, lack of know-how, scarcity of content that is relevant and empowering for women, and barriers to women speaking freely and privately online.

Systemic inequalities based on gender, race, income and geography are mirrored in the digital realm and leave many women, especially the poor and the rural, trailing behind Africa’s tech transformation. Without digital literacy, women cannot get the digital dividends – the access to jobs, information and services essential to secure a good livelihood.

Simple steps like reducing the cost to connect, teaching digital literacy in schools, and expanding public access facilities can bring quick progress, says WWWF.

Tarisai Nyamweda, media manager with Gender Links, a regional advocacy group, points out the scarcity of women role models in tech for schoolgirls. The percentage of female high school teachers ranges from fewer than two in 10 in Mozambique and Malawi to just over half in South Africa.

“We need to change the narrative so girls can identify new ways to do things,” says Nyamweda.

Digital literacy training must consider women’s domestic responsibilities.

To be at Ideario at 8 am, Vilanculos would wake up at 5 am, to make a fire and heat water. She prepared breakfast for her husband (a car painter) and their two children. She then dropped her eldest at school at 7am and brought her baby with her to the training. During lunch she picked up her oldest and took both her children to stay with an aunt, and returned to Ideario.

“I was tired, my feet hurt,” she recalls. But the effort paid off: today she is a microworker with Tekla, an online job platform.

The use of information and communication technologies is now required in all but two occupations, dishwashing and food preparation, in the American workplace, notes a policy brief on the future of work by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Considering that 90 percent of jobs in the Fourth Industrial Revolution will require digital skills, according to a World Economic Forum study,  there is no time to lose in closing Africa’s digital gender gap.

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Global Warming Threatens Europe’s Public Healthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/global-warming-threatens-europes-public-health/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-warming-threatens-europes-public-health http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/global-warming-threatens-europes-public-health/#comments Thu, 13 Sep 2018 10:16:43 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157598 Climate change and health experts are warning of the growing threat to public health in Europe from global warming as rising temperatures help potentially lethal diseases spread easily across the continent. This summer Europe has had to contend with record temperatures, drought, and destructive storms caused by heat and wildfires as forests in turn are […]

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Parched olive groves in northern Croatia, where West Nile Virus has already claimed one victim this year. West Nile Virus infections have sharply increased in Europe this year, the World Health Organisation says, largely due to a longer transmission season in the region which this year saw high temperatures and extended rainy spells followed by dry weather, helping mosquito breeding and propagation. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

By Ed Holt
VIENNA, Sep 13 2018 (IPS)

Climate change and health experts are warning of the growing threat to public health in Europe from global warming as rising temperatures help potentially lethal diseases spread easily across the continent.

This summer Europe has had to contend with record temperatures, drought, and destructive storms caused by heat and wildfires as forests in turn are left parched.

It has also, though, seen a spike in cases of the West Nile Virus – which by early September had claimed 71 lives – and the dramatic spread of the potentially lethal vibrio bacteria in an exceptionally warm Baltic Sea. The West Nile Virus is a viral infection spread by mosquitos and can cause neurological disease and death. Various species of vibrio bacteria cause Vibriosis, which can sometimes lead to deadly skin infections or gastrointestinal disease.“We need to think about preventing health problems by dealing with the causes of climate change itself.” -- Anne Stauffer, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL).

And there have been warnings that global warming has increased the risk of tick-borne diseases on the continent and that the geographical range of mosquitoes, which can transmit diseases like dengue, chikungunya, and Zika, is also expanding.

While disease experts are keen to stress that climate change is just one factor involved in the greater incidence of tropical diseases in Europe – increasing global travel, unplanned urbanisation and others factors are also involved – they do, however, agree that changes to temperature, rainfall and humidity make it easier for mosquitoes and other vectors to spread, survive and pass on infections.

Meanwhile, the incidences of vibrio infections – which can cause lethal illnesses in some people with compromised immune systems – reported in the Baltic Sea this year do appear to be directly linked to higher temperatures.

Jan Semenza, acting head of Section Scientific Assessment at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), told IPS: “The warming of the Baltic Sea is clearly related to global climate change and the increase in sea surface temperatures there is linked to [the increase in] vibrio bacteria.

“There seems to be a link with a warming climate and vibrio infections in the Baltic Sea.”

He added: “Climate change projections for sea surface temperature ….. indicate a marked upward trend during the summer months and an increase in the relative risk of  these infections in the coming decades.”

Groups dealing with the impact of climate change on health say that this year has been a watershed in European perception of climate change and its effects.

Anne Stauffer, director of Strategy at the non-profit Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) group which addresses the effects of climate change on human health, told IPS: “In terms of public awareness this summer’s heatwave has really made people see that climate change is happening in Europe and that we are facing threats.

“In previous years people thought about the effects of climate change only in terms of what’s happened in Africa and other places, not Europe, but now they see that Europe is affected and that Europe is facing challenges.”

But while public awareness of the health threats of climate change in Europe has improved over the last decade, it is still lacking, she says.

Experts on tropical diseases agree that in some countries, people are, perhaps understandably, ignorant of even the presence of certain diseases in Europe.

Rachel Lowe, an assistant professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told IPS: “It would probably not occur to a lot of people in, say the [United Kingdom], to think about West Nile Virus when they go to Romania.”

Indeed, some tropical diseases have been present in Europe for many years, but confined to very southerly latitudes, while ticks, some of which can carry lyme disease (results in flu-like symptoms and a rash) and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain through an infection), are present in many parts of the continent.

But this year has seen a rise in cases of tick-borne encephalitis in central and southern Europe.

But with temperatures rising, that could change in the future. Cases of West Nile Virus, which have been reported in some parts of Europe for many years now, were much higher this year than in recent years and were seen much earlier than previously. This has been put down, in large part, to higher temperatures earlier in the year.

At the same time, there has been a documented expansion in the range of disease-carrying ticks in recent years to more northerly latitudes and higher elevations. Hot summers and mild winters have also been reported to be linked, along with other factors, to high incidence of tick-borne disease in certain parts of central and northern Europe.

A spokesman for the World Health Organization (WHO) told IPS: “Increases in temperatures in Europe might allow the establishment of tropical and semitropical vector species, permitting transmission of diseases in areas where low temperatures have hitherto prevented their over-wintering.”

Facing this potential threat, the WHO’s European Region Office has devoted increasing attention over recent years to what it says is the “emerging challenge of vector-borne diseases”.

It has developed a regional framework for surveillance and control of mosquitoes and recommends involving a mix of action, including, among others, political commitment supported with adequate financial resources as well as community engagement for both personal protection against insect bites and vector control activities.

But experts say that general awareness of the presence and threat of tropical diseases in Europe needs to be raised, especially as climate change models see similar long, hot summers as well as milder winters becoming more common across the continent in future and countries could suddenly face outbreaks of diseases they have not had to deal with in the past.

The WHO spokesperson told IPS: “Due to globalisation, increasing volume and pace of travel and trade and weather patterns, vector-borne disease may spread to new areas, thus affecting new populations never exposed to them before.

“In these areas, low general awareness about diseases such as West Nile Virus, dengue or chikungunya among the public and both human and animal health professionals might challenge early detection of cases.”

And Lowe told IPS: “People need to be more aware of this [tropical diseases in Europe]. People are becoming more aware of infectious diseases in general, but probably not so aware of the fact there are certain infectious diseases in Europe.”

It is not just public awareness, though, which will help Europe deal with the health threats posed by a changing climate. Whether, for example, mosquito-borne disease outbreaks, would be successfully contained, would depend on a number of factors. “This would include factors such as surveillance of mosquito spread, mosquito control as well as general public awareness,” Lowe told IPS.

The WHO told IPS that public health advice needs to be communicated to people for self-protection and while authorities need to make sure mosquito breeding sites are drained so that they do not become breeding grounds for mosquitos while doctors need to be regularly trained to recognise diseases which were uncommon in Europe.

But what some other experts suggest is, rather than trying to deal with outbreaks of diseases, governments should be working to halt climate change and prevent disease outbreaks happening in the first place.

Stauffer told IPS: “There are still unknowns with regards to the health threats potentially posed by climate change and we do not know how they will play out… but the lesson learnt from this summer is that we need to strengthen efforts to tackle climate change – not just adapting healthcare to cope with a warmer climate but also acting to reduce emissions.

“We need to think about preventing health problems by dealing with the causes of climate change itself.”

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South-South Cooperation in a Transformative Erahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/south-south-cooperation-transformative-era/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-south-cooperation-transformative-era http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/south-south-cooperation-transformative-era/#respond Thu, 13 Sep 2018 07:11:58 +0000 Jorge Chediek http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157594 Jorge Chediek is Director, UN Office of South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and Envoy of the Secretary-General on South-South Cooperation.

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Jorge Chediek is Director, UN Office of South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and Envoy of the Secretary-General on South-South Cooperation.

By Jorge Chediek
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 13 2018 (IPS)

On 12 September, the international community commemorated the UN Day for South-South Cooperation. This is an important acknowledgement of the contributions of Southern partnerships in addressing the many development challenges that confront the international community, such as poverty, climate change, inequality, contagious diseases and humanitarian crises.

Jorge Chediek

South-South cooperation is a unique arrangement where two or more developing countries share technical skills, exchange knowledge, transfer technologies, and provide financial assistance. These collaborations are built on the principles of solidarity, respect for national sovereignty, non-conditionality, national ownership, and mutual respect.

This year’s commemoration was particularly significant, as it marked the fortieth anniversary of an important milestone in international cooperation – the adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Technical Cooperation Amongst Developing Countries (BAPA). BAPA institutionalized cooperation amongst developing countries, creating a strategic framework for furthering cooperation in technical and economic areas.

But cooperation amongst developing countries did not begin forty years ago – it traces its origins to the anti-colonial solidarity movement of the twentieth century. The practice gained further popularity in the 1950’s and 1970’s as newly independent States with limited capacities looked for independent ways to accelerate their development, away from the Cold War dichotomy of the day.

Forty years after the adoption of BAPA, the international system is undergoing a major systemic transformation, with new pillars of growth and influence emerging from the global South. Through collective voice and action, developing countries are actively contributing to the building of a more prosperous and peaceful world.

Developing countries today account for the largest share of global economic output and are playing an active, constructive role in traditional institutions of global governance as well as creating new institutions that are Southern-led.

In a noteworthy trend, development solutions increasingly originate from developing countries themselves. Harnessing the abundance of innovative solutions, brought about by its economic growth and advances in technical competencies, the global South now charts its own unique development path.

Developing countries are now drivers of innovation in ICT, renewable technologies, infrastructure development and social welfare. Pooled medical procurement is lowering costs and increasing access to life saving medicines. Southern-led mediation mechanisms for conflict prevention continue to prove especially effective in reducing violent conflicts.

Technical cooperation in agriculture is greatly improving the yields in agricultural output. Transfer of technologies and vast interregional infrastructure investments are facilitating access to international markets for medium and small-scale enterprises.

Southern-based centres of excellence and knowledge hubs have become key vehicles for promoting mutual learning, leading to reduction of poverty and the growth of an emerging middle class.

With this newly formed confidence, the global South progressively looks within itself for ideas, knowledge and skills for tackling many of its common challenges. This enhances its national and collective self-reliance, a major objective of BAPA.

As the capacities of developing countries have improved, there has been a corresponding expansion of the scope of South-South cooperation beyond technical cooperation to other areas. South-South cooperation today includes, amongst other instruments, technological transfers, knowledge exchanges, financial assistance, technical assistance as well as concessional loans.

As a consequence, interregional forums and summits for dialogue amongst developing countries have become an important platform for enhancing South-South policy coordination, launching joint initiatives, and committing resources for infrastructure development, trade and investments – vital for ensuring sustainable development.

Triangular cooperation – Southern-driven partnerships between two or more developing countries, supported by developed countries or multilateral organizations – is increasingly playing a role to ensure equity in partnership and scaling up of success.

In light of this, the United Nations General Assembly has decided to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the adoption of BAPA by convening a High-level conference (BAPA+40) to be held from 19-21 March 2019 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. BAPA+40 provides a great opportunity for the international community to further strengthen and invigorate cooperation amongst developing countries.

Although great strides have been made by developing countries in improving the living conditions of millions of its people, complex development challenges still persist. Global economic transformations and its corresponding consequences on production patterns present a particular challenge to developing countries.

Automation poses a great risk to job creation in the South; climate change has particularly adverse effects on Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries; traditional partnership models are re-evaluated and inequality continues to rise. The global South will play an important role in overcoming these challenges.

The United Nations system continues to support the collaborative initiatives of developing countries by advocating, catalysing, brokering and facilitating such collaborations across many spheres.

Drawing on its vast presence across the global South, the United Nations is well placed to identify development capacities and gaps existing in developing countries while collecting, analysing and disseminating best practices and lessons learned towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other internationally agreed development goals.

As the international community enters the third year of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, concrete development solutions and resources from the global South are critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Effective development solutions that have worked in a few countries of the global South can be scaled up through South-South cooperation and triangular cooperation to accelerate sustainable development, particularly in countries that are lagging behind.

More and better South-South cooperation is essential to building a better world that leaves no one behind.

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Excerpt:

Jorge Chediek is Director, UN Office of South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and Envoy of the Secretary-General on South-South Cooperation.

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Q&A: Achieving Sustainable Goals: “In the End it is All About People. If People Want, it Will Happen.”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-achieving-sustainable-goals-end-people-people-want-will-happen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-achieving-sustainable-goals-end-people-people-want-will-happen http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-achieving-sustainable-goals-end-people-people-want-will-happen/#respond Wed, 12 Sep 2018 10:05:07 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157577 Manipadma Jena interviews the Deputy Director and Water Sector Lead at the Global Green Growth Institute's (GGGI) Investment and Policy Solutions Division, PETER VOS.

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On Bangladesh's extensive estuaries, millions of poorest climate vulnerable families eke out a paltry living from inter-tidal fishing like this father-son team that is selling their catch of catfish to tourists on a power boat. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
STOCKHOLM, Sep 12 2018 (IPS)

Today just over two billion people live without readily available, safe water supplies at home. And more than half the world’s population, roughly 4.3 billion people, live in areas where demand for water resources outstrips sustainable supplies for at least part of the year.

Yet the world is not managing water well or making the most of it, the United Nations High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development said in July this year. This is due above all to failures of policies, governance, leadership and markets."So currently there is emerging a good opportunity to attract conservation finance for nature conservation, for water management, for sustainable landscapes." -- Deputy Director and Water Sector Lead at the Global Green Growth Institute, Peter Vos.

By 2030, investment in water and sanitation infrastructure will need to be around USD0.9 -1.5 trillion per year, according to the New Climate Economy Report 2018. The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate released this major report earlier this month.

Maximising returns on water investment requires recognising the potential for natural or green infrastructure to complement or replace built infrastructure. It also requires mobilising private finance and investment at scale and generating adequate revenue returns. It will also be vital to put an appropriate value on water and sanitation services.

This is what the South Korea headquartered Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) helps developing countries and emerging economies do, among other things. GGGI, an inter-governmental organisation with 28 member countries, supports and promotes strong, inclusive and sustainable economic growth in its partner countries. It supports countries’ national efforts to translate climate commitments, contained in their Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement, into concrete climate action.

“GGGI delivers green growth services in the water sector that requires [the application of] market-based solutions for managing ecosystem services using innovative financial instruments such as Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES),” said Peter Vos, deputy director and Global Water Sector Lead during World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden. Vos has extensive experience in international water projects both in the public and private sector.

He said that GGGI saw the PES model as not only providing a vehicle for incentivising ecosystem management, but also being able to help achieve long-term sustainable goals.

In a presentation on financing water conservation for ecosystem services at the global event organised by the Stockholm International Water Institute, Vos strongly emphasised PES as a powerful tool for enhancing economic, environmental and social returns from investments in integrated ecosystem management. Excerpts of the interview follow:

Peter Vos, Deputy Director and Water Sector Lead in GGGI’s Investment and Policy Solutions Division, said that GGGI saw the Payment for Ecosystem Services model as not only providing a vehicle for incentivising ecosystem management, but also being able to help achieve long-term sustainable goals. Courtesy: Peter Vos

IPS: Please tell us about GGGI’s participation in the World Water Week and how it benefits from it.

PV: What is getting the attention of the water discussion now is ecosystem services. We try to get knowledge about the crucial elements of this aspect. GGGI is implementing PES in the water sector and has been involved in the development of financial instruments to support ecosystem services in several developing countries.

GGGI works to address issues impacting water availability and use by encouraging water-related innovation in industries and investment in green urban infrastructure, and through integration with policies on water allocation in economic sectors.

Secondly, there are the bilateral meetings which hold importance for our future work and at World Water Week we met a cross-section of stakeholders, including from ministries, donors, also NGOs.

We had very intense discussions and made good progress. GGGI is an international organisation focusing on green growth, and we need partners to pursue our agenda, not only in terms of attracting finance but also in ways in which we can work together, to cooperate, expand and have more impact. We are a small organisation and cannot do it alone.

IPS: GGGI’s water sector has been providing a range of appropriate technical guidance towards green growth to low and lower-middle income countries that are tailored to their socio-economic conditions, their capacity and demand. What are GGGI’s working strengths in this area?

PV: GGGI focuses on mainstreaming water resources management in green planning frameworks, decentralised sanitation and water quality investments, and innovation through bio-economy, including climate resilient food systems and payment for ecosystem services.

What makes GGGI’s operations successful is that we are embedded in the government. We are not outsiders but one of them. We have our staff sitting in the ministry itself, discussing constantly how to improve sustainable economic growth, looking at policy reform through the green pathway.

Green growth policies allow for limited water resources to be used more efficiently and enable access to all at a reasonable cost, while leaving sufficient quantities to sustain the environment. New green projects in water and sanitation not only improve overall capacity in sustainable water management, but also create additional green jobs.

The second aspect about the way GGGI works is that it is there with partner countries for the long haul. Our commitments are long term and we see it through from policy reforms all the way to supporting project implementation. We are there monitoring projects even five years after [implementation] and assist governments if something goes wrong.

Our linkages between policy reform and project development ensures implementation. But if it is only about policy reform then it is very likely that it will be written in a report and may never see the light of day. Without policy implementation, policy reform is a toothless tiger; it will not be successful…So we have two pillars. The first is policy reform to create a conducive environment. [And the] second is project implementation that creates the hands and feet of what we jointly want to achieve.

IPS: What are some of the implementation challenges GGGI faces and how does it handle them?

PV: In setting the ground for reforms, yes challenges are there. Politicians are there for the short term. Elected governments may be there for four years but ministers are often changed in a year’s time. One cannot rely on political support only; one has to work with all the layers below it – the civil service and municipalities – to make a policy or a project sustainable and internalise it.

We consider ourselves the strategic advisors, discussing policies and project extensively till the administration is fluent with them. We ensure that we have a broad base of support and not concentrated on one or two [powerful] persons.

We have been very nimble. The world is changing very fast and we need to adapt and respond quickly to the needs and opportunities for our member countries. So in the past year we have strengthened our presence in the countries of operations. With two-thirds of our staff in member countries, and just one-third at headquarters, we are closer than before to ground operations in member countries.

IPS: GGGI also helps member countries with investment strategies for their green projects. What is its investment mantra in an increasingly public fund-squeezed world?

PV: The mantra is that public investments are not sufficient to change the world. We need to attract other financing. Private financing is very important. There is a huge amount of private financing floating around. They are all looking for investment opportunities.

With current low interest rates it is difficult for them to find the right investment opportunities. So currently there is emerging a good opportunity to attract conservation finance for nature conservation, for water management, for sustainable landscapes.

Definitely there is a search for returns on investments but investors want impact; they want to do good for Nature, to do good for people. So this is also helping. Investors, especially in Germany, in the United Kingdom and the Nordic countries, are contributing to this shift. We have to find our opportunity in this shift to attract funding.

Since there is limited public money, we have to use it intelligently. What GGGI is doing is putting government and donor money or contributions from the Green Climate Fund into projects in such a way that the private investor feels confident that their investment will give assured returns. For instance, in Rwanda we are working on energy efficiency and climate change investments. Financial vehicles are designed with a foundation of public funds and this gives comfort to private investors.

IPS: How do you see the earth in 2050 and where do you see hope for sustainability coming from?

PV: In principle I am very optimistic. This is not a scientific answer but a personal opinion. I am also optimistic that we will be able to achieve positive results and in the end remain below the two degree warming limit.

This positivity is fed by the innovations for sustainability I see, that investors now are looking for impact rather than financial returns and the fact that the membership of GGGI increased to 28 members who remain very committed to a sustainable growth path. Countries like China may still be resorting to coal-powered electricity but they are taking big steps towards sustainability simultaneously.

Today, it is a combination of positive and negative factors, but I hope and expect the positive will prevail, that we will be able to turn the ship in the end. In the end it is all about people. If people want, it will happen.

The post Q&A: Achieving Sustainable Goals: “In the End it is All About People. If People Want, it Will Happen.” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Manipadma Jena interviews the Deputy Director and Water Sector Lead at the Global Green Growth Institute's (GGGI) Investment and Policy Solutions Division, PETER VOS.

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Q&A: As Water Scarcity Becomes the New Normal How Do We Manage This Scarce Resource?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-water-scarcity-becomes-new-normal-manage-scarce-resource/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-water-scarcity-becomes-new-normal-manage-scarce-resource http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-water-scarcity-becomes-new-normal-manage-scarce-resource/#respond Tue, 11 Sep 2018 12:42:37 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157558 Manipadma Jena interviews the executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute TORGNY HOLMGREN

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In south west coastal Satkhira, Bangladesh as salinity has spread to freshwater sources, a private water seller fills his 20-litre cans with public water supply to sell in islands where poor families spend 300 Bangladesh Taka every month to buy drinking and cooking water alone. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
STOCKHOLM, Sep 11 2018 (IPS)

Growing economies are thirsty economies. And water scarcity has become “the new normal” in many parts of the world, according to Torgny Holmgren executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).

As climate change converges with rapid economic and urban development and poor farming practices in the emerging economies of South Asia, water insecurity for marginalised people and farmers is already intensifying.

By 2030 for instance, India’s demand for water is estimated to become double the available water supply. Forests, wetlands lost, rivers and oceans will be degraded in the name of development. This need not be so. Development can be sustainable, it can be green.

Technology today is a key component in achieving water use sustainability – be it reduced water use in industries and agriculture, or in treating waste water, among others. Low and middle income economies need water and data technology support from developed countries not only to reach Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 on water, which relates to access to safe water and sanitation as well as the sound management of freshwater supplies, but several global goals in which water plays a critical role.

Speakers at SIWI’s 28th World Water Week held last month in Stockholm, Sweden, underpinned water scarcity as contributing to poverty, conflict, and the spread of waterborne diseases, as well as hindering access to education for women and girls.

Women are central to the collection and the safeguarding of water – they are responsible for more than 70 percent of water chores and management worldwide. But the issue goes far deeper than the chore of fetching water.  It is also about dignity, personal hygiene, safety, opportunity loss and reverting to gender stereotypes.

Women’s voices remain limited in water governance in South Asia, even though their participation in water governance can alleviate water crises through their traditional knowledge on small-scale solutions for agriculture, homestead gardening, and domestic water use. This can strengthen resilience to drought and improve family nutrition.

Holmgren, a former Swedish ambassador with extensive experience working in South Asia, among other regions, spoke to IPS about how South Asia can best address the serious gender imbalances in water access and the issue of sustainable water technology support from developed economies to developing countries. Excerpts of the interview follow:

Torgny Holmgren, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), says as water scarcity becomes the new normal, traditional knowledge must be combined with new technology to ensure water sustainability. Photo courtesy: SIWI

IPS: What major steps should South Asian economies adopt for sustainable water services from their natural ecosystems? 

TH: South Asia is experiencing now a scarcity of water as demand now grows, thanks to a growing economy and also growing population. For the region specifically, a fundamental aspect is how its countries govern their water accessibility. We at SIWI have seen water-scarce countries manage really efficiently while those with abundance mismanage this resource.

It boils down to how institutions, not just governments but communities, industries at large govern water – how water systems are organised and allocated. We have instances from Indian village parliaments that decide how to share, allocate and even treat common water resources together with neighbouring catchment area villages.

One good example of this is 2015 Stockholm Water Prize winner Rajendra Singh from India who has worked in arid rural areas with local and traditional water harvesting techniques to recharge river basins, revive and store rain water in traditional water bodies and bring life back to these regions. These techniques can also help to manage too much water from more frequent climate-induced floods.

Even though the largest [amount] water is presently still being consumed for food production, more and more water is being demanded by industries and electricity producers. As competition for the scarce resource accelerates, soon we have to restructure user categories differently in terms of tariffs and allocation because households and food production have to be provided adequate water.

Even farm irrigation reforms can regulate and save water as earlier award winning International Water Management Institute research has shown – that if governments lower subsidies on electricity for pumping, farmers were careful how much and for how long they extract groundwater, without affecting the crop yield. Farmers pumped less when energy tariffs were pegged higher.

IPS: What is SIWI’s stand on the issue of sustainable water technology support from developed economies to developing countries?

TH: Water has key advantages – it connects all SDGs and it is a truly global issue. If we look around we see similar situations in Cape Town, China and California. Water is not a North-South matter. Africa can learn from any country in any region. This is the opportunity the World Water Week offers.

It is true that new technology is developing fast, but a mix of this with traditional technology and local knowledge works well. We also need to adapt traditional technologies to modern water needs and situations. These can be basic, low cost and people friendly. And it could encourage more efficient storage and use of ‘green water’ (soil moisture used by plants).

Drip irrigation has begun to be used more in South Asia, India particularly. There is need to encourage this widely. Recycling and the way in which industries treat and re-use water should be more emphasised.

Technology transfer is and can be done in various ways. The private sector can develop both technologies and create markets for them. Governments too can provide enabling environments to promote technology development with commercial viability. A good example of this is mobile phone technology – one where uses today range from mobile banking to farmers’ access of weather data and farming advisory in remote regions.

Technology transfer from different countries can be donor or bank funded or through multi-lateral organisations like the international Green Climate Fund, but any technology always has to be adapted to local situations.

Training, education, knowledge and know-how sharing – are, to me, the best kinds of technology transfers. Students and researchers – be it through international educational exchanges or partnerships between overseas universities – get the know-how and can move back home to work on advancing technologies tailored to their national needs.

Is technology transfer happening adequately? There is a need to build up on new or local technology hardware. For this infrastructure finance is (increasingly) available but needs scaling up faster.

IPS: How can South Asia best address the serious gender imbalances in water access, bring more women into water governance in its patriarchal societies?

TH: It is important that those in power need encourage gender balance not in decision-making alone but in educational institutions. Making room for gender balance in an organisation’s decision-making structure is important. This can be possible if there is equal access to education. But we are seeing an encouraging trend – in youth seminars sometimes the majority attending are women.

Finding women champions from water organisations can also encourage other women to take up strong initiatives for water equity.

When planning and implementing projects there is a need to focus on what impacts, decisions under specific issues, are having on men and women separately. And projects need be accordingly gender budgeted.

IPS: How can the global south – under pressure to grow their GDP, needing more land, more industries to bring billions out of poverty – successfully balance their green and grey water infrastructure? What role can local communities play in maintaining green infrastructure? 

TH: When a water-scarce South Asian village parliament decides they will replant forests, attract rain back to the region, and when rain comes, collect it – this is a very local, community-centred green infrastructure initiative. Done on a large scale, it can bring tremendous change to people, livelihoods and societies at large.

We have long acted under the assumption that grey infrastructure – dams, levees, pipes and canals – purpose-built by humans, is superior to what nature itself can bring us in the form of mangroves, wetlands, rivers and lakes.

Grey infrastructure is very efficient at transporting and holding water for power production. But paving over the saw-grass prairie around Houston reduced the city’s ability to absorb the water that hurricane Harvey brought in August 2017.

It isn’t a question of either/or. We need both green and grey, and we need to be wise in choosing what serves our current and potential future set of purposes best.

Be it industrialised or developing countries, today we have to make more sophisticated use of green water infrastructures. Especially in South Asia’s growing urban sprawls, we must capture the flooding rainwater, store it in green water infrastructure for reuse; because grey cannot do it alone.

The post Q&A: As Water Scarcity Becomes the New Normal How Do We Manage This Scarce Resource? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Manipadma Jena interviews the executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute TORGNY HOLMGREN

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‘All the Roads Leading to Agadez and Italy are Dangerous’http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/roads-leading-agadez-italy-dangerous/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=roads-leading-agadez-italy-dangerous http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/roads-leading-agadez-italy-dangerous/#respond Sat, 08 Sep 2018 11:18:43 +0000 Issa Sikiti da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157490 El Adama Diallo left his home in Senegal on Oct. 28, 2016, with dreams of reaching Europe in his heart and a steely determination that made him take an alternative, dangerous route to get there despite the absence of regular migration papers in his pocket. It was a journey that took him from West Africa—through […]

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Hip-hop singer Matar Khoudia Ndiaye–aka Big Makhou Djolof was speaking on Radio Oxy Jeunes Fm, in Senegal, about his experience attempting irregular migration to Europe. Courtesy: International Organization for Migration (IOM)

By Issa Sikiti da Silva
DAKAR, Sep 8 2018 (IPS)

El Adama Diallo left his home in Senegal on Oct. 28, 2016, with dreams of reaching Europe in his heart and a steely determination that made him take an alternative, dangerous route to get there despite the absence of regular migration papers in his pocket.

It was a journey that took him from West Africa—through Mali then to Agadez in Niger and across the Sahara desert—to a southern oasis town in Libya.“There is no love and games that side. Blacks are betraying their own brothers and giving them away to Arabs. They are the ones that are negotiating the ransom on behalf of their Arab bosses.” -- El Adama Diallo, returnee migrant.

It was a route populated with heavily-armed human traffickers, bandits and the still-alive bodies of migrants like him, emaciated and weak from lack of water and food who had been left behind to die under the blazing North African sun.

Diallo survived it. Barely.

“All the roads leading to Agadez, and eventually to Libya and Italy are dangerous,” he told IPS on the sidelines of a live broadcast on Radio Afia Fm on Monday, Sept. 3, from the station’s base in the bustling township of Grand Yoff, in the Senegalese capital Dakar.

For me, the dream of reaching Europe irregularly is over, and I call on all who are considering irregular migration to stop it now, 32-year-old Diallo said.

Diallo has much to say about his experience. He finally was able to return to Senegal on Dec. 5, 2017 with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which has been working in coordination with the United Nations Refugee Agency and the Libyan government to assist migrants who want to return home.

He now wants to inform others about his experience. Diallo has become a volunteer in an innovative awareness-raising campaign by IOM called Migrants as Messengers (MaM). MaM is a peer-to-peer messaging campaign that trains returning migrants to share their stories of the danger, trauma and abuse that they experienced while attempting irregular migration. The stories are candid and emotional testimonials.

As is Diallo’s own story.

Kidnapped and inhumane detention conditions

Diallo arrived in Sabha, southwestern Libya and found “almost the whole of Africa was there; Malians, Gambians, Ivorians, Nigerians and others.” From there he hoped to go to Tripoli to catch a boat to Italy. But he was immediately kidnapped by gangs posing as human traffickers.

“They demanded a ransom of [about USD800] for my freedom, which was paid a week later by my family back in Senegal,” he said.

Being caught by human traffickers showed him that race or nationality did not mean solidarity when it came to making a profit.

“There is no love and games that side. Blacks are betraying their own brothers and giving them away to Arabs. They are the ones that are negotiating the ransom on behalf of their Arab bosses,” he said.

But after being released he spent about 10 months in Libya, still waiting to travel to Italy. He was eventually arrested by security forces and held, along with thousands others, in a detention centre in Tripoli in such inhumane conditions that eventually, he knew; all he wanted to do was to return home.

He stayed for two months in cells that were so overcrowded “we were piled on top of each other like fishes.”

“Some people slept standing and others spent the night in stinking toilets, and we only ate once a day. It was terrible,” Diallo explained.

He endured it until he was given the opportunity to return home with IOM.

Explaining the dangers to others

Mamoudou Keita, a reporter at Radio Afia, told IPS that community radio stations were the right platform to debate this issue.

“Community radio is close to people on the ground. I think it’s a good communication strategy. However, it must not be limited to the media. It must descend to the streets, mosques and churches to ensure that the message is understood everywhere,” Keita said.

“Besides, the marketplaces are also good places to spread the word because some mothers are funding their children’s [irregular] trips to Europe. They must be told that it’s morally wrong and dangerous.”

El Hadji Saidou Nourou Dia, IOM Senegal spokesperson, told IPS that his agency was working with 30 community radio stations affiliated to Association of Union des Radio Associatives and Communautaires du Senegal (URAC) or Community Radio Stations of Senegal. The stations are based in Dakar, Tambacounda, Kolda and Seidhou, which are regions most affected by irregular migration.

He said the stations were owned and managed by people who were leaders in their respective communities and that people listened to and considered their advice.

“Our partnership, which is expected to end in December 2018, consists among others of building capacity of radio journalists as how to best treat information related to migration,” he said.

“When a migrant speaks about his own experience, the things that he went through, that surely has the power to make the candidates to irregular migration think twice before they take that route,” Dia said.

The community radio migration programmes comprise:

•           Getting returning migrants to talk and debate about their failed travelling experiences in North Africa,

•           Inviting specialists to discuss the challenges of migration,

•           Educating communities through radio dramas, which have been drawn from international cartoons and adapted to Senegal.

It is possible to be successful at home

A radio programme similar to the one that Diallo was on this week was also hosted last week in Pikine, east Dakar, on Radio Oxy Jeunes Fm.

Hip-hop singer Matar Khoudia Ndiaye–aka Big Makhou Djolof–is himself a returnee migrant.

“It’s still possible to harvest success by staying at home,” the tall artist, who has a single called “Stop Irregular Immigration,” said.

“I saw with my own eyes people dying in the Sahara Desert, and women getting involved in prostitution to survive when they ran out of money. Also, human traffickers rape the same women they are supposed to help reach Europe,” he said during an emotionally-charged show hosted by Oxy Jeunes radio journalist Codou Loum.

Founded in 1989, Oxy Jeunes Radio Station is believed to be one of the oldest community broadcasters in West Africa, and has a listenership of about 70 percent of Dakar’s one million people.

Ndiaye spent two months in Libya in 2016 and paid about USD1,400 to human traffickers to help him get to Italy.

But he never made it.

Asked if he was aware that parents were funding their children’s trips to North Africa and eventually to Europe, he replied: “Stop putting pressure on your children to become rich quickly to support the family.”

“Paying for their irregular trip to Europe is not a good thing to do because if these children get killed, it will be a big loss for you.”

African governments need to do more for their youth

Ramatoulaye Diene, a legal migration activist and radio personality, who was also on the show with Ndiaye, said migration was everyone’s right. However, she stressed it has be to done in a formal and legal way to avoid people falling into unpredictable traps.

Diene, while echoing the rapper’s sentiments that it was still possible to make it in Africa, appealed to African governments to create a youth-friendly environment that would persuade young Africans not to embark on such dangerous journeys.

“I think African governments have failed in their duties to help the youth thrive and improve their lives right here at home. They must support the youth through adequate youth employment programmes and legal migration policies.”

Diallo echoed the same sentiments when he spoke about the reasons for irregular migration.

  •  Additional writing by Nalisha Adams.

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Migrants as Messengers Explain the Dangers of Irregular Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/migrants-as-messengers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrants-as-messengers http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/migrants-as-messengers/#respond Fri, 07 Sep 2018 10:00:39 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157488 Migrants as Messengers is a peer-to-peer messaging campaign by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) where returning migrants share with their communities and families the dangers, trauma and abuse that many experienced while attempting irregular migration. The stories are candid and emotional testimonials about the difficulties they faced. Here is the discussion around irregular migration with Senegalese […]

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Migrants as Messengers is a peer-to-peer messaging campaign where returning migrants share with their communities and families the dangers, trauma and abuse that many experienced while attempting irregular migration. The stories are candid and emotional testimonials about the difficulties they faced. Here are the discussion around irregular migration with hip-hop singer Matar Khoudia Ndiaye–aka Big Makhou Djolof and Ramatoulaye Diene, a legal migration activist and radio personality.

By IPS World Desk
DAKAR, Sep 7 2018 (IPS)

Migrants as Messengers is a peer-to-peer messaging campaign by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) where returning migrants share with their communities and families the dangers, trauma and abuse that many experienced while attempting irregular migration.

The stories are candid and emotional testimonials about the difficulties they faced.

Here is the discussion around irregular migration with Senegalese hip-hop singer Matar Khoudia Ndiaye–aka Big Makhou Djolof and Ramatoulaye Diene, a legal migration activist and radio personality.

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Climate Change Becomes a Reality Check for the Northhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/climate-change-becomes-reality-check-north/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-becomes-reality-check-north http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/climate-change-becomes-reality-check-north/#comments Wed, 05 Sep 2018 15:53:42 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157468 “This season, the month of May was particularly hot and dry,” says Leo De Jong, a commercial farmer in Zeewolde, in Flevopolder, the Netherlands. Flevopolder is in the province of Flevoland, the largest site of land reclamation in the world. Here a hectare of land costs up to 100,000 Euros. “At the moment, we are spending […]

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A drought stressed maize crop on Leo De Jong's farm, in the Netherlands. De Jong says he spends between 20,000 and 25,000 Euros per week on irrigation. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
WAGENINGEN, The Netherlands, Sep 5 2018 (IPS)

“This season, the month of May was particularly hot and dry,” says Leo De Jong, a commercial farmer in Zeewolde, in Flevopolder, the Netherlands. Flevopolder is in the province of Flevoland, the largest site of land reclamation in the world. Here a hectare of land costs up to 100,000 Euros. “At the moment, we are spending between 20,000 and 25,000 Euros per week on irrigation.”

While most reports point to developing nations being the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, it is slowly emerging that farmers in the North who generally have more resources are feeling the heat too.

From incessant wild fires and powerful hurricanes in the United States and the Caribbean, to record-breaking high temperatures and droughts in Europe and Asia, the scientific community is unanimously in agreement that climate change is the more likely cause of these extremes in weather.

And it is causing severe disruptions to agricultural production systems, the environment and biodiversity.

This is troubling as, according to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a rise in temperature of more than 2°C could exacerbate the existing food deficit and prevent the majority of African countries from attaining their Sustainable Development Goals on poverty and hunger.

While De Jong can afford spending thousands of Euros on irrigation each week, he knows it is no longer sustainable for his farming business. He currently grows potatoes, onions and wheat, among other crops, on 170 hectares of reclaimed land.

Leo De Jong in his potato field, in the Netherlands. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Soil health emerges as key

With 18 million inhabitants, the Netherlands is densely populated. Half of the Netherlands is below sea level, but part of the sea was reclaimed for agricultural purposes.

After a flood in 1916, the Dutch government decided that the Zuiderzee, an inland sea within the Netherlands, would be enclosed and reclaimed. And later, the Afsluitdijk was completed—a 32 kilometre dyke which closed off the sea completely. Between 1940 and 1968, part of this enclosed inland sea was converted into land and in 1986 it became the newest province of the Netherlands—Flevoland.

Soil health in the Flevopolder, Flevoland, which sits about four meters below sea level, is of particular importance. De Jong sees it as a hallmark for every farmer in this era of climate change, regardless of their location.

He believes the answer to the climate challenge lies in farmers’ ability to “balance between ecology and economy.” This, he tells IPS, can be achieved through various ways such as improved and efficient irrigation technology, research and innovation, as well as farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchanges like the one to which he belongs—the Skylark Foundation. At the foundation he exchanges knowledge with a group of colleagues, mainly focusing on soil health.

“I have a feeling that the climate is getting extreme but consistent usage of manure, cover crops and other efficient sustainable practices guarantees good soil health, and soil health is the hallmark on which sustainable crop production is built.”

Similarly, Peter Appelman, who specialises in farming broccoli and cabbage, agrees with the soil health argument.

Appelman says that farmers should not be preoccupied with the various systems (conventional and organic farming) currently being propagated by researchers. He says that farmers should rather adopt systems that work for them depending on the type of soils on their farms.

“We have stopped feeding the crop but the soil,” he tells IPS, pointing at a pile of composite manure. “I am not an organic farmer but I try to be sustainable in whatever way because this comes back to you. You can’t grow a good product in bad soil.”

Market access for sustainability

In addressing the production cost side of the business, Appelman points to consumer satisfaction and predictable markets as key enablers to farmers’ sustainability in this era of climate stress.

As consumer preferences become more obvious, Appelman says farmers should not expend their energies complaining about market access and growing consumer demands but should rather work hard to satisfy them.

“I think my fellow farmers complain too much, which is not the best practice for the business,” he says. “As farmers, we should exert this energy in looking for customers, and work to satisfy them—I believe better farmer-to-customer relations should be the way forward.”

According to Appelman, production should be determined by consumer/market preferences. “I travel around the world looking for markets, and through these interactions, I learn and do my work according to the needs of my customers. Look for customers first and then proceed to produce for them, because it is tough in the production stage,” says Appelman, whose farm has an annual turn-over of about two million Euros.

The Appelman family grow broccoli on 170 hectares and red and white cabbage on 60 hectares.

Research and innovation

According to Professor Louise Fresco, president of the research executive board of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, the answer to the global food challenge lies in ensuring that the contribution of agriculture to climate change is positive rather than negative.

This, she says, is only possible through investment in research and innovation in order to achieve maximum efficiency for food production and to minimise waste.

“The agriculture sector therefore needs to do more than produce food—but produce efficiently,” she said in her opening address to the 2018 International Federation of Agricultural Journalists congress held in the Netherlands in July. “Food has to be produced not as a chain, but in a circular way. Water and energy use are highlights.”

Under the theme: Dutch roots—small country, big solutions; the congress highlighted what lies at the centre of the Netherlands’ agricultural prowess.

“Productivity through innovation and efficiency is the answer to why the Netherlands,ca small country, is the second-largest agricultural exporter [in the world],” said Wiebe Draijer, chief executive officer and chairman of Rabobank.

Draijer said Rabobank, which was founded as a cooperative, was happy to be associated with the Dutch agricultural prowess, which is anchored in sustainable and innovative practices.

“In response to the global food challenge, we keep refining our lending modalities to support environmental sustainability. For example, we track farmers that we give loans to to monitor their environmental sustainability practices, and there is an incentive in the form of a discount on their loans.”

Sustainability is the buzz word globally. However, it seems there is much more to be done for farmers to achieve it, especially now that negative effects of climate change are similarly being felt in both the north and the global south.

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Equality and Territory: the Common Struggle of Indigenous Women in the Andeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/equality-territory-common-struggle-indigenous-women-andes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=equality-territory-common-struggle-indigenous-women-andes http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/equality-territory-common-struggle-indigenous-women-andes/#respond Tue, 04 Sep 2018 18:57:59 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157456 This article is published ahead of the International Day of Indigenous Women, celebrated September 5, which marks the execution of indigenous guerrilla leader Bartolina Sisa.

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Excerpt:

This article is published ahead of the International Day of Indigenous Women, celebrated September 5, which marks the execution of indigenous guerrilla leader Bartolina Sisa.

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New Rules for High Seas Must Include Needs of Poorest Nationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/new-rules-high-seas-must-include-needs-poorest-nations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-rules-high-seas-must-include-needs-poorest-nations http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/new-rules-high-seas-must-include-needs-poorest-nations/#respond Tue, 04 Sep 2018 12:52:23 +0000 Essam Yassin Mohammed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157450 Essam Yassin Mohammed is Principal Researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

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Essam Yassin Mohammed is Principal Researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

By Essam Yassin Mohammed
LONDON, Sep 4 2018 (IPS)

Over-fishing, warming oceans and plastic pollution dominate the headlines when it comes to the state of the seas. Most of the efforts to protect the life of the ocean and the livelihoods of those who depend on it are limited to exclusive economic zones – the band of water up to 200 nautical miles from the coast.

Fishermen offloading tunas at the industrial fish port of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Credit: FAO/Sia Kambou

But to be truly effective, all of the ocean needs to be protected. The high-seas that lie beyond national jurisdictions ― two-thirds of the ocean’s surface ― remain largely ungoverned.

The world has a new opportunity this week to move a step closer to addressing these issues as UN members start negotiating an international legally binding treaty to protect the high seas. (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, 4-17 September). The first of four rounds of negotiations that will continue until 2020.

Despite the common perception that the high seas are too remote to matter to coastal communities, strong scientific evidence shows the ocean is a highly interconnected ecosystem. For example, a number of fish species use the high seas at different stages of their lifecycle for feeding and spawning, which is why protecting it is critically important to coastal communities’ livelihoods and economies.

For these negotiations to be effective and fair, it is crucial the people living in coastal communities in the least developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing states (SIDS) are listened to and have an active role in protecting and sustainably managing the ocean. They are among those most affected by the impacts of how the ocean is used and protected, from fishing to conservation measures.

Any measure to govern these waters must make sure that any activity in these waters benefits everyone ― particularly the poorest countries.

The ocean as a whole is recognised by international law as a common heritage of mankind ― it belongs to everyone, now and forever. But most developing countries do not have the financial or technological means to share the benefits it provides.

To make sure they have equal access, it is crucial this treaty establishes a mechanism that enables them to share its benefits. Monetary benefits can be best shared by establishing a trust fund.

This, as is the case with such governing bodies as the International Seabed Authority, would enable coastal communities to build their capacities and become involved in monitoring the environmental health of the seas.

And they would be able to participate proactively in research and development, and sustainably use the high seas as a source for medicines, science and other genetic resources.

It could be financed from a percentage of the profits that wealthier countries make through economic activities on the high seas whether from extraction of marine genetic resources or any other activity.

The equitable distribution of benefits from conservation of the high seas should also be at the core of the negotiations. It is important that any new global agreement recognises that when protected areas are designated they consider how they will affect coastal communities across the global south.

These areas linking territorial waters to the high seas are critical both for protecting marine species and helping to restore coastal fisheries, which are vital to sustaining the livelihoods of people in poor coastal communities.

One of the biggest threats to marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction is overfishing. Studies show that fishing in the high seas is unprofitable and are only economically viable because governments subsidies large fishing fleets. It is important that in this first round of talks, governments agree clear steps to end all harmful subsidies.

Instead, these subsidies should be directed towards activities that deliver positive social and environmental results. By providing support for monitoring and surveillance of marine protected areas, giving incentives to fishers for not using damaging fishing practices, and enhancing access to markets and services including by providing support for storage facilities, poor coastal communities and fishers will be able to benefit from ocean-friendly investment.

We cannot afford to keep the status quo. These negotiations are an opportunity to establish a new legally binding treaty that is fair and equitable for everyone. This is about sustainably sharing 50 per cent of the planet with 100 per cent of the world’s population.

It is crucial the needs of the poor are heard at every stage of this process to make sure they are not left behind in the drive to govern the life of the oceans.

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Excerpt:

Essam Yassin Mohammed is Principal Researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

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Addressing Bangladesh’s Age-Old Public Transportation Systemhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/addressing-bangladeshs-age-old-public-transportation-system/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=addressing-bangladeshs-age-old-public-transportation-system http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/addressing-bangladeshs-age-old-public-transportation-system/#respond Fri, 31 Aug 2018 15:23:53 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157427 After the recent student uprising in Bangladesh, and despite increased policing on the streets and amendments to the traffic laws, there has been criticism that things have not changed significantly enough to make the country’s roads safer. Ilias Kanchan, an actor and road safety activist, tells IPS that while the government was quick to observe […]

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About 3,000 to 5,000 student protesters took to Bangladesh’s streets at the end of July and in early August, demanding safer roads. Students even imposed informal roadblocks in order to check the roadworthiness of vehicles. Courtesy: A.K.M. Moshin

By Naimul Haq
DHAKA, Aug 31 2018 (IPS)

After the recent student uprising in Bangladesh, and despite increased policing on the streets and amendments to the traffic laws, there has been criticism that things have not changed significantly enough to make the country’s roads safer.

Ilias Kanchan, an actor and road safety activist, tells IPS that while the government was quick to observe ‘Traffic Week’ at the start of August, during which time the police had been actively inspecting vehicles and private cars for violations, it was not sufficient.

“The move was an eye wash. We notice the same [unroadworthy] public buses on the streets again driving without valid road permits and driving licenses. Although the traffic police are checking and fining violators everyday, the scale of violations have not declined, which shows ignorance [about the laws on the part] of the vehicle owners,” Kanchan, who himself narrowly escaped injury in a road accident in 1989, tells IPS.“In true sense we require massive plans on infrastructure development, equipment support, strengthening of institutions and building capacities to see an overall improvement in public road safety.” -- architect and outspoken social activist, Mubasshar Hussain

Kanchan has been advocating for safer roads under the Nirapad Sarak Chai (We Demand Safe Roads) campaign for the last 25 years, ever since his wife was killed in a tragic road accident.

About 3,000 to 5,000 student protesters took to the streets at the end of July and in early August, demanding safer roads and calling for order to be brought to the chaotic, age-old public transportation system—one that is mostly dominated by private transport owners and workers.

The protests, the first of its kind by students in the history of this country, began after a bus crashed into students on the afternoon of Jul. 29, killing two and injuring many others. It sparked off violent protests across the capital Dhaka, a city of over 18 million people.

Shaken by the nationwide, fast-spreading student road blockade movement, the government bowed to the ultimatum of demonstrators, agreeing to meet their demands in phases.

Quick changes to the laws

The government promised safer roads and a clampdown against illegal bus drivers. And the country’s relevant traffic departments are already implementing some of the demands, which include:

  • The vigorous checking of vehicles for roadworthiness;
  • Increasing the number of police check posts;
  • Strictly fining offenders;
  • Punishing drivers and owners for driving unroadworthy vehicles on the roads.

The government also amended the country’s traffic laws.

In early August, cabinet approved the Road Transport Act 2018, which changed the maximum sentence for death in a road accident to five years without bail, from a previous maximum of three years with bail. Fines ranging from USD 50 to USD 200 for speeding and other traffic offences were also imposed. The act will soon be passed into law by parliament.

The effect of the clampdown is often noticeable on Dhaka’s streets. Motorcyclists now wear helmets and private cars and buses are also forced to drive in their demarcated lanes, instead of driving all over the road as previously. Speeding is virtually absent and the use of indicator lights when turning is mandatory.

The police and road safety departments have substantially increased their vigilance and checking, according to officials in these departments.

Some feel sentences are too lenient

But Kanchan tells IPS that activists had called for a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and were dissatisfied with the new proposed act.

“We had proposed a minimum sentence of five years instead. We had also proposed punishing not only the drivers [responsible for] accidents but also the [vehicle] owners for neglecting to comply with the laws.

“This clearly shows how serious the governments [is] about road safety,” Kanchan says.

Recent research by the Accident Research Institute at Bangladesh’s University of Engineering and Technology shows that reckless driving and speeding cause 90 percent of the 6,200 road accidents that occur in the country each year.

The report also shows that in the past three and a half years over 25,000 people were killed in road accidents alone—about 20 people per day. And over 62,000 people were permanently injured or maimed during that same timeframe. In addition, the Bangladesh loses USD 4.7 billion from these accidents—about two percent of the country’s GDP—each year.

Well-known architect and outspoken social activist, Mubasshar Hussain, tells IPS: “I am very hopeful of a better situation as the government is showing signs of bringing safety on the roads but the point is we let this situation reach its limits. In general we are too tolerant and seldom challenge or protest crimes committed by the unruly drivers.”

“I also see a lack of seriousness from the traffic division who control and are responsible for maintaining order on the streets. Despite checking, [unsafe] vehicles and illegal drivers are still allowed to drive on the streets and it is a shame that despite such a stir the same crimes are taking place again,” he says.

“In true sense we require massive plans on infrastructure development, equipment support, strengthening of institutions and building capacities to see an overall improvement in public road safety,” Hussain adds.

Numerous police check points and mobile courts

Sheikh Mohammad Mahbub-e-Rabbani, director of the road safety wing of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority, tells IPS things have changed on the roads.

“I don’t think the observations are correct,” he says responding to the criticism.

“Things have drastically changed as you can already see on the streets of Dhaka and other cities. We have launched massive police check posts with mobile courts to give on the spot decisions for any offence. Far more numbers of police have been deployed to keep vigil and check any offence.”

“The records of fines and punishments for fake licenses and registration documents in the last three weeks show the difference. Such a drive to bring offenders to book could soon bring better safety standards on the roads,” says Rabbani.

However, some are concerned that the powerful lobbying power of transport owners means that amendments to the laws are not strong enough and that corrupt police officers will continue to overlook their transgressions.

“It is indeed also frustrating that the amendments are largely ‘dictated’ by the transport owners’ bodies that are known to exert pressure on the lawmakers to sway clauses of laws in their favour,” Kanchan accuses.

Mozammel Huque, Secretary General of Passenger Welfare Association of Bangladesh, a civil society body, tells IPS that, “the transport owners and workers are very powerful.”

“Two separate systems largely work on the roads of Bangladesh. One is [comprised of] the businessmen who run the affairs of the transport system and continue to enforce the illegal driving of unroadworthy vehicles by unskilled drivers on the streets every day.

“Millions of taka is allegedly traded as bribes to overlook such crimes. In the other system, traffic police or highway police monitor and check on private vehicles and drivers who largely comply with the road safety rules and regulations,” Huque says.

But Khondoker Enaeytullah, the general secretary of Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Malik Samity (Bangladesh Transport Owners Association), tells IPS: “The transport owners are complying with the demands for stricter fines and punishment to the offenders.”

“There are massive changes proposed in the operations of all public transportation in the city. All buses will be regulated by one single authority instead of [being run by] individual owners who control the transport businesses without any accountability and which gives way to unprecedented and unhealthy competition and hence chaos.”

“Once the new system of public bus services is in place, there would be no more competition to pick up passengers and hence no question of speeding. All buses would be inspected for safety and fitness before each leaves to pick up passengers. These new measures will certainly ensure safer roads,” says Enaetullah.

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Land, Water and Education, Priorities for Chile’s Mapuche Peoplehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/land-water-education-priorities-chiles-mapuche-people/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=land-water-education-priorities-chiles-mapuche-people http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/land-water-education-priorities-chiles-mapuche-people/#respond Thu, 30 Aug 2018 23:16:26 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157417 The right to land and water, as well as to multicultural education, are the top priority demands of Mapuche leaders working with their communities in the Araucanía region and in Santiago, Chile’s capital. “We, the entire Cheuquepán Colipe family, are originally from communities in Lautaro (649 km south of Santiago). We’re here today because our […]

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