Inter Press ServicePopulation – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 19 May 2018 21:14:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Indigenous Peoples Recover Native Languages in Mexicohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/indigenous-peoples-recover-native-languages-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-recover-native-languages-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/indigenous-peoples-recover-native-languages-mexico/#respond Fri, 18 May 2018 09:22:22 +0000 Daniela Pastrana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155818 Ángel Santiago is a Mexican teenager who speaks one of the variations of the Zapotec language that exists in the state of Oaxaca, in the southwest of Mexico. Standing next to the presidential candidate who is the favorite for the July elections, he calls for an educational curriculum that “respects our culture and our languages.” […]

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Chile, an Oasis for Haitians that Has Begun to Run Dryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/chile-oasis-haitians-begun-run-dry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chile-oasis-haitians-begun-run-dry http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/chile-oasis-haitians-begun-run-dry/#respond Wed, 16 May 2018 02:11:29 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155779 A wave of Haitian migrants has arrived in Chile in recent years, changing the face of low-income neighbourhoods. But this oasis has begun to dry up, thanks to measures adopted by decree by the new government against the first massive immigration of people of African descent in this South American country. Some 120,000 Haitians were […]

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Salomón Henry, a painter and electrician, has lived for three years in Santiago with his family. He has a five-year residency permit, thanks to a job contract in an exclusive condominium, where he reinstalled the electrical network, among other tasks. In 2014, there were fewer than 1,800 migrants from Haiti; by April of this year there were nearly 120,000, according to official figures. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Salomón Henry, a painter and electrician, has lived for three years in Santiago with his family. He has a five-year residency permit, thanks to a job contract in an exclusive condominium, where he reinstalled the electrical network, among other tasks. In 2014, there were fewer than 1,800 migrants from Haiti; by April of this year there were nearly 120,000, according to official figures. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, May 16 2018 (IPS)

A wave of Haitian migrants has arrived in Chile in recent years, changing the face of low-income neighbourhoods. But this oasis has begun to dry up, thanks to measures adopted by decree by the new government against the first massive immigration of people of African descent in this South American country.

Some 120,000 Haitians were living in Chile in early April, according to official figures, most of them working in low wage jobs in sectors such as construction and cleaning.

These immigrants, with an average age of 30, came with tourist visas, almost all of them since 2014, and stayed to work and build a new life in this long and narrow country wedged between the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean, whose dynamic economic growth has made it one of the most attractive destinations for immigrants from the rest of the region in the last five years.

But on Apr. 8, their situation changed radically when the right-wing government of President Sebastián Piñera, in power since Mar. 11, eliminated the temporary visas that allowed them to go from tourists to regular migrants once they obtained a job, and then to be able to bring their families to this country.

Piñera seeks to curb immigration in general – which according to official figures is around one million people in a country of 17.7 million – and of Haitians in particular, with measures which analysts and activists see as discriminatory against the fifth-largest foreign community in Chile, after Peruvians, Colombians, Bolivians and Venezuelans.

From now on, Haitians will have to obtain a tourist visa at the consulate in Port-au-Prince, in order to board a plane bound for Chile. The visa will be valid for 30 days, extendable to 90, and they will not be able to exchange it for a permit allowing them to stay in the country.

By contrast Venezuelans, the other foreign community that has experienced explosive growth, will be able to obtain in Caracas a so-called “democratic visa” valid for one year.

Offsetting the new restrictions, since Apr. 16, all Haitians who arrived before Apr. 8 have begun to be able to regularise their status, in a process that will end in July 2019. Also, starting on Jul. 2, 10,000 additional family reunification visas will be issued over the following year. In total, the government estimates at 300,000 the number of undocumented immigrants in Chile, a minority of whom are Haitians.

 The Migration Office on Fanor Velasco Street, near the La Moneda government palace, in Santiago, is crowded with Haitians and other foreign nationals seeking to regularise their migration status, on Apr. 17, a day after a special process was opened as part of measures decreed by the government to curb immigration, which especially affect Haitians. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS


The Migration Office on Fanor Velasco Street, near the La Moneda government palace, in Santiago, is crowded with Haitians and other foreign nationals seeking to regularise their migration status, on Apr. 17, a day after a special process was opened as part of measures decreed by the government to curb immigration, which especially affect Haitians. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

For Erik Lundi, 37, who arrived in Chile six years ago from Haiti, the plan “is a very good option. It is very reasonable to give legal status to those who are here.”

“But there is a lot of racial discrimination in the new tourist visa. Only in the case of Haitians is it granted for only 30 days, because Venezuelans have the democratic visa. That is very discriminatory. Why are only Haitians given 30 days? It should be the same for everyone,” he told IPS.

Activists for the human rights of migrants told IPS that in Chile Haitian immigrants face a special cocktail of xenophobia mixed with racism, sometimes disguised as criticism of the fact that their languages are Creole or French, not Spanish.

Salomón Henry, a painter and electrician who arrived three years ago after spending time in the Dominican Republic, the country that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, told IPS that “I do not see anything wrong, I see the measures adopted by the government as positive,” while Congress approves a reform of the Migration Law, in force since 1975, one of Piñera’s main campaign promises.

Henry agrees that “Chile is saturated with immigrants and if more continue to arrive, it means more poverty for those who are already here. It’s not because I’m already here, but you have to take action for the greater good of all,” he said.

A history of inefficiency

José Tomás Vicuña, national director of the Jesuit Migrants Service (SJM), doubts the effectiveness of instituting the consular visa for tourism for Haitians and eliminating the temporary one, based on the experience of similar provisions adopted for Dominicans in 2012, during the previous government of Piñera (2010-2014).

“When they started requiring a consular visa, more started to arrive,” the director of Chile’s leading migrant rights organisation told IPS.

On Pingüinos Street, in the populous municipality of Estación Central, one of the two that has the largest number of migrants from Haiti in Santiago, a hairdresser from the Caribbean island nation has established a barber shop where people speak Creole and customers are fellow Haitians. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

On Pingüinos Street, in the populous municipality of Estación Central, one of the two that has the largest number of migrants from Haiti in Santiago, a hairdresser from the Caribbean island nation has established a barber shop where people speak Creole and customers are fellow Haitians. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

The SJM predicts that “the influx (of Haitians) will increase across unauthorised border crossing points. And smuggling networks will also grow,” said Vicuña, who noted that “this happens in many countries when access is severely restricted.”

Luis Eduardo Thayer, a researcher at the Central University School of Social Sciences and until 2017 chair of the National Consultative Council on Migration – an autonomous civil society entity eliminated by the Piñera administration – agrees with that view.

“The Dominicans kept coming because they had family here, they had networks and job opportunities and the conditions in their country of origin were not what they hoped for,” he told IPS.

There were only 6,000 Dominicans in the country when their entrance was restricted, compared to 120,000 Haitians, Thayer said, so “the magnitude of the ‘calling effect’ by the labour market and family ties is much greater in the case of Haitians.”

The 3,000-km Chilean border is described as “porous” by migration officials, making it difficult to control irregular entry.

Thayer ventured that as the Dominicans did, Haitians will use a route known locally as “the hole” or “the gap.”

“They take a plane to Colombia and there they set out on a clandestine route to Chile, assisted by people who know the route and charge them money – in other words, a people smuggling network,” he explained.

The expert said it is “discriminatory” for Haitians to be required to obtain consular visas to come as tourists “just because they are Haitians.” “The government’s argument is that they come here using fraudulent means. But it must be acknowledged that fewer Haitians come here than Venezuelans, Bolivians, Peruvians or Colombians,” he said emphatically.

The Chilean Undersecretary of the Interior, Rodrigo Ubilla, responsible for foreign and immigration policy, denied in a meeting with foreign correspondents that the measures for Haitians are discriminatory and pointed out that they have the special benefit of family reunification visas.

“The community of Haitian citizens numbers around 120,000 and we believe that for practical purposes we have to help their children and spouses to come quickly and without obstacles to this country,” he said.

Stories of those who are already here

The immediate causes of Haitian migration lie in the 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016 which added devastating effects to the chronic political, economic, social and environmental crisis in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas.

Word of mouth is another major factor.

And José Miguel Torrico, coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), emphasises another long-standing factor. The degradation of Haitian soil “is a major impact factor, since basically the migration we have here is unskilled workers, the rural poor,” he said.

“The immigration that Chile is receiving comes from rural sectors mainly because they have not been able to maintain their standard of living on the lands they farm,” he told IPS in an interview at his regional office in Santiago.

“I came because I saw on the Internet that there are opportunities to work in Chile, and other Haitians who had come here told me about those opportunities,” said Henry.

Every Sunday, on Pingüinos street, there is a street fair where Haitian migrants go to buy clothes, shoes and a variety of products, including some from their own country, and where they eat typical dishes from Haiti, offered at different stands. Credit: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Every Sunday, on Pingüinos street, there is a street fair where Haitian migrants go to buy clothes, shoes and a variety of products, including some from their own country, and where they eat typical dishes from Haiti, offered at different stands. Credit: Orlando Milesi / IPS

During a break at work in a municipality in the foothills in the Chilean capital, Henry explained that he has a work contract and legal residency for five years, and was able to bring his wife and three of his four children. But his case is exceptional.

His youngest daughter was born in Santiago. “My wife was treated like a queen in the hospital and I did not pay a peso”, he said, explaining that the cost was covered by a health fund to which she pays a monthly fee. But undocumented migrants do not have the right to healthcare in Chile.

Accionel Sain Melus, 44, arrived eight years ago from the Dominican Republic (where he lived for 10 years), and works on contract at the Lo Valledor Market, the main vegetable and fruit supply centre in the Chilean capital.

“I have legal residency for five years. The problem is that my wife and daughter were given a temporary visa for one year. I applied and they rejected it. I have all the marriage papers and legalisations. I paid a visa for five years and they sent me a visa for one,” he said.

In his conversation with IPS, at the end of a mass in Creole in the Catholic parish of Santa Cruz, in the municipality of Estación Central, he confided his worries: “This is a difficult time for us…”

Pedro Labrín, the priest of that parish in one of the two municipalities with the largest Haitian communities, where some streets are like a “small Haiti”, explained to IPS that some immigrants from Haiti “have a strong educational background, language skills and technical qualifications.”

But most, he added, “come from the countryside, with very little education, and great difficulties to integrate into the new society because they have fewer social skills and suffer a language barrier.”

Lundi said that “most of them leave their country with the dream of continuing their studies. But migrants here have almost no chance to study,” he said, pointing to the high cost of Chilean universities.

Living with racism and xenophobia

For the parish priest Labrín “the main problem that Haitians face is racism: black people seem interesting as long as they are not next to us. I observe that attitude here… there is a lot of racial resistance,” he said.

In his opinion, “Haitians are stigmatised as carriers of diseases, generators of garbage and domestic violence, as noisy, child abusers, people who speak loudly and are always arguing. Chileans are also angry that they compete with Haitians in terms of access to basic services in healthcare, day care centres, kindergartens and schools.”

Lundi’s experiences have varied: “On the one hand, Chile has been a welcoming country for migrants. On the other hand, Chileans are a bit more violent, more discriminating.”

He accused some sectors of “xenophobia, I do not know if because of their culture they are not used to living with many foreigners, especially black people. They discriminate on the basis of skin colour. That is manifested directly with insults and sometimes psychologically.”

Labrín said that in Estación Central “there is an unethical business to subdivide poor houses to lease them at exorbitant prices.”

“For up to 200,000 pesos (about 333 dollars) they rent miserable rooms with no safety or sanitary conditions. During the visit by Pope Francis (in January 2018), one of these houses where a hundred people were living with just three showers, one of which was not working, and one toilet, was burned,” he complained.

Doubts about the process

For Lundi “the family reunification visa is extremely important because people cannot be happy if they are not with their families. It gives them the opportunity to live together.”

Two girls wearing fancy dresses are presented to the Lord during a special ceremony in an evangelical church, crowded as every Sunday, where the service and other activities are carried out in Creole. The church is close to Pingüinos street, in the Estación Central neighbourhood in Santiago. Credit: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Two girls wearing fancy dresses are presented to the Lord during a special ceremony in an evangelical church, crowded as every Sunday, where the service and other activities are carried out in Creole. The church is close to Pingüinos street, in the Estación Central neighbourhood in Santiago. Credit: Orlando Milesi / IPS

But the academic Thayer said this offer “is demagogic: they are saying we are going to close the border, but we are going to allow them to be with their family… which is a basic human right.”

Meanwhile, Vicuña said it is essential to know “what will be the criteria for granting the visas, because reducing the criteria to only family reunification will fall short of demand.”

“Orderly, safe and regulated migration requires a clear information process, and many measures have been taken here on the fly,” he said.

Thayer broke down another growing social prejudice against Haitians. “The rate of unemployment of migrants is very low, like that of Chileans, from five to six percent,” he said.

“You cannot say that the labour market is overrun because of the arrival of Haitians. What there is, is a problem of integration because of a lack of public policies on housing, education and work,” he said.

Parish priest Labrín called for an emphasis to be put on the contributions made by Haitians: “culture, work, economic assets and children.” “The Chilean birth rate, which causes so much concern in the development pyramid, will be bolstered by the birth of Chilean children to migrant parents,” he said, to illustrate.

First impact: crowded migration offices

In the Migration Office on Fanor Velasco Street, three blocks from the La Moneda government palace, the air was unbreathable on Apr. 17, the day after the new regulations entered into force.

An unrelenting crowd of migrants seeking to get the process done packed the office and its surroundings from dawn, doubling the already heavy daily flow of people, before the new immigration measures adopted by decree went into effect.

Leonel Dorelus, a 32-year-old Haitian, arrived in Chile in Novembers 2017, after living in the Dominican Republic for three years. He lives with a brother-in-law, who arrived earlier, in a municipality on the south side of Santiago, where he works in an evangelical church.

“I would only like to bring my girlfriend,” he told IPS as he waited his turn.

Mark Edouard, 30, comes from the Haitian town of Artibonite. He works as a night-shift doorman, with a contract, and during the day he works at a public market, in the populated district of Puente Alto, 20 km southeast of Santiago.

“I started as an assistant at the same market. At first I lived with other people, but I was not comfortable so I moved and now I live alone,” he said.

Zilus Jeandenel, 28, came to Chile from the rural town of Comine. He lives in the municipality of San Bernardo, in the south of Greater Santiago, with two sisters. He arrived eight months ago and has no job, just like one of his sisters. “It’s hard to get work,” he said, “even though my quality of life is much better here.”

Little Haiti in Santiago

It’s Sunday, and dozens of Haitians are attending mass in the Jesuit parish church of Santa Cruz, on Pinguinos street in the neighbourhood of Nogales, in the municipality of Estación Central in Santiago, where Erik Lundi works. Kitty corner from the church, a Haitian barber attends his fellow countrymen. They all speak Creole and while they wait for their turn they watch a Formula One race on television.

In front of the barbershop is the bus stop where people catch the bus to downtown Santiago or the southern outskirts of the city. The ticket costs the equivalent of one dollar.

Also on Pingüinos, further east, a street market is held, every Sunday, with stands selling clothes and used shoes that customers try on right there. Other stands, some improvised on the sidewalk, sell vegetables, fruit, meat, typical Haitian products and the most sought-after: sacks of beans. Haitian dishes are also offered to sample on the spot.

There are some Chilean vendors, but most are Haitians. All explain, in Creole or Spanish, the prices, in a street market that, as the parishioners explain, is also a social meeting place. Women with small children, pregnant women, young people who greet each other with high fives and a couple made up of a Haitian man and a smiling Chilean woman holding hands, are part of the Sunday landscape on Pingüinos street.

Just two blocks away, there is an evangelical church which, like the Catholic church, also functions as a social centre, where the service is carried out in Creole and is accompanied by live music played on guitars, electric basses and large congo drums.

People dress up for church as an important occasion. The women wear colourful outfits and shoes and the men wear shiny shoes, some white, while almost all of them wear ties. The girls especially stand out with their tulles and elaborate braided hairstyles. This is Haitian life and culture, transplanted to Santiago, in the Andes mountains.

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Child Slavery Refuses to Disappear in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/child-slavery-refuses-disappear-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=child-slavery-refuses-disappear-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/child-slavery-refuses-disappear-latin-america/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 23:00:16 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155766 Child labour has been substantially reduced in Latin America, but 5.7 million children below the legal minimum age are still working and a large proportion of them work in precarious, high-risk conditions or are unpaid, which constitute new forms of slave labour. For the International Labor Organisation (ILO) child labour includes children working before they […]

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A little girl peels manioc to make flour in Acará, in the state of Pará, in the northeast of Brazil's Amazon region. In the rural sectors of Brazil, it is a deeply-rooted custom for children to help with family farming, on the grounds of passing on knowledge. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet / IPS

A little girl peels manioc to make flour in Acará, in the state of Pará, in the northeast of Brazil's Amazon region. In the rural sectors of Brazil, it is a deeply-rooted custom for children to help with family farming, on the grounds of passing on knowledge. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet / IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
RIO DE JANEIRO, May 14 2018 (IPS)

Child labour has been substantially reduced in Latin America, but 5.7 million children below the legal minimum age are still working and a large proportion of them work in precarious, high-risk conditions or are unpaid, which constitute new forms of slave labour.

For the International Labor Organisation (ILO) child labour includes children working before they reach the minimum legal age or carrying out work that should be prohibited, according to Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, in force since 2000.

The vast majority of these children work in agriculture, but many also work in high-risk sectors such as mining, domestic labour, fireworks manufacturing and fishing."They work in truly inhuman, overheated spaces. They are not given even the minimum safety measures, such as facemasks so they do not inhale lint from jeans, or gloves for tearing seams, which hurts their fingers. The repetitive work of cutting fabric with large scissors hurts their hands." -- Joaquín Cortez

Three countries in the region, Brazil, Mexico and Paraguay, exemplify child labour, which includes forms of modern-day slavery.

In Paraguay, a country of 7.2 million people, the tradition of “criadazgo” goes back to colonial times and persists despite laws that prohibit child labour, lawyer Cecilia Gadea told IPS.

“Very poor families, usually from rural areas, are forced to give their under-age children to relatives or families who are financially better off, who take charge of their upbringing, education and food,” a practice known as “criadazgo”, she explained.

“But it is not for free or out of solidarity, but in exchange for the children carrying out domestic work,” said Gadea, who is doing research on the topic for her master’s thesis at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (Flacso).

In Paraguay, the country in South America with the highest poverty rate and one of the 10 most unequal countries in the world, some 47,000 children (2.5 percent of the child population) are in a situation of criadazgo, according to the non-governmental organisation Global Infancia. Of these, 81.6 percent are girls.

“People do not want to accept it, but it is one of the worst forms of work. It is not a solidarity-based action as people try to present it; it is a form of child labour and exploitation. It is also a kind of slavery because children are subjected to carrying out forced tasks not appropriate to their age, they are punished, and many may not even be allowed to leave the house,” said Gadea.

According to the researcher, most of the so-called “criaditos” (little servants), ranging in age from five to 15, are “subjected to forced labour, domestic tasks for many hours and without rest; they are mistreated, abused, punished and exploited; they are not allowed to go to school; they live in precarious conditions; they are not fed properly; and they do not receive medical care, among other limitations.”

Only a minority of them “are not abused or exposed to danger, go to school, play, are well cared for, and all things considered, lead a good life,” she said.

The origins of criadazgo lay in the hazardous forced labour to which the Spanish colonisers subjected indigenous women and children, said Gadea.

Paraguay was devastated by two wars, one in the second half of the nineteenth century and another in the first half of the twentieth century, its male population decimated, and was left in the hands of women, children and the elderly, who had to rebuild the country.

“The widespread poverty forced mothers to give their children to families with better incomes, so they could take charge of their upbringing, education and food, while the mothers worked to survive and rebuild a country left in ruins,” she said.

The practice continues, according to Gadea, because of inequality and poverty. Large low-income families “find the only solution is handing over one or more of their children for them to be provided with better living conditions.”

On the other hand, “there are people who need these ‘criados’ to work as domestics, because they are cheap labour, since they only require a little food and a place to sleep,” she said.

Campaigns to combat this tradition that is deeply-rooted in Paraguayan society face resistance from many sectors, including Congress.

It is a “hidden and invisible practice that is hardly talked about. Many defend it because they consider it an act of solidarity, a means of survival for children living in extreme poverty,” she added.

The case of Mexico

Mexico is another of the Latin American countries with the highest levels of child labour exploitation, in sectors such as agriculture, or maquiladoras – for-export assembly plants.

A boy works in a maquiladora textile plant in the state of Puebla, in central Mexico. Credit: Courtesy of Joaquín Cortez

A boy works in a maquiladora textile plant in the state of Puebla, in central Mexico. Credit: Courtesy of Joaquín Cortez

In Mexico, with a population of 122 million people, there are more than 2.5 million children working – 8.4 percent of the child population. The problem is concentrated in the states of Colima, Guerrero and Puebla, explains Joaquín Cortez, author of the study “Modern Child Slavery: Cases of Child Labour Exploitation in the Maquiladoras.”

Cortez researched in particular the textile maquilas of the central state of Puebla.

Children there “work in extremely precarious conditions, in addition to working more than 48 hours a week, receiving wages of between 29 and 40 dollars per week. To withstand the workloads they often inhale drugs like marijuana or crack,” the researcher from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) told IPS.

In some maquilas “strategies have been used to evade accountability. As in the case of working children who, in the face of labour inspections, are hidden in the bathrooms between the bundles of jeans,” said Cortez.

“They work in truly inhuman, overheated spaces. They are not given even the minimum safety measures, such as facemasks so they do not inhale lint from jeans, or gloves for tearing seams, which hurts their fingers. The repetitive work of cutting fabric with large scissors hurts their hands,” he said.

In short, Cortez noted that “they are more at risk because they work as much as or more than an adult and earn less.”

At times, these children “are verbally assaulted for not rushing to get the production that the manager of the maquiladoras needs. Girls are also often sexually harassed by their co-workers,” he added.

Cortez attributes the causes of this child labour, “in addition to being cheap labour for the owners of small and large maquiladoras,” to inequality and poverty and to poor social organisation, despite attempts at resistance.

The situation in Brazil

In Brazil, a study by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), published in 2017, found that of the 1.8 million children between the ages of five and 17 who work, 54.4 percent do so illegally.

In this South American country of 208 million people, the laws allow children to work from the age of 14 but only as apprentices, while adolescents between the ages of 16 and 18 cannot work the night shift and cannot work in dangerous or unhealthy conditions.

One of the authors of the report, economist Flávia Vinhaes, clarified to IPS that although child labor does not always occur in conditions of slavery or semi-slavery, “children between the ages of five and 13 should not work under any conditions, as it is considered child labour.”

Among those employed at that age, 74 percent did not receive remuneration.

Another indicator revealed that 73 percent of these children worked as “assistants”, helping family members in their productive activities.

“Both domestic tasks and care work make up a broad definition of child labor that may be in conflict with formal education as well as being carried out over long hours or under dangerous conditions,” Vinhaes said.

The research showed that 47.6 percent of workers between the ages of five and 13 are in the agricultural sector, part of a deep-rooted custom.

“In traditional agriculture, children and adolescents perform work under the supervision of their parents as part of the socialisation process, or as a means of passing on traditionally acquired techniques from parents to children,” she said.

“This situation should not be confused with that of children who are forced to work regularly or day after day in exchange for some kind of remuneration or just to help their families, with the resulting damage to their educational and social development,” she said. “There is a fine line between helping and working in a way that is cultural and educational.”

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“Green Development Has to Be Equal for All”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/green-development-equal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=green-development-equal http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/green-development-equal/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 00:57:29 +0000 Diana Mendoza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155745 IPS caught up with Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), at the end of the flagship side event of the GGGI during the 51st Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Manila on May 4, 2018, which featured the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its potential to […]

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Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI). Credit: Diana Mendoza/IPS

By Diana Mendoza
MANILA, May 14 2018 (IPS)

IPS caught up with Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), at the end of the flagship side event of the GGGI during the 51st Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Manila on May 4, 2018, which featured the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its potential to create sustainable infrastructure and promote green growth pathways.

In this brief chat with IPS correspondent Diana Mendoza, Dr. Rijsberman noted the success of just a few countries with successful environmental protection policies, while many others have yet to adopt green growth policies.

Q: China is obviously the major player in the BRI. How does GGGI see China influencing other countries to actively take part in it and adopt green growth policies?

A: China is a huge investor. Among the countries in the BRI, China is the most important foreign direct investor, if not one of the most important. What we are particularly interested from our GGGI perspective is that China has also become, out of necessity, an important source of green technology because it implements renewable energy policies at a large scale. It is but fitting for it to have initiated the BRI. It is a leader in electric mobility, green technology and policy. It is keen on its air quality around Beijing and has very rapidly cleaned it up in just the last two years. What we’re interested in also is not just having large direct investments as part of their BRI initiative but how it will influence its government to export green technology.

Q: On one hand, China has also upset its Asian neighbors, particularly in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), that claim China is exploring their islands and upsetting territorial boundaries.

A: I know basically nothing about territorial disputes but it’s clear that China is a world power, a dominant force.  It is very influential and we are hoping it will use this to bring opportunities for other countries to prosper. We’ve been seeing China for decades as having relations with countries in bringing resources such as Afghan steel or mineral resources to which China is a huge importer. That’s basically the first relationship we’re seeing in a bilateral way. It is also starting its ODA ministry to bring more support to developing countries and is willing share more environmental technology and hopefully, to also share the benefits of the equal civilization approach.

Q: What would the equal civilization approach mean to countries around the BRI?

A: There are small and relatively poor countries along the Maritime Silk Road. Growth and development should also benefit them. The impact of climate change and the unhealthy effects of modernization and urbanization affect all countries, but green development has to be equal for all.

Q: What are GGGI’s priorities in the next five years?

A: We would like to see countries adopting renewable energy policies. Many countries are not introducing renewable energy to the potential that they have. Many countries also have some policies but we see they only have something like 1 percent solar, where it could be 20 or 30 percent. Only in China do we see a very rapid transition to renewable energy and electricity generation. But I live in Korea and they only have 2 percent. The government recently increased the target for renewable energy to 20 percent, but you know even 20 percent is still modest.

Q: How much is the ideal target for renewable energy?

A: It should be 50 or 60 percent if we want to achieve what was agreed upon in the Paris Agreement. Vietnam is still planning to build 24 more coal fire-powered plants. The current paths that many governments are on are still very far away from achieving the Paris Agreement. We need to see a rapid switch to renewable energy and we think it’s much more feasible than governments are aware of. Prices have come down so quickly that you know I’ve been spending most of my week in the Philippines and the provincial governments are still talking about hydropower because that’s what they know. You go to Mindanao and they’re talking about this big project in 1953 and they know that renewable energy is hydro.

Q: So hydro is not the answer?

A: We told them that if they want more hydro they should realize there are much better opportunities now in solar energy.  Even if the potential in hydro is there, it’s complex. It takes a long time and it has a big environmental risks. It takes five years to put it in place and construction is complicated. You can have solar in six months if you have enough land. In Manila, every school, factory and shopping mall should have solar rooftops already. In Canberra, even if the central government was not all active in this movement, it adopted in 2016 the 100 percent renewable policy by 2020. It is doing just that and it looks good.

Q: What can you say about tiny efforts to protect the environment such as opting for paper bags instead of plastic bags?  

A: A plastic bag should no longer be available. We should absolutely stop using all those disposable plastic bags. We should all look at the major impact that plastics cause, that micro-plastics go into the sea and the fish eat them. It goes back to our body when we eat the fish. It goes right back in the body.

Q: So which counties have totally eradicated plastic?

A: Rwanda — they said no more plastic bags. There will be many more countries that will do that. They will say you don’t have to pay for plastic bags if you didn’t bring your eco bag or there’s no available paper bag. If there is plastic, it has to be biodegradable. The cheap plastic in the supermarket lasts forever. It looks biodegradable if you leave it in the sun, but it’s more dangerous when it is thrown into the sea. But either way, there should be no more plastic bags anywhere.

Q: You live in Seoul and you mentioned about your child not going to an event because of bad air. How do you think kids understand environmental issues?  

A: The school nurse checks the air quality and informs us in the morning. My wife also does that. Our nine-year-old is totally aware of that. Even if it’s not too bad, the kids go to school wearing masks. The kids’ experiences on a daily basis will help them understand the need for clean, quality air.  This way, they will learn about the rest of the environment concerns as they grow up.

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To Have Children or Not: The Importance of Finding a Balancehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/children-not-importance-finding-balance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=children-not-importance-finding-balance http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/children-not-importance-finding-balance/#comments Fri, 11 May 2018 18:48:35 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155735 While the world’s population has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, little is still understood about fertility transition and the reasons behind it. Over the last half a century, the global fertility rate has halved, reaching a level of 2.5 births per woman. At the same time, the UN estimates that there will be […]

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While the world’s population has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, little is still understood about fertility transition and the reasons behind it.

Credit: Bigstock

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 11 2018 (IPS)

While the world’s population has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, little is still understood about fertility transition and the reasons behind it.

Over the last half a century, the global fertility rate has halved, reaching a level of 2.5 births per woman.

At the same time, the UN estimates that there will be 11 billion people in the world by 2100.

Given such trends, more needs to be understood about the factors that influence fertility rates, but not enough is known about it, Secretary-General of the Asian Population Development Association (APDA) Dr. Osamu Kusumoto told IPS.

“In general, fertility transition is not properly examined yet. Demographers usually analyze statistics over the cause of statistics,” he said.

But what exactly is fertility transition?

The phenomenon refers to the shift from high fertility to low fertility which first began in North America and Western Europe in the nineteenth century. A similar process was then seen across developing countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

While some believe that the shift was a response to declining mortality rates, others have looked to culture and socioeconomic factors as driving fertility transition.

“Value determines the behavior,” Dr. Kusumoto told IPS, pointing to Mongolia as an example.

In the 1950s, Mongolia accelerated its social development with help from the Soviet Union.

Following socialist economic models, significant progress was also made in education and health and pro-natalist policies were implemented, leading to an unprecedented rise in fertility rates.

Between the late 1950s to the 1980s alone, Mongolia’s population doubled from 780,000 to 2 million.

But what exactly is fertility transition?

The phenomenon refers to the shift from high fertility to low fertility which first began in North America and Western Europe in the nineteenth century. A similar process was then seen across developing countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.


However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mongolia’s birth rates plummeted—a rare occurrence for a country in poverty and seemingly a response to the country’s poor socioeconomic conditions.

Many researchers including Dr. Kusumoto also believe the Central Asian nation’s transition to democracy and a market economy have also influenced fertility rates.

For instance, with more freedoms and improved access to education, women have become more empowered.

Unlike many developing countries, Mongolian women are better educated than men, comprising 62 percent of higher education graduates in 2015. They also have lower rates of unemployment than their male counterparts.

While Mongolians postponed childbearing during the chaos of the 1990s, the rise in female education has led to delays in marriage along with delays in having children.

With the globally adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), future demographic trends may be affected around the world.

The SDGs include specific targets on mortality, health, and education, and researchers believe that its implementation can help reduce population growth.

However, in order to achieve the SDGs, fertility research is needed.

“To achieve the SDGs, an understanding of fertility transition is essential. Proper social policies on fertility to mitigate rapid changes have to be considered,” Dr. Kusumoto said.

“Proper fertility is essential, high fertility and extremely low fertility may harm the society,” he added.

Though they are one of the most prosperous nations in Asia, Japan has seen its fertility rate decline to unsustainable levels and has sparked concerns over the social and economic impact of extremely low fertility.

Today, Japan’s birth rate is 1.44 children per woman which has caused the population to decline by one million in the past five years alone.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research found that if such trends continue, Japan’s population is expected to decrease from 126 million today to 88 million in 2065 and 51 million by 2115.

With fewer children and young adults, a vicious cycle is set in motion: spending decreases which weakens the economy, which discourages families from having children, which then weakens the economy further.

At the same time, with a higher life expectancy and a larger ageing population, there are less revenues and higher expenditures for the government, less funds for pensions and social security, and an even weaker economy.

“In Japan, to have children is not rational choice for young individuals because we have social security to support old age…without the younger generation, this system will not be able to maintain…in the future social security that is the supportive condition for their rational choice will be missing,” Dr. Kusumoto said.

At the other end of the scale, African countries such as Nigeria are experiencing the fastest population increases.

By 2050, Nigeria will become the world’s third largest country by population.

The UN predicts that one-third of all people—almost 4 billion—will be African by 2100.

This could hamper efforts to achieve key SDGs such as ending poverty and ensuring peace and prosperity.

“From this point of view, the fertility issue is an equally essential requirement for achieving SDGs,” Dr. Kusumoto reiterated.

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From the Syrian War to Argentina – Or How to Start a New Lifehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/syrian-war-argentina-start-new-life/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=syrian-war-argentina-start-new-life http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/syrian-war-argentina-start-new-life/#comments Mon, 07 May 2018 02:49:08 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155642 Fares al Badwan moved to Buenos Aires alone, from Syria, in 2011. He was 17 years old then and the armed conflict in his country had just broken out. Since then he has managed to bring over his whole family and today he cannot imagine living outside of Argentina. “I like the people here. No […]

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Africa’s Millennials Using Technology to Drive Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/africas-millennials-using-technology-drive-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africas-millennials-using-technology-drive-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/africas-millennials-using-technology-drive-change/#respond Fri, 27 Apr 2018 10:43:10 +0000 Eleni Mourdoukoutas http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155507 Eleni Mourdoukoutas writes for Africa Renewal*

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Young people are using technology to change society. Credit: Alamy

By Eleni Mourdoukoutas
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 27 2018 (IPS)

When some 276 teenage girls were kidnapped from their boarding school in northeastern Nigeria in April 2014, Oby Ezekwesili, a civil society activist and former World Bank vice president, was disheartened by the lacklustre response of her government and local television stations.

Ms. Ezekwesili and others decided to take to social media to demand action from the government. They emphasized their point with a march to the national assembly in the capital, Abuja.

Within three weeks, the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign put the girls’ kidnapping front and centre on the world stage: the Twitter hashtag had been used over one million times, including by notable influencers former US first lady Michelle Obama and girls’ rights activist and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai. The grassroots movement proved instrumental in pressuring the Nigerian government to acknowledge the kidnapping and to commit more resources to rescuing the girls.

Technology and young people

Beginning with the Arab Spring in 2011, young Africans have been using technology to mobilise around issues affecting them. Images of young Africans assembled in protest, mobilising around hashtags, are now commonplace on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms.

Professor Alcinda Honwana, inter-regional advisor on social development policy at the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), cites the immediacy of social media as a key factor in mobilising large numbers of people and catalysing change.

“Without the internet and social media, it would be very difficult to organise a huge rally in 48 hours,” Prof. Honwana told Africa Renewal in an interview. Social media enables organizers to have a major impact on society, she said, “because you can assemble large numbers of society very quickly and differently from what you would do when you had to go to the streets or knock on doors or put up flyers.”

Young people’s political activism probably safeguarded the integrity of the 2016 election in The Gambia. They began using the hashtag #GambiaHasDecided when former president Yahya Jammeh refused to vacate his office and hand over power after suffering electoral defeat.

In addition to spreading the word over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the anti-Jammeh campaign also encouraged citizens to wear T-shirts bearing the slogan. “Social media has forever changed the dynamics of politics in Africa,” Raffie Diab, one of the campaign’s founding leaders, told Africa Renewal.

In October 2014, young people organised over social media against Blaise Compaoré, then president of Burkina Faso, who was planning to change the constitution to allow him to run for another two terms, thereby extending his 27-year tenure.

The emergence of the movements Ça suffit (That’s Enough) and Le balai citoyen (the Citizen’s Broom) marked the first time since the Arab Spring that popular movements managed to unseat an African president.

Driving transparency

Likewise, young people in Senegal have drawn attention to the country’s high unemployment rate over social media, and their protests galvanised the population to vote out President Abdoulaye Wade in the 2012 election.

Just as citizens broadcast the abuses of government with video and photographic evidence during the Arab Spring, Africa’s younger generation is taking advantage of tech-based strategies to drive accountability and transparency.

One example of this is Livity Africa, a South Africa–based nonprofit organisation whose aim is to amplify authentic youth voices and concerns, in part through its nationwide media channel, “Live Magazine” SA.

Launched in 2011, the channel highlights issues that are overlooked by mainstream media, and it encourages government accountability via its weekly “Live from Parliament” segment.

Similarly, the Nigeria-based SMS and web platform “Shine Your Eye” facilitates public engagement with parliamentarians and other elected officials by providing access to their track records.

By sending a free SMS message to the platform’s dedicated number or visiting its website, anyone can get detailed information on the record of a public official. African leaders themselves are also now using technology to attract young people to their campaigns.

Voters under the age of 35 made up 51% of the entire electorate in the 2017 election in Kenya, and the number of voters in the 26–35 age range had more than doubled since 2013, according to data from the electoral commission.

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta maintains active Facebook and Twitter accounts, and his supporters say his modern communication tactics are “demystifying the presidency.”

In an unprecedented break from his predecessor Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s new president Emmerson Mnangagwa has wasted no time in engaging directly with Zimbabweans over social media, regularly posting comments on Facebook that address concerns raised by his constituents. Mr. Mugabe famously did not own a smartphone.

Mr. Mnangagwa is gaining popularity for posting short videos on his Facebook and Twitter accounts in which he encourages citizens to message their thoughts as part of a “new national dialogue,” maintaining that leadership is a “two-way street.” The digital approach is exciting many Zimbabweans who are eager to get the president’s attention.

While young people in recent years have become the most politically engaged on the continent, their involvement has been primarily through protests and activism rather than voting.

Negative effects

Youth engagement with social media also has its negative effects. “Sadly, [social] media is not often used wisely by youth,” notes the Africa Alliance of the Young Men Christian Association, a leading pan-African youth development network.

It adds that, “Instead, increasing reports reflect that young people use these virtual spaces as platforms for cyber bullying, violence and intimidation.” The association maintains that this is “an age of unprecedented access to explicit images and videos” that can have a harmful influence on the youth.

In 2016, the African Development Bank, a multilateral development finance institution, reported that by 2050 Africa will be home to 38 of the 40 youngest countries in the world, and that all 38 will have median populations under 25 years of age. Experts believe that the youth vote will determine election outcomes in a few years.

Campaigns encouraging young people to vote span the continent. In 2014, South Africa’s electoral commission launched the “I Voted” campaign, which encouraged voters to take a picture of their marked thumb and post on social media with the hashtag #IVoted. The hashtag boasted more than 30,000 uses on Twitter.

Not a cure-all

However, Prof. Honwana warns that social media is not a cure-all for apathy. In the case of South Africa, the national South African statistical service reported that young people accounted for only 18% of total voters in the 2016 local government elections, despite those under the age of 35 making up 66% of the total population.

She asserts that while social media can be a useful tool for conveying the importance of voting, young people will not take up ballots over mobile devices unless they believe that their votes will bring about real change in their lives.

In the 2016 presidential election in the Gambia, for instance, young people largely supported Adama Barrow, who challenged Mr. Jammeh, because they thought Mr. Barrow would bring about a change in governance. “I just know Barrow will be different. He’s listening to us,” 25-year-old Gambian voter Haddy Ceesay told The Guardian, a UK-based newspaper.

Still, Prof. Honwana does not see social media as just a trend. “If we are talking about young people, I think everything that will happen from now on is going to be through social media. That’s where they live,” she said.

*Africa Renewal is published by the UN’s Department of Public Information

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Excerpt:

Eleni Mourdoukoutas writes for Africa Renewal*

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Women Farmers in Peru Bring Healthy Meals to Local Schoolshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/women-farmers-peru-bring-healthy-meals-local-schools/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-farmers-peru-bring-healthy-meals-local-schools http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/women-farmers-peru-bring-healthy-meals-local-schools/#respond Thu, 26 Apr 2018 22:50:27 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155498 Getting children and adolescents to replace junk food with nutritious local organic foods is the aim of a group of women farmers in a rural area of Piura, on Peru’s north coast, as they struggle to overcome the impact of the El Niño climate phenomenon. “We have given talks about healthy eating in schools, because […]

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Under the hot sun of the Pacific Ocean coast, in the department of Piura, 25 women farmers undergoing training in the Agroecological School return from a technical assistance activity in the province of Morropón, in northern Peru. Credit: Courtesy of Sabina Córdova

Under the hot sun of the Pacific Ocean coast, in the department of Piura, 25 women farmers undergoing training in the Agroecological School return from a technical assistance activity in the province of Morropón, in northern Peru. Credit: Courtesy of Sabina Córdova

By Mariela Jara
CHULUCANAS, Peru, Apr 26 2018 (IPS)

Getting children and adolescents to replace junk food with nutritious local organic foods is the aim of a group of women farmers in a rural area of Piura, on Peru’s north coast, as they struggle to overcome the impact of the El Niño climate phenomenon.

“We have given talks about healthy eating in schools, because in today’s times we have forgotten what it means to eat healthy, nutritious food, and everything is fried or sweets, which is why there is malnutrition and obesity,” one of the women, Rosa Rojas, who has an organic garden in the community of Piedra de Toro, told IPS.

She is one of 25 women farmers trained in agro-ecological techniques by the non-governmental Flora Tristán Centre for Peruvian Women. They are engaged in small-scale agriculture in the valleys and highlands of Morropón, one of the eight provinces in the department of Piura, whose capital is Chulucanas."I feel that I contribute to the well-being of my family and my community. With the other women we are constantly working to eliminate malnutrition, anemia and obesity from our lives because these cause other ills. If we sit idly by, what future are we going to have?" -- Jacqueline Sandoval

The department of Piura was hit between December 2016 and May 2017 by the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a complex weather pattern resulting from variations in ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific.

During that period, heavy rains and flooding affected more than one million people, left 230,000 without homes, and destroyed 1,200 hectares of crops, according to the governmental National Information System for Disaster Prevention and Response.

Rojas, 53, remembers those terrible months when many families were torn apart with the departure of parents or older siblings, forced to go abroad to make a living and to support those left behind in their communities.

“Women were left in charge of the homes and the plots of land, worrying about how to put food on the table for our children and grandchildren,” she said.

“We had to eat the beans that we had kept for seed, and supporting each other among all the neighbours, we have recovered little by little to be able to plant again on the land that had been washed clean by the rains,” she said.

Almost a year later, she has replanted her vegetables, including coriander, lettuce, carrots, beets, cabbage, leeks, tomatoes, yellow peppers and cucumbers, using organic fertiliser that she makes herself.

“My family’s diet is enriched with these healthy and nutritious organic fruits and vegetables. My community is waking up to what is natural food, we are learning the importance of eating vegetables daily, and that is what we are sharing at schools with teachers, mothers, fathers and students,” she said.

Yaqueline Sandoval, 42, a farmer in the community of Algodonal, in the neighbouring municipality of Santa Catalina de Mossa, is also recovering from the ravages of the coastal El Niño.

Rosa Rojas (2nd-R), stands with other women farmers participating in the Agroecological School of the Flora Tristán Peruvian Women's Centre, where they were trained in organic production techniques that they have been applying in their gardens, in the rural area of the department of Piura, in Peru's northern coastal region. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

Rosa Rojas (2nd-R), stands with other women farmers participating in the Agroecological School of the Flora Tristán Peruvian Women’s Centre, where they were trained in organic production techniques that they have been applying in their gardens, in the rural area of the department of Piura, in Peru’s northern coastal region. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

She says she has resumed planting in her organic garden, together with her family, where the star product is the cowpea bean or black-eyed pea, which they call the “bean of hope” as it is ready for eating in a short time.

“Just 40 days after planning we are eating our beans. It is a very generous plant, it feeds us and it is a seed for the future because it adapts to different conditions and is very strong, something vital now we are facing climate change,” Sandoval told IPS.

Changing school habits

This is one of the inputs that the farmers use to create “healthy lunch boxes,” for students to carry their meals to eat in the public primary and secondary schools in the urban centres of the municipalities.

The lunches include meals prepared with local produce, to replace what schoolchildren were buying in the kiosks at their schools, such as cookies, crackers and chocolate, sugary drinks and other industrially processed sweets.

“We make tortillas with our vegetables and beans, we prepare passion fruit (Passiflora edulis) soft drinks, and we accompany it with a banana,” Sandoval said, describing what the children are now carrying in their lunch boxes.

“They are healthy and nutritious fruits of our land, free of chemicals, that nourish and do not damage the children’s health,” she said proudly about the initiative she is carrying out with other mothers of schoolchildren at the local “Horacio Zevallos” school.

This experience began last year with talks in the high school classrooms on the benefits of a healthy diet and the negative effects on their bodies and health of fast food or junk food.

“There was so much interest that this year in the Science, Technology and Environment course they are working in a small garden that they have set up on the premises of the school, where they are planting lettuce, carrots and other vegetables,” she added.

Sandoval, who considers herself an activist and entrepreneur, said agroecology is a tool that has allowed her to improve her relationship with nature, to make better use of the soil, water and seeds, and consequently, to improve her diet and health.

“I feel that I contribute to the well-being of my family and my community,” she said. “With the other women we are constantly working to eliminate malnutrition, anemia and obesity from our lives because these cause other ills. If we sit idly by, what future are we going to have?”

Sandoval’s concern is well-founded.

The governmental Observatory of Nutrition and the Study of Overweight and Obesity indicates that more than 53 percent of Peru’s population has excess body fat and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) ranks the country as the third in Latin America in terms of overweight and obesity.

Escolástica Juárez, 57, stands on her family farm where she grows organic fruits and vegetables in the village of Chapica, Morropón province, in the northern coastal department of Piura, Peru. She is involved in the effort to promote healthy eating at the local school. Credit: Courtesy of Sabina Córdova

Escolástica Juárez, 57, stands on her family farm where she grows organic fruits and vegetables in the village of Chapica, Morropón province, in the northern coastal department of Piura, Peru. She is involved in the effort to promote healthy eating at the local school. Credit: Courtesy of Sabina Córdova

For its part, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) has warned that one in five children under ten is already experiencing this problem due to the combination of factors such as inadequate diets and low levels of physical activity. And in Piura, three out of ten children under five suffer from anemia.

Eating healthy and nutritious food in a region rich in biodiversity could seem normal. But it is still a pending objective due to a lack of public investment in small-scale agriculture, training for rural populations and attention to the problem of water shortages.

In this context, taking advantage of traditional knowledge and using new know-how acquired in training and thanks to technical assistance puts women farmers in a better position to face the permanent challenges of climate change in order to achieve food security.

“Knowing about agroecology helps us use water more efficiently, irrigate our crops without wasting, replace crops that need a lot of irrigation, and choose beans that adapt to droughts. This knowledge is important for our food security,” said Escolástica Juárez.

Juàrez, a 57-year-old farmer, lives in the village of Chapica, in the municipality of Chulucanas, where the temperature reaches 37 degrees Celsius.

She has taken the healthy lunchbox initiative to the local “Colegio de Fátima” school.

“The school principal has called us back to continue with the talks this year,” she told IPS. “My grandson tells me that more of his classmates are eating healthy meals, it’s a matter of persistence, it takes time to bet families to change bad habits but it can be learned.”

She added that she feels grateful for the “bean of hope”, which like other farmers she has learned to cook in different ways, based on knowledge they have shared among themselves.

“We can eat them fresh from the pod, store them to cook later, and select some for seed. Even if there is a shortage of water, we know that it will feed us. We return the plant’s generosity sharing what we know with other neighbours and at the schools,” Juárez said.

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From Declaration to Action: Improving Immunization in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/declaration-action-improving-immunization-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=declaration-action-improving-immunization-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/declaration-action-improving-immunization-africa/#respond Wed, 25 Apr 2018 09:04:40 +0000 Joyce Nganga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155459 Joyce Nganga is policy advisor with WACI Health, an African regional health advocacy NGO headquartered in Kenya.

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Inviolate Akinyi, a 46-year-old grandmother, got her granddaughter immunized using a mix of private and public clinics. Credit: Veronique Magnin – Habari Kibra Volunteer

By Joyce Nganga
NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 25 2018 (IPS)

Inviolate Akinyi, a 46-year-old grandmother, is certain that her grand-daughter needs to get all her vaccines for her to grow up healthy and strong. She uses a mix of private and public clinics in Kibera, one of the largest informal settlement in Nairobi, to get the 15-month-old the shots she needs.

Mary Awour, mother to two-year-old Vilance Amondi, also believes immunization is important to protect her child against infectious diseases. She got all the required vaccines for him at the public Kibera South Hospital.

But many children in Africa are not as fortunate as these two children. Instead, they are faced with health threats like diphtheria, measles, mumps, whooping cough, rubella, tetanus, diarrhea, pneumonia and other childhood disease.

While immunization is a critical intervention for preventing these diseases, millions of children do not have access to them because of state fragility or conflict, lack of parental education, religious practices–and too often—inability to access the vaccines because of cost or geographic location. Children in remote rural or mountainous areas face greater barriers to vaccine access.

As recently as 2000, slightly under 10 million children died globally from vaccine preventable deaths before their fifth birthday. The numbers declined to 6.3 million by 2013 but sub -Saharan Africa accounted for 50 percent of the under-five deaths worldwide.

Mary Awour mother to two-year-old Vilance Amondi said she got all the required vaccines for him at the Kibera South Hospital which is government facility. Credit: Veronique Magnin – Habari Kibra Volunteer

While Africa has made significant gains in immunization in the last 15 years, one in five children still do not have access to life-saving vaccines. Of the more than 19 million children worldwide who did not get the three doses of Diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) in 2013, 40 percent or 7.6 million were from sub-Saharan Africa.

According to a UNICEF report, in 2016, more than half of all children unvaccinated for DTP3 lived in just six countries, three of them in Africa: Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

That same year, African leaders signed the Addis Declaration of Immunization (ADI), pledging to ensure that everyone receives the full benefits of available vaccines to inoculate them against infectious diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.

The Declaration, which was ratified in January 2017, contains ten commitments including: increasing vaccine-related funding, strengthening supply chains and delivery systems, attaining and maintaining high quality surveillance for targeted vaccine preventable diseases, developing an African research sector to enhance immunization implementation, and making universal access to vaccines a cornerstone of health and development effort in Africa.

These steps to scale up immunization rates on the content in line with the rest of the world and achieving the targeted Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) rate of 90 percent national coverage, and 80 percent coverage in every district or administrative by 2020. To date, representatives from 50 African countries have signed, and three statements of support were signed by civil society organizations, religious leaders and parliamentarians to support implementation of the ADI.

At only 80 percent coverage in Africa, routine immunization is the lowest of any region in the world. This is unsatisfactory since immunizations have long been proven as a cost-effective way to improve global health—and in the current age, a critical pathway to attaining the sustainable development goals.

Worldwide, more than three million deaths are prevented annually as a result of vaccinations. In the case of debilitating diseases like polio and meningitis, vaccines prevent permanent disabilities as well. Effective immunization programs are being heralded now for the impending eradication of the polio virus. One of the most lethal childhood infections, only eight cases were recorded in the world last year—in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

For Africa and elsewhere in the developing world, universal access to immunization is central to enabling individuals lead productive lives and for the continent to reach its full potential. Increasingly, we recognize that good health is a major driver of economic growth and must be at the center of all development plans. The cornerstone of this is strong immunization programs and sustainable systems.

As the world and Africa commemorates this year’s immunization week, in the full glare of GAVI transition, a challenge to universal access to immunization for poor and middle-income countries, our call to government is to re-examine their commitments and contributions towards domestic resources to ensure all children access immunization and that the gains made, will be sustained and even surpassed.

Women like Inviolate and Mary demonstrate the commitment of mothers to protect their children. It is up to government to remove the barriers, create the policy environment and make the resources available to fund routine immunization for every child.

The post From Declaration to Action: Improving Immunization in Africa appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Joyce Nganga is policy advisor with WACI Health, an African regional health advocacy NGO headquartered in Kenya.

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The Nowhere People: Rohingyas in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/nowhere-people-rohingyas-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nowhere-people-rohingyas-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/nowhere-people-rohingyas-india/#respond Wed, 25 Apr 2018 00:04:26 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155451 A devastating fire in a shanty at Kalindi Kunj, a New Delhi suburb, that gutted the homes of 226 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, including 100 women and 50 children, has trained a spotlight on India’s ad hoc policy on international migrants. Already persecuted in their country of origin, Rohingyas — the largest stateless population in […]

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Rohingya refugees in India face discrimination and threats of deportation back to Myanmar. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Rohingya refugees in India face discrimination and threats of deportation back to Myanmar. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Apr 25 2018 (IPS)

A devastating fire in a shanty at Kalindi Kunj, a New Delhi suburb, that gutted the homes of 226 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, including 100 women and 50 children, has trained a spotlight on India’s ad hoc policy on international migrants.

Already persecuted in their country of origin, Rohingyas — the largest stateless population in the world at three million — have found shelter across vast swathes of Asia including in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there are more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh alone, who now face the onset of the monsoon season in flimsy shelters."As a big regional player, the refugee crisis presents India with a unique opportunity to set an example and work out a long-term resolution to this humanitarian crisis." --Dr. Ranjan Biswas

Demographers note that the Rohingyas’ displacement, while on a particularly dramatic scale, is illustrative of a larger global trend. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the world is witnessing the highest level of displacement on record with 22.5 million refugees, over half of them under 18, languishing in different parts of the world in search of a normal life.

Often referred to as the boat people – because they journey in packed boats to escape their homeland — around 40,000 Rohingyas have trickled into India over the past three years to cities like New Delhi, Jaipur, Hyderabad and Jammu where their population is the largest. Some had settled in the Kalindi Kunj camp that was set up in 2012 by a non-profit on a 150-odd square metre plot that it owns.

The camp’s occupants worked as daily wage labourers or were employed with private companies. A few even ran kirana (grocery) kiosks near the camp. Most of these refugees had landed in Delhi after failed stints in Rohingya camps in Bangladesh or Jammu (a northern Indian city), where they were repeatedly targeted by radical Hindu groups.

Nurudddin, 56, who lost all his belongings and papers in the Kalindi Kunj fire, told IPS that he has been living like a vagabond since he fled Myanmar with his wife and four children in 2016. “We left Myanmar to go to Bangladesh but we faced a lot of hardships there too. I couldn’t get a job, there was no proper food or accommodation. We arrived in Delhi last year with a lot of hope but so far things haven’t been going too well here either,” said the frail man with a grey beard.

Following the Kalindi Kunj fire, and public complaints about the government’s neglect of Rohingya camps, the Supreme Court intervened. On April 9, the apex court asked the Centre to file a comprehensive status report in four weeks on the civic amenities at two Rohingya camps in Delhi and Haryana, following allegations that basic facilities like drinking water and toilets were missing from these settlements.

Senior Supreme Court lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the Rohingyas told the court that the refugees were being subjected to discrimination with regard to basic amenities. However, this was refuted by Additional Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta who, appearing for the Centre said there was no discrimination against the Rohingyas. The court will again take up the matter on May 9.

A Rohingya campsite in New Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

A Rohingya campsite in New Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

The Rohingya issue entered mainstream public discourse last August when the ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party government abruptly asked the country’s 29 states to identify illegal immigrants for deportation –  including, the guidance said, Rohingya Muslims who had fled Myanmar.

“As per available estimates there are around 40,000 Rohingyas living illegally in the country,” India’s junior home minister Kiren Rijiju then told Parliament: “The government has issued detailed instructions for deportation of illegal foreign nationals including Rohingyas.”

In its affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the Centre claimed that Rohingya refugees posed a “serious national security threat” and that their deportation was in the “larger interest” of the country. It also asked the court to “decline its interference” in the matter.

The Centre’s decision to deport the Rohingyas attracted domestic as well as global opprobrium. “It is both unprecedented and impractical,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, told Scroll.in. “It is unprecedented because India has never been unwelcoming of refugees, let alone conducting such mass deportation,” she said. “And I would call it impractical because where would they [the Indian government] send these people? They have no passports and the Myanmar government is not going to accept them as legitimate citizens.”

Some critics also pointed out that the Rohingyas were being targeted by the ruling Hindu Bhartiya Janata Party government because they were Muslims, an allegation the Centre has refuted.

Parallels have also been drawn with refugees from other countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan who have comfortably made India their home over the years. However, to keep a strict vigil against the Rohingyas’ influx, the Indian government has specially stationed 6,000 soldiers on the India-Bangladesh border.

Activists say that despite thousands of refugees and asylum seekers (204,600 in 2011 as per the Central government) already living in India, refugees’ rights are a grey area. An overarching feeling is that refugees pose a security threat and create demographic imbalances. A domestic legal framework to extend basic rights to refugees is also missing.

Since the government’s crackdown, Rohingya groups have been lobbying to thwart their deportation to their native land. In a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court of India titled Mohammed Salimullah vs Union of India (Writ Petition no. 793 of 2017), they have demanded that they be allowed to stay on in India.

However, the government has contented that the plea of the petitioner is untenable, on grounds that India is not a signatory to the UN Convention of 1951. The convention relates to the status of refugees, and the Protocol of 1967, under the principle of non-refoulement. This principle states that refugees will not be deported to a country where they face threat of persecution. The matter is now in the Supreme Court of India which is saddled with the onerous task of balancing national security with the human rights of the refugees.

However, as Shubha Goswami, a senior advocate with the High Court points out, while India may not have signed the refugee convention, it is still co-signatory to many other important international conventions like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes the principle of non-refoulement, and it is legally binding that India provide for the Rohingyas.

There’s growing public opinion as well that the government should embrace and empower these hapless people.

“Rather than resent their presence, India should accept the Rohingyas as it has other migrants,” elaborates Dr. Ranjan Biswas, ex-professor sociology, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. “As a big regional player, the refugee crisis presents India with a unique opportunity to set an example and work out a long-term resolution to this humanitarian crisis which will usher in peace and stability in the region.”

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African Youth Demand a Seat at the Tablehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/african-youth-demand-seat-table/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=african-youth-demand-seat-table http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/african-youth-demand-seat-table/#respond Thu, 19 Apr 2018 12:43:40 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155348 Busani Bafana is a writer at Africa Renewal*

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African youth participate at an international youth forum at the UN headquarters in New York. Credit: Africa Renewal/Shu Zhang

By Busani Bafana
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 19 2018 (IPS)

A new wave is sweeping across Africa. Elections on the continent are increasingly yielding younger leadership than ever before. From presidents to ministers and governors, senators to members of parliament, Africa’s young people are demanding a seat at the political table.

The youth are using their large numbers to vote in younger leaders or leaders they feel will be sympathetic to their plight.

In Uganda, Proscovia Oromait was only 19 in 2012 when she became the world’s youngest MP, representing Usuk County in the Katakwi District. “What I said when I was younger was that in years to come, I will become the president. It’s just been my dream to become a leader of Uganda. And here I am, the youngest MP. And I’m so proud of what I am,” Ms. Oromait told the UK’s Independent newspaper in an interview.

In South Africa, Lindiwe Mazibuko, 37, was elected leader of the opposition in parliament in 2011, representing the Democratic Alliance. She became the first black woman to hold that position.

“There is no prosperity for our continent without a vibrant, diverse and truly competitive politics, founded upon excellence, transparency and commitment to the public good,” Ms. Mazibuko said in a TEDxEuston talk in January 2016.

There are more young leaders coming up in parliaments in Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, South Africa, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Cameroon, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda and others. And the August 2018 presidential election could give Zimbabwe’s political leadership a youthful makeover.

Forty-year-old Nelson Chamisa, the new leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, is angling to be Zimbabwe’s new leader. Were Mr. Chamisa to win, he would be one of Africa’s youngest democratically elected presidents.

Sixty percent of Zimbabwe’s 5.3 million registered voters in the watershed elections are under 40, according to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. It is a show of commitment by the youth to deciding a new course of governance after the leadership of Robert Mugabe.

Mr. Mugabe, 94, was Africa’s oldest leader until he resigned as president in November last year, having ruled for 37 years.

A young voice

In a recent interview with the German radio station Deutsche Welle, Mr. Chamisa said, “It is young people who are the movers and shakers. We want to also see that in politics. We want our continent to be painted young. We want our continent to have a young voice.”

In a 2015 article for CNN, David E. Kiwuwa, an associate professor of international studies at Princeton University in the US, notes that “the average age of the ten oldest leaders [in Africa] is 78.5 compared to 52 for the world’s ten most-developed economies.”

On average, according to Mr. Kiwuwa, “only between 15% and 21% of [these African countries’] citizens were born when these presidents took the reins.”

Some Africans argue that “with age and longevity in office come wisdom, foresight and experience,” Mr. Kiwuwa writes. He further posits that, given opportunities in politics and other sectors, Africa’s youth can transform the continent. He regrets that the long tenures of older politicians continue to stifle the emergence of credible youthful successors.

Innocent Batsani Ncube, a 39-year-old Zimbabwean political scholar, echoes Mr. Kiwuwa’s sentiments, stressing that youth rarely get the attention of Africa’s political leaders, who do not believe young people can lead.

Older political elites believe they have all the solutions to development challenges, Mr. Ncube told Africa Renewal. “An example is the approach that those in leadership use to solve young people’s job problems. Their solutions mostly suit the elites, rather than the young people. There is limited consultation in ideation between the youth and the older leaders.”

Youth need a seat on the transformation train because of their energy and passion, argues Kuseni Dlamini in a paper published in 2013 by Ernst & Young, a UK-based professional services firm.

Energy and passion

“The single most important factor for continental growth is the energy and passion of young Africans who have a palpable sense of positive energy and optimism,” adds Mr. Dlamini, who is the chair of Times Media Group of South Africa and head of Massmart, a retailer affiliated with Walmart in the US.

“They [youth] are young entrepreneurs, innovators, scientists, academics, engineers, professionals. They do not want aid or charity. They want to unleash their full potential,” said Mr. Dlamini, who was named “Young Global Leader” in 2008 by the World Economic Forum, a recognition accorded “higher-performing leaders” who mentor other youth.

Africa’s population will be 1.6 billion by 2030, according to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and the rapidly growing youth population will constitute 42% of that number. The youth will need opportunities to participate in politics, jobs and overall inclusion in development.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) says that one-third of Africa’s 420 million youths (those ages 15–35) are unemployed, another third are vulnerably employed and only one in six young people is gainfully employed.

“While 10 to 12 million youths enter the workforce each year [in Africa], only 3.1 million jobs are created, leaving vast numbers of youth unemployed. The consequences of youth unemployment in Africa are pervasive and severe: unemployment translates to poorer living conditions, fuels migration out of Africa, and contributes to conflict on the continent itself,” notes the AfDB.

The AfDB adds that “the desired long-term outcome is expanded economic opportunity for both male and female African youth, which leads to improvements in other aspects of their lives.”

The bank therefore aims to create 25 million jobs through its Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy (2016–2025) and spur economic growth by empowering the youth to realize their full potential.

Disrupting the status quo

African youth are demanding a seat at the political table, but the agribusiness sector, which could be worth $1 trillion by 2030, according to the World Bank, is the low-hanging fruit.

The African Agribusiness Incubator Network (AAIN), a business development company based in Accra, Ghana, wants youth to innovate and lead the continent’s economic transformation.

Ralph von Kaufmann, an agribusiness mentor and consultant with AAIN, says that “agribusiness presents opportunities for youths and women, but there is a need to create the right policies that facilitate their participation.”

Nthabiseng Kgobokoe, a young livestock and horticulture farmer in South Africa, told Africa Renewal that the first step must be to “include the youth in policy making. Education alone cannot address all our issues; there is a need to create conducive political and economic conditions for us to be successful young entrepreneurs.”

Ms. Kaobokoe said young entrepreneurs across Africa face similar challenges, including a lack of access to financing and other resources, red tape and inadequate policies to foster inclusive growth.

Policy makers forget that youth are the backbone of any socioeconomic and political development, stresses Ms. Kgobokoe.

Talented young people must step forward and be part of decision making, says Ms. Mazibuko. “We [in Africa] are emerging from that stereotype of a dark continent, the hopeless continent…. We must run for office, we must work in the civil service and we must disrupt the political status quo.”

*Africa Renewal is published by the UN’s Department of Public Information (DPI).

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Excerpt:

Busani Bafana is a writer at Africa Renewal*

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Drowning for Progress in Cambodiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/drowning-progress-cambodia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drowning-progress-cambodia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/drowning-progress-cambodia/#respond Tue, 10 Apr 2018 22:57:27 +0000 Pascal Laureyn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155226 Suddenly the road ends. The cart track disappears under the water. A vast lake stretches out in front of me. I have to transfer from a motorbike to a canoe. “Tuk laang,” my guide says coolly. “The water is rising.” This started eight months ago, when the hydroelectric power station closed its gates for the […]

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The Cambodian village of Kbal Romeas is slowly vanishing beneath the rising waters of a lake formed by the Lower Sesan II (LS2) dam. Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

The Cambodian village of Kbal Romeas is slowly vanishing beneath the rising waters of a lake formed by the Lower Sesan II (LS2) dam. Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

By Pascal Laureyn
KBAL ROMEAS, Cambodia, Apr 10 2018 (IPS)

Suddenly the road ends. The cart track disappears under the water. A vast lake stretches out in front of me. I have to transfer from a motorbike to a canoe. “Tuk laang,” my guide says coolly. “The water is rising.”

This started eight months ago, when the hydroelectric power station closed its gates for the first time. Ever since, the road to Kbal Romeas sinks a little deeper under the slow waves every day."Beware of the branches above your head," the guide says. "The pythons and the cobras have climbed into the trees."

According to the level gauge on the road, the water behind the concrete barrage has risen up to 75 meters, higher than the intended 68 meters. Nobody knows why, and the government doesn’t provide any information.

Three sturdy men are unloading planks from a canoe. The houses of flood refugees are being dismantled in order to sell the wood.

The village is a world away from Phnom Penh. In Cambodia’s capital, saffron-robed monks are tapping on their smartphones and purple Rolls Royces are negotiating hectic traffic. But 450 kilometers to the north, Kbal Romeas is hidden deeply in the jungle. Here no shops, restaurants or traffic lights are to be found. And for a few months now, no roads either.

I’m undertaking the journey with Vibol. He is studying in the provincial capital and returns home often. “My parents are having a hard time since our village is flooded. The government wants us to leave, but we will never do that,” he says.

The expansive forests of Stung Treng – a province as large as Lebanon with barely 120,000 inhabitants – are the home of the Bunong, the ethnic minority to which Vibol belongs. Their way of life has been in sync with nature for 2,000 years, while they’ve been fiercely resisting modern influences from outside. But the small community now risks being washed away, quite literally.

Concrete vs. water

A few kilometers from the village, a gigantic wall towers over the trees. The ‘Lower Sesan II’ (LS2) dam is a powerful symbol for the economic growth of Southeast Asia, but also for man-made disasters. In September the gates were closed, thus creating a lake that soon will expand over 360 square kilometers, the size of Dublin. The livelihood of a unique culture will be wiped out.

The ten-year-old son of my guide navigates the canoe that will bring me to Kbal Romeas. Skillfully, he avoids crashing into the trees of the submerged forest. “Beware of the branches above your head,” his father says. “The pythons and the cobras have climbed into the trees.” There’s a shorter way to get to to the village, via dry land, but that’s not an option for a foreign journalist. The army closed off the whole area. No snoopers allowed.

I have to take the long detour over water, a surreal two-hour trip through a drowned jungle.

“The trees still bear fruit, but soon they will die,” the guide says. There is also less fish and the water has become undrinkable. Since the dam unhinged their lives, the Bunong have to pay for water and fish. But money is an alien concept for animist forest dwellers who are used to living in complete harmony with nature.

My canoe floats gently into the main street of the village. Thanks to their stilts, the typical Cambodian dwellings are still dry, even if the road lays one meter beneath the water’s surface. It is dead quiet. Until some children appear in doorways. “Soë-se-dei!” “Hello!”

A villager from Kbal Romeas paddles between two partly submerged houses. Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

A villager from Kbal Romeas paddles between two partly submerged houses. Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

About 250 people still live in the flooded village of Kbal Romeas; about half of the original population. I clamber from the canoe into a house. The lady of the house offers me some rice and spiced pork.

“We used to have everything we need here. But since the water started rising, we have to go to the market,” says Srang Lanh, 49. She has the face of someone who has lived a hard life.

“During the dry season it takes us about three hours to get there. In the rainy season we can’t use the road at all.”

The government has built a new village, on higher ground. “But we do not intend to move,” says Vibol. “The Buddhist Cambodians don’t understand our religion. We can’t leave our cemetery.” He wants to show me the graveyard. Small corrugated iron roofs are barely above the water. They used to give shade to the late loved ones.

I ask the former cemetery supervisor how many people are buried here beneath the flood tide. His reacts emotionally. “Thousands! Everyone who has ever lived in Kbal Romeas is buried here.”

Every day another grave disappears into the tidal wave of progress coming from this Chinese dam. “The spirits of our ancestors can’t leave here. To abandon them would be a disgrace,” says Vibol. The Bunong believe they are protected by the ancestors. Leaving means disaster.

In Kbal Romeas, the cursed dam is called ‘Kromhun’, the Company. The Chinese group Hydrolancang invested 800 million dollars in the LS2 dam and will be operating it for the next 30 years. Theoretically speaking, a dam producing 400 megawatts might seem a good idea, as this country lives in the dark. Three quarters of the Cambodian villages are not connected to the electrical grid.

However, Kbal Romeas will never see one single watt of the Kromhun. Ninety percent of the electricity in Cambodia goes to capital city Phnom Penh and is used for air conditioners, neon publicity signs and garment factories.

Noah’s Ark

There’s a little ceremony for the visitor, the first foreigner since the army shut this area down in July. Ta Uot is the most important guardian spirit of Kbal Romeas. His temple is nothing more than a hut on poles, now surrounded by water. But since the patriarch told the Bunong through his visions where his shrine has to be put, it cannot be moved.

In the temple are some holy branches and rocks; from their canoes the attendees throw grains of rice towards them while they say prayers in the old Bunong language. They inform Ta Uot about the visit of a foreigner. They also mention the latest water level. A newly born child is being blessed. In spite of the upcoming flood, this is a lively village with a simple shed as a spiritual Noah’s ark.

Set Nhal, 89, has been living here his whole life. He remembers the French colonists, the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese soldiers who came to chase away the genocidal regime. And now the Chinese. “We were always confident that the French and the communists would leave one day. But the Chinese will never go away; this dam will stay where it is,” he says.

Meng Heng, an activist of the outlawed NGO Mother Nature, knows Kbal Romeas very well. “The government succeeded in hiding a catastrophe,” he says. “As a result of the LS2-dam, one tenth of the fish population will disappear. The dam disrupts critical breeding migration routes for fish and the fish will become extinct.”

Not just a trifle, as 70 million people depend on the Mekong for their daily needs. As we speak, 200 dams are in use, being built or in preparation. LS2-dam is only one of them.
For the Bunong, a day in ancient times is as important as yesterday. But their days are numbered. Once the rainy season will start, in June, Kbal Romeas will be history.

After dark, a motorbike takes me back to the rest of the world, using a last scrap of dry land. The jungle is black as soot and the bouncing moto passes by a deserted army checkpoint, unmanned at night.

I’m dropped off at a gas station, an oasis of neon lights where they promise me there will be a bus soon. I ask Vibol if I can do something for him when I’m back in Phnom Penh.

“No one knows what’s happening here,” he says. “Tell our story.”

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Africa Lags Behind in Bridging Inequalitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/africa-lags-behind-bridging-inequalities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-lags-behind-bridging-inequalities http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/africa-lags-behind-bridging-inequalities/#respond Tue, 10 Apr 2018 13:09:31 +0000 Richard Munang and Robert Mgendi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155213 Dr. Richard Munang is UN Environment’s Africa regional climate change programme coordinator and Robert Mgendi is UN Environment’s adaptation policy expert.

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Effect of climate change. A dead tree in Namibia’s Namib desert.
Credit: World Bank/Philip Schuler

By Richard Munang and Robert Mgendi
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 10 2018 (IPS)

“If you wish to move mountains tomorrow, you must start by lifting stones today”—so goes an African proverb, crystallising the solutions to the continent’s socio-economic inequalities.

Africa is second only to Latin America in economic inequalities. Dollar millionaires in Africa doubled to 160,000 between 2000 and 2015, while people living on less than $1.25 a day—the poverty threshold—increased from 358 million to 415 million between 1996 and 2011, according to the Brookings Institution, a US-based research group and think tank. Brookings Institution adds that by 2024 the number of African millionaires will rise 45%, to approximately 234,000.

The effects of climate change compound Africa’s worsening inequality, constricting productivity in economic sectors that are critical to inclusive growth. Climate experts therefore posit that a first step in denting inequality is for governments to channel investments into sectors that can create socio-economic opportunities, enhance ecosystems’ resilience and combat climate change by offsetting carbon emissions.

African governments agree with climate experts on the sectors to target for investments. Meeting in Libreville, Gabon, last June, under the auspices of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), the continent’s environment ministers identified two sectors requiring investments to bridge the inequality gap: energy and agriculture driven by ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA).

An EBA-driven agriculture relies on biodiversity and ecosystem services to help people adapt to climate change effects. The ministers said that both sectors can boost agricultural productivity through value addition and curtail postharvest losses, which are currently about $48 billion per annum.

In addition to the huge postharvest losses is the $35 billion African governments spend annually on importing food. Reversing postharvest losses would mean recovering lost food while saving billions that could be invested in other sectors.

Labour productivity on the continent is currently 20 times lower than in developed regions, notes the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals Report 2016. An optimised agro-value chain and its ancillary chains of clean energy and logistics could create high-value jobs and increase labour productivity.

Deploying clean energy to power EBA-driven agriculture will achieve the twin goals of combating climate change and creating economic opportunities.

An example of such an integrated approach can be found in Cameroon’s Jakiri municipality, where UN Environment, based on its EBA for Food Security Assembly (EBAFOSA) policy-action framework, is supporting efforts to use an off-grid micro-hydro power to support the processing of EBA-produced cassava and Irish potato into varied product lines. The farmers subsequently use a mobile app to link these products to markets and supply chains.

The off-grid micro-hydro power offsets carbon emissions in energy generation, incentivizes EBA use for climate adaptation and creates income opportunities along the agriculture, clean energy and ICT value chains—all enhancing socio-economic resilience.

Studies show that EBA-driven agriculture increases production by 128%. For instance, in Jakiri, 10 youth groups of 700 each were engaged in ICT, clean energy and marketing since 2016. They created many green jobs for young people, while giving over 5,000 women access to value addition services.

The youth groups reduced postharvest losses and enhanced income stability and food security.

A growing middle class

The 350 million Africans in the middle class could potentially enhance ongoing efforts to achieve a single market. Minimizing postharvest losses in a consolidated agro-market dominated by raw commodity exports could rake in an extra $20 billion annually, according to the World Bank.

Experts project the raw commodity value added, currently $150 billion, to increase to $500 billion by 2030. Such a market could significantly boost agricultural industries. At 12% of its total trade, Africa has the lowest rate of intra-regional trade for any region. (Europe’s rate is 65%, North America’s 45% and Southeast Asia is 25%).

Forty countries have so far adopted an EBAFOSA initiative known as a compliance standard in their energy and agriculture sectors. The initiative guarantees quality control along the value chain, in addition to consolidating the markets of all 40 countries, including Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.

The compliance standard builds on the acclaimed International Organization for Standardization standards and other national standards already in use in different countries to ensure that certified products can be exported to other markets. For example, under EBAFOSA’s standard, attiéké, a Côte d’Ivoire staple food made from processed cassava, is to be marketed in Kenya and the rest of East Africa.

Africa’s development experts anticipate the consolidation of a continental food market in the coming years, hoping that Africa’s 54 countries will eventually adopt the compliance standard.
Plans for a consolidated African food market may face headwinds, including restrictive intra-Africa air travel. Although in 2002, 44 countries signed the Yamoussoukro Decision to promote seamless intra-Africa air travel, many countries still restrict their air services markets to protect local airlines, especially state-owned carriers.

Climate change effect

Also, African countries have some of the strictest visa requirements in the world. Only 11 of Africa’s 54 nations offer 100% access to other Africans. This contrasts with the European Union, where member states’ citizens enjoy 100% freedom of movement within the EU countries.

Strict visa requirements constrict deployment of continental labour and complicate efforts to create income opportunities and combat poverty. The poor are disproportionately vulnerable to climate change, as they lack the resources to adapt to, or quickly recover from, climate shocks, reports the World Bank.

The African Union’s plan for a visa-free continent for Africans by 2020, if fully implemented, will foster human capital flow for income generation and, by extension, increased climate resilience.

To address development needs, Africa cannot rely only on traditional public assistance, including the rapidly dwindling official development assistance (ODA), according to the African Development Bank. Currently ODA accounts for only 3% of the continent’s GDP, which accentuates the need for innovative approaches to financing development projects.

In its 2015 African Adaptation Gap report, UN Environment proposed domestic and innovative financing approaches, suggesting among other things that African central banks leverage the continent’s cash reserve to strengthen their lending capacity and adopt a unitary credit policy that guarantees commercial loans are issued to enterprises whose operations mitigate carbon emissions and enhance ecosystem resilience. EBA-driven agriculture like Jakiri’s will boost food security and create income opportunities.

What should be Africa’s next steps in tackling inequalities?

Another African proverb sets the tone: “To get lost is to learn the way.” While Africa lags behind other regions in bridging inequalities, it has also demonstrated that it can learn.

Many landmark policy frameworks, such as the AU Agenda 2063, the Yamoussoukro Decision on open skies, the Sirte Declaration on the African Central Bank and recently the 16th AMCEN Decision on Innovative Environmental Solutions, coupled with practical policy implementation frameworks such as EBAFOSA, prove that the continent is making the right choices.

For these policies to work, however, Africa must start lifting the stones of implementation. In other words, Africa must begin to implement strategies that create incomes out of its catalytic sectors while combating poverty and its accompanying climate vulnerabilities.

These are the authors’ views, not necessarily those of the institution they represent.

The link to the original article follows:
Africa Renewal
https://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/december-2017-march-2018/tackling-inequality-%E2%80%98lifting-stones%E2%80%99

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Excerpt:

Dr. Richard Munang is UN Environment’s Africa regional climate change programme coordinator and Robert Mgendi is UN Environment’s adaptation policy expert.

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Is There Data Privacy & Protection to Poor Customers?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/data-privacy-protection-poor-customers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=data-privacy-protection-poor-customers http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/data-privacy-protection-poor-customers/#respond Mon, 09 Apr 2018 15:01:34 +0000 Matthew Soursourian and Michael Joyce http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155207
Matthew Soursourian
and Michael Joyce, the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP)*

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Matthew Soursourian and Michael Joyce, the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP)*

By Matthew Soursourian and Michael Joyce
WASHINGTON DC, Apr 9 2018 (IPS)

Research increasingly demonstrates that poor customers, just like other customers, value their privacy and care deeply about the protection of their personal data. But what do providers think about obtaining, using, storing and sharing personally identifiable information?

Last year, CGAP interviewed 26 innovative and data-centric financial services providers in South Asia, Southeast Asia, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, including banks, mobile money providers and companies that provide credit scoring and merchant services.

We asked them what role customer data plays in their businesses and what they are doing to ensure the privacy and security of the data they collect. Here’s what we learned.

Data are a guarded asset

Providers often regard their data as a valuable competitive asset, and they take steps to protect it. Data regulations, where they exist, often drive these protective measures. But all providers have reason to invest in security due to the possibility of a data breach and the desire to preserve their competitive advantages.

These drivers of business practices provide an opportunity for regulators to act because it means that incentives are aligned between providers and their customers. For example, providers might be willing to accept more robust and potentially expensive data governance standards imposed by regulators if the benefits to them — safer digital assets — are emphasized.

Data sharing is not as widespread as often assumed

Despite the hype around big data’s potential to transform finance, we found that getting access to transactional, phone use or demographic information held by third parties (especially mobile network operators) remains a frustration for many young businesses.

When mobile network operators do sell access, the prices may not be commercially feasible for start-ups. Some of the providers we spoke with have changed their business models due to pricing issues, decreasing their reliance on third-party data.

Many firms also recognize that relying on a third-party source for data creates a risk for their business. The rise of smartphones represents an opportunity to bypass reliance on the large datasets of established providers and obtain data directly from consumers.

Communicating about privacy is not a priority

Providers told us that communicating to customers about privacy does not rank highly on their list of priorities. Given customers’ limited attention span and the relative importance of communicating product value, instructions and pricing, privacy does not always rise to the top. Moreover, low literacy levels and mobile delivery already make it difficult to explain how a user’s data will be used.

These findings support the idea of moving beyond a notice and consent model, which is based on the assumption that users understand how the provider intends to use their data.

Limited data retention is not being considered

Most of the providers we interviewed were not thinking about limiting data retention. In part, this may reflect the fact that many of them are young companies. But it may also be because regulations are not always in place to force providers to develop official policies. Where data regulations do exist, some mandate that data be retained for only as long as necessary for the associated service.

At the expiration of the retention period, firms must delete or anonymize the data. With the expansion of increasingly cheap data storage, firms may be less concerned about holding data longer than necessary unless regulations force them to destroy or anonymize. However, retention of data presents privacy and security risks.

Many firms are start-ups and may be angling for acquisition by larger companies. In this case, customer records could be transferred to a separate business entity without the consent or even awareness of customers. Providers may need to think more carefully about data retention and the handling of data throughout the lifecycle of their businesses.

Cross-sector data governance principles could provide value

Although existing principles such as the GSMA Code of Conduct for Mobile Money Providers, the Smart Campaign and the Better Than Cash Alliance’s Responsible Digital Payments Guidelines cover elements of privacy, providers said they could benefit from a more focused set of voluntary standards related to privacy and data protection.

Due to the growing trend of bundling financial services with other products, it may be more effective to develop standards that could apply to and be adopted by all types of data-centric service providers.

These standards could also include principles related to data sharing and data standardization, which would enable new business models based on third-party data to operate responsibly. Some firms also emphasized the need for guidance on best practices in information security and privacy, including data retention.

In sum, we see some disconnects between how strongly customers feel about their data and the way providers weigh privacy and protection concerns against other commercial objectives. At the same time, there are opportunities to improve data security by leveraging the motivation of providers to guard their competitive assets.

As regulators develop stronger data protection frameworks, listening to providers’ perspectives can help them to identify potential “win-wins” and areas where stricter rules and principles are necessary to protect consumers.

*The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) is a global partnership of over 30 leading organizations, that develops innovative solutions through practical research and active engagement with financial service providers, policy makers, and funders. The link to the original article:
http://www.cgap.org/blog/data-privacy-and-protection-%E2%80%93-providers-share-their-perspectives?utm_source=CGAP+Reader+%2804.03.18%29&utm_campaign=CGAP+Reader+%2804.03.18%29&utm_medium=email

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Excerpt:


Matthew Soursourian
and Michael Joyce, the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP)*

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Premarital Sex: Increasing Worldwidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/premarital-sex-increasing-worldwide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=premarital-sex-increasing-worldwide http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/premarital-sex-increasing-worldwide/#respond Thu, 05 Apr 2018 08:19:01 +0000 Joseph Chamie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155147 Joseph Chamie is an independent consulting demographer and a former director of the United Nations Population Division.

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Joseph Chamie is an independent consulting demographer and a former director of the United Nations Population Division.

By Joseph Chamie
NEW YORK, Apr 5 2018 (IPS)

Premarital sex, defined as voluntary sexual intercourse between unmarried persons, is increasing worldwide. While traditional values, religious instructions and the laws of some countries continue to prescribe abstinence until marriage, the rapid societal changes that have occurred across all regions during the past half-century have resulted in the growing prevalence and acceptability of premarital sex.

A global survey conducted several years ago involving 40 countries, covering three-fourths of the world’s population, found a minority, 46 percent, saying that sex between unmarried adults was morally unacceptable. However, a distinct split in attitudes concerning the acceptability of premarital sex was observed between developed and developing countries (Figure 1).

 

Premarital Sex: Increasing Worldwide

Source: Pew Research Center.

 

Among developed countries minorities considered sex between unmarried adults to be morally unacceptable. In France, Germany and Spain, for example, less than 10 percent said that sex between unmarried adults is unacceptable. And in Japan, Russia and the United States the proportions of those who said premarital sex is morally unacceptable were less than one third.

In contrast to the views indeveloped countries, large majorities in most developing countries said that sex between unmarried adults is morally unacceptable. Among those countries were some of the most populous, including China (58 percent), Egypt (90 percent), India (67 percent), Indonesia (97 percent), Nigeria (77 percent), Pakistan (94 percent) and the Philippines (71 percent).

The attitudes of most developed countries concerning premarital sex in the recent past were likely not dissimilar from the current views of the less developed countries. In the United States, for example, whereas the proportion of those who viewed premarital sex as unacceptable was nearly universal at the start of the 20th century, it declined to about 70 percent by midcentury, 40 percent by the 1970s and is approximately 25 percent today.

While surveying the public’s views on the moral acceptability of premarital sex can be challenging at times, arriving at reliable estimates of premarital sexual behavior is a far more difficult undertaking. In addition to social disapproval, moral sensitivities and the desire for personal privacy, premarital sex is unlawful in a number of countries, including Iran, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Sudan, and was unlawful in some developed countries in the recent past. Consequently, reported estimates of premarital sexare likely to underestimate actual levels.

Survey data for many developed countries found that at the beginning of the 21st century more than two thirds of young people had premarital sex while still in their teens. The proportion was over 80 percent in Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Available survey data for various developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America also report increased prevalence of premarital sex. The rise in premarital sex in China is particularly noteworthy. Whereas a generation ago, 15 percent of Chinese reported having premarital sex, recent surveys find that about 70 percent admit to having sex before marriage. Even in countries where premarital sex is still a taboo, such as India, Indonesia and Iran, studies report its increasing prevalence.

A major factor in the worldwide increase in premarital sex is the improvement in contraceptive technology that occurred over the past half-century.The use of modern contraception, such as the oral pill and the intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD), has virtually eliminated the fear of an unintended pregnancy. According to recent surveys, more than 90 percent of women aged 15 to 24 years know about at least one contraceptive and most are familiar with more than one. In addition, the percent of adolescent women using contraceptives has increased markedly in many countries over the past several decades.

The movement away from marriage to cohabitation, especially evident in developed western countries, has also contributed to the rise in premarital sex. Among the 28 members of OECD, for example, the average percent of young couples aged 20 to 34 years who were cohabiting in 2011 was more than 40 percent (Figure 2). In some of those countries, including Denmark, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom, the majority of young couples were not married, but cohabiting.

 

Premarital Sex: Increasing Worldwide

Source: OECD.

 

Increased levels of cohabitation have also been reported among Latin American countries.  Among men aged 25 to 29 years in 2010, for example, more than half were cohabiting in Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.

Even in traditional Asian societies, such as China, India, Iran and Japan, increasing numbers of young couples, especially in urban areas, are choosing to live together before deciding whether or not to marry. Among the explanations for the rapid rise of cohabitation is that it allows individuals to assess compatibility with a partner while keeping future options open.

The trend towards later marriage in many countries is another factor that has contributed to the rise in the prevalence of premarital sex. Delaying marriage to older ages increases the temporal opportunities for premarital sex. The gaps between ages at first sexual intercourse and first marriage have become substantial, especially for men (Figure 3).For example, the gaps between median ages at first sexual intercourse and first marriage for men and women born between 1965 and 1969 are11 and 7 years in the United States and 8 and 5 years in Great Britain.

 

Premarital Sex: Increasing Worldwide

Source: WHO.

 

Modern urban life styles, including more years of schooling, career development, independent living, tolerance of diversity and greater degree of anonymity, have also contributed to the rise in premarital sex. The migration to urban centershas rapidly transformed many historically rural developing countries, such as China, Indonesia, Iran and Turkey, to predominantly urban societies.

The globalization of mass media, most recently through the Internet, has also contributed to transforming traditional normative values regarding sexual behavior, including premarital sex. The strong relationship between themedia and the sexual expression of teenagers may be due to the media’s role as an important source of socialization for young men and women.

Traditional attitudes and behavior of men and women with respect to premarital sex have changed relatively rapidly worldwide over the past half-century. Large majorities of the populations in developed countries no longer view premarital sex as morally unacceptable. In addition, young men and women are increasingly having sex prior to marriage as well as cohabiting before deciding whether to marry or not.

In developing countries, in contrast, large majorities continue to consider premarital sex morally unacceptable. However, the prevalence of premarital sex in those countries is increasing, especially in urban centers. The dichotomy between attitudes and behavior with respect to premarital sex observed in many developing countries poses serious challenges to traditional practices, religious values and cultural norms requiring abstinence until marriage.

While governments, religious groups and social conservatives may continue to insist on abstinence until marriage, global trends of premarital sex over the past half-century suggest otherwise. In sum, based on the available evidence attempts to regulate the premarital sexual behavior of young men and women in hopes of returning to the abstinence-until-marriage era are unlikely to succeed, which will consequently necessitate adjusting to the realities of the sexual revolution that is continuing to spread worldwide.

 

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Excerpt:

Joseph Chamie is an independent consulting demographer and a former director of the United Nations Population Division.

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How Citizen Power Ignited Seoul’s Energy Innovationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/citizen-power-ignited-seouls-energy-innovations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=citizen-power-ignited-seouls-energy-innovations http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/citizen-power-ignited-seouls-energy-innovations/#respond Thu, 05 Apr 2018 06:59:46 +0000 Park Won-soon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155159 Park Won-soon is Mayor of Seoul, a city recognized as a role model for megacities

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Mayor of Seoul, South Korea

By Park Won-soon
SEOUL, South Korea, Apr 5 2018 (IPS)

In a bid to reduce its nuclear energy dependence, Seoul embarked on a massive energy reduction initiative—shaped by citizen participation—in 2012.

The result was a drastic drop in energy use as citizens and corporations embraced the switch to energy-efficient alternatives and took charge of their energy usage. The 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in neighbouring Japan gave a great sense of crisis to South Korea.

Climate change response begins with energy reduction. Hence, Seoul began pursuing the One Less Nuclear Power Plant initiative with its 10 million citizens in April 2012. Operating on the principle of first communicating with citizens before choosing policy directions, the government began by initiating large-scale discussions.

To do this, we created the Citizens Committee—comprising citizens from all walks of life, including professionals, academic circles, religious circles and civic groups—to lead the discussions and the civic governance. Eighteen events were held to hear what citizens and organisations had to say about energy reduction.

A government team, whose sole role was to communicate with citizens, was also created. It used online communication channels like Twitter and Facebook, as well as offline communication channels, such as policy workshops, deliberation processes and citizens’ podiums to get feedback.

To involve senior citizens who lacked internet access, the government reached out to organisations, associations and communities that already worked with them. The One Less Nuclear Power Plant initiative was therefore led by the citizens, for the citizens, and with the citizens.

Civic governance was, and continues to be, the essence of our One Less Nuclear Power Plant initiative. Reflecting all of the opinions of the citizens in our policies was not an easy task.

At times, it caused delays in the decision-making process and the implementation process. There seemed to be endless discussions on how to elicit the participation of the citizens. It was a challenge. But it brought together the wisdom of 10 million citizens, and it brought about changes in the direction of our policies and improvements in existing regulations.

The public discussions generated ideas on tapping alternative or renewable forms of energy: mini solar panels were installed on the rooftops of houses, schools and public buildings while sewage water heat, chimney waste heat and other forms of wasted energy were converted to renewable energy.

To boost energy efficiency, buildings, which accounted for 56% of energy use, were retrofitted. Even though energy is a crucial part of our daily lives, it was difficult to promote the value of policies or to encourage participation, as it is “invisible”. The government tried to raise awareness of our energy policies with the Eco Mileage Programme, which rewarded households that voluntarily reduced energy usage by lowering their electricity bills. More than 42% of households took part.

As a result, energy reduction has become a part of our citizens’ daily lives in homes, schools, and workplaces—it has become a part of Seoul’s culture. Currently, 22,000 students in 500 schools are energy guardian angels who help to prevent energy wastage in homes and schools, and 34 universities are green campuses that have reduced energy usage by 10%.

Small changes in the habits of the citizens in their daily lives have brought about big changes in the energy future of the city. We achieved the first phase goal of reducing 2 million tonnes of oil (the energy generated by one nuclear plant) six months ahead of schedule in June 2014.

Many people believed it to be impossible. But we have not stopped there. We have set a second phase goal of reducing the energy equivalent to two nuclear power plants by 2020 and reducing 10 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions as well. The changes brought about by Seoul are spreading to other cities across South Korea.

Last November, four local governments in South Korea, including Seoul, recognised the importance of local energy policies, and announced in a joint statement to cooperate on the wise and frugal use of clean and safe energy for a mutually prosperous future.

The changes driven by the citizens are inspiring not only for cities in South Korea but also for cities around the world. Many representatives of cities and organisations around the world are coming to Seoul to learn about our One Less Nuclear Power Plant initiative. Many ask me: How did Seoul do it? My answer: The citizens did it.

The citizens are the energy. Civic governance, powered by the energy of the citizens, drove the changes. Seoul now looks beyond the changes in Seoul and the changes in South Korea to the changes in the world. We now look beyond civic governance to urban governance. We aspire to cooperate with cities around the world for a sustainably prosperous future.

Small actions lead to small changes, which lead to bigger changes. Our actions will form the Earth’s future. A dream we dream together will come true. I hope that the climate action story of the citizens of Seoul will become an important chapter in the history of the earth.

Small changes in the habits of the citizens in their daily lives have brought about big changes in the energy future of the city. We achieved the first phase goal of reducing 2 million tonnes of oil (the energy generated by one nuclear plant) six months ahead of schedule in June 2014. Many people believed it to be impossible.

But we have not stopped there. We have set a second phase goal of reducing the energy equivalent to two nuclear power plants by 2020 and reducing 10 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions as well. The changes brought about by Seoul are spreading to other cities across South Korea.

Last November, four local governments in South Korea, including Seoul, recognised the importance of local energy policies, and announced in a joint statement to cooperate on the wise and frugal use of clean and safe energy for a mutually prosperous future. The changes driven by the citizens are inspiring not only for cities in South Korea but also for cities around the world.

Many representatives of cities and organisations around the world are coming to Seoul to learn about our One Less Nuclear Power Plant initiative. Many ask me: How did Seoul do it? My answer: The citizens did it. The citizens are the energy. Civic governance, powered by the energy of the citizens, drove the changes. Seoul now looks beyond the changes in Seoul and the changes in South Korea to the changes in the world.

We now look beyond civic governance to urban governance. We aspire to cooperate with cities around the world for a sustainably prosperous future. Small actions lead to small changes, which lead to bigger changes. Our actions will form the Earth’s future. A dream we dream together will come true. I hope that the climate action story of the citizens of Seoul will become an important chapter in the history of the earth.

The link to the original article: https://www.clc.gov.sg/documents/publications/urban-solutions/issue9/us_i9_5_counterpoint.pdf

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Excerpt:

Park Won-soon is Mayor of Seoul, a city recognized as a role model for megacities

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Solving Japan’s Fertility Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/solving-japans-fertility-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=solving-japans-fertility-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/solving-japans-fertility-crisis/#comments Mon, 02 Apr 2018 16:42:34 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155122 While much of the global discussion for decades has been focused on overpopulation and its consequences, less can be said of the risks of low fertility and an ageing population—risks that are currently threatening the future of Japan. Concerned by fertility trends in Asia, numerous institutions have begun to take action to prevent potentially devastating […]

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Japan: aging population needs more than short-term solutions. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 2 2018 (IPS)

While much of the global discussion for decades has been focused on overpopulation and its consequences, less can be said of the risks of low fertility and an ageing population—risks that are currently threatening the future of Japan.

Concerned by fertility trends in Asia, numerous institutions have begun to take action to prevent potentially devastating economic and social consequences.

One such group is the Asian Population Development Association (APDA), that serves as the Secretariat of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP) and is dedicated to research and studying population-related issues in countries such as Japan where limited work and research has been done around the issue.

“While population increase has been the overriding global concern, the risks of low fertility and ensuing population decline were not foreseen until recently. Thus it is understandable that no research has been done, nor has any thought been given from the government,” said Chair of the APDA Research Committee on Ageing Kei Takeuchi during a meeting.

The Young, the Old, and the Restless

Though the decline in fertility rates is not a new phenomenon, the East Asian nation has seen its population rapidly diminish in recent years.

According to the United Nations, Japan’s fertility rates were approximately 2.75 children per woman in the 1950s, well above the total fertility rate of 2.1 which has been determined to help sustain stable populations.

Today, Japan’s birth rate is 1.44 children per woman leading to the population declining by one million in the past five years alone.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research found that if such trends continue, Japan’s population is expected to decrease from 126 million today to 88 million in 2065 and 51 million by 2115.

With fewer children and young adults, a vicious cycle is set in motion: spending decreases which weakens the economy, which dispels families from having children, which then weakens the economy further.

“As the population aged 18 years old is decreasing, the number of universities needs to be reduced, which will limit the number of new academic posts, lack the opportunity to cultivate researchers, and diminish Japan’s competitiveness in the international arena,”

At the same time, as people have a higher life expectancy, the elderly now make up 27 percent of Japan’s population in comparison to 15 percent in the United States.

This means less revenues and higher expenditures for the government, less funds for pensions and social security, and an even weaker economy.

Chair of the Asian Population and Development Association Yasuo Fukuda, a former Prime Minister of Japan noted that a dwindling population is not bad in and of itself but rather its rapid decline.

“The true problem is that when the population decreases too drastically, the social systems will become unsustainable and incapable of responding to problems associated with it, which will make it harder for young people to develop concrete visions for their future,” he said.

Are the Kids Alright?

One of the factors that is often considered to be a driving force of lowering fertility is urbanization, APDA said, as urban fertility rates are often lower than those in rural areas.

This is often because urban areas tend to boast better access to services such as education and employment as well as gender equality, all of which affect people’s decisions whether or not to have children.

Japan is one the most densely urbanized countries in the world.

In 1950, 53 percent of the population lived in urban areas; by 2014, the figure shot up to 93 percent.

Japanese rural towns are disappearing at a rapid rate as young adults move to cities for work and the ageing population either moves out or dies out. Wild boars are now found to be taking over the abandoned areas.

However, the correlation between urbanization and fertility is still unclear due to different contexts and data limitations.

Many have also pointed to the lack of opportunities for young people in the country.

Though the unemployment rate is below 3 percent, the rise in unstable employment may be leaving young men and women unable or unwilling to have children.

Approximately 40 percent of Japan’s labor force is “irregular,” or have temporary or part-time jobs with low salaries. According to the Labor Ministry, irregular employees earn 53 percent less than those with stable jobs.

Men, who are still considered breadwinners for the family unit, may therefore be less likely to consider getting married or having children because they can’t afford to do so.

On the other end of the spectrum, Japan’s culture of overwork may also be impacting birth rates as young people find themselves with no time for a social life or even basic needs like sleeping or eating.

Such conditions have even led to “karoshi,” or death by overwork, across the country.

Most recently, journalist Miwa Sado died of a heart failure and investigators found that she had logged 159 hours of overtime work in June 2013 alone, one month before she died.

In 2015, 24-year-old Matsuri Takahashi committed suicide. It emerged that she worked for over 100 hours of overtime at her advertising job and had barely slept in the period leading up to her death.

Both deaths were ruled as “karoshi.”

Research, Action Needed

Due to the lack of data around the issue, APDA highlighted the need to promote research in order to help create and implement policies to ensure sustainable development and a stable, healthy population.

Shinzo Abe’s government has begun working on the issue in recent years, promising to raise the fertility rate to 1.8 by 2025.

They have also taken steps to make it easier for people to raise children by providing free education, expanding nursery care, and allowing fathers to take paternity leave. Local governments have even set up speed-dating services across the country.

However, Abe’s administration has been criticized for not doing enough, particularly around labor reform.

“Measures for low fertility, gender-equal society, and work-life balance are three important pillars,” said Chief Research Advisor APDA Project Research Committee on Ageing Makoto Atoh.

The APDA team also pointed to the need to invest in and revitalize regional areas and communities.

“This is a serious situation. We must come to grips with the issue of low fertility, but there is little research on it,” Takeuchi said.

APDA plans to hold several meetings and events in order to raise awareness and widen coverage on the issue of low fertility.

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Pakistan Needs Global Climate Funds to Combat Shifting Weather Patternshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/pakistan-needs-global-climate-funds-combat-shifting-weather-patterns/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pakistan-needs-global-climate-funds-combat-shifting-weather-patterns http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/pakistan-needs-global-climate-funds-combat-shifting-weather-patterns/#respond Mon, 26 Mar 2018 06:07:40 +0000 Rabiya Jaffery http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155024 As shifting weather patterns and extreme climates become the norm, access to climate funds are deemed essential for developing countries, such as Pakistan, that are facing the brunt of climate change. Based on the ADB Climate Change profile of Pakistan, a number of mitigation and adaptation measures have been taken by the government using domestic […]

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By Rabiya Jaffery
KARACHI, Pakistan, Mar 26 2018 (IPS)

As shifting weather patterns and extreme climates become the norm, access to climate funds are deemed essential for developing countries, such as Pakistan, that are facing the brunt of climate change.

Based on the ADB Climate Change profile of Pakistan, a number of mitigation and adaptation measures have been taken by the government using domestic resources.

But Pakistan is still awaiting international funding required to intensify its efforts using capacity building and technology for its National Adaptation Plan, says Fatima Fasih, Program Manager for Sustainable Development at the Centre of Excellence in Responsible Business (CERB).

According to UNFCCC, climate finance is critical in addressing climate change because large-scale investments are required to adapt to changing climates, reducing emissions, and shifting to a more sustainable future.

Pakistan’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDCs) submitted to the 2015 Paris Agreement, aims to reduce up to 20% of its 2030 projected GHG emissions — using international grants for adaptation and mitigation of approximately $40 billion.

The Paris Agreement commits countries to pledge not to just keep global warming “well below two degrees Celsius”, but also to “pursue efforts” to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C by 2018.

Several researches including one carried out by Daniel Mitchell and others at Oxford University states that while the difference between 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees will be marginal in annual average temperature, it would have a significant impact on reducing the probability of destructive weather events like floods, droughts, and heat waves.

“It is very important for temperatures to remain below 1.5 degrees because natural extreme weather events are going to become the norm – especially in Pakistan and other mid-latitude countries,” says Sidra Adil, an environmental engineer and GIS analyst .

Over the past 50 years, the annual mean temperature in Pakistan has already increased by roughly 0.5 degrees.

The government expects to get international grants worth $7 billion to $14 billion every year to be able to adapt to climate change and the senate passed a policy in 2017 that called upon the creation of Pakistan Climate Change Authority to manage the proposed fund.

But not only has little has come out of it, so far, and there is no concrete indication that the Global Climate Fund will be providing the required financial resources.

“There is little or no knowledge of any such funding from the GCF (Global Climate Fund) to help in the mitigation and adaptation against climate change,” says Fasih.

According to some statistics, between 1997 and 2016, Pakistan suffered from 141 extreme weather events and lost an average of 523.1 lives per year due to climate change effects.

The super-flood in 2010 killed 1,600 people, affecting an area of 38,600 square kilometers and caused a financial loss of more than $10 billion and the heatwave in Karachi in 2015 lead to the death of more than 1,200 people.

And as average global temperatures rise, impacts across the country will vary widely from glacial melting in the North to increase in sea levels at coastal areas.

Many of these will be unpredictable and possibly volatile — “such as increase in number of extreme events, such as droughts and hurricanes,” explains Fasih.

But some of the repercussions can be predicted.

“The impacts of rising temperatures are huge as increase in glacial melt will increase in flooding around the flood banks of River Indus over the next few decades,” says Fasih.

Based on ADB’s Climate Change profile of Pakistan, the sea level is expected to rise by an additional 60 centimetres by end of the century. The melting glaciers will also lead to more freshwater converting to seawater and worsen water scarcity.

“Even a rise of 1.5 isn’t desirable but that extra 0.5 degrees will make the situation a lot more dire,” says Adil. “We don’t have enough water storage options and are well on the way to becoming a water scarce nation.”

For a country where more than 50 per cent of the population is directly or otherwise dependent on agricultural activities, the impacts of this would be detrimental.

“The [difference of] 0.5 degrees increase in temperatures means a lot for people that depend largely on the weather cycles for their business and farms – which is majority of our business sector and rural areas,” Fasih says.

The loss of freshwater supply will also lead to production of hydropower at dams, such as Mangla & Tarbela.

“Considering how big the issue of energy is to us Pakistanis, this impact will surely hit across the country,” adds Fasih.

Adil states that while no rise in temperatures is ideal – that 0.5 degree difference is trivial.

“It won’t be as bad or as intense as 2C of course,” she says. “1.5 degrees gives us the room for a trade-off to work on climate strategies.”

According to a report by Yale University, should global emissions continue to rise beyond 2020, or even remain level, the temperature goals set in Paris become almost unattainable.

“It is very important to transition to renewable energies but our emissions aren’t that high – the main problem right now is that we are on the receiving end of high emissions from other countries,” says Adil.

The Federal Minister for Climate Change Zahid Hamid pointed out at the 2016 United Nations Climate Change Conference that– despite ranking amongst the top 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change– Pakistan emits less than 1% of total annual global greenhouse gases.

“Climate influences us as a whole – it is not a region concept. It is a global concept,” Adil adds.

This is an almost unanimous international agreement -that climate change is a global phenomenon and none of the countries alone can deal with the issue.

And the technology-driven transition to 100% renewable energy globally is well under way, a trend that made the 2015 Paris climate agreement possible -and there are already signs that this is paying off.

Just in the past three years, global emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels have levelled after rising for decades as major polluters and other nations are starting to boost renewable energy sources.

According to Mission 2020, the installed capacity of renewable energy set a new record of 161 gigawatts in 2017; in 2015, investment levels reached $286 billion worldwide, more than 6 times that in 2004.

And over half of that investment, $156 billion, was for projects in developing and emerging economies.

“This is a sign that policies and investments in climate mitigation are starting to pay off,” says Andrew Higham, CEO of Mission2020, in a report. “But there is still a long way to go to decarbonize the world economy.”

For Pakistan, this transition to renewable energy could take at least a decade, if not more but experts states that implementation of natural climate solutions on a smaller scale is as important a step today.

“We can’t even provide electricity to 60% of our population through coal – that we have an abundance of,” says Adil. “So it is impossible for us to transition to renewable energy right away. Policies have to change and this will take 10-15 years for the very least.”

But for that to take place, the government needs to allocate the right resources, hire trained individuals, lose short-sightedness for projects that bring quick profits at the expense of sustainability, and create awareness about the triviality of the issue.

“Despite having a Ministry of Climate Change, there is very little that it has done thus far, since most of its powers and budget has been slashed by the current elected government,” says Fasih.

But that is not speaking for the entire country- the private sector may be moving in a different direction.

Fasih, who works on the private sector’s track record on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Pakistan says that a lot of efforts being made by the private sector – both by big business, as well as entrepreneurs to combat climate change in Pakistan.

Textile and agriculture based companies, for instance, that comply to standards abroad are now actively pursuing environmental stewardship, via waste reduction, ethical consumption, water conservation and reduction in emissions.

Many NGOs, such as Climate50, founded by Adil, are also working on building expert networks to work on awareness and implementation of natural climate change solutions.

But Fasih adds that it is necessary at present is to engage local communities (both urban and rural) to understand climate change, mitigate against it, and adapt natural solutions to climate using citizen and civic movements.

“Unless the government does not prioritize increasing awareness amongst the citizens, very little difference can be made by projects that require billions of dollars in funding,” adds Fasih.

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New Platform Will Support Youth Projects on Water and Climatehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/new-platform-will-support-youth-projects-water-climate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-platform-will-support-youth-projects-water-climate http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/new-platform-will-support-youth-projects-water-climate/#respond Fri, 23 Mar 2018 22:53:41 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155014 Young people around the globe with good ideas on how to deal with water and climate challenges now have a platform to show their projects to the world and attract funding and other contributions to realise their dreams. The Youth for Water and Climate (#YWC) digital platform was formally launched during the 8th World Water […]

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People participate in the launch of the Youth for Water and Climate (#YWC) digital platform during the World Water Forum in Brasilia. The initiative is promoted by the Global Water Partnership and other organisations, to connect young people from around the world dedicated to social and environmental projects that promote water security and climate change solutions. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

People participate in the launch of the Youth for Water and Climate (#YWC) digital platform during the World Water Forum in Brasilia. The initiative is promoted by the Global Water Partnership and other organisations, to connect young people from around the world dedicated to social and environmental projects that promote water security and climate change solutions. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
BRASILIA, Mar 23 2018 (IPS)

Young people around the globe with good ideas on how to deal with water and climate challenges now have a platform to show their projects to the world and attract funding and other contributions to realise their dreams.

The Youth for Water and Climate (#YWC) digital platform was formally launched during the 8th World Water Forum, held Mar. 18-23 in Brasilia with the participation of a dozen country leaders.

The aim is to connect creative young people keen on helping to solve major environmental problems, in their communities or in wider areas, with potential funders and technical allies.

The idea is to promote “love at first sight” between these young people and potential supporters, that is, to accelerate the pairing between the two parties, according to a game that illustrates the idea of digital marketing of projects, the promoters of the initiative explained.

Marly Julajuj Coj, a 19-year-old indigenous woman from Guatemala, participated along with other young people from several continents in launching the platform, promoted by the Global Water Partnership (GWP) and other partners of the initiative, on Thursday Mar. 22 at Switzerland’s country pavilion at the 8th World Water Forum.

Representatives from donor agencies in Europe and Africa were also at the event, to explain the support they offer and what kind of projects they are interested in. For example, they give priority to ones that involve gender issues, said the representative of Switzerland’s development aid agency.

The young Guatemalan woman’s project seeks to build “rainwater harvesting systems, tanks made of recycled and new materials, to provide clean water for 20 families, those in greatest need in a community of 80 families,” she told IPS.

“The local rivers are polluted, we have to find alternative sources of drinking water,” said the young high school graduate who learned English with a missionary from the U.S. This is her second trip outside of Guatemala; earlier she received training in public speaking in Belgium.

Economist Mukta Akter, executive secretary of GWP Bangladesh, together with Pierre-Marie Grondin, of the French Water Solidarity Programme (pS-Eau), which will finance water and climate projects for young people around the world. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Economist Mukta Akter, executive secretary of GWP Bangladesh, together with Pierre-Marie Grondin, of the French Water Solidarity Programme (pS-Eau), which will finance water and climate projects for young people around the world. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

“#YWC is a very useful tool, it helps to make my project known and to seek financing,” she said.

The platform is supported by a consortium of nine organisations from various regions and is operated by a Secretariat comprising the GWP, the International Secretariat for Water and AgroParisTech.

It is open to anyone who wants to submit a project or offer support. A committee evaluates the quality of the projects and gives a stamp of approval, after which they are published in order to attract funders and technical assistance.

This process enables the young social entrepreneurs to improve their projects, share tools and meet requirements, while ensuring results for donors.

On the platform people and organisations are free to choose their preferences and interests.

The advice, training and connection with supporters offered to young people is a fundamental part of #YWC, said Vilma Chanta from El Salvador, focal point in her country of GWP Central America, and a researcher in territorial development with El Salvador’s National Development Foundation.

“Young people are an important part of change in the world, they are committed, that is why it is important to train youth leaders, to help them perhaps to formulate a theory of change that every project must have, that helps to identify where to focus their efforts,” Chanta told IPS.

Vilma Chanta, a researcher in territorial development for the non-governmental National Development Foundation of El Salvador, and focal point in that country of GWP Central America, worries about the pollution and deterioration of the Lempa river, key to the generation of energy and water consumption in the Central American nation. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Vilma Chanta, a researcher in territorial development for the non-governmental National Development Foundation of El Salvador, and focal point in that country of GWP Central America, worries about the pollution and deterioration of the Lempa river, key to the generation of energy and water consumption in the Central American nation. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

With regard to water problems in El Salvador, she mentioned the Lempa River, shared with Honduras and Guatemala, countries for which the river “is not as important as it is to us as a source of energy and water,” she said.

A drought in 2017 left cities without water for three weeks, although the worst effects occurred in rural areas where “there is water but no access to it,” she said.

“It is a limiting factor for women and girls who spend a large part of their days getting water for their households,” one of the vital gender issues in territorial development, said the young Salvadoran.

On the other side of the world, the young economist Mukta Akter, executive secretary of GWP Bangladesh, also tries to promote rainwater harvesting and training for women, but with an emphasis on income generation and the creation of companies to achieve economic growth.

“Water is a basic resource, indispensable for everything, even to obtain an income,” she told IPS. “In Bangladesh, water shortages prevent poor girls from going to school,” and guaranteeing access to water is essential to women’s education and financial future, she added.

“#YWC connects very diverse people, and is an opportunity for exchanging ideas and sharing know-how, which is important in my country,” she said.

Marly Julajuj Coj, a young indigenous woman from Guatemala, who at the age of 19 was one of the participants in the launch of the Youth Platform for Water and Climate in Brasilia, as leader of a project that seeks to ensure drinking water for her community of 80 families by harvesting rainwater. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Marly Julajuj Coj, a young indigenous woman from Guatemala, who at the age of 19 was one of the participants in the launch of the Youth Platform for Water and Climate in Brasilia, as leader of a project that seeks to ensure drinking water for her community of 80 families by harvesting rainwater. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Jelena Krstajic, president of the Youth Water Community, based in Slovenia and active in central and eastern Europe, sees #YWC primarily as a tool to seek financial support.

It is important “because we are all volunteers,” she told IPS in reference to the professionals who participate in the organisation.

A project in her community is the clean-up of the Ishmi river, in Albania, where there is an accumulation of plastic waste. Another project is to encourage the “voice of young people in the selection of policies” so that they can participate in decisions on social inclusion in Eastern Europe.

Young people will be decisive in the face of water and climate challenges, “they have energy and are more sensitive to the issues” and will be able to do more if they are connected internationally, said Pierre-Marie Grondin, director of the Water Solidarity Programme, a network of French organisations that finance projects in the developing South, especially Africa.

“#YWC is a good idea, it disseminates new ideas, promoting dialogue and coordination,” he told IPS, speaking as a donor.

The digital platform and the decision to support young people’s capacity for innovation are the result of ties forged among several national and international organisations since the December 2015 climate summit in Paris.

At the summit – the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), which gave rise to the Paris Agreement – the youth-led White Paper on Water and Climate, based on interviews in 20 countries from all continents, was presented.

During the World Water Forum, there were several initiatives aimed at young activists in water issues. One was the Stockholm Junior Water Prize, sponsored by Sweden, which chose a Brazilian project to attend the Water Week in Stockholm, in August of this year.

Meanwhile, participants in the Brazilian National Youth Parliament for Water presented their studies and projects at the Citizen Village, venue of the Alternative World Water Forum (FAMA), a parallel event.

The World Water Forum, organised by the World Water Council and the Brazilian government, drew 10,500 delegates from 172 countries, according to the organisers. They took part in 300 thematic sessions, and an Expo that was visited, according to their estimates, by more than 85,000 people.

FAMA focused on environmental education and attracted some 3,000 people from 34 countries, mostly students, plus tens of thousands of visitors who visited the fair.

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Ending TB Epidemic Among Youth: Key to Achieving SDGshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/ending-tb-epidemic-among-youth-key-achieving-sdgs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ending-tb-epidemic-among-youth-key-achieving-sdgs http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/ending-tb-epidemic-among-youth-key-achieving-sdgs/#comments Thu, 22 Mar 2018 11:22:40 +0000 David Bryden http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154964 David Bryden is the TB Advocacy Officer at RESULTS Educational Fund, a US-based non-profit working to end global poverty.

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David Bryden is the TB Advocacy Officer at RESULTS Educational Fund, a US-based non-profit working to end global poverty.

By David Bryden
WASHINGTON DC, Mar 22 2018 (IPS)

A good education for every child is an urgent global imperative, but what if entering schools puts children at serious health risks? Tuberculosis (TB), the single biggest infectious disease killer, poses a major risk for young people in countries with high prevalence of TB, and schools are among the places where they are most likely to catch it.

A young boy suspected with TB. Credit: The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria

The United Nations, which commemorates World TB Day on March 24, continues to raise public awareness about the global epidemic, and pursues efforts to eliminate the disease.

Tuberculosis is spread when a person with the active disease is coughing or speaking and expelling tiny droplets containing the live bacteria. In a school setting, a student, teacher or other person in the school with TB can unwittingly spread the disease. The microscopic droplets can remain suspended in the air for extended periods, 30 minutes or more.

Globally, 67 million children are estimated to have TB infection. For children under five years of age, the greatest risk is in the home where they usually catch the infection from family members. Infants under one year of age are at especially high risk to develop TB disease, including severe, life-threatening forms, if they have been infected with the bacteria that causes it.

But, for older children, the picture changes dramatically with the greatest risk of infection being outside the home, particularly in overcrowded, poorly ventilated places—like schools.

In South Africa, where TB kills even more people than HIV/AIDS, a 2014 study found that adolescents faced a 14 percent chance over one year of acquiring TB infection, which investigators termed “extremely high.” . By adolescence, more than half of the children in South Africa are already infected with TB, and given the rate of drug resistance, some would have a resistant infection.

According to another recent study, up to half of TB transmission in young adults in South Africa age 15–19 is occurring in schools, in part due to the high proportion of “re-breathed air” in such settings. The study concluded that schools were a “particularly high-risk environment for transmission among young adults.”

A comparable investigation in Tanzania found an annual risk of TB infection in schools of 4 percent, lower than in South Africa, though still high. The study attributed the difference to the warm climate of Tanzania where schools rely on open windows and are better ventilated compared to South Africa.

Each day about 28,000 people across the globe develop TB disease, when the infection becomes active. Though curable, it has devastating consequences for them and their families, including frequent debt, job loss and impoverishment.

On average, 5–10 percent of those who are infected will develop active TB disease over their lifetime. Typical risk factors include undernutrition, diabetes, alcohol abuse, and smoking, and when a woman becomes pregnant her chance of developing TB disease doubles.

However, when children enter late adolescence their risk rises far above average. For the age group 15-19 the rate of developing active TB, as well as the mortality rate, is approximately double that of 10-15-year olds, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015, published in Lancet Infectious Diseases, March 2018.

The first-ever estimate of active TB among young people, across all regions, was published in 2018 According to the estimate, 1.78 million adolescents and young adults aged 10–24 years developed tuberculosis in 2012, with the largest numbers in South East Asia and Africa. The authors noted the marked increase in TB between early adolescence and young adulthood, and urged attention to the special needs of this vulnerable population.

Adolescents living with HIV are up to 27 times more vulnerable to TB. However, TB risk extends to all young people. A study in western Kenya found a very high rate of active TB among adolescents, aged 12-18, most attending school and most HIV negative.

Urgent action is needed to address this health crisis impacting young people.

First, active steps must be taken to find and provide person-centered treatment to everyone with active TB disease, including in school settings, along with psychosocial support. Once on the correct treatment a person with TB rapidly becomes un-infectious.

Second, though seldom done in high burden countries, we must rapidly identify anyone who has been in contact with people with active TB and provide a course of preventive antibiotic treatment. These preventive antibiotics are highly effective and a relatively short course of medication, taken weekly, has been developed. Since people living with HIV are especially at risk, they should take the preventive antibiotics along with HIV medication.)

Third, improving ventilation and reducing overcrowding in school settings—and in any indoor environment in high TB burden countries where people, of any age, spend large amounts of time together—is s critically important. This applies not only to schools but also places such as clinic waiting rooms, places of worship, prisons, and public transport.

Fourth, we must raise TB awareness, since knowledge of the disease is low, even in high burden countries. In this and in many other areas, South Africa has been leading the way forward. With support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of Education is providing training of teachers and learners to be TB ambassadors, carrying out community activations and media campaigns focused on TB in children, and conducting TB screening.

Finally, governments must do more to establish adolescent-accessible health services, to meet the special needs of this group, including their vulnerability to TB infection and disease, as well as to other risks such as HIV. Addressing TB among this group will require breaking the silence and confronting the stigma, shame and myths that have slowed the response.

We must not delay. In Africa, 41 percent of the population is under 15, with a further 19 percent between the ages of 15 and 24. In India, 300 million people are under the age of 15. We will fail these and many other young people if we ignore tuberculosis.

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David Bryden is the TB Advocacy Officer at RESULTS Educational Fund, a US-based non-profit working to end global poverty.

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